George Atherton Aitken.

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

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'Does he ever steal a kiss from himself, by biting his lips ?' — 'Oh
continually, till they are perfect vermilion. ' — 'Have you observed
him to use familiarities with any body?' — 'With none but him-
self: he often embraces himself with folded arms, he claps
his hand often upon his hip, nay sometimes thrusts it into his
breast. '

' Madam, ' said the Doctor, ' all these are strong symptoms ; but
there remain a few more. Has this amorous gentleman pre-
sented himself with any love-toys ; such as gold snuff-boxes,
repeating-watches. or tweezer-cases ? those are things that in
time will soften the most obdurate heart.' — 'Not only so,' said
the aunt, ' but he bought the other day a very fine brilliant
diamond ring for his own wearing.' — ' Nay, if he has accepted of
this ring, the intrigue is veiy forward indeed, and it is high
time for friends to interpose. Pray, Madam, a word or two
more : Is he jealous that his acquaintance do not behave them-
selves with respect enough ? mil he bear jokes and innocent
freedoms ? ' — ' By no means ; a familiar appellation makes him
angiy ; if you shake him a little roughly by the hand, he is in
a rage ; Ijut if you chuck him under the chin, he will return you
a box on the ear.' — 'Then the case is plain ; he has the true
pathognomic sign of love, jealousy ; for nobody will suffer his
mistress to be treated at that rate. Madam, upon the whole,
this case is extremely dangerous. There are some people who
are far gone in this passion of self-love ; but then they keep a
veiy secret intrigue with themselves, and hide it from all the
world besides. But this patient has not the least care of the
reputation of his beloved, he is downright scandalous in his


behaviour with himself ; he is enchanted, bewitched, and almost
past cure. However, let the following methods be tried upon

' First, let him * * * Hiahis. * * * Secondly, let him wear
a bob-wig. Thirdly, shun the company of flatterers, nay
of ceremonious people, and of all Frenchmen in general. It
would not be amiss if he travelled over England in a stage-
coach, and made the tour of Holland in a track-scoute. Let him
return the snuff-boxes, tweezer-cases (and particularly the
diamond-ring), which he has received from himself. Let some
knowing friend represent to him the many vile qualities of this
mistress of his : let him be shown that her extravagance, pride,
and prodigaHty, will infallibly bring him to a morsel of bread :
let it be proved, that he has been false to himself, and if
treachery is not a sufficient cause to discard a mistress, what is ?
In shoit, let hun be made to see that no mortal besides himself
either loves or can suffer this creature. Let all looking-glasses,
poKshed toys, and even clean plates be removed from him, for
fear of bringing back the adniked object. Let him be taught to
put off all those tender airs, affected smiles, languishing looks,
Wiinton tosses of the head, coy motions of the body, that mincing
gait, soft tone of voice, and all that enchanting womanlike
behaviour, that has made him the charm of his own eyes, and
the object of his own adoration. Let him surprise the beauty he
adores at a disadvantage, survey himself naked, divested of arti-
ficial charms, and he will find liimself a forked stradling animal,
with bandy legs, a shoii neck, a dun hide, and a pot-belly. It
would be yet better if he took a strong purge once a week, in
order to contemplate himself in that condition ; at which time it
will be convenient to make use of the letters, dedications, &c.,
abovesaid. Something like this has been observed, by Lucretius
and others, to be a powerful remedy in the case of women. If
all this will not do, I must e'en leave the poor man to his
destiny. Let him many himself, and when he is condemned
eternally to himself, perhaps he may run to the next pond to
get rid of himself, the fate of most violent self-lovers. '



How Mahtinus endeavoured to find out the Seat of the
Soul, and of his coerespondence with the Free-

