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New Evidence for Dr. Arbuthnot's Authorship of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" by Dennis Todd
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New Evidence for Dr. Arbuthnot's Authorship of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife"
Dennis Todd

In September 1726, Mary Toft, a young, illiterate woman from Godalming, Surrey, announced that she was giving birth to rabbits. Her claim was taken seriously by a large number of people, including members of the medical profession, and for two months the affair was the subject of intense interest and speculation in London. In December, Toft confessed that her story was a lie, and London suddenly was innundated with satires ridiculing those gullible enough to have been taken in by the woman: sarcastic factual accounts, facetious accounts that claimed to be factual, mock suicide notes, false confessions, poems, ballads, engravings, pamphlets, and squibs.

Among this flood was "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," a short poem poking fun at some of the men involved in the Mary Toft affair. The poem circulated in manuscript and was not published until 1730, anonymously, in A New Miscellany.

Marjorie Hope Nicolson and G. S. Rousseau have called attention to what they took to be an eighteenth-century attribution of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" to Dr. John Arbuthnot.[1] However, they did not press for Dr. Arbuthnot's authorship of the poem. Since Nicolson and Rousseau have written, a new, very early attribution has come to light, and this, together with internal evidence from the poem, allows us to argue that Dr. Arbuthnot very probably wrote "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife."


The attribution cited by Nicolson and Rousseau is to be found in a scrapbook held by the Royal Society of Medicine, "Toft (Mary), the celebrated pretended Breeder of Rabbits. A Collection of 10 Tracts relative to this most extraordinary Imposture, with a few MS. Extracts" (L. 7. C. 24/19582). This scrapbook contains printed pamphlets, handwritten copies of songs and poems, and extracts from newspapers and books, all relating to the Mary Toft affair. Among these is "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," transcribed, according to a note at the foot of the page, from A New Miscellany. In the upper right-hand corner of this copy of the poem, someone has written "by John Arbuthnot."

Unfortunately, too little is known about this attribution to use it to establish Arbuthnot's authorship of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," for neither


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the attributer nor the date of the attribution can be determined with any certainty.

The first page of the scrapbook has this statement of provenance: "Sam. Merriman M. D. Half Moon Street purchased this volume at the sale of Dr. Combe's Books for £ 3.10.0." Underneath, in a different hand, is written, "I succeeded to it at a cost of £ 2.5.0 S. Wm. J. Merriman M. D. Charles Street Westbourne Terrace."

Dr. Combe is Charles Combe, M. D. (1743-1817). He received a degree of doctor of medicine from the University of Glasgow in 1783 and the next year was admitted by the College of Physicians a licentiate in midwifery. In 1789, he was elected physician to the British Lying-in Hospital where, in 1810, he was appointed consulting physician. Dr. Combe was a scholar and antiquarian (he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1771 and to the Royal Society in 1776). On his death, much of his valuable materia medica was acquired by the College of Physicians.[2] Sam. Merriman, who purchased the Toft scrapbook on Combe's death, is Samuel Merriman, M. D. (1771-1852). Like Combe, he specialized in midwifery. In 1808, he was appointed physician-accoucheur and, in 1815, consulting physician-accoucheur to the Westminster General Dispensary, and he later held a similar position at Middlesex Hospital. Like Combe, too, he was a scholar: he wrote about the history of his profession and collected biographical information on medical and scientific men. S. Wm. J. Merriman, to whom the Toft collection passed next, is Samuel William John Merriman (1814-1873), the son of Samuel Merriman; in 1847, he was appointed consulting physician to the Westminster General Dispensary and, in 1849, physician to the Royal Infirmary for Children.[3] Shortly after his death, the scrapbook was acquired by the Royal Society of Medicine, where it has continued to be held to this day.[4]

It is difficult to know which of these three men made the attribution—or, for that matter, whether any of them did. The transcription of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" was done in a careful hand and obviously was meant to be a permanent item in the scrapbook. The handwriting is nothing like Combe's. It could be Samuel Merriman's, but there are sufficient differences between the careful hand of the transcript and the specimens of the casual hand of Merriman that I have seen that I cannot be certain. The question of the handwriting aside, the elder Samuel Merriman is the most likely of the three men to have trancribed the poem. He took considerable interest in the Mary Toft incident, making extensive notes on the affair and publishing an article in The Gentleman's Magazine in which he identified the medical men involved in the case whom Hogarth satirized in his print Cunicularii.[5] And transcriptions of other Mary Toft material in the scrapbook appear to have been made by him. Still, since the evidence of the handwriting is not conclusive, we cannot be certain that he is the one who copied "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" out of A New Miscellany. And further, the younger Merriman's


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hand is very much like his father's, so conceivably the transcription could be his.[6]

At any rate, whoever transcribed the poem did not necessarily make the attribution. The attribution was made sometime after the poem was copied. It is in pencil, scrawled aslant the page, thus spoiling the neat appearance of the ink transcription. It appears to have been written hurriedly, perhaps with an unsteady hand or on an unsteady surface. As a consequence, it is difficult to determine whether the hand that wrote the attribution was the hand that made the transcription. To my eye, there is nothing in the short, carelessly scrawled phrase "by John Arbuthnot" that allows us definitively to identify it with the hand of any one of the three men or to exclude the possibility that any one of them may have written it.

