George Atherton Aitken.

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

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date 1734 on the title-page, and is in the form of a dialogue
between Pope and his friend, though very few words are
put into Arbuthnot's mouth ^ The defence of satire in
this poem is upon the lines laid down in the fabricated
letter to Arbuthnot of July 26. The E^nstle is one of the
most interesting of the author's works, and contains many
of his best-known lines ; Arbuthnot would therefore doubt-
less be pleased that it should be addressed to him in his
last illness. There are, too, several affectionate personal
allusions, as

' Friend of my life ! (which did not you prolong,
The world had wanted many an idle song)
What drop or nostrum can this plague remove ? '


'The muse hut served to ease some friend, not wife,
To help me through this long disease, my life.
To second, Arbuthnot, thy art and care,
And teach the being you preserved to bear.'

And at the close, after loving reference to his parents,

' On cares like these if length of days attend.
May heaven, to bless those days, preserve my friend ;
Preserve him social, cheerful, and serene,
And just as rich as when he served a Queen ^
J:-Whether that blessing be denied or given,
Thus far was right, the rest belongs to heaven^.'

Southampton, Aug. 25, 1734.
Dear Sir,

I am dissatisfied in hearing nothing further concerning y'^
state of health, since my letter to Miss Arbuthnot. I am
bending homewards, though it will be a fortnight first, but
wish in the meantime to have just a line from you. lA
Peterborow's will be still the best dhections, for he & I are to
make some Excursions into Hamshire, but still our Letters

1 Arbuthnot is made, in accord- But foes like these—.'

ance with his letter to Pope, to ^ See Arbuthnot's letter to Swift,

urge prudence : Aug. 12, 17 14.

' No names — be calm— learn pru- ^ In the original edition these

dence of a friend : last two lines were given to Pope,

I too could write, and I am twice and not to Arbuthnot.
as tall ;


will be sent after us. I am soriy to hear from Mrs, Eobinson
of ye clanger of the little Boy\ but I hope 'tis over.
You have no need to be afflicted by other Illnesses than y^
own. I have nothing to say more but that no Friend you
have more warmly wishes your Eecovery, or your Ease, than
I do. I took very kindly y^ Advice, concerning avoiding Ill-
will from writing Satyr, and it has worked so much upon me
(considering the time & state you gave it in) that I determine
to address to you one of my Epistles, written by piecemeal
many years, & w^l^ I have now made haste to put together ;
wherein the Question is stated, what were, & are my Motives
of writing, the objections to them, & my answers. It pleases
me much to take this occasion of testifying (to y^ public at
least, if not to Posterity) my Obligation & Friendship for, &
from, you, for so many years ; that is all that's in it ; for
Compliments are fulsome & go for nothing.

I hope in God to find you better much than I left you.
For my own part I am rather better, and while I live, believe
me, shall always esteem & love you. Dear Sir, adieu.
Your truly affectionate Friend & Ser*-

A. Pope.

Lord Peterborow & the Lady send y" then- ser\aces. We
drink yf health daily.

Sept. 3, (i734>
Pr Sir,

Your Letter is a great Consolation to me in bringing me y^
account of ye more Tolerable State of y'" health. It is Ease I
wish for you, more than Life ; and yet knowing how good
an use you will make of Life, I cannot but ^vish you that as
long as it can be but as supportable to you, as it will be desire-
able to others, & to me in particular. I have little to say
to you ; we have here little news or Company, and I am glad
of it because it has given me time to finish the Poem I told
you of, which I hope may be y^ best Memorial I can leave, both
of my Friendship to you, & of my own character being such
as you need not be ashamd of that Friendship, The Apology
is a bold one, but True : and it is Truth and a clear Conscience
that I think will set me above all my Enemies, and make no
Honest man repent of having been my Friend.

I hope to see you in 9 or 10 days : pray send a line to

1 Perhaps John, nephew of Miss Robinson and Dr. Arbuthnot.


Twitnam to inform me whether I shall come to you at
Hampsted or London? My hearty Services to y' faniilj-.
The Lord and Lady of this place are much yours. As you
find benefit by riding, should you care to dine or lye at
Dawley\ or at my house? Do whatever is most easy to
you, and believe me with all truth, Dear Sir, Yours faithfully

A. Pope.

I dine this day at Mr. Conduit's^, & will give them y'^
Services. I hear he is much recovered.