In this design of Martin to investigate the diseases of the
mind, he thought nothing so necessary as an inquiiy after the
seat of the soul ' ; in which, at first, he laboured under great
uncertainties. Sometimes he was of opinion that it lodged in
the brain, sometimes in the stomach, and sometimes in the
heart. Afterwards he thought it absurd to confine that sove-
reign lady to one apartment, which made him infer that she
shifted it according to the several functions of life : the brain
was her study, the heart her state-room, and the stomach her
kitchen. But as he saw several offices of life went on at the
same time, he was forced to give up this hypothesis also. He
now conjectured it was more for the dignity of the soul to per-
form several operations by her little ministers, the animal
spirits, from whence it was natural to conclude, that she resides
in diffei'ent parts, according to different inclinations, sexes, ages,
and professions. Thus, in epicures, he seated her in the mouth
of the stomach, philosophers have her in the brain, soldiers in
their heart, women in their tongues, fiddlers in theii' fingers,
and rope-dancers in their toes. At length he grew fond of the
glandula 23incalis, dissecting many subjects to find out the dif-
ferent figure of this gland, from whence he might discover the
cause of the different tempers in mankind. He supposed that
in factious and restless-spirited people, he should find it sharp
and pointed, allowing no room for the soul to repose herself ;
that in quiet tempers it was flat, smooth, and soft, affording
to the soul, as it were, an easy cushion. He was confirmed in
this by observing that calves and philosophers, tigers and
statesmen, foxes and sharpers, peacocks and fops, cock-sparrows
and coquettes, monkeys and players, courtiers and spaniels,
moles and misers, exactly resemble one another in the con-
formation of the pineal gland. He did not doubt likewise to
find the same resemblance in highwaymen and conquerors : in

' On this subject see Prior's Ahna.


order to satisfy himself in which it was, that he purchased the
body of one of the first species (as hath been before related) at
Tyburn, hoping in time to have the happiness of one of the
latter too inider his anatomical knife.

We must not omit taking notice here, that these inquiries
into the seat of the soul gave occasion to his first correspondence
with the Society of Free-Thinkers, who were then in their
infancy in England, and so much taken with the promising
endowments of Martin, that they ordered their secretaiy to
write him the following letter : —

To the learned Inquisitor into Nature, Martinus Sceiblerus ; tlie
Society of Free-Thinkers greeting.

Grecian Coffee House, May 7.

It is with unspeakable joy we have heard of your inquisitive
genius, and we think it great pity that it should not be better
employed than in looking after that theological nonentity com-
monly called the soul : since after all your inquuies, it will
appear you have lost your labour in seeking the residence of
such a chimera, that never had being but in the brains of some
dreaming philosophers. Is it not demonstration to a person of
your sense, that, since you cannot find it, there is no such
thing? In order to set so hopeful a genius right in this
matter, we have sent you an answer to the ill-grounded sophisms
of those crack-brained fellows, and likewise an easy mechanical
explication of perception or thinking.

One ^ of then' chief arguments is, that self-consciousness can-
not inhere in any system of matter, because all matter is made up
of several distmct beings, which never can make uj) one indi-
vidual thinking being.

This is easily answered by a familiar instance. In eveiy
jack there is a meat-roasting quality, which neither resides in
the fly, nor in the weight, nor in any joarticular wheel of the
jack, but is the result of the whole composition : so in an
annnal, the self-consciousness is not a real quality inherent in
one being (any more than meat-roasting in a jack) but the result
of several modes or qualities in the same subject. As the fly.

^ This wliole Cliapter is an in- ments against Clarke, to prove the
imitable ridicule on Collins's argu- Soul only a Quality. (Warton.)


the wheels, the chain, the weight, the cords, &c., make one
jack, so the several parts of the body make one animal. As
perception or consciousness is said to be inherent in this
animal, so is meat-roasting said to be inherent in the jack. As
sensation, reasoning, volition, memoiy, &c. are the several
modes of thinking ; so roasting of beef, roasting of mutton,
roasting of pullets, geese, turkeys, &c. are the several modes of
meat-roasting. And as the general quality of meat-roasting, Avith
its several modifications as to beef, mutton, pullets, &c. does
not inhere in any one part of the jack ; so neither does con-
sciousness with its several modes of sensation, intellection,
volition, &c. inhere in any one, but is the result from the
mechanical composition of the whole anmial.

Just so, the quality or disposition in a fiddle to play tunes,
with the several modifications of this tune-playing quality in
plajdng preludes, sarabands, jigs, and gavots, are as much real
qualities in the instrument, as the thought or the imagination
is in the mind of the person that composes them.

