George Atherton Aitken.

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

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Dolaeus calls him Microcosmetor. He has under him several
other genii, that reside in the particular parts of the body,
particularly prince Cardimelech in the heart ; Gasteronax in
the stomach ; and the plastic prince in the organs of generation.
I believe I could make you laugh at the explication of dis-
tempers from the wars and alliances of those princes ; and how
the first minister gets the better of his mistress Anima

The best is, that it is making reprisals upon the politicians,
who are sure to allegorise all the animal economy into state
affairs. Pope has been collecting high flights of poetry, which
are very good ; they are to be solemn nonsense.

I thought upon the following the other day, as I was going
into my coach, the dust being troublesome :

The dust in smaller particles arose.

Than those, which fluid bodies do compose ;

Contraries in extremes do often meet ;

'Twas now so dry, that you might call it wet.

I don't give you these hints to divert you, but that you may
have your thoughts, and work upon them.

I know you love me heartily, and yet I will not own that
you love me better than I love you. My Lord and Lady
Masham love you too, and read your letter to me with pleasure.
My lady says she will write to you, whether you write to her
or not. Dear friend, adieu.

This was Swift's reply ^ :

Jul. 3, 1714.
I reckoned you would have held up for one Letter and so
have given over. This is the usuall way I ti-eat my best absent
Friends when I am in London. Did I describe my self as in
a hap])y State here ? Upon my faith you read wrong : I have
no happyness but being so far out of the way of the Dragon
and the rest. Lewis reproaches me as one who has still an
Itch to the Court, only because I asked him how the Summa

' First printed in Craik's Life 0/ lation with the MS. in the Forster
Swift, and now reprinted after col- Collection at South Kensington,



rcrum went : was not that unjust ? and quotes upon me
Quae lucis miscris tarn dim cupUh. I do assert that living near
a Court with some circumstances is a most happy Life, and
would be so still if the Dragon did not spoyl it. I find the
Triumvirate of Honest Council l^s is at an end. I am gone,
Lewis says he lives in Ignorance in his Castle, and you meddle
as little as you can. One thing still lyes upon you, which is,
to be a constant Adviser to Ldy Mfasham]. The Game will
of course be playd into her hand. She has very good Sense,
but may be imposd upon. And I hrd a whisper, that the
Squire ^ plyes there again. Tis as you say, if the Dragon
speaks kindly of Parnel he is gone. Tis the Ossoryes that get
the Derryes, & the Chesters the Yorks ^

To talk of Martin in any hands but Yours, is a Folly. You
every day give better hints than all of us together could do in
a twelvemonth : And to say the Truth, Pope who first thought
of the Hint has no Genius at all to it, in my mind : Gay is
too young ; Parnel has some Ideas of it, but is idle ; I could
putt together, and lard, and strike out well enough, but all
that relates to the Sciences must be from you. I am a vexed
unsettled Vagabond, and my Thoughts are turned towards some
Papers I have, and some other things I would fain get from
you and Ldy M asham], and would have had from the Dragon,
but that is impossible till he is out, and then I will go to
Herefordshire and make him give me Hints. I have got my
History ^ from Sec'^''^ Bromley ; and they shall never have it
again, and it shall be an altered thing if I live.

The Hints you mention, relating to Medicine are admirable ;
I wonder how you can have a mind so degage in a Court where
there are so many million of things to vex you. You must
understand, I have writt this Post to the Dragon, but you
must not take notice of it, nor I fancy will he. For what I
writt is very odd and serious. I think to go and ramble for a
month about Herefordshire & those Parts. Ask the Dragon
whether he will order his People at his Castle to receive me.
Why do you not send your Parlmt a gi-azing ? What do you
mean by y^ Proclamations and 5000II * ? Till I hear Keasons

' Bolingbroke. Utrecht, which was never pub-

^ Dr. Hartstong, Bishop of Ossory, lished.

