George Atherton Aitken.

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

. (page 23 of 47)
Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 23 of 47)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sight, as the dragon of Hockley-in-the-Hole ^ ; or bid them call
the 30th of next Februaiy. Now and then you would see him
in the kitchen, weighing the beef and butter ; paying ready
money, that the maids might not run a tick at the market, and
the butchers, by bribing of them, sell damaged and light meat.
Another tmie he would slip into the cellar, and gauge the casks ^.
In his leisure minutes he was posting his books, and gathering
in his debts. Such frugal methods were necessary where
money was so scarce, and duns so numerous. All this while
John kept his credit, could shew his head both at 'Change and

^ A bear-garden in Clerkenwell, and other rough sports,
frequented by the lovers of prize- ^ Some regulations as to the pur-

fights, combats between bull-dogs, veyance in the Queen's family.


Westminster Hall ; no man protested his bill, nor refused his
bond ; only the sharpers and the scriveners, the lawj'^ers
and other clerks pelted Sir Koger as he went along. The
squiiiers were at it with their kennel water, for they were mad
for the loss of their bubl^le, and that they could not get him to
mortgage the manor of Bullock's-Hatch. Sir Eoger shook his
ears, and nuzzled along well satisfied within hunself that he
was doing a charitable work in rescuing an honest man from
the claws of harpies and blood-suckers. Mrs. Bull did all that
an affectionate wife and a good housewife could do ; yet the
boundaries of virtues are mdivisible lines ; it is impossible to
march up close to the frontiers of frugality without entering
the territories of parsimony. Your good housewives are apt to
look into the minutest things ; therefore some blamed Mrs.
Bull for new heel-piecing of her shoes, grudging a quarter of a
pound of soajD and sand to scour the rooms ; but especially \
that she would not allow her maids and apprentices the benefit
of John Bunyan, the London Apprentices, or the Seven
Champions in the black-letter.




Mrs. Bull. It is a most sad life we lead, my dear, to be so
teased, paying interest for old debts, and still contracting noAV
ones. However, I don't blame you for vindicating your honour,
and chastising old Lewis : to curb the insolent, protect the
oppressed, recover one's own, and defend what one has, are
good effects of the law ; the only thing I want to know is, how
you came to make an end of your money, before you finished
your suit.

John Bull. I was told by the learned in the law, that my suit
stood upon three firm pillars ; more money for more law, more
law for more money, and no composition. More money for
more law was plam to a demonstration, for who can go to law
without money ? and it was plain, that any man that has money,
may have law for it. The thiid was as evident as the other
two ; for what composition could be made with a rogue, that
never kept a word he said ?

' Eestraining the liberty of the press by act of parliament.


Mrs. Bull. I think you are most likely to get out of this
labyrinth by the second door, by want of ready money to
purchase this precious commodity ; but you seem not only to
have bought too much of it, but have paid too dear for what
you bought ; else, how was it jDOSsible to run so much in debt,
when, at this very time, the yearly income of what is moi-tgaged
to those usurers would discharge Hdeus's bills, and give you
your bellyfull of law for all your life, without running one six-
pence in debt ? You have been bred up to business ; I suppose
.you can cyjjher ; I wonder you never used your pen and ink.

John Bull. Now you urge me too far ; prithee, dear wife, hold
thy tongue. Suppose a young heir, heedless, raw, and unexperi-
enced, full of spmt and vigour, with a favourite passion, in the
hands of money scriveners ; such fellows are like your wu"e-
drawing mills ; if they get hold of a man's finger, they will pull
in his whole body at last, till they squeeze the heart, blood,
and guts out of him. When I wanted money, half a dozen of
these fellows were always waiting in my antichamber with their
securities ready drawn \ I was tempted with the ready, some
farm or other went to pot. I received with one hand, and paid
it away with the other to la\vyers, that like so many hell-hounds
were ready to devour me. Then the rogues would jDlead poverty,
and scarcity of money, which always ended in receiving ninety
for the hundred. After they had got possession of my best
rents, they were able to supply me vnih. my own money. But
what was worse, when I looked into the securities, there was
no clause of redemption.

Mrs. Bull. No clause of redemption say you ? that's hard.

