George Atherton Aitken.

The life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians online

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medicines without a phj'sician's prescription ; and the
Act which was passed in due course gave the Censors of
the College of Physicians power to visit apothecaries'
shops in order to examine the medicines and drugs.
In the Reasons^ c&c, the undertakers are represented as
urging that they would be seriously injured by the
decrease in the number of deaths that would result from
these precautions.

Another piece, It cannot rain but it pours, is probably
Swift's, though it is sometimes attributed to Arbuthnot.
It refers to a wild boy named Peter, who was found in
Hanover in 1725, brought to England, and committed
for some time to Arbuthnot's care^. He died in 1785.
Another pamphlet on the same subject, published in 1726
and reprinted in Arbuthnot's Miscellaneous Works, may
also be Swift's. It was called The Most Wonderfid
Wonder that ever appeared to the Wonder of the B}-iti(<h
Nation, and contained a satirical dialogue upon the ways
of civilised society between the wild boy and his foster
mother, an old bear which had been brought to London
by MjTiheer Veteranus. It was described as ' \^Titten
by the Copper-Farthing Dean,' in allusion to the con-

' Suffolk CorresjMtidence, ed. Croker, subject of half our talk this fort-

1824, vol. i. p. 176. Ehvin and night. He is in the keeping of Dr.

Coiu-thope's Po2)e, vol. ix. p. 102. Arbuthnot ' (Swift to Tickell, April

■■* 'This night I saw the wild boy, 16, 1726).
whose arrival here hath been the


troversy over "Wood's halfpence, in which Swift had
taken so active a part^

Arbuthnot was seriously ill in September, 1725. Pope
wrote to Swift on the 14th : ' One of those you mention
(and I dare say always will remember), Dr. Arbuthnot,
is at this time ill of a very dangerous distemper, an im-
posthume in the bowels ; which is broke, but the event
is very uncertain^. Whatever that be, he bids me tell
you (and I write this by him) he lives or dies your
faithful friend ; and one reason he has to desire a little
longer life is the wish to see you once more. He is gay
enough in this circumstance " to tell you, he would give
you (if he could) such advice as might cure your deafness,
but he would not advise you, if you were cured, to quit
the pretence of it ; because you may by that means hear
as much as you will, and answer as little as you please.'
Swift, who was now completing Gulliver s Travels'^, an-
swered Pope's letter on the 2gth : ' Mr. Lewis sent me
an account of Dr. Arbuthnot's illness, which is a very-
sensible affliction to me, who by living so long out of
the world have lost that hardness of heart contracted
by years and general conversation. I am daily losing

^ The doggrel Latin and English with him, thinks him out of

verses at the end of this tract, danger.'

' Guliehni Sutherland! Diploma,' ^ Arbuthnot loved mischief ' the

are attributed to William Meston best of any good-natured man in

(1688-1745) in his Poetical Works, England' (_Pope to Svs'ift, Dec. 14,

1767. 1725)-

'■^ On September 23, Gay wrote to ^ Pope said that Swift took his

Fortescue from Twickenham : ' Dr. first hints for Gullirer from a part

Arbuthnot has been at the point of of the Memoirs of Scribleriis, and

death by a severe fit of illness, an added that the design for those

imposthumation in the bowels ; it Memoirs was carried on much

hath broke, and he is now pretty farther than has appeared in print

well recovered. I have not seen (Spence's Anecdotes, p. 8\ In a

him since my return from Wilt- sense it is certainly true that

shire, but intend to go to town the Giillirer's Travels and the lUmciad

latter end of the week.' In a later were the natural result of the dis-

letter to Pope, dated ' Thursday, 10 cussions among the wits which

at night,' Gay said he had just left would have led, but for the inter-

Arbuthnot, who was now free from ruption caused by Queen Anne's

pain. ' He is weak, and very much death, to other writings about

reduced, but Amiens, whom I found Scriblei'us.


friends, and neither seeking nor getting others. Oh ! If
the world had but a dozen of Arbuthnots in it I would
bum my Travels ! But, however, he is not without fault.
There is a passage in Bede, highly commending the piety
and learning of the Irish in that age, where, after abund-
ance of praises, he overthrows them all by lamenting
that, alas, they kept Easter at a wrong time of the year.
So our Doctor has every quality and virtue that can make
a man amiable or useful ; but, alas, he hath a sort of
slouch in his walk. I pray God protect him, for he is
an excellent Christian, though not a Catholic, and as fit
a man either to die or live as ever I knew.'

