George Atherton Aitken.

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

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attorney who was executed for murder, 'was recovered
by his friends, and then seized again by the Sheriff, and
is now in a messenger's hands at the Black Swan in
Holborn. We are all to send to our friends, to know
whether they heard anything of it, and so we hope it will
spread'^.' But the trick was not successful, in spite of
Swift's efforts ; ' I doubt my colleagues did not contribute
as they ought.' A few days later the question whether
Swift should have the deanery of St. Patrick's was under
consideration, and on the i6th of April he dined with
Arbuthnot and a young Irish philosopher who had re-
cently arrived in London, 'Mr. Berkeley, one of your
Fellows, whom I have recommended to the Doctor.' On
the same day Berkeley WTote to Sir John Perceval ^ :
' This day I dined at Dr. Arbuthnot's lodging in the

leisure I shall take it as a particu- ing out his business. ' You'l excuse

lar favour if you will let me know this trouble which I give you the

some particulars about the Queen, more freely as it affords me ane

Lady Masham, Mrs. Hill and our opportunity of assureing you that I

comun friends' health, to whom I allways am, S"', y most humble

beg my complm*s If I can Servant Montrose.'

serve you in anything here you may ^ On the 8tli of April Prior wrote

command, Sir, your very humble to Swift from Paris. ' I owe brother

servant and friend, Shrewsbury.' Arbuthnot a letter. Excuse my not

Another nobleman— the Duke of writing to him, till I know what to

Montrose — wrote to Arbuthnot from say.'

Glasgow on the 8th of April, about a ^ See Forster'si(/6'o/'Sif{/"if,453 note,

namesake of his son, David Graham, ^ Lord Egmont's MSS. (Hist. MSS.

to whom Arbuthnot had previously Commission, 7th Rep, p. 238). In

shown kindness by getting him 1717 Berkeley sent Arbuthnot an

a place in H.M.S. ' Nottingham ' as account of Mount Vesuvius : ' I

first chirurgeon's mate. This ship doubt there is nothing in this

was now laid up, and the Duke worth showing the Society ; as to

hoped Arbuthnot could get him that, you will use your discretion'

some other similar post, or enable {Literary Bdics, by George Monck

him to get his livelihood by follow- Berkeley, 1789, pp. 83-92;.


Queen's Palace. . . . Dr. Arbuthnot is the first proselyte
I have made of the Treatise ^ I came over to print, which
will be soon published. His wit you have an instance
of in the Art of Political Lying, and in the tracts of John
Bull, of which he is the author. He is the Queen's
domestic physician, and in great esteem with the whole
Court, a great philosopher, and reckoned the first mathe-
matician of the age, and has the character of uncommon
virtue and probity.'

Later in the year Arbuthnot gave Berkeley a letter of
introduction 'For the much esteemed Dr. Hans Sloane'^: —


This serves to introduce Mr. Berkley an ingenious clergyman
of my acquaintance who is going along with My Lord Peter-
borough to Sicily. He is willing and desirous to serve the
Royal Society as far as his short stay will perinitt him and
desires your instructions. This with all respect is from, Sir,

Your most humble servant,

Jo : Arbuthnott.
Windsor, October 12, 17 13.

Another kindly act is mentioned in a letter from
Joseph Bingham, of University College, Oxford, to Dr.
Charlett, dated Winton, Nov. 19, 1713: ' My L'^ Treasurer
.... invited me to dine with him y® next day, when he
surprized me before Dinner w*^ a present of a Bank Bill
of an 100^^ as an encouragement to go on with y*^ Antiqui-
ties of y® Church .... I believe I am obliged to y® kind
offices of Dr. Arbuthnot, who has been very friendly in
recommending me to my Lord upon his personal ac-
quaintance ^'.

At Christmas, 17 13, the Queen was very ill, and it was
reported that she was dead. Oxford wrote to Arbuthnot "* :

' The 'Dialogue between Hylas ^ Sloane MSS. 4036, f. 167.

and Philonovis, to demonstrate the ^ Ballard MSS. xv. 12.

reality of Human Knowledge, in * Mr. Baillie's MSS., quoted in

opposition to Sceptics and Atheists,' Miss Strickland's Lives of the Queens

was piiblished in 17 13. of England, viii. 502-3.



