George Atherton Aitken.

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

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wholly, by Pope ^, against whose opponents it is directed.

^ Concanen, in 'A Supplement in Reputation, being a Supplement to

to the Profound, containing several the Art of Sinking in Poetry' (1728 ,

examples, very proper to illustrate was specially aimed at Pope. In the

the rules laid down in a late trea- preface to the ' One Epistle to Mr.

tise called The Art of Sinking in Pope' (1730), it is stated that the

Poetry' (1728), assumed that Pope original idea of the Art of Sinkimj

and Swift were the authors of the was due to Arbuthnot, who wished

^rto/Smfrm(7; and another reply, 'An the names of the writers satirized

Essay on the Art of a Poet's Sinking not to be printed.


Horatio "Walpole wrote to his brother Robert Walpole
from Paris, on the 7th of August, respecting the report
that Lord Chesterfield was about to be sent as ambassador
to the French court : ' I can tell you for certain that
Mr. Arbuthnot the Banker here, has lately received from
his Brother the Doctor advice that L'** Chesterfeild
spoke to the Doctor himselfe to write to him, & to tell
him that he should want his assistance in settling his
family here, & providing things necessary for it, because
it would be very large ; this the Banker has sayd as what
the Doctor had wrote to him more than once ^.' Lord
Chesterfield's expectations were disappointed, but in the
following year he was appointed ambassador to the

On the 5th of October Arbuthnot was chosen an Elect
by the College of Physicians, and on the i8th he delivered
the Harveian oration, which was at once printed. He
dedicated ' Oratiunculam hanc ' to the President — Sir
Hans Sloane — and Fellows of the College of Physicians.

Next month Arbuthnot wrote to Swift, who had re-
turned to Dublin.

London, Nov. 30, 1727.

I have heard, dear Sir, with great pleasure, of your safe
arrival ; and, which is more, of the recovery of your health.
I think it will be the best expedient for me to take a journey.
You will know who the inclosed comes from ; and, I hope,
will value mine for what it contains. I think every one of
your friends have heard from you, except myself. Either you

^ Historical MSS. Commission, directed to him — Banquier a Paris is

Eleventh Report, part iv. p. 333. sufficient— and he will faithfully

Robert Arbuthnot was always ready convey to her anything you think

to assist his friends in any way in fit in the best manner.' In accord-

his power. Thus Pope wrote to ance with his habit, he visited Eng-

Caryll on May 10, 1727 : ' Mr. land in the summer of this year,

Robert Arbuthnot, out of his friend- 1727, for the Abbe des Fontaines,

ship to me, and his own natural a converted Jesuit, wrote to Swift

generosity of mind, has been kinder on July 4 : ' M. Arbuthnot a bien

to her [Mrs. Cope] than anybody; vouluse charger de vous faire tenir

nor is it in my power to make him cette lettre avec I'exemplaire que

any return, which renders me un- j'ai I'honneur de vous envoyer.'
e?isy. Ijetters to her must be


have not done me justice, or they have not done yon ; for I
have not heard from them of my name being mentioned in
any of your letters. If my curiosity wanted only to be gratified,
I don't stand in need of a letter from yourself to inform me
what you are doing ; for there are people about court, who can
tell me every thing that you do or say ; so that you had best
take care of your conduct. You see of what importance you
are. However, all quarrels aside, I must ask you if you have
any interest ? Or do yovi think that I could have, or procure
any with my Lord Lieutenant ', to advance a I'elation of mine,
one Captain Innes "^^ I think in Colonel Wilson's regiment, and
now in Limerick ? He is an exceeding worthy man, but has
stuck long in a low post, for want of friends. Pray tell me
which way I shall proceed in this matter.

I was yesterday with all your friends at St. James's. There
is certainly a fatality upon poor Gay. As for hope of prefer-
ment there by favour, he has laid it aside. He has made a
pretty good bargain (that is, a Smithfield one) for a little place
in the Custom House, which was to bring him in about an
hundred a year. It was done as a favour to an old man, and
not at all to Gay. When every thing was concluded, the man
repented, and said, he would not part with his place. I have
begged Gay not to buy an annuity upon my life ; I am sure I
should not live a week. I long to hear of the safe arrival of
Dr. Delany ^ Pray give my humble service to him.

