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rarely from the mind which it possesses, an envious desire of plundering wealth or degrading greatness; and of which the immediate tendency is innovation and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to subvert and confound, with very little care what shall be established.
Akenside was one of those poets who have felt very early the motions of genius, and one of those students who have very early stored their memories with sentiments and images. Many of his performances were produced in his youth'; and his greatest work, The Pleasures of Imagination, appeared in 1744'. I have heard Dodsley, by whom it was published, relate that when the copy was offered him the price demanded for it, which was an hundred and twenty pounds 3, being such as he was not inclined to give precipitately, he carried the work to Pope, who, having looked into it, advised him not to make a niggardly offer; for
'this was no every-day writer.' 5 In 1741 he went to Leyden in pursuit of medical knowledge *;
and three years afterwards (May 16, 1744) became doctor of physick, having, according to the custom of the Dutch Universities, published a thesis, or dissertation. The subject which he chose was The Original and Growth of the Human Fætus s, in which he is said to have departed, with great judgement, from the opinion then established, and to have delivered that which
has been since confirmed and received. 6 Akenside was a young man, warm with every notion that by
nature or accident had been connected with the sound of liberty,
Poets, Preface, p. 5. For the change in politics of Dyson and Akenside see Dyce, p. 52.
In Biog. Brit. i. 105, instances are given of the suppression of some republican sentiments in a later edition of his early poems.
* Verses by him appeared in Gent. Mag. 1737, pp. 244, 309, 441 ; 1738, p. 427; 1739, p. 544. See Dyce, Preface, p. 2.
a Gent. Mag. 1744, p. 56, price 4s. The title was borrowed from Addison. Ante, ADDISON, 80. It was published anonymously. According to Johnson Richard Rolt 'went over to Ireland, published an edition of it, and put his own name to it. Upon the fame of this he lived for several
months, being entertained at the best tables as “the ingenious Mr. Rolt."' Boswell's Johnson, i. 359.
According to Nichols, guineas. Swift, Works, 1803, xviii. 320 n. Dodsley made a good bargain; 'the demand for several successive republications was so quick'as not to give the poet time in any of the intervals to complete the whole of his corrections.' Eng. Poets, lxiii. 201.
He went there in the spring of 1744. Dyce, p. 16. Goldsmith went ten years later as a student of medicine. Forster's Goldsmith, 1871, i. 54.
s De Ortu et Incremento Foetus humani. Biog. Brit. i. 104.
and by an excentricity which such dispositions do not easily avoid, a lover of contradiction, and no friend to any thing established. He adopted Shaftesbury's foolish assertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the discovery of truth'. For this he was attacked by Warburton ?, and defended by Dyson 3: Warburton afterwards reprinted his remarks at the end of his dedication to the Freethinkers +
The result of all the arguments which have been produced in 7 a long and eager discussion of this idle question may easily be collected. If ridicule be applied to any position as the test of truth, it will then become a question whether such ridicule be just; and this can only be decided by the application of truth as the test of ridicules. Two men fearing, one a real and the other a fancied danger, will be for a while equally exposed to the inevitable consequences of cowardice, contemptuous censure, and ludicrous representation ; and the true state of both cases must be known before it can be decided whose terror is rational and whose is ridiculous, who is to be pitied and who to be despised. Both are for a while equally exposed to laughter, but both are not therefore equally contemptible.
In the revisal of his poem, though he died before he had 8 finished it”, he omitted the lines which had given occasion to Warburton's objections &
* Akenside, who in a note in Eng. Warburton's edition of Pope's Works, Poets, lxiii. 287, calls Shaftesbury entitled An Ode to Thomas Edwards
the noble restorer of ancient phi- (Eng. Poets, lxiv. 92), with an aclosophy,' adopts his assertion in a count of Warburton's letter to Connote on p. 301. For this assertion canen (ante, POPE, 186). Biog. Brit. see Shaftesbury's Characteristics, 1714, i. 61, 73; John. Misc. i. 452 n. 5.When Johnson chose,' writes See also Cunningham's Lives of the Murphy, 'by apt illustration to place Poets, iii. 387, for an examination of the argument of his adversary in a this question by Akenside in a letter. ludicrous light, one was almost in
. In Remarks on Several Occa- clined to think ridicule the test of sional Reflections, 1744, Preface, p. I. truth.' John. Misc. i. 452.