' I return you very many tlianks for the exact and par-
ticular account you were pleased to give me of Her
Majesty's indisposition ; it is of too great importance for
all the world not to have a concern for it, and it is my
duty to sacrifice everything I am or have to her service.
.... I have sent my servant with one of your letters, and
my chairman with another : neither of the doctors were
at home. It is likely they may be vain enough to pub-
lish it. Though I trust in God the Queen will be well
before they come down, yet I think you nor I could
have been justified unless they had been sent to.' The
Duchess of Somerset, the Queen's friend, received in-
formation of the Queen's health, by command, from
Arbuthnot, and there is a letter from her promising to
leave Petworth for Windsor early next morning, and
requesting the Doctor to assure the Queen that she would
make all the haste she could to wait upon her.


We first hear of the famous Scriblerus Club in 1714.
Pope, Swift (now Dean of St, Patrick's), Arbuthnot, Gay,
and Parnell were members, and associated with them
were Lord Oxford ^, Bishop Atterbury, and Congreve.

' Swift, or other members of tlie
Juncto, as Lord Oxford called his
friends the wits, wrote the follow-
ing lines in April, summoning the
Lord Treasurer to a meeting of the
club :

' Quaeclam quae attinent ad ScriWerum,
Want your assistance now to clear
One day it will be no disgrace
In Scribler to have had a i>lace.
Come then, my Lord, and take

your part in
Th' important history of Martin.'
Among the papers at Longleat
relating to the Scriblerus Club are

the following verses to Lord Oxford,
signed 'by order of y« Club,' by
Pope, Gay, Swift, Arbuthnot and
Parnell. All the signatures except
that of Gay are defaced.

A Pox of all senders

For any pretenders,

Who tell us these troublesome

In their dull humdrum key

Of Arma virumque

Hanoniae qui primus ab oris.

A fig too for H[anme]r

Who prates like his grandmerc,

And all his old friends would re-
buke ;


The design of the Memoirs of Scrihlerus and other pieces
written by one or more members of the club was, in the
words of Pope (who had been introduced to Arbuthnot
by Swift in 17 13) 'to have ridiculed all the false tastes
in learning, under the character of a man of capacity
enough, that had dipped into every art and science, but
injudiciously in each.' Addison, Pope adds, liked the
idea very well, and was not disinclined to come into it '.
The il/emoirs of the extraordinary Life, Works, and Dis-
coveries of Martinus Scrihlerus seems to be almost
entirely by Arbuthnot, but he was helped by Pope and
others. AVe have only the first Book, and this was not
printed until 1741, six years after Arbuthnot's death,
when Pope included it in the volume he issued in that
year ^. He told Spence that the design was carried on
much farther than had appeared in print ; but it was
stopped by the members of the club being dispersed after
1 7 14, or being otherwise engaged.

Martin ^ was the son of a learned pedant. Dr. Cornelius
Scrihlerus, and the opening chapters describe the cir-
cumstances of his birth and early years, and his father s
anxiety that everything should be arranged in con-
formity with the practice of the ancients. Then comes

In spite of the Carle as in 17 13 by several great hands.

Give us but one Earle As much of it as is here published,

And the Devil may take their and all the tracts in the same name,
Duke. wei"e written by our author and Dr.

Then come and take part in Arbuthnot ' (The Booksellers to the

Reader^. On the half-title it is
stated that the Memoirs were ' never

The Memoirs of Martin,

Lay by your White Staff and gray

j^jj]^j^ . before printed.'

For'trust us, friend Mortimer, ' ^wift tells us in his Journal

Should you live years fortv more, (O^'t. n, 1711) that Oxford called

Haec olim meminisse juvabit. l">ii I^^- Martin, because martin

' Spencc's Anecdotes (ed. Singer, was a sort of swallow, and so was a

18-8 i p 8 swift ; and it has been suggested

■' The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope, t'"^* tl^« "a^^*^ of Martin Scrihlerus

In Prose, vol. ii. ' We have also ^^'^^ derived from this pleasantry,

obtained the Memoirs of Scrihlerus, Martin was, of course, the name of

being the beginning of a consider- one of the three sons in the Tale oj

able work undertj'ken so long ago " ^"^'


the great question of Martin's education, with disserta-
tions upon playthings, gymnastics, music, rhetoric,
logic, metaphysics, anatomy, criticism ; an account of
Martin's progress in physic and in the study of the
diseases of the mind ; of his correspondence with the
freethinkers ; and, finally, of his numerous discoveries
and works.

