George Atherton Aitken.

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

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obtained them from the son, through Dr. Ai'buthnot, and
gave a receipt'.

The whole question of these frauds is very involved, but
there can be little doubt that Eobert Arbuthnot — some of
whose letters were unsigned and not in his own hand-
writing 2 — was working in connection with Belloni in the

* Additional MSS. 32777, ff. 59, mons, xxi. 930-2.

86, 88, 90, 96, 139, 141, 274 (Brit. ^ Was this — it was naturally

Mus.). A letter to Dr. Arbuthnot argued at the time — in order to

from his brother Robei-t is given in avoid providing evidence against

the Journals of the House of Com- himself? For 'he is a subject of


interests of the Pretender. AVe trust that the Doctor, in
the correspondence which he had with his brother Robert,
was not a conscious party to their schemes ; but there is too
much doubt surrounding the matter to enable us to say-
positively, with the writer of the article in the Biogra'pida
Britannica (1766), that 'the Doctor contributed his mite
towards detecting and punishing the scandalous frauds and
abuses.' We may, however, be certain, from what we know
of their characters, that neither Arbuthnot nor his brother
had anything to do with the fraudulent practices which in
the first instance gave Belloni an opportunity for scheming.
Gay came to town in November 1732, and on the i6th
wrote urging Swift to join his old friends at the New Year.
' If my present project succeeds, you may expect a better
account of my own fortune a little while after the
holidays ; but I promise myself nothing, for I am deter-
mined that neither anyone else nor myself shall disappoint
me.' On the 4th of the following month Gay died, after
an illness of only three days. Pope sent Swift a heart-
broken letter on the 5th, with a message from Arbuthnot,
' whose humanity you know.' Arbuthnot himself added
the following postscript.

I am Sony that the renewal of our correspondence should be
upon such a melancholy occasion. Poor Mr. Gay died of an
inflammation, and I believe at last a mortification, of the
bowels ; it was the most precipitate case I ever knew, having
cut hiin ofl' in three days. He was attended by two physicians
besides myself. I believed the distemper nioital from the
beginning. I have not had the pleasure of a line from you
these two years ; I wrote one about your health, to which I had
no answer. I wish you all health and happiness, being with
great affection and respect, &c.

Gay's death was immediately followed by the serious

Great Britain, a native of Scotland, the Jacoliites are said to have used

married a widow in Suffolk, with 'Mr. Arbuthnot' as a seci'et name

£600 a year, and usually visits for George II (Hist. MSS. Commis-

England once a year ' [GenUeman's sion. Tenth Report — MSS of C. F.

Magazine, 1732, p 784 ; London W. Underwood, Esq., p. 457).
Magazine^ 1732, pp. 116-8). In 1736


illness of Martlia Blount, partly occasioned by tlie sliock.
Pope wrote to Gary 11, lier god-father, on the I4tli of
December, 'Dr. Arbutlmot, who attended the one, was
constantly with the other, and has had better success with
her.' He went on to complain, probably with great
exaggeration, that during her illness her family were con-
tinually having the house cleaned, and furniture moved
from place to place, in spite of the doctor s orders that the
patient needed warmth and quiet. ' This I saw and heard,
and so did Dr. Arbuthnot, who very humorously asked, as
he went up and down their stairs, why they did not sell
and make money of their sashes, and leave the windows
quite open.'

Arbuthnot sent Swift a long letter on the 13th of
January, but there is an absence of the natural cheerful-
ness which marked his earlier correspondence.

London, January 13, 1733.
My dear Friend,

I had the pleasure of receiving one from you by Mr. Pilking-
ton \ I thank you for the oppoi-tunity it gave me of being
acquainted with a very agreeable, ingenious man. I value him
very much for his music, which you give yourself an ah of
contemning : and I think I treated him in that way to a degi'ee
of surprise.

I have had but a melancholy, sorrowful life for some time
past, having lost my dear child, whose life, if it had so pleased
God, I would have willingly i-edeemed with my own. I thank
God for a new lesson of submission to his will, and likewise
for what he has left me.

