George Atherton Aitken.

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

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the device to reheve consumptive or asthmatic persons by bring-
ing fresh air out of the country to town, by pipes of the nature
of the recipients of air-pumps : and to introduce the native air of
a man's country into any other in which he should travel, with


a seasonable intromission of such steams as were most familiar
to him ; to the inexpressible comfoii of many Scotsmen, Lap-
landers, and white bears.

In physiognomy, his jienetration is such, that from the
picture only of any person he can write his life, and from the
features of the parents draw the portrait of any child that is
to be born.

Nor hath he been so enrapt in these studies as to neglect
the polite arts of painting, architecture, music, poetry, &c. It
was he that gave the first hints to our modern painters, to im-
prove the likeness of their portraits by the use of such colours
as would faithfully and constantly accompany the life, not only
in its present state, but in all its alterations, decays, age, and
death itself.

In architecture, he builds not with so much regard to
present symmetry or conveniency, as with a thought well
worthy of the lover of antiquity, to -wit, the noble effect the
building will have on posterity, when it shall fall and become
a ruin.

As to music, I think Heidegger^ has not the face to deny
that he has been much beholden to his scores.

In poetiy, he hath appeared under a hundred different
names, of which we may one day give a catalogue.

In politics, his writings are of a peculiar cast, for the most
part ironical, and the drift of them often so delicate and refined,
as to be mistaken by the vulgar. He once went so far as to
write a persuasive to people to eat their own children, Avhich
was so little understood as to be taken in ill part I He has
often T^aitten against liberty in the name of Freeman and
Algernon Sidney, in vindication of the measures of Spain under
that of Raleigh, and in praise of corruption under those of
Cato and Publicola.

It is true, that at his last departure from England, in the
reign of Queen Anne, apprehending lest any of these might be
perverted to the scandal of the weak, or encouragement of the
flagitious, he cast them all, Mdthout mercy, into a bog-house near
St. James's. Some however have been with great diligence
recovered, and fished up with a hook and line, by the Minis-

' John James Heidegger (1658- ager of the Opei-a.
1 749) Ijrought masquerades into ^ Swift's Modest Proposal, published

fashion, and afterwards was man- in 1729.


terial writers, which make at present the great ornaments of
their works.

Whatever he judged beneficial to mankind, he constantly-
communicated (not only during his stay among us, but
ever since his absence) by some method or other in which
ostentation had no part. With what incredible modesty he
concealed himself, is known to numbers of those to whom he
addressed sometimes Epistles, sometimes Hints, sometimes
whole Treatises, Advices to Friends, Projects to First Ministers,
Letters to Members of Parliament, Accounts to the Royal
Society, and innumerable others.

All these will be vindicated to the true author, in the course
of these memoirs. I may venture to say they cannot be unac-
ceptable to any, but to those, who will appear too much con-
cerned as plagiarists, to be admitted as judges. Wherefore we
warn the public to take particular notice of all such as
manifest any indecent passion at the appearance of this work,
as persons inost cei-tainly involved in the guilt.







Written to the most Learned Dr. F.E.S.^, from the

Deserts of Nubia.

Among all the inquiries which have been pursued by the
curious and inquisitive, there is none more worthy the search
of a learned head than the source from whence we derive those
arts and sciences which raise us so far above the vulgar, the
countries in which they rose, and the channels by which they
have been conveyed. As those who first brought them
amongst us attained them by travelling into the remotest
parts of the earth, I may boast of some advantages by the same
means ; since I write this from the deserts of Ethiopia, from
those plains of sand, which have buried the pride of invading
armies, with my foot perhaps at this instant ten fathom over
the grave of Cambyses ; a solitude to which neither Pythagoras
nor Apollonius ever penetrated.

It is universally agreed that arts and sciences were derived
to us from the Egyptians and Indians ; but from whom they
first received them is yet a secret. The highest period of time
to which the learned attempt to trace them, is the beginning of
the Assyrian monarchy, when their inventors were worshipped
as gods. It is therefore necessary to go backward into times
even more remote, and to gain some knowledge of their histoiy,

' The design, Pope said, of tliis Anecdotes, 126X See page 59 above,

piece — in which it is argued that '' Probably intended for Dr.Wood-

all learning was derived from the ward, who had published in 17 13

monkeys in Ethiopia — 'was to 'Remarks upon the ancient and

ridicule such as build general asser- present State of London, occasioned

tions upon two or three loose quota- by some Roman Urns, Coins, and

tions from the ancients ' (^Spence's other Antiquities lately discovered.'


from whatever dark and broken hints may any way be found in
ancient authors concerning them.