The Memoirs are excellent in their kind, and the
mock gravity is admirably maintained. Arbuthnot was
the most learned of the wits of the time, and the piece
is full of out-of-the-way knowledge. Many parts, too,
involved an intimate acquaintance with medicine which
he alone, of the members of the club, possessed. Most
of the humour can be appreciated by any reader, but
some of the ridicule poured upon philosophers and others
can only be understood thoroughly by persons well read
in the authors attacked. I cannot profess to agree with
some critics who have placed the Memoirs above any
other of Arbuthnot's works ; they do not seem to me
more interesting than the History of John Bull, and they
are marred by coarse touches not usually found in
Arbuthnot's writings, though common enough in those
of some of his friends. Dr. Johnson's criticism, there-
fore, is not without an element of truth. In his Life of
Pope he says that the want of more of the Memoirs need
not be lamented, for the follies ridiculed were hardly
practised, and the satire could only be understood by the
learned. ' It has been little read, or when read has been
forgotten, as no man could be wiser, better, or merrier,
by remembering it.' Yet how perverse this judgment
seems when we recall (to take one or two passages only)
the account of Martin's christening, and the satire upon
Dr. Woodward, or the remarks on the music of the
ancients, or the ridicule of the methods of reasoning
used by metaphysicians and freethinkers ! The earlier
chapters were clearly in Sterne's mind when he de-


scribed the troubles tliat beset the childhood of Tristram

It will be convenient to speak here of the other pieces
generally printed with the Memoirs of Scrihlerus, and
which have been attributed, in whole or in part, to
Arbuthnot. The Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, pub-
lished by Pope and Swift in three volumes in 1727,
contained Stradling v. /Styles and Of the Art of Sinking
in Poetry, and the additional volume, printed in 1732,
contained the Essay of the learned Martinus Scrihlerus
concei'ning the Origin of Sciences. The second volume
of Pope's Prose Works, 1741, included, besides these
pieces, and the Memoii^s of Scrihlerus, the Virgilius Re-
stauratus, which had been appended to the Dunciad, and
which will be referred to again. The booksellers' Notice
to the Reader, prefixed to this collection of i74i,says that
the Memoirs of Scrihlerus and all the tracts in the same
name were written by Pope and Arbuthnot, except the
Essay concerning the Origin of Sciences, in which Parnell
had some hand, and the Memoirs of a Parish Clerk, in
which Ga}'- helped. Spence tells us that Pope said the
Essay concerning the Origin of Sciences was written by
himself ' and (I think he added) Dr. Arbuthnot.' At
another time Pope said it was by himself, Parnell, and
Arbuthnot ^ Tlie Art of Sinking in Poetry would seem
to be wholly or almost wholly Pope's, though of course
Arbuthnot may have given some hints; and the short
' Specimen of Scriblerus's Reports, Stradling versus Styles,'
was mainly if not entirely by Fortescue.

We can now resume the thread of the correspondence
between the friends who aided one another in the com-
position of these and other pieces. Swift, after making
vain efforts to heal the breach between Oxford and
Bolingbroke, retired, at the beginning of June, to
Letcombe, where he stayed with Mr. Gery, a clergyman

* Spence's Anecdotes, 126, 152.


for whom he had obtained a living ^ Gay wrote to him
on the 8th of June, that he was 'quite off" from the
Duchess of Monmouth, whom he had served as secretary,
and that Arbuthnot, who had been very ready to serve
him, had taken a humorous petition from him to the
Lord Treasurer. ' We had the honour of the Treasurer's
company last Saturday, when we sat upon Scriblerus.'
In the Prologue to the Sliepherd's Week, too, Gay referred
to the ' skilful leach ' who had saved the Queen's life :

' This leach Arburthnot was yclept,
Who many a night not once had slept,
But watched our gracious Sovereign still ;
For who could rest when she was ill ? ''
Oh, may'st thou henceforth sweetly sleep.
Sheer, swains, oh sheer your softest sheep
To swell his couch ; for well I ween,
He saved the Realm who saved the Queen.

Quoth I, please God, 1 11 hie with glee
To Court, tliis Arburthnot to see.'

Swift's wise and kindly answer to Gay, who had just
been appointed secretary to the embassy at Hanover, is
dated June 12th, 1714^:

' I wonder how you could have the Impudence to know
where I am ; I have this Post writt to M^. Harley \ who is
just come from Hannover, to deshe he would give you a
Letter ; I have described you to him, and told him I would
write to you to wait on him, which will do you no hurt neither
about your affair in the Treasury. You begin to be an able
Courtier, which I know from two Instances, first for giving me
thanks for your Preferment, to which I only contributed by
saying to D^. Arbuthnott and M^ Lewis that I wished it.
Secondly for wheedling My L'l Treas'' with an Ej)igx'am,
which I like very well, and so I am svu'e will he, and I reckon
you will succeed ; but pray learn to be a Manager, and pick
up Language as fast as you can, and get Aristotle upon Politicks,
and read other Books upon Government ; Grotius de Jure

