George Atherton Aitken.

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

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Arbuthnot had the greatest share.' It is difficult to say
which of the ephemeral pieces of the time is here referred



to ; the only one advertised in tlie papers for January to
which the statement could relate is Tlie Widow and her
Cat^, but that we know to be by Prior. Possibly the piece
for which Arbuthnot was supposed to be largely respon-
sible was An Excellent new Song, calVd The Trusty and
True Englishman, a doggrel ballad, without date, which
consists principally of an attack upon Lord Nottingham.
Swift was at Lord Masham^s on the night of the 22nd
February — Masham had been raised to the peerage with
eleven others in order to give the Tories a majority in
the House of Lords — and Lady Masham made him read
to her ' a pretty twopenny pamphlet, called the >S'^. Allan's
Ghost -.' 'I thought,' says Swift, ' I had writ it myself,
so did they ; but I did not. Lord Treasurer came down
to us from the Queen, and we stayed till two o'clock.
This is the best night-place I have. The usual company
are Lord and Lady Masham, Lord Treasurer, Dr. Arbuth-
not, and I; sometimes the Secretary, and sometimes Mrs.
Hill, of the bed chamber, Lady Masham's sister.' The
Story of the St. Alh-ns Ghost, or the Apparition of Mother
Haggy, was an attack upon the Duke and Duchess of
Marlborough. Haggite, daughter of the old witch, Mother
Haggy, married Avaro, and when the lady whom Haggite
had attended from her infancy succeeded to the family
estates, this couple, aided by Baconface (Godolphin) and
others, insulted their mistress, tyrannised over the tenants,
and enriched themselves by every means in their power,
until the tenants, stirred by a discourse showing them the
necessity of the downfall of those who opposed obedience
to their mistress, persuaded the lady to discharge these
bad servants. During a midnight conclave the ghost of
Mother Haggy appeared to the persons thus dismissed,
and told each of them what punishment they must be
prepared to bear. Swift's allusion to the authorship of

• Post Boy, Jan. 17-19, 1711-12. Post Boy for February 16-19, and it

^ This piece was advertised in the reached a fifth edition by July.


this piece is curiously worded, and it has been suggested
that he wrote the pamphlet in collaboration with Arbuth-
not. But though this theory may be correct, there is no
evidence in support of it. There are several references
in the pamphlet to Dr. Garth, the famous Whig physician,
but they might have been made by any writer.

On the 5th of March Swift dined with Arbuthnot, and
' had a true Lenten dinner, not in point of victuals, but
spleen ; for his wife and a child or two were sick in the
house, and that was full as mortifying as fish.' On the
loth Swift -wTTote : ' You must buy a small twopenny
pamphlet, called Lave is a Bottomless Pit. It is very
prettily written, and there will be a second part.' This
famous piece, which was advertised in the Exmniner of
the 6th of March, had for full title, Laiu is a Bottomless
Pit, Exemplify'd in the case of the Lord Strutt, John Bull,
Nicholas Frog, and Leivis Bahoon, ivho spent all they had
in a Law Suit. Printed from a ManuscriiJt found in the
Cabinet of the famous Sir Humphry Polesworth. Four
other pamphlets followed, each of which ended with
' Finis,' but gave evidence that more would appear, and
the whole series, rearranged and divided into two parts,
was reprinted with a Preface, in the ' Miscellanies ' of
1727, as The History of John Bidl. The work was con-
stantly attributed to Swift ^, but there is every reason to
believe Arbuthnot was the sole author-. The object of

^ In the second volume of the ing them would have at once seen

'Miscellanies,' published in 1736 that they were written in the in-

by Motte and Bathurst, the History terests of the V>'higs, and therefore

of John Bull has the hand and as- could not be his. The titles of these

terisk which are used to mark pieces are, ' A Postscript to John

Swift's pieces in the collection. Bull, containing the History of the

^ Pope said, ' Di-. Arbuthnot was Crown-Inn, with the death of the

the sole writer of John Bull ' Widow, and what ha^jpened there-

(Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, 1858, upon ' ; 'A Continuation of the

p. 109). Soon after the accession History of the Crown-Inn'; 'A

of George I a series of tracts ap- Farther Continuation ' ; ' The

peared, in imitation of Arbuthnot "s Fourth and last Part of the His-

pamphletof 1712, which have some- tory'; and 'An Appendix to the

times been catalogued under Ar- History.' 'The present state of

buthnot's name. But anyone read- the Crown-Inn ' appeared in 1717.