Pope answered, on the 15th of October, that Arbuthnot
was yet living, recovered from the jaws of death, and
' more j)leased with the hope of seeing you again than
of re-viewing a world he has long despised every part of,
but what is made up of a few men like yourself. He
goes abroad again, and is more cheerful than even health
can make a man, for he has a good conscience into the
bargain, which is the most Catholic of all remedies,
though not the most universal. I knew it would be a
pleasure to you to hear this, and in truth that made me

write so soon to you I designed to have left the

following page for Dr. Arbuthnot to fill, but he is so
touched with the period in yours to me concerning him,
that he intends to answer it by a whole letter. He too
is busy about a book, which I guess he will tell you of
This was Arbuthnot's letter :

London, Octob. 17, 1725.
Dear Sir,

I have the vanity to think, that a few friends have a real
concern for me, and are uneasy when I am in distress ; in
consequence of which I ought to communicate to them the
joy of my recoveiy. I did not want a most kind paragraph in
your letter to Mr. Pope, to convince me that you are of the
number ; and I know that I give you a sensible j^leasure in
telling you, that I think myself at this time almost perfectly


recovered of a most unusual and dangerous distemper, an
imposthume in the bowels ; such a one, that had it been in
the hands of a chirurgeon, in an outward and fleshy part, I
should not have been well these three months. Duke Disney,
our old friend, is in a fair way to recover of such another.
There have been several of them occasioned, as I reckon, by
the cold and wet season. People have told me of new
impostures (as they call them) every day. Poor Sir William
Wyndham is an imposture : I hope the Bath, where he is
going, will do him good. The hope of seeing once more the
Dean of St. Patrick's revives my spirits. I cannot help imagin-
ing some of your old club met together, like mariners after a
storm. For God's sake do not tantalize your friends any more.
I can prove by twenty unanswerable arguments, that it is
absolutely necessary that you should come over to England ;
that it would be committing the greatest absurdity that ever
was, not to do it the next approaching winter. I believe,
indeed, it is just possible to save your soul without it, and that
is all. As for your book ' (of which I have framed to myself
such an idea, that I am persuaded there is no doing any good
upon mankind without it) I will set the letters myself, rather
than that it should not be published. But before you put the
finishing hand to it, it is really necessary to be acquainted with
some new improvements of mankind that have appeared.
Mankind has an inexhaustible source of invention in the way
of folly and madness. I have only one fear, that when you
come over, you will be so much coveted and taken up by the
ministry, that, unless your friends meet you at their tables,
they will have none of your company. This is really no joke ;
I am quite in earnest. Your deafness is so necessary a thing,
that I almost begin to think it an affectation. I remember
you used to reckon dinners. I know of near half a year's
dinners, where you are already bespoke. It is worth your
while to come to see your old friend Lewis, who is wiser than
ever he was, the best of husbands. I am sure I can say from
my own experience that he is the best of friends. He was
so to me, when he had little hope I should ever live to thank

You must acquaint me before you take your journey, that
we may jjrovide a convenient lodging for you amongst your
friends. I am called away this moment, and have only time

' Gulliver's Travels.

'GULLIVER'S travels: III

to add, that I love and long to see you, and am most sincerely,
dear Sir, your most faithful humble Servant,

J. Arbuthnott.

The book that was occupying Arbuthnot's attention
when Pope wrote to Swift in October was probably the
Tables of Ancient Coins, d-c, to wbicli we shall have to
refer again shortly. A pamphlet called A Learned Dis-
sertation on Dumiiling, its dignity, antiquity, and ex-
cellence; tvith a word upon Pudding, which reached a
fifth edition in the year 1726, and which was afterwards
reprinted in Arbuthnot's Miscellaneous Works, might, per-
haps, judging by internal evidence, have been accepted
as Arbuthnot's ; but there is reason to believe it was by
Thomas Gordon ^.