John Bull. No great matter, for I cannot pay them. They
had got a worse trick than that ; the same man bought and sold
to hmiself, paid the money, and gave the acquittance ; the same
man was butcher and grazier, brewer and l^utler, cook and
poulterer. There is somethmg still worse than all this ; there
came twenty bills upon me at once, which I had given money to
discharge ; I was like to be pulled to pieces by brewer, butcher,
and baker ; even my herb-woman dunned me as I went along
the street. (Thanks to my friend Sir Eoger, else I must have
gone to gaol. ) When I asked the meaning of this, I was told
the money went to the lawyers ; counsel won't tick, Sir ; Hocus
was urging ; my l)ook-keeper sat sotting all day, playing at put
' Methods of preying upon tlie necessities of the government.


and all-fours ; in shoii, by griping usurers, devouring lawyers,
and negligent sei-vants, I am brought to this pass.

Mrs. Bull. This was hard usage! but, methinks, the least
reflection might have retrieved you.

John Bull. 'Tis true : yet consider my circumstances ; my
honour was engaged, and I did not know how to get out ;
besides, I was for five years often drunk, always muddled ;
they carried me from tavern to tavern, to ale-houses and brandy-
shops, and brought me acquainted with such strange dogs !
'There goes the prettiest fellow in the world,' says one, 'for
managing a jury ; make him yours \ There's another can pick
you up witnesses : serjeant such-a-one has a silver tongue at the
bar.' I believe in time I should have retained eveiy single
person within the inns of court. The night after a trial I treated
the lawyers, their wives and daughters, with fiddles, hautboys,
drums and trumpets. I was always hot-headed ; then they
placed me in the middle, the attorneys and their clerks dancing
about me, whooping, and hollowing, ' long live John Bull, the
glory and support of the law.'

Mrs. Bull. Eeally, husband, you went through a very notable

John Bull. One of the things that first alarmed me was that
they shewed a spite against my poor old mother^. 'Lord,'
quoth I, ' what makes you so jealous of a poor, old, innocent
gentlewoman, that minds only her prayers, and her Practice of
Piety ; she never meddles in any of your concerns ? ' ' Foh, ' say
they, ' to see a handsome, brisk, genteel, young fellow, so much
governed by a doating old woman ! why don't you go and suck
the bubby? Do you consider she keeps you out of a good
jointure ? She has the best of your estate settled upon her for a
rent-charge : hang her, old thief, turn her out of doors, seize her
land, and let her go to law if she dares.' 'Soft and fair,
gentlemen,' quoth I; 'my mother's my mother; our family
are not of an unnatural temper. Though I don't take all her
advice, I won't seize her jointure ; long may she enjoy it, good
woman ; I don't grudge it her, she allows me now and then a
brace of hundreds for my lawsuit; that's pretty fair.' About
this time the old gentlewoman fell ill of an odd sort of a
distemper ; it began with a coldness and numbness in her
limbs, which by degrees affected the nerves, (I think the

' Hiring still more troops. * Railing against the church.


physicians call them) seized the brain, and at last ended in a
lethargy \ It betrayed itself at first in a sort of indifference
and cai"elessness in all her actions, coldness to her best friends,
and an aversion to stir or go about the common offices of
life. She, that was the cleanliest creature in the world,
never shrunk now, if you set a close-stool under her nose.
She, that would sometunes rattle off her servants pretty
sharply, now, if she saw them drmk, or heard them talk pro-
fanely, never took any notice of it. Instead of her usual charities
to deserving persons, she threw away her money upon roaring
swearing bullies and beggars, that went about the streets ^.
'Wliat is the matter with the old gentlewoman,' said every-
body, 'she never used to do in this manner?' At last the
distemper grew more violent, and threw her downright into
raving fits '^ ; in which she shrieked out so loud, that she
disturbed the whole neighbourhood. In her fits she called upon
one Su' William * : ' Oh, Sii- William, thou hast betrayed me !
killed me ! stabbed me ! sold me to the cuckold of Dover
Street ! See, see, Clum with his bloody knife ! seize him, seize
him, stop him! Behold the fury with her liissing snakes!
Where's my son John ! Is he well, is he well ! poor man, I
pity him ; ' and abundance more of such strange stuff, that
nobody could make any thing of. I knew little of the matter ;
for, when I inquired about her health, the answer was, that
'she was in a good moderate way.' Physicians were sent for
in haste : Sir Eoger, with great difficulty, brought Eadcliffe ;
Garth came upon the first message. There were several others
called in ; but, as usual upon such occasions, they differed
strangely at the consultation. At last they divided into two
parties, one sided with Garth, the other with Eadcliffe ^. Dr.
Garth. ' This case seems to me to be plainly hysterical ; the old
woman is whimsical ; it is a common thing for your old women
to be so ; I'll pawn my life, blisters, with the steel diet, will
recover her.' Others suggested strong purging, and letting of
blood, because she was plethoric. Some went so far as to say the
old woman was mad, and nothing would be better than a little

