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John Arbuthnot

John Arbuthnot

Overview
John Arbuthnot, often known simply as Dr. Arbuthnot, (baptised April 29, 1667
1667 in literature
-Events:* The Roman Catholic Church places the works of René Descartes on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.* Molière's play, Tartuffe, is banned.* Edmund Castell is imprisoned for debt....

 – February 27, 1735
1735 in literature
The year 1735 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Samuel Johnson marries Elizabeth "Tetty" Porter, twenty years his senior....

), was a physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, satirist
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 and polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He is best remembered for his contributions to mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, his membership in the Scriblerus Club
Scriblerus Club
The Scriblerus Club was an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell. The group was founded in 1712 and lasted until the death of the founders, starting in 1732 and ending in 1745, with Pope and Swift being...

 (where he inspired both Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

's Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known simply as Gulliver's Travels , is a novel by Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of...

book III and Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

's Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
"Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry" is a short essay by Alexander Pope published in 1727. The aim of the essay is to ridicule contemporary poets.- Content :...

, Memoirs of Martin Scriblerus, and possibly The Dunciad
The Dunciad
The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

), and for inventing the figure of John Bull
John Bull
John Bull is a national personification of Britain in general and England in particular, especially in political cartoons and similar graphic works. He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged man, often wearing a Union Flag waistcoat.-Origin:...

.

In his mid-life, Arbuthnot, complaining of the work of Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll was an English bookseller and publisher. His name has become synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity. Curll rose from poverty to wealth through his publishing, and he did this by approaching book printing in a mercenary...

, among others, who would commission and invent a biography as soon as an author died, said, "Biography is one of the new terrors of death," and so a biography of Arbuthnot is made difficult by his own reluctance to leave records.
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Quotations

All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.

Quoted in
Encyclopedia
John Arbuthnot, often known simply as Dr. Arbuthnot, (baptised April 29, 1667
1667 in literature
-Events:* The Roman Catholic Church places the works of René Descartes on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.* Molière's play, Tartuffe, is banned.* Edmund Castell is imprisoned for debt....

 – February 27, 1735
1735 in literature
The year 1735 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Samuel Johnson marries Elizabeth "Tetty" Porter, twenty years his senior....

), was a physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, satirist
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 and polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. He is best remembered for his contributions to mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, his membership in the Scriblerus Club
Scriblerus Club
The Scriblerus Club was an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell. The group was founded in 1712 and lasted until the death of the founders, starting in 1732 and ending in 1745, with Pope and Swift being...

 (where he inspired both Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

's Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known simply as Gulliver's Travels , is a novel by Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of...

book III and Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

's Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
"Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry" is a short essay by Alexander Pope published in 1727. The aim of the essay is to ridicule contemporary poets.- Content :...

, Memoirs of Martin Scriblerus, and possibly The Dunciad
The Dunciad
The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

), and for inventing the figure of John Bull
John Bull
John Bull is a national personification of Britain in general and England in particular, especially in political cartoons and similar graphic works. He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged man, often wearing a Union Flag waistcoat.-Origin:...

.

Biography


In his mid-life, Arbuthnot, complaining of the work of Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll was an English bookseller and publisher. His name has become synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity. Curll rose from poverty to wealth through his publishing, and he did this by approaching book printing in a mercenary...

, among others, who would commission and invent a biography as soon as an author died, said, "Biography is one of the new terrors of death," and so a biography of Arbuthnot is made difficult by his own reluctance to leave records. Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

 noted to Joseph Spence
Joseph Spence (author)
Joseph Spence was a historian, literary scholar and anecdotist, most famous for his collection of anecdotes that are an invaluable resource for historians of 18th century English literature .- Early life :Spence was born on 28 April 1699, at Kingsclere, Hampshire, the son of Joseph Joseph Spence...

 that Arbuthnot allowed his infant children to play with, and even burn, his writings. Throughout his professional life, Arbuthnot exhibited a strong humility and conviviality, and his friends complained that he would not take credit for his own work.

Arbuthnot was born in Kincardineshire
Kincardineshire
The County of Kincardine, also known as Kincardineshire or The Mearns was a local government county on the coast of northeast Scotland...