There are other complications to the matter of who made the attribution. First, the attribution could have been added after the scrapbook passed from the hands of the younger Merriman. Secondly, it is possible that the Toft scrapbook was owned by someone other than Combe and the Merrimans. The Mary Toft incident occurred in 1726. Charles Combe was born in 1743, and even if he began collecting the material as a young man, the earliest he would have come into possession of it would have been nearly forty years after the event. The printed tracts in the scrapbook were published between December 1726 and February 1727, and by their nature they were ephemeral. Combe's being able to gather all these fugitive tracts piecemeal so long after their publication is less likely than his obtaining an already existing collection, one made much nearer the events of 1726.[7] If some previous form of the scrapbook did exist, the transcription of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" could have been added as early as 1730 (when the poem was published in A New Miscellany) and the attribution made any time thereafter by someone who possessed the transcription before Dr. Combe.

In short, the attribution found in the Royal Society of Medicine scrapbook is of dubious value. On the basis of the handwriting alone, we must conclude that it was written by an unknown person at an unknown time. Even if we assume that it was made by the elder Samuel Merriman, who of the three men took the most active interest in the Mary Toft affair, he probably did not transcribe the poem until he acquired the scrapbook in 1817, nearly one hundred years after the event. Whatever the case, it is impossible to know on what basis "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" was attributed to Dr. Arbuthnot.

There does exist, however, an earlier attribution, one made by a man whose identity we know and made on a date we can be fairly certain of. Among the papers of Dr. James Douglas in the Hunterian Collection at the University of Glasgow is a transcription of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" (Douglas Papers D336). It is written on both sides of a single sheet. One side contains the first stanza of the poem, and beneath it is written "Bunnys Dad by Dr Arbuthnot." On the other side are the remaining four stanzas and, in


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the upper right-hand corner, "Debr 16. 1726." With the exception of the title and accidentals, the poem is identical to "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" as published in A New Miscellany. The poem, the attribution, and the date are in Douglas's distinctive hand.

Douglas's attribution must be taken seriously, for he was deeply involved in the Mary Toft incident and he was in a position to know if Arbuthnot wrote "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife."

When Mary Toft first claimed to be giving birth to rabbits, she duped a local surgeon, John Howard, who moved her near his home in Guildford so he could observe her closely. Soon reports about the monstrous births began to reach London. By November, rumors had grown so numerous and interest so intense that George I sent two representatives to investigate the woman's story, first Nathanael St. André, surgeon and anatomist to the Royal Household, and several days later Cyriacus Ahlers, surgeon to His Majesty's German household. The two came away with opposite opinions, St. André believing that Mary Toft's births were truly monstrous, Ahlers thinking the whole business a fraud. George I sent St. André to Guildford again, this time accompanied by Sir Richard Manningham, a physician then much in vogue, to bring the woman to London.

Mary Toft arrived in London on 29 November and was lodged at Mr. Lacy's bagnio. St. André immediately called in Dr. Douglas to examine her. Douglas was one of the most respected anatomists and men-midwives in London. He had already received a handsome gift from the king for his anatomical researches, and within a year he would become Physician Extraordinary to Queen Caroline. Member of the Royal Society, Honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians, friend of Cheselden, Mead, and Sloane, later teacher of William Hunter, Douglas embodied professional respectability. But if St. André had called Douglas into the case to bolster his own position that Mary Toft was giving birth to rabbits, he was severely disappointed. Douglas disbelieved her claims from the beginning and had said so publicly. Manningham, too, thought that the affair was a cheat, and the two doctors joined to expose the woman. Luckily, on the evening of 3 December, the porter at the bagnio was caught trying to sneak a rabbit to Mary Toft. She had, he admitted, bribed him to do so. Douglas and Manningham used this evidence to press her to confess. At first she resisted, but on the morning of 7 December she gave in, and by the ninth she was in Bridewell.[8]

The incident, however, was scarcely over. Trying to disentangle themselves from the affair, the medical men began to bring out explanations, accusations, defenses, and disclaimers. This spectacle of "the Gentlemen of the faculty," as one newspaper put it, "flinging their bitter pills at one another, to convince the world that none of them understand any thing of the matter"[9] was too much for the London public, who began to suspect that the doctors had been taken in by the fraud or, even worse, had had a hand in perpetrating it. Immediately the town was awash in satires, and nearly every-one who had been involved in the affair was attacked. Even Manningham,


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who was instrumental in bringing Mary Toft to confess, was ridiculed, jumbled together with the likes of the credulous St. André and Howard. "Shake 'em all in a bag," remarked one wit, "and the best will come first."[10]

