Arbuthnotiana: The Story of the St. Alb-ns Ghost (1712) A Catalogue of Dr. Arbuthnot's Library (1779) online

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The Story of the St. Alb-ns Ghost


A Catalogue
of Dr. Arbuthnot's Library


_Introduction by_






William E. Conway, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
George Robert Guffey, University of California, Los Angeles
Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles
David S. Rodes, University of California, Los Angeles


Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan
James L. Clifford, Columbia University
Ralph Cohen, University of Virginia
Vinton A. Dearing, University of California, Los Angeles
Arthur Friedman, University of Chicago
Louis A. Landa, Princeton University
Earl Miner, University of California, Los Angeles
Samuel H. Monk, University of Minnesota
Everett T. Moore, University of California, Los Angeles
Lawrence Clark Powell, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
James Sutherland, University College, London
H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., University of California, Los Angeles
Robert Vosper, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
Curt A. Zimansky, State University of Iowa


Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Jean T. Shebanek, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


The two pieces here reproduced have long been unavailable; their
connections with Arbuthnot are rather complex. _The Story of the St.
Alb-ns Ghost_ has been ambiguously associated with Arbuthnot since the
year of its first publication, but it does not seem to have been
reprinted since the nineteenth century when editors regularly included
it among the minor works of Swift. Whoever wrote it, the _Story_ is a
lively and effective Tory squib, whose narrative vigor can carry even
the twentieth-century reader over the occasional topical obscurities. _A
Catalogue of the ... Library of ... Dr. Arbuthnot_ has never been
reprinted at all, and appears to be unknown by scholars who have thus
far written about Arbuthnot.

_The Story of the St. Alb-ns Ghost_, the first piece included, has
always been of doubtful authorship, and must for the present so
continue. Two days after the _Story_ first appeared, Swift tantalizingly
wrote to Stella: "I went to Ld Mashams to night, & Lady Masham made me
read to her a pretty 2 penny Pamphlet calld the St Albans Ghost. I
thought I had writt it my self; so did they, but I did not" (22 February
1712). Whoever wrote it, the _Story_ succeeded: it was pirated within a
week, and had reached its third regular "edition" within three weeks of
the first; it appeared in a fifth and apparently final edition on 19
July 1712.[1] Now just during these same months Arbuthnot was producing
his first political satires, five pamphlets later gathered under the
title _History of John Bull_. He published the first of these 4 March
1712 and the last 31 July 1712.[2] There are several thematic and
methodological connections between _The Story of The St. Alb-ns Ghost_
and the John Bull pamphlets: as Tory propaganda pieces, they attack
leading Whigs and make the usual suggestions about irreligion, moral
turpitude and misuse of public funds. Furthermore, they do so by means
of vigorous if sometimes difficult reductive allegories which mock the
victims by presenting them as farcical figures from low life. The
connection as well as the difficulties must have appeared quite early,
for some enterprising publisher (presumably Curll)[3] soon brought out
_A Complete Key to the Three Parts of Law is a Bottomless-Pit, and the
Story of the St. Alban's Ghost_. Although the exact date of this is not
known, it must lie between the _termini_ 17 April and 9 May 1712, the
dates of the third and fourth parts respectively of John Bull.
Furthermore, a "Second Edition Corrected" of the Key appeared before the
publication of pamphlet four. (The last pages of these two Keys,
concerning the _Story of the St. Alb-ns Ghost_, are reproduced in the
Appendix.) The Key ran through two further editions as _A Complete Key
to the Four Parts of Law is a Bottomless-Pit, and the Story of the St.
Alban's Ghost_, presumably before 31 July 1712, and came to a fifth
(seemingly last) edition with a more general title referring to "all
Parts" of John Bull, and still including the _Story_.