was translated to Derry, and Sir * A proclamation offering £5000

William Dawes, Bishop of Chester, for apprehending the Pretender if

to York. he should land in this country, was

=" The History of the Peace of issued on June 23, a month after


I dislike j^our Politicks. Why do I talk of it say you ? Why
did that Puppy Barber write [of] it to me ? But the Commons
offer 100,000^1 ; if I was the Pretender I would come over my
self, & take the money to help to pay my Troops. They had
better put out a Proclamation that whoever discovers the
Pretender or the Longitude^ shall have 1 00,000^1. This Strain
is a Sacrifice to Hanover, the Whigs, and the Qu[een']s state
of Health. It will neither satisfy Hiano]ver, silence the
Whigs, nor cure the Gout. Give him a Pension, & oblige him
to live beyond the Alps. What's become of y^ Project to make
it high Treason to bring over forein Troops '? I wish a little
care was taken for securing the Kingdom as well as the
Succession. But country Politicks are doubly insupportable,
and so I have done, and retire to lament with my Neighbors
the want of Rain and dryness of Hay. Farmer Tylor says the
white Mead at Chawdry has not been so bad in the memory of
man and the summer Barley is quite dryed up ; but we hope
to have a pretty good Crop of Wheat. Parson Hunsden tis
thought must stick to his Bargain, but all the Neighbors say
the Attorney was an arrand Rogue. We cannot gett a Bitt of
good Butter for love or money. I could tell you more of the
state of our Affairs, but doubt yom- Tast is not refined enough
for it.

A week later Arbutlmot wrote to Swift, endorsing his
letter, ' Affairs still worse.'

Kensington, July 10, 1714.
Dear Brother,

I have talked of your affairs to nobody but my Lady Masham.
She tells me that she has it very much at heart, and would
gladly do it for her own sake, and that of her friends ; but
thinks it not a fit season to speak about it. We are indeed
in such a strange condition as to politics, that nobody can tell

the death of the Electress Sophia ; for the discovery of a better method

but on the following day the Com- than that hitherto used. Whiston,

mons, in passing an address of at Sir Isaac Newton's suggestion,

thanks to the Queen, added a fur- proceeded to endeavour to apply

ther reward of £100,000. his method to the discovery of the

1 Whiston, in conjimction with longitude on land. Amongthe pieces

Mr. Dittou, published a new method ijublished on the t-ubject was a

for discovering the longitude at sea, humorous tract which satirized the

and after consideration by a com- schemes of other wTiters, and tlien

mittee of the House of Commons described a new chronometer,
an Act was passed offering a reward

F 2


now who is for who. It were really worth your while to be
here for four and twenty hours only, to consider the oddness
of the scene, I am sure it would make you relish your country
life the better.

The Dragon holds fast with a dead gripe the little machine '.
If he would have taken half so much pains to have done other
things, as he has of late to exert himself against the Esquire,
he might have been a Dragon, instead of a Dagon. I would no
more have suffered and done what he has, than I would have
sold myself to the galleys. Haec inter nos. However, they
have got rid of the parliament, and may have time to think of
a scheme : perhaps they may have one already. I know nothing,
but it is fit to rally the broken forces under some head or
another. They really did very well the last day but one in the
House of Lords ; but yesterday they were in a flame about the
Queens answer, till the Queen came in, and put an end to it.

The Dragon shewed me your letter ', and seemed mightily
pleased with it. He has paid ten pounds for the manuscript,
of which I believe there are several in town.

It is a history ^ of the last invasion of Scotland, wrote just as
plain, though not so well, as another history, which you and I
know, with characters of all the men now living, the very
names and invitations that were sent to the Pretender. This
by a flaming Jacobite, that wonders all the world are not so.
Perhaps it may be a whig that personates a Jacobite. I saw
two sheets of the beginning, which was treason every line. If
it goes on at the same rate of plain-dealing, it's a very ex-
traordinary piece, and worth your while to come up to see it
only. Mr. Lockhart, they say, owns it. It is no more his
than it is mine. Do not be so dogged ; but after the first
shower, come up to town for a week or so. It is worth your
while. Your friends will be glad to see you, and none more
than myself. Adieu.

^ His treasurer's staff. to the like designs of France for the

* Swift's admirable letter to Ox- future. It is plain enough from

ford of the ist of July. the preface, what induced Arbuth-

^ The curious volume called not (who had only read the first

Memoirs concerning the Affairs of Scot- two sheets of it in manuscript 'I

land was published surreptitiously to say to the Dean, it was ' wrote

on August 27 {Daily Courant, August just as plain, though not so well,

28,) and is generally attributed to as another history, which you and

George Lockhart, of Carnwath. The I know.' He meant here the

author laments the miscarriage of History of the Peace of Utrecht,

the Pretender's expedition to Scot- which Swift had then written, and

land, and hates the Union, as a bar had shown to most of his friends.