Johnson refers to An Epistle to 'Cheats can seldom stand long Mr. Warburton, occasioned by his against laughter.' Ante, BUTLER, 48. Treatment of the Author of the 6 This last sentence is not in the Pleasures of the Imagination. Gent. first edition. Mag. 1744, p. 288. I am inclined [In the three editions of the Lives to believe,' writes Dyce (p. 14),' that published in Johnson's lifetime: the greater part of it was composed which he died before he had by Akenside.
finished.') * It was published as a postscript Post, AKENSIDE, 20. The lines to vols. i and ii of The Divine Lega- remained the same (with one or two tion, 1766. Dyce, p. 66. Akenside corrections), though transferred from replied by publishing a satire on Bk. iii. 259–77 to Bk. ii. 523-41.
9 He published, soon after his return from Leyden (1745), his
first collection of odes'; and was impelled by his rage of patriotism ? to write a very acrimonious epistle to Pulteney, whom he stigmatizes, under the name of Curio, as the betrayer of his
country. 10 Being now to live by his profession, he first commenced physi
cian at Northampton?, where Dr. Stonhouse* then practised, with such reputation and success that a stranger was not likely to gain ground upon him. Akenside tried the contest a while; and, having deafened the place with clamours for liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he resided more than two years, and then fixed himself in London, the proper place for a man of
accomplishments like his. 11 At London he was known as a poet, but was still to make his
way as a physician; and would perhaps have been reduced to great exigences, but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of friendship that has not many examples, allowed him three hundred
i Odes on Several Subjects, price bill for trying elections :— It passed Is. 6d. Gent. Mag. 1745, P. 168. as rapidly as if it had been for a
Johnson at first wrote, “rage for repeal of Magna Charta, brought in liberty.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 56. by Mr. Cofferer Dyson.' Ib. vi. 68.
3 The writer in Biog. Brit. (i. 'He was supposed to have all the 104 n.) was living in that town during Journals of the House of Commons Akenside's residence.
by heart.' Gent. Mag. 1776, p. 416. [Sir James Stonhouse, the well- Hawkins says that he and Akenknown physician and divine. Dict. side .dwelt together at North End, Nat. Biog.)
Hampstead, during the summer, fre5 Wordsworth wrote in 1837 :—'I quenting the Long Room and all am not unfrequently a visitor on Clubs and Assemblies of the inhabit. Hampstead Heath, and seldom pass ants.' Dyson later on 'settled him by the entrance of Mr. Dyson's villa in a small house in Bloomsbury on Golder's Hill close by without Square, and enabled him to keep thinking of the pleasure which Aken- a chariot.' Hawkins's Johnson, p. side often had there.' Wordsworth
243 adds :—He was fond of sitting in In an early letter of Akenside's to St. James's Park, with his eyes upon Dyson is a passage which, had it Westminster Abbey.. Memoirs of been written later, would have been Wordsworth, 1851, ii. 350. In his thought a parody of Boswell in his Odes, ii. 12, Akenside describes how letters to Johnson-I never think at Golder's Hill his
of my connection with you without 'Musing footsteps rove being happier and better for the Round the cool orchard or the reflection. I enjoy, by means of it,
a more animated, a more perfect The place is now a public park. relish of every social, of every natural
Jeremiah Dyson, Secretary to pleasure. My own character, by the Treasury. Horace Walpole's means of it, is become an object of Letters, iv. 59. Later on he was veneration and applause to myself.' Cofferer to the Household. On March Dyce, p. 19. 23, 1774, Walpole wrote of Grenville's
pounds a year. Thus supported he advanced gradually in medical reputation, but never attained any great extent of practice or eminence of popularity. A physician in a great city seems to be the mere plaything of Fortune; his degree of reputation is, for the most part, totally casual : they that employ him know not his excellence ; they that reject him know not his deficience. By an acute observer, who had looked on the transactions of the medical world for half a century, a very
curious book might be written on the Fortune of Physicians'.
Akenside appears not to have been wanting to his own success: 12 he placed himself in view by all the common methods; he became a Fellow of the Royal Society?; he obtained a degree at Cambridge, and was admitted into the College of Physicians *; he wrote little poetry, but published, from time to time, medical essays and observations 5; he became physician to St. Thomas's Hospital o; he read the Gulstonian Lectures in Anatomy?; but began to give, for the Crounian Lectures, a history of the revival • Boswell's Johnson, i. 242 n.
In Clark's Register of the Univ. • In Gent. Mag. 1758, p. 523, is vol. ii. part 1, pp. 150, 151, instances a notice of a paper by him in the are given of the non-compliance of Transactions.
the University with orders from 3 "He was admitted by mandamus Queen Elizabeth. Johnson's D.C.L. to the degree of Doctor in Physic.' degree was conferred on a recomEng. Poets, lxiii. 204.
mendation of the Chancellor, who A mandamus lies to compel the was also Prime Minister. Boswell's admission of the party applying to Johnson, ii. 331. For a dispensation academical degrees.' Blackstone's by mandamus to hold a Fellowship Comm. 1775, iii. 110.
see ante, TICKELL, In. I owe the following note to the * In 1754. Dyce, p. 42. kindness of Dr. W. Aldis Wright:- 5 For a list of his medical writings * The last degree conferred by royal see Biog. Brit. i. 107. mandate was that of D.D. on G. E. L.
