George Atherton Aitken.

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

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strain. ' I desired to hear your complaints, and will
always share them, when I cannot remove them. I should
have the same concern for things as you, were I not con-
vinced that a comet will make much more strange revolu-
tions upon the face of our globe than all the petty changes
that can be occasioned by governments and ministries . . .
I consider myself as a poor passenger, and that the earth
is not to be forsaken, nor the rocks removed for me. But
you are certainly some first minister of a great monarch,
who, for some misbehaviour, are condemned, in this revo-
lution of things, to govern a chapter and a choir of singing
men. I am sure I should think myself happy if I had
only such a province as the latter.' Oxford's inactivity
was not at all lessened by his confinement, but he had
promised to write. ' I say again, come, and you will be
far from finding any such dismal scenes as you describe.'
In such a state of mutability, what might not happen ?
Even their brother, Bolingbroke, might return. ' Philo-
sophical as I am, I should be very sad if I did not think
that very probable and feasible. As to your friends,



though the world is changed to them, they are not
changed to you, and you will be caressed as much as ever,
and by some that bore you no good will formerly ... I
wish I could return your compliments as to my wife
and bairns ... I shall be at Bath in a fortnight. Come
that way.'

A few days later Arbuthnot formed one of a riding
party to Bath, the others being Pope, Jervas, the painter,
and (perhaps) Colonel Disney ^ Jervas had written to
Pope, about the end of July, that he had seen Arbuthnot,
who ' was ready to mount ; but the weather is so extrava-
gant that there must be a day or two of fair for prepara-
tion, to make the way tolerable over head and under foot.
The Doctor must lie at Windsor for the first night, and
take you up next morning,' at Binfield. On the 12th of
August Jervas wrote again, saying that he had made the
necessary arrangements for starting on the i8th. ' On
Thursday next. Cod willing, Doctor A[rbuthnot], D[uke]
Disney^, and C. Jervas rendezvous at Hyde Park Corner
about noon, and proceed to Mr. Hill's^ at Egham, to lodge
there. Friday, to meet Mr. Pope upon the road, to pro-
ceed together to Lord Stawell's'^, there also to lodge. The

* ' I am just setting out for the
Bath, in company with Dr. Arbuth-
not and Mr. Jei-vas ' (Pope to Caryll,
Aug. 14, 1715). In a letter to Mrs.
Martha Blount, dated 'Friday,' and
supposed to have been written on
July 27 (because of an allusion to
the marriage of Mr. Michael Blount,
which was again referred to in the
letter to Caryll of the 14th August),
Pope said, * In veiy deed, my ram-
bling associates have deserted me
.... Only Dr. Arbuthnot and I
travel soberly and philosophically
to Oxford, &c., inquiring into natu-
ral causes, and being sometimes
wise, sometimes in the spleen.'
Jervas was busy with some pictures,
and Disney was otherwise occupied.
If the date assigned to this letter is

correct, it would seem that Pope was
expressing fears about the absence
from the party of his friends which
— in the case of Jervas at any i-ate —
were not fulfilled.

■^ ' Facetious Disney,' as Gay
called him, was Colonel of an Irish
regiment, and a strong Tory. He
was a Huguenot refugee, and his
real name was Desaulnois. Swift
afterwards spoke of him as ' not an
old man, but an old rake.' He died
in 1731.

3 Probably Mr. Richard Hill (died
1727), who had been a Lord of the
Treasuiy and a Lord of the Admir-
alty, besides filling various diplo-
matic posts.

* W^illiam Stawel, the third
Baron, who died in 1742.


next day, Saturday, to Sir "William "Wyndliam's^, and to
rest there the Lord's day. On Monday forward again
towards Bath or Wilton, or as we shall then agree. The
Doctor proposes that himself or his man ride my spare
horse, and that I leave all equipage to be sent to Bath by
the carrier with your portmanteau. The Doctor says he
will allow none of us so much as a night-gown or slippers
for the road, — so a shirt and cravat in your pocket is all
you must think of in his new scheme. His servant may
be bribed to find room for that . . . The third day is to be
Oxford University, and the Monday following to Sir "W.
Wyndham's.' Pope afterwards referred with pleasure to
these leisurely journeys through the country with a few
congenial friends. He seems to have stopped at Bath
until October, but there is nothing to show how long
Arbuthnot remained with him.