We have all had another loss, of our worthy and dear friend
Mr. Gay. It was some alleviation of my gi-ief to see him so
universally lamented by almost everybody, even by those who
knew him only by reputation. He was interred at Westminster
Abbey, as if he had been a peer of the realm ; and the good
Duke of Queensberry, who lamented him as a brother, will set
up a handsome monument upon him. These are little affronts

' The Rev. Matthew Pilkington, pointed chapLain to Alderman Bar-
a young clergyman in Dublin, was, ber, who was elected Lord Mayor of
at Swift's recommendation, ap- London on October 30th, 1732.


put upon vice and injustice, and is all that remains in our
power. I l)elievo the 'Beggar's Opera,' and what he had to
come upon the stage \ will make the sum of the diversions of
the town for some time to come. Curll (who is one of the new
terrors of death '^) has been wi'iting letters to everybody for
memoirs of his life. I was for sending him some, particularly
an account of his disgrace at court, which I am sure might have
been made entertaining, by which I should have attained two
ends at once, published truth, and got a rascal w^iipped for it.
I was overruled in this. I wish you had been here, though I
think you are in a better countiy. I fancy to myself that you
have some virtue and honour left, some small regard for
religion. Perhaps Christianity may last with you at least
twenty or thirty years longer. You have no companies or
stock -jobbing, are yet free of excises ^ ; you are not insulted in
your poverty, and told with a sneer that you are a rich and a
thriving nation. Every man that takes neither place nor
pension is not deemed with you a rogue and an enemy to his

Your friends of my acquaintance are in tolerable good health.
Mr. Pope has his usual complaints of headache and indigestion,
I think more than formerly''. He really leads sometimes a
veiy irregular life, that is, lives with people of superior health
and strength. You will see some new things of his, equal to
any of his former productions. He has affixed to the new
edition of his ' Dunciad ' a royal proclamation against the
haberdashers of points and particles assuming the title of
critics and restorers, w^herein he declares that he has revised
carefully this his 'Dunciad,' beginning and ending so and so,
consisting of so many lines, and declares this edition to be the
true reading : and it is signed by John Barber, major civifatis

I remember you with your friends, who are my neighbours ;
they all long to see you. As for news, there is nothing here
talked of but the new scheme of excise. You may remember
that a ministry in the Queen's time, possessed of her Majesty,
the parliament, army, fleet, treasury, confederates, &c., put all
to the test by an experiment of a silly project in the trial of a

^ The opera of Achilles. this time being eagerly debated.

* This appears to be the source * In the following month, Pope

of the saying that Curll's biogra- was ill with fever for a week, but

phies had added a new terror to 'recovered by gentle sweats and

death. the care of Dr. Arbuthnot' (Pope to

^ Walpole's Excise bill was at Swift, Feb. 16, 1733).


poor parson^ . The same game, in my mind, is playing over
again, from a wantonness of power. Miraheris quam pauca
saplentm mundus rcgitur.

I have considered the grievance of your wine ; the friend
that designed you good wine was abused by an agent that he
intrusted this affair to. It was not this gentleman's brother,
whose name is De la Mar-, to whom show what friendship
you can. My brother ^ is getting money now in China, less
and more honestly than his predecessor's supercargoes ; but
enough to make you satisfaction, which, if he comes home
alive, he shall do.

My neighbour the proseman * is wiser and more cowardly
and despairing than ever. He talks me into a fit of vapours
twice or thrice a week. I dream at night of a chain and
rowing in the galleys. But, thank God, he has not taken
from me the freedom I have been accustomed to in my discourse
(even with the greatest persons to whom I have access), in
defending the cause of liberty, virtue, and religion ; for the
last I have the satisfaction of suffering some share of the
ignominy that belonged to the first confessors. This has been
my lot, from a steady resolution I have taken of giving these
ignorant impudent fellows battle upon all occasions. My
family send you their best wishes and a happy New Year ; and
none can do it more heartily than myself, who am, with the
most sincere respect, your most faithful humble servant.

Another useful and interesting medical work, pub-
lished by Arbuthnot in July 1733 ^, was called An Essay
concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies. The
physiology of the effects of air had not, he said, been
sufficiently considered ; ' though abstinence from air is
not, the sort of air which they use is in the power of a
great many people.' Towards the end of the volume
Arbuthnot discussed two recent remarkable instances of
the influence of the air in producing epidemical disease ;

' Dr. Sacheverell. the kindness my friends can show

^ Robert Arbuthnot sent a letter him.'

of introduction to Swift by Mr. De ^ George Ai*buthnot.