As for news, it was wrote from Spain, to me, from my
brother in France, that the preliminaries were ratified, and yet
the ministry know nothing of it. Nay, some told me, that the
answer was rather surly. Lord Townshend is veiy ill ; but I
think, by the description of his case, it is not mortal. I was
with our friend at the back-stairs yesterday, and had the
honour to be called in, and prettily chid for leaving off, &c.
The first part of the discourse was about you, Mr. Pope, Curll,
and myself. My family are Avell : they, and my brother in
France, and one that is here, all give their service to you. If
you had been so lucky as to have gone to Paris last summer,
you would have had health, honour, and diversion in abundance ;
for I will promise you would have recovered of the spleen. I
shall add no more, but my kindest washes, and that I am, with
the greatest affection and respect, yours, &c.

* Lord Carteret. clever but impetuous man, wrote a

* See pedigree in the Appendix. vindication of Swift in reply to
^ Patrick Delany (1685-1768;, a Lord Orrery's ' Remarks.'



The new year opened for Gray with the extraordinary
success of the Beggar's Opera ^ The piece was produced in
January at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and was
printed on the 14th of February, 1728-. On the following
day, his benefit-night, Gay wrote to Swift, and among other
items of news told him that George Arbuthnot, the Doctor's
brother, had married Miss Peggy Robinson ^. She appears
to have been half-sister of the singer who married Lord
Peterborough ^, and her husband had by her one son, who
lived until 1797. In February, too, Arbuthnot was one of
the Stewards for the Feast of the Corporation of the Sons
of the Clergy. In another letter Gay told Swift that he
met Arbuthnot on the 19th of March, with Mr. Lewis, at
Sir William Wyndham's. Arbuthnot had the gout, or he
' would have answered your letter you sent him a year and
a half ago. He said this to me a week since, but he is now
pretty well again, and so may forget to write ; for which
reason I ought to do him justice, and tell you that I think
him a sincere well-wisher of yours.'

Gay's play was soon followed by another work of great
importance in literary history. The first edition of Pope's
Dunciad, with Theobald as hero, was published in London
on May 28, with the imprint, ' Dublin printed, London re-
printed, 1728,' but it had been written for some time. An
'authorized' edition appeared in 1729, with Prolegomena
and Illustrations by Martinus Scriblerus, besides other in-
troductory matter, and a large body of humorous notes,

^ Arbuthnot's daughter, Anne, is intimately acquainted with Anne's

said to have furnished Gay with brotlier, George.

the airs for the Beggar's Opera, which ^ Monthly Chronicle. ' See p. 104.

are all Scotch. This story rests * Miss Anastasia Robinson, whose

upon the testimony of Mr. Robert secret marriage with Lord Peter-

Arbuthnot, Secretary to the Board borough was acknowledged in the

of Trustees, Edinburgh, who was following year.


■wliicli were intended to bring ridicule upon Bentley and
other critics. Many of these notes, which are signed
'Bentley' or ' Scriblerus,' are doubtless by Arbuthnot and
Swift ; but it is now impossible to distinguish the author-
ship, and therefore, though they are often very witty, none
of them have been included in this volume. Indeed, if
any attempt had been made in that direction it would
almost have been necessary to reprint the whole of the
first three books of the Dunciad, in order that the notes
might be intelligible ; and this was, apart from other
reasons, undesirable because the poem is already in every-
one's hands. Pope frequently revised and added to the
notes in subsequent editions ; and Warburton annotated
the Fourth Book — the N&w Dunciad — which appeared in
1742, and had Gibber in place of Theobald for hero. In
November of that year, when Pope was arranging for the
first edition of the whole poem, he wrote to Warburton,
'A project has arisen in my head to make you, in some
measure, the editor of this new edition of the Dunciad,
if you have no scruple of owning some of the graver
notes, which are now added to those of Dr. Arbuthnot \'
Accordingly, in the Advertisement to the complete edition
of 1743, Warburton said he had long had a design of
giving notes on Pope's Works. There was already a com-
mentary on the Dunciad, which had met with general
approbation; 'but I still thought some additions were
wanting (of a more serious kind) to the humorous notes of
Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr. Cleland, Dr.
Arbuthnot, and others.' Arbuthnot probably wrote the
short piece, Virgilius Restaurcdus, in ridicule of Bentley,
which forms an appendix to the Dunciad-, but we can-
not now say how far he was responsible for the rest of the
matter that precedes and follows the poem.