On the following clay Pope wrote to Arbuthnot ^ :

Sir, Binfield, July 11^^^ [1714-]

I have been so much afflicted with the Headake in the hot
weather, that I have had perpetual Opportunitys of reflecting
on those elegant Verses of D^" Scriblerus which you favourd us
with ^ This is not a Time for us to make others live, when we
can hardly live ourselves ; so Scriblerus (contrary to other
maggotts ^) must lye dead all the Summer, and wait till Winter
shall revive him. This I hope will be no disadvantage to him,
for Mankind will be Playing the Fool in all weathers, &
affording us materials for That Life, which every mortall
contributes his Quota to, and which I hope to see the grand
Eeceptacle of all y^ oddnesses of y^ world.

We have paid a Visit to the Dean at 30 miles distance, with
whom we stayd some days, & are but just now return'd
hither. As I fancy you will be somewhat inquisitive after the
manner of his Life & of our Keception, I will couch the
particulars in the way of a News Letter.

From Letcomb, near Wantage, July 4"^.

This day the envoys deputed to Dean S on the part of

his late Confederates, arrived here during the time of Divine
Service. They were receivd at the Back Door, & having
paid the usual Compliments on their part, & receivd the
usual Chidings on that of the Dean, were introduced to his
Landlady *, & entertaind Avith a Pint of the L"^^ Bolingbroke's
Florence '". The Health of that great Mmister was drank in this
Pint, together with the L*^ Treasurer's (whose wine we also
wished for) After which were commemorated Dr. Ai'buthnot
& Mr. Lewis, in a sort of Cyder, plentiful in these parts, &
not altogether unknown in the Taverns of London. There was
likewise a Side Board of Coffee which the Dean roasted with
his own hands in an Engine for the purpose, his Landlady
attending, all the while that office was performing. He talked
of politicks over Coffee, with the Air and Style of an Old
Statesman, who had known something formerly ; but was

1 Mr. Baillie's MSS. * Mrs. Gery.

* See page 65. ^ Bolingbroke had sent Swift

' There was an old belief that some wine, at the suggestion of

eccentricities were caused by mag- Barber, the printer.

gots in the brain.


shamefully ignorant of the three last weekes. When we
mentiond the wellfare of England he laughd at us, & said
Muscovy would become a flourishing Empire very shortly. He
seems to have wrong notions of the British Coui-t, but gave us
a hint as if he had a correspondence with the king of Sueden.

As for the methods of passing his time, I must tell you one
which constantly employs an hour about noone. He has in
his window an Orbicular Glass, w''^^ by Contraction of ye Solar
Beams into a proper Focus, doth burn, singe, or speckle white
or printed Paper, in curious little Holes, or various figures.
We chanced to find some experiments of this nature upon the
Votes of the House of Commons. The name of Tho : Hanmer,
Sp^, was much singed \ and that of John Barber entirely burn'd
out - ; There was a large Gapp at y^ edge of the Bill of Schisme',
and several Specks upon the Proclamation for the Pretender.

I dovibt not but these marks of his are mysticall, and that
the Figures he makes this way are a significant Cypher to those

who have the skill to exj^lain em

I am w*-'' y® truest Esteem, Sir,

Y^ most oblig'd Serv*^,

A. Pope.

Arbutlmot's next letter to Swift was written when
Bolingbroke's party considered that they had practically
triumphed :

London, July 17, 17 14.
Dear Brother,

I thought it necessary to speak to Lady Masham about that
affair, because I believe it will be necessary to give her majesty
the same notion of it, which the memorial does *, and not that
you are asking a little scandalous salary for a sinecure. Lewis
despairs of it, and thinks it quite over since a certain affair. I
will not think so. I gave your letter, with the inclosed
memorial, cavalier ement, to Lord Bolingbroke. He read it, and
seemed concerned at some part of it, expressing himself thus :

' Sir Thomas Hanmer was elected author.

Speaker in February, 17 14, and led ' Tliis Bill was advocated by

a section of the Tories who mis- Bolingbroke, in order to win the

trusted Oxford ; Swift was annoyed favour of the High Church party,

by his opposition to the ministry. and supersede Oxford.

2 This is strange ; for Barber had * A memorial to the Queen, de-
printed Swift's FiMic Spirit of the siring her to appoint Swift historio-
Whigs, and had not betrayed the grapher.