^ Carelessness in forms and dis- the danger of the church,

cipline. * Sir William, a cant name of

^ Disposing of some preferments Sir Humphry's for Lord Treasurer

to libertine and unprincipled per- Godolphin.

sons. ■'' Garth, the low-church party ;

^ The too violent clamours about Radcliffe, the high-church party.


coiporal correction. Baddiffc. 'Gentlemen, you are mistaken
in this case ; it is plainly an acute distempei", and she cannot
hold out three days, unless she is supported with strong cordials.'
I came into the room with a good deal of concern, and asked
them what they thought of my mother ? * In no manner of
danger, I vow to Gad,' quoth Garth, 'the old woman is
hysterical, fanciful. Sir, I vow to Gad.' *I tell you, Sir,' says
Eadcliffe, ' she cannot live tlii-ee days to an end, unless there is
some veiy effectual course taken with her ; she has a malignant
fever.' Then fool, puppy, and blockhead were the best words
they gave. I could hardly restrain them from throwing the
ink-bottles at one another's heads. I forgot to tell you, that
one party of the physicians desii'ed I would take my sister Peg
into the house to nurse hei-, but the old gentlewoman would
not hear of that. At last one physician asked if the lady had
ever been used to take laudanum? Her maid answered, not
that she knew ; but indeed there was a high German liveiy-
man of hers, one Yan Ptschmisooker \ that gave her a sort of
quack-powder. The physician desired to see it : ' Nay,' said he,
* there is opium in this, I am sure.'

3Irs. Bull. I hope you examined a little into this matter.

John Bull. I did indeed, and discovered a great mystery of
iniquity. The witnesses made oath, that they had heard some
of the liveiy-men ^ frequently railing at their mistress. ' They
said, she was a troublesome fiddle-faddle old woman, and so
ceremonious, that there was no bearing of her. They were so
plagued with bowing and cringing as they went in and out of the
room, that their backs ached. She used to scold at one for his
dirty shoes, at another for his greasy hair, and not combing his
head : that she was so passionate and fieiy in her temper, that
there was no living with her ; she wanted something to
sweeten her blood : that they never had a quiet night's rest,
for getting up in the morning to early sacraments ; they wished
they could find some way or another to keep the old woman
quiet in her bed.' Such discourses were often overheard among
the livery-men, while the said Yan Ptsehirnsooker had under-
took this matter. A maid made affidavit, that she had seen
the said Yan Ptsehirnsooker, one of the livery-men, frequently
making up of medicines, and administering them to all the

> Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Sarum, who was much interested in politics
and physic. ^ The clergy.


neighbours ; that she saw him one morning make up the
powder which her mistress took ; that she had the curiosity
to ask him, whence he had the ingredients ? ' They come,' says
he, * from several parts of de workl ; dis I have from Geneva,
dat from Rome, this white powder from Amsterdam, and the
red from Edinburgh ; but the chief ingredient of all comes from
Turkey.' It was likewise proved, that the said Yan Ptschirn-
sooker had been frequently seen at the Rose with Jack, who
was known to bear an inveterate spite to his mistress : that he
brought a certain powder to his mistress, which the examinant
believes to be the same, and spoke the following words :
'Madam, here is grand secret van de world, my sweetening
powder, it does temperate de humour, despel the windt, and
cure de vapour ; it lulleth and quieteth the anunal spirits,
procuring rest and pleasant dreams : it is de infallible receipt
for de scui-vy, all heats in de bloodt, and breaking out upon
the skin : it is de true blood-stancher, stopping all fluxes of de
blood : if you do take dis, you will never ail any ding ; it will
cure you of all diseases : ' and abundance more to this purpose,
which the examinant does not remember.

John Bull was interrupted in his stoiy by a porter, that
brought him a letter from Nicholas Frog, which is as follows.


A COPY OF Nic. Frog's letter to John Bull\
[John Bull reads.]