Swift came over from Ireland in April, 1726, and was
at once introduced by Arbuthnot to the Princess of
Wales, who was to become Queen Caroline a year later.
Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot were often to be found at the
Court kept by the Prince of Wales, and they had for
their friend Mrs. Howard, who was the Princess's con-
fidante and was at the same time reputed to be the
Prince's mistress. Swift returned to Dublin in August
in consequence of the serious illness of Esther Johnson,
and on the 3rd of September, Pope wrote to express
his satisfaction at hearing of Swift's safe arrival at his
journey's end. ' I can't help thinking (when I consider
the whole short list of our friends) that none of them
except you and I are qualified for the Mountains of
Wales'"^. The Doctor [Arbuthnot] goes to cards, Gay to
Court ; one loses money, one loses his time.' On the 20th,

* At the end of the pamphlet be ' by Capt. Gordon, Author of the

were seven pages, ' Namby Pamby ; Apology for Parson Alberony, and

a Panegyric on the new versifica- the Humourist.' There was also a

tion, addressed to A[mbrose] single folio sheet called 'Namby

P[hilips], Esq.' These satirical Pamby'sAnswerto Captain Gordon.'

verses were also printed as a folio '^ An allusion to Erasmus Lewis,

broadside, without place or date, who often visited the place of his

perhaps before the pamphlet ap- birth in Caermarthenshire.
peared ; and they are there stated to


Arbutlinot sent Swift tlie following letter, containing
various items of news. His brother Robert had during
his visit to England married a lady with a fortune of
£900 a year ^

London, Sept. 20, 1726.

I have been balancing, dear Sir, these three days, whether I
should write to you first. Laying asids the superiority of your
dignity, I thought a notification was due to me, as well as to
two others of my friends : then I considei'ed, that this was
done in the public news, with all the formalities of reception
of a Lord Lieutenant. I reflected on the dependency of Ireland ;
but, said I, what if my friend should dispute this? Then I
considered, that letters were always introduced at first from
the civilized to the barbarous kingdom. In short, my affection,
and the pleasure of corresponding with my dear friend, pre-
vailed ; and, since you most disdainfully and barbarously
confined me to two lines a month, I was resolved to plague
you with twenty times that number, though I think it was a
sort of a compliment to be supposed capable of saying anything
in two lines. The Gascon asked only to speak one word to
the French king, which the king confining him to, he brought
a paper, and said, * signez,' and not a word more. Your negocia-
tion with the singing man is in the hands of my daughter
Nancy, who, I can assure you, will neglect nothing that
concerns you : she has wrote about it. Mr. Pope has been in
hazard of his life by dx-owning. Coming late, two weeks ago,
from Lord Bolingbroke's, in his coach and six, a bridge on a
little river being broke down, they were obliged to go through
the water, which was not too high, but the coach was over-
turned in it ; and the glass being up, which he could not break,
nor get down, he was very near drowned ; for the footman was
stuck in the mud, and could hardly come in time to his
assistance. He had that in common with Horace, that it was
occasioned by the trunk of a tree ; but it was trunco rliecla
illapsa, neque Fauniis icfuni dextra levahat ; for he was
wounded in the left hand, but, thank God, without any
danger ; but by the cutting of a large vessel, lost a great deal

1 Swift to Dr. Stopford, July 20, 20, 1735, that he had been kindly

1726. Dr. Sican, to whom Swift entertained, and that Mr. Arbuth-

had given a letter of introduction not had a large share of wit, good

to Robert Arbuthnot, wrote on Oct. humour, sincerity and honesty.


of blood ^ I have been with Mrs. Howard, who has a most
intolerable pain in one side of her head -. I had a great deal of
discourse with your friend, Her Eoyal Highness. She insisted
upon your wit and good conversation. I told Her Royal High-
ness, that was not what I valued you for, but for being a
sincere honest man, and speaking the truth, when others were
afraid to speak it. I have been for near three weeks together
every day at the Duchess of Marlborough's, with Mr. Congreve,
who has been like to die with a fever, and the gout in his
stomach ; but he is now better, and like to do well. My
brother was like to be cast away going to France : there was a
ship lost just by him. I write this in a dull humour, but
with most sincere affection, to an ungrateful man as you are,
that minds every body more than me, except what concerns
my interest. My dear friend, farewell.

Arbiithiiot wrote to Swift again immediately after the
publication of Gulliver s Travels. He more than once
procured singers for Swift's choir, and he was himself
very fond of music. The words of an anthem (' As pants
the hart,' Ps. xlii. w. i, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9) which he composed
are given in a collection made by Dr. Croft — whose name,
however, does not appear — which was published in 17 12,
with the title, ' Divine Harmony ; or a new collection of
sacred Anthems, used at Her Majesty's Chappels Royal.'
Arbuthnot would often meet Handel at Burlington
House ^.

* ' I hear that Dr. Arbuthnot that a letter on the Italian Opera

says that Pope's jjains are rheuma- in the London Journal for March 23,

tic, and have no relation to his 1728, had been ascribed to Arbnth-

wound ' (Bolingbroke to Swift, Sep. not; but this suggestion is not

22, 1726). supijorted by internal evidence.