While the Keys by association suggest Arbuthnot as author, the only
other contemporary document attributes the _Story_ to a different
physician and wit: the so-called _Miscellaneous Works of Dr. William
Wagstaffe_ (London, 1726) reprint the fourth edition of the Story. Now
the _Miscellaneous Works_ were printed some five months after the death
of Dr. Wagstaffe and more than three months after that of the supposed
editor Dr. Levett;[4] it is possible that the contents are in part
erroneous. In any case, Arbuthnot, Wagstaffe and Swift remain the
possible authors with whom scholars must deal until some further
evidence is forthcoming. Roscoe interprets Swift's ambiguous remarks in
the _Journal to Stella_ as an indirect acknowledgement, and Dilke goes
one step further in assuming that the so-called _Miscellaneous Works of
Dr. Wagstaffe_ are a mystification, a means for Swift to pass off works
which he did not wish to include in the _Miscellanies_ with Pope. Sir
Walter Scott thinks that the _Story_ is probably a collaboration between
Arbuthnot and Swift, "judging from the style"; Professor Herbert Davis
dissociates Wagstaffe material generally from the writings of Swift, but
does not specifically mention the _Story_; however, "Mr. Granger thought
St. Alban's Ghost, attributed to Dr. Wagstaffe, was [Arbuthnot's]."[5]

Although recent scholars seem to agree in selecting Wagstaffe as author
of the _Story_, the evidence of the 1726 _Works_ is implicitly
contradicted by the Keys. I have made two separate attempts to solve the
question of authorship, neither of which has been fully satisfactory.
The first of these, a computerized test based on the methods of
Professor Louis T. Milic for distinguishing works by Swift from works by
other authors, has given inconclusive results. In this test the _Story_
was the chief unknown, and was compared with samples of similar length
from Swift, Arbuthnot, Wagstaffe and, as a control, Mrs. Manley, who
wrote politically keyed narratives but has never been associated with
the _Story_. The _Story_ turned out to be fairly similar to all four
authors in the number of different three-word patterns (D), and unlike
all of them in number of Introductory Connectives (IC), where Wagstaffe
stood the highest, and the _Story_ by far the lowest. In the proportion
of Verbals (VB) the _Story_ and Wagstaffe were fairly close together and
different from the other authors tested, who clustered near the Swift
figures. Thus the test tends to exclude Swift, Arbuthnot and Mrs. Manley
as possible authors, but does not encourage a full confidence in
replacing them with Wagstaffe. (It also tends to show that some of the
other pieces included in the so-called _Miscellaneous Works of Dr.
Wagstaffe_ differ considerably in the usages tested both from one
another and from the patterns established by the signed works of Dr.

My second attempt was based on textual changes among editions of the
_Story_. In the second edition there are three small changes from the
first; the third and fourth editions seem to be line-for-line reprints
of the second. (The "sham, Imperfect Sort" introduces a large number of
variants, mainly errors.) In the fifth edition, however, somebody has
altered the typography: many past forms of verbs are altered. Thus at
the bottom of p. 3 _unbody'd_ becomes _unbodyed_, _carry'd_ and
_deliver'd_ become _carryed_, _delivered_. The task of editing is not
complete; particularly near the end of the fifth edition many verbs
still carry the apostrophe of the earlier editions. The date of the
attempt suggests that Swift's _Proposal for Correcting, Improving and
Ascertaining the English Tongue_ (first published 17 May 1712, a week
after the fourth edition of the _Story_) could have provided the
motivation, and also that Swift himself could not have been the person
who made the changes. A study of a few contemporaries shows that Swift
himself tried to eliminate the apostrophes from the _Conduct of the
Allies_, first published 27 November 1711, and from other works
published after that date, but not from works published before that
date. Oldisworth, apparently under the instructions of Swift, tried to
do the same during the first few months of the _Examiner_, vol. 2
(beginning 6 December 1711), but by the time he reached volume 3,
Oldisworth had apparently given up the struggle against unwilling
printers. Arbuthnot, Roper and Manley are not very interested in the
matter, and neither are other pamphleteers published by Morphew during
the months immediately following Swift's _Proposal_. The items included
in the so-called _Miscellaneous Works of Dr. Wagstaffe_, on the other
hand, fall into three groups chronologically: those which precede
Swift's _Proposal_, and include many apostrophied verb forms; those
which immediately follow Swift's _Proposal_, and include abnormally few
apostrophied verb forms; the two "late" pieces (1715, 1719), which are
back to the proportion of apostrophied verbs to be found in the early
items. If Pseudo-Wagstaffe was indeed a single writer, then he followed
the same pattern as Oldisworth, but began later and continued longer to
use verbs with an _-ed_ ending. Since the genuine signed prose works of
Dr. Wagstaffe come "late" (1717, 1721) and have a fairly large (i.e.,
normal) number of apostrophied verbs, there is no evidence here as to
whether or not Pseudo-Wagstaffe is Wagstaffe; at least there is no
contradiction. In the light of these facts, we can see that neither
Swift nor Arbuthnot is a probable author of the _Story_; Swift would
presumably have altered verb typography in the first and all editions,
and Arbuthnot would not have altered it at all.[7] In these two projects
on authorship we find that authors other than Wagstaffe tend to be
eliminated, but that Wagstaffe himself is not strongly confirmed. The
authorship remains as problematic as before, and the _Story_ may as well
for this century continue with the Arbuthnotiana, as it did during the
nineteenth with the Swiftiana.

