George Atherton Aitken.

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

. (page 22 of 47)
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For example, I suppose the magistrate ought to j)ass an irre-
versible sentence upon all blue-eyed children from the cradle ;
but, that there may be some show of justice in this proceeding,
these children ought to be trained up by masters, appointed for
that purpose, to all sorts of villainy, that they may deserve
their fate, and the execution of them may serve as an object of
teiTor to the rest of mankind ^' As to the giving of pardons,
he had this singular method ^, that, when these wretches had
the rope about their necks, it should be inquired, who believed
they should be hanged, and who not ? The first were to be
pardoned, the last hanged outright. Such as were once par-
doned were never to be hanged afterwards for any crime what-
soever \ He had such skill in physiognomy, that he would pro-
nounce peremptoiily ui)on a man's face : ' that fellow,' says he,

^ Absolute predestination. shall certainly be saved.

^ Reprobation. * The doctrine of Election.

' Saving faith ; a belief that one


'do what he will, can't avoid hanging ; he has a hanging look.'
By the same art, he would prognosticate a princijjality to a

He was no less particular in the choice of his studies ; they
were generally bent towards exploded chimeras, ^q 'perpetuum
mobile, the circular shot, philosopher's stone, silent gun-powder,
making chains for fleas, nets for flies, and instruments to
unravel cobwebs and split hairs.

Thus, I think, I have given a distinct account of the methods
he practised uj^on Peg. Her brother would now and then ask
her, 'what a devil dost thou see in that pragmatical coxcomb to
make thee so in love with him ? he is a fit match for a tailor
or a shoemaker's daughter, but not for you, that are a gentle-
woman.' 'Fancy is free,' quoth Peg; 'I'll take my own
way, do you take yours. I do not care for your flaunting beaus,
that gang -udth theii' breasts open, and their sarks over their
waistcoats ' ; that accost me with speeches "' out of Sidney's
Arcadia or the Academy of Compliments. Jack is a sober, grave
young man ; though he has none of your studied harangues, his
meaning is sincere ; he has a great regard to his father's will,
and he that shews himself a good son will make a good husband ;
besides, I know he has the original deed of conveyance to the
Fortunate Islands ; the others are counterfeits.' There is nothing
so obstinate as a young lady in her amours ; the more you cross
her, the worse she is.



John Bull, other\Wse a good-natured man, was veiy hard-
heai-ted to his sister Peg, chiefly from an aversion he had con-
ceived in his infancy. While he flourished, kept a warm house,
and drove a plentiful trade, poor Peg was forced to go hawking
and peddling about the streets, selling knives, scissars, and
shoe-buckles ; now and then carried a basket of fish to the
market ; sewed, spun, and knit for a liveliliood, till her fingers-
ends were sore, and, when she could not get bread for her
family, she was forced to hire them out at journey work to her

' Surplices. = The treaty of Union between

^ Forms of prayers. England and Scotland.


neighbours. Yet in these her poor circumstances she still
preserved the air and mien of a gentlewoman, a certain decent
pride, that extorted respect from the haughtiest of her neigh-
bours ; when she came into any full assembly, she w^ould not
yield the ^as to the best of them. If one asked her, 'Are
not you related to John Bull?' 'Yes,' says she; 'he has
the honour to be my brother.' So Peg's affairs went, till
all the relations cried out shame upon John for his barbarous
usage of his own flesh and blood ; that it was an easy matter
for hiin to put her in a creditable way of living, not only
without hurt but with advantage to himself, seeing she was
an industi-ious person, and might be serviceable to him in
his way of business. 'Hang her, jade,' quoth John ; 'I can't
endure her, as long as she keeps that rascal Jack's company.'
They told him the way to reclaim her was to take her into his
house, that by conversation the childish humours of their
younger days might be worn out. These arguments w^ere
enforced by a certain incident. It happened that John was
at that time about making his will and entailing his estate \
the very same in which Nic. Frog is named executor. Now
his sister Peg's name being in the entail, he could not make
a thorough settlement without her consent. There was,
indeed, a malicious story went about, as if John's last wife
had fallen in love with Jack as he was eating custard on
horseback ^ ; that she persuaded John to take his sister into
the house, the better to drive on the intrigue with Jack,
concluding he would follow his mistress Peg. All I can infer
from this story is, that when one has got a bad character
in the world, people will report and believe any thing of one,
true or false. But to return to my story ; when Peg received
John's message, she huffed and stormed like the devil ^ : ' My
brother John,' quoth she, 'is grow^n wondrous kind-heaiied
all of a sudden, but I meikle doubt, whether it be not mair
for their own conveniency than for my good ; he draws up
his writs and his deeds, forsooth, and I must set my hand to

