George Atherton Aitken.

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

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not be contemptible if he got the custom of several persons
here, who liked my first Hermitage so well, which was
sent by Robin Arbuthnot, that they resolved to send for
cargoes if I succeeded in my second ; and I tell you that
good wine is ninety per cent, in living, in Ireland. But
in you I sing to the deaf. I Avill refer it to our friend
Gay, who has writ to me lately, and you must promise my
answer.' Accordingly, Swift wrote to Gay on March 19 :
' I complain to you as I did to Mr. Pope of the Doctor's


Rouen brother, who sent me 150 bottles of Hermitage,
that by the time they got into my cellar cost me c€27, ^^^
in less than a year all turned sour, though what I had
formerly from his brother Robin was not fit to drink till
two years, and grew better at seven, as a few left yet show.
For this I expect satisfaction. The disappointment is five
times more than the loss. But what care you for this, who
have left off drinking wine, and would not now think it
hard if Mr. Pope should tell us towards the bottom of a
pint, " Gentlemen, I will leave you to your wine "... My
humble service to the Doctor.' Gay replied on March 31 :
' I have not seen the Doctor, and am not like to see his
Rouen brother \&tj soon, for he is gone to China. Mr.
Pope told me he had acquainted the Doctor with the mis-
fortune of the sour Hermitage. My Lord Oxford told me,
he at present could match yours, and from the same
person. The Doctor was touched with your disappoint-
ment, and hath promised to represent the affair to his
brother, at his return from China. I assui'e you, for all
your gibes, that I wish you heartily good wine, though I
can drink none myself.' On the i8th of April, Pope "UTote
complainingly to Gay, ' Dr. A. for all that I know may yet
remember you and me, but I never hear of it.'

Arbuthnot doubtless could not find time for correspon-
dence, for his wife, who had been dangerously ill in the
preceding October, died of a fit of apoplexy on Sunday,
the 3rd of May, 1730"^- Three weeks later it was stated^
that Arbuthnot had been appointed physician to the Queen,
in the room of Dr. Freind, who died on Jul}'- 26, 1728, and
that on the 21st of May he had the honour of kissing Her
Majesty's hands on that occasion ; but in a letter chiefly
consisting of advice as to medicines, which Swift received
in November, Arbuthnot says, ' How came you to take it

1 Historical Begiskr, 1730, Chron. '^ Craftsman, and Read's Weekly

Diaiy, p. 34. London Journal, and Journul, May 23, 1730.
Read's Weekly Journal, May 9, 1730.




in your head that I was Queen's physician ? When I am
so you shall be a bishop or anything you have a mind to.
Lady Betty G-ermain ^ complains you have not written to
her since she wrote to you. I have showed as much
civility to Mrs. Barber as I could, and she likewise to me.'
Mrs. Barber was seeking subscribers to her poems, and had
been recommended to Swift by Dr. Delany.

A libellous pamphlet, with the title One Epistle to Mr.
A. Pope, occasion d by Ttuo Epistles, lately published,
appeared early in May. The Tiuo Epistles were by Dr.
Edward Young, and the One Epistle was by James Moore
Smyth, or Smythe, assisted, perhaps, by Welsted. Smyth,
who had assumed that name in the preceding year, was
the son of Arthur Moore, M.P., and was a fashionable man
about town. Pope had quarrelled with him, and put him
in the Dunciad'^, and the One Epistle was his revenge.
But Smyth attacked not only Pope, but his friends, and
among them Arbuthnot, whom he called a quack, and a
' puzzling, plodding, prating, pedant Scot' ;

'The grating scribbler! whose imtunecl Essays
Mix the Scotch Thistle with the English Bays ;
By either Phoebns preordained to ill,
The hand prescribing, or the flattering quill,
Who doubly plagues, and boasts two Arts to kill ! '

Retribution appears to have followed within a month,
for the Grub Street Journal for Thursday, June 11, 1730,
contained the following paragraph : ' Last Friday, at the
Prince "William Tavern, a very modest young gentleman.

^ Lady Betty Germain, of Dray-
ton, Northamptonshire, was the
second daughter of Charles, second
Earl of Berkeley, and became the
second wife of Sir John Germain,
a great gambler, who died in 1718.
Swift was once chaplain to her

^ Book ii. V. 50. In a note it is

Arlnithnot a paper called an His-
iorico-phijsical Account of the South Sea,
and of Pope the Memoirs of a Parish
CIcrl; which he kept for two years
and read to various persons as his
own. When asked for these papers
he said they were lost ; but there
happening to be another copy of the
latter, it came out in the Miscellanies

stated that Moore borrowed of of 1727.


alias Moore, alias Smith, who had been concerned in a
libel against an eminent physician, had the correction of
the cane bestowed upon him by a relation of that physician,
which correction he received with exemplary patience and
resignation.' It is said that for this and some other satiri-
cal allusions, Smyth moved the Court of King's Bench for
an information against the publisher of the Grub Street
Journal, but, after considering better of the matter,
dropped the prosecution^.