' Letter from Swift to Miss Van- but he and they all say she's much

homrigh, June 8, 1714 ; Journal, better then she was the second day

Dec. 22 1712. at Windsor' (Peter Wentworth to

- 'Yesterday Dr. Alburtenot said Lord Strafford, March 12, 1714.—

the Queen was taken about noon as Wenhvorth Papers, p. 360).

she was at Windsor with a shiver- ^ Mr. Baillie's MSS.

ing. He set up with her last night, * The Lord Treasurer's cousin.


belli et pacis, and accounts of Negotiations and Treatyes, &e.,
and be a perfect Master of the Latin, and be able to learn
everj^thing of the Court where you go ; and keep corresi:)ondence
with Mr. Lewis, who if you write Letters worth showing, will
make them serviceable to you with \A Treas'" ; and take M"".
Lewis's advice in all Things, and do not despise mine, and so
God bless you, and make you able to make my Fortunes. I
am glad W^. Pope has made so much despatch. My service to
him and the Parnelian.'

Arbuthnot wrote to liis ' Dear Brother,' Swift, on the
same day : ' I am glad your proud spirit is come down,
and that you submit to write to your friends.' He knew
little, he said, of the state of Court affairs, to his great
ease and comfort ; he had not enquired about anything
since Lady Masham told the Dragon — Lord Oxford ^ — that
she would carry no more messages, nor meddle, nor make.
The Bill to prevent the growth of Schism was now being
hotly discussed, and he thought the ministry would do
mischief to themselves, and good to nobody else. Gay
was departing for Hanover on the following Monday,
and was dancing attendance on the Lord Treasurer for
money to buy shoes, stockings, and linen.

' The Dragon w^as with us on Saturday night last, after
having sent us really a most excellent copy of verses ending
"He that cares not to rule, will be sure to obey,
When summon'd by Arbuthnot, Pope, Parnell, and Gay ^."

* My Lord and my Lady Masham, and Lady Fair, remember
you kindly ; and none with more sincere respect than your
affectionate brother and humble servant, Jo : Arbuthnott.'

This was Swift's reply ^ : —

Jun. i6, 1 714.
Dear Brother,

My Stomack is prouder than You imagine, and I scorned to

' ' So called by tlie Dean by con- almost every day, and come and

traries ; for he was the mildest, talk idly every night, when his all

wisest and best minister that ever was at stake.'

served a imnce ' (Swift). =* Mr.Baillie'sMSS. Printed, with

■^ Pope told Spence that Oxford modernized spelling, in Cunning-

'used to send trifling verses from ham's edition of r/«e ines o/</«e £")((/.

the Court to the Scriblerus Club liah Poets (1854), iii. 203.


write till I was writt to. I have already half lost the Ideas of
Courts and Ministers. I dine between twelve and one, and
the whole house is a bed by ten and up at six. I drink no
wine, and see but one dish of meat. I pay a Guinea a week
for dieting and lodging my self and man, with an honest
Clergyman of my old Acquaintance, and my paying is forced, for
he has long invited me : I did not know till last Night that the
Princess Sophia was dead, when my Landlord and I chanced to
pay a Visit to a Farmer in a neighbouring Village, and was told
so over a Mug of Ale, by a brisk young Fellow just come from
London, who talked big, and looked on us with great Contempt.
I thank you for your kindness to poor Gay. Was the Money
paid, or put off till the day after he went ? I reckon by what
you tell me that it is now a high Season to be very merry in
Lady Fair's lodgings. I heartily pity you in particular. Look
after your Mistress and your self, grow rich, and since nothing-
better can be done, let the world radere. I have a mind to
live in Yorkshire for a year in order to get my self out of
Memory and Debt. The Fashion of this world passeth away,
however I am angry at those who disperse us sooner than there
was need. I have a Mind to be very angry, and to let my
anger break out in some manner that will not please them, at
the end of a Pen. I wish you could get Lady M[asham] to give
you those Hints we have often spoke off, and to muster up
your own, for the Dragon I despair he will do that, any more
than any thing else ; and indeed you are all of you Dragons
more or less, for I am sure it is above three years since I have
spoke to Ldy M[asham] and )■ ou about this. My humble Service
to My Lord and Her, whom I love as much as you do, though
I have greater Obligations to them, and my humble Service and
thanks to the Qu^een] of Prudes for remembering me. You
are a Sett of People drawn almost to the dregs ; you must try
another Game ; this is at an End. Your Ministry is fourscore
and ten years old, and all you can endeavour at is an Euthanasia,
or rather it is in a deep Consumption at five and twenty. I
approve Ldy M^ashamjs conduct, and think all she can now
do in relation to the Dragon, is to be passive ; for the rest, to
cultivate her own Credit to the utmost. Writing to you much
would make me stark mad ; judge his condition who has
nothing to keep him from being miserable but endeavoring to
forget those for whom he has the greatest Value, Love, and
Fi'iendship. But you are a Philosopher and a Physician, and
can over come by your Wisdom and your Faculty those Weak-


nesses which other Men are forced to reduce by not thinking
on them. Adieu, and love me half so well as I do you.