^ Swift wrote to Mrs. Howard : The writer of the paper in question

' Dr. Arbuthnot lately mortified me (who incidentally quotes from

with an account of a great pain in Swift) argues that the interest re-

your head. I believe no head that cently shown by the public in

is good for anything is long without Italian Opera was only an affecta-

some disorder ; at least that is the tion, or compliance with fashion ;

best argument I had for anything for the people were now quarrelling

that is good in my own.' about two favourite singers, who

3 Sir John Hawkins' History of both had fine voices, though very

Music (ed. 1853), vol. ii. pp. 806 note, different; and because neither

859. In Dr. Burney's History of party could convert the other, they

Music (1789), vol. iv. p. 333, it is said were willing to throw up the whole


London, Nov. 8, 1726.

I take it mighty kindly, that a man of your high post, dear
Sir, was pleased to write me so long a letter. I look uj^on the
Captain Tom ' of a great nation to be a much greater man than
the governor of it.

I am sorry your commission about your singer has not been
executed sooner. It is not Nanny's fault, who has spoke
several times to Dr. Pepusch ^ about it, and wrote three or
four letters, and received for answer, that he would write for
the young fellow ; but still, nothing is done. I will endeavour
to get his name and direction, and write to him myself.

Your books shall be sent as directed ; they have been printed
above a month, but I cannot get my subscribers' names ^ I
will make over all my profits to you for the property of
Gulliver's Travels ; which I believe, will have as great a run
as John Bunyan. Gulliver is a happy man, that, at his age,
can write such a merry book.

I made my Lord Archbishop's * compliments to Her Koyal
Highness, who returns his Grace her thanks ; at the same time,
Mrs. Howard read your letter to herself. The princess
immediately seized on your plaid " for her own use, and has
ordered the young princesses to be clad in the same. When I
had the honour to see her, she was reading Gulliver, and Avas
just come to the passage of the hobbling prince, which she
laughed at. I tell you freely, the part of the projectors is the
least brilliant. Lewis grumbles a little at it, and says he
wants the key to it, and is daily refining. I suppose he will
be able to publish like Barnevelt *' in time. I gave your service

entertainment. ' I would not be ' The reference is to the Tables oj

thought here to speak with any ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures,

prejudice or ill-will to the Beggar's explained and exemplified, in several Dis-

Opera, in which I am willing to sertations. Gay told Swift on the

allow there is a great deal of true 22nd of October that the book was

low humour. I only wish this entirely printed off; and would be

performance had been produced at very soon published.

any other time, when it could not * Probably Archbishop King, of

have been capable of doing so much Duljlin.

disservice to an entertainment of a ^ The Dean sent a present of

better sort.' some silk plaids fi-om Ireland, for

' The ringleader of a mob. the Princess of Wales, and the

'^ Johann Christoph Pepusch young princesses.

(1667-1 752) was musical director of ^ This refers to a pamphlet

Lincoln's Inn Field's Theatre. He called ^A Key to the Lock; or, a

arranged the aii-s in the Beggar's Treatise proving beyond all Contradiction

Opera and Polly. the dangerous Tendency of a late Poem,


to Lady Harvey \ She is in a little sort of a miff about a ballad,
that was wrote on hei', to the tune of Molly Mog, and sent to
her, in the name of a begging poet. She was bit, and wrote a
letter to the begging poet, and desired him to change two
double entendres ; which the authors, Mi\ Pulteney and Lord
Chesterfield, changed to single entendres. I was against that,
though I had a hand in the first. She is not displeased, I
believe, with the ballad, but only with being bit

Gay has had a little fever, but is pretty well recovered : so is
Mr. Pope. We shall meet at Lord Bolingbroke's on Thursday,
in town, at dinner, and remember you. Gulliver is in every
body's hands. Lord Scarborough, who is no inventor of stories,
told me, that he fell in company with a master of a ship, who
told him that he was very well acquainted with Gulliver ; but
that the printer had mistaken, that he lived in Wapping, and
not at Eotherhithe. I lent the book to an old gentleman, who
went immediately to his map to search for Lillij)ut.

We expect war here. The city of London are all crying out
for it, that they shall be imdone without it, there being now a
total stoppage of all trade. I think one of the best courses
will be, to rig out a privateer for the West Indies. Will j^ou
be concerned ? We will build her at Bermudas, and get Mr.
Dean Berkeley to be our manager.

