Mallet, David (DNB00)
MALLET, originally MALLOCH, DAVID (1705?–1765), poet and miscellaneous writer, born near Crieff in Perthshire, was probably the second son of James Malloch of Dunruchan, a well-to-do tenant-farmer on Lord Drummond's Perthshire estate, a Roman catholic, and a member of the outlawed clan Macgregor (cf. Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886). His mother's christian name was Beatrix, but her surname is unknown. The household was on intimate terms with the Drummond family, and suffered with them during the troubles of 1715 and 1745. David, who gave his age as twenty-eight in 1733 (ib.), and was therefore born about 1705, seems to have been educated at the parish school of Crieff under John Ker, afterwards classical master in the high school of Edinburgh and professor at Aberdeen and Edinburgh. In 1717 he was acting as janitor in the high school of Edinburgh at a salary of 20l. Scots per annum. In 1720 he became resident tutor to the sons of Mr. Home of Dreghorn, in return for ‘learning, clothes, and diet, but no fixed salary.’ He held the post till 1723, studied at the same time at the university of Edinburgh (1721–2, 1722–3), and formed a friendship with a fellow-student, James Thomson, author of ‘The Seasons.’ In July 1723 he accepted the post of tutor to the sons of the Duke of Montrose, at a salary of 30l. per annum. Leaving the university without a degree, he went in August to London, and thence to the duke's seat at Shawford, near Winchester. He lived on good terms with the family till 1731, residing chiefly at London and Shawford. Early in 1727 he made a continental tour with his pupils; and he was again abroad in 1735 (Pope, Works, x. 90, &c.)
Mallet had published a ‘Pastoral’ in the ‘Edinburgh Miscellany’ in 1720; and during his college days, emulating the example of Allan Ramsay, who had just ‘wrote himself into some kind of fame,’ and probably under Thomson's influence, he produced a number of short pieces, including an imitation of Milton, entitled ‘The Transfiguration,’ first published in the ‘Edinburgh Magazine’ in 1793 (ii. 339). Shortly before his engagement with the Montrose family he composed the ballad of ‘William and Margaret’ (see Ramsay's Poems, ed. 1877, ii. 283), which was published first anonymously in black-letter (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. ii. 411), and afterwards in 1724, in Ramsay's ‘Tea-Table Miscellany,’ i. 143, and Aaron Hill's ‘Plain Dealer,’ No. 36. Further short poems followed, mostly written for his friend Professor Ker; and in February 1725 he wrote verses on ‘Mira,’ ‘a very fine woman,’ the ‘Clio’ of his friend Thomson (Thomson, Poems, Aldine edit. i. cxliv). Next year (11 Jan.) he received the honorary degree of M.A. from the university of Aberdeen, ostensibly for an English poem in imitation of Ker's ‘Donaides.’ For Thomson's poem on ‘Winter,’ published in March 1726, he wrote a dedication to Sir Spencer Compton (Spence, Anecdotes), and some verses for the second edition (Thomson, Poems, i. xl, clx). He had himself written, early in 1725, a poem on the same subject, which was praised by Thomson; and on his return from the continent he prepared for the press ‘The Excursion,’ in two books, which he had written in 1726.
On 5 Sept. 1724 Mallet wrote to Ker that he had been advised to change his name and to adopt the form Mallet, ‘for there is not one Englishman that can pronounce’ Malloch. ‘Old surly’ Dennis's jest on Moloch had probably no little influence on his decision (cf. ‘Mallock’ in the list of names in Dennis, Miscellaneous Tracts, 1727). He first figures as Mallet in the list of subscribers' names in Savage's ‘Miscellanies,’ 1726; but in the introductory verses and preface to the second edition of Thomson's ‘Winter’ he was still called Malloch, though Thomson then writes of him as Mallet. Dr. Johnson, ‘an unforgiving enemy,’ remarked in his octavo edition of the Dictionary, ‘alias means otherwise, as Mallet alias Malloch, that is, otherwise Malloch’ (cf. Boswell, iv. 217, v. 127).