, on the northeastern coast of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, son of Rev Alexander Arbuthnot, an Episcopalian
Scottish Episcopal Church
The Scottish Episcopal Church is a Christian church in Scotland, consisting of seven dioceses. Since the 17th century, it has had an identity distinct from the presbyterian Church of Scotland....

 priest and Margaret, née Lammie. He may have graduated with an arts degree from Marischal College
Marischal College
Marischal College is a building and former university in the centre of the city of Aberdeen in north-east Scotland. The building is owned by the University of Aberdeen and used for ceremonial events...

 in 1685. Where John's brothers took part in Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 causes in 1689, he remained with his father. These brothers included Robert, who fled after fighting for King James VII
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 in 1689 and became a banker in Rouen
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

 and half-brother George, who fled to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and became a wine merchant. However, when William and Mary
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 came to the throne and the new Act of Settlement
Act of Settlement
Act of Settlement may refer to:*Statute of Legal Settlement 1547, legislation regarding the settlement of the poor*Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652, in response to the Irish Rebellion of 1641...

 required all ministers to swear allegiance to them as heads of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, Arbuthnot's father would not comply. As a non-conformist, he was removed from his church, and John was there to take care of affairs when, in 1691 his father died.

Arbuthnot went to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1691, where he is supposed to have supported himself by teaching mathematics (which had been his formal course of study). He lodged with William Pate, whom Swift knew and called a "bel esprit." He published Of the Laws of Chance in 1692, translated from Christian Huygens's De ratiociniis in ludo aleae. This was the first work on probability published in English. The work, which applied the field of probability
Probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

 to common games, was a success, and Arbuthnot became the private tutor of one Edward Jeffreys, son of Jeffrey Jeffreys, an MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

. He remained Jeffreys's tutor when the latter attended University College, Oxford
University College, Oxford
.University College , is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m...

 in 1694, and he there met the variety of scholars then teaching mathematics and medicine, including Dr. John Radcliffe, Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, and Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

. However, Arbuthnot lacked the money to be a full-time student and was already well educated, although informally. He went to the University of St. Andrews and enrolled as a doctoral student in medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 on September 11, 1696. The very same day he defended seven theses on medicine and was awarded the doctorate.

He first wrote satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 in 1697, when he answered Dr. John Woodward
John Woodward (naturalist)
John Woodward was an English naturalist, antiquarian and geologist, and founder by bequest of the Woodwardian Professorship of Geology at Cambridge University...

's An essay towards a natural history of the earth and terrestrial bodies, especially minerals... with An examination of Dr. Woodward's account &c. He poked fun at the arrogance of the work and Woodward's misguided, Aristotelian
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 insistence that what is theoretically attractive must be actually true. In 1701, Arbuthnot wrote another mathematical work, An essay on the usefulness of mathematical learning, in a letter from a gentleman in the city to his friend in Oxford. The work was moderately successful, and Arbuthnot praises mathematics as a method of freeing the mind from superstition
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

.

In 1702, he was at Epsom
Epsom
Epsom is a town in the borough of Epsom and Ewell in Surrey, England. Small parts of Epsom are in the Borough of Reigate and Banstead. The town is located south-south-west of Charing Cross, within the Greater London Urban Area. The town lies on the chalk downland of Epsom Downs.-History:Epsom lies...

 when Prince George of Denmark, husband of Queen Anne fell ill. According to tradition, Arbuthnot treated the prince successfully. According to tradition again, this treatment earned him an invitation to court. Also around 1702, he married Margaret, whose maiden name is possibly Wemyss. Although there are no baptismal records, it seems that his first son, George (named in honor of the prince), was born in 1703. He was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 in 1704. Also thanks to the Queen's presence, he was made an MD at Cambridge University
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 on April 16, 1705.

Arbuthnot was an amiable individual, and Swift said that the only fault an enemy could lay upon him was a slight waddle in his walk. His conviviality and his royal connections made him an important figure in the Royal Society. In 1705, Arbuthnot became physician extraordinary to Queen Anne, and at the same time was put on the board trying to publish the Historia coelestius. Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 and Edmund Halley wanted it published immediately, to support their work on orbits, while John Flamsteed
John Flamsteed
Sir John Flamsteed FRS was an English astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal. He catalogued over 3000 stars.- Life :Flamsteed was born in Denby, Derbyshire, England, the only son of Stephen Flamsteed...