Douglas, however, escaped being satirized. But he became apprehensive when Manningham published on 12 December An Exact Diary of what was observ'd during a Close Attendance upon Mary Toft, the pretended Rabbet-Breeder of Godalming in Surrey.[11] Douglas considered himself to be misrepresented in Manningham's pamphlet, and he started writing his own version of events, which he eventually published as An Advertisement Occasion'd by Some Passages in Sir. R. Manningham's Diary Lately Publish'd. In the process of drawing up this self-defense, Douglas began to collect much of the printed Mary Toft material and to copy advertisements, extracts from newspapers and pamphlets, and satirical poems. Among these was "Bunnys Dad by Dr Arbuthnot." Douglas's date of 16 December must refer either to the day he copied the poem or to the date on the manuscript he copied from.[12]

Did Douglas know that Arbuthnot wrote the poem? The two men were acquainted, both having left Scotland to become respected members of the small circle of London physicians. And Arbuthnot, like Douglas, took an interest in the happenings in the bagnio. On 3 December, Lord Hervey wrote to Henry Fox that "I was last Night to see [Mary Toft] with Dr. Arbuthnot."[13] Arbuthnot was at the bagnio earlier that same day, too, and we are fortunate enough that in one of his early drafts of An Advertisement Douglas recorded a meeting on that day between himself and Arbuthnot: "Friday nothing remarkable, but that in about noon I was denyd admittance when I wanted to see her, Mr Howard and Mr St Andre being both abroad; Sir Richd Manningham (which I thought lookd very strange) justifyd the maid in refusing to open the Door. This I told Dr Arbuthnot & others who was by that I was affraid something was hatching who were all of my opinion."[14] None of this proves that Dr. Arbuthnot wrote "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," of course. But when Douglas attributed the poem to him, an acquaintance who was privy to the details of the Mary Toft affair, he could have done so on the basis of something more substantial than a blind guess.


For more evidence that Arbuthnot in fact did write "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," we must turn to the poem itself. I print it here in its entirety, I believe for the first time since 1730.[15]

THE Doctor search'd both high and low,
And found no Rabbit there,
But peeping nearer cry'd, Soho,
I'm sure I have found a Hare.
THEY all affirm'd with one Accord,
When they had search'd her thorough,
That Bunny's Dad must be a Lord,
Whose Name does end in Burrough:


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FOR Lords, as well as other Men,
Can do but what they can,
Engend'ring little Monsters when
They cannot get a Man.
WHIP, said Sir Thomas, whip the Slut,
It is a Breach of Peace,
That Woman any thing should put
But P-----s in that Place.
WHISTON, much plainer than his Creed,
These Beasts in Scripture saw;
But as the Story proves, indeed.
It was Apocrypha.

The poem, obviously, is highly topical, in some instances so much so as to be obscure. But the four men mentioned in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" and the reasons for their inclusion in the poem suggest something about who may have written it. This internal evidence is not conclusive, but it does confirm that Arbuthnot is a likely candidate for the authorship of the poem.

Nicolson and Rousseau have identified two of the men in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife." The lord "Whose Name does end in Burrough," they suggest, is Charles Mordaunt, third Earl of Peterborough. The person referred to and the precise meaning of the joke in these stanzas are the most obscure in the poem, so our conclusions must be extremely tentative. Still, Nicolson and Rousseau are probably correct. No other lord "Whose Name does end in Burrough" fits the description of the lord here, but the references to monstrosity could point to any number of incidents in the life of the eccentric Peterborough. Nicolson and Rousseau suggest that the allusion is to his unconventional liaisons with Anastasia Robinson and Henrietta Howard. Perhaps. But the linking of "Lords" in the third stanza to the suggestion of impotence (monstrosity conventionally being explained as resulting from enervated sexual power) may point to Peterborough's notorious opinion that the House of Lords was almost utterly impotent.[16] Or the "Monsters" simply could be a more general reference to Peterborough's freakish, unpredictable, and often fruitless behavior—behavior that was the subject of affectionate joking among Arbuthnot and his fellow Scriblerians. Swift admitted that even those who knew Peterborough "have not known how well to describe him," and he acknowledged him to be "restless and capricious," "A fine Gentleman I vow to God, but he wants Probity."[17] Pope described him as a man who "will neither live nor die like any other mortal,"[18] and Arbuthnot, referring to his perpetual rambling as well as his quixotic personality, called him "a Knight errant."[19]

What is particularly odd is the fact that Peterborough should be mentioned in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" at all. He appears to have played no role in the Mary Toft incident, and he is not referred to in any of the other