On 22 Feb. 1730–1 Mallet produced his tragedy of ‘Eurydice’ at Drury Lane, with a prologue and epilogue by Aaron Hill (A. Hill, Letters, i. 30, 44, iii. 334, iv. 74). It was acted about thirteen times, and was revived with poor success in 1759 (Genest, Account of the Stage, iii. 288–9). Towards the close of the year he left the Montrose family, and went to Gosfield in Essex, to act as tutor to the stepson of John Knight, to whose wife, formerly Mrs. Newsham, he had been recommended by Pope (Pope, Works, ix. 448, &c.) Pope evinced some regard for him—because of his ‘love of adulation and adulators,’ says Cooke—and Mallet showed his appreciation by the publication of his poem on ‘Verbal Criticism’ (1733), in which he ridiculed Theobald (ib. ix. 498, x. 86). On 2 Nov. he, with his pupil, matriculated at St. Mary Hall, Oxford, where he resided fairly regularly till 27 Sept. 1734. On 5 March following he received, at his request, the degree of M.A. from the university of Edinburgh, and on the 15th of that month he graduated B.A., and on 6 April M.A. of the university of Oxford.
Mallet advanced his interest by the tragedy of ‘Mustapha,’ produced at Drury Lane on 13 Feb. 1738–9. The prologue was by Thomson, and the play was dedicated to Frederick, prince of Wales, ‘who was so just as to insist on the tragedy as the first to be brought on’ that season (A. Hill, Letters, i. 328–32). Like Thomson's ‘Edward and Eleonora,’ but less openly, it was directed against the king and Sir Robert Walpole. With Quin as Solyman, and with the leading members of the prince's party and of Pope in the boxes (Pope, Works, x. 75), it achieved a great success, and ran for fourteen nights (ib. x. 93). Dodsley, in his edition of the works of Charles Boyle, fourth earl of Orrery [q.v.] , who wrote a piece with the same title, says that Mallet ‘made his play, by the help of a first minister and some other lucky incidents, as fashionable now as my lord Orrery's was heretofore.’ In 1740 Mallet published a short ‘Life of Bacon’ (see Boswell, ii. 194). Shortly afterwards Mallet and Thomson were commanded by the prince to write the masque of ‘Alfred,’ to celebrate both the birthday of the Princess Augusta and the anniversary of George I's accession. It was played in the gardens of Cliefden, before the Prince and Princess of Wales, on Friday, 1 Aug. 1740, with Quin, Mrs. Horton, and Mrs. Clive in the chief parts (Genest, iv. 324).
Mallet rapidly grew in favour with the opposition, and was appointed, 27 May 1742, under-secretary to the Prince of Wales, at a salary of 200l. (Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 275). The Duchess of Marlborough having left, in 1744, the sum of 1,000l. to Mallet and Glover, on condition that they would write a life of her husband, Mallet, on Glover's refusal, undertook the work. He never wrote a line, though for many years afterwards he professed to be ‘eternally fatigued with preparing and arranging materials’ (Davies, ii. 55–7; Hume, Letters, ed. Burton, ii. 139–41, 272–3; Boswell, ii. 386; cf. Alfred, Advt.) In 1745 he made a tour in Holland (A. Hill, Letters, ii. 249), and he published, in May 1747, ‘Amyntor and Theodora, or the Hermit.’ Mallet and Thomson had, through the good offices of George, first baron Lyttelton [q. v.], been in receipt of a pension of 100l. from the prince, but in 1748 they were deprived of it on account of the displeasure incurred by Lyttelton (Thomson, Poems, Aldine edit. i. cx). Mallet soon found compensation in the patronage of Bolingbroke, to whom he had been at an earlier date introduced by Pope. By Bolingbroke's direction he at once prepared an advertisement to an edition of the ‘Patriot King,’ published in 1749, in which he attacked the memory of Pope for having clandestinely edited and printed the work in 1738 (cf. Advt.; Pope, Works, v. 347). Mallet had chosen to forget not only Pope's kindnesses, but the fervour which had prompted him to write to Lord Orrery after the poet's death (1 June 1744)—‘his person I loved, his worth I know, and shall ever cherish his memory with all the regard of esteem, with all the tenderness of friendship’ (ib. viii. 522). This mean act involved Mallet in a short pamphlet-war with Pope's friends (cf. Boswell, i. 329), but he was rewarded by the gift of Bolingbroke's works, printed and in manuscript, of which he published an edition in 5 vols. in March 1754 (Goldsmith, Life of Bolingbroke). Dr. Johnson remarked on this enterprise that Bolingbroke had ‘spent his life in charging a gun against Christianity,’ and ‘left half-a-crown to a hungry Scotchman to draw the trigger after his death.’ In 1751, three years after the death of Thomson, Mallet published a new version of the masque of 1740. Here Alfred was ‘what he should have been at first—the principal figure in his own masque’ (Advt.), and new scenes and songs were added. According to Mallet's account, very little of Thomson's share was retained. It was acted at Drury Lane on 23 Feb. 1750–1, with Garrick in the title-rôle (Genest, iv. 323–5). The masque of ‘Britannia,’ an appeal to patriotic sentiment on the eve of an outbreak of war with France, followed in 1755. It was produced at Drury Lane on 9 May, when Garrick ‘spoke the prologue as a drunken sailor’ (ib. p. 411; Mallet, Works, i. 185). On 19 Jan. 1762–3 Mallet's ‘Elvira’ was acted at the same theatre during the ‘half-price riots’ (Genest, Account, v. 12). Garrick took the part of Don Pedro, the last ‘new character’ in which he was seen (Davies, ii. 58); but it was not a success, and it provoked a pamphlet of ‘Critical Strictures’ by James Boswell and two fellow-Scots (Boswell, i. 408). In the interval he had written a few minor pieces, including the ballad of ‘Edwin and Emma,’ 1760, and a discreditable party indictment by a ‘Plain Man’ against Admiral Byng, 1757 (ib. ii. 128). He was rewarded in 1763 by Lord Bute, to whom he had given fulsome praise, with the post of inspector of exchequer-book in the outports of London, at a salary of 300l., a sinecure which he held till his death (ib. and i. 268). In the autumn of the following year he joined his wife at Paris, but ill-health compelled him to return to London (Hume, Letters, ii. 200). His weakness gradually increased, and he died on Sunday, 21 April 1765, ‘aged 63’ (Scots Mag. 1765, p. 224). He was buried on the 27th in St. George's cemetery, South Audley Street, but no monument remains to mark the spot.
By his first wife, Susanna, whom he married about 1734, and who died in January 1741–2, he had two children, Charles, and Dorothy, who married a Genoese gentleman named Celesia [see Celesia, Dorothea]. His second wife was Lucy, youngest daughter of Lewis Elstob, steward to the Earl of Carlisle, who brought him a dowry of 10,000l. when he married her, on 7 Oct. 1742 (Gent. Mag. 1742, p. 546). Gibbon, who was ‘domesticated’ with the Mallets from 1758, describes her as ‘not destitute of wit or learning’ (Misc. Works, i. 115). She died at Paris on 17 Sept. 1795, aged 79. By her Mallet had two daughters (cf. A. Hill, Letters, ii. 260): Lucy, born 1743, who married a Captain Macgregor in the French service (Hume, Letters, ii. 232), and Arabella, born 1745, who married Captain Williams of the royal engineers.
Mallet was small of stature, but well made, though in later years he became very corpulent, being in 1764 ‘exactly like the shape of a barrel’ (Addit. MS. Brit. Mus. 6858, f. 30; Dinsdale, p. 49). He was very careful in his dress, ‘the prettiest drest puppet about town,’ says Johnson (Boswell, v. 174); his conversation was easy and elegant (ib. i. 268, and Johnson, Lives, iv. 439); and he early ‘cleared his tongue from his native pronunciation, so as to be no longer distinguishable as a Scot’ (Johnson, Lives, iv. 433; cf. also Boswell, ii. 159). Hume, although he disliked him, appealed to him ‘very earnestly,’ on more than one occasion, for aid in purging his manuscript of Scotticisms (Hume, Letters, ii. 3–5, 79). In his actions, rather than in his writings, he showed intense vanity, which was fostered by his second wife (ib. ii. 142; Cooke, in Gent. Mag. 1791, ii. 1181; cf. Wilkes, Corresp. i. 77 n.) He posed as ‘a great declaimer in all the London coffee-houses against Christianity’ (ib.), and Hume found his household too studiously sceptical for his taste (Davies, ii. 59; Life of Charlemont, i. 235). His deceit in connection with the ‘Marlborough Memoirs,’ his behaviour to Hume, ‘like a dog in the manger’ (Hume, Letters, ii. 144), the unscrupulous use of his pen in party politics towards the close of his life, and, chief of all, his treatment of the memory of Pope, his friend and patron, are dark blots on an otherwise ‘respectable’ and successful career.
