George Atherton Aitken.

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

. (page 8 of 47)
Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 8 of 47)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

decide who was to be his successor greatly agitated Her
Majesty. The Cabinet Council was to have met on the
29thj but it was necessary to postpone the meeting owing
to the Queen's illness ^. Those about her hesitated to call
a general consultation of the royal physicians, lest Mead,
who was a "Whig, should hear the words she was con-
stantly murmuring about the Pretender. But Arbuthnot
consulted with four of the physicians in ordinary, and
it was decided that the Queen should be cupped. The
operation was performed in the presence of Arbuthnot
and Lady Masham, and the Queen was relieved, and
slept j but on the morning of the 30th she had a serious
relapse, and Arbuthnot, who had now been obliged to
call in other physicians, had her bled. At about ten
o'clock there was another attack, and it appeared to those
present that the Queen was either dead or dying. The
Duchess of Ormond, who was in waiting, sent a messenger
to her husband, and the members of the Committee of the
Privy Council, who were then assembled at the Cockpit,
at once went to Kensington. In the meantime Arbuthnot,
Blackmore, and the other doctors present, gave the Queen
a vomit, but as this action did not have the desired effect,

^ On Wednesday, the 28th, Dr. Duke word her pulse was well, and

Shadwell was not satisfied with the the same thing he made Dr. SI own

Queen's pulse, and spoke to the [Hans Sloane] say, for they had

Duke of Shrewsbury, who sent always had a mind to keep the

Arbuthnot to the Queen. After Queen's illness a secreet ' (^Wentworih

dinner Arbuthnot 'brought the Pwjjws, p. 408).



a medicine recommended by Mead was tried, and the
Queen recovered consciousness. The Dukes of Somerset
and Argyle had just then suddenly entered the Council
room, and their right to be present having been admitted
by the advice of the Duke of Shrewsbury, it was decided,
after hearing the report of the physicians, that the Queen
should be asked to make the Duke of Shrewsbury Lord
Treasurer. A deputation at once proceeded to the bed-
side of the Queen, who gave the Duke the Treasurer's
staff, bidding him use it for the good of her people,
and desiring him to retain also his position of Lord
Cha^mberlain. In the afternoon the Queen had another
relapse, and the doctors, who applied blisters, told the
Council that her life was in the utmost danger \ Every
step was taken by the Duke of Shrewsbury and his party
to secure the peaceful accession of the Elector of Hanover,
and the Jacobites were completely baffled. The Queen
lingered on through Saturday, and Lewis wrote that
Arbuthnot thought Swift should come up. Charles Ford ^,
too, sent Swift an account of the Queen's illness, from
which it appears that on the previous evening Arbuthnot
said he did not think her distemper was desperate, and
that on that morning all the doctors agreed she would
in all probability hold out till the following day, except
Mead, who pronounced several hours before that she

^ ' I got to Kingsenton about six
a clock and whilest I was there her
Majesty had the benefitt of vomit-
ting thrice by the help of Cardis.
Dr. Alburtenhead [Arbuthnot] came
out and told the company of it and
said 'twas the best symptom they
had to day, and that she felt pain
in her feet, their being Garlick
laid to't wch likewise was well,
and was then gone to sleep. 'Tis
now nine a clock and I am come
home; to writ you this, but they
tell mo there's no judging how
the decease will turn till twelve

a clock. I overheard Dr. A in

a whisper say 'twas ten thousand
to one if she recover' d, wch was
dismall to me.' (Peter Went-
worth to Lord Strafford, July 30,
1 714. — Wentwortli Papers, p. 407.)

■^ Gay's 'joyous Ford' was born
in Dublin, and lived sometimes in
that city and sometimes in London.
He was a friend of Swift, through
whose influence he was made ga-
zetteer in 1712. He appears to
have been rather too fond of con-


could not live two minutes. ' I did not care to talk
much to Arbuthnot, because I heard him cautious in his
answers to other people ; but, by his manner, I fancy he
does not yet utterly despair.' The Queen lived through
the night, but death came at seven o'clock on the morning
of Saturday, the ist of Augusts Everything passed off
quietly, and Lords Justices were at once appointed to
carry on the government until the arrival of King George.
On the 3rd of August Bolingbroke wrote to Swift, in
words that have been often quoted, ' The Earl of Oxford
was removed on Tuesday ; the Queen died on Sunday.
Wliat a world is this, and how does fortune banter us ! '


Immediately after the Queen's death Arbuthnot left his
rooms in St. James's Palace, and moved to Chelsea. He
did not, however, as was expected^, settle there, but
made, we are told, a short visit to France, where he
doubtless saw his brother the banker, in Paris, and on
his return, at the end of August, took a house in Dover
Street, Piccadilly, where he lived until 1721 ^.