La Mar on the 2nd of January. * Lord Bathurst called Lewis his

* His brother, now dead, has been proseman, and Prior his verse-

with you in Ireland, and this man.

gentleman deserves from mo all ' London Magazine.


the first was in 1728, and tlie second in tlie latter end
of 1732 and the beginning of 1733 ^ Arbuthnot has no
claim to two pamphlets which were published in 1733,
and were afterwards included in his Miscellaneoua Works.
One of these, Harmony in an Ujyroar : 'A Letter to
F— d— k H— d— 1, Esq., M— r of the 0— a H— e in the
Haymarket, from Hurlothrumbo Johnson, Esq.' (i.e.
Samuel Johnson, a dancing master), is dated Feb. 21,
1733; the other. The Freeholder' tt Political Catechism, is
attributed to Bolingbroke.

The last piece that we can with certainty ^ attribute
to Arbuthnot was published anonymously as a quarto
pamphlet in 1734, with the title rNX201 2E'ATT0N,
Knotu Yourself: A Poem. Prefixed was an Advertise-
ment stating that the poem had been written several
years, and that as it might do good to some, and could
not hurt the reputation of the author, though he should
be known, he had given it to his bookseller to publish.

^ Among the Newcastle Papers
in the British Museum are three
letters (^Add. MSS. 33064, if. 447,
471, 475' written, apparently to
the Duchess of Newcastle, between
July and October, 1733. They de-
scribe the serious illness of a Duchess
whom Arbuthnot was attending,
but it is not clear who the lady
was. Perhaps she was Lady Diana
Spencer, who mnrried Lord John
Russell in i73i,and became Duchess
of Bedford in the following year.
She had a son in 1735, but he died
in infancy. This suggestion is
strengthened by the fact that the
Duchess of Marlborough wrote, in
September 1731, about the approach-
ing marriage of this lady — her
grand-daughter — to Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu ; and a Lady
Mary is mentioned in two of these
letters of Arbuthnot. But Arbuth-
not's patient may have been the
second wife of the Duke of King-
ston vLady Isabella Bentinck , Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu being the

Duke's daughter by his first wife.

^ An autograph copy, differing
considerably from the published
version, is in the British Musevmi,
Add. MSS. 22625, f. 31.— A pam-
phlet, Critical Remarks on Capt. GuUi-
ver's Travds. By Doctor BanUey, published
from the author's origimd MSS., dated
Cambridge, Jan. 26, 1734-5, and
printed, according to the title-
page, in that town, was included
in Ai-buthnot's Miscellaneous Works,
and may possibly be by him,
though it is not probable that it
was reallj' -UTitten only a month
before his death. The object of
the piece is, of course, to throw
ridicule upon Beutley, and the
writer's chief aim is to show, by a
great parade of learning, that such
a nation as Swift's Houyhnhnms
was well known to the ancients.
Commentators, the ■WTiter says,
should 'be at least as studious to
show their own learning as to illus-
trate their author.'


It contained some tlioiiglits of Pascal, which would not
make it less acceptable. In these earnest lines Arbuthnot
discussed the question of man's origin, purpose, and

' Offspring of God, no less thy pedigree,
What thou once wert, art now, and still may be,
Thy God alone can tell, alone decree.'

Happiness is to be found, not on earth, but in seek-
ing God. But heaven is not to be attained by vain
philosophy ;

' Let humble thoughts thy wary footsteps guide,
Eegain by meekness what you lost by pride.'


Aebuthnot's bad state of health is noticed in the follow-
ing letter from Bolingbroke \ the first that we have for
the year 1734 : —

Dawley Farm, July y® la*'^, i734-
Dear S^*
It is very true y* M. de Chavigny wrote about y^ Brothers
affair as soon as I apprised him of it, and y* was y^ very first
time I saw him after y^ Brother had spoke to me. My wife is
now on y® spot, informed of y® business, and zealous to do all
ye service she can in it. On Sunday I shall see M. de Chavigny
again, and then I will desire him to let me have a letter to
send to y^ Brother, which he may himself present to y® Keeper
of ys Seals. I will mention ye affair likewise in my next letter
to my wife, tho' I know y* she wants no spur upon this
occasion. If anything else occurs which I can do let me know
it, for I am sincerely y'^ friend and y^ Brothers, and will never
neglect any opportunity of serving you as such. The bad state
of yr health I lament with all my heart. God x'estore it, if in y®
order of his providence y* may be. I make you no compliment,
I speak as I think ; every man of virtue and sense like you,
who goes off ye stage att this time, is an irreparable loss to our
unhappy country, so that a publick consideration joyns itself to
all ye motives of private friendship in ye wishes I form for

1 Mr. Baillie's MSS.


your preservation. I am Dear S^, with true esteem, and a
most cordial friendship, y^ obedient and most humble servant


The next letter, from Pope, refers in a similar strain to
the illness of Arbuthnot, who had moved to Hampstead
for the sake of the air ^.