A piece entitled To the Rigid Honourable The Mayor
and Aldermen of the City of London: The Humble
Petition of the Colliers, Cooks, Cook-Maids, Blacksmiths,
Jack-makers, Braziers, and others, is probably rightly
attributed to Arbuthnot. It first appeared as a single
folio sheet in 1716, and it was included in the additional
volume of Miscellanies published by Pope in 1732. The
petition is an amusing protest against the proposals of
certain virtuosi who called themselves Catoptrical Vic-
tuallers, and who maintained that all the offices of
culinary fires could be performed by making use of sun-
beams by the help of burning glasses. It was prayed that
the manufacturing of sunbeams for any useful purposes of
life should be prohibited, or that a tax should be laid
upon them which might answer to both the duty and the
price of coals.

Early in the year 171 7 a somewhat foolish comedy
called Three Hours after Marriage was published, with an

• Sir William Wyndham was a leading Tory, and a man of pleasure.
He died in 1740.


advertisement signed by Gay, in which he acknowledged
the assistance he had received from two of his friends,
who would not allow him the honour of having their
names joined with his. These friends were Pope and
Arbuthnot, The play was first acted on the T6th of
January, and it ran for seven nights ^ A Dr. Fossile —
intended, it appears, for Dr. Woodward — marries, and the
plot relates to the troubles occasioned him by his wife's
two lovers. Fossile was an antiquary, and was expect-
ing a mummy and a crocodile, and one of the incidents
consists in the lovers getting into the house under the
disguise of these curiosities. Fossile has also a niece,
given to play- writing, and one of the critics with whom
she associates, Sir Tremendous, was intended to represent
Dennis. The difficulties are surmounted at the end by
the discovery that Fossile 's bride is already married to a
lieutenant just returned from the Indies. Pope's con-
tempt for the players is shown in this piece, and Gibber,
when acting Bayes in the Rehearsal on the 7th of February,
introduced a 'gag,' in which he ridiculed the play in
which Pope had had a part. Pope thereupon went behind
the scenes, and a violent quarrel ensued, the ultimate
result of which was the setting up of Gibber as the hero
of the Dunciad.

Three Hours after Marriage deservedly failed, and it
called forth several attacks. The most important of these
was The Confederates, by ' Joseph Gay,' that is, Gaptain
John Durant Breval. Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot are the
principal characters in this piece, but the most interesting
part of the pamphlet is the frontispiece, which represents
Arbuthnot in a Highland dress, Pope as a very little man,
and Gay with a fool's cap in his hand. Underneath are
the following lines from the prologue to the ' Sultaness,'
an adaptation from the French by Gharles Johnson, first

* Grenest's History of the English vived .at Drury Xiane Theatre on
Stage, ii. 593-7. The play was re- March 15, 1746.


acted on February 25. Pope put both Breval and Jobn-
son into the Dunciad:

' Such wags have been, who boldly durst adventure,
To club a farce by tripartite indenture :
But let them share their dividend of praise,
And their own fool's cap^ wear instead of bays.'

In the prologue there is a reference to ' The Northern
Doctor with his Highland face,' and in the course of the
play Arbuthnot is made to speak of his ' Grlascow Muse,'
and in a note it is erroneously stated that ' the Doctor
was of that University.' Pope declares that Arbuthnott
(the name is thus spelt in this piece) only contributed
some quack terms of art, — ' Fossile's only thine ' ; and we
may not unreasonably conclude, and hope, that Breval was
correct in this surmise, and that Arbuthnot's share in the
farce was confined to supplying learned and professional
dialogue for the pedant Fossile.

In A Com^ylete Key to the Hew Farce, called Three Hours
after Marriage. With an Account of the Authors, by ' E.
Parker, Philomath,' we are told that Pope and Arbuthnot
attended the rehearsal of the play, and that on the 21st
of January they went with Gay to Lintot's to see how
the piece sold, but they did not find a single customer in
the shop. The following lines, in imitation of those in
Gay's own prologue, were printed on the title-page :

' Why on those authors should the critics fall ?
They've writ a farce, but shewn no wit at all.
The play is damn'd, and Gay would fain evade it,
He cries, Damn Pope and Arbuthnott who made it ;
But the fool's cap that on the stage was thrown
They take by turns, and wear it as their own^.'

' While speaking the prologue to Let him that takes it wear it for

Three Hours after Marriage Wilks his own.'

threw down a fool's cap : ^ Another pamphlet, A Letter to

' Our author has it now, for every Mr. John Gay, concerning his late Farce,

wit entitled, a Comedy, by 'Timothy

Of course resigned it to the next Drub,' attacks the play chiefly on

that writ : the ground of its coarseness. Pope

And thus upon the stage 'tis fairly and Arbuthnot are alluded to, but

thrown, not by name.