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Toft satires. If the lord in these stanzas is indeed Peterborough, his appearance here may suggest either that the author of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" used the occasion of the poem to turn away from the incident itself for more private banter or that he was closely enough acquainted with Peterborough to know of something he did or some statement he made during the incident, perhaps alluded to here, but now lost to history.[20] If either of these is the case, such a gesture would not be inconsistent with Arbuthnot. Since "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" was not published until four years after it was written, the poem probably was meant for limited circulation only, and this, together with the clearly good-humored nature of the portrait of the lord, gives these two stanzas the air of an amiable private jest. Arbuthnot was particularly intimate with Peterborough at this time, and he was not averse to rallying his friends, much more pointedly than this, and in print.[21]

The second person Nicolson and Rousseau identify is the Whiston of the last stanza. He is, of course, William Whiston, scientist and religious controversialist. And when the author of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" said that Whiston interpreted Mary Toft's rabbits as "Beasts in Scripture," he was stating a fact. Whiston argued that, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, Mary Toft truly had given birth to rabbits and thus had fulfilled the prophecy of 2 Esdras 5: 8 that "menstrous women shall bring forth monsters." He did not actually publish this opinion for the world at large until 1750, almost twenty-five years after the event, in Part III of his Memoirs, but it is clear that he was sharing his views among his acquaintances during the early weeks of December 1726: in his Memoirs, he reports that he had discussed them at the time with Samuel Molyneux, who had been involved in the Mary Toft incident from the beginning, regularly had visited the bagnio, and in the last week had helped bring about her confession; and Whiston's prophecy (or at least a garbled version of it) was well enough known to be lampooned in one other Toft satire besides "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife."[22]

Since Whiston was a highly controversial figure whose religious heterodoxy and intellectual eccentricity had created a large audience eager to criticize him,[23] it is a bit surprising to find his views mocked in only one of the Tolf satires besides "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," and perhaps this implies that his millenarian prophecy was known only to those who frequented the bagnio, to people like Molyneux—or, like Arbuthnot. Whether or not this is the case, the satire on Whiston in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" is typical of the satires on him written by Arbuthnot and the Scriblerians. Indeed, Whiston was one of their favorite targets, and they mocked him at every opportunity. For instance, when Whiston and Humphrey Ditton proposed to help mariners determine the longitude by anchoring ships at each degree of the meridian and firing rockets at noon, the Scriblerians gleefully lashed out at him. The proposal was so patently foolish that Arbuthnot complained that it had spoiled a satire on Whiston he had planned, though in fact several versions of Arbuthnot's attack on Whiston's project ended up in the Memoirs


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of Martinus Scriblerus.[24] The Scriblerians mocked the project again in "Ode, for Musick, of the Longitude," and Arbuthnot made fun of it one more time in his Humble Petition of the Colliers.

Arbuthnot's jibe at the longitude project in The Humble Petition reveals why he and the Scriblerians distrusted Whiston so much. In The Humble Petition, a group of lower-class artisans, believing that "certain virtuosi disaffected to the government" are "gathering, breaking, folding, and bundling up the sunbeams by the help of certain glasses" in order to create a monopoly and "throw the whole art of cookery into the hands of astronomers and glass-grinders," petition the government to prohibit all "catoptrical cookery." They except from their proposed ban "the commanders and crew of the bomb-vessels, under the direction of Mr. Whiston for finding out the longitude."[25] Arbuthnot is making fun of the project of the longitude here, of course, but by associating Whiston with a lower class which hysterically builds theories of catastrophe on a paucity of facts, he is accusing him of vulgar credulity: this is the charge he and the Scriblerians most frequently made against the man.

For the Scriblerians, Whiston's credulity was particularly evident in his two obsessions, scientific system-building and millenarianism. In 1696, in A New Theory of the Earth, Whiston had constructed an elaborate theory of the structure of the earth and claimed that the Flood had been caused by the collision of the earth with a comet, a theory which he augmented in subsequent editions of A New Theory and in other works. By 1714, he was asserting that the comet that had caused the Flood was the same one that had appeared over England in 1680, and he suggested that at its next appearance it would destroy the earth in a conflagration. Whiston had strong millenarian views which he expressed frequently, and he held numerous heterodox religious beliefs, which caused him to be banished from Cambridge and brought to trial for heresy, but it was this theory of the comet that the Scriblerians repeatedly turned to when they satirized him, for it epitomized for them his enthusiasm and credulity in both science and religion.[26] Arbuthnot was suspicious of these tendencies in Whiston quite early. In his 1697 Examination of Dr. Woodward's Account of the Deluge, he referred to him as an "ingenious Writer," but in spite of the politeness of the phrase Arbuthnot here ranked Whiston with Woodward and other system-builders who "exclud[ed] the Philosophy of Second Causes" and explained the phenomena of nature by appealing to the "wonderful" and the "miraculous."[27] Arbuthnot laughed at Whiston's millenarianism and his fascination with the "wonderful" again in a letter to Swift in which he claimed mock-seriously that he could not share Swift's political concerns because he was "convinc'd that a comet will make much more strange revolutions upon the face of our globe, than all the petty changes that can be occasiond by Goverts & Ministrys and yow will allow it to be a matter of importance to think of methods to save ones self & family in such a terrible shock when this whole earth will turn upon new poles & revolve in a new orbite."[28]