'LAW IS A bottomless-pit: 45

these pamphlets was to give a humorous account, from
the Tory point of view, of the events leading up to the
negociations for peace, and to recommend the proposals
which were ultimately embodied in the Treaty of Utrecht.
The Lord Strutt was the late King of Spain ; John Bull,
the English ; Nicholas Frog, the Dutch ; Lewis Baboon,
the French King ; Philip Baboon, the Duke of Anjou ;
Esquire South, the King of Spain ; Humphrey Hocus,
the Duke of Marlborough ; and Sir Eoger Bold, the Earl
of Oxford. The law-suit was the "War of the Spanish
Succession ; John Bull's first wife was the late Ministry,
and his second wife the present Tory Ministry. In an
allegory thus thinly veiled the story is told with great
humour of the origin of the law-suit ; of its success, which
caused John Bull to contemplate leaving off his trade to
turn lawyer ; of the discovery that Hocus had an intrigue
with John's wife ; of the attorney's bill, which made John
angry ; and of the methods adopted by the lawyers to
dissuade him from making an end of the law-suit by
accepting a composition.

Arbuthnot appears to have been the first to apply the
name John Bull to the English people, and he drew the
character, which has ever since been accepted as a type,
of this honest, plain-dealing fellow, choleric, bold, and
of a very inconstant temper. He was not afraid of the
French ; but he was apt to quarrel with his best friends,
especially if they pretended to govern him. If he was
flattered he could be led like a lamb. He was quick, and
understood his business well ; but he was careless with
his accounts, and was often cheated by partners and
servants. He loved his bottle and his diversion, and
no man spent his money more generously. He was
generally ruddy and plump, with a pair of cheeks like a

On the 14th of March Swift wrote that he had been
bothered by Dr. Freind, who wanted the post of physician-


general, held by old Dr. Lawrence. The reasonableness
of the application had been so much pressed that he was
convinced it was very unreasonable, and so he would have
told St. John, if he had not already made him speak to
the Queen. ' Besides, I know not but my friend Dr.
Arbuthnot would be content to have it himself, and I love
him ten times better than Freind.' On the 15th and 19th
Swift met Arbuthnot and other friends at night at Lord
Masham's ; and on the 17th he notes that ' the second part
of Lavj is a Bottomless Pit is just now printed \ and better,
I think, than the first.' This second part was called John
Bull in His Senses, and dealt with the doctrine of non-
resistance, the Barrier Treaty, Lord Nottingham's hostility
to the peace, and the arguments used on the same side by
Marlborough, Godolphin and Cowper, guardians to John's
three daughters by his first wife ("War, Discord, and
Usury), and by the King of Spain.

The leading statesmen and writers of the Tory party
were members of a Society, and called one another
Brother. Swift often alludes to their weekly meetings ^.
Thus on the 27th of March he writes : ' Society-day. You
know that, I suppose. Dr. Arthburnott ^ was president.
His dinner was dressed in the Queen's kitchen, and was
mighty fine. "We ate it at Ozinda's coffee-house, just by
St. James's. "We were never merrier, nor better company,
and did not part till after eleven ... I met Lord Treasurer
to-day at Lady Masham's. He would fain have carried
me home to dinner. No, no ; what ! upon a Society-day !
'Tis rate, sollahs ; I an't dlunk. Nite, MD.' *.

John Bull still in His Senses: Being the Third Part of
Law is a Bottomless Pit, appeared in April ^, when Swift

' Advertised in the Examiner for May lo and 31 ; Oct. 30 ; Dec. 12,

March 13-20. The second edition 13 and 18, 1712.
was advertised in the Daily Courant ^ So spelt in the MS. ; cf. p. 38.

for March 21. * Forster's Life of Swift. 422.

* Journal, Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13, 20 ° Advertised in the Examiner for

and 27, 1711 ; .Tan. 3 and 10 ; Feb. April 10-17, ^^*^ ^^ the Post Boy for

14, 21 and 28 ; March 6-13 and 20 ; April 15-17.

* JOHN bull: 47

was ill. On tlie title-page of this pamplilet it was stated,
in order to remove suspicion from the real author, that it
was ' published (as well as the two former Parts) by the
author of the New Atalantis,' the notorious Mrs. Manley,
who was then carrying on the Examiner, and otherwise
helping the Tories. There was, too, a Publisher's Preface,
with a few words about Sir Humphry Polesworth, the
supposed author. In this pamphlet we have an account
of John Bull's honoured mother (the Church of England) ;
of his sister Peg (the Scotch Church and nation), and her
lover Jack (Presbyterianism) ; of the early quarrels of
John and Peg ; their reconciliation (the Treaty of Union) ;
and their subsequent disagreements. The remaining
chapters refer chiefly to the history of the Partition
Treaty ; to the services rendered to his country by
Oxford ; to troubles in connection with the Church ; and
to the difficulties experienced in negociating for the

