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Fleet-prison. If this transaction happened, as one of his biographers informs us, about the year 17+2, Whitehead was not unable to have satisfied Fleetwood's cre. ditors. He had in the year 1735 married Anna Dyer, the only daughter of sir Swinnerton Dyer, bart. of Spains-hall, Essex, with whom he received the sum of ten thousand pounds. By what means he was released at last without payment, we are not told.
Long before this period', Whitehead, who from his infancy had discovered a turn for poetry, and had when at school corresponded in rhime with his father, dis. tinguished himself both as a poet and a politician. In the latter character, he appears to have united the principles of jacobitism and republicanism iv no very con. sistent proportions. As á jacobito, he took every opportunity of venting his spleen against the reigning family: and as a republican, he was no less outrageous in his ravings about liberty, which, in his dictionary, meant an utter abhorrence of kings, courts and ministers. His first production of this kind was the State Dun. ces, in 1733, inscribed to Mr. Pope, and written in a close imitation of that poet's satires. The keenness of his abuse, the harmony of his verse, and above all the personalities which he dealt about him with a most liberal hand, conferred popularity on this poem, and procured him the character of an enemy who was to be dreaded, and a friend who ought to be secured. He was accordingly favoured by the party then in opposition to sir Robert Walpole, and at no great distance of time, became patronized by Bubb Doddington and the other adherents of the prince of Wales's court. The State Dunces was answered in a few days by a Friendly Epistle to its author, in verse not much inferior. Whitehead sold his poem to Dodsley, for ten guineas, a circumstance which Dr. Johnson,w':o thought meanly of our poet, recollected afterwards when Dodsley offered to purchase his
London, and conditioned for the same sum. 66 I might perhaps have accepted of less : but that Paul Whitehead had a little before got ten guineas for a poem : and I would not take less than Paul Whitehead'."
In 1739, Whitehead published his more celebrated poem, entitled Manners, a satire not only upon the administration, but upon all the venerable forms of the constitution, under the assumption of an universal depravity of manners. Pope had at this time taken liberties which, in the opinion of some politicians, ought to be repressed. In his second dialogue of Seventeen Hundred and Thirty-cight, he gave offence to one of the Foxes, among others; which Fox, in a reply to Lyttel. ton, took an opportunity of repaying, by reproaching Lyttelton with the friendship of a lampooner, who scattered his ink without fear or decency, and against whom he hoped the resentment of the legislature would quickly be dischargedé. Pope, however, was formidable, and had many powerful friends. With all his preju. dices, he was the first poet of the age and an honour to his country. But Paul Whitehead was less entitled to respect: he was formidable rather by his calumny than his talents, and might be prosecuted with effect,
p" The first whimsical circumstance, which drew the eyes of the world upon him, was his introduction of the Mock Procession of Masonry, in which Mr. 'Squire Carey gave him much assistance: and so powerful was the laugh and satire against that secret society, that the anniversary parade was laid aside from that period." Captain Thomson's Life of Whitehead, p. vii. But Whitehead was long known to the world before this mock procession, which did not take place till the year 1744. Squire Carey was a surgeon in Pall Mall, and an associate of Ralph and other minor humourists of the day. C. .: Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. i. p. 102. edit. 1807. - 3 Johnson's Life of Pope.
Accordingly, in the house of peers, lord Delawar, after expatiating on the gross falsehoods and injurious imputations contained in the poem, against many noblemen and prelates of high character, moved that the author and publisher should attend at the bar of the house. On the day appointed, Dodsley appeared as the publisher, Whitehead having absconded. Dodsley pleaded that he did not look into the contents of the poem, " but that imagining there might be something in it, as he saw it was a satire by its title-page, that might be laid hold of in law, he insisted that the author should affix his name to it, and that then he printed it.” In consequence of this confession, he was taken into the custody of the usher of the black rod, but released after a short confinement and payment of the usual fees.
No farther steps were taken against the author of Manners : the whole pro. cess, indeed, was supposed to be intended rather to intimidate Pope, thau to pu. nish Whitehead, and it answered that purpose: Pope became cautious, “ willing to wound and yet afraid to strike," and Whitehead for some years renained quiet.
The noise, however, which this prosecution occasioned, and its failure as to the main object, induced Whitehead's cnemies to try whether he might not be assailed in another way, and rendered the subject of odium, if not of punishment. In this pursuit, the authors of some of the ministerial journals published a letter from a Cambridge student, who had been expelled for atheism, in which it was intimated that Whitehead belonged to a club of young men who assembled to encou. rage one another in shaking off what they termed the prejudices of education. But Whitehead did not suffer this to disturb the retirement so necessary in his present circumstances, and as the accusation had no connection with his politics or his poetry, he was content to sacrifice his character with respect to religion, which he did not valuc, in support of the cause he had espoused. That he was an infidel seems generally acknowledged by all his biographers, and when he joined the club at Mednam Abbey, it must be confessed that his practices did not disgrace his profession.