Pope, in the meantime, suspected, or pretended that he
suspected, that Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had had a
hand in the One Epistle. Pope's former friendship for
Lady Mary had, for some reason which cannot now be
determined with certainty, been converted into bitter
hostility ; and in an article upon the One Epistle in the
Grub Street Journal, written or inspired by Pope, he
referred to ' a lady (su23posed to have had some hand in this
piece) who has confidently reported he was once whipped.'
This relates to a story in A Pop upon Pope (1728), which
he accused Lady Mary of writing. Among the libels in
the One Epistle was a scandalous account of Swift's rela-
tions with Miss Vanhomrigh, and in October Arbuthnot
seems to have told Lady Mary that Pope was charging her
with the responsibility of this passage. The following
was her reply ^ :

I have this minute receiv'd y^ Letter, & cannot remember I
ever was so much surpris'd in my Life, the whole Contents of
it being matter of astonishment. I give you sincere & hearty
thanks for y^ Intelligence & the obliging manner of it. I have
ever valu'd you, as a Gentleman both of Sense & merit, &

' Memoirs of Grub Street, i. 124-138. have gone away suddenly, in appre-

In the number for June 25 was an hension of falling under the hands

advertisement offering two guineas of the physician,

reward to anyone who would give ^ Mr. Baillie's MSS. ; printed in

notice to Dr. Arbuthnot of a young the Letters and Works of Lady Mary

man, J. M. S., who was supposed to Wortley Mff)ifagu (1861), ii. 17-20.
be disordered in his head, and to

K 2


will joyn w^^ you in any method you can contrive to prevent
or punish y^ authors of so horrid a villainy.

I am, wt'i much Esteem,

Your Humble Ser*,

Oct. 17. M. WORTLEY M.

In another letter, without date, Lady Mary said, ' I am
told Pope has had the surprising impudence to assert he
can bring the lampoon when he pleases to produce it,
under my own hand ; I desire he may be made to keep to
this offer.' She had never before heard the name of the
lady mentioned by Arbuthnot, and never had any acquain-
tance with Swift. It was all a contrivance of Pope to
blast her reputation. ' I am not more sensible of his in-
justice than I am, Sir, of your {sic) candour, generosity and
good sense I have found in you, which has obliged me to
be with a very uncommon warmth, your real friend ' Some
years later Pope again attacked Lady Mary, in his Ephtle
to Dr. Arbuthnot, under the name of Sappho. On the 3rd
of January, 1735- she wrote to Arbuthnot, ' I have perused
the last lampoon of your ingenious friend, and am not sur-
prised you did not find me out under the name of Sappho.'
She wished that Arbuthnot could persuade Pope to turn
to some more honest livelihood than libelling; and she
regretted that Pope had written as he had of James Moore
Smyth — who had recently died — and of Congreve. She
asked Arbuthnot to show her letter to Pope. Whether he
did as she requested we cannot say. He lived only a few
weeks longer ; but he had already satirized the practice of
making personal and scandalous charges, which was so
common in controversy.

In February, 1731^, Arbuthnot published A Brief Ac-
count of Mr. John Ginglicutt's Treatise concerning the
Altercation or Scolding of the Ancients. Pulteney ^ told

* The Monthly Chronicle. peer), always spoke of Arbuthnot

* Mrs. Montagu, years afterwards, with great affection (An Accomit of
said that her old friend. Lord Bath the Life and Writings of James Beatfie,
(Pulteney's title when he became a LL.D., 1807).


Swift on the 9th of February that in consequence of the
growing practice on both sides of using the language
of Billingsgate in referring to political opponents, Arbuth-
not had written a humorous pamphlet, ' which he showed
me this morning ; wherein he proves from many learned
instances that this sort of altercation is ancient, elegant,
and classical ; and that what the world falsely imagines to
be polite, is truly gothic and barbarous. He shows how
the gods and goddesses used one another ; dog, bitch and
whore were pretty common expressions among them :
kings, heroes, ambassadors and orators abused one another
much in the same way : and he concludes that it is a pity
this method of objurgation should be lost. His quotations
from Homer, Demosthenes, ^schines and TuUy are admir-
able, and the whole is very humorously conducted, I take
it for granted he will send it you himself as soon as it is
printed.' This praise is certainly much exaggerated, and
many will agree rather with Pope, who told Swift ', ' The
paper you ask me about is of little value. It might have
been a seasonable satire upon the scandalous language
and passion with which men of condition have stooped
to treat one another; surely they sacrifice too much to
the people when they sacrifice their own characters,
families, &c., to the diversion of that rabble of readers.
I agree with you in my contempt of most popularity,
fame, &c.' (!)