, the Royal Astronomer whose observations they were, wanted to keep the data secret until he had perfected it. The result was that Arbuthnot used his leverage as friend and physician to Prince George, whose money was paying for the publication, to force Flamsteed to allow it out, albeit with serious errors, in 1712. Also as a scholar, Arbuthnot took up an interest in antiquities and published Tables of Grecian, Roman, and Jewish measures, weights and coins; reduced to the English standard in 1705, 1707, 1709, and, expanded with a preface (which indicated that his second son, Charles, was born in 1705), in 1727 and 1747.

Although Arbuthnot was not a Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 after the fashion of his brothers, he was a Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

, for national and familial reasons. Anne was advised (and many said controlled) by Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
Sarah Churchill , Duchess of Marlborough rose to be one of the most influential women in British history as a result of her close friendship with Queen Anne of Great Britain.Sarah's friendship and influence with Princess Anne was widely known, and leading public figures...

, who was a champion of Whig
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

 causes. In 1706, the Duchess of Marlborough fell out with Anne — a schism
Schism (religion)
A schism , from Greek σχίσμα, skhísma , is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within...

 which the Tories were pleased to encourage. The marriage of lady-in-waiting Abigail Hill to Samuel Masham, which was the first overt sign of Anne's displeasure with Sarah Churchill, took place in Arbuthnot's apartments at St. James's Palace
St. James's Palace
St. James's Palace is one of London's oldest palaces. It is situated in Pall Mall, just north of St. James's Park. Although no sovereign has resided there for almost two centuries, it has remained the official residence of the Sovereign and the most senior royal palace in the UK...

. The reasons for the choice of apartment and the degree of involvement of Arbuthnot in either the love match or Anne's estrangement, are not clear. As a Scotsman, Arbuthnot served the crown by writing A sermon preach'd to the people at the Mercat Cross of Edinborough on the subject of the union. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10, Verse 27. The work was designed to persuade Scots to accept the Act of Union
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

. When the Act passed, Arbuthnot was made a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He was also made a physician in ordinary
Reserve fleet
A reserve fleet is a collection of naval vessels of all types that are fully equipped for service but are not currently needed, and thus partially or fully decommissioned. A reserve fleet is informally said to be "in mothballs" or "mothballed"; an equivalent expression in unofficial modern U.S....

 to the Queen, which made him part of the royal household
Medical Household
The Medical Household is the medical part of the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom.It mainly comprises a range of Physicians and Surgeons to the Sovereign and to the Royal Household...

.

Arbuthnot returned to mathematics in 1710 with An argument for Divine Providence, taken from the constant regularity observed in the births of both sexes (linked below) in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, where he analyzed birth data and demonstrated that males were born at a greater rate than females. This being against probability, he deduced that divine providence accounted for it, because males die young more often than females.

As a Scribleran


In 1710, Jonathan Swift moved to London. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (who was then the secretary of the treasury and not a peer) and he produced the Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 The Examiner, and Arbuthnot made their acquaintance and began to provide "hints" to them. These "hints" were ideas for essays, satirical gambits, and facts, rather than secrets of any sort. From 1711 to 1713, Arbuthnot and Swift formed "The Brothers' Club," though Arbuthnot characteristically gave away his ideas and even his writings, never seeking credit for them.

In 1712, Arbuthnot and Swift both attempted to aid the Tory government of Harley and Henry St. John in their efforts to end the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

. The war had profited John and Sarah Churchill, and the Tory ministry sought to end it by withdrawing from all England's alliances and negotiating directly with France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Swift wrote The Conduct of the Allies, and Arbuthnot wrote a series of five pamphlets featuring John Bull. The first of these, Law Is a Bottomless Pit (1712), introduced a simple allegory
Allegory
Allegory is a demonstrative form of representation explaining meaning other than the words that are spoken. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation...

 to explain the war. John Bull (England) is suing Louis Baboon (i.e. Louis Bourbon, or Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

) over the estate of the dead Lord Strutt (Charles II of Spain
Charles II of Spain
Charles II was the last Habsburg King of Spain and the ruler of large parts of Italy, the Spanish territories in the Southern Low Countries, and Spain's overseas Empire, stretching from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies...