Nor Troy nor Thebes were the first of empires ; we have
mention, though not histories, of an earlier warlike people
called the Pygmaeans. I cannot but persuade myself, from
those accounts in Homer \ Aristotle, and others, of their
history, wars and revolutions, and from the veiy air in which
those authors speak of them as of things known, that they were
then a part of the study of the learned. And though all we
directly hear is of their military achievements, in the brave
defence of their country from the annual invasions of a powerful
enemy, yet I cannot doubt but that they excelled as much in
the arts of peaceful government ; though there remain no traces
of their civil institutions. Empires as great have been swallowed
up in the wreck of time, and such sudden periods have been
put to them as occasion a total ignorance of their stoiy. And
if I should conjecture that the like happened to this nation
from a general extiipation of the people by those flocks of
monstrous birds, wherewith antiquity agrees they were con-
tinually infested, it ought not to seem more incredible, than
that one of the Baleares was wasted by rabbits, Smynthe - by
mice, and of late Bermudas^ almost depopulated by rats.
Notliing is more natural to imagine, than that the few survivors
of that empire retii-ed into the depths of their deserfs, where
they lived undisturbed, till they were found out by Osiris in
his travels to instruct mankind.

He met, says Diodorus *, in Ethiopia, a sort of little Satyrs,
who were hairy one half of their body, and whose leader Pan
accompanied him in his expedition for the civilizing of mankind.
Now of this great personage Pan we have a veiy particular
description in the ancient writers ; who unanimously agree to
represent him shaggy-bearded, hairy all over, half a man and
half a beast, and walking erect with a staff, (the posture in
which his race do to this day appear among us.) And, since
the chief thing to which he applied himself was the civilizing
of mankind, it should seem that the first principles of science
must be received from that nation, to which the Gods were by
Homer' said to resorf twelve days eveiy year for the convei-sa-
tion of its wise and just inhabitants.

1 II. iii. ''■ Eustathius in Horn. II. i.

3 Speed, in Bermudas. * L. i. ch. 18. Diod. ^ II. i.


If from Egyi^t we proceed to take a view of India, we shall
find that their knowledge also deiived itself from the same
source. To that country did these noble creatures accompany
Bacchus, in his expedition under the conduct of Silenus, who is
also descril)ed to us with the same marks and qualifications.
' Mankind is ignorant, ' saith Diodorus ', * whence Silenus derived
his birth, through his great antiquity ; but he had a tail on his
loins, as likewise had all his progeny in sign of their descent.'
Here then they settled a colony, which to this day subsists with
the same tails. From this time they seem to have communicated
themselves only to those men, who retired from the converse
of their own sj^ecies to a more uninterrupted life of contempla-
tion. I am much inclined to believe that in the midst of those
solitudes they instituted the so much celebrated order of Gym-
nosophists. For whoever observes the scene and manner of
their life, will easily find them to have imitated, with all
exactness imaginable, the manners and customs of their masters
and instructors. They are said to dwell in the thickest woods,
to go naked, to suffer their bodies to be over-run with hair, and
their nails to grow to a prodigious length. Plutarch" says,
'they ate what they could get in the fields, their drink was
water, and their bed made of leaves or moss.' And Herodotus'
tells us, that they esteemed it a great exploit to kill very many
ants or creeping things.

Hence we see, that the two nations which contend for the
origin of learning are the same that have ever most abounded
with this ingenious race. Though they have contested which
was first blest with the rise of science, yet have they conspired
in being grateful to their common masters. Egypt is well
known to have worshipped them of old in their own images ;
and India may be credibly svipposed to have done the same
from that adoration which they paid in latter times to the
tooth of one of these hauy philosophers ; in just gratitude, as
it should seem, to the mouth from which they received their

Pass we now over into Greece, where we find Orpheus
returning out of Egypt, with the same intent as Osms and
Bacchus made their expeditions. From this period it was, that
Greece first heard the name of satyrs, or owned them for

' Diod. L. iii. ch. 69.