The parts (say they) of an animal body are perpetually
changed, and the fluids which seem to be the subject of con-
sciousness are in a perpetual circulation ; so that the same
individual particles do not remain in the brain ; from whence it
will follow, that the idea of individual consciousness must be
constantly translated from one particle of matter to another,
whereby the particle A, for example, must not only be con-
sciovis, but conscious that it is the same being with the particle
B that went before.

We answer, this is only a fallacy of the imagination, and is to
be understood in no other sense than that maxim of the
English law, that the King never dies. This power of think-
ing, self-moving, and governing the whole machine, is com-
municated from every particle to its immediate successor ;
who, as soon as he is gone, immediately takes upon him
the government, which still presences the unity of the whole

They make a great noise about this individuality : how a man
is conscious to himself that he is the same individual he was
twenty years ago ; notwithstanding the flux state of the par-
ticles of matter that compose his body. We think this is
capable of a very plain answer, and may be easily illustrated by
a familiar example.



Sii- John Cutler ' had a pah' of black worsted stockings, which
his maid darned so often with silk, that they became at last a
pair of silk stockings. Now, supposing those stockings of Sir
John's endued with some degree of consciousness at eveiy par-
ticular darning, they would have been sensible that they were
the same individual pair of stockings both before and after the
darning ; and this sensation would have continued in them
through all the succession of darnings ; and yet, after the last of
all, there was not perhaps one thread left of the first pair of
stockings, but they were grown to be silk stockings, as was said

And whereas it is affirmed, that every animal is conscious of
some individual self-moving, self-determining principle ; it is
answered, tliat, as in a House of Commons all things are deter-
mined by a majority, so it is in eveiy animal system. As that
which determines the House is said to be the reason of the
whole assembly ; it is no otherwise with thinking beings, who
are determined by the greater force of several particles ; which,
like so many unthinking members, compose one thinking


And whereas it is likewise objected, that punishments cannot
be just that are not inflicted upon the same individual, which
cannot subsist without the notion of a spiritual substance ; we
reply, that this is no greater difiiculty to conceive, than that a
coiporation, which is likewise a flux body, may be punished for
the faults, and liable to the debts, of their predecessors.

We proceed now to explain, by the structure of the brain, the
several modes of thinkhig. It is well known to anatomists

1 Pope ('Moral Essays,' III. 315
seq.) after the famous lines upon
Villiers' death, says,
' His Grace's fate sage Cutler could

And well (he thought) advised

him, "Live like me."
As well his Grace replied, "Like

yovi. Sir .John ?
That I can do when all I have is

Resolve me, reason, which of these

is worse.
Want with a full, or with an

empty purse ?
Thy life more wretched, Cutler,

was confessed ;
Arise and tell me, was thy death

more blessed ?
Cutler saw tenants break, and

houses fall ;
For very want he could not build

a wall.

Cutler and Brutus dying, both

"Virtue and wealth, what are ye

but a name ? " '
It seems that Sir John Cutler,
though personally parsimonious,
was benevolent and liberal in public


that the brain is a congeries of glands, that separate the finer
parts of the blood, called animal spirits ; that a gland is nothing
but a canal of a great length, vaiiously intoited and wound up
together. From the arietation and motion of the sj^irits in
those canals, proceed all the different soiis of thoughts. Simple
ideas are produced by the motion of the spirits in one simple
canal : when two of these canals disembogue themselves into
one, they make what we call a proj)osition ; and when two of
these prepositional channels empty themselves into a tliii'd, they
form a syllogism, or a ratiocination. Memoiy is performed in a
distinct ajiartment of the brain, made up of vessels similar and
like situated to the ideal, prepositional, and syllogistical vessels,
in the primary parts of the brain. After the same manner it is
easy to explain the other modes of thinking ; as also why some
people think so wi'ong and perversely, which proceeds from the
l)ad configuration of those glands. Some, for examj^le, are born
without the proportional or syllogistical canals ; in others, that
reason ill, they are of unequal capacities ; in dull fellows, of too
great a length, whereby the motion of the spirits is letarded ;
in trifling geniuses, weak and small ; in the over-refining spiiits,
too much intorted and winding ; and so of the rest.