Gay wrote thus to Pope upon the failure of the plaj- :
' Too late I see, and confess myself mistaken in relation
to the comedy ; yet I do not think, had I followed 3'our
advice, and only introduced the mummy, that the absence
of the crocodile had saved it .... As to your apprehension
that this may do us future injury^, do not think of it ; the
Doctor has a more valuable name than can be hurt by
anything of this nature, and yours is doubly safe. I will,
if any shame there be, take it all to myself, and indeed I
ought, the motion being first mine, and never heartily
approved by you.'


Erasmus Lewis sent Swift messages from old friends
from time to time. In order to help Prior in his difficul-
ties it was arranged that his poems should be published
by subscription in a folio volume, at a charge of two
guineas a copy. On the 12th of January, T717, Lewis
wrote to Swift : ' He, Arbuthnot, Pope and Gay, are now
with me, and remember you. It is our joint request that
you will endeavour to procure some subscriptions ; . . . the
whole matter is to be managed by friends in such a
manner as shall be least shocking to the dignity of a
plenipotentiary.' Further messages of remembrance from
Arbuthnot and other friends were sent by Lewis in June
and July : ' I was in hopes we should have seen you ere
this. The Doctor says you wait for the Act of Grace. If
so, I hope to see you by next winter.' When the Act of
Grace came it was found that Prior was specially excepted
from its provisions ; but he was soon afterwards liberated.

In 1 7 18 Arbuthnot paid a visit of some months to
France, and left his two daughters in charge of his

^ ' Gay's play, among the rest, party that authors have raised
has cost much time and long-suffer- against it ' (Pope to Parnell).
ing to stem a tide of malice and


brother. He gave Swift an account of himself and of
various friends in the following letter :

Dear Sir,

London, Oct. 14, 1718.

This serves for an envelope to the enclosed ; for I cannot
tell whether you care to hear from any of your friends on this
side. In your last, I think, you desired me to let you alone to
enjoy your own spleen. Can you pui'chase your fifty pounds a
year in Wales ? Yet I can tell you beforehand, Lewis scorns
to live with you there. He keeps company with the greatest,
and is principal governor in many families. I have been in
France ; six weeks at Paris, and as much at Rouen ; where, I
can assure you, I hardly heard a word of news or politics, except
a little clutter about sending some impertinent presidents du
parliament to prison, that had the impudence to talk for the
laws and liberties of their countiy. I was asked for Monsieur
Swift by many people, I can assure you ; and particularly by
the Duke d'Aumont. I was respectfully and kindly treated by
many folks, and even by the great Mr. Law \ Among other
things, I had the honour to cary an Irish lady ^ to court, that
was admired beyond all the ladies in France for her beauty.
She had great honours done her. The hussar himself was
ordered to bring her the king's cat to kiss. Her name is
Bennet. Amongst other folks, I saw your old friend Lord
Bolmgbroke, who asked for you. He looks just as he did.
Your friends here are in good health ; not changed in their
sentiments towards you. I left my two gii'ls in France with
their uncle, which was my chief business. I don't know that
I have any friends on your side, besides Mr. Ford, to whom give
my service, and to Dr. Parnell and Mr. Jeivoise ^

If it be possible for you, obey the contents of the enclosed ;
which, I suppose, is a kind invitation. The Dragon is just as

' The contriver of the Mississippi The king, as he at dinner sat.


^ The celebrated beauty Miss
Nelly Bennet, on whom these lines
were written, probably by Arbuth-
not :
For when as Nelly came to France,

(Invited by her cousins)
Across the Tuilleries, each glance

Kill'd Frenchmen by whole

Did beckon to his hussar,
And bid him bring his tabby cat,
For charming Nell to buss her.

But not a man did look employ.

Except on i^retty Nelly ;
Then said the Duke de Villeroy,

' Ah ! qu'elle est bien jolie ! '

(Swift's Works, vol. xiii. pp. 333-5).
^ Charles Jei-vas, the painter.


he was, only all his old habits ten times stronger upon him
than ever. Let me beg of you not to forget me, for I can
never cease to love and esteem you, being ever your most
affectionate and obliged humble servant,

Jo : Arbuthnott.

The next letter contains some advice about Swift's
attacks of vertigo, and a message from Mrs. Arbuthnot,
wishing him well married :

Dear Brother, London, Dec. ir, 17 18.