The depth of the friendship between Swift and
Arbuthnot may be seen from the following touching
letter from Arbuthnot. Swift set out for Ireland on the
i6th of August.

August 12, 1 714.
My dear Friend,

I thank you for your kind letter, which is very comfortable
upon such a melancholy occasion. M5' dear INIistress's days
were numbered even in my imagination, and could not exceed
such certain limits, but of that small number a great deal was
cut off by the last troublesome scene of this contention among
her servants. I believe sleep was never more welcome to a

^ On the following day Arbuth- - Erasmus Lewis to Swift, Aug.

not and the other doctors signed a 7, 17 14.

statement giving the result of the ^ Cunningham's Handbook of Lon-

post-mortem examination (Sloane doti 1850', p. 160.
MSS. 3984, f. 248).


weary traveller than death was to her ; only it siu-prized her
too suddenly before she had signed her will ; which no doubt
her being involved in so much business hindered her from
finishing. It is unfortunate that she had been persuaded, as is
supposed by Lowndes \ that it was necessary to have it under
the great seal. I have figured to myself all this melancholy
scene ; and even, if it be possible, worse than it has hai")pened
twenty times ; so that I was prepared for it. My case is not
half so deplorable as poor Lady Masham's and several of the
Queen's servants ; some of whom have no chance for their
bread but the generosity of his present Majesty, which several
people that know him very much commend. So far is plain
from what has happened in public affairs, that what one party
affirmed of the settlement has proved true, that it was firm :
that it was in some measure an advantage to the successor not
to have been here, and so obliged to declare himself in several
things, in which he is now at liberty. And indeed, never any
prince in this respect came to the crown with greater advantage.
I can assure you the peaceable scene, that now appears, is a
disappointment to more than one set of people.

I have an opportunity calmly and philosophically to consider
that treasure of vileness and baseness, that I always believed
to be in the heart of man ; and to behold them exert their
insolence and baseness : every new instance, instead of surprizing
and grieving me, as it does some of my friends, really diverts
me, and in a manner improves my theory ; though I think I
have not met with it in my own case, except from one man.
And he was very far mistaken, for to him I would not abate
one grain of my proud spu-it. Dear friend, the last sentence of
your letter quite kills me. Never repeat that naelancholy
tender word, that you will endeavour to forget me. I am sure
I never can forget you, till I meet with (what is impossible)
another, whose conversation I can delight so much in as Dr.
Swift's : and yet that is the smallest thing I ought to value
you for. That hearty sincere friendship, that plain and open
ingenuity in all your commerce, is what I am sure I never can
find in another man. I shall want often a faithful monitor,
one that would vindicate me behind my back, and tell me my
faults to my face. God knows I write this with tears in my
eyes. Yet do not be obstinate, but come up for a little time to
London ; and if you must needs go, we may concert a manner

* William Lowndes, a secretary May 21, 1711'. Gay addressed some
of the Treasury (Swift's Journd, verses to him.


of correspondence wherever we are. I have a letter from Gay
just before the Queen's death. Is he not a true poet, who had
not one of his own books to give to the princess, that asked
for one ?

Pleasant testimony of other friendships is furnished by
a joint letter from Parnell and Pope to Arbuthnot ^ :

Dear Sir, Binfield, Sept. 2, 1714.

'Tho we have no business to write iipon, yet while we have
an intire wish to preserve the friendship you were pleasd to
show us, we have allways an excuse for troubling you with a
letter. It is a pleasure to us to recollect the satisfaction we
enjoyd in your company, when we used to meet the Dean and
Gay with you ; and Greatness it self' condescended to look in
at the Door to us. Then it Avas that the immortall Scriblerus
smild upon our endeavours, who now hangs his head in an
obscure corner, pining for his friends that are scattering over
the face of the earth. Yet art thou still if thou art alive O
Scriblerus as deserving of our Lucubrations, iua secfus ot^his
nomina ducit. Still shall half of the learned world be called
after thy name. Forgive dear Sir this digression, by way of
Apostrophe to one whom we so much esteem, and be pleased
to lett us know whether indeed he be alive, that at least my
wishes in learning may not be like Mr. Poj^e's prayrs for the
dead. We were lately in Oxford where we mett Mr. Harcourt '
and drunk your health : we thought too to have seen the Dean
but were surprizd to hear he was gon for Ireland so suddenly,
where I must soon think of following him. But wherever I
am, I shall still retain a just Sence of your favours and
acknowledge my self allways

y Most Affte Fd and Sert,

Tho : Parnell.

