The New International Encyclopædia/Arbuthnot, John

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AR'BUTHNOT, John (1667-1735). A Scotch author and physician, the contemporary and friend of Pope and Swift. He was the son of an Episcopal clergyman, and was born at Arbuthnot, Kincardineshire. He studied medicine at Aberdeen, but took his degree at Saint Andrews. Arbuthnot's father lost his preferment at the outbreak of the Revolution. His sons' prospects being thus blighted in their own country, the family were compelled to go abroad to seek their fortune. John went soon after to London, and there supported himself by teaching mathematics. In 1697 he published an examination of Dr. Woodward's account of the Deluge, which brought him into notice as a person of unusual ability. Accident called him into attendance on Prince George of Denmark, who thenceforth patronized him. In 1709 he was appointed physician in ordinary to the Queen, and in 1710 was elected a member of the Royal College of Physicians. On the death of Queen Anne, in 1714, he lost his place at court, and his circumstances were never so prosperous afterward. In 1717, Arbuthnot, with Pope, helped Gay in a farce, entitled Three Hours After Marriage, which, however, proved a complete failure. In 1723 he was chosen second censor of the Royal College of Physicians, and in 1727 he pronounced the Harveian oration for the year. He died at Hampstead in 1735.

Arbuthnot's literary fame rests upon two humorous pieces. In 1712 he published the History of John Bull, one of the most amusing of political satires. After his death appeared (in Pope's Works, 1741) the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus (q.v.), in which all kinds of pedantry is ridiculed. John Bull as a nickname for England has been traced back no farther than Arbuthnot, and Scriblerus is one of the important sources of Sterne's Tristram Shandy. Arbuthnot was one of the most amiable of men. To him Pope addressed his best Epistle, and Swift said that if there were a dozen Arbuthnots in the world he would burn his Travels. Consult G. A. Aitkin, Life and Works of Arbuthnot (London, 1892).