« PreviousContinue »
THOMAS YALDEN. 1G71—1730.
Thomas Yaldew was born in the city of Exoter, in 1671, and in 1G90 was admitted in Magdalen College, Oxford. His tirst public appearance as a poet was in an "Ode to St. Cecilia's Day," published in 1693, which was followed by several other poems. Having entered the ministry, he succeeded Atterbury, in 1698, as lecturer at Bridewell Hospital, and in 1707 received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Having received various preferments in the church, he died July 16, 1736; having to the end of his life, as Dr. Johnson remarks, "retained the friendship and frequented the conversation of a very numerous and splendid set of acquaintances."
Yalden's poetry may be found in the collections of Johnson and Chalmers, but it has very little meri*. As a prose writer, however, he has great humor, being the author of the paper entitled "'Squire Bickerstaff detected; or the Astrological Impostor convicted, by John Partridge, Student in Physic and Astrology," which he drew up on Partridge's application, and which that person is said to have printed and published without perceiving the joke.
JOHN PARTRIDGE'S DEFENCE.
It is hard, my dear countrymen of these united nations, it is very hard, that a Briton born, a protestant astrologer, a man of revolution principles, an assertor of the liberty and property of the "people, should cry out in vain for justice against a Frenchman, a papist, and an illiterate pretender to science, that would blast my reputation, most inhumanly bury me alive, and defraud my native country of those services, which, in my double capacity, I daily offer the public.
It was towards the conclusion of the year 1707, when an impudent pamphlet crept into the world, intituled, Predictions, etc., by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq. Amongst the many arrogant assertions laid down by that lying spirit of divination, he was pleased to pitch on the Cardinal de Noailles and myself, among many other eminent and illustrious persons that were to die within the compass of the ensuing year; and peremptorily fixes the month, day, and hour of our deaths. This, I think, is sporting with great men, and public spirits, to the scandal of religion and reproach of power; and if sovereign princes and astrologers must make diversion for the vulgar why then farewell, say I, to all governments, ecclesiastical and civil. But, I thank my better stars, I am alive to confront this false and audacious predictor, and to make him rue the hour he ever affronted a man of science and resentment: and I shall here present the public with a faithful narrative of the ungenerous treatment and hard usage I have received from the virulent papers and malicious practices of this pretended astrologer.
The 28th of March, A. D. 1708, being the night this shamprophet had so impudently fixed for my last, which made little impression on myself; but I cannot answer for my whole family, for my wife, with a concern more than usual, prevailed on me to take somewhat to sweat for a cold, and between the hours of eight and nine, to go to bed. The maid, as she was warming my bed, with a curiosity natural to young wenches, runs to the window, and asks of one passing the street, whom the bell tolled for 1 Dr. Partridge, says he, the famous almanac-maker, who died suddenly this evening: the poor girl, provoked, told him, he lied like a rascal; the other very sedately replied, the sexton had so informed him, and if false, he was to blame for imposing upon a stranger. She asked a second, and a third, as they passed, and every one was in the same tone. Now, I do not say these are accomplices to a certain astrological 'squire, and that one Bickerstaff" might be sauntering thereabouts; because I will assert nothing here but what I dare attest, for plain matter of fact. My wife, at this, fell into a violent disorder; and I must own I was a little discomposed at the oddness of the accident. In the mean time one knocks at my door; Betty runs down, and opening, finds a sober grave person, who modestly inquires, if this was-Dr. Partridge's? She taking him for some cautious city patient that came at that time for privacy, shows him into the dining-room. As soon as I could compose myself, I went to him, and was surprised to find my gentleman mounted on a table with a two-foot rule in his hand, measuring my walls, and taking the dimensions of the room. "Pray, sir," says I, "not to interrupt you, have you any business with me?" "Only, sir," replies he, "order the girl to bring me a better light, for this is but a very dim one." "Sir," says I, " my name is Partridge." "Oh! the doctor's brother, belike," cries he; "the stair-case, I believe, and these two apartments hung in close mourning, will be sufficient, and only a strip of bays round the other rooms. The doctor must needs die rich, he had great dealings in his way for many years: if he had no family-coat, you had as good use the escutcheons of the company; they are as showish, and will look as magnificent, as if he was descended from the blood-royal." With that I assumed a greater air of authority, and demanded who employed him, or how he came there ?" Why, I was sent, sir, by the company of undertakers," says he, "and they were employed by the honest gentleman, who is executor to the good doctor departed: and our rascally porter, I believe, is fallen fast asleep with the black cloth and sconces, or he had been here, and we might have been tacking up by this time." "Sir," says I, "pray be advised by a friend, and make the best of your speed out of my doors, for I hear my wife's voice, (which, by the by, is pretty distinguishable,) and in that corner of the room stands a good cudgel, which somebody has felt before now; if that light in her hands, and she know the business you come about, without consulting the stars, I can assure you it will be employed very much to the detriment of your person." "Sir," cries he, bowing with great civility, "I perceive extreme grief for the loss of the doctor disorders you a little at present, but early in the morning I will wait on you with all necessary materials." Now I mention no Mr. BickerstafT; nor do I say that a certain star-gazing 'squire has been playing my executor before his time; but I leave the world to judge, and he that puts things and things fairly together, will not be much wide of the mark.