If it be proper to, give my duty to my Lord and M"'. Pope's.

Dr. Sir,

Though Dr. Parnelle has pre-occupy'd the first Part of this
Paper, and so seems to lead the way in this Address to you,
yet I must tell you I have several times been inspiriting him
to joyn with me in a Letter to you ; and been prevented by
his delays for some posts. And tho' he mentions the name of

>■ Mr. Baillie's MSS. - Lord Oxford.

^ Son of the ex-Lord Chancellor.


Scriblerus to avoid any Keproaching him, yet is he conscious to
himself how much the memory of that learned Phantorae
which is to be Immortal, is neglected by him at present. But
I hope the Revolutions of State will not affect learning, so
much as to deprive man kind of the Lucubrations of Martin, to
the Encrease of which I will watch all next winter, and grow
pale over the midnight Candle. Homer's Image begins already
to vanish from before me, The Lesson of the Campaign before
Troy is near over, and I rejoyce at the prospect of my Amuse-
ments in Winter-Quarters with you in London. Our freind
Gay will still continue Secretaiy, to Martin at least ', tho' I
could be more glad he had a better Master for his Profit, for
his Gloiy he can have no better. You must not wonder I
enlarge upon this head ; the remembrance of our agreable
Conferences, as well as our Occasional Honours, on your
account ^, will ever dwell upon my thoughts with that Pleasure
which I think one honest and chearful man ought to take in
being obliged to another. That we may again enjoy those Satis-
factions is heartily my wish, & it is my request to you in the
mean time that you will continue to think me what I sincerely

Your most aff'^*'* and most faithful humble Serv*,

A. Pope.

This was Arbuthnot's reply :

London, Sept. 7, 1714.

I am extremely obliged to you for taking notice of a poor old
distressed courtier, commonly the most despisable thing in the
world. This blow has so roused Scriblerus that he has re-
covered his senses, and thinks and talks like other men. From
being frolicsome and gay he is turned grave and morose. His
lucubrations lie neglected among old newspapers, cases,
petitions, and abundance of unanswerable letters. I wish to
God they had been among the papers of a noble lord sealed
up\ Then might Scriblerus have passed for the Pretender,
and it would have been a most excellent and laborious work
for the Flying Post or some such author to have allegorized all
his adventures into a plot, and found out mysteries somewhat

' He had lost the secretaryship ^ Seals were placed upon the

of the Hanoverian embassy. door of Lord Bolingbroke's office

^ The visits of Oxford to meetings when he was dismissed on the 31st

of the Scriblerus Club at Arbuth- of August,
not's rooms in St. James's Palace.


like the Key to the Loch \ Martin's office is now the second
door on the left hand in Dover Street, where he will be glad
to see Dr. Parnell, Mr. Pope, and his old friends, to whom he
can still afford a half pint of claret. It is with some pleasure
that he contemplates the world still busy, and all mankind at
work, for him. I have seen a letter from Dean Swift ; he
keeps up his noble spirit, and though like a man knocked
down, you may behold him still with a stern countenance, and
aiming a blow at his adversaries. I will add no more, being in
haste, only that I will never forgive you if you don't use my
aforesaid house in Dover Street with the same freedom as you
did that in St. James's ; for as our friendship was not begun
upon the relation of a courtier, so I hope it will not end with
it. I will always be proud to be reckoned amongst the number
of your friends and humble servants.

In October Arbuthnot wrote a characteristic letter to
Swift, in which he showed his determination to do what
was right, let the consequences be what they might :

Dear Brother, ""''■ ^^' ''''■

Even in aifliction your letter made me melancholy, and
communicated some of the spleen which you had when you
wrote it, and made me forfeit some of my reputation of cheer-
fulness and temper under affliction. However, I have so many
subjects amongst my friends and fellow-servants to be grieved
for, that I can easily turn it off myself with credit. The Queen's
poor servants are like so many poor orphans exposed in the
very streets. And those, whose past obligations of gratitude
and honour ought to have engaged them to have represented
their case, pass by them, like so many abandoned creatures,
without the possibility of ever being able to make the least
return for a favour, which has added to my theory of human

I wish I did not only haunt you in the obliging and affec-
tionate sense you are pleased to express it, but were personally
present with you ; and I think it were hardly in the power of
fortune not to make some minutes pleasant. I dine with my
Lord and Lady Masham to-day, where we will as usually re-
member you

^ In this piece Pope showed how the Rupe of the Lock as a political
it was possible to interpret even allegory.



