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Already I am worn with cares and age,
You merit more, nor could my love do less Congreve was almost as happy in the commendations of his brother authors, as in the favours of ministers, and the smiles of great ladies. Dennis, whose disease was not a plethora of complaisance, declared “that Congreve left the stage early, and comedy left it with him.” Though he no longer exposed himself to the brunt of a theatrical audience, he still kept his name awake by the production of occasional poems, which were highly praised in their day, but their day has long been past. They were written in the height of the fashion, and fashion was then a more potent arbitress of reputation than now. The world of literature was then the town : the town took its cue from the court, and the court echoed the decisions of some “scribbling peer,” some Lord of the Miscellanies.” George the Second's Queen, Caroline, seems to have been the last personage who, by the mere prerogative of rank, could bring a book into vogue.
The latter years of Congreve furnish little or nothing worth record. ing. Though he never took a very active part in politics, he ranked with the Whigs, and remained constant to his first patron, Halifax. Hence there was some fear lest, on the change of Queen Anne's Ministry, in 1710, he might be deprived of his places. Several persons of consequence made interest with Harley, the new Secretary, and Mæcenas elect, that he might not be disturbed. But the Minister would not have it thought that the Poet owed his immunity to any interest but that of the Muses, and answered the mediators in the words of Virgil :
Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Teucri
Nec tam aversus equos Tyriâ Sol jungit ab urbe. The Tories, whose best virtue is their generosity, suffered Congreve to retain his emoluments without imposing any conditions ; and he, by holding them, did not conceive himself to have incurred an obligation to be ungrateful. He signalized his adherence to the ousted party in the very year of their defeat, by dedicating a collection of his works to the Ex-Minister Halifax. His fidelity was rewarded, on the return of
his friends to power, with an additional place, which made his income altogether £1200 a year. The ideas of poetry and poverty have been so long and so inveterately connected, even in the minds of Poets themselves, that it is no great wonder if Congreve, in his affluence, chose to forget that he had ever exercised a craft so rarely profitable, or felt a proud reluctance to be reckoned with writers by trade. There are few anecdotes which have been more frequently repeated than that of Congreve's interview with Voltaire. The Frenchman, whose ambition was the literary supremacy of the age, was much surprised that Congreve should listen coldly to the praises of his own works, speak of them as trifles beneath him, and desire to be visited only as a gentleman living retired, and at his ease. you
been so unfortunate," replied Voltaire, “as to be only a gentleman, I should not have visited you at all.” The retort was just in itself: but it is somewhat harsh to censure Congreve for vanity and contemptible affectation. A man is not necessarily ashamed, or affecting to be ashamed, of his occupation, past or present, because he does not choose to make it the ground of his acceptance in society. Our author on this occasion has found an able vindicator in Mason. In fact, Congreve had gained from literature whatever literature could give him; opulence, applause, the empire of wit, and the conversation of the great. Pope, by laying the translated Iliad at his feet, had acknowledged him to be the chief poet of his time. Thus it was the fortune of Congreve to receive honour from the veteran bard of the generation before him, and from the young aspirant upon whom the hopes of the next were settled. Though he retired long before his death from the field where alone he had reaped true glory, he did not outlive his reputation. He had the more singular felicity to be commended by most, and maligned by none.
Yet his latter years were not without affliction. Cataracts in his eyes terminated in total blindness, and he was a martyr to the gout, from which he vainly sought relief by a visit to Bath.
An overturn in his chariot made his case hopeless. He returned to London, and expired at his house (situate where now stands Holland House) on the 29th of January, 1728-9. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument was erected to his memory, by Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough. This lady, the daughter of the great Duke, and wife of Lord Godolphin, was so warmly attached to Congreve, that, if the common report be true, his loss must have disordered her brain. It is said that she had his image moulded in wax, of the size of life talked to it as if living, helped it at table to the same dishes which the deceased was known to prefer, and had an imaginary sore on its leg attended with all the care of surgery. There is no possibility of setting
limits to madness, but this tale bears marks of gross exaggeration. Most likely it originated in the report of some discarded waiting maid, who thought she had some time or other overheard her lady talking to Mr. Congreve's bust.
The conduct of Congreve in leaving £10,000, the amassings of a close economy, to this Duchess, has been severely reprehended. If his relations were poor, he had certainly much better have bestowed his fortune on the poor than on the wealthy. Still, it was not by inheritance from parents, nor by aid of kinsfolk, that he became rich. To the great he owed his property, and to the great he returned it. He offended no rule of justice by so doing.