That it would be amongst the eternal scandals of the govern-
ment to suffer a man of your character, that had so well
deserved of them, to have the least uneasy thought about those
matters. As to the fifty pounds, he was ready to pay it ; and,
if he had had it about him, would have given it to me. The
Dragon was all the while walking with the Duke of Shrewsbury.
So my Lord Bolingbroke told me, ' I would immediately stir in
this matter, but I know not how I stand with some folks'; (for
the Duke of Shrewsbuiy has taken himself to the Dragon in
appearance. ) ' I know how I stand with that man ' (pointing to
the Dragon.) 'But as to the other, I cannot tell ; however, I
will claim his promise ' ; and so he took the memorial.

Do not think I make you a bare compliment in what I am
going to say ; for I can assure you I am in earnest. I am in
hopes to have two hundred pounds before I go out of town,
and you may command all or any part of it you please, as long
as you have occasion for it. I know what you will say : To
see a scoundrel pretend to offer to lend me money. Our
situation at present is in short thus : they have romjnt en
visierc with the Dragon, and yet don't know how to do without
him. My Lady Masham has in a manner bid him defiance,
without any scheme or likeness of it in any form or shape, as
far as I can see \ Notwithstanding he visits, cringes, flatters,
&c. which is beyond my comprehension.

I have a very comical account of Letcombe, and the Dean of
St. Patrick's, from Pope, with an episode of the burning-glass.
I was going to make an epigi'am upon the imagination of your
burning your own history with a burning-glass. I wish Pope
or Parnell would put it into rhyme. The thought is this :
Apollo speaks, ' That since he had inspired you to reveal those
things which were hid, even from his own light, such as the
feeble springs of some great events ; and perceiving that a
faction, who could not bear their deeds to be brought to light,
had condemned it to an ignominious flame ; that it might not
perish so, he was resolved to consume it with his own, a
celestial one.' And then you must conclude with some simile :
thus, &c. There are two or three that will fit it.

Whiston has at last published his project of the longitude' ;
the most ridiculous thing that ever was thought on. But a

' Lady Masham had quarrelled any. Oxford supped at her house
with Oxford, and told him that he the same night, but afterwards re-
had never done the Queen any ser- peated her words to every one.
vice, nor was he capable of doing ^ See page 67.


pox on him ! he has spoiled one of my papers of Scriblerus,
which was a proposal for the longitude, not very unlike his, to
this purpose ; that since there was no pole for east and west,
that all the princes of Europe should join and build two
prodigious poles, upon high mountains, with a vast lighthouse
to serve for a pole-star. I was thinking of a calculation of the
time, charges, and dimensions. Now you must understand his
project is by lighthouses, and explosion of bombs at a certain

Lewis invited me to dinner to-day, and has disappointed me.
I thought to have said something more about you. I have
nothing more to add, but, my dear friend, adieu.

The second of the two following letters ^ from Swift
was the answer to Arbuthnot's letter of the i7tli:

Oxford, July 22', 1714.

How came I here ? Why, L'^ [Harlejy writt to me, and so I
came to have his Company and his L''^^^ 2 or 3 days. They go
to morrow, and I return to my country place, where I will not
stay a fortnight, and then I will ramble somewhere else. The
language spoken to me now is that the Dragon will be out in a
few days ; and perhaps is already, because L'l Chancellor was
summoned from his Country house 2 days ago by L'^ Bol[ing-
broke] in great haste, and they conceive it may be to put a
finishing Stroak. I cannot heartily pardon your giving over to
advise L^y MTasham] who in my Opinion is going on upon a very
dangerous Adventure without one creature to du-ect her. I am
told that L*^ly M[asham] is as much luke with the Dragon, as \A
Bolj^ingbroke] and what she s^ to the Dragon a week ago is of
so desperate a Strain, that I cannot think her in a Temper to
be at the Head or the Bottom of a Change ; nor do I believe a
change accompanyed with such Passions can ever succeed.
For God sake do not leave her to her self : Your Post keeps
you allways near her, and she cannot but think you her Friend.
I am quite struck with the Accounts given me by those I am
now with. What can be your new Scheem, what are your new
Provocations. Are you sure of a Majority; Will not the
Dragon when he is out be able to draw off your Friends. L'l
Bol[ingbroke]'s language to me was quite contrary to his present

^ Mr. Baillie's MSS. The second ham's edition of Johnson's Lives of
of tliese letters was printed, with the Poets, iii. 204.
modernized spelling, in Cunning-


Proceedings. Therefore I do not approve the last. I know
not what to say ; but if I were to be of necessity allways at
Court like you, I would never let people run mad without
telling and warning them sufficiently : You acted a great part
4 years ago imder the first Change ; and will you not hinder
men from kicking down all if you can. Pray write to me soon,
and excuse y'" self, and tell me how things are. Adieu.