A few days later Pope wrote to Martha Blount, ' I saw
Dr. Arbutlinot, who was very cheerful. I passed a whole
day with him at Hampstead ; he is at the Long Eoom
half the morning, and has parties at cards every night.
Mrs. Lepelle^ and Mrs. Saggione the singer, and his son
and his two daughters are all with him. He told me he
had given the best directions he could to yourself, and to
Lady Suffolk separately ; that she ought to bleed, and you
not.' Cheerful, however, as he seemed, and able to think
of the amusements or needs of others, Arbutlinot knew
that he was dying ; and at the beginning of the following
month he sent the following touching letter to Swift : —

Hampstead, October 4, 1734.
My dear and worthy Friend,

You have no reason to put me among the rest of your forget-
ful friends ; for I wrote two long letters to you, to which I
never received one word of answer. The first was about your
health ; the last I sent a great while ago by Mr. De La Mar.
I can assure you with great truth that none of your friends or
acquaintance has a more warm heart toward you than myself.
I am going out of this troublesome world ; and you among
the rest of my friends shall have my last prayers and good

' Lord Bolingbroke's. succeeded Newton as Master of the

'' John Conduitt, born 1688, died Mint, and was for many years an

1737. Hemarried,in 17 1 7, Catherine M.P.

Barton, niece of Sir Isaac Newton, ^ The mother, apparently, of

who was very clever (see Swift's Lady Hervey (Mary Lepelle).

Journal, April 3, 171 1). Conduitt


The young man whom you recommended came to this place,
and I promised to do him what service my ill state of health
would permit. I came out to this place so reduced by a dropsy
and an asthma that I could neither sleep, breathe, eat, nor move.
I most earnestly desired and begged of God that he would take
me. Contrary to my expectation, upon venturing to ride
(which I had forborne for some years, because of bloody water)
I recovered my strength to a pretty considerable degree, slept,
and had my stomach again ; but I expect the return of my
symptoms upon my return to London, and the return of the
winter. I am not in circumstances to live an idle countiy life ;
and no man at my age ever recovered of such a disease fui-ther
than by an abatement of the symptoms. What I did, I can
assure you, was not for life but ease. For I am at present in
the case of a man that was almost in harbour, and then blown
back to sea ; who has a reasonable hope of going to a good
place, and an absolute certainty of leaving a very bad one.
Not that I have any particular disgust at the world ; for I have
as great comfort in my own family, and from the kindness of
my friends, as any man ; but the world, in the main, displeases
me ; and I have too true a presentiment of calamities that are
likely to befall my countiy. However, if I should have the
happiness to see you before I die, you will find that I enjoy the
comforts of life with my usual cheerfulness. I cannot imagine
why you are frighted from a journey to England. The reasons
you assign are not sufficient ; the journey I am sure would do
you good. In general I recommend riding, of which I have
always had a good opinion, and can now confirm it from my
own experience.

My family give you then* love and service. The great loss

I sustained in one of them gave me my first shock ; and the

trouble I have with the rest to bring them to a right temper,

to bear the loss of a father who loves them, and whom they

love, is really a most sensible affliction to me. I am afraid,

my dear friend, we shall never see one another more in tills

world. I shall, to the last moment, presei've my love and

esteem for you, being well assured you will never leave the

paths of virtue and honour ; for all that is in this world is not

worth the least deviation from that way. It will be great

pleasure to me to hear from you sometimes ; for none can be

with more sincerity than I am, my dear friend, your most

faithful friend and humble servant,

Jo. Arbuthnott.



Swift's very interesting reply is without date ^ : —
My dear Friend,

I never once suspected your forgetfullness & want of Friend-
sliip, but veiy often dreaded your want of Health, to which
alone I imputed eveiy delay longer than ordinary, in hearing
from you. I should be very ungratefull indeed if I acted
othenvise to you who were pleased to take such generous
constant care of my health ^, my Interests, and my Eeputation ;
who represented me so favorably to that blessed Queen your
Mistress, as well as to her Ministers, and to all your Friends.
The Letters you mention which I did not answer, I can not
find ; and yet I have all that ever came from you, for I
constantly endorse yours, and those of a few other friends ; and
date them ; onely if there be anything particular, though of no
consequence, when I go to the Country, I send them to some
Friends among other Papers ; for fear of Accidents m my
absence. I thank you kindly for your favor to the young man
who was bred in my Quire. The people of skill in Musick
represent him to me, as a Lad of Vii-tue, and hopefull and
endeavoring in his way. It is your own fault if I give you
Trouble, because you never refused me any thing in your Life.
You tear my heart with the ill account of your Health ; yet if
it should please God to call you away before me, I should not
pity you in the least, except on the account of what pains you
might feel before you passed into a better Life. I should pity
none but your Friends, and among them chiefly my self,
although I never can hope to have strength enough to leave
this country — till I leave the World. I do not know among
Mankind any Person more prepared to part fi"om us than your
self, not even the Bishop of Marseilles^, if he be still alive.
For among all your qualityes that have procured you the love
and esteem of the World, I ever most valued your moral and
Christian Virtues, which were not the Product of years or
Sickness, but of reason and Eeligion ; as I can witness after
above five and twenty years acquaintance. I except onely the