The Queen had a" difference with Mrs. Howard in May,
1728^ as to the respective duties of a bedchamber-woman

' Nichols' Literary Illustrations, v. 586.


and a lady of the bedchamber, and she is said to have
delighted in making Mrs. Howard perform servile duties,
while addressing her as ' my good Howard.' Mrs. Howard
had a pension from the King, and was assisted by Gay
and Arbuthnot in the negociations which preceded the
formal separation from her husband. She now asked
Arbuthnot to enquire from Lady Masham, who had been
bedchamber-woman to Queen Anne, as to certain points
of etiquette. In reply, Arbuthnot sent various particulars,
and added that Mrs. Howard could have whatever further
information could be given by Lady Masham, who was
quite charmed with her^. Next month Arbuthnot was
seriously ill with fever, but he was sufficiently recovered
to write the following letter to Mrs. Howard on the 4th of
July -. On the 28tli of June, in a letter asking Swift to
contribute notes to the Dunciad, Pope said that Arbuthnot
was vexed with his fever at intervals. ' I am afraid he
declines, and we shall lose a worthy man ; I am troubled
about him very much.'

Tunbridge Wells, July 4, 1728.

After I had the honour to see you on the i i^li June last at
St. James's, I fell into a violent fever, which held me about a
week, and brought me into some danger, and an extremely
languishing condition. I was obliged to come to this place,
as the last resource, for recovery of my health. The first week
I went on prosperously, but was seized (notwithstanding my
having t^vken the usual precautions) a second time, and con-
fined to my room for near a week. I begin now, like a man
come out of a storm, to recollect myself, and inquire about my
friends ; and there is none of them I am more concerned for
than yourself. I remember you told me at St. James's that
you were at that time very ill : the v\^eather has been so

' Letters to and from Henrietta^ time Arbuthnot wi'ote to Gay, who

CoMntess o/S«Y/7W/f, 1824, vol. i. p 291. was at Bath; and on the 6th of

Mi-s. Martha Blount wrote to Swift July, Gay informed Swift that he

on the 7th of May, ' Dr. Arbuthnot had that day received this letter

I am very angry with ; he neglects from Arbuthnot, who said he was

me for those he thinks finer ladies.' much better, and intended to go to

- lb. vol. i. p. 294. At the same Bath in August.



variable ever since (just like the deseases with a hot and cold
fit) that I am afraid you are not much recovered .... I would
not philosophise to every lady, Madam. By any opportunity
be so obliging as to send me word by message, or any other
way, how you do ; and to honour me with your commands,
which will be a great obligation put upon me.

At the close of 1728, Pope was arranging for another
volume of Miscellanies, and on the 8th of December he
asked Lord Oxford (Eobert Harley's son) ' to lend us John
Bull, &c,, for a good end, in order to put together this
winter many scattered pieces of the same kind, which are
too good to be lost.' From this it would appear that
neither Pope nor Arbuthnot had a copy of the book. The
additional volume of Miscellanies was not published until
1732. This will be a convenient place to say a few words
respecting several pieces, aftei-wards included in Arbuth-
not's Miscellaneous Works, which were first published in
1727 and 1728. Some of them — The Devil to pay at St.
James s'^, (1727), The Congress of Bees, (July 18, 1728-)'
and The Masquerade, A Poem inscribed to C — t H-d-g-r,
by Samuel Gulliver (January 30, 1728 ^), — may be rejected
with tolerable confidence ; the last-named piece, indeed, is
known to be by Fielding. A Third Part of the Hittory of
John Bull may with almost equal certainty be pronounced
spurious ; though in some places amusing, it is far in-
ferior to the first two Parts. This pamphlet gives the
history of the family of the Bulls from 17 14 to 1727, but
no earlier edition than that of 1744 appears to be known.
Another tract, Gulliver decypherd : or Remarks on a late
Book, intitled, &c., Vindicating the Reverend Dean on ivhom
it is maliciously fathered, was without date, but appeared
about 1728, and there was a second edition, with a key.
In this piece Swift, Pope, Gay and Arbuthnot are all
spoken of in terms which are far from complimentaiy,
and subjects are dwelt upon — such as the unfortunate

' See Mist's Journal, July 8 to 29, 1727. ^ The MontMy Chronicle.


