Page images
PDF
EPUB

morning : human means necessary: man must co-operate. Grow worse : go to bed. Forget that it was Sunday.”

In the course of this journal a dialogue occurs between the bishop and his physician Sir Samuel Garth, who was Arbuthnot's immediate successor. Garth was knighted with the sword of Marlborough, and appointed physician to the king. The known freedom of Sir Samuel's sentiments on religion is exhibited in this dialogue. An observation of Pope, however, shows him to have been a man of practical benevolence. “ If ever,” said he, “there was a good Christian without knowing himself to be so, it was Dr Garth.” That Arbuthnot did not entertain any very high opinion of his rival, appears from a passage from a letter to Dean Swift, written soon after the queen’s death,' in which he says,

“Garth told me his merit was giving intelligence about his mistress's health. I desired he would do me the favour 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."

In order to divert the chagrin occasioned by the queen's death and the misfortune of his friends, Dr Arbuthnot determined to make a tour in France, where he left two of his daughters under the care of their uncle, who was residing in that country. Previous to this visit he is said to have assisted Gay in the farce of · Three Hours after Marriage,' which was brought out in 1716, but had no success.

In the Autumn of 1722, Arbuthnot, finding himself unwell, visited Bath, whither he was accompanied by his brother, who had lately arrived in England, probably the one in whose care he had left his daughters on his visit to Paris. Mr Robert Arbuthnot was a person of a singularly benevolent character, and is commemorated in a letter from Pope to the Hon. Robert Digby, “ Dr Arbuthnot is going to Bath,—his brother, who is lately come to England, goes also to the Bath, and is a more extraordinary man than he, and worth your going thither on purpose to know him. The spirit of philanthropy, so long dead to our world, is revived in him. He is a philosopher all of fire ; so warmly, nay so wildly in the right, that he forces all others about him to be so too, and draws them into his own vortex. He is a star that looks as if it were all fire, but is all benignity, all gentle, and beneficial influence. If there be other men that would serve a friend, yet he is the only one I believe that could make even an enemy serve a friend.”

There are but few traces of Arbuthnot's proceedings for some years after this time, nor does he appear to have been much occupied in literary undertakings. He was chosen second censor of the college of physicians, on the 30th of September, 1723. In the autumn of 1725 he had a dangerous illness. His friend Pope visited him on this occasion, and thus communicates the intelligence of his illness to Dean Swift: “Dr Arbuthnot is, at this time, ill of a very dangerous distemper, an imposthume in the bowels, which is broke ; but the event is very uncertain. Whatever that be (he bids me tell you, and I write this by him) he lives and dies your faithful friend, and one reason he bas to desire a little longer life is, the wish to see you once more.

In the year 1727 he published a work of great learning and value, entitled, Tables of ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures, explained

Scott's Swift, xvi. 246.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

move.

me.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and exemplified in several dissertations,' 4to. This volume, which does great honour to the antiquarian knowledge and industry of the writer, though not wholly free from inaccuracies, has ever since been consider. ed a standard work. Although much engaged in professional avocations, he still occasionally diverted himself in compositions of wit and humour, amongst which his epitaph upon the infamous Colonel Chartres has been preserved. In 1732 he published a professional treatise · On the Nature and Choice of Aliments,' and in the following year an essay "On the Effects of Air on Human Bodies. In 1732 he also assisted in the detecting and punishing the scandalous frauds and abuses which had been carried on by a company under the name of the Charitable corporation. A little before the appearance of the publication on Air, he met with a severe domestic affliction in the death of his son Charles, “ whose life,” he says, “if it had so pleased God, he would willingly have redeemed with his own.”

Finding the state of his health more precarious, Dr Arbuthnot retired in 1734 to Hampstead. “ I came out to this place,” says he in an affecting letter to his friend Swift, dated October 4th, so reduced by dropsy and an asthma, that I could neither sleep, breathe, eat, nor

I most earnestly desired and begged of God that he would take

His attachment to Swift is strongly and tenderly manifested at the conclusion of this letter. “ I am afraid, my dear friend, we shall never see one another more in this world. I shall to the last moment preserve my love and esteem for you, being well assured you will never leave the paths of virtue and honour; for all that is in this world is not worth the least deviation from that way.”

In the same strain of earnest friendship he had a little while previously addressed a letter to Pope. “ As for you, my good friend, I think, since our first acqaintance, there have not been any of those little suspicions or jealousies that often affect the sincerest friendships : I am sure not on my side. I must be so sincere as to own, that though I could not help valuing you for those talents, which the world prizes, yet they were not the foundation of my friendships; they were quite of another sort; nor shall I at present offend you by enumerating them; and I make it my last request that you will continue that noble disdain and abhorrence of vice which you seem naturally endued with ; but still with a regard to your own safety; and study more to reform than chastise, though the one cannot be effected without the other. A recovery in my case, and at my age, is impossible; the kindest wish of is Euthanasia. Living or dying I shall always be yours.”