July 25* , 1714.

You are every way too kind ; as to the His[toriographer]'s
place, I now hear it has been disposed of these 3 weeks to one
Madocks '. I wonder lA Bol'ingbroke] knew nothing of it. So
there is an end of that, and of twenty Kefiections one might
make upon it. If the Quj^eenJ is indifferent in those Matters,
I may well be so too. I was 3 days last week in Oxford with
L'i and L'y H^arley] and Dr Str— d. - Our Talk was of the
Dragon's being out, as a Thing done. So no more Reflections
on that neither. Qu'cst que Vliomme. And so you will lend
me all your Money. The mischief is, I never borrow money
of a Friend. You are mightily mistaken : All yoiu- Honor,
Generosity, good Nature, good Sense, Witt, and every other
Praiseworthy Quality, will never make one think one Jott the
better of you. That tune is now some years past, and you will
never mend in my Opinion. But really Brother you have a
sort of Shuffle in your Gate : and now I have s<i the worst that
your most mortall Enemy could say of you with Truth. I
defy Pope and his Burning glasses, a Man cannot amuse himself
50 miles from London after four years jading himself with
Ministers of State, Ijut all the Town must hear of it. However
if Pope makes the right use of your Hint for an Epigram or a
longer Copy, I shall not be angry. It was a malicious SatjT
of yours upon Whiston, that what you intended as a Ridicule,
should be any way struck upon by him for a Reality. Go on
for the sake of Witt and Hiunor, and cultivate that vein which
no man alive possesses but yourself, and which lay like a Mine
in the Earth, which the Owner for a long time never knew of.

Ld>' M[asha]m who talked of writing to me first has not
answered my Letter. Put her not in mind I beg you. I
believe she has heard of my Letter to the Dragon, and dislikes
it as partiall. I hear he has shown it to every living soul, and
I believe has done so in Malice, as the French understand that

^ Thomas Madocks, or Madox.

"^ Probably Dr. Stratford, Cauon of Christ Church.


word. My humble service to L'^ and L'^v M[asliam] and M''^
Hill. By what I heard at Oxford, \J^ Trevor is fallen off with
the rest, and indeed the Circle of the Dragon's Friends seemed
very narrow, by the loss they were at for Healths, we came to
yours 6 Glasses before the usuall time. Adieu.

Harcourt, the Lord Chancel] or, had been sent for to
Court in haste on the 20th of July, and on his arrival
on the following day he had a conference with the
Queen and Bolingbroke. It was immediately reported
that Oxford would soon be removed, but that he would
be given a higher title and a pension. On the following
evening Arbuthnot dined with Erasmus Lewis, and after-
wards went with him to Kensington. Two days more
passed, and Oxford had a violent quarrel with Harcourt,
and everyone agreed that his dismissal must come that
night. From Arbuthnot's letter to Swift of this date it
appears that he had himself been ' indifferently treated.'

.July 24, 1 7 14.

Dear Brother,

I suppose yovi have received the account of St. Kilda.
There is an officer there, who is a sort of tribumis 2}lcl)is, whose
office is to represent the grievances of the people to the Laird
of MLeod, who is supposed to be their oppressor. He is bound
to contradict the Laird, till he gives him three strokes with a
cane over the head, and then he is at liberty to submit \ This
I have done, and so has your friend Lewis. It has been said,
that we and the Dean were the authors of all that has since
happened, by keeping the Dragon in, when there was an offer
to lay down. I was told to my face that what I said in this
case went for nothing ; that I did not care if the great person's
affairs went to entire ruin, so I could support the interests of
the Dragon ; that I did not know the half of his proceedings.
Particularly it was said, though I am confident it was a mistake,
that he had attempted the removing her from the favour of a
great person. In short, the fall of the Dragon does not proceed
altogether from his old friend, but from the great person, whom
I perceive to be highly offended, by little hints that I have

' It was from the steward of the Laird of Macleod that this officer was
liable to receive castigatioii.


received. In short, the Dragon has been so ill used, and must
serve upon such terms for the future, if he shovdd, that I
swear I would not advise Turk, Jew, nor infidel, to be in that
state. Come up to town, and I can tell you naore. I have
been but indifferently treated myself by somebody at court in
small concerns. I can tell who it is. But mum for that.

Oxford's fall came at last suddenly ou the 27th, after
a stormy scene in the Queen's hearing, and the difficulties
that arose at the consultation held on the same night to

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 7 of 47)