1 Mr. Baillie's MSS. This letter
was first i^rinted in Cunningham's
edition of Johnson's ' Lives,' with
modernized spelling, and the mis-
taken conjecture that it was written
in 1733.

^ ' Poor Dr. Arbuthnot was the
only man of the faculty who seemed
to understand my case, but could

not remedy it' (Swift to Pulteney,
March 7, 1736-7).

^ 'Marseilles' good bishop ' (Pope,
Esuty on Man, iv. 107) was M. de
Belsunce, Avho behaved in a most
devoted manner during the plague
in 1720. Unfortunately he after-
wards joined in the persecution of
the Jansenists.


too little care of your Fortune ; upon which I have been so free
as some times to examine and to chide you, and the consequence
of which hath been to confine you to London when you are
under a disorder for which I am told, and know the clear air of
the Countiy is necessary. The gi*eat reason that hinders my
Journey to England is the same that drives you from High-
gate ' : I am not in Circumstances to keep horses and Servants
in London, My Revenues by the miserable oppressions of
this Kingdom are sunk 300II a year : For Tythes are become
a Drug, and I have but little rents from the Deaniy lands,
which are my onely sure paymts. I have here a large convenient
house ; I live at two thirds cheaper here than I could there, I
drink a bottle of French wine myself eveiy day, though I love
it not ; l)ut it is the onely thing that keeps me out of pain. I
ride eveiy fair day a dozen miles, on a large Strand, or Turnpike
road ; you in London have no such Advantages. I can buy a
Chicken for a Groat, and entertain three or four friends vrith
as many dishes and two or three Bottles of French Wine for
1 1 shill. When I dine alone, my Pint and Chicken with the
Appendixes cost me about 15 pence. I am thrifty in every
thing but wine, of which though I be not a constant House-
keeper, I spend between five and six hogsheads a year. When
I ride to a friend a few miles off, if he be not richer than I, I
cany my Bottle, my Bread and Chicken, that he may be no
loser. I talk thus foolishly to let you know the reasons which
joyned to my ill health make it impossible for me to see you
and my other friends. And perhaps this domestick tattle may
excuse me, and answer you. I could not live with my L'^
Boj^lingbroke] or Mr. Pope, they are both too temperate and
too wise for me, and too profound, and too poor. And how
could I afford Horses ? And how could I ride over their cursed
roads in Wintei-, and be turned into a ditch by every carter or
Hackney Coach ? Every Parish Minister of this City is
Governor of all Carriages, and so are the two Deans, and every
carrier, &c., makes way for us at their Peril. Therefore, like
Cesar I will be one of the first here rather than the last among
you. I forget that I am so near the Bottom. I am now with
one of my Prebend'^^ five miles in the country for 5 days. I
brought with me 8 Bottles of Wine, with Bread and Meat for
3 days, which is my Club. He is a Bachellor with 300II a year.
Pray God preserve you my dear Friend. Entirely y^*,

J. Swift.

' Or, rather, Hampstead. Arbuthnot returned to town some time before
his death.


Lady Betty Germain told Swift on the 7tli of November
that she heard that Arbuthnot was out of order again. ' I
have not seen him lately, and I fear he is in a very de-
clining way.' In December Pope wrote a letter to Swift
which was broken off in the middle by a five days' fever.
When he resumed the letter Pope said that he was so far
recovered that he hoped to go out next day, ' even by the
advice of Dr. Arbuthnot. He himself, poor man, is much
broke, though not worse than for these two last months
he has been. He took extremely kind your letter. I
wish to God we could once meet again, before that separa-
tion which yet I would be glad to believe shall reunite us.'