Two days later Pope humorously described to Swift
the different theories that had been set up to account
for his retirement. ' Dr. Arbuthnot is singular in his
opinion, and imagines your only design is to attend at
full leisure to the life and adventures of Scriblerus.
This indeed must be granted of greater importance than
all the rest ; and I wish I could promise so well of you.
The top of my own ambition is to contribute to that
great work, and I shall translate Homer by the by.'

The dissensions in the ministry were now approaching
a crisis. Two years earlier Gaultier told Torcy not to
mention St. John in letters to Lord Oxford, 'because the
Treasurer does not love him, nor place any confidence
in him.' St. John, too, was never to know that Torcy
corresponded with the Treasurer. There were constant
differences between the ministers, and Bolingbroke, with
Lady Masham's aid, gradually obtained entire influence
over the Queen. The Schism Bill gave Bolingbroke an
excellent opportunity of making use of the Queen's
prejudices, for Oxford, whose interests were allied to
those of the Low Church and dissenting parties, could
not heartily support so retrograde a measure. He tem-
porised, however, as long as possible, and the bill passed
the House of Lords by a narrow majority on the 15th
of June. Arbuthnot alluded to the state of affairs in his
next letter to Swift, and then turned to discuss the
Memoirs of Scriblerus.

Kensington, June 26, 17 14.
Dear Brother,

I had almost resolved not to write to you, for fear of dis-
tui'bing so happy a state as you describe. On the other hand,
a little of the devil, that cannot endure any body should enjoy
a paradise, almost provoked me to give you a long and
melancholy state of our affairs. For you must know, that it
is just my own case. I have with great industry endeavoured


to live in ignorance, but at the same time would enjoy
Kensington Garden ; and then some busy discontented body
or another comes just across me, and begins a dismal story ;
and before I go to supper, I am as full of grievances as the
most knowing of them.

1 will x^lague you a little, by telling you the Dragon dies
hard. He is now kicking and cuffing about him like the devil :
and you know parliamentary management is the forie^ but no
hopes of any settlement between the two champions. The
Dragon said last night to my Lady Masham and me, that it is
with great industry he keeps his friends, who are very numerous,
from pulling all to-pieces. Gay had a hundred pounds in due
time, and went away a happy man. I have solicited both Lord
Treasurer and Lord Bolingbroke strongly for the Parnelian,
and gave them a memorial the other daj''. Lord Treasurer
speaks mighty affectionately of him, which you know is an ill
sign in ecclesiastical preferments. Witness some, that you and
I know, when the contrary was the best sign in the world.
Pray remember Martin, who is an innocent fellow, and will
not disturb your solitude. The ridicule of medicine is so
copious a subject, that I must only here and there touch it.
1 have made him study physic from the apothecary's bill, Avhere
there is a good plentiful field for a satire upon the present prac-
tice. One of his projects was, by a stamp upon blistering
plaisters and melilot by the yard, to raise money for the
government, and to give it to Eadcliffe ' and others to farm.
But there was like to be a petition from the inhabitants of
liondon and Westminster, who had no mind to be flayed.
There was a problem about the doses of purging medicines
published four years ago, shewing that they ought to be in
proportion to the bulk of the patient. From thence Martin
endeavours to determine the question about the weight of the
ancient men, by the doses of physic that were given them.
One of his best inventions was a map of diseases for the three
cavities of the body, and one for the external parts ; just like
the four quarters of the world. Then the great diseases are
like capital cities, with their symptoms all like streets and
suburbs, with the roads, that lead to other diseases. It is
thicker set with towns than any Flanders map you ever saw.
Eadcliffe is painted at the corner of the map, contending for

' .John Eadcliffe, M.D., was a cele- many, because he had little know-
l)rat('d and skilful physician, but ledge of the literature of his pro-
was regarded as an empiric by fession.


the universal empire of this world, and the rest of the physicians
opposing his ambitious designs, with a project of a Treaty of
Partition to settle peace.

There is an excellent subject of ridicule from some of the
German physicians, who set up a sensitive soul as a sort of a
first minister to the rational. Helmont calls him Archseus.

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 6 of 47)