We are so much persuaded of the truth of this our hypo-
thesis, that we have employed one of our members, a great
virtuoso at Nuremberg, to make a soi-t of an hydraulic engine,
in which a chemical liquor resembling blood is driven through
elastic channels resembling arteries and veins, by the force of
an embolus like the heart, and wrought by a pneumatic machine
of the nature of the lungs, with roj)es and pullies, like the
nei'ves, tendons, and muscles ; and we are persuaded that this
our artificial man will not only walk, and speak, and perform
most of the outward actions of the animal life, but (being
wound up once a week) will perhaps reason as well as most of
your countiy parsons.

We wait with the utmost impatience for the honour of having
you a member of our society, and beg leave to assure you that
we are, &c.

What return Martin made to this obliging letter, we must
defer to another occasion : let it suffice at present to tell, that
Craml^e was in a great rage at them, for stealing (as he thought)
a hint from his Tlieory of Syllogisms^ Avithout doing him the

A a



honour so much as to mention hun. He advised his master by
no means to enter into their society, unless they would give him
sufficient security to bear him harmless from anything that
might happen after this present life.


Of the Secession of Martinus, and some hint of his


It was in the year 1699 that Martin set out on his travels.
Thou Avilt certainly be very curious to know what they were.
It is not yet time to inform tliee. But what hints I am at
libeity to give, I will.

Thou shalt know then, that in his first voyage he was carried
by a prosperous storm, to a discovery of the remains of the
ancient Pygmsean Empii-e.

That in his second, he was as happily shipwrecked on
the land of the giants, now the most humane people in the

That in his thu-d voyage, he discovered a whole kingdom of
philosophers, who govern by the mathematics ; with whose ad-
mirable schemes and projects he returned to benefit his own
dear countiy ; but had the misfortune to find them rejected by
the envious Ministers of Queen Anne, and himself sent treach-
erously away.

And hence it is, that in his fourth voyage he discovered a vein
of melancholy, proceeding almost to a disgust of his species ;

^ Chap. XVI, as originally printed.
In the first edition of the Memoirs
there was no Chap. XIII ; and
Chaps. XIV [ ' The Double Mistress')
and XV v ' Of the strange and never
to be paralleled Process at Law upon
the marriage of Seriblerus, and the
Pleadings of the Advocates') have
been omitted by all editors since
Warburton, except Bowles. These
with much wit the troubles that
came upon Mai-tin through fall-
ing in love with one of two sisters
whom he saw at a show, who
were inseparably joined together.
Even greater than his love was his

admiration of her as a charming
monster. Opportunity for satire
upon the la%vyers and their endless
pleadings and appeals from court to
court is found in a trial on the
question whetherthe marriage could
be dissolved. When the Memoirs
appeared, a note was prefixed to
Chap. XIV, apparently by Pope, in
which reference was made to the
difference of style in that chapter
compared with the rest of the book.
It seemed probable, however, that
this chapter was written by the
Philosopher himself, because he
expressly directed that not one word
of it should be altered.


but, fibove all, a mortal detestation to the whole flagitious race
of Ministers, and a final resolution not to give in any memorial
to the Secretary of State, in order to subject the lands he dis-
covered to the Crown of Great Britain.

Now if, by these hints, the reader can help himself to a
further discovery of the nature and contents of these travels,
he is welcome to as much light as they afford him ; I
am obliged, by all the ties of honour, not to speak more

But if any man shall ever see such veiy extraordinaiy voyages,
into such very extraordinary nations, which manifest the most
distinguishing marks of a philosopher, a politician, and a
legislator ; and can imagine them to belong to a surgeon of a
ship, or a captain of a merchantman, let him remain in his

And whoever he be, that shall faiiher observe, in eveiy page
of such a book, that cordial love of mankind, that inviolable
regard to truth, that passion for his dear country, and that par-
ticular attachment to the excellent Princess Queen Anne ; surely
that man deserves to be pitied, if by all those visible signs and
characters, he cannot distinguish and acknowledge the great
Scriblerus \


Of the Discoveries and Works of the great Scriblerus,
made and to be made, written and to be written,
known and unknown.

