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AMUEL GARTH was of a good family in Yorkshire, and from some
school in his own country became a student at Peter-house in Cambridge where he resided till he commenced doctor of physick on July the 7th, 169) He was examined before the College at London on March the 12th, 1691.2 and admitted fellow June 26th, 1693. He was soon so much distinguished by his conversation and accomplishments, as to obtain very extensive practice ; and, if a pamphlet of those times may be credited, had the favour and con fidence of one party, as Radcliffe had of the other.
He is always mentioned as a man of benevolence; and it is just to suppose that his desire of helping the helpless disposed him to so much zeal for the Dispensary; an undertaking of which some account however short, is proper to be given.
Whether what Temple says be true, that physicians have had more learning than the other faculties, I will not stay to enquire ; but, I believe, every man has found in physicians great liberality, and dignity of sentiment, very prompt effusion of beneficence, and willingness to exert a lucrative art, where there is no hope of lucre. Agreeably to this character, the college of Physicians, in July 1687, published an edict, requiring all the fellows, candidates, and licentiates, to give gratuitous advice to the neighbouring poor.'
This edict was sent to the Court of Aldermen; and a question being made to whom the appellation of the poor should be extended, the College answered, that it should be sufficient to bring a testimonial from a clergyman officiating in the parish where the patient resided
After a year's experience, the physicians found their charity frustrated by some malignant opposition, and made to a great degree vain by the bigh price of physick; they therefore voted, in August 1688, that the laboratory of the College should be accommodated to the preparation of medicines, and another room prepared for their reception; and that the contributors to the expence should manage the Charity. .
It was now expected that the Apothecaries would have undertaken the care of providing medicines : but they took another course. Thinking the whole design pernicious to their interest they endeavoured to raise a faction
ageinst it in the College, and found some physicians mean enough to solicit their patronage, by betraying to them the counsels of the College. The greater part, however, enforced by a new edict, in 1694, the former order of 1687, and sent it to the mayor and aldermen, who appointed a committee to treat with the College, and settle the mode of administering the charity.
It was desired by the aldermen, that the testimonials of churchwardens and Overseers should be admitted; and that all hired servants, and all apprentices to handicraftsmen should be considered as poor. This likewise was granted by the College.
It was then considered who should distribute the medicines, and who should settle their prices. The Physicians procured some apothecaries to undertake the dispensation, and offered that the Warden and Company of the apothecaries should adjust the price. This offer was rejected ; and the apothecaries who had engaged to assist the charity were considered as traytors to the company, threatened with the imposition of troublesome offices, and deterred from the performance of their engagements. The apothecaries ventured upon public opposition, and presented a kind of remonstrance against the de.. sign to the committee of the city, which the physicians condescended to confute : and at least the traders seem to have prevailed among the sons of trade; for the proposal of the college having been considered, a paper of approbation was drawn up, but postponed and forgotten.
The physicians still persisted; and in 1696 a subscription was raised by themselves, according to an agreement prefixed to the Dispensary. The poor stere for a time supplied with medicines : for how long a time, I know not. The medicinal charity, like others, began with ardour, but soon remitted, and at last died gradually away.
About the time of the subscription begins the action of the Dispensary. The Poem, as its subject was present and popular, co-operated with passions and prejudices then prevalent, and, with such auxiliaries to its intrinsick merit, was universally and liberally applauded. It was on the side of charity against the intrigues of interest, and of regular learning against licentious usurpation of medical authority, and was "therefore naturally favoured by those who read and can judge of poetry.
In 1697, Garth spoke that which is now called the Harveian Oration ; which the authors of the Biographia mention with more praise than the passage quoted in their notes will fully justify. Garth, speaking of the mischiefs done by quacks, has these expressions: “Non tamen telis vulnerat ista agyr** tarum coluvies, sed theriacâ quadam magis perniciosa, non pyrio, sed pul* vere nescio quo exotico certat, non globulis plumbeis, sed pilulis æque “ 'lethalibus interficit.” This was certainly thought fine by the author, and Na 2
is still admired by his biographer. In October 1702 he became one of the censors of the College.