). Bull's lawyer is the one who really enjoys the suit, and he is Humphrey Hocus (Marlborough). Bull has a sister named Peg (Scotland). The pamphlets are Swiftian in their satire, in that they make all of the characters hopelessly flawed and comic and none of their endeavor worth pursuing (which was Arbuthnot's intent, as he sought to make the war an object of scorn), but it is filled with homespun humor, a common touch, and a sympathy for the figures that is distinctly unSwiftian.

In 1713, Arbuthnot continued his political satire with Proposals for printing a very curious discourse... a treatise of the art of political lying, with an abstract of the first volume. As with other works that Arbuthnot would encourage, this systemizes a rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

 of bad thinking and writing. He proposes to teach people to lie well. Similar lists and systems are in Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

's Peri Bathos and John Gay
John Gay
John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera , set to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch...

 and Pope's Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus
Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus
The Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus is an incomplete satirical work ostensibly by the members of the Scriblerus Club but which was principally written by John Arbuthnot. The only completed volume was published in 1741 as a part of Alexander Pope's Works. 'Martinus Scriblerus' was a pseudonym of...

.
Also in 1713, Arbuthnot was made a physician of Chelsea Hospital, which provided him with a house. It was this house that hosted the meetings of the Scriblerus Club
Scriblerus Club
The Scriblerus Club was an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell. The group was founded in 1712 and lasted until the death of the founders, starting in 1732 and ending in 1745, with Pope and Swift being...

, which had as its members Harley (now Earl of Oxford), St. John (now Vicount Bolingbroke), Pope, Gay, Swift, and Thomas Parnell
Thomas Parnell
Thomas Parnell was a poet and clergyman, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a friend of both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. He participated in the Scriblerus Club, contributing to The Spectator, and he also aided Pope in his translation of The Iliad...

. According to all the members of the Club, Arbuthnot was the one who contributed the most in ideas, and he was the only source they could draw upon when satirizing the sciences, and his was the idea for the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, a hyperpedantic man who, like Arbuthnot's earlier opponent, Dr. Woodward, would read three or four lines of Classical literature and deduce a universal (and absurd) truth from them.

The Club met for only a year, for Anne died in July of 1714, and the Club met for the last time in November of that year. When Anne died, she had no will. Consequently, all her servants were left without positions and entirely at the mercy of the next administration — an administration that would be chosen by the enemies of Arbuthnot and the other Scriblerans. When George I came to the throne, Arbuthnot lost all of his royal appointments and houses, but he still had a vigorous medical practice. He lived at "the second door from the left in Dover Street
Dover Street
Dover Street is a street in Mayfair, London, England. The street is notable for its Georgian architecture as well as the location of historic London clubs and hotels, which have been frequented by world leaders and historic figures in the arts. It also hosts a number of contemporary art galleries...

" in Piccadilly
Piccadilly
Piccadilly is a major street in central London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is completely within the city of Westminster. The street is part of the A4 road, London's second most important western artery. St...

.

Life during the Hanoverians


In 1717, Arbuthnot contributed somewhat to Pope and Gay's play, Three Hours after Marriage
Three Hours After Marriage
Three Hours After Marriage was a restoration comedy, written in 1717 as a collaboration between John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot. It premiered in 1717 and among its satirical targets were Richard Blackmore....

,
which ran for seven nights. He was a friend to George Frederic Handel and appointed director to the Royal Academy of Music (1719) from the start in 1719 till 1729.

In 1719 he took part in a pamphlet war over the treatment of smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

. In particular, he attacked Dr. Woodward, who had again presented a dogmatic and, Arbuthnot thought, irrational opinion. In 1723, Arbuthnot was made one of the censors of the Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians
The Royal College of Physicians of London was founded in 1518 as the College of Physicians by royal charter of King Henry VIII in 1518 - the first medical institution in England to receive a royal charter...