For so I had called you before, were it not for a certain
reverence I pay to deans. I find you wish both me and yourself
to live to be old and rich. The second goes in course along with
the first ; but you cannot give seven (that is the tithe of seventy)
good reasons for either. Glad at my heart should I be, if Dr.
Helsham^ or I could do you any good. My service to Dr.
Helsham : he does not w^ant my advice in the case. I have
done good lately to a patient and a friend, in that complaint of
a vertigo, by cinnabar of antimony and castor, made up into
boluses \\4th confect. of alkermes. I had no great opinion of
the cinnabar ; but, tiying it amongst other things, my friend
found good of this prescription. I had tried the castor alone
before, not with so much success. Small quantities of tinctura
sacra, now and then, will do you good. There are twenty
lords, I believe, would send you horses, if they knew how.
One or two have offered to me, who, I believe, would be as
good as their word. Mr. Eowe, the poet lam-eate, is dead, and
has left a damned jade of a Pegasus. I'll answer for it, he
won't do as your mare did, having more need of Lucan's
present than Sir Richard Blackmore. I would fain have Pope
get a patent for life for the place, with a power of putting in

Durfey his deputy The Dragon is come to town, and was

entering upon the detail of the reasons of state that kept him
from appearing at the beginning, &c. when I did believe, at
the same time, it was only a law of nature, to which the Dragon
is most subject, Remanere in statu in quo est, nisi dettirhetur
ah extrinseco. Lord Harley and Lady Harley give you their
service .... You say you are ready to resent it as an affront,
to say, that a lady, hardly known or obsei-ved for her beauty in
Ireland, is a curiosity in France. All deans naturally fall into

* A great friend of Swift's.


paralogisms. My wife gives you her kind love and service,
and, which is the first thing that occurs to all wives, wishes
you well married.

Among the pieces attributed to Thomas Gordon, author
of the Independent Whig, in the Collection of Tracts pub-
lished by Barron in October, 1750, is A Dedication to a
Great Man, concerning Dedications. Discovering, amongst
other wonderfid secrets, what will he the present posture of
affairs — a thousand years hence^. This pamphlet was
originally published in 1718, anonymously, and it was
followed by A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Dean Sivift,
occasioned by a Satire said to he written by him, entitled,
A Dedication, &c. By a Sparkish Pamphleteer of Button's
Coffee-house. This Letter is signed ' P. A.,' and dated
' Covent Garden, Jan. 30, 17 18-9 ' ; and it was reprinted in
Arbuthnot's Miscellaneous Works, published in September,
1750, a month before the issue of Gordon's Tracts. Both
collections were at once noticed in the Monthly Review,
and in each case the reviewer remarked that the editor
had given no authority for the suggested authorship of
the pieces included in the respective volumes-. In speak-
ing of Arbuthnot's Works the writer referred to the Letter
to the Rev. Mr. Dean Swift, occasioned by a Satire, &c., and
in a note stated that ' this very witty tract was written by
the late Mr. Gordon.' If the ' witty tract ' thus attributed
to Gordon is the Letter, the writer was in all probability
in error, for if Gordon wrote either of the pieces it was
the Dedication to a Great Man, which caused the publica-
tion of the Letter, that was his ^. But possibly the note
referred, in a confused way, not to the Letter, but to the
' satire ' which was the occasion of its appearance, namely,
the Dedication. "Whatever foundation, however, there

1 The tract is printed both in A Esq., 1751. Gordon died on the

Cordial for Lmv Spirits ; being an 28th of July, 1 750.

authentic coVedion of humorous tracts, by ^ Monthly Revieu; vol. iii. pp. 399,

the late Thomas Gordon, Esq., 1750, and 464.

in A Collection of Tracts, by the late John ' See Notes and Queries, Sixth Series,

Trenchard, Esq., and Thomas Gordon, vol. vii. pp. 406, 469.


may or may not be for the claim made on Gordon's
behalf, there is no satisfactory evidence for assigning the
Letter to Arbuthnot, and judging by internal evidence it
is very improbable that he was the author.

A controversy among the physicians was raging about
this time. Dr. Freind published two books of Hippo-
crates' Be Morhis Popidarihus, and added a commentary
on fevers ; but he was attacked by Dr. Woodward, in The
State of Physic and of Diseases. Freind and Mead recom-
mended purging in certain cases of small-pox, whereas
Woodward, who had a hypothesis about the salts in the
stomach, advocated the use of emetics. Arbuthnot ridi-
culed the theories of his old antagonist, and it is possible,
though of course far from certain, that two tracts re-
printed in the Miscellaneous Works are rightly attributed
to him. The first of these pieces, dated April 4, 1719, was
An Account of the Sickness and Decdh of Dr. W-dtu-d ; as also
of what appeared upon opening his body. In a letter to a
Friend in the Country. By Dr. Technicura ; and the
second was The Life and Adventures of Don Bilioso de
VEdomac, which is addressed from Dublin to the College
of Physicians in London. In both pamphlets fun is made
out of Woodward's ' biliose salts,' but the humour is
marred by coarseness. Steele wrote two papers. The An-
tidote, and The Antidote, No. II, on behalf of Woodward,
who had attended him, and he pointed out that the
pamphlets on the other side endeavoured to bring con-
tempt upon their opponents instead of dealing with the
matter under discussion, and that they were not really
witty or humorous. On the loth of June there was a
personal conflict between Woodward and Mead outside
Gresham College, and more pamphlets followed ; but
Woodward lived quietly until 1728, taking no part in
the controversy.