An Appendix to John Bull Still in His Senses: Or, Law
is a Bottomless Fit, appeared in May. Swift wrote on the
loth, 'The appendix to the third part of John Bull was
published yesterday ^ ; it is equal to the rest. I hope you
read John Bull. It was a Scotch gentleman, a friend of
mine, that writ it ; but they put it upon me ' ; and at the
end he repeated, * "Well ! but you must read Joltn Bull : Do
you understand it at all ? ' A month later he said : ' John
Bull is not wrote by the person you imagine. It is too
good for another to own. Had it been Grub Street, I
would have let people think as they please ; and I think
that's right : Is it not 1 ' The Aiypendix is occupied with a
history of the differences between Church and Dissent,
and of the Bill against Occasional Conformity.

At the end of July the last of the series was published :
Lewis Baboon turned Honest, and John Bull Politician.


Advertised in the Examiner for morrow,'— in the Post Boij for May
May 1-8, and— to be published 'to- 6-8.


Being the Fourth Part of Law is a Bottomless Pit ^ On
the 7tli of August Swift wrote : ' Have you seen tlie fourth
part of John Bull ? It is equal to the rest, and extreTnely
good ^.' This pamphlet dealt further with the discussions
at the meeting at the Salutation Tavern (Congress of
Utrecht) ; with the settlement of accounts between John
Bull and Nic. Frog ; with the uproar at home about the
Succession; and with the private negociations with the
French. These negociations led to the Duke of Ormond
withdrawing his troops from those of the Allies (who
afterwards sustained several defeats), and to the occupa-
tion by the English — in spite of remonstrances from the
Dutch — of Dunkirk, which was handed over by the French
as a pledge of good faith. At the end of the pamphlet
was a note referring to matters 'reserved for the next
Volume ' ; but when the work appeared in a collected form
in 1727 this note had given place to a postscript con-
taining the headings of a number of chapters which,
if written, would have formed a continuation of the
History ^.

In July Swift wrote to Mrs. Hill, ' "We are assured that
you keep a constant table, and that your guests leave you
with full stomachs and full pockets ; that Dr. Arbuthnot
sometimes leaves his beloved green cloth to come and
receive your chidings, and pick up your money.'

' Examiner, July 24-31 ; Post Boy, ^ In 17 12 Curll published^ Corn-
July 29-31 (' This day,' — Thursday, plete Key to the Three Parts of Law is a
the 31st). Bottomless Pit, and the St. Albans Ghost,

- Peter Wentworth wrote to Lord and afterwards A Complete Key to all

Straf3ford : 'I have heard this part the Parts of Law is a Bottomless Pit, &c.

much commended, but in my poor This pamphlet contained an Epi-

opinion I think the humour flags gram on John Bull's Law-suit, a

and does not come up to the two key to all the parts of ' John Bull '

first, the' the Author is the same, and the ' Story of the St. Alban's

who I din'd with t'other day and Ghost,' and keys to ' The History of

by his friend's sly commendation of Prince Mirabel ' (3 parts) and to

the admirable banter, and his ' The History of the Proceedings of

silence, 'twas plain to me he had a the Mandarins and Proatins of the

(secreet jjleasure in being the re- Britomartian Empire,' two lengthy

puted Authour' (^Wentworth Pajyers, j'^litical allegories.
p. 294).


Next montli Swift wrote to General Hill, Mrs. Hill's
husband, and now Governor of Dunkirk, about a fine
snui3f-box which the General had sent to him. ' My Lord
Treasurer, who is the most malicious person in the world,
says you ordered a goose to be drawn at the bottom of my
box as a reflection upon the clergy, and that I ought to
resent it. But I am not angry at all, and his Lordship
observes by halves ; for the goose is there drawn pecking
at a snail, just as I do at him, to make him mend his pace
in relation to the public, altho' it is hitherto in vain : And
besides. Dr. Arbuthnot, who is a scholar, says you meant
it as a compliment for us both ; that I am the goose who
saved the Capitol by my cackling ; and that his Lordship
is represented by the snail, because he preserves his
country by delays.'

The elections were to take place in Scotland on the 14th
of August, consequent upon the excitement caused by the
introduction of Bills for the toleration of the episcopal
clergy and for the restoration of patronage, and on the
ist the Earl of Mar, Secretary for Scotland, received
orders from the Lord Treasurer to set out at once for
Edinburgh, in the Queen's service. It appears from a
letter to Arbuthnot (' Good Doctor '), written on the 2nd,
that this mission interfered with some plans, the precise
nature of which is unknown to us ^.