The end came before the new year was much advanced.
Arbuthnot died on the 27th of Febniary, 1735, in his
sixty-eighth year, at his house in Cork Street \ in great
pain, but with devout assurance as to the future. He was
buried on the 4th of March ^ in St, James's Church, Picca-
dilly. Pope, who, with Lord Chesterfield, had been with
him the evening before his death, sent the following mes-
sage of sympathy to Arbuthnot's son, George ^ : —

London, March i*', 1734 [-5].
Dear Sir,

It is a great Truth, that I can find no words to express the
Share I bear in your present Grief and Loss. There can be
but one happy of your whole Family at this hour. I doubt
not He is so. But my Concern does not end in him, I really
dread what may be the Situation of y^ elder Sister in partic-

1 Craftsman, March 8 ; Grub Street => Mr. Baillie's MSS. Pope de-

Journal, March 6. Hearne notes in scribed Arbuthnot, in the notes on

his Diary for March 12, 1734 5, his friends which he made on thf

' Dr. Ai"buthnot the Physician, a fly-leaves of an old Virgil, as ' vir

Scotish man and learned, is dead doctissimus, probitate ac pietato

at London, in the 66'''^ j'ear of his insignis.' Writing to Swift in

age. He hath written and pub- March, 1741, Pope said, 'Death

lished many books' (MS. Diary. has not used me worse in separ-

vol. 144, p. 99). ating from me for ever poor Gay.

* I am indebted for an extract Arbuthnot, &c., than disease and

from the Registers of St. James's, absence in separating you so many

giving this date, to the Rev. J. E. years.'
Kempe and Mr. Redman, the Clerk.


ulur, & it will be a great Satisfaction to me to know that none
of you are more afflicted than you ought to be. If there can
be any thing, in w'^'^^ I can be, any way, of use or service to
you, on this melancholy occasion, pray freely command either
my purse, or my faculties of any kind, to y^ utmost of then-
power. Believe it you will oblige me, & think me to be
your Father's Friend belonging to you all.

W Sir, I am yours faithfully,

A. Pope.

On the same day Swift wrote to Alderman Barber, ' The
people who read news have struck me to the heart by the
account of my dear friend Dr. Arbutlmot's death ; although
I could expect no less, by a letter I received from him a
month or two ago.' On the nth of March Pulteney wrote
to Swift, ' Poor Arbuthnot, who grieved to see the wicked-
ness of mankind, and was particularly ashamed of his own
countrymen, is dead. He lived the last six months in a
bad state of health, and hoping every night would be his
last ; not that he endured any bodily pain, but as he was
quite weary of tbe world, and tired with, so much bad
company.' A few weeks later Swift told Pope that he felt
very despondent ; ' the death of Mr. Gay and the Doctor
have been terrible wounds near my heart. Their living
would have been a great comfort to me, although I should
never have seen them ; like a sum of money in a bank,
from which I should receive at least annual interest, as
I do from you, and have done from my Lord Bolingbroke.'


Arbuthnot's will, made in 1733, was proved on the 12th
of March, 1735, by his son, George ^. It is a very charac-
teristic document.

I John Arbuthnott Doctor of Physick thus make my last
Will and Testament. I recommend my Soul to its merciful!

' Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 44 Ducie.


Creator hoping to be saved by the Merits of Jesus Christ, and
that I may be found in him not having on my own Kigliteous-
ness but his which is of ffaith. I leave my body to be decently
interred by my ffriends, I leave twenty pounds to each of my
two sisters' Elizabeth and Anne to Purchase Mourning. I
leave my Greek Sei^tuagint and Greek New Testament (the
Gift of my late Koyal Mistress Queen Anne) to my dear son
George. And I leave all the rest of my estate Goods and
Chattells to be equally divided amongst my three Children or
the Survivors of them immediately after my death in equal
parts, reckoning amongst my goods what is owing unto me by
my Son George ; recommending unto them that mutual love
and affection which I thank God I have hitherto obsen-ed
amongst them. I appoint my Son George my sole Executor of
this my last Will and Testament, and earnestly recommend to
him the Care and Protection of his dear Sisters, and failing him
(which God in his Mercy forbid) the Eldest of my surviving
Daughters. I leave to my dearest and most affectionate Brother
Eobert my Watch '\ Jo. Arbuthnott. Signed and Sealed the
5th of November 1733 in the presence of Erasmus Lewis, John

George Arbuthnot, who was in the office of the King's
Remembrancer, suffered from melancholy. Lewis, who,
it will have been observed, was one of the witnesses to
Dr. Arbuthnot's will, wrote to Swift in 1737, ' I regret the
loss of Dr. Arbuthnot every hour of the day ; he was the
best-conditioned creature that ever breathed, and the most
cheerful ; yet his poor son George is under the utmost de-
jection of spirits, almost to a degree of delirium ; his two
sisters give affectionate attendance, and I hope he will
grow better'; and again, 'Poor George Arbuthnot is

miserable. He is splenetic to a degree of . He is

going to France to try whether that merry nation will
cure him.' Swift, in replying, said, ' I have had m^^ share
of affliction sufficient, in the loss of Dr. Arbuthnot, and

1 The baptisms of three sisters, = As Arbuthnot's brother George
Katherine, Anne, and Joan, are is not mentioned it is to be pre-
recorded ; it does not appear which sumed that he was dead in 1733.
of these was known as Elizabeth.


poor Gay, and others.' Lewis, who made his will early in
1743, left legacies of £100 each to Dr. Eichard Mead,
Pope, and Anne Arbuthnot.