Friend John,
' What schellum is this, that makes thee jealous of thy old
friend Nicholas ? Hast thou forgot how some years ago he
took thee out of the spunging-house ^ ? ' ['Tis true my friend
Nic. did so, and I thank him ; but he made me pay a swinging
reckoning.] ' Thou beginnest now to repent thy bargain, that
thou wast so fond of ; and, if thou durst, wouldest forswear thy
own hand and seal. Thou sayest, that thou hast purchased me
too great an estate already ; when, at the same time, thou
knowest I have only a mortgage ; 'tis true, I have possession,
and the tenants own me for jnaster ; but has not Esquire South
the equity of redemption?' [No doubt, and will redeem it
veiy speedily ; poor Nic. has only possession, eleven points of
the law.] 'As for the turnpikes I have set up, they are for

' A letter from the States-General. ' Alluding to the Kevolution.


other i:)eople, not for my friend John^ ; I have ordered my
seiT.ant constantly to attend, to lot thy carriages through with-
out paying any thing ; only I hope thou wilt not come too
heavy laden to spoil my ways. Certainly I have just cause of
offence against thee, my friend, for supi^osing it possible that
thou and I should ever quarrel : what hounds-foot is it that
puts these whims in thy head ? Ten thousand last of devils
haul me, if I don't love thee as I love my life. ' [No question,
as the devil loves holy water !] ' Does not thy own hand and
seal oblige thee to purchase for me, till I say it is enough ? Are
not these words plain? I say it is not enough. Dost thou
think thy friend Nicholas Frog made a child's bargain ? Mark
the words of thy contract, iota 2)ccunid, with all thy money.'
[Very well ! I have purchased with my own money, my
children's, and my grand-children's money, is not that enough ?
Well, totti pecunid let it be, for at present I have none at all :
he would not have me purchase with other people's money sure ;
since totd pecunid is the bargain, I think it is plain, no more
money, no more purchase.] 'And, whatever the world may
say, Nicholas Frog is but a poor man in comparison of the rich,
the opulent John Bull, great clothier of the world. I have had
many losses, six of my best sheep were drowned, and the water
has come into my cellar, and spoiled a pipe of my best brandy :
it would be a moi-e friendly act in thee to cany a brief about
the countiy to repair the losses of thy poor friend. Is it not
evident to all the world, that I am still hemmed in by Lewis
Baboon? Is he not just upon my borders? ' [And so he Avill
be, if I purchase a thousand acres more, unless he get somebody
betwixt them.] ' I tell thee, friend John, thou hast flatterers,
that persuade thee that thou art a man of business ; do not
believe them : if thou wouldest still leave thy affairs in my
hands, thou shouldest see how handsomely I would deal by
thee. That ever thou shouldest be dazzled with the inchanted
islands, and mountains of gold, that old Lewis promises thee !
'Dswounds ! why dost thou not lay out thy money to purchase
a place at couii, of honest Israel ? I tell thee, thou must not
so much as think of a composition.' [Not think of a composi-
tion, that's hard indeed ; I can't help thinking of it, if I would.]
' Thou complainest of want of money ; let thy wife and daughters
burn the gold lace of their petticoats ; sell thy fat cattle ; retrench
but a surloin of beef and a peck-loaf in a week from thy gor-
mandizing guts.' [Retrench my beef, a dog! Retrench my
^ The Dutch prohibition of trade.


beef ! then it is plain the rascal has an ill design upon me, he
would starve me.] 'Mortgage thy manor of Bullock's-Hatch,
or pawn thy crop for ten years.' [A rogue! part with my
country seat, my patrimony, all that I have left in the world ;
I'll see him hanged first.] 'Why hast thou changed thy
attorney ? Can any man manage thy cause better for thee ? '
[Veiy pleasant ! becavise a man has a good attorney, he must
never make an end of his lawsuit. ] ' Ah, John ! John ! I wish
thou knewest thy own mind ; thou art as fickle as the wind.
I tell thee, thou hadst better let this composition alone, or
leave it to thy

Loving friend,

Nic. Frog.'


Of some extraordinary things that passed at the Saluta-

Esquire South, and Lewis Baboon \

Frog had given his word that he would meet the above-
mentioned company at the ' Salutation ' to talk of this agree-
ment. Though he durst not directly break his appointment,
he made many a shuffling excuse ; one time he pretended to be
seized with the gout in his right knee ; then he got a great
cold, that had struck him deaf of one ear ; afterwards two of
his coach-horses fell sick, and he durst not go by water for fear
of catching an ague. John would take no excuse, but hurried
him away : ' Come Nic,,' says he, ' let's go and hear at least what
this old fellow has to propose ! I hope there's no hui-t in that.'
' Be it so,' quoth Nic, ' but, if I catch any harm, woe be to you ;
my wife and children will curse you as long as they live.'
When they were come to the 'Salutation,' John concluded all
was sure then, and that he should be troubled no more with
law affairs ; he thought eveiybody as plain and sincere as he
was. 'Well, neighbours,' quoth he, 'let's now make an end
of all matters, and live peaceably together for the time to come ;
if everj'body is as well inclined as I, we shall quickly come to
the upshot of our affair.' And so pointing to Frog to say some-
thing, to the great surpnse of all the company. Frog was seized