Well, once more I got my doors closed, and prepared for bed, in hopes of a little repose after so many ruffling adventures; just as I was putting out my light in order to it, another bounces as hard as he can knock; I open the window, and ask who is there, and what he wants ?" I am Ned the sexton," replies he, "and come to know whether the doctor left any orders for a funeral sermon, and where he is to be laid, and whether his grave is to be plain or bricked I" "Why, sirrah," says I, "you know me well enough; you know I am not dead, and how dare you affront me after this manner?" "Alack-a-day, sir," replies the fellow, "why it is in print, and the whole town knows you are dead; why, there is Mr. White the joiner, is but fitting screws to your coffin, he will be here with it in an instant; he was afraid you would have wanted it before this time." "Sirrah, sirrah," says I, "you shall know to-morrow to your cost, that I am alive, and alive like to be." "Why, it is strange, sir," says he, "you should make such a secret of your death to us that are your neighbors; it looks as if you had a design to defraud the church of its dues; and let me tell you, for one that has lived so long by the heavens, that is unhandsomely done." "Hist, hist," says another rogue that stood by him; "away, doctor, into your flannel gear as fast as you can, for here is a whole pack of dismals coming to you with their black equipage, and how indecent will it look for you to stand frightening folks at your window, when you should have been in your coffin these three hours?" In short, what with undertakers, cmbalmcrs, joiners, sextons, and your vile elegy-hawkers upon a late practitioner in physic and astrology, I got not one wink of sleep that night, nor scarce a moment's rest ever since. Now I doubt not, but this villanous 'squire has the impudence to assert that these are entirely stranera to him; he, good man, knows nothing of the matter, and onest Isaac BickerstafT, I warrant you, is more a man of honor th;m to be an accomplice with a pack of rascals, that walk the streets on nights, and disturb good people in their beds; but he is out, if he thinks the whole world is blind; for there is one John Partridge can smell a knave as far as Grub street,—although he lies in the most exalted garret, and writes himself 'squire :—but I will keep my temper, and proceed in the narration.
I could not stir out of doors for the space of three months after this, but presently one comes up to me in the street; "Mr. Partridge, that coffin you was last buried in I have not been yet paid for." "Doctor," cries another dog, "how do you think people can live by making of graves for nothing? next time you die, you may even toll out the bell yourself, for Ned." A third rogue tips me by the elbow, and wonders how I have the conscience to sneak abroad without paying my funeral expenses. "Bless me !" says one, "I durst have sworn that was honest Dr. Partridge, my old friend; but poor man, he is gone." "I beg your pardon," says another, "you look so like my old acquaintance that I used to consult on some private occasions; but, alack, he is gone the way of all flesh." "Look, look, look," cries a third, after a competent space of staring at me, "would not one think our neighbor the almanac-maker was crept out of his grave to take the other peep at the stars in this world, and show how much he is improved in fortune-telling by having taken a journey to the other?"
Nay, the very reader of our parish, a good, sober, discreet person, has sent two or three times for me to come and be buried decently, or send him sufficient reasons to the contrary, or, if I have been interred in any other parish, to produce my certificate, as the act requires. My poor wife is almost run distracted with being called widow Partridge, when she knows it is false; and once a term she is cited into the court to take out letters of administration. But the greatest grievance is, a paltry quack, that takes up my calling just under my nose, and in his printed directions with N. B. ISF says, he lives in the house of the late ingenious Mr. John Partridge, an eminent practitioner in leather, physic, and astrology.
But to show how far the wicked spirit of envy, malice, and resentment can hurry some men, my nameless old persecutor had provided me a monument at the stone-cutters, and would have erected it in the parish church; and this piece of notorious and expensive villauy had actually succeeded, if I had not used my utmost interest with the vestry, where it was carried at last but by two voices, that I am alive. That stratagem failing, out comes a long sable elegy, bedecked with hour-glasses, mattocks, sculls, spades, and skeletons, with an epitaph as confidently written to abuse me, and my profession, as if I had been under ground these twenty years.
And, after such barbarous treatment as this, can the world blame me, when I ask what is become of the freedom of an Englishman? and where is the liberty and property that my old glorious friend came over to assert? We have driven popery out of 2 F D8»
the nation, and sent slavery to foreign climes. The arts only remain in bondage, when a man of science and chamcter shall be openly insulted in the midst of the many useful services he is daily paying the publie. Was it ever heard, even in Turkey or Algiers, that a state-astrologer was bantered out of his life by an ignorant impostor, or bawled out of the world by a pack of villanous, deep-mouthed hawkers? Though I print almanacs, and publish advertisements; though I produce certificates under the ministers and churchwardens' hands that I am alive, and attest the same on oath at quarter-sessions, out comes a full and true relation of the death and interment of John Partridge; truth is borne down, attestations neglected, the testimony of sober persons despised, and a man is looked upon by his neighbors as if he had been seven years dead, and is buried alive in the midst of his friends and acquaintance.
ALEXANDER POPE. 1688—1744.
This great poet, "to whom," says Warton," English poesy and the English language are everlastingly indebted," was born in London, on the 2"2d of May, 1688. His father was a linen-dmper, who had acquired a considemble fortune by tmde. Being of a feeble fmme and delicate constitution, his early edncation was chiefly domestie. At the age of twelve, having made considemble progress in the Greek and Latin languages, he resolved to pursue his own plan of study; and his reading, of which he was excessively fond, became uncommonly extensive and various. At a very early period he manifested the greatest fondness for poetry: as he says of himself, I lisp'd in numbers, and the numbers came. This taste was in a measure formed from the perusal of Ogilby's Humor, when only ten years of age. Before he was twelve, he wrote his " Ode on Solitude," remarkable for the precocity of sentiment it exhibits, nnd for that delicacy of language and harmony of versification, for which he afterwards became so eminent. At the age of sixteen, he wrote his " Pastomls," the principal merit of which consists in their correct and musical versification, with a preliminary "Discourse on Pastoml Poetry," "which," says Warton, "is a more extmordinary production than the Pastomls that follow it.;1 At the eire