Pope wrote to George Arbuthnot (' Castle Yard,
Holborn') in April, 1739, saying that Bolingbroke would
sail for France in the following week, and if agreeable
would take with him in his yacht George Arbuthnot's
good uncle, Robert, whose acquaintance he wished to
make. Pope sent his good wishes to George, his sister,
Anne \ and his uncle. Next month Pope said, in a letter
to Swift, ' Dr. Arbuthnot's daughter does not degenerate
from the humour and goodness of her father. I love her
much. She is like Gay, very idle, very ingenious, and
inflexibly honest.' In August Pope asked George Arbuth-
not and his sister to visit him at Twickenham. ' Believe
no man more truly loves you both, and is with greater
warmth your real friend, and most affectionate servant.'
And in December Pope told Martha Blount that he had
dined at Bath with Anne Arbuthnot, 'who sends you
many services.' In 1743 Pope and George Arbuthnot
proposed to live together at Mr. Ralph Allen's house at
Bathhampton, near Bath ; but Allen insisted on their
staying at his own house. Prior Park. Pope thereupon
WTote to George Arbuthnot, that perhaps under these
circumstances he would not like to stay so long as they
had proposed to be together ; but he must come anyhow,
or Mr. Allen would be annoyed. Pope sent his hearty
service to Arbuthnot's sister; 'no man more earnestly
wishes the prosperity of you both.' On the 12th of August
Pope told Lord Orrery, who was ill with the gout, that he
was upon the point of writing to make enquiries, ' when
Mr. Arbuthnot came from London, and insisted on my
going with him, as I had engaged, either to a house
Mr. Allen had promised to lend him, or to Bristol. The

' The second sister (whose name between 1737, when the two sisters
is not recorded) probably died are referred to by Lewis, and 1739.


house was denied us, and lie did not care to stay longer
than four or five days ; so we are both at Bristol.' A week
later Pope announced that he was about to set out for
home with Mr. Arbuthnot, and would meet Lord Orrery
in London. Pope died in the following May, and by his
will, made in December 1743, left to Arbuthnot, who was
one of the executors, a portrait of Bolingbroke and the
watch he had commonly worn ; it had been given by the
King of Sardinia to Peterborough, and by Peterborough
to Pope. He also bequeathed ^€200 to Arbuthnot and £200
to his sister Anne, after the death of Martha Blount. He
left £5 to Anne Arbuthnot to buy a ring or other memorial.
We hear nothing of her after this date.

George Arbuthnot died on the 8th of September, 1779,
aged 76. He had for twenty-eight years been first Secre-
tary of the King's Remembrancer's Office ^. By his wilP,
which was proved by the executrixes on September 17, he
left to his cousin John Arbuthnot, of Ravensbury, Mitcham,
Surrey, the large silver cup given to his father by Mr. Ad-
dison, and to his cousin Alexander Arbuthnot, in France,
£2000 Old South Sea Annuity Stock. The rest of the estate
was left to his two cousins, Esther and Elizabeth (sisters of
Alexander), who were residing with him, and they were
appointed executrixes. This will was dated March 15,
1776, but a codicil was added on April 3, 1779, providing
that if one of the executrixes should die the whole property
was to go to the surviving sister. A duplicate of the will
would be found in the testator's house in Cork Street.

Among Mr. Baillie's papers is a letter, in French, written
by Esther Arbuthnot to Dr. William Hunter^ on the nth

' Gentleman's Magasine, 1779. and she had two children, Dr.

- Prerog. Court of Cant., 364 Matthew Baillie, a very well-known

WarI>urton. physician, and Joanna Baillie, the

^ Mr. Baillie's grandmother, Do- poetess. — A letter, signed 'Al. Hen-

rothea, who married the Rev. J. derson, Curzon Street,' appeared in

Baillie, D.D., was a sister of the the Gentleman's Magazine for May,

famous surgeon, .John Hunter, and 181 7, in which it was stated that

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 15 of 47)