The two following letters to Dr. Charlett refer to his

' ' This banks my fancy mightily, I was affi-aid the Queen wou'd have

for I thought of being with you at been angrie w"' me, thinking it was

Windsore to-morrow & you may w' designe to make the election fail

easilie believe I'm veiy impatient in what she inclined to.' Perhaps,

to wait on my L ' Mashame &c., and Mar continued, his absence for a

know what I'm to expect in that little time would do no hurt, as it

affair. I beg you may give the in- would enable Lady Masham to

closed to my Lord Mashame & let ' prepair the two great people for

him know the reason of my going so that affair the better,' with less

abruptly & indeed unmanerly to noise. He sent his humble duty to

him. It was not in my power to her, ' and, if it be not offensive, to

help it, for on the one hand I could Mrs. Hill ' ; and thanked Arbuth- '

not tel L** Treasurer the reason of not for his good offices (Mr. Baillie's

my aversness to going & on the other MSS.).


attempt to obtain a bishopric ^. He did not succeed, for
Oxford and Somers resented a piece of double dealing in
connection with the dedication to Hickes of Thwaites'
' Saxon Heptateuch.'
Dear Sir,
I deliverd your letter to My Lord Treasurer & backd it with
the best Rhetorick I was capable off ; the Answer My Lord was
pleas'd to give was, that he would be glad of an opportunity to
serve yow, that he would speak to the Queen, that he re-
member'd something of a Clergyman that the Queen had spoke
to him about relating to a preferment in the Church of
Worcester, he concluded with great complements to yow.
This was the summ of what pass'd and I cannot say that I can
give yow great reason to hope much for success in this matter ;
if ther is any thing I can serve yow in I will do it with great
readiness having many particular obligations to do so. The
talk yesterday was tbat My Lord Godolphin was dead, I don't
know if the report holds this morning,

I am with great respect, Sir,

Your most obliged humble servant,

Jo : Arbuthnott.
Windsor, Sepf. 14, 17 12.

Windsor, Sept. 18. 17 12.

I receaved your letter with the present of the picture &
catalogues for which I thank yow ; I really would not have
yow interpret the usage yow have had as yow were particularly
distinguish'd for I am of opinion that both her Majest}^ and
her Ministers when ther is a favourable opportunity will be
as ready to show ther favour to yow as to any body 'but whilst
I tvait another steps in hefor me is the manner and fate of many
of your Gown. I never heard that yow sollicited in earnest
befor & importunity and diligence go a great way in this
world. The Gentleman under whose cover you would have
me direct your letter has a good stroke with My Lord Treasurer
if he pleases at least I know My Lord has a good opinion of
him and I am sure none has a greater than the Speaker " ; in
any little service I can do you may freely command

Your most humble servant,

Jo : Arbuthnott.
' Ballard MSS. xxiv. 65, 66.
^ William Bromley, M.P. for Oxford University.


The Queen had an aguish and feverish fit on the 17th
of September, which caused much anxiety. Swift wrote
from Windsor, on the following day, that her physicians
from town were sent for, but that she grew better towards
night. 'Lord Treasurer would not come here from
London, because it would make a noise if he came before
his usual time, which is Saturday, and he goes away on
Mondays.' But Arbuthnot sent Oxford particulars of the
Queen's condition, and the great concern felt by the
Minister may be judged from the following reply ^

Qj. Sept. 18, 171 2. Past four.

Unless you know the concern I was under, w°^ w*'^ reason
kept me the night waking, you cannot conceive how welcome
your letter was to me w^b my messenger brought me before
one a clock. I trust in God's mercy that he will bring me an
Account to-morrow of the Queen's passing this ensuing night
wel, without any return of a feavor. I have ordered the
messenger to wait y'^ time until you despatch him to-morrow
morning. I am w*l^ true respect, S""

Your most faithful and most humble servant,


The weather is extreamly colder.

Writing a month earlier to Dr. Hans Sloane, Arbuthnot
said that all his family were ill of scarlet fever; but
Charles was perfectly recovered. The weather was sickly
at Windsor as well as in London, and he had himself let
blood ^. Oxford, too, was at this time suffering from
rheumatism, and Swift was unwell. Three weeks later,
Swift was assured by Oxford and by Lady Masham that
the Queen was not inclined to a dropsy, and this was
confirmed by ' her physician Arbuthnot, who always
attends her.' Many lies were being circulated respecting
her health, but it was tnie that she had a little gout in
one of her hands.