6 In March, 1759.
Gent. Mag. Cotton, Bishop Designate of Cal- 1759, p. 147. Dr. Lettsom (Boscutta. The date of the royal letter well's Johnson, iii. 68; John. Misc. was March 9, 1858. By the Statutes ii. 402), who was a student at the which were signed on July 31, 1858, Hospital, is reported to have said the power of conferring degrees which that he was the most supercilious had previously been given in obe- and unfeeling physician that he had dience to a royal mandate was trans- hitherto known. Dyce, p. 49. ferred to the University.
? A lectureship was founded by Akenside's signature. The date of Theodore Goulston or Gulston, who his degree was Jan. 4, 1753.'.
died in 1632. 'These lectures have Mr. Falconer Madan, Sub-Libra- been annually delivered since 1639, rian Bodleian, informs me that to the great advantage of medicine 'he thinks that at Oxford no degree in England.' Dict. Nat.Biog. Akenwas conferred by a naked mandamus, side lectured in 1755. Biog. Brit. but that such degrees were cloaked under the disguise of a request, or
8 The widow of William Croone or advice, from the Chancellor of the Croune, in accordance with her hus. University.
band's intention, in 1706 left the
of Learning, from which he soon desisted; and, in conversation, he very eagerly forced himself into notice by an ambitious
ostentation of elegance and literature '. 13
His Discourse on the Dysentery (1764) was considered as a very conspicuous specimen of Latinity’, which entitled him to the same height of place among the scholars as he possessed before among the wits; and he might perhaps have risen to a greater elevation of character, but that his studies were ended with his life by a putrid fever, June 23, 1770, in the forty-ninth year of his age :.
14 AKENSIDE is to be considered as a didactick and lyrick poet.
His great work is The Pleasures of Imagination, a performance which, published as it was at the age of twenty-three, raised expectations that were not afterwards very amply satisfied *. It has undoubtedly a just claim to very particular notice as an
College of Physicians by her will Henderson, the actor (Boswell's money to support an annual lecture Johnson, ii. 326 n., iv. 244 n.), said that ship. Dict. Nat. Biog. Akenside Akenside, when he walked in the lectured in 1756. According to Kippis streets, looked for all the world like in Biog. Brit. (i. 107), 'he gave up one of his own Alexandrines set upthe course in disgust,' as some ob- right.' Dyce, p. 76. See also ib. p. jected to the subject as 'foreign 55, and John. Letters, ii. 21 n. to the institution.' Mr. Dyce points ? De Dysenteria Commentarius. out (p. 45) that 'the course is al- In Gent. Mag. 1766, p. 489, is anways of three lectures, and three he nounced A Commentary on gave.
Dysentery from the Latin of Dr. ? He was the original of the phy- Akenside. By J. Ryan, M.D. sician in Peregrine Pickle, chs. 42–3, 'Of all our poets perhaps Akenwho was 'a young man in whose air side was the best Greek scholar since and countenance appeared all the Milton. Warton, Essay on Pope, uncouth gravity and supercilious selfconceit of a physician piping hot 3 His death is noticed neither in from his studies. . . . Not contented Gent. Mag. nor in Ann. Reg. For with displaying his importance in Shenstone's death by the same fever the world of taste and polite litera- see ante, SHENSTONE, 15. ture, his vanity manifested itself in Gray wrote of it on April 26, arrogating certain material disco- 1744 :-- It seems to me above the veries in the province of physick.' middling, and now and then (but for
Hawkins, allowing that his con- a little while) rises even to the best, versation was of the most delightful particularly in description. It is kind,' says that he failed through often obscure and even unintelligible, 'the want of that quality which Swift and too much infected with the somewhere calls an aldermanly virtue, Hutcheson-jargon. In short its great discretion.' Hawkins's Johnson, pp. fault is that it was published at least 242, 247. Swift, in his Essay on the nine years too early. Gray's Letters, Fates of Clergymen, attributes the i. 119. According to Norton Nicholls, fall of such men as Bacon, Strafford 'Gray disliked Akenside, and in and Laud to their wanting a reason- general all poetry in blank verse able infusion of this aldermanly except Milton. 16. ii. 280. discretion. Works, viii. 222.