, and as such he was one of the campaigners to inspect and improve the drugs sold by apothecaries in London. In 1723, the apothecaries sued the RCP, and Arbuthnot wrote Reasons humbly offered by the ... upholders (undertakers) against part of the bill for the better viewing, searching, and examining of drugs. The pamphlet suggested that the funeral directors of London would wish to sue the RCP as well to ensure that drug safety remained poor. In 1727, he was made an elect of the Royal College of Physicians.

In 1726 and 1727, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope reunited at Arbuthnot's house during visits, and Swift showed Arbuthnot the manuscript of Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver's Travels
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known simply as Gulliver's Travels , is a novel by Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of...

ahead of time. The detailed parody of ongoing Royal Society projects in book III of Gulliver's Travels likely came from "hints" from Arbuthnot. The visit also bore fruit in Pope's The Dunciad
The Dunciad
The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

of 1729 (the second edition), where Arbuthnot probably wrote the "Virgilius restauratus" satirizing Richard Bentley
Richard Bentley
Richard Bentley was an English classical scholar, critic, and theologian. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge....

.

Arbuthnot was guardian
Legal guardian
A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability...

 to Peter the Wild Boy
Peter the Wild Boy
Peter the Wild Boy was a mentally handicapped boy from Hannover in northern Germany who was found in 1725 living wild in the woods near Hamelin , the town of Pied Piper legend...

 on his first arrival in London.

In 1730, Arbuthnot's wife died. The next year, he produced a work of popular medicine, An essay concerning the nature of ailments, and the choice of them, according to the different constitutions of human bodies. The book was quite popular, and a second edition, with advice on diet, came out the next year. It would have four more full editions and translations into French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. In 1733 he wrote another very popular work of medicine called An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies. As with the former work, it went through multiple editions and translations. He argued that the air itself had to have enormous effects on the personality and persons of humanity, and he believed that the air of locations would result in characteristics of the people, as well as particular maladies. He advised his readers to ventilate sickrooms and to seek fresh air in cities. Although the idea that airs carried sickness was incorrect, the practical upshot of Arbuthnot's advice was efficacious, as crowded, poorly sanitized Augustan era cities had bad air and infectious air.

His son Charles, studying to be a divine at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, died in 1731, the same year that the Swift and Pope Miscellanies, Volume the Third (which was the first volume) appeared. He contributed "An Essay of the Learned Martinus Scriblerus Concerning the Origine of the Sciences" to the volume.

In 1734, his health began to decline. He had kidney stones and asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

, and he was also overweight
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

. He died at his house in Cork Street
Cork Street
Cork Street is a street in Mayfair in the West End of London, England. It is very well known in the British art world for the commercial art galleries that dominate the street. It is located to the north of Burlington House, which houses the Royal Academy, a leading British art institution...

, in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on February 27, 1735. He is buried St James's Church, Piccadilly
St James's Church, Piccadilly
St James’s Church, Piccadilly is an Anglican church on Piccadilly in the centre of London, UK. It was designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren....

. Pope published soon after his "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot".

Literary significance


Arbuthnot was one of the founding members of the Scriblerus Club
Scriblerus Club
The Scriblerus Club was an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell. The group was founded in 1712 and lasted until the death of the founders, starting in 1732 and ending in 1745, with Pope and Swift being...

, and was regarded by the other wits of the group as the funniest, but he left fewer literary remains than the other members. His satires are written with an ease, a humanity, and an apparent sympathy. Swift and Arbuthnot had similar styles in language (both preferred direct sentences and clear vocabulary) with a feigned frenzy of lists and taxonomies, and sometimes their works are attributed to each other. The treatise on political lying, for example, has been attributed to Swift in the past, although it was definitely Arbuthnot's. Generally, Arbuthnot's writings are not as vicious or nihilistic as Swift's, but they attack the same targets and both refuse to hold up a set of positive norms for their readers.

Because of Arbuthnot's own insistence on not being recognized, it is difficult to speak definitively of his literary significance. We know that he was at the heart of many of the greatest satires of his age, that he was a conduit and source for a great many of the finest literary accomplishments of a half century of writing, but Arbuthnot was zealous that he not receive credit.

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