1 The Congress of Utrecht. When French deliver in their proposals.
tlie members met, the Dutch would The House of Austria talked very
not speak their sentiments, nor the high.


with a dead palsy in the tongue. John began to ask him some
plain questions, and whooped and hallooed in his ear. 'Let's
come to the point. Nic. ! who wouldest thou have to be Lord
Strutt ? Wouldest thou have Philip Baboon ? ' Nic. shook his
head, and said nothing. ' Wilt thou then have Esquire South
to be Lord Strutt ? ' Nic. shook his head a second time. ' Then
who the devil wilt thou have? say something or another.'
Nic. opened his mouth, and pointed to his tongue, and cried,
* A, a, a, a ! ' which was as much as to say, he could not speak.
John Bull : ' Shall I serve Philip Baboon with broad-cloth, and
accept of the composition that he offers, with the liberty of his
parks and fish-ponds?' Then Nic. roared like a bull, 'O, o,
0,0!' John Bull : ' If thou wilt not let me have them, wilt
thou take them thyself?' Then Nic. grinned, cackled, and
laughed, till he was like to kill himself, and seemed to be so
pleased, that he fell a striking and dancing about the room.
John Bull : ' Shall I leave all this matter to thy management,
Nic, and go about my business?' Then Nic. got up a glass,
and drank to John, shaking him by the hand, till he had like
to have shook his shoulder out of joint. John Bull : ' I under-
stand thee, Nic, but I shall make thee speak before I go.'
Then Nic. put his finger in his cheek, and made it ciy Buck ;
wliich was as much as to say, I care not a farthing for thee.
John Bull: 'I have done, Nic, if thou wilt not speak, I'll
make my own terms with old Lewis here.' Then Nic. lolled
out his tongue, and turned up his ... to him ; which was as
much as to say, Kiss .

John, perceiving that Frog would not speak, turns to old
Lewis : * Since we cannot make this obstinate fellow speak,
Lewis, pray condescend a little to his humour, and set down
thy meaning upon paper, that he may answer it in another

'I am infinitely sony,' quoth Lewis, 'that it happens so
unfortunately ; for, playing a little at cudgels t'other day, a
fellow has given me such a rap over the right arm, that I am
quite lame ; I have lost the use of my fore-finger and my
thumb, so that I cannot hold my pen.'

Jolin Bull. That's all one, let me write for you.

Lewis. But I have a misfortune, that I cannot read any
body's hand but my own.

John Bull. Try what you can do with your left hand.


Lewis. That's impossible ; it will make such a scrawl, that
it will not be legible.

As they were talking of this matter, in came Esquu-e South \
all dressed up in feathers and ribbons, stark staring mad, bran-
dishing his sword, as if he would have cut off their heads ;
crying, ' Eoom, room, boys, for the grand Esquire of the world !
the flower of Esquires ! What ! covered in my presence ? I'll
crush your souls, and crack you like lice ! ' With that he had
like to have struck John Bull's hat into the fire ; but John,
who was pretty strong-fisted, gave him such a squeeze as made
his eyes water. He went on still in his mad pranks : 'When
I am lord of the universe, the sun shall prostrate and adore me !
Thou, Frog, shalt be my bailiff ; Lewis my tailor ; and thou,
John Bull, shalt be my fool ! '

All this while Frog laughed in his sleeve, gave the Esquii-e
t'other noggin of brandy, and clapped liim on the back, which
made him ten times madder.

Poor John stood in amaze, talking thus to himself: 'Well,
John, thou art got into rare company ! One has a dumb devil,
t'other a mad devil, and the thiixl a spirit of infirmity. An
honest man has a fine time on't among such rogues. What art
thou askmg of them, after all ? Some mighty boon one would
think ! only to sit quietly at thy own fireside. 'Sdeath, what
have I to do with such fellows ! John Bull, after all his losses
and crosses, can live better without them, than they can mthout
him. Would to God I lived a thousand leagues off them ! but
the devil's in't, John Bull is in, and John Bull must get out
as well as he can.'

As he was talking to himself, he observed Frog and old
Lewis edging ^ towards one another to whisper ; so that John
was forced to sit with his arms a-kimbo, to keep them asunder.
Some people advised John to blood Frog under the tongue,
or take away his bread and butter, which would certainly make
him speak ; to give Esquii-e South hellebore ; as for Lewis,

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 23 of 47)