play of Three Hours after Marriage — of which neither
Arbuthnot nor his friends would have spoken. It has,
indeed, been suggested ^ that the attack on Arbuthnot and
Swift was meant only to mystify, and that the pamphlet
may after all, have been their joint production ; but
though it is true that Swift and Pope sometimes adopted
such measures in order to throw dust into the eyes of the
public, it seems clear that the attack on Arbuthnot and
his friends in Gulliver decyphe7'\l was a very real one.
The last piece of which we have to speak here. An
Account of the State of Learning in the Empire of
Lilliputj together with the History and Character of
Bulluni the Emperor's Library -Keeper (1728), is chiefly an
attack upon Bentley, and may possibly, though it is not
of much value, be by Arbuthnot. It will have been
noticed that most of the pamphlets just mentioned had
their origin in Gulliver s Travels ; and the compiler of the
two volumes oi Miscellaneous Works attributed to Arbuth-
not appears to have been guided in his selection by the
ostensible subjects of the pieces, rather than by questions
of probability or of style.

Towards the end of November, 1728, Gay had a very
severe attack of fever, but on the 2nd of December he
told Swift that he hoped that, by the care of their friend
Arbuthnot, it had almost left him. He was anxious to be
able to go out, to arrange for the production of the new
opera Polly, the sequel to the Beggar s Opera. But Polly
was not allowed to be acted, and Gay's illness lasted until
March, when he wrote to Swift that he had several times
been given up by the physicians and everyone that at-
tended him. He was, however, at last recovering, under
the careful watchfulness of his kind hosts, the Duke and
Duchess of Queensberry, who had quarrelled with the
Court on account of the treatment of his play, now about
to be printed without being acted. ' I cannot omit telling

* Notes and Queries, Sixth Series, vii. 451.


you that Dr. Arbutlinot's attendance and care of me
shewed him the best of friends.' Pope had written several
affectionate letters to Gay in January, but could not visit
him, because the dangerous illness of his own mother
made it impossible for him to leave the house. Arbuthnot,
however, gave him daily accounts of Gay's condition.
On the 19th of March, Arbuthnot sent Swift further

London, March ig, 1728 g.

This is the second or third time, dear Sir, that I have wrote
to you, without hearing a word of you, or from you ; only, in
general, that you are very much out of order ; sometimes of
your two old complaints, the vertigo and deafness, which I am
very sorry for. The gentleman who carries this hath come
better off than I did imagine : I used my little interest as far
as it would go in his affair. He will be able to give you
Bome account of your friends, many of whom have been in
great distress this winter for John Gay. I may say, without
vanity, his life, under God, is due to the unwearied endeavours
and care of your humble servant : for a physician, who had not
been passionately his friend, could not have saved him. I had,
besides my personal concern for him, other motives of my
care. He is now become a public person, a little Sacheverell ;
and I took the same pleasure in saving him, as Kadcliffe did in
preserving my lord chief justice Holt's wife, whom he attended
out of spite to the husband, who wished her dead.

The inoffensive John Gay is now become one of the obstruc-
tions to the peace of Euroj)e, the terror of the ministers, the
chief author of the Craftsman, and all the seditious pamphlets
which have been published against the government. He has
got several turned out of their places ; the greatest ornament
of the court banished from it for his sake ; another great lady
in danger of being chassee likewise ; about seven or eight
duchesses pushing forward, like the ancient circumcelliones in
the church, who shall suffer martyrdom upon his account first.
He is the darling of the city. If he should travel about the
country, he would have hecatombs of roasted oxen sacrificed
to him, since he became so conspicuous. Will. Pulteney
hangs his head, to see himself so much outdone in the career
of glory. I hope he will get a good deal of money by printing
his play ; but I really believe he would get more by shewdng


his person ; and, I can assure you, this is the very identical
John Gay, whom you formerly knew, and lodged with in
Whitehall two years ago. I have been diverting myself with
making an extract out of a history, which will be i^rinted in
the year 1948. I wish I had your assistance to go through
with it ; for I can assure you, it riseth to a very solemn piece
of burlesque.

As to the condition of your little club, it is not quite so
desperate as you might imagine ; for Mr. Pope is as high in
favour as I am afraid the rest are out of it. The Bang, upon
the perusal of the last edition of his Dunciad, declared he was
a very honest man. I did not know till this moment, that I
had so good an opportunity to send you a letter ; and now I
know it, am called away, and am obliged to end with my best
wishes and respects, being most sincerely yours, &c.

-r-. ^. London, May 8, 1720.

Dear Sn-, ' -^ ' ' ^

I have wrote three times to Mr. Dean of St. Patrick's, with-
out receiving so much as an acknowledgement of the receipt of
my letters. At the same time I hear of other letters, which
his acquaintances receive from him. I believe I should hardly
have brought myself to have written this, were it not to serve
you, and a friend at the same time.