Cirencester, July y" 15"', [1734].
Dear Sir,

The day after I saw you I left the town, & was truly
concerned to see you so much out of order. As my journies
were long & continued ^, I bade my Sers^ant send me an account
of y" state of y'" health from time to time ; for which it is
impossible but I must have all the Concern, which many years'
Friendship for you, grounded on a long Experience of yours for
me, must imprint in any grateful or sensible mind. But
finding their accounts but uncertain, I was very uneasy ; till
Mrs, P. Blount, who never neglects a friend, ill, or absent,
took the care of enquiring at y"" house very punctually ab* you,
on her own ace*, and also writ me word what she learn'd of
you. I am veiy much troubled to find, you are so little
recover'd as to be kept out of Town for some time ; I hope it
will at least be to y^ advantage ; and tho I know you are as fit
to Dye as any man, I think no man fitter to Live for that veiy
reason, or more wanted by those who are in this world, both
as a comfort, and as an example, to them. I am glad that
your Family are with you ; and I do sincerely wish you had
with you eveiy thing & every Person else, that could be a
Consolation to y". I w^ fain flatter myself, you enjoj^ more
than I fear you do ; if I c<i any way contribute to your Ease or
Amusement, I w^l hasten my Eeturn : but my Engagement
to Ld Peterborow yet stands good, to pass some weeks at
Southampton, where he expects me at y^ end of y^ month.
\A Bathurst (with whom I now am) sends y" liis Services He
best wishes : if you care for any Venison, he will send y"
some whenever you please to order it at any place in Town ;
It can come twice a week in one day fi'om this place tliither.
If it be not much trouble to y", pray dear Sir write me a Line :
if it be, let your daughter do it, just to acquaint me in w* State

^ Mr. Baillie's MSS. Lord Bolingbroke's ; and was going

- Pope had been at Lord Cob- on to Lord Peterborough's,
ham's, Mr. Dormer's, Chiswick, and

L 2


you arc. God presei-ve you ! if easy to y^ Self Long to us ! to

no man more, than to, D'" Sir

y faithful Friend,

A. Pope,

The following is Arbutlinot's reply, as printed by Pope :—

Hampstead, July 17, i734-

I little doubt of your kind concern for me, nor of that of the
lady you mention. I have nothing to repay my friends with
at present but prayers and good wishes. I have the satisfaction
to find that I am as officiously served by my friends as he that
has thousands to leave in legacies ; besides the assurance of
their sincerity. God Almighty has made my bodily distress as
easy as a thing of that nature can be. I have found some
relief, at least some times, from the au' of this place. My
nights are bad, but many poor creatures have worse.

As for you, my good friend, I think, since our first acquaint-
ance, there have not been any' of those little suspicions or
jealousies that often affect the sincerest friendships ; I am sure,
not on my side. I must be so sincere as to own that though
I could not help valuing you for those talents which the world
prizes, yet they were not the foundation of my friendship ;
they were quite of another sort ; nor shall I at present offend
you by enumerating them : And I make it my last request,
that 5^ou will continue that noble disdain and abhorrence of
vice which you seem naturally endued with, but still with a
due regard to your own safety ; and study more to reform than
chastise, though the one cannot be effected without the other.

Lord Bathurst I have always honoured for eveiy good quality
that a person of his rank ought to have ^ : Pray, give my
respects and kindest wishes to the family. My venison stomack
is gone, but I have those about me, and often with me, who
will be very glad of his present. If it is left at my house it
will be transmitted safe to me.

A recovery in my case, and at my age, is impossible ; the
kindest wish of my friends is Euthanasia. Living or dying I
shall always be Yours, &c.

The reply to this letter, printed in Pope's Works, is
dated July 26, but it is melancholy to have to record that

' Arbuthnotreallywrote 'scarcely there wore some glaring defects in
any.' See below. Lord Bathurst's character.