The device of using a ghost story as vehicle for political satire was by
1712 a well-established one. Elias F. Mengel Jr. refers to "the 'ghost'
convention, so popular in the Restoration,"[8] and an important poem of
Queen Anne's reign shows some similarities with and perhaps provided a
model for the _Story_. In _Moderation Display'd_ (London, 1705) the
recently deceased second Earl of Sunderland rises from Hell to confound
his guilty Whig companions. Tonson (Bibliopolo) is the most terrified,
and as in the _Story_ Wharton (Clodio) is so wicked that he is not
frightened at all. The _Story_, however, is both more subtle and more
flexible than most other satiric "ghost" narratives. It compresses the
actual apparition into the last quarter of the narrative, despite the
perhaps deliberately misleading title. Nearly half of the _Story_ deals
with previous events; much of the rest is machinery, introduction of
seemingly irrelevant details with a mischievous verisimilitude which
actually advances the main satiric aims. The opening paragraph, for
example, first denounces Roman Catholic superstition, a denunciation
which almost every Englishman could join, and then turns the fire toward
"Our Sectarists." The war on heterodoxy continues in the references to
Dr. Garth, the Whig poet and physician noted for his scepticism in
religion, to William Whiston who during the winter of 1711-1712 was
transcribing documents and writing elaborate treatises to uphold his
view that Christian churches and theologians had all been essentially
heretical since the time of Athanasius, and to the Reverend and
Honourable Lumley Lloyd, a low-church minister whose sermons attracted
at least two Tory satires.[9] None of these men belongs in the
narrative, and only Garth was even remotely connected with the
Marlboroughs, but all of them were Whigs, and in various ways serve to
"demonstrate" that Whigs must be false brethren to the Church of

This charge, although a cliché of Tory satires, is here made indirect
and witty, as are the staple charges against the Duke and Duchess of
Marlborough. Whereas, however, the wickedness of nonconformity had been
attacked for decades, the Duke of Marlborough had been associated with
the Whigs for a relatively short time. As late as 1706 Wagstaffe could
generously declare that "_Woodstock's_ too little" a reward (_Ramelies,
a Poem_), but since Swift's "Bill of British Ingratitude" in the
_Examiner_ (17 November 1710) the Tory press had begun to say that the
rewards were too many and too great. The _Story_ repeats the charge that
Avaro and Haggite "grew Richer than their Mistress" (p. 11), together
with the ridiculous insinuations of cowardice and incompetence found
constantly reiterated in the second volume of _Examiners_. The Duchess
of Marlborough attracted massive satire earlier than her husband, in
such books as _The Secret History of Queen Zarah_ (London, 1705),[10]
and her habit of saying "Lawrd" with an affected drawl is mentioned in
_The Secret History of Arlus and Odolphus_ (n.p., 1710), pp. 21, 22, 23.

Although not so frequent as attacks on the Duke and Duchess of
Marlborough, attacks on Mrs. Jennings the mother of the Duchess had
already been made, and indeed the _Story_ relies for part of its effect
on the fact that Mrs. Jennings is already associated with witchcraft. In
_Memoirs of Europe_ (London, 1710)[10] for example, she inherits a
familiar spirit from Sir Kenelm Digby, there reported the real father of
the Duchess (II, 44-46). In _Oliver's Pocket Looking-Glass_ (n.p., 1711)
Mrs. Jennings appears as "the famous Mother Shipton, who by the Power
and Influence of her Magick Art, had plac'd a Daughter in the same
Station at Court [i.e., Maid of Honour] with _Meretricia_ [Arabella
Churchill] ..." (p. 21). Because the author of the Story assumes that
previous Tory allegations are well-known, he is free to perform elegant
variations or to allude indirectly. Assuming the fact of witchcraft
allows him to heap up an ambiguous burlesque of popular superstition
which is in part entertainment and in part rebuttal of recent Whig
sneers at Tory credulity during the Jane Wenham witch trial.[11] Here as
throughout the pamphlet, the author demonstrates the virtuosity which
even Swift commends. Since Swift praises few pamphlets except those
written by himself and Arbuthnot (or occasionally Mrs. Manley), the
_Story_ enters a fairly select company. It is the only Pseudo-Wagstaffe
piece mentioned by name in the _Journal to Stella_, the only one found
worthy to stand beside the productions of Swift and Arbuthnot.[12]