Garth, being an active and zcalous Whig, was a member of the Kit-cat clab, and by consequence familiarly known to all the great men of that denomination. In 1710, when the government fell into other hands, he writ to lord Godolphin, on his dismission, a short poem, which was criticised in the Examiner, and so successfully either defended or excused by Mr. Addison, that, for the sake of the vindication, it ought to be preserved,
At the accession of the present Family his merits were acknowledged and gewarded. He was knighted with the sword of his hero, Marlborough; and was made physician in ordinary to the king, and physician-general to the army.
He then undertook an addition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by several hands; which he recommended by a Preface, written with more ostentation than ability: his notions are half-formed, and his materials immethodically confused. This was his last work. He died Jan. 18, 1717-18, and was buried at Harrow-on-the-Hill.
His personal character seems to have been social and liberal. He communicated himself through a very wide extent of acquaintance; and though firm in a party, at a time when firmness included virulence, yet he imparted his kindness to those who were not supposed to favour his principles. He was an early encourager of Pope, and was at once the friend of Addison and of Grenville. He is accused of voluptuousness and irreligion; and Pope, who says that “ if ever there was a good Christian, without knowing himself << to be so, it was Dr. Garth," seems not able to deny what he is angry to hear and loth to confess.
Pope afterwards declared himself convinced that Garth died in the communion of the Church of Rome, having been privately reconciled. It is observed by Lowth, that there is less distance than is thought between scepticism and popery, and that a mind, wearied with perpetual doubt, willingly seeks repose in the bosom of an infallible church.
His poetry has been praised at least equally to its merit. In the Dispensar there is a strain of smooth and free versification; but few lines are eminently elegant. No passages fall be low mediocrity, and few rise much above it. The plan seems formed without just proportion to the subject; the means and end have no necessary connection. Resnal, in his Preface to Pope's Essay, remarks, that Garth exhibits no discrimination of characters, and that what any one says might wit equal propriety have been said by another. The general design is perhaps open to criticism ; but the composition can seldom be charged with inaccuracy or negligence. The author never slumbers in
self-indulgence; his full vigour is always exerted ; scarce a line is left unfis nished, nor is it easy to find an expression used by constraint, or a thought imperfectly expressed. It was remarked by Pope, that the Dispensary had been corrected in every edition, and that every change was an improvement. It appears, however, to want something of poetical ardour, and something of general delectation ; and therefore, since it has been no longer supported by accidental and extrinsick popularity, it has been scarcely able to support itself.
1673. His family had long possessed a considerable estate, with a good house, ar Lambertoun* in Devonshire. The ancestor from whom he descended in a direct line received the arms borne by his descendants for his bravery in the Holy War. His father, John Rowe, who was the first that quitted his paternal acres to practise any art of profit, professed the law, and published Benlow's and Dallison's Reports in the Reign of James the Second, when, in opposition to the notions then diligently propagated, of dispensing power, he ventured to remark how low his authors rated the prerogative. He was made a serjeant, and died April 30, 1692. He was bus fied in the Temple Church.
Nicholas was first sent to a private school at Highgate ; and being afterward removed to Westminster, was at twelve yearst chosen one of the King's scholars. His master was Busby, who suffered none of his scholars to let their powers lie useless; and his exercises in several languages are said to have been written with uncommon degrees of excellence, and yet to have cost him very little labour.
At sixteen he had, in his father's opinion, made advances in learning sufficient to qualify him for the study of law, and was entered a student of the Middle Temple, where for some time he read statutes and reports with proficiency proportionate to the force of his mind, which was already such that he endeavoured to comprehend law, not as a series of precedents, or collection of positive precepts, but as a system of rational government, and impartial justice.
When he was nineteen, he was by the death of his father left more to his own direction, and probably from that time suffered law gradually to give way to poetry. At twenty-five he produced The Ambitious Stepmother, which was received with so much favour, that he devoted himself from that time wholly to elegant literature.
His next tragedy (1702) was Tamerlane, in which, under the name of Tamerlane, he intended to characterize king William, and Lewis the Fourteenth under Bajazet. The virtues of Tamerlane seem to have been arbitrarily assigned him by his poet, for I know not that history gives any other qualities than those which make a conqueror. The fashion, however, of the time, was, to accumulate upon Lewis all that can raise horror and detestation; and,
whatever * In the Villare, Lamerton. Orig. Edit. of He was not elected till 1688. N.