Here therefore, at this great period, we end our first book.
And here, O reader, we entreat thee uttei'ly to forget all thou
hast hitherto read, and cast thy eyes only forward, to that
boundless field the next shall open unto thee ; the fruits of
which (if thine, or our sins do not prevent) are to spread
and multiply over this our work, and over all the face of the

In the meantime, know what thou owest, and what thou yet
mayest owe, to this excellent person, this prodigy of our age ;
who may well be called the Philosopher of Ultimate Causes,
since by a sagacity peculiar to himself, he hath discovered

' Gullirer's Travels, here described part of Scriblerus' Memoirs.


A a 2

in brief, were first intended to form


effects in their very cause ; and without the trivial heli:is of
experiments, or obsei-vations, hath been the inventor of most of
the modern systems and hypotheses.

He hath enriched mathematics with many precise and geo-
metrical quadratures of the circle. He first discovered the
cause of gravity, and the intestine motion of fluids.

To him we owe all the obsei-vations on the parallax of the
Pole-star, and all the new theories of the Deluge.

He it was that first taught the right use sometimes of the
fuga vacui, and sometimes the inateria suhtUis, in resolving the
grand phenomena of nature.

He it was that first found out the palpability of colours ; and
by the delicacy of his touch, could distinguish the different
vibrations of the heterogeneous rays of light.

His were the projects of perpetuum mobiles, flying engines,
and pacing saddles ; the method of discovering the longitude by
bomb-vessels, and of increasing the Trade Wind by vast planta-
tions of reeds and sedges,

I shall mention only a few of his philosophical and mathe-
matical works.

1. A complete digest of the laws of nature, with a review of
those that are obsolete or repealed, and of those that are ready
to be renewed and put in force.

2. A mechanical explication of the formation of the universe,
according to the Epicurean hyj^othesis.

3. An investigation of the quantity of real matter in the
universe, with the proportion of the specific gravity of solid
matter to that of fluid.

4. Microscopical obsen^ations of the figure and bulk of the
constituent parts of all fluids. A calculation of the proportion
in which the fluids of the earth decrease, and of the period in
which they will be totally exhausted.

5. A computation of the duration of the sun, and how long
it will last before it be burned out.

6. A method to apply the force arising from the immense
velocity of light to mechanical purposes.

7. An answer to the question of a curious gentleman : How
long a new star Avas lighted up before its appearance to the
inhaljitants of our earth ? To which is subjoined a calculation,
how much the inhabitants of the moon eat for supper, con-
sidering that they pass a night equal to fifteen of our natural days.


8. A demonstration of the natural dominion of the inhabitants
of the earth over those of the moon, if ever an intercourse
should be opened between them, with a proposal of a par-
tition-treaty among the earthly potentates, in case of such

9. Tide-tables for a comet that is to approximate towards
the earth.

10. The number of the inhabitants of London determined by
the reports of the gold-finders, and the tonnage of their car-
riages ; with allowance for the extraordinary quantity of the
ingesta and egesta of the people of England, and a deduction of
what is left under dead walls, and dry ditches.

It will from hence be evident, how much all his studies were
du'ected to the universal benefit of mankind. Numerous have
been his projects to this end, of which two alone will be suf-
ficient to show the amazing grandeur of his genius. The first
was a proposal, by a general conti'ibution of all princes, to
pierce the first crust or nucleus of this our earth quite through, to
the next concentrical sphere. The advantage he proposed from
it was, to find the parallax of the fixed stars ; but chiefly to
refute Sir Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, and Mr. Halley's of
the variations. The second was, to build two poles to the
meridian, with immense hghthouses on the top of them, to
supply the defect of nature, and to make the longitude as easy
to be calculated as the latitude. Both these he could not but
think very practicable, by the power of all the potentates of the

May we presume after these to mention how he descended
from the sublime to the beneficial parts of knowledge, and par-
ticularly his extraordinary practice of physic? From the age,
complexion, or weight of the person given, he contrived to
prescribe at a distance, as well as at a patient's bed-side. He
taught the way to many modern physicians to cure their
patients by intuition, and to others to cure without looking on
them at all. He projected a menstruum to dissolve the stone,
made of Dr. Woodward's Universal Deluge-water. His also was

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 32 of 47)