In 1744, he published The Gymnasiad, a just satire on the savage amusements of the boxers, which were then more publicly, if not more generally encouraged, than in our own days. Broughton, who died within these few years at Lambeth, was at that time the invincible champion, and Whitehead accordingly dedicated the poem to him in a strain of ea y humour. Soon after be published Honours,
• In order to procure this lenity, Lydsley drew up a petition to the house, which the earl of Essex, one of the noble personages libelled in the poem, had the generosity to present. Victor, in one of his Letters, informs us that he had the boldness to suggest this measure to the earl. C.
S" I must tell you that the celebrated Mr. Paul Whitehead has been at Deal, with a family where I often visit: and it was my fate to be once in his company much against my will: for having naturally as strong an antipathy to a wit, as some people have to a cat, I at first fairly run away to avoid it. However, at last I was dingged in, and condemned by my perverse fortune to hear part of a satyre just rcady for the press. Considered as poctry and wit, it had some extremely fine
another satire at the expense of the leading men in power, whom he calum. niates with all that relentless and undistingnishing bitterness in which Churchill afterwards excelled.
We next find him an active partizan in the contested election for Westminster, between lord Trentham, and sir George Vandeput, in 1749. He not only canvassed for sir George (for whom also his patron Doddington voted) but wrote the greater part of his advertisements, handbills and paragraphs. He wrote also the case of the hon. Alexander Murray, who was sent to Newgate for heading a riot on that occasion.
In 1755, he published An Epistle to Dr. Thomson. This physician was one of the persons who shared in the convivial hours of Mr. Doddington, afterwards lord Melcombe, although it is not easy to discover what use he could make of a physician out of practice, a man of most slovenly habits, and who had neither taste nor talenis. It was at his lordship's house, where Whitehead became acquainted with this man, and looked up to him as an oracle both in politics and physic, and here too he associated very cordially with Ralph, whom he had abused with so much contempt in the State Dunces. From his Diary lately published, and from some of his unpublished letters, in my posses. sion, it appears that Doddington had no great respect for Thomson, and merely used Whitehead, Ralph and others, as convenient tools in his various political intrigues. Whitehead's epistle is an extravagant encomium on Thomson, of whose medical talents he could be no judge, and which, if his Treatise on the Small-pox be a specimen, were likely to be more formidable to his patients than to his brethren.
Except a small pamphlet on the disputes, in 1768, between the four managers of Covent-Garden Theatre, the Epistle to Dr. Thomson was the last of our author's detached publications. The lesser pieces to be found in his works were occasional trifes written for the theatres or public gardens. He was now in easy, if not affluent circumstances. By the interest of lord le Despenser, he got the place of deputy-treasurer of the chamber, worth 8001. and held it to his death, On this acquisition, he purchased a cottage on Twickenham Common, and from a de. sign of his friend Isaac Ware, the architect, at a small expense improved it into an elegant villa. Here, according to sir John Hawkins, he was visited by very few of the inhabitants of that classical spot, but his house was open to all his London acquaintance, Hogarth, Lambert and Hayman, painters, Isaac Ware, Beard and Howard, &c. In such company principally he passed the remainder of his days, suffering the memory of his poetry and politics to decay gradually. His death happened at his lodgings in Henrietta Street, Covent.Garden, Dec. 30, 1774. For some time previous to this event he lingered under a severe illness during which he employed himself in burning all his manuscripts ; among these
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strokes: but the vile practice of exalting some characters, and abusing others, without any colour of truth or justice, has something so shocking in it, that the finest genius in the world, cannot, I think, take from the horrour of, and I had much ado to sit with any kind of patience to hear it out. Surely there is nothing more provoking than to see fine talents so wretchedly misapplied," Part of a letter from Mrs. Carter, (in 'her Memoirs lately published by the rey. Mr. Pennington) and dated April 1745.
were originals of many occasional pieces of poetry written for the amusement of his friends, some of which had probably been published without his name, and cannot now be distinguished. His works, as given in this collection, were published in an elegant quarto volume (in 1777) by captain Edward Thomson, who prefixed Memoirs of his Life, in which we have found very little that had not been published in the Annual Register of 1775. The character Thomson gives of him is an overstrained panegyric,inconsistent in itself, and more so when compared with some facts which he had not the sense to conceal, nor the virtue to censure.
Whitehead's character has never been in much esteem, yet it was not uniformly bad, Those who adopt the severe sentence passed by Churchill, in these lines,
May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall?)