From a rapid survey of his life and character, he seems to have been one of those indifferent children of the earth “ whom the world cannot hate;” who are neither too good nor too bad for the present state of existence, and who may fairly expect their portion here. The darkestat least the most enduring-stain on his memory, is the immorality of his writings ; but this was the vice of the time, and his comedies are considerably more decorous than those of his predecessors. They are too cold to be mischievous ; they keep the brain in too incessant inaction to allow the passions to kindle. For those who search into the powers of intellect, the combinations of thought which may be produced by volition, the plays of Congreve may form a profitable study, But their time is fled-on the stage they will be received no more ; and of the devotees of light reading, such as could read them without disgust would probably peruse them with little pleasure.*
It is reported, that in the latter part of his life he expressed much disapprobation of some part of his works. But as this disapprobation was expressed in the presence of a Quaker, it is hard to say how much of it was contrition, and how much politeness. He left several small legacies, and £200 to Mrs. Bracegirdle, the object of his youthful gallantry. Dr. Johnson's critique on Congreve is one of his happiest.
In a very entertaining little essay, prefixed, we believe, by the late Dr. Beddoes, of Bristol, to an edition of the works of John Brown, is a classification of physicians, according to the Linnæan method, -as the canting doctor, the wheedling doctor, the Adonis doctor, and the bully quack doctor ; which last genus and species is exemplified by that eminent Yorkshire worthy, and great benefactor to the University of Oxford, Dr. John Radcliffe. But we do not recollect any mention of the Quaker philanthropist doctor. Yet such a one was John Fothergill, a man who rather lives in the gratitude of mankind for the good that he did, than in the archives of science for the facts he discovered, the phænomena he explained, or the theories he constructed.
John Fothergill, the father of our subject, was a member of the society of Friends, and seems to have had considerable influence among his brethren, and, like many of that public-spirited community, who make a point of conscience of whatever they engage in, a keen politician. In the year 1734 he took a very active part in the contested election for Yorkshire, and in concert with Joseph Stort, wrote a circular letter to the society, lamenting that some of them had given votes inconsistent with unity and good report, and recommending to their favour Sir Rowland Winn and Cholmondeley Turner. Whether these candidates were conspicuous for opposition to the war which was then raging on the continent, or for advocacy of a general distribution of political privilege, or were distinguished from their opponents by sobriety and sanctity of demeanor, or what other claims they had to the support of the Friends, we are unable to determine.
John Fothergill the elder, after travelling all over America, settled at Knaresborough as a brewer, was successful, so as to enable him to retire from business to a small farm at Carr-End, near Richmond, where his son John was born in 1712, either on the 8th of March or the 12th of October. He was the second son of his father. The eldest, Alexander, studied the law, and inherited the family estate. Joseph, the third, was an ironmonger at Stockport, in Cheshire. Samuel, the youngest, went to America, and became a celebrated Quaker preacher, Anne, the only daughter, became the companion of her brother John, and survived him.
John received his early education under his maternal grandfather, Thomas Houghton, a gentleman of fortune in Cheshire, and afterwards at the school of Sedburgh. His classical attainments were at least respectable, as appears from some of his medical works in Latin. As the principles in which he was educated shut him out from the English Universities, while the turn of his mind disinclined him to the active pursuits of commerce, he chose the medical profession, the only profession in which a Quaker can expect to rise, or indeed can engage, in strict accordance with the spirit of his religion. He was apprenticed to Benjamin Bartlet,* surgeon and apothecary, of Bradford, in the year 1718, and served out the full term of seven years, whereby he gained a very intimate acquaintance with the practical part of pharmacy, and probably with the routine of general practice. An apothecary's apprentice is often called to attend upon the poorest of the poor ; he has to exercise much patience; whatever time he can devote to mental cultivation, or the higher branches of medical science, must be taken from his hours of relaxation or of sleep: if his disposition be indolent, his faculties obtuse, or his master unconscientious, he may very easily pass over the seven years without learning any thing more than the manual part of the trade. But, on the other hand, where a disposition to improvement meets with a master willing to afford instruction, and the opportunities of experience, the youth who goes through this troublesome probation has some advantages over him who passes from the general studies of the University to the School of Medicine.
Young Fothergill removed to London October 20th,+ 1736, and was for two years the pupil of Dr. (afterwards Sir Edward) Wilmot, at St. Thomas's Hospital. Thus prepared with a solid foundation, he went to the University of Edinburgh, which was then just rising into repute $ as a medical seminary. He graduated in 1736. His inaugural
*Chalmer's Biographical Dictionary. Dr. Elliott calls Fothergill's master Barelay, and states that he afterwards removed to London, and resided at the corner of Featherstone Buildings. Dr. Elliott omits all mention of Fothergill's studying under Dr. Wilmot.
+ This date bespeaks the precision of a Friend. Does it specify the expiration of his indentures ? or his arrival in London?
| Dr. Fotbergill, in his “Essay on the Character of the late Alexander Russell, M. D.” thus states the origin of that succession of medical teachers which for more than a century have attracted so much youthful talent to the northern metropolis :
“Though there had long been Professorships for Medicine in that place,” (Edin