Pope was not insensible to the affection and advice of his excellent friend. “ If,” says he in his reply, “ it be the will of God, (which I know will also be yours,) that we must separate, I hope it will be better for you than it can be for me. You are fitter to live or die than any man I know. Adieu, my dear friend, and may God preserve your life easy, or make your death happy.” The closing wish of this letter was soon after accomplished. Arbuthnot, finding his recovery hopeless, left Hampstead and returned to his house in Cork-street, Burlingtongardens, where he died on the 27th of February, 1734–5. Of his family, one son, Charles, entered into the church, and died shortly before his father; and another, George, filled the lucrative post of secondary in the Remembrance-office, under Lord Masham.

my friends

As a wit and scholar, the character in which he is best know to us, Arbuthnot may justly be ranked among the most eminent men of an age distinguished by a high cultivation of intellect, and an almost exuberant display of wit and genius. To have been an equal sharer in the reputation of such men as Swift, Pope, Addison, Gay, were alone the highest praise ; but as a satirist, and a writer of humour, Arbuthnot has been acknowledged by some of his most celebrated contemporaries to have been their superior. “ His good morals,” Pope used to say, “ were equal to any man's; but his wit and humour superior to all mankind." "He has more wit than we all have,” said Dean Swift to a lady, “ and his humanity is equal to his wit.” In addition to these brilliant qualities, the higher praise of benevolence and goodness is most deservedly due to him. His warmth of heart, and cheerfulness of temper, rendered him much beloved by his family and friends, towards whom he displayed the most constant affection and attachment. The character Swift has left of him is forcible in itself, most honourable to its subject, and written in the dean's own peculiar style: “Mr Lewis sends me an account of Arbuthnot's illness, which is a very sensible affliction to me, who, by living out of the world, have lost that hardness of heart, contracted by years and general conversation. I am daily losing friends, and neither seeking nor getting others. O, if the world had but a dozen Arbuthnots in it, I would burn my travels ! But, however, he is not without a fault. There is a passage in Bede highly coinmending the piety and learning of the Irish in that age, when, after abundance of praises, he overthrows them all, by lamenting that, alas, they kept Easter at the wrong time of the year I so our doctor has every quality and virtue that can make a man amiable and useful, but, alas ! he hath a sort of a slouch in his walk! I pray God protect him, for he is an excellent Christian, though not a catholic.” Pope observed of him, that “he is a man that can do every thing but walk.” As a politician, Arbuthnot was firmly and conscientiously attached to those high tory principles, from the evil operation of which the country was happily rescued by the seasonable accession of the house of Hanover. The part which he acted as a courtier and a favourite was probably a more important one than can now be ascertained, and the influence which both his situation and talents gave him over the affairs of the country must necessarily have been very extensive. Lord Orrery's character of him is on the whole so able and correct, that with it we shall conclude this brief account of his life: “ Although he was justly celebrated for his wit and learning, there was an excellence in his character more amiable than all his other qualifications,—I mean the goodness of his heart. He has showed himself equal to any of his contemporaries in humour and vivacity, and he was superior to most men in acts of benevolence and humanity. His very sarcasms are the satirical sarcasms of good nature; they are like slaps on the face given in jest, the effects of which will raise a blush, but no blackness will appear after the blows. He laughs as jovially as an attendant upon Bacchus, but continues as sober and considerate as a disciple of Socrates. He is seldom serious, except in his attacks upon vice, and there his spirit rises with a manly strength, and a noble indig. nation. No man exceeded him in the moral duties of life, a merit still more to his honour, as the united powers of wit and genius are seldom submissive enough to confine themselves within the limitations of morality.”

Sir Richard Blackmore.

DIED A. D. 1729.

This voluminous author was the son of an attorney at Corsham in Wilts. Cibber says that he was sent to Westminster school in his 13th year; and, according to Anthony Wood, he matriculated at St Edmund's hall, Oxford, in 1668. He is said to have been engaged for some time as a teacher in a school-establishment. But he cannot have long remained in that situation, for he spent a considerable time abroad soon after leaving the university, and studied physic and graduated at Padua.