I recommended one Mr. Mason, son of Mason, gentleman of
the Queen's Chapel, a baritone voice, for the vacancy of a singer
in your cathedral. This letter was wrote from Bath last
September. The same Mason informs me that there is
another vacancy : therefore I renew my request. I believe
you will hardly get a better : he has a pleasant mellow voice,
and has sung several times in the King's Chapel this winter, to
the satisfaction of the audience. I beg at least your answer to
this. Your friends in town, such as I know, are well. Mr.
Pope is happy again, in having his mother recovered. Mr.
Gay is gone to Scotland with the Duke of Queensberry. He
has about twenty lawsuits with booksellers for pii-ating his
book. The king goes soon to Hanover. These are all the
news I know. I hope you don't imagine I am so little con-
cerned about your health, as not to desu'e to be informed of
the state of it from yourself. I have been tolerably well this
winter, I thank God. My brother Robin is here, and longs, as
well as I, to know how you do. This, with my best wishes
and respects, from, dear Sir, your most faithful, humble servant,

Jo. Arbuthnott.


London, Juno 9. 1 729.
Dear Sir,

This is given you by Mr. Mason, whom I believe you will
find answering the character I gave of him, which really was not
partial ; for I am not so much as acquainted with his father or
himself. I explained every thing to him according to the tenor
of the letter which I received from you some time ago, and for
which I most heartily thank you. Let him now speak for
himself, I have been enquiring about a counter-tenor ; but
have, as yet, no intelligence of any.

I am really sensibly touched with the account you give of
Ireland. It is not quite so bad here ; but really bad enough :
at the same time we are told, that we are in great plenty and

Your friends, whom you mention in yours, are w^ell. Mr.
Gay is retux-ned from Scotland, and has recovered his strength
by his journey. Mr. Pope is well ; he has got an injunction
in chancery against the printers, who had pirated his Dunciad ;
it was dissolved again, because the printer could not prove any
property, nor did the author appear. That is not Mr. Gay's
case ; for he has owned his book. Mr. Pulteney gives you his
service. They are all better than myself; for I am now so
bad of a constant convulsion in my heart, that I am like to
expire sometimes. We have no news, that I know of. I am
apt to believe that in a little time this matter of the provisional
treaty will be on or off. The young man waits for my letter.
I shall trouble yovi no more at present, but remain, with my
best wishes, and most sincere affection, dear Sii-, your most
faithful, humble servant,

J. Arbuthnott.

Arbuthnot seems to have moved to Cork Street, Bur-
lington Gardens, in 1728 or 1729. His name first appears
in the Rate-books in 1729^ and the author of Gulliver
deeypherd (supposed to have been published in 1728) says,
speaking of Arbuthnot, Pope and Swift, ' A man need not
be a conjurer to see into some folks, nor deal with the
black art to find out who lives in Burlington Gardens,
who has a Poetical Villa at Twickenham, and who snores
under a canopy once a week in a certain Cathedral in his

* Cymniti^haita.' a Handbook of London, 1850.


Majesty's dominions.' Lady Masliam also lived in Cork
Street, and the Duke of Queensberry was a near

In the autumn of 1729, Arbuthnot was in much trouble ;
his wife was very near death early in October, and 'his
two brothers buried their wives within these six weeks,'
as Pope told Swift on the 9th of that month. But he
added that the Doctor was ' unalterable, both in friendship
and Quadrille.' Soon afterwards Swift complained of the
quality of some wine that he had obtained through George
Arbuthnot, and Pope replied, on the 28th of November, ' I
will fully represent to our friend' — the Doctor — 'and I
doubt not it will touch his heart, what you so feelingly set
forth as to the badness of your Burgundy, &c. He is an
extreme honest man, and indeed ought to be so, consider-
ing how very indiscreet and unreserved he is; but I do
not approve this part of his character, and will never join
with him in any of his idlenesses in the way of wit. You
know my maxim is to keep clear of all offence, as I am
clear of all interest in either party,' from which it would
appear that Arbuthnot was writing or thinking of writing
something of a political nature. In his reply of February
26, Swift said, 'As to my Hermitage misfortune, it is a
very afflicting trifle, whereof your abstemiousness is no
judge ; but I am very serious in telling you that I expect
the Doctor will this very summer make his brother give
me ample satisfaction. I suppose he is rich, else it would

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 12 of 47)