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As Whiston's theories became more notorious, Arbuthnot and the Scriblerians ridiculed him more openly. Swift satirized him in his depiction of the Laputans' fear of comets in Gulliver's Travels.[29] He was attacked in two other Scriblerian works. God's Revenge Against Punning turns his millenarianism back on itself by claiming that recent national disasters, all foretold by eclipses and comets, are "the Chastisement of a Sinful People" for the "Socinianism, Arianism, and Whistonianism" which have "triumph'd in our Streets."[30] And he is mocked one more time in A True and Faithful Narrative when, at the appearance of a comet, he predicts "the Period of all things is at Hand."[31] Here, once again, his millenarianism is associated with the unthinking, enthusiastic gullibility of the lower classes.

Finally, in the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, Whiston's theory is glanced at twice, once in Martin's invention of "Tide-Tables, for a Comet, that is to approximate toward the Earth," and again in the millenarian prophecy that "some Comet may vitrify this Globe on which we tread."[32] This last prophecy, delivered as part of an encomium to the monstrous Lindamira-Indamora, slyly identifies Whiston's theory with the kind of popular credulity that is attracted to wonders, monsters, and prodigies. Thus, it is similar to the criticism of Whiston's irrationalism in The Humble Petition and, for that matter, to the attack on his fondness for monsters and prodigies in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife." Indeed, the satire on Whiston in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," with its emphasis on his millenarianism and his penchant for rushing to an irrational conclusion on the basis of wonders and portents, is perfectly consonant with the way he was treated satirically by Arbuthnot and the Scriblerians.

The other two men in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" can be identified, one with certainty, the other with a high degree of probability. Neither one irrefutably points to Arbuthnot as the author of the poem, but both suggest that whoever wrote it was probably, like Arbuthnot, present at the bagnio.

The "Sir Thomas" of the fourth stanza is, without question, Sir Thomas Clarges, Justice of the Peace. When the porter was caught trying to sneak a rabbit to Mary Toft, Clarges was called to the bagnio. He "strictly examined" Mary Toft, but she denied any guilt. Clarges was infuriated and wanted to put the woman in Bridewell immediately. Since both Douglas and Manningham wanted her under continual observation at the bagnio so that they could get irrefutable proof that she was a fraud, they "earnestly press'd Sir Thomas Clarges that she might not be sent to prison." Manningham spent much of the next two days trying to temper Clarges's wrath, and in his Diary he recorded enough of his maneuvering that we can get a good sense of how angry Clarges was and how he treated Mary Toft:

On Monday the 5th, I gave my Opinion to Sir Thomas, concerning Mary Toft; and lest he should commit her to Prison, I spoke to several Persons of Distinction, and the next Day wrote to the Honourable Mr. Molyneux to assist me in that Affair, . . .

After some Difficulty, I prevailed with Sir Thomas Clarges to let her


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remain in the Custody of the High Constable of Westminster, at Mr. Lacy's Bagnio, till the Cheat should be found out, . . .

On Tuesday the 6th, Sir Thomas threaten'd her severely, and began to appear the most proper Physician in her Case, and his Remedies took Place, and seem'd to promise a perfect Cure; for we heard no more of her Labourlike Pains.[33]

Clarges's behavior could have been known by the public at large after 12 December, the day Manningham's Diary was published, but the pointedness of the satiric portrait in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" and the fact that Clarges is not mentioned in any of the other Toft satires may suggest that the portrait was drawn by someone who had witnessed Clarges's anger rather than by someone who had pieced it together from the scattered remark in Manningham's pamphlet.

Finally, the "Doctor" of the first stanza is, I think, Douglas himself. Whoever he is, the "Doctor" appears to be meant for someone who at first either disbelieved Mary Toft or who could find no evidence to support her claims (he "search'd both high and low, / And found no Rabbit there") and then, "peeping nearer," changed his opinion ("I'm sure I have found a Hare"). St. André, Howard, or Ahlers cannot be meant here, for they were all surgeons, not doctors, a distinction of title rigorously adhered to during this period. And, in any case, they did not behave at all like the doctor in the first stanza. St. André and Howard had believed Mary Toft from the outset, and they foolishly stuck to their opinion until she confessed. Ahlers, on the other hand, thought she was a fraud from the beginning, and he published a scathing attack accusing her and Howard of collusion. Ahlers rarely appeared in the Mary Toft satires, and he was never accused of credulity.[34]