* Plutarch in his Orat. on Alexander's Fortune. ^ Herodot. L. i.


semi-dei. And hence it is surely reasonable to conclude, that
he brought some of this wonderful species along with him, who
also had a leader of the line of Pan, of the same name, and
expressly called king by Theociitus '. If thus much be allowed,
we easily account for two of the strangest reports in all antiquity.
One is that of the beasts following the music of Orpheus ;
which has been interpreted of his taming savage tempers, but
will thus have a literal application. The other, which we most
insist upon, is the fabulous stoiy of the gods compressing
women in woods, under bestial appearances ; which will be
solved by the love these sages are known to bear to the females
of our kind. I am sensible it may be objected, that they are
said to have been compressed in the shape of different animals ;
but to this we answer, that women under such apprehensions
hardly know what shape they have to deal with.

From what has been last said, 'tis highly credible, that to
this ancient and generous race the world is indebted, if not for
the heroes, at least for the acutest wits of antiquity. One of
the most remarkable instances is that great mimic genius ^sop ',
for whose extraction from these sylvestres homines we may gather
an argument from Planudes, who says, that JEsop signifies the
same tiring as jEthiop, the original nation of our people. For
a second argument we may offer the description of his person,
which was short, deformed, and almost savage ; insomuch that
he might have lived in the woods, had not the benevolence of
his temi>er made him rather adapt himself to our manners, and
come to court in weaiing apparel. The third proof is his acute
and satirical wit ; and lastly, his great knowledge in the nature
of beasts, together with the natural pleasure he took to speak
of them upon all occasions.

The next instance I shall produce is Socrates ^. Fii'st, it was
a tradition, that he was of an uncommon birth from the rest of
men : secondly, he had a countenance confessing the line he
sprung from, being bald, flat-nosed, with prominent eyes, and
a downward look : thirdly, he turned certain fables of ^sop
into verse, probably out of his respect to beasts in general, and
love to his family in particular.

In process of time the women, with whom these Sylvans
would have lo^dngly cohabited, were either taught by mankind,

1 Uav "hva^, Theocr. Id. i. "- Vit. ^sop. initio.

^ Vid. Plato and Xenophon.


or induced by an abhorrence of their shapes, to shun their
embraces ; so that our sages were necessitated to mix with
beasts. This by degi-ees occasioned the hair of their posterity
to grow higher than their middles : it arose in one generation
to their arms, in the second it invaded tlieir necks, in the third
it gained the ascendant of their heads, till the degenerate ap-
pearance, in which the species is now immersed, became
completed. Though we must here observe, that there were a
few who fell not under the common calamity ; there being
some unprejudiced women in every age, by vii'tue of whom a
total extinction of the original race was prevented. It is
remarkable also, that, even where they were mixed, the defection
from their nature was not so entire, but there still appeared
niai-vellous qualities among them, as was manifest in those who
followed Alexander in India. How did they attend his army
and survey his order ! how did they cast themselves into the
same form, for march or for combat ! what an imitation was
there of all his discipline ! the ancient true remains of a warlike
disposition, and of that constitution which they enjoyed while
they were yet a monarchy.

To proceed to Italy : At the first appearance of these wild
philosophei's, there were some of the least mixed, who vouch-
safed to converse with mankind ; which is evident from the
name of Fauns \ a fando, or speaking. Such was he, who,
coming out of the woods in hatred to tyi'anny, encouraged the
Roman army to proceed against the Etruscans, who would
have restored Tarquin. But here, as in all the western parts
of the world, there was a great and memorable era, in which
they began to be silent. This we may place something near
the time of Aristotle, when the numbei*, vanity, and folly of
human philosophers increased, by which men's heads became
too much j)uzzled to receive the simpler wisdom of these ancient
Sylvans ; the questions of tliat academy were too numerous to
be consistent with their ease to answer ; and too intricate,
extravagant, idle, or pernicious, to be any other than a derision
and scorn unto them. From this period, if we ever hear of
their giving answers, it is only when caught, bound, and
constrained, in like manner as was that ancient Grecian
prophet, Proteus.