The second document reproduced claims to be _A Catalogue of the Capital
and Well-Known Library of Books, of the Late Celebrated Dr. Arbuthnot_.
To the extent that the claim is true, the _Catalogue_ will be important
for studies of the Scriblerian Club generally, since Arbuthnot is the
member with the greatest reputation for learning. Although the contents
of a man's library do not correspond exactly with the contents of his
mind, scholars can discover a good deal about the intellectual methods
of Dr. Arbuthnot by examining the books which he owned. Until now this
has not been possible; the _Catalogue_ is a recent acquisition of the
British Museum, not so much as mentioned in books thus far published
about Arbuthnot. For several reasons, however, the document must be used
with caution. First of all, the compilers list a total of 2525 volumes,
but they itemize only 1639,[13] and even then often give inadequate
information. Furthermore, a xerox copy of the Sale Book records of the
auction, very kindly sent to me by the present Messrs. Christie, Manson
and Woods, shows that almost a quarter of the lots (items 53-65,
243-245, 276-372, 426), or 999 volumes, belonged not to the Arbuthnot
estate but to other owners. Finally, Dr. Arbuthnot died in 1735, whereas
the auction was not held until December 1779, about three and a half
months after the death of his bachelor son George. Of the books
belonging to the Arbuthnot estate, almost 20% were printed after 1735,
and belonged not to the father but to the son, or perhaps in some cases
to the daughter Anne, who lived with her brother.[14] The legal books
are likely all to have been George Arbuthnot's, and presumably some of
the other books printed before 1735 also. Despite these obscurities, the
Catalogue throws a good deal of new light upon the most learned
Scriblerian - and upon his family.

Dr. Arbuthnot seems to have bought relatively few antiquarian books;
about 20% of the itemized volumes belonging to his estate come before
1691, the year when he first went to London. In selecting these older
works Arbuthnot has shown a catholic taste and linguistic ability: he
bought grammars and dictionaries, besides works on medicine and science,
literature, history and religion, written in English, French, Italian,
Latin and Greek, plus a solitary Hebrew Bible (item 234); his copy of
Udall's _Key to the Holy Tongue_ is dated 1693 (item 183). Less than a
quarter of these earlier books are in English. The sole "cradle" date of
the catalogue, 1495 for _Rosa Anglica_ (item 417), may be a misprint:
editions of 1492 and 1595, among others, have been previously recorded,
but none for 1495.[15]

When compared with the antiquarian books, the list of titles from the
Arbuthnot estate either dated or first published after the death of Dr.
Arbuthnot reveals a number of differences. English is the predominant
language of the late group, with French a poor second. There is another
Hebrew Bible (253), a Spanish Cervantes (25), an Italian Machiavelli
(96), but no Greek book at all, and astonishingly only two Latin: a
dictionary (89) and a Horace (147); Cicero appears in a French
translation (26). In part, of course, the shift in languages accompanies
the general decline of humanistic learning in the eighteenth century,
but it also strengthens our knowledge of Dr. Arbuthnot's erudition.
Although apparently not interested in science, George Arbuthnot read
widely, however, in other areas (see for example 10, 15, 49, 158, 160,
168, 170, 254, 271). Similarly, the books from outside the Arbuthnot
estate are less learned than those of Arbuthnot. They do include two
Greek testaments (290, 310) and some recent scientific works (e.g. 314,
*349), but lack the great Greek writers whom Arbuthnot collected, such
as Plato (125), Aristotle (126), Herodotus (385) or Aristophanes (387).
Whereas Arbuthnot read Newton's treatises (81, 85, 197, 217), one of the
other owners read Algarotti's simplification (*312).