Mallet's literary reputation did not live long, and one contemporary at least was not too severe in calling him a ‘whiffler in poetry’ (Cooke, supra). Johnson told Goldsmith that he ‘had talents enough to keep his literary reputation alive as long as he himself lived’ (Boswell, ii. 233), and he has worked out the same idea in his criticism in the ‘Lives’ (iv. 440). His lack of originality justified the sorry joke of the aggrieved Theobald, ‘that there is no more conceit in him than in a mallet’ (edit. of Shakespeare, 1733, Pref. lii); and Hume's dictum, that ‘he was destitute of the pathetic,’ would not be difficult to prove. At times his lines show the cadence of Pope's verse (e.g. ‘Verbal Criticism’), and his tragedies echo the fuller rhythm of his friend's ‘Seasons;’ but his motif is always poor. His early ballad of ‘William and Margaret,’ and the claim set up on his behalf to the authorship of the national ode of ‘Rule Britannia,’ alone give him any title to posthumous recognition. But ‘Rule Britannia’, which appeared in its first form in the ‘Alfred’ of 1740, although ascribed to Mallet, is probably by Thomson. In the Advertisement to the masque, in the edition of his works published in 1759, Mallet, with studied vagueness and perhaps with some insincerity, says: ‘I was obliged to reject a great deal of what I myself had written in the other: neither could I retain, of my friend’s part, more than three or four single speeches, and a part of one song.’ A collation of the versions, in the light of that statement, may appear to favour Mallet’s claims; but to this, at best an inference, is opposed the fact that the song appeared during his lifetime with Thomson’s name affixed (The Charmer, 2nd edit. Edinb. 1752, p. 130).
Besides the works mentioned above, Mallet published a collection of ‘Poems on Several Occasions’ in 1743, and a second under the same title in 1762, and. at Smollett’s request, he contributed to the ‘Critical Review’ (Dinsdale, p. 46). A collected edition of ‘The Works of D. Mallet, Esq.’ appeared in 3 vols. in 1759. His poems have been reprinted by Johnson (vol. liii.), Bell (vol. lxxiii.), Anderson (vol. ix.), Park (vol. xxix.), and Chalmers (vol. xiv.) An annotated edition of his ‘Ballads and Songs,’ by F. Dinsdale, was published in 1857.
[Letters in European Mag. vols. xxiii. xxiv. xxv., reprinted in Edinburgh Mag. vols. i. and ii.; Works of Aaron Hill, 1753, vols. i. and ii.; Genest’s Account of the Stage, esp. v. 13 sq.; Elwin and Courthope’s Pope, iii. 534 (Warburton’s cancelled page), iv. 448, 450, 452, v. 79, viii. 519-24, ix. 448, 452, 455, 498, x. 32, 72, 79-98; Boswell’s Life of Johnson, ed. by Birkbeck Hill, vols. i-iv, and Johnson’s Lives of the Poets (1791), vol. iv.; Wilkes’s Correspondence, i. 77; Aldine edition of Thomson’s Works, App.; Burton’s Life and Letters of David Hume, vol. ii.; Collection of Letters written by Pope, &c., to A. Hill, Dublin, 1751; Davies’s Memoirs of David Garrick, 1780, vol. ii.; Critical Review; Macaulay’s Essays; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. ii. 132, 411, 490; Preface to Dinsdale’s edition, referred to above, especially for documents relating to Mallet’s early life.]