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the King most graciously sent unto him a comfortable message, which hath revived him.”—Strafford's Letters and Despatches, vol. i.
During the dissolute and disgraceful reign of Charles II, the people were not treated with more consideration, and the mass of the middling classes, who almost alone retained any sentiments of religion and decency in the capital, were considered as republicans and puritans, and as proper butts for the scurrilous wit of the courtiers, and fitting objects of attacks for their hired bravoes. A nobleman would then have thought it unworthy of his rank and birth openly to draw his sword with a “base plebeian,” but it was considered no disgrace to employ nightruffians to surprise and beat almost to death any defenceless citizen that might have incurred his displeasure. So degraded and brutalized was the spirit of the upper classes at that period, which is so often boasted of as a period of excessive refinement, when, as Dennis says, “the court was more gallant and more polite than ever the English court perhaps had been before,” that even in their contentions and differences among themselves, they resorted to all kinds of dishonourable means, such as nightsurprises, ambuscades, superior numbers, &c. Thus Sir John Coventry, who had hazarded some reflections upon the King's amours with actresses, was treacherously waylaid by a number of young men of high rank, who cruelly beat him and slit his nose.
This being the case, it will be easily imagined how these riotous courtiers and swaggering sprigs of nobility were inclined to treat honest citizens and industrious people, whom they scarcely considered as of the same species as themselves.
In the case we are about to relate, the person attacked was what is called a man of good family—a gentleman born ; but as he was reduced to get his living by his pen and his genius, he had probably lost caste in the estimation of those in whose eyes the doing of nothing was the most essential quality of a gentleman. The story derives an additional interest from the celebrity of the parties, John Dryden, one of the greatest of our poets, had in sundry ways given offence to the notorious Lord Rochester, who was also a poet and a wit, though an irreclaimable miscreant. To wreak his vengeance, Rochester set up one Elkanah Settle as a rival to Dryden; and it is a singular proof of the good taste of the times, that this Settle, who, after going through the phases of Lord Mayor's fool, or poet-laureate to the city, died the maker of dramas for the puppets of Bartholomew Fair, was for some time the pet poet of the gallant and polite court of Charles II.” Rochester's rancour was still more exasperated by the appearance of an “Essay on Satire,” that exposed his cowardice and other vices, and which, though written by the Earl of Mulgrave (afterwards Duke of Buckingham), he persisted in attributing to the pen of Dryden. Heimmediately took his base measures, which he did not blush to communicate to a friend beforehand; saying in one of his letters, that, as Dryden attacked him with blunt wit, he should “leave the repartee to black Will with a cudgel.” On the night of the 18th December 1679, as Dryden,
* It appears that the taste of at least one of our universities was as bad as that of the court, for old Dennis tells us that “Cambridge was divided which to prefer”—Elkanah or “ Glorious John.”
who had passed his evening, as usual, at Will's coffeehouse, was returning to his home in Gerard-street, he was waylaid in Rose-street, Covent-garden, and severely beaten by a set of hired ruffians, who, in the dark, unprotected state in which London was then left by night, could perform their office and escape almost without any risk. Had the sufferer been a less distinguished individual, no notice would probably have been taken of so common an occurrence; but as Dryden was a man constantly in the eyes of the world, and not altogether destitute of great friends, government was obliged for decency's sake to offer a reward of 50l. for the discovery of the perpetrators of this outrage, and to promise the King's gracious pardon to any accessory, or even to the principal, who should make such disclosure. This advertisement, which appeared in the London Gazette and one or two other newspapers, led to no discovery, nor was it likely it should, when we reflect that the Duchess of Portsmouth, one of Charles's mistresses, and even the King himself, were more than suspected of being allied with Rochester, as both these august personages had been satirized in Mulgrave's obnoxious poem. Even leaving his religious Majesty out of the question, the other two, (to use the words of Lord Clarendon when speaking of certain courtiers in the same reign) “were too great to be questioned in any judicatory.”
VIII. UNHEALTHINESS OF MEDICAL
PERHAPs the most singular fact connected with the relative healthiness of various trades and professions, is, that of all men exercising a liberal art, the practitioners of physic are the most short-lived. Ramazzini, the celebrated writer on the diseases of artizans, did not know this, but supposed doctors to be cheerful jolly fellows, going home in high spirits with their pockets full of fees, —dum bene nummati Lares suos repetunt. Mr. Thackrah, on the other hand, talks of their anxiety of mind about their patients, observing that “ anxiety of mind does more to impair health than breach of sleep, nocturnal exposure, or irregularity in meals.” — (On the effects of arts, trades, &c. on health and longevity, 2d edit. p. 175.) He seems to have doubted whether the profession as a body attained “the full duration of life,” but had no authentic records to decide the question. A German writer, Dr. Caspar, has for many years kept a register of the deaths of professional men, chiefly of those occurring in Germany, and finds that while the clergy stand at the head of the list for longevity, the doctors are at the bottom. We do not think that this can be attributed to anxiety about dangerous cases, as Mr. Thackrah supposes, but would rather ascribe it to the harassing nature of the profession. The interruption of sleep, and the irregularity of meals, unsweetened by vacations long or short, demand the resisting powers, not of flesh and blood, but of steel and caoutchouc. In this country—perhaps in others,—there is an additional cause which quickens the circulation and destroys the digestion of the ministers of the healing art. This is the supposed necessity of cutting a figure in the world, and obtaining practice by making the deluded public believe that the practice has been already obtained. Hence capital is made to play the part of income, and a carriage is often kept by an ascetic living on cold mutton and small beer. The philanthropic surgeon of Leeds proposes remedies for many of the diseases which he details—what charm will cure the atrophia medicorum ? None, we fear, but the establishment of a Utopian tribunal to smooth the most delicate difficulties and force people to be happy against their will. As a general rule, we would substitute claret for cabs, and not allow a carriage as a bait. Physicians with a bad digestion and exsanguine complexion would be immediately invalided under our mild despotism, as it is unreasonable that those should be allowed to correct faults in others who are guilty of the very same ones themselves.
“Careless of life, but anxious for the pelf,
IX. SCALIGER'S CHARACTERS OF SOME OF THE EUROPEAN NATIONS.
The prejudice, contradictions, and violence of some of the following national portraitures, in all of which however there is a mixture of truth which still holds good,