1 The succession to the crown which was recommended to the

having been settled by act of parlia- Scotch by King William III.

ment in England upon the house ^ A Presbyterian had been Lord

of Hanover, and no such act having Mayor of London,

passed in Scotland, then a separate ^ The Scotch expressed their fears

kingdom, it was thought a proper for the presbyterian government,

time to complete the union which and of being burdened with the

had been often attempted, and English national debts.


them, unsight, unseen. I like the young man' he has settled
upon well, enough, but I think I ought to have a valuable
consideration for my consent. He wants my poor little farm,
because it makes a nook in his park-wall : ye may e'en tell
him, he has mair than he makes good use of; he gangs up
and down di'inking, roaring, and quarrelling, through all the
country markets, making foolish bargains in his cups, which
he repents when he is sober ; like a thriftless wretch, spending
the goods and gear that his forefathers won with the sweat
of their brow^s ; light come, light go, he cares not a farthing.
But why should I stand surety for his contracts ? The little
I have is free, and I can call it my awn ; hame's hame, let
it be never so hamely. I ken him well enough, he could
never abide me, and, when he has his ends, he'll e'en use
me as he did before. I am sure I shall be treated like a poor
drudge ; I shall be set to tend the bairns, dearn the hose, and
mend the linen. Then there's no living with that old carline
his mother ; she rails at Jack, and Jack's an honester man
than any of her kin : I shall be jilagued with her spells and
her Pater-nosters, and silly old-world ceremonies ; I mun never
pare my nails on a Friday, nor begin a journey on Childermas-
day ; and I mun stand becking and hinging, as I gang out
and into the hall. Tell him he may e'en gang his gate ; I'll
have nothing to do with him ; I'll stay, like the poor country
mouse, in my awn habitation.' So Peg talked ; but for all
that, by the inteiposition of good friends, and by many a
bonny thing that was sent, and many more that were promised
Peg, the matter was concluded, and Peg taken into the house
upon certam articles ; one of which was, that she might have
the freedom of Jack's conversation^, and might take him for
better and for worse, if she pleased ; provided always he did
not come into the house at unreasonable hours, and disturb
the rest of the old woman, John's mother.


Of some quarrels, that happened after Peg was taken

INTO the family \

It is an old obsen^ation, that the quarrels of relations are
harder to reconcile than any other ; injuries from friends fret

' George I. articles of Union, particularly the

* The Act of Toleration. Peerage.

^ Quarrels about some of the


and gall more, and the memoiy of them is not so easily
oliliterated. This is cunningly re^jresented by one of your old
sages, called ^sop, in the story of the bird, that was grieved
extremely at being wounded with an aiTow feathered with his
own wing ; as also of the oak, that let many a heavy groan,
when he was cleft with a wedge of his own timber.

There was no man in the world less subject to rancour than
John Bvdl, considering how often his good nature had been
aljused ; yet I don't know but he was too apt to hearken to
tattling people, that carried tales between them and sister Peg,
on purpose to sow jealousies, and set them together by the ears.
They say that there were some hardships put upon Peg, which
had been better let alone ; but it was the business of good people
to restrain the injuries on one side, and moderate the resent-
ments on the other ; a good friend acts both parts ; the one
without the other will not do.

The purchase money of Peg's farm was ill paid ' ; then Peg
loved a little good liquor, and the servants shut u]) the wine-
cellar ; but for that Peg found a trick, for she made a false
key ^ Peg's sei'vants complained that they were debarred from
all manner of business, and never suffered to touch the least
thing within the house ^ ; if they offered to come into the ware-
house, then straight went the yard slap over their noddle ; if
they ventured into the counting-room, a fellow would throw an
ink-bottle at their head ; if they came hato the best apartment,
to set anything there in order, they were saluted with a broom ;
if they meddled with any thing in the kitchen, it was odds but
the cook laid them over the pate with a ladle ; one that would
have got into the stables, was met with by two rascals, who fell
to work with him with a brush and a curry-comb ; some, clunbing
up into the coach-box, were told that one of their companions
had been there before, that could not drive ; then slap went
the long whip about then* ears.