Lord Chesterfield wi'ote several letters to Arbuthnot
from the Hague during the early months of 1731 -. The
first (March 23, N. S.) was about a lady who had called
Lord Chesterfield mischievous and tale-telling. ' I hope
to return soon to my Ark, bearing in my mouth Ramuni
felicis Olivae, and instead of being mischievous prove
myself your peace making humble servant. I expect to
hear very much from you by next post.' In a second

' Gay and Pope to Swift, Dec. i, 1730. '' Mr. Baillie's MSS.


letter (April 20, N. S.), Lord Chesterfield said, ' I expect to
bring you both a mind and a body that will require a good
deal of your attention and skill ' ; and in a third (June 29,
N.S.), he wrote that Lady Murray 'told me .... that you
had been melancholy, ever since you had been most
shamefully beaten at cards by the superior good play of a
French Spaniel lately brought over .... I thank God I can
now say with some certainty that I shall see you soon.'
A week later Arbuthnot wrote to Mrs. Howard, now
Countess of Suffolk, who had been appointed Mistress of
the Robes by the Queen ^.

London, July 6, 1731.

I have the honour to congratulate your Ladyship on your
late honour and preferment, and the obliging manner that I
hear the last was conferred — I believe I may likewise add on
a sufficient stock of equanimity to bear both. I came to town
to meet my brother^, who is just arrived from China. He
has a little present for your Ladyship, which, as he tells me,
consists of some tea, a beautiful Indian pheasant, and some
fine lackered thing.

I have been at Tunbridge for some time, and return again.
Your Ladyship was a great subject of discourse for some days,
which gave your friends very little subject of anxiety, and
me a good deal of pleasure to find you had so many who had a
just notion of your Ladyship's character. There are at present
very few folks at Tunbridge merely for their diversion. The
company consists chiefly of l)on-vkants with decayed stomacks,
green-sickness virgins, unfruitful or miscanying wives. The
way your humble servant was used was comical enough. The
medicines I prescribed, when they had done good, were
prescribed by the patient to others, and so on, till at last the
apothecary made gallons of bitters which they took by drams

* Suffolk Papers, 1824, ii. 4. On ^ CTeorge Arbuthnot had just re-

the 19th of June Lady Harvey had turned from China, as super-cargo

written, 'I hear Dr. Arbuthnot is of four of the East India Company's

gone to Tunbridge : I wish he may ships. He had detected some un-

not fiU his belly more than his fair practices by other servants of

pocket ; I am sure he will do so if the Company, which made some

John Dories and quadrille players noise at the time (Croker).
are plenty this season ' (lb. i. 411).


at the shop, and half-pecks of pills which they cari-ied home in
boxes. They filled my belly with good dinners at noon, and
emptied my pockets at night at quadrille. This is all I shall
trouble your Ladyship with at present, being with the utmost
respect, &c.

J. Arbuthnott.


AjiBUTHNOT published a popular but valuable medical
work in May, 1731, under the title An Esaay concerning
the Nature of Alirtients, and the choice of them, according to
the different constitutions of human bodies. The book was,
he said, properly speaking only an essay or attempt at a
physiology of Aliment, the object being to show that the
dietetic part of medicine depended, as much, as any of the
rest, upon scientific principles. The excuse for any defect
must be ill-health, absence from books, and want of leisure
afterwards to correct sufficiently. ' I can say but little of
the merit of the performance, but a great deal of that of
the subject; for surely the choice and measure of the
materials of which the whole body is composed, and what
we take daily by pounds, is at least of as much importance
as of what we take seldom, and only by grains and spoon-
fuls.' The book could, he believed, be understood by
anyone with a very small knowledge of anatomy and
mechanics, who would read it with attention. ' I do not
presume to instruct the gentlemen of my own profession ;
and if any of them shall instruct me better, I declare
beforehand that I am very willing to be convinced : I will
not defend any mistake, and at the same time I do not
think myself obliged to answer every frivolous objection."
The volume closes with an admirable series of general
inferences as to diet at different ages and for different
temperaments. ' All the intentions pursued by medicines
may be obtained and enforced by diet,' Arbuthnot says


elsewhere. He promised, when he had leisure, to treat
the other parts of Diet, as Air, Rest and Motion, after the
same manner. The second edition, published in April,
1732 ^, had a supplementary volume, containing * Practical
Rules of Diet in the various constitutions and diseases of
human bodies.'