Shadwell ^ says he will have my jslace at Chelsea. Garth told
me his merit was giving intelligence about his mistress's
health. I desired he would do me the favour to say, that I
valued myself upon quite the contrary ; and I hoped to live to
see the day when his Majesty would value me the more for it
too. I have not seen any thing as yet to make me recant a
certain inconvenient opinion I have, that one cannot pay too
dear for peace of mind

Next month Arbuthnot wrote again : ' I send you the
scrap of a letter begun to you by the whole society, be-
cause I suppose you even value the fragments of your
friends ... I am told that I am to lose my little prefer-
ment : however, I hope to be able to keep a little habita-
tion warm in town ... As for news I never enquire
about it. Fuinuis Troes, &c. ^ed nunc ferox Jupiter

transtulit omnia ad Argos The Dragon, I am afraid,

will be struck at.'

Bolingbroke fled to France in March, 17 15, and in
April a Secret Committee was appointed by the House of
Commons to enquire into the conduct of the late ministry.
The sittings lasted two months, and many Tories who had
had dealings with the Pretender or his friends looked for-
ward to the result with anxiety. In May a Mr. Jeffreys,
agent to the Bishop of Derry, went over to Ireland, and
when his trunks were searched by the custom-house officer
two packets were found directed to Swift. Among the con-
tents were several libellous pamphlets, and two anony-
mous letters, dated May 3, which the Lords Justices
thought fit to send the same night to Stanhope ^. The first of
those letters, which were evidently from intimate friends,
regretted Swift's absence. ' We have no new favourite
nor never can ; you have left so sweet a relish by your con-
versation upon all our pleasures that we can't bear the

1 Sir John Shadwell, M.D., was 1715, in the Duke of Marlborough's

the son of Thomas Shadwell, the collection (Hist. MSS. Commission,

dramatist. He died in 1747. EightliReport, vol.i.pp. 58, 59). The

^ Letters from Eustace Budgell Lord Lieutenant contemplated the

to the Lord Lieutenant, May 19, arrest of Swift (Craik's Su'//";, p. 306).


tliouglits of intimacy with any person.' The second
letter says : ' Two days before the Captain ^ went abroad
he sent for me, and, amongst other things, asked me with
great earnestness if there was no possibility of sending a
letter safe to your hands. I answered I knew but of one
way, and that was to direct to you under cover to Mrs.
Vann[homrigh] 2. He replied, no way by post would do.
I then said, tho' I was lame and ill I would go over with
it myself if he pleased. He thanked me, and said I should
hear from him in a day or two, but I never saw him more
. . . We have not lost a man by his going. It was a great
surprise to his friends at first, but everybody is now con-
vinced he would have been sacrificed had he staid . . .
Mr. P[rio]r is despised by all honest men here for giving
up his letters, yours among the rest. Dr. Arb[uthno]t
was turned out on that score.'

The report of the Committee ^ was at length presented
to the House on the 9th of June, and Bolingbroke and
Oxford were immediately impeached of high treason.
Ormond was joined with them in the impeachment after
considerable debate, and he fled to France, never to return.
Acts of attainder were at once passed against him and
Bolingbroke. Oxford was committed to the Tower in
July, but was released by the House of Lords in 1717,
after two years' imprisonment.

It seemed that all danger of a rising was at an end, but
the Earl of Mar, after changing sides more than once,
summoned a meeting of the clans in the north of Scot-
land in September, 17 15, a step which was followed imme-
diately by an open declaration on behalf of the Pretender.
The Prince readily responded, and in October reached
St. Malo, from whence it was proposed to despatch an

* Bolingbroke. this report to Robert Arbuthnot,

^ Esther Vanhomrigh followed the banker. See Reports of the House

Swift to Ireland after the death of of Commons, 1715, vol. i. pp. 121, 338-

her mother. 340. There is another allusion in

' There are several references in Add. MS. 33006 f. 427 ;^Jan. 1733-4'?}.