Manningham's is a special, and rather strange, case, one that disqualifies him from being the "Doctor." When he went with St. André to bring Mary Toft to London, he examined her and found, as he admitted in his Diary, that the uterus seemed "to contain something of Substance in its Cavity." Throughout Mary Toft's pretended labor in the bagnio, he continued to insist that "something would soon issue from the Uterus."[35] What exactly he meant by "something," Manningham never made clear. He probably thought that she had found some way to convey parts of rabbits into her uterus, but judging from the satiric attacks on him, nearly everyone interpreted him to mean that from first examining her he had thought that her births truly were monstrous. Whatever his true beliefs, Manningham was seen as a man who had given, as one newspaper put it, "too much Credit to the Cheat,"[36] and who had done so consistently, from beginning to end. He was satirized in John Byrom's "A Horrid and Barbarous Robbery" and the anonymous "Mr. P--- to Dr. A-------t." In "St. A-d-é's Miscarriage," he was lumped together with the foolish St. André ("St. A-d-é, Sir Richard, who've made such a Pother, / What would you not give these Rabbits to smother"). All of these poems make fun of his credulity, and none suggests that at one time he disbelieved her and then changed his mind.[37]


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Of all the medical men involved in the Mary Toft affair, Douglas tallies best with the "Doctor" of the first stanza. (The fact that Douglas transcribed "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" and that this copy is found among the materials he had gathered for writing his self-defense suggests that he, also, thought he was the doctor alluded to.) That Douglas was the butt of satire may seem surprising, for he had made known his disbelief before Mary Toft had been brought to London, and the whole time she was in the bagnio he had worked assiduously to expose the fraud and to make her confess. But Douglas's good reputation was stained by events that occurred on 4 December. By then, Mary Toft had been in London for five days. Although she had been in "labor" almost constantly, she had delivered nothing. The porter of the bagnio had been caught the previous evening. The hoax was about to collapse. On the morning of 4 December, however, the case developed in an unexpected direction, the details of which Manningham recorded in his Diary:

On Sunday the 4th Instant, about Eleven of the Clock in the Morning, Dr. Douglass and my self did carefully examine her Belly, when we perceived a Swelling a little above the Os Pubis, such as we had never felt there before, it was long, and, as we apprehended in the Cavity of the Uterus, which we observ'd had little or no Motion, this we could not account for; we each of us examined the Vagina, and found it clear as before, the Os Uteri soft and spread, . . .

About Three in the Afternoon, the Pains, like Labour Pains, came on again: I touch'd her as before, and Dr. Douglass, Dr. Mowbray, Mr. Limborch the German Surgeon and Man-Midwife, who were then present, did the same; and we agreed, that the Nature of the Pains were such, and so violent, as we apprehended something would soon issue from the Uterus; and this we declared in the hearing of many Persons of Distinction, who were then present: And I well remember, the Room being very full, I desired if there was any Person present willing to examine her, that they would do it then while her Pains were upon her. Accordingly, several Persons did examine her, and declared to the same Purpose: After having received several Pains, they, together with the other Symptoms of approaching Labour, vanished on the sudden, as formerly.[38]

Having seen St. André, Howard, and even Manningham ridiculed because of their real or suspected credulity, Douglas was upset when he read this passage. Douglas thought that Manningham had misrepresented him, making him appear to have changed his mind, abandoning his initial disbelief and accepting the truth of Mary Toft's claims. He set about writing An Advertisement Occasion'd by Some Passages in Sir R. Manningham's Diary as a truculent defense of himself:

I am said to have apprehended that the Swelling which I perceiv'd on Sunday Morning, was in the Cavity of the Uterus, by which, if he means that I apprehended it to proceed from any Animal, or Part of an Animal, either formed or lodged in that Cavity, I can very positively assert, that I was fully convinc'd of the contrary, and never express'd any thing like it.


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. . . I am said to have agreed with the other Physicians, &c. then present, in apprehending that something would soon issue from the Uterus. Whether these Gentlemen either did apprehend, or said they apprehended any such Thing, I leave to them to determine; but that I agreed with them in these Apprehensions, I utterly deny. It may indeed be true, that being then so much us'd to Mr. St. Andrè's and Mr. Howard's positive Way of talking about every thing that related to this Woman, I did not immediately express my Dissent to what they said . . . and from thence, . . . I imagine he had concluded that I was of the same Opinion with them. If this be not the Case, his Memory must have fail'd him, or he has mistaken the Voice of some other Person in the Room for mine; . . .[39]

Douglas's self-defense had the predictable result. Within days of his publishing An Advertisement, he was made the target of the satiric poem "A Shorter and Truer Advertisement By way of Supplement, To what was published the 7th Instant. Or Dr. D--g--l--s in an Extasy, at Lacey's Bagnio, December 4th, 1726." And this poem portrayed Douglas in precisely the same way as the "Doctor" in the first stanza of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" is portrayed: as the metaphor of religious conversion suggested by the "Extasy" of the title implies, the poem depicts Douglas as one who, seeing the swelling on 4 December, suddenly was converted from a skeptic to a true believer:

HAVE I my Fingers? and have I my Eyes?
Or are my Senses fled through much Surprise?
There's something sure! must quickly come,
From out of Mary Toft her Womb.
SEE here! just above the Pubes,
Either in Womb, or in th'Tube is
A Huge Swelling, within her Belly,
Which I'm amaz'd at, let me tell ye! . . .
A Birth! a Birth! is now at hand,
Come in without delay;
Nay, come good SIRS, this Moment in,
Or I will run away. . . .
THESE were my very Words, express,
Tho' I've indeed deny'd 'em;
And much like these, I do confess,
I've often said beside them.