^ Others would have said that



witli that love of deceit and vanity which, characterised
him, Pope could not resist the temptation, even when
dealing with these last letters to and from a dear friend,
to alter them in order that they might reflect greater
credit upon himself. Pope's answer to Arbuthnot was in
reality written on the 2nd of August, and it differs almost
entirely from the printed version. And what is worse, it
is evident, from the quotations which Pope makes from
his friend's letter, that he altered Arbuthnot's letter as
well as his own before publication. The following was
what Pope actually "WTote ^ : —

Southampton, Aug. 2, (1734).
Dear Sh,

I was rejoiced to see your letter, and I hope it is no trouble
to you to write. I would fain hope you grow better, that life
may be at least supportable, though not quite healthy or happ5^
It is but justice that a man, who never delighted to give pain
to others, should be compassionated when he feels any himself :
and I daresay you have many friends who truly share with
you as I do, I can most sincerely say, m a friendship of twenty
years I have found no one reason of complaint from you, and
hope I have given you as little, abating common human fail-
ings. I am almost displeased at your expression, 'Scarcely
any of those susjiicions or jealousies which affect the truest
friendsliips V for I know of not one on my part\ I thank

' This letter was in-inted in Elwin
andCourthope's 'Pope,' from a tran-
script made by the late Mr. Croker
from the MS. then in Mr. Baillie's
possession, but which cannot now
be found among that gentleman's

^ As we have seen, Pope omitted
the word ' scarcely,' which dis-
pleased him, when he printed Ar-
buthnot's letter.

^ Poise's printed letter commences
thus : ' I thank you for your letter,
which has all those genuine marks
of a good mind by which I have
ever distinguished yours, and for
which I have so long loved you.
Our friendship has been constant,

because it was grounded on good
principles, and therefore not only
uninterrupted by any distrust, but
by any vanity, much less any
interest.' The rest of the long
letter consists of an account of his
disdain and indignation against
vice, — ' I thank God, the only dis-
dain and indignation I have,' —
and of his fear that it was im-
possible to reform without chastis-
ing, and making examples. Then
follo%v remarks upon the danger to
his own safety incurred by his
attacks on bad men ; 'I will consult
my safety so far as I think becomes
a prudent man ; but not so far as
to omit anj'thing which I think


you, dear Sir, for making that your request to me, which I
make my pride, nay my duty; — 'that I should continue my
disdain and abhorrence of vice, and manifest it still in my
writings^.' I would indeed do it with more restiictions, and
less personally ; it is more agreeable to my nature, which those
who know it not are greatly mistaken in. But general satire
in times of general vice has no force and is no punishment :
people have ceased to be ashamed of it when so many are joined
with them ; and it is only by hunting one or two from the
herd that any examples can be made. If a man writ all his
life against the collective body of the banditti, or against lawyers,
would it do the least good, or lessen the body ? But if some
are hung up, or pilloried, it may prevent others. And in my
low station, with no other power than this, I hope to deter, if
not to reform.

I left Lord Bathurst a week ago ; I hope he has remembered
the venison, as he promised me at parting. My present land-
lord gave me any account of your condition, which he is really
concerned at, as he is really a man of humanity and, like all
men of true courage, beneficent. He has often \^'ished you in
this ail', which is excellent, and our way of life quite easy, and
at liberty. I write this from the most beautiful toy of a hill I
ever saw ^, a little house that overlooks the sea, Southampton,
and the Isle of Wight ; where I study, wi'ite, and have what
leisure I please. Pray, if it be not too uneasy to you, write to
me now and then, or let some of your family acquaint me how
you are. Is your brother with you ? If he is, let me be kindly
remembered to him, and to your son and daughters, I wish
them sincerely well, and, what is the best wish I can form for
them, I wish them the longer life of so good a father.

The poem referred to in the next letters " is the Epistle to
Dr. Arhuthiiot, now generally known as The Prologue to

becomes an honest one.' After me. You are fitter to live, or to
allusions to Hoi-ace, Virgil, Boileau, die, than any man I know. Adieu,
Lucan, Juvenal, and others, he my dear friend, and may God
proceeds, *I would not have said preserve your life easy, or make
so much, but to show you my your death happy.'
whole heart on this subject,' and ^ For these last words Pope sub-
hopes that his friend may live to stituted, in printing Ai'buthnot's
approve his future actions. 'But letter, 'which you seem naturally
if it be the will of God (which, I endued with.'

know, will also be yours^ that we ^ Bevis Mount, Lord Peter-

jnust separate, I hope it will be borough's residence,

better for you than it can be for ^ Mr. Baillie's MSS.



the Satires. It was published in January, 1735, with the

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 14 of 47)