On the other hand it was complained that Peg's sen^ants
were always asking for drink-money * ; that they had more than
their share of the Christmas-box : to say the truth, Peg's lads

^ By tho xvth article of the ^ Eun wine.

Treaty of Union, it was agreed that ^ By the Test Act dissenters were

Scotland should have an equivalent excluded from places and employ-

for several customs and excises to ments.

which she would become liable, * They endeavoured to get their

and this equivalent was not paid. share of places.


bustled pretty hard for that, for, when they were endeavouring
to lock it up, they got in their great fists, and pulled out hand-
fuls of half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences. Others in the
scramble picked up guineas and broad-pieces. But there
happened a worse thing than all this ; it was complained that
Peg's servants had great stomachs, and brought so many of
their friends and acquaintance to the table, that John's family
was like to be eat out of house and home. Instead of regulating
this matter as it ought to be. Peg's young men were thrust
away from the table ; then there was the devil and all to do ;
spoons, plates, and dishes flew about the room like mad ; and Sir
Roger, who was now major domo, had enough to do to quiet them.
Peg said this was contrary to agreement, whereby she was in
all things to be treated like a child of the family ; then she
called upon those that had made her such fair promises, and
undertook for her brother John's good behaviour ; but, alas !
to her cost she found that they were the first and readiest to do
her the injury. John at last agreed to this regulation ; that
Peg's footmen might sit with his bookkeeper, journeymen,
and apprentices ; and Peg's better sort of servants might sit
with his footmen, if they pleased \

Then they began to order plum porridge and minced-pies for
Peg's dinner : Peg told them she had an aversion to that sort of
food ; that, upon forcing down a mess of it some years ago, it
threw her into a fit, till she brought it up again ^ Some
alleged it was nothing but humour, that the same mess should
be served up again for supper, and breakfast next morning ;
others would have made use of a horn ; but the wiser sort bid
let her alone, and she might take to it of her own accord.


The conversation between John Bull and his wife.

Mrs. BuU. Though our affairs, honey, are in a bad condition,
I have a better opinion of them, since you seem to be convinced
of the ill course you have been in, and are resolved to submit
to proper remedies. But when I consider your immense
debts, your foolish bargams, and the general disorder of your


Articles of Union, whereby a ^ The introduction of episcopacy-

Scotch commoner, but not a lord, into Scotland by Charles I.
could be made a peer.



business, I have a curiosity to know what fate or chance has
brought you into this condition.

John Bull. I wish you would talk of some other subject ;
the thoughts of it make me mad ; our family must have their

Mrs. Bull. But such a strange thing as this never happened
to any of your family before : they have had lawsuits, but,
though they spent the income, they never mortgaged the stock.
Sure you must have some of the Norman or the Norfolk blood
in you. Prithee give me some account of these matters.

J. Bull. Who could help it ? There lives not such a fellow
by bread as that old Lewis Baboon ; he is the most cheating
contentious rogue upon the face of the earth. You must know,
one day, as Nic. Frog and I were over a bottle making up an
old quarrel, the old fellow would needs have us drink a bottle
of his champagne, and so one after another, till my friend Nic.
and I, not being used to such heady stuff, got bloody drunk.
Lewis all the while, either by the strength of his brain, or
flinching his glass, kept himself sober as a judge. ' My worthy
friends, ' quoth Lewis, ' henceforth let us live neighbourly ; I
am as peaceable and quiet as a lamb, of my own temper, l^ut it
has been my misfortune to live among quarrelsome neighbours.
There is but one thing can make us fall out, and that is the
inheritance of Lord Strutt's estate ; I am content, for peace
sake, to waive my right, and submit to any expedient to prevent
a lawsuit ; I think an equal division will be the fairest way'.'
' Well moved, old Lewis, ' quoth Frog ; ' and I hope my friend
John here will not be refractory.' At the same time he clapped
me on the back, and slabbered me all over from cheek to cheek
with his great tongue. ' Do as you please gentlemen,' quoth I ;
"tis all one to John Bull.' We agreed to part that night, and
next morning to meet at the corner of Lord Strutt's park wall
with our sui-veying instruments, which accordingly we did.
Old Lewis cariied a chain and a semi-cu'cle ; Nic. paper, rulers,
and a lead pencil ; and I followed at some distance with a long
pole. We began first with surveying the meadow grounds,
afterwards we measured the corn fields, close by close ; then we
proceeded to the wood lands, the copper and tin mines -. All
this while Nic, laid doAvn every thing exactly upon paper,