On his return to London, he engaged in the practice of medicine, and became a fellow of the Royal college of physicians. In 1697 he was appointed physician in ordinary to William III., from whom he also received the honour of knighthood. His majesty was perhaps an admirer of Blackmore's poetry, as well as of his skill in physic : for Blackmore had already favoured the world with a heroic poem, in ten books, entitled • Prince Arthur,' which, whatever fastidious readers may think of it now, had its admirers when it first appeared. strange,” says a contemporary writer, “that an author should have a gamester s fate, and not know when to give over. Had the city-bard stopped his hand at • Prince Arthur,' he had missed knighthood, 'tis true, but he had gone off with some applause." That Sir Richard had sufficiently exalted notions of the dignity of the poetical art is sufficiently evident from the terms in which he speaks of it in his preface to Prince Arthur. After speaking of the respective design of tragedy, comedy, and lyric poetry, and representing the great aim and end of all true poetry, in whatever form, to be to excite men to virtue, and to deter them from vice; he proceeds: “ But above all other kinds, epic poetry, as it is first in dignity, so it mostly conduces to this end. In an epic poem, where characters of the first rank or dignity, illustrious for their birth and high employment, are introduced, the fable, the action, the particular episodes, are so contrived and conducted, or at least ought to be, that either fortitude, wisdom, piety, moderation, generosity, some or other noble and princely virtues should be recommended with the highest advantage, and their contrary vices made as odious. To give men right and just conceptions of religion and virtue, to aid their reason in restraining their exorbitant appetites and impetuous passions, and to bring their lives under the rules and guidance of true wisdom, and thereby to promote the public good of mankind, is undoubtedly the end of all poetry. 'Tis true, indeed, that one end of poetry is to give men pleasure and delight; but this is but a subordinate, subaltern end, which is in itself a means to the greater and ultimate one before mentioned. A poet should employ all his judgment and wit, exhaust all the riches of his fancy, and abound in beautiful and noble expression, to divert and entertain others; but then it must be with this prospect that he may hereby engage their attention, insinuate more easily

6 'Tis

1 T. Brown's works, vol. iv, p. 118.

into their minds, and more effectually convey to them wise instructions. 'Tis below the dignity of a true poet to take his aim at any inferior end. They are men of little genius, of mean and poor design, that employ their wit for no higher purpose than to please the imagination of vain and wanton people.” He then proceeds to declare his conviction that his brother-poets “ seem engaged in a general confederacy to ruin the end of their own art,—to expose religion and virtue, and bring vice and corruption of manners into esteem and reputation."

It was perhaps with the intention of better exemplifying his view of the true and legitimate province of poetry as the handmaid of virtue and religion, that Sir Richard's subsequent effusions partook so decidedly of a serious cast. In 1700 he published sundry paraplırases of portions of Scripture ; and—unfortunately for himself—in the same year he ventured to employ his powers on a satirical poem, which drew down upon him the most incessant and bitter ridicule of all the leading wits, and even of some of the witlings of the day. In T. Brown's works there are upwards of twenty different satirical pieces in verse against Blackmore, said to be written by Colonel Codrington, Sir Charles Sedley, Colonel Blount, Sir Samuel Garth, Sir Richard Steele, Dr Smith, Mr William Burnaby, the earl of Anglesy, the countess of Sandwich, Mr Manning, Mr Mildmay, Dr Drake, Colonel Johnson, Mr Richard Norton, &c. and most of these pieces are particularly levelled at our author's “Satire upon Wit.' One topic of abuse against Blackmore was that he lived in Cheapside. He was sometimes called . The Cheapside Knight, and The City Bard ;' and Garth's verses, in the collection just cited, are addressed to the merry Poetaster at Sadlers' Hall in Cheapside.' In some of the lampoons against him he was joined with Bentley ; as in the following lines :

tire upon

A monument of dulness to erect,
Bentley should write, and Blackmore should correct.
Like which no other piece can e'er be wrought,
For decency of style and life of thought,
But that where Bentley shall in judgment sit,

To pare excrescences from Blackmore's wit. 2
Sir Richard was certainly not happy in the title of his piece 'A Sa-

Wit;' for it was not wit, but the abuse or rather prostitution of it, that the worthy knight meant to censure. Nevertheless, from the day of his appearance as a satirist, Sir Richard became the butt and sport of all who could wag a pen against him. Even such men as Dryden and Pope lost no opportunity of ridiculing him. The fornier somewhere says of Blackmore that he wrote his poetry “ to the rumbling of his chariot wheels ;” and the latter has a niche for him in the Dunciad.

In 1713 Sir Richard began a periodical paper called "The Lay Monk' It appeared twice a-week, and was devoted to ethical and literary essays. Only forty numbers of it were published. The work which procured him the greatest reputation was his Creation, or a Philosophical poem, demonstrating the Existence and Providence of a God. The fourth edition of this work appeared in 1718. Addison himself speaks of it in the following high terms. This work «

was un.

2 T. Brown's works, vol. iv. p 70.

« PreviousContinue »