Gay reported Arbuthnot to be in good health and spirits
in April - ; but in the winter he was again afflicted. On
the ist of December Pope wrote to Swift, with reference
to the Dean's verses on his own death ■'^, ' I am happy when-
ever you join our names together ; so would Dr. Arbuthnot
be, but at this time he can be pleased with nothing, for
his darling son is dying in all probability, by the melan-
choly account I received this morning.' Charles Arbuthnot
died at his father's house in Cork Street on the following
day, the 2nd of December, when he was twenty-six years
of age *. He had been admitted into St. Peter's College,
Westminster, in 1720, and had proceeded to Oxford in
1724. He took his B.A. degree on May 20, 1728, and the
M.A. degree on June 26, 1731, less than six months before
his death, and he had recently entered the church. It was
with some difficulty, however, that he was able to obtain

^ London Magazine. Poor Pope will grieve a month,

"^ Gay to Swift, April 27, 1731. and Gay

^ ' I have no title to aspire ; A week, and Arbuthnot a day.'

Yet, when you sink, I seem the (Verses on the Death of Doctor Swift,

higher. I739-) These lines do not occur in

In Pope I cannot read a line, the pirated edition published in

But with a sigh I wish it 1 733, under the title of The Life and

mine. genuine Character of Doctor Swift.

* Gentleman's Magazine, 540 ; Politi-

Ai'buthnot is no more my cat State, xlii. 655 ; Hist. Register,

friend, Chron. Diary, 54 ('A gentleman

Who dares to irony pretend ; of excellent accomplishments ' ) ;

Which I was born to introduce, Welch's Alumni WesUnonasterienses ;

Refined it first, and shewed its Foster's Alumni Oxonienses. Hearne,

use. in his MS. Diary (vol. cxviii. p. 136),

under the date Feb. 28, 1727-8, said,

Here shift the scene, to repre- ' Dr. Arbuthnot, the Physician (who

sent hath wrote about ancient Weights,

How those I love my death Coins, &c.), is a true Scot, and so is

lament. his son of X' Church.'


his degree, or take orders, owing to a duel which he had
had over a love affair with a Mr. Ferrabee \ of his o^^l
college — Christ Church, Oxford. Ferrabee seems to have
been the aggressor, but Charles Arbuthnot was wounded
and was for long in a dangerous condition. Perhaps he
never entirely recovered from the effects of the injury he
sustained. In 1734, in answering, in the Essay on Man
(Fourth Epistle), a supposed objection that the good alone
are made unhappy by misfortune, Pope said,

* Tell me, if virtue made the son expire,

Why, full of days and honours, lives the sire?'

But the manuscript has

* Not virtue snatched Arbuthnot's hopeful bloom,
And sent thee, Craggs, untimely to the tomb.'

Ai'buthnot never really recovered from the shock occa-
sioned by the death of his youngest son.

Colonel Francis Chartres, 'a man infamous for all
manner of vices,' died in Scotland in 1731, at the age of
62, and his funeral was the occasion of a popular riot. He
had been twice drummed out of the army for cheating,
and afterwards, by gambling, usury, and pandering to all
the vices of mankind, he gathered together a great fortune.
He had been twice found guilty of rape, but had been
pardoned. Such was the man upon whom Arbuthnot
wrote the following scathing lines, which were published
as an epitaph on Don Fi^ancisco in 1732.

Here lieth the body of Colonel

• Don Francisco;

Who, with an indefatigable constancy,

And inimitable uniformity of life,


In spite of age and infirmities,

In the practice of eveiy human vice,

Excepting prodigality and hj^ocrisy :

' Michael Ferrabee, who was to Oxford from Westminster in
afterwards ordained, was elected 1722.



His insatiable avarice exempting him fi-om the first,

His matchless impudence from the second.

Nor was he more singular in the undeviating pravity

Of his manners, than successful

In accumulating wealth :

For, without trade or i^rofession,

Without trust of public money,

And without bribe-worthy service.

He acquired, or more properly created

A ministerial estate.

He was the only person of his time

Wlio could cheat without the mask of honesty,

Eetain his primeval meanness when possessed of

Ten Thousand a year :

And having deserved the gibbet for what he did.