On the 9th of October Swift mentions that Arbuthnot

1 Mr. Baillie's MSS. ^ sioane MSS. 4036, f. 164.

E 2


liad sent him from Windsor a pretty discourse upon lying,
and that he had told the printer to come for it. ' It is a
proposal for publishing a curious piece, called The Art of
Political Lying, in two volumes, &c. And then there is
an abstract of the first volume, just like those pamphlets
called The Works of the Learned. Pray get it when it
comes out.' Two months later he wrote : ' The pamphlet
of Political Lying is written by Dr. Arbuthnot, the author
of Jolin Bull ; 'tis very pretty, but not so obvious to be
understood.' The full title of this pamphlet, which was
advertised in the Examiner for October 9 to 16, was
Proposals for printing a very curious Discourse, in Two
Volumes in Quarto, intitled ^'ETAOAOn'A nOAITIKH';
or, a Treatise of the Art of Political Lying. With
an Abstract of the First Volume of the said Treatise.
In this little piece Arbuthnot gave the headings of a
number of chapters devoted to various questions relating
to Political Lying, which he defines to be ' the art of con-
vincing the people of salutary falsehoods, for some good
end.' There is a good deal of quiet humour in the satire,
and the whole is written with the utmost gravity; but
owing to the absence of the dramatic element, and to the
abstract nature of the subject, the piece does not approach
John Bull in interest. In the last chapter the suggestion
is made that a lie is best contradicted by another lie.
'Thus, if it be spread abroad that a great person were
dying of some disease, you must not say the truth, that
they are in health, and never had such a disease, but that
they are slowly recovering of it.'

Prior had been left by St. John — now Viscount Boling-
broke — in charge of affairs at Paris, but it was felt that
some one of more distinguished position should represent
this country, and at the close of 17 12 the Duke of Shrews-
bury was appointed ambassador. In February, 17 13, by
Bolingbroke's directions, the Duke spoke very plainly to
Torcy about the delay on the part of the French in bring-


ing to a conclusion the negociations for a peace, and the
message which he was instructed to deliver had such an
effect that all difficulties that had been raised disappeared,
and the Treaty was signed at Utrecht on the 31st of
March ^ A week earlier the Duke of Shrewsbury wrote
to Arbuthnot, whose brother Robert was a banker in
Paris ^.

Paris, 23 March, 1713.

I return yow many thanks for the favour of your letter, and
the account you give of her Ma^y^ health, which by the dis-
affected in England and Holand is represented here in a very
different manner from the truth.

Your Brother will imagine I have so much moi'e busyness
than I have, that he lets me see him very seldom, so that if he
is so good [ as] to be satisfyed with what he calls my civility, I
am much dissatisfyed with his modesty.

I have had one short fitt of the gout at my first coming, and
ever since my health very well ; But the Dutchess of Shrews-
bury has been indisposed ever since she came to Paris, and
grows worse rather than better. We both long for the con-
clusion of the Peace, as well for the publick good as for the
satisfaction of seeing our friends.

I am, Sir

Your faithful humble servant,


^ The signature of the Treaty Will and Testament. With some account

called forth two Whig pamphlets, of the two Trumpeters, the hirelings of

written in imitation of Arbuthnot, Boger Bold. The Last Will and Testa-

in which Oxford was attacked. The ment was answered by a Tory sheet,

first was entitled Johyi Bull's last with the same name, which was

Will and Testament, as it ivas drawn bij reprinted in Edinburgh. The wit-

a Welch Attorney. With a preface to the nesses to the Will are in this case

At p of C nj. In this piece given as Henry Open Eye, Roger

it is urged that John could not Bold, and Henry Watchful, i. e.

have been of sane memoiy, because Sacheverell, Oxford, and Boling-

he left his all to Lewis Baboon, his broke.

only enemy, instead of to his child- ' Mr. Baillie's MSS.

ren and neighbours. Among the ' The Duke wrote again on the

witnesses to the Will was Matthew 14th of April. ' I have had all ways

Pint-Pot, i. e. Prior, in allusion to many obligations to you but never

the fact that his uncle was a vint- any so kind as this of your oblig-

ner. This pamphlet was followed ing and diverting letter for which

by A Beview of the State of John Bull's I return you many thanks, and

Family, ever since the Prohat oj his last when you have any moments of


On the 29th of Marcli Swift dined with Arbuthnot—
'one of my brothers'^— at his lodgings in Chelsea, and
there attended chapel. Arbuthnot was physician at Chelsea
Hospital. On the 31st Swift wrote : 'This evening Lady
Masham, Dr. Arbuthnot and I were contriving a lie for
to-morrow' — the ist of April— 'that Mr. Noble,' an

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 5 of 47)