* Tlie treaty for preserving the partition of the Spanish dominions,
balance of power in Europe by a ^ The West Indies.


calculated the acres and roods to a great nicety. When we had
finished the land, we were going to break into the house and
gardens to take an inventory of his plate, pictures, and other

Mrs. Bull. What said Lord Strutt to all this ?

J. Bull. As we had almost finished our concern, we were
accosted by some of Lord Strutt's sei-vants : ' Hey day ! What's
here ? What a devil's the meaning of all these trangrams and
gimcracks, gentlemen ? What in the name of wonder are you
going about, jumping over my master's hedges, and running
your lines cross his grounds ? If you are at any field pastime,
you might have asked leave ; my master is a civil well-bred
person as any is.'

Mrs. Bull. What could you answer to this ?

J. Bull. Why truly my neighbour Frog and I were still hot-
headed ; we told him his master was an old doating puppy,
that minded notliing of his own business ; that we were surveying
his estate, and settling it for him, since he would not do it
himself. Upon this there happened a quarrel, but we, being
stronger than they, sent them away with a flea in their ear.
They went home and told their master^ : ' My Lord,' said they,
' there are three odd sort of fellows going about your grounds
with the strangest machines that ever we beheld m our life : I
suppose they are going to rob your orchard, fell your trees, or
drive away your cattle ; they told us strange things of settling
your estate : one is a lusty old fellow, in a black wig, with a
black beard, without teeth ; there's another thick squat fellow,
in trunk-hose ; the third is a little, long-nosed thin man (I was
then lean, being just come out of a fit of sickness) ; I suppose it
is fit to send after them, lest they carry something away.'

Mrs. Bull. I fancy this put the old fellow in a rare tweague.

J. Bull. Weak as he was, he called for his long Toledo, swore
and bounced about the room, ' Sdeath ! what am I come to, to
be affronted so by my tradesmen ? I know the rascals : my
barber, clothier, and linen-draper dispose of my estate ! bring
hither my blunderbuss. I'll warrant ye, you shall see day-light
through them. Scoundrels ! dogs ! the scum of the eaiili !
Frog, that was my father's kitchen-boy, he pretend to meddle
with my estate ! with my will ! Ah poor Strutt, what art thou

1 Tliis partition of the King of out bis consent or even liis know-
Spain's dominions was made witli- ledge.

R 3


come to at last ? Thou hast lived too long in the world, to see
thy age and infirmity so despised ; how will the ghosts of my
noble ancestors receive these tidings ? They cannot, they must
not sleep quietly in their graves.' In short, the old gentleman
was carried off in a fainting fit, and after bleeding in both arms
hardly recovered.

Mrs. Bull. Eeally this was a very extraordinary way of
proceeding : I long to hear the rest of it,'

J. Bull. After we had come back to the tavern, and taken
t'other bottle of champagne, we quarrelled a little about the
division of the estate. Lewis hauled and pulled the map on
one side, and Frog and I on the other, till we had like to have
torn the parchment to pieces. At last Lewis pulled out a pan*
of great tailor's sheers, and clipped a corner for himself, which
he said was a manor that lay convenient for him, and left Frog
and me the rest to dispose of as we pleased. We were overjoyed
to think Lewis was contented with so little, not smelling what
was at the bottom of the plot. There happened indeed an
incident, that gave us some disturbance : a cunning fellow, one
of my sei-vants, two days after peeping through the key-hole,
observed that old Lewis had stole away our part of the map,
and saw him fiddling and turning the map from one corner to
the othei\ trying to join the two pieces together again ; he was
muttering something to himself, which we did not well hear,
only these woi'ds, ' 'Tis great pity, 'tis great pity ! ' My sei-vant
added that he believed this had some ill meaning. I told him
he was a coxcomb, always pretending to be wiser than his
companions : ' Lewis and I are good friends, he's an honest
fellow, and I dare say will stand to his bargain.' The sequel of
the stoiy proved this fellow's suspicion to be too well grounded ^ ;
for Lewis revealed our whole secret to the deceased Lord Strutt,
who, in reward to his treachery and revenge to Frog and me,
settled his whole estate upon the present Philip Baboon. Then
we understood what he meant by piecing the maj).