I had the honour to see Lord Oxford, who asked kindly for
you, and said he would write to you. If the project goes on of
printing some papers ', he has promised to give copies of some
things, which I believe cannot be found elsewhere. My
brother, Eobert, has been veiy ill of a rheumatism. Wishing
you all health and happiness, and not daring to write my paper
on the other side, I must remain, dear Sir, your most faithful
humble servant,

Jo. Arbuthxott.

Early in 1727 a quarto volume appeared, with the title
Tallies of Ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures, exjjlaiii'd
and exertijplify d in several Dissertations. It was an am-
plification of the little book Arbuthnot issued in 1 705 ^

intitled, the Rape of the Lock, to Govern- ^ The following note in among

ment and Bdigion.' By Esdras Barne- the Tonson Papers in the British

velt. Apothecary, 1715. The piece Museum (Add. MS. 28275 f- 228).

was really by Pope. Jan. 20''', 1728.

' The beautiful Maiy Lepelle. To M . Tonson,

■■' The Miscellanies in Prose and My Lord Oxford desiies you to

Verse, published in 1727. give the Bearer twelve of Dr. Ar-

I 2


Prefixed to tlie Tables were verses to the King, by the
author's son, Charles, student of Christ Church, Oxon, and
in the preface Arbuthnot explained the object of the book :
' I published twenty years ago some Tables, which being
out of print, it was suggested to me that if I would give
the copy, with some other calculations relating to the
same subject, to my son, he might make some profit of
them. This interested motive I frankly own had its
share in producing the present treatise.' He deprecated
attacks from critics, for the book was only a compilation ;
'I propose no reputation by it, and I hope I shall lose
none.' But the work was of more importance than
might be judged by the author's apologetic tone. It
seems to have been reprinted at the close of 1728, and
what was called the 'second edition' was published in
1754, with an Appendix (' second edition ') containing
observations on Arbuthnot's dissertations, by Benjamin
Langwith, D.D. In 1756, a Latin translation by Dr.
Konigius was published, and it was reprinted in 1764.
This volume was called Caroli Arhuthnotii Tabulae, t&c,
the mistake arising from the presence in the original
edition of the verses to the King signed by Charles
Arbuthnot, and from the absence of Dr. Arbuthnot's own
name from the title-page. But perhaps the most in-
teresting publication occasioned by Arbuthnot's work was
that called Literae de lie Nunvniaria ; ' in opposition to
the common opinion that the Denarii Eomani were never
larger than seven in an ounce : with some remarks on
Dr. Arbuthnot's Book, and Tables.' This volume was by
the Rev. William Smith ^, Rector of Melsonby, and was
published at Newcastle- on-Tyne in July, 1729, when the
author was in his seventy-eighth year. Smith said he
regretted having to enter into the lists with Arbuthnot,

Inithnot's Books, and pray send ^ Author of the well-known An-

with them, one to me, Y"" humble nahof University College, proving William
Serv', A. Pope. of Durham the true Founder {i^zQ).


a known friend and ' an old acquaintance and familiar
collegiate for some months, or rather years, in University
College, in Oxford.' In 17 14, when Smith wrote a long letter
about ancient coins, &c., Dr. John Bateman, to whom it
was addressed, said the questions contained in it were too
hard for him, but that he had seen Arbuthnot, who
promised to send an answer to them. This answer, how-
ever, never came into Smith's hands ; probably more
pressing matters at that time caused Arbuthnot to forget
the promise. Smith adds that when he heard of the
Tables some time before Christmas, 1728, he ordered the
book from Durham, but the copies were all sold. Then
he heard of a second edition, and his nephew bought a
copy for 30s., ' the value of it daily increasing.'

A work which was more important from the literary
point of view than the Tables was, however, to appear in
the same year. In February, 1727, Gay wrote to Swift
that he and Arbuthnot, with whom he had been dining,
were in high delight at information, given by Mr. Stopford,
that they would probably see the Dean soon ; and on the
ist of May, Pope wrote to Fortescue : ' Dr. Swift is come
into England . . . Dr. Arbuthnot has led him a course
through the town, with Lord Chesterfield, Mr. Pulteney,
&c.' In the autumn the famous Miscellanies in Prose and
Verse appeared, in three volumes, with a Preface signed
by Swift and Pope, and dated May 27, 1727. The second
volume contained Arbuthnot' s John Bull and Art of
Political Lying, and the third volume the Art of SinJciwj
in Poetry, which, however, was probably wholly, or almost

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 11 of 47)