Accordingly we read in Sylla's ^ time of such a philosopher

1 Livy. "^ Plutarch in Vit. Syllae.


taken near Dyrrachium, who would not be persuaded to give
them a lecture by all they could say to him, and only shewed
his power in sounds by neighing like a horse.

But a more successful attempt was made in Augustus's reign
by the inquisitive genius of the great Virgil ; whom, together
with Varus, the commentators suppose to have been the true
persons, who are related in the sixth Bucolic to have caught a
philosopher, and doubtless a genuine one, of the race of the old
Silenus, To prevail upon him to be communicative (of the
importance of which Virgil was well aware) they not only tied
him fast, but allured him likewise by a covu-teous present of a
comely maiden called -<Egle, which made him sing both merrily
and instructively. In this song we have their doctrine of the
creation, the same in all probability as was taught so many ages
before in the great Pygmaean empire, and several hieroglyphieal
fables under which they couched or embellished their morals.
For which reason I look upon this Bucolic as an inestimable
treasure of the most ancient science.

In the reign of Constantine we hear of another taken in a
net, and brought to Alexandria, round whom the people flocked
to hear his wisdom ; but, as Ammianus Marcellinus repoiieth,
he proved a dumb philosopher ; and only instructed by action.

The last we shall speak of, who seemeth to be of the true
race, is said, by St. Jerome, to have met St. Anthony^ in a desert,
who inquiring the way of him, he shewed his understanding
and courtesy by pointing, but would not answer, for he was a
dumb philosopher also.

These are all the notices, which I am at present al>le to
gather, of the appearance of so great and learned a people on
your side of the world. But if we return to their ancient
native seats, Africa and India, we shall there find, even in
modern times, many traces of their original conduct and valour.

In Africa (as we read among the indefatigable Mr. Purchas's
collections) a body of them, whose leader was inflamed with
love for a woman, by martial power and stratagem won a fort
from the Portuguese.

But I must leave all others at present, to celebrate the praise
of two of their unparalleled monarchs in India. The one was
Perimal the magnificent, a prince most learned and com-
municative, to whom, in Malabar, their excess of zeal dedicated

1 Vit. St. Ant.


a temple, raised on seven hundred pillars not inferior in
Maffa^us's ^ opinion to those of Agripj^a in the Pantheon ; the
other, Hanimant the mai-vellous, his relation and successor,
whose knowledge was so great, as made his followers doubt if
even that wise species could arrive at such perfection ; and
therefore they rather imagined him and his race a sort of gods
formed into apes. His was the tooth which the Portuguese
took in Bisnagar, 1559, for which the Indians offered, according
to Linschotten ^, the immense sum of seven hundred thousand
ducats. Nor let me quit this head without mentioning, with
all due respect, Oi'an Outang the great, the last of this line ;
whose unhappy chance it was to fall into the hands of Europeans.
Oran Outang, whose value was not known to us, for he was a
mute philosopher : Oran Outang, by whose dissection the learned
Dr. Tyson ^ has added a confirmation to this system, from the
resemblance between the Iwmo sylvestris and our human body,
in those organs by which the rational soul is exei-ted.

We must now descend to consider this people as sunk into
the hruta nahira by their continual commerce with beasts.
Yet, even at this time, what experiments do they not afford us,
of relieving some from the spleen, and others from imposthumes,
by occasioning laughter at proper seasons ? with what readiness
do they enter into the imitation of whatever is remarkable in
•human life ? and what surprising relations have Le Comte* and
others given of their apj^etites, actions, conceptions, affections,
varieties of imaginations, and abilities capable of pursuing them ?
If under their present low circumstances of birth and breeding,
and in so short a term of life as is now allotted them, they so
far exceed all beasts, and equal many men ; what prodigies
may we not conceive of those, who were nati meliorihus annis,
those primitive, longeval, and antediluvian man- tigers, who
first taught science to the world ?

This account, which is entirely my own, I am proud to
imagine has traced knowledge from a fountain correspondent to
several opinions of the ancients, though hitherto undiscovered
both by them and the more ingenious moderns. And now
what shall I say to mankind in the thought of this great
discovery ? what, but that they should abate of their pride, and

' Maff. 1. i. key. Ape, or Man,' 1699.