Was at last condemned to it for what he could not do.

Oh indignant reader !

Think not his life useless to mankind ;

Providence connived at^ his execrable designs.

To give to after-ages a conspicuous

Proof and example

Of how small estimation is exorbitant wealth

In the sight of God, by his bestowing it on

The most unworthy of all mortals ^

In response to several petitions, a committee of the
House of Commons had for some time been considering
the actions of the directors of the Charitable Corporation,
a body which had been established for the relief of the
industrious poor by aiding them with small sums of money
at reasonable rates of interest. It was said that the Cor-
poration had in reality lent large sums at exorbitant rates

' ' His epitaph upon Chartres
(allowing one small alteration, the
word permitted, instead of connived at)
is a complete and a masterly com-
position in its kind ' (Lord Orrery's
Bemarks on the Life and Writiiu^s of Dr.
Jonathan Swift).

2 Cf. Pope, Moral Essays, iii. 15-20
('Of the Use of Riches'), written a
year later :
' Like doctors thus, when much

dispute has passed.
We find our tenets just the same

at last :
Both fairly owning riches, in effect.
No grace of Heaven, or token of

the elect ;
Given to the fool, the mad, the

vain, the evil.
To Ward, to Waters, Chartres,

and the devil.'


to dishonest persons, upon goods taken on credit, and that
these persons, after pledging the goods for ready money,
sometimes absconded. As the enquiry proceeded, George
Robinson, M.P., the cashier, and Thompson, the warehouse-
keeper, disappeared, and Sir Robert Sutton, M.P., who,
among others, was found guilty of fraudulent practices,
was expelled the House. Sir Robert Sutton then produced
a letter he had received from Robert Arbuthnot, at Paris,
(sent under cover to Dr. Arbuthnot) in which was enclosed
a letter from Belloni, a banker at Rome, stating that
Belloni had procured the arrest of Thompson, late ware-
house-keeper to the Charitable Corporation, who was
alleged to have embezzled the pledges in his custody for
the use of the Pretender. ' My intentions,' said Robert
Arbuthnot, ' are the service of my country and the relief of
the sufferers.' Belloni had been his correspondent in Rome
for thirty years, and the express he had sent with the papers
cost Arbuthnot 2000 livres. It appears that Belloni's ac-
tion was taken in response to an application from Sir
Robert Sutton, transmitted through Dr. Arbuthnot and
his brother. Sutton was anxious to clear himself from
suspicion of being connected with Thompson, and Belloni,
who was the Pretender s agent at Rome, was doubtless
glad of the opportunity of representing that his master
was indignant at anyone robbing the English people, even
in his interest. The arrangements Belloni made with
Thompson naturally excited suspicion ; for it was settled
that Thompson's papers, and orders for delivering up his
other effects, were to remain in the hands of Robert
Arbuthnot, who was a Jacobite, and served as an agent to
the Pretender in Paris, until the House of Commons or the
Charitable Corporation acceded to Thompson's proposals.
A conference of both Houses was held, and it was unani-
mously agreed that Belloni's letter was an insolent libel,
attempting to impose iipon the British nation; that
nothing was known as to the contents or value of the


papers referred to, while no offer was made to surrender
Thompson ; that the conditions demanded on Thompson's
behalf were delusive and uncertain, tending to secure
indemnity to himself and his accomplices ; and that the
whole transaction seemed to be a scandalous artifice. It
was therefore ordered that the letter should be burnt by
the common hangman.

The Duke of Newcastle told Lord "Waldegrave, at Paris,
to use his endeavours to get Eobert Arbuthnot to give up,
for the use of the poor sufferers, papers which contained
large discoveries of the effects belonging to the Charitable
Corporation ; this he ought to do, because he had been
entrusted with them as the agent of these people, and
nothing could justify him in detaining them. 'The
Doctor, his brother, writes to him to this purpose, which,
it is to be hoped, will have some effect.' But if necessary
the French Government was to be applied to for an order
to seize the papers. On the nth of June, Robert Arbuth-
not wrote to Lord "VValdegrave, 'Your Lordship knows
with what zeal and vigour my son and I acted, by your
Lordship's directions, to get Thompson arrested in France.'
On the i6th, Lord Waldegrave told the Duke of Newcastle
that Arbuthnot had gone to Bourbon to drink the waters,
but he had explained matters to Arbuthnot's son, John,
who promised to write to his father. Robert Arbuthnot
at once agreed to give up the papers, and Lord Waldegrave

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 13 of 47)