This attack on Douglas did not appear until after the excitement about the Mary Toft incident had died down and the public had shifted its attention elsewhere. Douglas published An Advertisement in early January 1727, and "A Shorter and Truer Advertisement" did not come out until the middle of the month.[40] The fact of the matter is that, before "A Shorter and Truer Advertisement," Douglas was not even alluded to in any of the Mary Toft


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satires. He had, after all, let it be known early on that he thought she was a fraud. In the newspaper reports and factual accounts, which tended to concentrate on the early stages of the hoax and not its final days in the bagnio, he was rarely mentioned. The "accusation" in Manningham's Diary is mostly the product of Douglas's over-sensitivity; even had Manningham meant to imply that Douglas changed his opinion on 4 December, the charge was not made directly, and the insinuation (if such, indeed, existed) was lost in the midst of the more spectacular revelations Manningham made in his pamphlet. By not publishing An Advertisement until early January, Douglas had not made himself vulnerable to attacks until after most of the satires had been written and interest in the incident had nearly exhausted itself. For the general public, those who were not intimately acquainted with the details of what happened in the bagnio, Douglas simply never became a person to mention, let alone satirize.

But for those who were in the bagnio, Douglas's actions on that day were well-known. There was a nasty altercation. A witness accused Douglas of being a conspirator and swore out a deposition, a version of which Douglas recorded. It is clear that in the eyes of the accuser, and presumably in the eyes of others, on 4 December Douglas had acted like a true believer:

That Dr D-----s on Sunday morning ye 4th Instant after Examining Mary Tofts told ye D. of Mont: &c. That he was Astonishd at ye Bulk he felt betwixt ye Umbilicus & Os pubis, that he had circumscribd it wt his hands, That he cd scarce believe his own Senses, that He wisht others of ye profession wd satisfie 'emselves of it &c.

That in ye Afternoon at 5 ye same day, He, wt Many others; atccouteurs, after touching & narrowly strickly Examining her, came into ye foreroom & publickly said she had all the Symptoms of an Approaching delivery, and all wou'd be over in half An hour.[41]

It is remarkable that these events of 4 December, which caused such a stir in the bagnio and which were so ripe for satire, never became known to the general public until well over a month after they occurred. Perhaps others there were less certain than the unnamed accuser that Douglas had come out in support of Mary Toft; perhaps Douglas was not seen as fair game until he published his self-defense in early January. Whatever the reason, Douglas's supposed "conversion" appears to have been known only within the circle of medical men and those who were present at the bagnio during the first week of December. The fact that the writer of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" was aware of the incident a month before it was revealed to the public in "A Shorter and Truer Advertisement" suggests once again that he was privy to the happenings in the bagnio, either as an eye-witness or as someone who was acquainted with those who were eye-witnesses. This does not point to Arbuthnot conclusively, though it makes him a plausible candidate for the authorship of the poem.


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If the appearances in the poem of Peterborough, Whiston, Clarges, and Douglas indicate that Arbuthnot could be the author of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," other facts about the poem—facts about its publication and about its satiric theme, strategy and style—are all consistent with his habits.

"His imagination was almost inexhaustible," remarked Lord Chesterfield, "and whatever subject he treated, or was consulted upon, he immediately overflowed with all it could possibly produce. It was at anybody's service, for as soon as he was exonerated he did not care what became of it; insomuch, that his sons, when young, have frequently made kites of his scattered papers of hints, which would have furnished good matter for folios."[42] The story of his sons and their kites, whatever its literal truth, epitomizes what is known about Arbuthnot's writing and publishing habits. Arbuthnot, Chesterfield went on to say, was not "in the least jealous of his fame as an author." He seems to have been so unconcerned whether or not he was credited with his own works that he let them pass for those of others and even foisted their authorship on friends as a kind of practical joke ("Dr. Arbuthnot is a strange creature," said Pope; "he goes out of town, and leaves his Bastards at other folks doors").[43] He often allowed his pieces to circulate in manuscript, not pressing them toward publication, and when they did come out in print, they were usually unrevised and published anonymously.[44] "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" shares all these characteristics: passed in manuscript (as evidenced by the Douglas copy), not published until four years after it was written, and then unrevised and anonymously.