G 2


expedition against England under Ormond. But though
the Duke made three attempts his efforts were unsuccess-
ful, the Government having taken effective steps against
any rising, in this country at least. Matters were more
serious in Scotland, but the insurrection was entirely sup-
pressed by the following February. Both of Arbuthnot's
brothers seem to have played an active part in the plot to
invade England, for on the i8th of October Bolingbroke
wrote to the Chevalier de St. George that Campion and
Courtney had actually gone, the one from Cherbourg to
Cornwall, and the other from Havre to Devonshire. ' At
each of these places I have advice that a boat is ready for
their transportation, pursuant to the directions which I
sent Arbuthnot' — perhaps George — 'before I waited on
y'' Majesty . . . The Duke of Ormonde will be ready to go
off from hence on Monday night, and by the care of your
faithful servant Arbuthnot, everything will be ready for
him as soon as he arrives on y^ coast.' General George
Hamilton wrote to Lord Mar on February 13, 17 16, ' Mr.
Arbuthnot writs me that he has a ship at Diep reddy
to sail with the first fair wind, and put on board both
Burgundie and Champagne, with twenty hogsheads of
true Claret, for y'' Grace, which I hope will come in good
season ^' But Mar and Prince James had already secretly
left Scotland.

Pope, too, told Spence that Marlborough sent the Pre-
tender £5000 at the time of the expedition, 'by Robin
Arbuthnot, then a banker at Boulogne ' ; and Arbuthnot's
daughter said, ' The Duke of Marlborough was to advance
£30,000 for that expedition ; and my uncle, Robin Arbuth-
not, actually returned £10,000 for it for him^.'

' Stuart Papers in Windsor Castle. of Arbuthnot's starting to-morrow

printed in Mr. P. M. Thornton's for Port Mahon (Minorca), where

The Stuart Dynasty, pp. 394, 426. On he is a captain, and at the same

December 7, 1714, the Duke of time, proposed my writing to try if

Berwick had written to Prince the fleet could be gained.'
James from St. Germain, 'Last Spenoe's Anecdotes (1858); pp.

night M. Enis told me of a brother 237, 238.


To turn again to literary matters, Gilbert Burnet,
Bishop of Salisbury, died on the 17th of March, 1715,
and a pamphlet was shortly afterwards published with
the title Notes amd MeTniorandums of the Six days

preceding the Death of a late Right Reverend .

The piece was reprinted in Arbuthnot's Miscellaneous
Works, but beyond this there is nothing to show who
was the author. It is clever and amusing, but the
attack was ungenerous, and there is an absence of the
kindly humanity which characterises Arbuthnot's writ-
ings. Burnet was vain and egotistical, but he was very
unfairly attacked by the Tories, including Pope, whose
Memoirs of P. P., Clerk of the Parish, was intended as a
satire upon the bishop's History of my own Time. There
is a good deal in the Notes and Memorandums about Garth,
who was in attendance during Burnet's last illness, and as
Garth had been knighted and appointed physician to
George I, he had to some extent taken Arbuthnot's place.
But Garth was on good terms with Arbuthnot and his
friends ^ Probably nothing short of the discovery of
some statement from the pen of Arbuthnot, or one of
his intimate acquaintances, would enable us to come
to any definite conclusion as to the authorship of this

The first volume of Pope's translation of the Iliad ap-
peared in June 17 15, and in the same week Tickeil's
translation of the first Book was published, with a note
explaining that it was intended only to bespeak sympathy
for an intended translation of the Odyssey. But Pope,
who was jealous of Addison's patronage of Philips and
Tickell, now quarrelled openly, and said that there had
been underhand dealing in the writing of Tickeil's
version. Gay wrote to Pope, on the 8th of July, that

* Cf. Pope's A Farewell to London. And Garth, the best good Chris-

In the year 17 15 : — tian he,

' Farewell, Arbuthnot's raillery Although he knows it not.'
On every learned sot ;


Gartli bade him say that everyone was pleased with Pope's
translations, except a few at Button's, and that Steele told
him that Addison said the other translation was the best
that ever was in any language. Next day Arbuthnot
wrote, congratulating Pope uponTickell's work. 'It does
not indeed want its merit; but I was strangely disap-
pointed in my expectation of a translation nicely true to
the original; whereas in those parts where the greatest
exactness seems to be demanded, he has been the least
careful ; I mean the history of ancient ceremonies and
rites, &c., in which you have with great judgment been
exact.' The further history of the estrangement between
Pope and Addison is well known, and need not be
repeated here.

Arbuthnot replied on the 6th of August, to a letter from
Swift, which seems to have been written in a melancholy

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 8 of 47)