* Linschot. ch. 44. * Father Le Comte, a Jesuit, in

' Dr. Tyson's 'Anatomy of a Pyg- the account of his travels.
mie compared with that of a Mon-


consider that the authors of our knowledge are among the
beasts. That these, who were our elder brothers, by a day, in
the creation, whose kingdom (like that in the scheme of Plato)
was governed by philosophers, who flourished with learning in
-(Ethiopia and India, are now undistinguished, and known only
by the same appellation as the man-tiger, and the monkey !

As to speech, I make no question that there are remains of
the first and less corrupted race in their native deserts, who yet
have the power of it. But the vulgar reason given by the
Spaniards, ' that they will not speak for fear of being set to
work,' is alone a sufficient one, considering how exceedingly all
other learned persons affect their ease. A second is, that these
observant creatures, having been eye-witnesses of the cruelty
with which that nation treated their brother Indians, find it
necessary not to show themselves to be men, that they may be
protected not only from work, but from cruelty also. Thirdly,
they could at best take no delight to converse with the Spaniards,
whose grave and sullen temper is so averse to that natural and
open cheerfulness, which is generally observed to accompany
all true knowledge.

But now were it possible that any way could be found to
draw forth their latent qualities, I cannot but think it would
be highly serviceable to the learned world both in respect of
recovering past knowledge, and promoting the future. Might
there not be found certain gentle and artful methods, whereby
to endear us to them ? Is there no nation in the world, whose
natural turn is adapted to engage their society, and win them
by a sweet similitude of manners ? Is there no nation, where
the men might allure them by a distinguishing civility, and in
a manner fascinate them by assimilated motions ? no nation,
where the women with easy freedoms, and the gentlest treat-
ment, might oblige the loving creatures to sensible returns of
humanity ? The love I bear to my native country prompts me
to Avish this nation might be Great Britain ; but alas ! in our
present wretched, divided condition, how can we hope that
foreigners of so great prudence will freely declare their senti-
ments in the midst of violent parties, and at so vast a distance
from their friends, relations, and country ? The affection I bear
our neighbour- state, would incline me to wish it were Holland

Sed lava in parte nunnillcc Nil salit Anadico. It is from

France then we must expect this restoration of learning, whose


late monarch took the sciences under his protection, and raised
them to so great a height. May we not hope their emissaries
will some time or other have instructions, not only to invite
learned men into then- countiy, but learned beasts, the true
ancient man-tigers, I mean, of Ethiopia and India ? Might not
the talents of each kind of these be adapted to the improvement
of the several sciences ? The man-tigers to instruct heroes,
statesmen, and scholars ; baboons to teach ceremony and address
to courtiers ; monkeys, the art of pleasing in conversation, and
agreeable affectations to ladies and their lovers ; apes of less
learning, to form comedians and dancing-masters ; and mar-
mosets, court pages and young English travellers ? But the
distinguishing each kind, and allotting the proper business to
each, I leave to the inquisitive and penetrating genius of the
Jesuits in their respective missions.

Vale ^- fruere.




Summi Critici,
Castigationum in Aeneidem


Aeneidem totam, amice lector, innumerabilibus poene mendis
scaturientem, ad pristinum sensum revocabimus. In sin-
gulis fere vei-sibus spuriae occuiTunt lectiones, in omnibus
quos unquam vidi codicibus, aut vulgatis aut ineditis, ad
opprobrium usque criticoriun, in hune diem existentes.
Interea advei-te oculos, et his paucis fruere. At si quae
sint in hisce castigationibus de quibus non satis liquet
syllabarvmi quantitates, npoXeyofiepa nostra libro ipsi prae-
figenda, ut consulas, moneo.

I. Specimen LIBEI PEIMI, Yer. i.

Arma Virumque cano, Trojae qui primus al) oris
Italian!, fafo profugus, Lavinaque venit
Littora. Multum ille et terris jactatus et alto,
Vi superum

Arma Vinmique cano, Trojae qui primus ab aris
Italian!, Jlatu profugus, Lat'maque venit
Littora. Multum ille et terris vexahis, et alto,
Vi superum

Ab aris, nempe Hercaei Jovis, \ade lib. ii. ver. 512, ^^o.—fafn

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 33 of 47)