We hear little or nothing of Arbuthnot's private life
during this period. The most important event in the


history of the country in 1720 was the mania for specula-
tion, which resulted in widespread ruin^, and we find
Pope writing to Caryll in December, after the bursting of
the South Sea bubble, ' I am much pleased with a thought
of Dr. Arbuthnot, who says the Government and South
Sea Company have only locked up the money of the
people upon conviction of their lunacy, as is usual in the
case of lunatics, and intend to restore them as much as
is fit for such people, as they see them return more and
more to their senses '

Atterbury wrote to Arbuthnot on July 12, 1721, from
Bromley : ' I hope you will make an appointment some-
time or other with Mr. Pope to spend a day with me
here . . . Whenever you have Inclination and Leysure
(for both must concurr) to make such an excursion, you
will find an hearty welcome here^.' The next three
letters ^ were sent to Henry Watkins, Esq., a friend stay-
ing in Bath. Henry Watkins, who had held several
ofi&cial posts, and had been a member of the Parliament
which met in 1713, died in 1727*. By his will, made in

1 James Craggs, the elder, com- Judge Advocate to the army in

mitted suicide. In October, 1719, Flanders. In January, 1712, he

he wrote to Pope, asking Pope and was made secretary to the English

Arbuthnot to visit him next day at representatives at the Conference

Battersea. at Utrecht ; and he was chosen

'' Mr. Baillie's MSS. M.P. for Brackley, Northampton-

* For the first and second of shire, in the Parliament which met
these letters I am indebted to Mr. in November, 1713. In March,
S. Gr. Perceval. The third is in the 1722, he was appointed secretary
possession of Colonel W. F. Pri- to the Earl of Arran, in place of
deaux, who printed it (with a plea Dr. King, Principal of St. Mary
for a full life of Arbuthnot) in Hall, who had offered himself as a
'NqUs and Queries, Seventh Series, iv. candidate for election as member
522. The first letter is addressed for the University. Watkins died
'To Heniy Watkins, Esq., at Bath.' in March, 1727, aged 61, and
and the others were obviously sent was buried in the east cloister of
to the same person. Westminster Abbey. The Evening

* Henry Watkins, son of the Rev. Pout described him as ' an upright,
Richard Watkins, was senior honest man ' (Luttrell's Diai-y, vi.
student of Christ Church, Oxford. 718; Hearne's Diary, March, 22,
He took his B.A. degree in 1688, 1721 2; Chester's Begisfers of West-
and proceeded to the M.A. degree minster Abbey; WenhvorthPape)-s,igo-2,
in 1691. Afterwards he was secre- 320; Bolingbroke's Correspondence,
tary to the Duke of Ormond, and 1 798, vol. ii).


1725, he left ^50 each to ' my dear friends Dr. John
Freind and Dr. John Arbuthnott, in consideration of their
great kindness to and care of me during my frequent ill-
nesses, without fees.'

London, Sep'^. 4*'*, 1721.
Dear Sir,
I long exceedingly to hear good tidings of you and your
fellow traveller & I find ther is no obtaining them but by
provoking you to write by way of common form & ceremony.
How dos your eou.rse of water agree with you this Latter
Season ? what have you done by way of preparation ? have
you recoverd your beef stomack ? have not you & M'". Taylour ^
Quarelled & parted upon some wrong stroek at ombre ? Send
me some of your Bath newes for at this season the Bath is the
scene of action. Rather than not write send me some of your
Bath Lampoons which are tho' commonly the dullest pieces of
English poetiy ; according to Horace, Nulla scribuntur carmina
aquae potoribus ! Ther is no thing at London but the same
eternal ques'don when will S. Sea rise. Your freinds such as I
know are well & wish you the good effects of your journey &
none more than myself who am with the greatest truth & esteem

Dear Sir,
Your most faithfid humble sei^v*

Jo : Arbuthnott.

Dear Sir,
I thank you heartily for your most obliging & most agreeable
letter. Lady Masham read it over as usual & was glad to find

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 9 of 47)