Mrs. Bull. And was you surprised at this? Had not Lord
Strutt reason to be angry? Would you have been contented
to have been so used yourself?

J. Bull. Why truly, wife, it was not easily reconciled to the

^ It is suspected that the French the Court of Spain, upon which the
King intended to take the whole, will was made in favour of his
and that he revealed the secret to grandson.


24 r:


common methods ; but then it was the fashion to do such
things. I have read of your golden age, your silver age, &c. ;
one might justly call this the age of lawyers. There was hardly
a man of substance in all the countiy but had a counterfeit
that pretended to his estate. As the philosoj^hers say that
there is a duplicate of eveiy terrestrial animal at sea, so it was
in this age of the lawyers, there were at least two of every
thing ; nay, on my conscience, I think there were three Esquire
Hackums ' at one time. In shorf, it was usual for a parcel of
fellows to meet, and dispose of the whole estates in the country :
' this lies convenient for me, Tom : thou wouldst do more
good with that, Dick, than the old fellow that has it.' So to
law they went with the true owners ; the lawyers got well by
it ; eveiy body else was undone. It was a common thing for
an honest man, when he came home at night, to find another
fellow domineering in his family, hectoring his servants, calling
for supper, and pretending to go to bed to his wife. In
every house you might obsei"ve two Sosias quarrelling who was
master. For my own part, I am still afraid of the same treat-
ment, and that I should find somebody behind my counter
selling my broad-cloth.

Mrs. Bull. There are a sort of fellovv^s they call banterers and
bamboozlers, that play such tricks ; but, it seems, these fellows
were in earnest.

J. Bull. I begin to think that justice is a better rule than
conveniency, for all some people make so slight of it.


Of the hard shifts Mrs. Bull was put to, to preserve


As John Bull and his wife were talking together, they were
surprised with a sudden knocking at the door : ' Those wicked

to sell their shares in the Bank ;
the governor, deputy governor, and
two directors applied to the Queen
to prevent the change ; the alarm
became general, and all the public
funds gradually sunk. Perhaps by
Bullock's-Hatch the author meant
the crown lands.

Kings of Poland.

^ After the dissolution of the
parliament in 1710, the sinking
ministry endeavoured to supi^ort
themselves by propagating a notion,
that the public credit would suffer
if the Lord Treasurer Godolphin was
removed. The dread of this event
produced it : the moneyed men began


scriveners and lawyers, no doubt,' quoth John ; and so it was :
some asking for the money he owed, and others warning to
prepare for the approaching tenii. 'What a cursed life do I
lead ! ' quoth John. ' Debt is like deadly sin : for God's sake,
Sir Eoger, get me rid of the fellows.' 'I'll warrant you,'
quoth Sir Koger ; ' leave them to me.' And indeed it was
pleasant enough to obsei-ve Sir Roger's method with these
importunate duns ; his sincere friendship for John Bull made
hmi submit to many things for his sei-vice, wliicli he would
have scorned to have done for himself. Sometimes he would
stand at the door with his long staff to keep off the duns, till
John got out at the back-door. When the lawyers and trades-
men brought extravagant liills. Sir Eoger used to bargain before-
hand for leave to cut off a quarter of a yard in any part of the
})ill he pleased ; he wore a pair of scissars in his pocket for this
purpose, and would snip it off so nicely as you cannot unagine.
Like a true goldsmith, he kept all your holidays ; there was not
one wanting in his calendar : when ready money was scarce, he
would set them a telling a thousand pounds in sixpences, groats,
and threepenny pieces. It would have done your heart good
to have seen him charge through an army of lawyers, attorneys,
clerks, and tradesmen ; sometimes with sword in hand, at other
times nuzzling like an eel in the mud. When a fellow stuck
like a bur, that there was no shaking him off, he used to be
mighty inquisitive about the health of his uncles and aunts in
the country ; he could call them all by then- names, for he knew
eveiy body, and could talk to them in theii- own way. The
extremely impeiiinent he would send away to see some strange

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 22 of 47)