Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mainwaring, Arthur

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MAINWARING or MAYNWARING, ARTHUR (1668–1712), auditor of imprests, was born in 1668 at Ightfield, Shropshire, where his family, a branch of the Mainwarings of Over Peover, Cheshire, had been settled since the fifteenth century. His grandfather, Sir Arthur Maynwaring (Wilson, Life of James I, 1653, p. 57), was a well-known figure at the court of James I, and a favourite of Prince Henry. His father was Charles Maynwaring, eldest son of Sir Arthur, and his mother was the daughter of Charles Cholmley of Vale Royal, Cheshire. When a boy he attended the grammar school, Shrewsbury, was sent at fifteen to Christ Church, Oxford (1683), and in 1687 entered as a student at the Inner Temple. He took the losing side at the revolution, and during a long stay with his uncle, Sir Francis Cholmley, a cavalier who went to prison rather than acknowledge William, his Stuart sympathies were encouraged and strengthened. He had left Oxford without a degree, but a commonplace-book written at this period shows wide reading and a susceptible and quick fancy. From Cheshire he came to live with his father in Essex Street, Strand, London, in order to study law, publishing almost immediately his first literary effort, ‘Tarquin and Tullia,’ an outspoken and fairly vigorous satire upon William and Mary. Next year, in the ‘King of Hearts,’ he ridiculed Lord Delamere [see Booth, George, 1622–1684] and his Cheshire men entering London in state. The verses, published anonymously, sold well, were attributed to Dryden, and made the author's fortune. Lord Cholmondeley and Burlington, recognising his merit, and regarding his Jacobitism as of the heart rather than the head, introduced him to Lord Somers and other prominent supporters of William, and yielding to their influence, to the prospect of rapid and brilliant advancement, and chiefly to a ripening judgment, his early enthusiasm dwindled and disappeared. Upon his father's death, about 1693, Maynwaring inherited an estate estimated at 800l. a year, but reduced by incumbrances to a nominal value. He now gave up the law, and raising 4,000l. upon Ightfield devoted himself to politics and society, placing his pen and wit at the service of the government. When the treaty of Ryswick in 1697 reopened communication with France he went to Paris, where he met Boileau and La Fontaine, astonishing the former by his account of English poetry and English drama. The conversation, as described by Oldmixon, closely resembles that between Addison and Boileau a few years later. Shortly after his return he was made a member of the Kit-Cat Club, and received through Montague a commissionership of customs. He gained a speedy ascendency over the board, and a reputation, even among enemies, for honesty and high principle. Oldmixon tells a pleasant story of the discomfiture of a candidate who some days preceding the election to a vacant post left fifty sovereigns at Maynwaring's lodgings with a letter soliciting his support in exchange. In 1705 Godolphin rewarded his services to the whigs by appointing him auditor of imprests, with an income of 3,000l. a year. Oldmixon seems to refer this appointment to an earlier year, but the first report bearing Maynwaring's signature is dated 19 Oct. 1705 (Cal. of State Papers, Treasury Ser. 1702–7, p. 377). His intimacy with the actress Mrs. Oldfield, the grande passion of his life, began some time previously. He wrote a number of prologues for her, but his influence on her style is less certain. On 27 Dec. 1706 he was elected member for the borough of Preston, and continued to represent it until 1710 (Members of Parliament, pt. i. p. 602, pt. ii. pp. 3, 11). He was M.P. for West Looe from 1710 till his death. In the crisis of 1709–1710 Maynwaring was a fiery advocate of the prosecution of Sacheverell, and after the dissolution attacked him and his supporters in a merciless fashion in the ‘Letters to a Friend in North Britain,’ the most significant of his writings apart from the ‘Medley.’ ‘Hannibal and Hanno,’ a striking defence of Marlborough, belongs to the same period. The exact part taken by Maynwaring in the ‘Whig Examiner,’ the first number of which appeared on 14 Sept. 1710, five weeks after its great rival, is not clearly known. The third number, ‘Alcibiades to the Athenians,’ is certainly his. Dissatisfied with the name ‘Examiner,’ however, and with the conduct of the paper, he had an interview with Oldmixon about the end of September, laid before him the plan of the ‘Medley,’ and on 5 Oct. the first number was issued. During the ten months that it lasted the ‘Medley’ was almost entirely Maynwaring's own work, pursuing the ‘Examiner’ with a close and vehement criticism that at last provoked Harley to try to gag it, but the attorney-general refused to move. (For particulars of Maynwaring's articles in the ‘Medley,’ see Oldmixon, Life, pp. 169–202.) With 1711 the tory position seemed secure; on 26 July the ‘Examiner’ was dropped, and in the following week the last ‘Medley’ was printed. ‘Grub Street is dead,’ Swift wrote jubilantly to Stella a few days later. Maynwaring's health had now given way, consumption declared itself, and his mode of life, which it was too late to change, fed the disease, but he worked on incessantly, inflamed to new effort by Louis's overtures of peace. He published a vigorous arraignment of the French policy towards the close of the year; in 1712 he was engaged on a history of the march to Blenheim, based on a diary kept by the duke's chaplain. A fragment is printed by Oldmixon. He went through his duties as auditor in person to the very end. His last report is signed 4 Nov.; ten days later he died. With Maynwaring's winning manner, he had a certain proud reserve, which when armed with a bitter wit kept the familiarity, to which his peculiar position exposed him, in check, but made his company a restraint rather than pleasure to men intellectually inferior to himself. Over Oldmixon and the like his sway was absolute. He gave a willing hand to struggling or disappointed men. Steele maintained that he owed his post as gazetteer to Maynwaring, to whom he dedicated the first volume of the ‘Tatler;’ and Maynwaring was certainly one of the first to discern the abilities of Walpole. He was a good hater, and never concealed a cause for it in an opponent; if he had written the attack upon Smalridge in the second ‘Medley,’ there would have been no dispute about the authorship. He cared nothing for money, and in spite of his large income died comparatively poor. He had appointed Mrs. Oldfield his executrix, and divided his property equally between her and his sister, the former employing her share upon the education of their son, Arthur Maynwaring. Three months after his death, 9 Feb. 1712–13, the ‘Examiner’ published some cowardly reflections upon his private character, to which Walpole replied.

[Maynwaring's name frequently occurs in contemporary writings, but the chief authority is Oldmixon's Life and Posthumous Works of Arthur Maynwaring, 1712. He is often vague, sometimes mistaken, but leaves a vivid impression of Maynwaring's character and influence. See also Finley's A Short History of the Maynwaring Family; Swift's Works, 1824, iv. 191–193, vi. 168, xv. 349; Anonymous Memoirs of Mrs. Oldfield, 1730, pp. 24–7. Egerton, in his Life of Mrs. Oldfield, merely gives extracts from Oldmixon, but prints Maynwaring's will; Oldmixon's Memoirs of the Press, 1742, pp. 6–14, 20–2; Tatler, the first number of which is dedicated to Maynwaring, Nos. 187, 190; Poems on Affairs of State, 1704, iii. 319–23. For references to Sir Arthur Maynwaring, see Oldmixon and State Paper Calendars, Dom. Ser. 1623 to 1631; and for Maynwaring's work as auditor, Treasury Ser. 1705 to 1712. See also Biographia Brit.]

J. A. C.