Be born a Whitehead and baptised a Paul. will want nothing else to excite abhorrence ; but Churchill has taken too many liberties with truth to be believed without corroboratiog evidence. Besides, we are to consider what part of Whitehead's conduct excited this indignation. Paul's great and unpardonable crime, in Churchill's eyes, was his accepting a place under government, and laying aside a pen, which, in conjunction with Churchill's, might have created wonders in the political world. Churchill could not dislike him bccause he was an infidel and a man of pleasure. In point of morals there was surely not much difference in the misfortune of being born a Whitehead or a Churchill.
lIow yery erroneous Whitehead's life had been, is too evident from his having shared in those scenes of blasphemy and debauchery which were performed at Medmenham or Mednam Abbey, a house on the Thames Dear Marlow in Buckinghamshire. His noble patron, (then sir Francis Dashwood,) sir Thomas Stapleton, John Wilkes, Whitehead and others combined, at this place, in a scheme of impious and sensual indulgence upparalleled in the annals of infamy: and perhaps there cannot be a more striking proof of want of shame as well as of virtue, than the circumstance which occasioned the discovery of this refined brothel'. Wilkes was the first person to disclose the shocking secret, and that merely out of a piquo against one of the members who had promoted the prosecution against him for writing the Essay on Woman. In the same note to one of Churchill's poenis in which he published the transactions of this profligate cabal, he was not ashamed to insert his own name as a partner in the guilt.
6 Captain Thomson, whose notions of right and wrong are more confused than those of any man who ever pretended to delineate a character, says that in these lines Churcbill meant “to be neither illiberal nor ill natured.” “One would conclude, that he had a very particular enmity to Paul Whitehead, but, to do him justice, he had enmity to no man: very few breasts ever possessed more philanthropy, charity and bonour!” C.
7 After such an account of the indecencies practised at this place as could become the character only of the shameless narrator, captain Thomson sums up the whole in these words, which are an additional specimen of his ability in delineating moral character. "Now all that can be drawn from the publication of these cerernonies is, that a set of worthy, jolly fellows, happy disciples of Venus and Bacchus, got occasionally together, to celebrate women in wine: and to give more zest to the festive meeting, they plucked every luxurious idea from the ancients, and enriched their own modern pleasures with the addition of classic luxury.''-It may be necessary to inform the reader, that among their modern pleasures, they assumed the names of the apostles, nothing in whose history was sacred from their inspiqus ribaldry, C.
That Whitehead repented of the share he took in this club, we are not told. His character suffered, however, in common with that of the other members : and he appears to have been willing to "buy golden opinions of all men” by acts of popularity, and gain some respect from his social, if he could gain none from his personal virtues. Sir John Hawkins represents him, as by nature a friendly and kind-hearted man, well acquainted with vulgar manners and the town, but little skilled in knowledge of the world, and little able to resist the arts of designing men. He had married a woman of a good family and fortunc, whom, though homely in her person, and little better than an ideot', be treated not only with humanity, but with tenderness, hiding, as well as he was able, those defects in her understanding, which are oftener the subjects of ridicule than compassion. At Twickenham, adds sir John, he manifested the good. ness of his nature in the exercise of kind offices, in healing breaches and com. posing differences between his poor neighbours'.
But whatever care Whitehead took to retrieve his character, and throw oblivion over the most blameable part of his life, he unintentionally revived the whole by a clause in his will, in which, out of gratitude, he bequeathed his HEART to lord le Despenscr, and desired it might be deposited, if bis lordship pleased, in some corner of his mausoleum. These terms were accordingly fulfilled, and the valuable relic deposited with the ceremony of a military proces. sion, vocal performers habited, as a choir, in surplices, and every other testimony of veneration. The whole was followed by the performance of an oratorio in West Wycombe church. The following incantation which was sung at the placing of the urn in the mausoleum, may be a sufficient specimen of this solema mockery :
From Earth to Heaven WHITEHEAD's soul is fled :
His poems were appended to the last edition of Dr. Johnson's collection, and I have not therefore ventured to displace them. Yet it may be doubtful whether any partiality can assign him a very high rank even among versifiers. He was a professed imitator of Pope in his satires, and may be entitled to all the praise which successful imitation deserves. His lines are in general harmonious and correct, and sometimes rigorous, but he owes his popularity chiefly to the personal calumnies so liberally thrown out against men of rank, in the defamation of whom a very active and extensive party was strongly inter ested. Like Churchill's, therefore, his works were forgotten when the con. tending parties were removed or reconciled. But he had not the energetic and original genius of Churchill, nor can we find many passages in which the spirit of genuine poetry is discoverable. Of his character as a poet, he was himself
She died, howerer,
8 His biographer, above mentioned, calls her “a most amiable lady”
Hawkins' Life of Dr. Johnson.