The subjects of the books in the Arbuthnot estate can be variously
divided. By sheer number of titles, literature is the most important
subject, closely followed by science (including medicine as the biggest
sub-group), and then by history. In number of volumes, however, the
historical section is considerably larger than the literary, and science
comes third. Books on geography and travel, philosophical treatises,
grammars and dictionaries, even a work on astrology (109), attest to the
breadth of Arbuthnot's interests. A few works in the fine arts are
listed, somewhat surprisingly only two of them on music (32, 373). The
military item (391) may come from the Doctor's brother George, who was
in the army, or it may represent another aspect of the general interest
in all human affairs. There is a fairly large number of religious works,
including books by Eusebius and Sozomen (127), Spotswood (380), Huet
(383), Charles Leslie (251), Leibniz (141), Tillotson (395) and Jeremy
Taylor (3,394). The elaborately bound Greek Septuagint (272) and Greek
New Testament (273) must be the ones which Arbuthnot specified in his
will (the only books there mentioned), calling them "the Gift of my late
Royal Mistress Queen Anne."[16] As the _Catalogue_ does not describe
any other fine bindings, the other books seem to have been bought for
use rather than for show.

A study of the duplications among the books in the Arbuthnot estate
reinforces the opinion that the books were bought for use. The only
items appearing three times are the works of Pope (76, 180) and Pope's
_Iliad_ (11, 77, 242). Since two of the former were published after the
death of Arbuthnot, and must have belonged to the Arbuthnot children,
perhaps the extra _Iliads_ were equally the property of Arbuthnot's
heirs. The duplicates of Molière (21, 135), Prideaux (50, 379), and
Veneroni (90, *229) could also have belonged to the children. However,
the bulk of the duplications seem to involve obtaining a later edition
or a necessary text, and thus to have a scholarly rationale. For
example, the two editions of Eustachius are dated 1714, 1728 (115, 259),
those of Livy are dated 1578, 1708 (7, 386), while both sets of
Sennertus seem to be broken (406, 407).

Not surprisingly, Arbuthnot owned a number of satirical works. In
addition to Pope and Molière, already mentioned, he owned Petronius (9),
Juvenal and Persius (230), Terence (231), Plautus (232), Boileau (98),
Gay (79) and Swift's _Tale of a Tub_ (178). He presumably bought or was
given other works by Swift, but no others are itemized; perhaps some
were in the "Large parcel of pamphlets" (1). George Arbuthnot added a
copy of _The Four Last Years of Queen Anne_ (173), not published until

Although literature bulks large among Arbuthnot's books, English poetry
is not very conspicuous. According to some of the dates, Arbuthnot may
have developed his interest in English poetry rather late in life.
Although he owned a 1611 Spenser (423), he did not buy the listed
Chaucer (110) until 1721. Pope may have inspired the urge to acquire
Milton (80, 185), but there seems to be no literary reason for wanting a
Milton in French (184). Some other member of the family was, however,
sufficiently interested in Milton to buy Newton's edition in 1749 (78).
The minor poets listed are also late in date (72, 187). The only Dryden
is the translation of Virgil (16), which could represent an interest in
classical just as much as in English poetry. There are, however, two
copies of Prior's _Poems_ in the large paper edition (106, 252). As the
compilers of the _Catalogue_ have left many volumes unspecified, there
must have been other poetic works, but the listed sample is rather

Characteristically uninterested in his personal fame, Arbuthnot kept no
copies of his own writings except the reissued _Tables of Ancient Coins_
(84, 193), associated with a favorite son. The reader revealed by this
library is the same Arbuthnot whom his contemporaries admired: witty,
yet thoughtful and religious; deeply learned, yet modest. His children,
although less learned than the father, continued to buy books on current
topics, particularly literature, history and travel. Aged over seventy,
George Arbuthnot was still ingesting such materials as Laughton's
_History of Ancient Egypt_ (168) and Raynal's comprehensive history of
colonialism (10). Despite the obscurity of the word "more" under which
the compilers listed half of the total volumes, even the sample of the
library is a welcome addition to our knowledge about Dr. Arbuthnot.

University of Victoria


[1] See advertisements in the _Evening Post_, 19, 21, 26 February, 13
March 1712; and in the _Post-Boy_, 10 May and 19 July 1712.

The research necessary for the present publication was supported by a
grant from the University of Victoria and by a Leave Fellowship from the
Canada Council.

[2] The dates given by Professor H. Teerink in _The History of John Bull

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