Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/202

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572 WILLIAM M'GAVIN.


wife is reported to have been particularly proud, and anxious that he should r at all times, appear like a man of. the first rank. She reserved to herself the pleasing task of purchasing all his fine clothes, and was always sure to let her friends know it was out of her fortune she did so. As Mallet was what is call- ed a free thinker in religion, his wife also, who prided herself in the strength of her understanding, scrupled not, when surrounded at her table with com- pany of congenial opinions, amongst whom it is said Gibbon was a frequent guest, to enforce her dogmas in a truly authoritative style, prefacing them with the exclamation of " Sir, We deists." As an additional proof of the vanity and weakness of this well-matched pair, we subjoin the following anecdotes from Wilkes's Correspondence, and Johnson's Lives of the Poets :

" On his arrival from the north, he became a great declaimer at the London coffee-houses, against the Christian religion. Old surly Dennis was highly offended at his conduct, and always called him " Moloch." He then changed his name to Mallet, and soon after published an epistle to Mr Pope on Verbal Criticism. Theobald was attacked in it, and soon avenged himself in the new edition of Shakspeare : ' An anonymous writer has, like a Scotch pedlar in wit, unbraced his pack on the subject. I may fairly say of this author, as Falstaff says of Poin Hang him, baboon, his wit is as thick as Tewkesbury mustard ; there is no more conceit in him than a mallet.' Pre- face, p. 52, edition of 1733. This Malloch had the happiness of a wife, who had faith enough. She believed that her husband was the greatest poet and wit of the age. Sometimes she would seize his hand, and kiss it with rapture, and if the looks of a friend expressed any surprise, would apologize that it was the denr hand that wrote those divine poems. She was lamenting to a lady how much the reputation of her husband suffered by his name being so fre- quently confounded with that of Dr Smollett. The lady answered, ' Madam, there is a short remedy ; let your husband keep his own name.'"

" When Pope published his Essay on Man, but concealed the author, Mallet entering one day, Pope asked him slightly what there was new. Mal- let told him that the newest piece was something called an Essay on Man, which he had inspected idly, and seeing the utter inability of the author, who had neither skill in writing, nor knowledge of the subject, had tossed it away. Pope, to punish his self-conceit, told him the secret"

" Mallet's conversation," says Dr Johnson, " was elegant and easy, his works are such as a writer, bustling in the world, showing himself in public, and emerging, occasionally, from time to time, into notice, might keep alive by his personal influence ; but which, conveying but little information, and giving no great pleasure, must soon give way, as the succession of things produces new topics of conversation, and other modes of amusement."

A daughter, by his first wife, named Cilesia, who was married to an Italian of rank, wrote a tragedy called " Almida," which was acted at Drury Lane theatre. She died at Genoa in 1790.

M'GAVIN, WILLIAM, a modern controversial and miscellaneous writer, was born August 12th, 1773, on the farm of Darnlaw, in the parish of Auchinleck, Ayrshire, which his father held on lease from lord Auchinleck, and afterwards from his son James Boswell, the biographer of Johnson. A short attendance at the school of that parish, when about seven years of age, constituted "the whole education of a regular kind, which the subject of this memoir ever en- joyed. His parents having removed in 1783 to Paisley, and being in by no means affluent circumstances, he was sent at an early period of life to earn his bread as a draw-hoy in one of the manufactories. Subsequently he tried weav- ing of silk, but eventually was led by his taste for reading to become apprentice