Stylistically, too, "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" is similar to Arbuthnot's work. Typically, his satires are occasional, and structurally they are shaped by the event itself or by the free play of wit over the particular historical circumstances that have occasioned the satire. Arbuthnot's lack of structural control—or his lack of interest in asserting such control over his material—has been remarked on by almost all of his critics, who characterize the movement of his satires as digressive, desultory, and casual.[45] Even in The History of John Bull, where one would expect a structural coherence and unity because of its historical frame, its narrative line, and its allegorical method, Arbuthnot's idiosyncratic digressiveness has sent some scholars to the looser models of Menippean satire in an attempt to find a source of his style.[46] At his best, Arbuthnot is superficially similar to Swift: both work in a rapid, centrifugal movement, encompassing more and more targets; but, unlike Swift's satire, Arbuthnot's tends not to have that centripetal countermovement which creates a vertiginous sense of dove-tailing, giving the reader the impression that amidst the rapid proliferation of targets, they are all the same target, sharing common psychological aberrations or identical moral failings. Arbuthnot's targets seem just to proliferate. His mind, as one of his critics has observed, was "keenly alive to the next thing, but not to the unity of all things,"[47] and typically his satires are structured serially, drifting from satiric butt to satiric butt, one related to the other by little beyond the fact


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that they all exemplify a highly generalized "foolishness." Such, too, is the movement of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife." As the alternative title to the poem, "Bunny's Dad," shows, there is no center or focus here. The poem is really a series of four discrete satiric portraits, one simply yielding to the next, building to no discernible structure or unity, each developing its own point or joke.

Finally, "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" reflects preoccupations that are central to Arbuthnot's works. Arbuthnot's overriding drive in almost all his non-satiric writing was to eschew the eccentric, the idiosyncratic, and the esoteric and search for simple, commonsensical principles of order or explanation. "The Reader must not be surpriz'd to find the most common and ordinary Facts taken notice of," he said, defending his methods; "many important Consequences may be drawn from the Observation of the most common Things."[48] In this pursuit of the quotidian explanation, Arbuthnot's impulse was to regularize the anomalous, to prefer the usual to the extraordinary, or to perceive the orderly in the aberrant, the explicable in the apparently wonderful and miraculous. In his first published work, Of the Laws of Chance, he showed how the seemingly incalculable vagaries of chance could be reduced to mathematical reasoning and subjected to orderly rules; in An Examination of Dr. Woodward's Account of the Deluge, he mocked system-making that relied on the evidence of the wonderful and miraculous, creating explanations "contrary to the Laws of Nature, and . . . the Philosophy of Second Causes"[49]; in "An Argument for Divine Providence, taken from the constant regularity observed in the Births of both Sexes," he demonstrated that an apparent statistical anomaly in birth rates was actually proof of an over-arching regularity in nature; in An Essay on the Usefulness of Mathematical Learning, he argued for the importance of mathematics on the grounds that it revealed the "simple and natural" laws that direct all physical phenomena, "applicable even to such things as seem to be governed by no rule."[50]

"There are two things common to all Mankind," Arbuthnot observed, "Air and Aliment,"[51] and it is utterly characteristic of him that the only two medical works he wrote were An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies and An Essay Concerning the Nature of Aliments. And it is utterly characteristic, too, that in these two works he rejected all esoteric explanations, finding the reasons for health and disease not in "occult or extraordinary" causes, but in the "Common Properties" of things we eat "daily by Pounds" or breathe "inwardly every Moment."[52] One can see gestures of this profound habit of mind even in his last work, Tables of Ancient Coins, Weights and Measures, where he attempted to systematize the chaos of Greek, Roman, Hebrew and other Near Eastern weights and measures by reducing them to an English standard of equivalents.

One reason for studying mathematics, Arbuthnot argued, was that it "frees [the mind] from prejudice, credulity, and superstition . . . by giving us a clear and extensive knowledge of the system of the world."[53] Given his


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commitment to the idea of nature as an orderly process governed by simple laws, it is not surprising that in his satires he repeatedly attacked prejudice, credulity, and superstition and how they turned the mind away from the observation of the regularity of nature to a fascination with its putative miracles and anomalies. Credulity and superstition, according to Arbuthnot, were rooted in the mind's "incapacity to be moved or delighted with anything that is vulgar or common,"[54] and thus one of his favorite targets was the witless admiration of wonders, prodigies, and monsters. In works which he wrote with his fellow Scriblerians, those who seek wonders are marked for special ridicule: Whiston, of course, who builds elaborate cosmogonies from the single anomaly of a comet; Fossile, in Three Hours After Marriage, who proves himself a credulous fool in his enthusiasm for curiosities and monsters; Cornelius and Martin Scriblerus, both of whom are "in daily pursuit of the Curiosities of Nature," fascinated with its "grand Phænomena"—that is to say, with its oddities like earthquakes and monstrous births, not with its simple regularity.[55] In satires which Arbuthnot wrote himself, he also ridiculed the love of wonders, which he saw as springing from irrationality and ending in hysteria and social disruption. In The Art of Political Lying, he listed appeals to "the prodigious" as one of the best ways to manipulate a gullible public into heightened passion and political factionalism.[56] In The History of John Bull, he made the same point in the allegorical figure of "Discordia," who retails stories of "Blazing-Stars, Flying Dragons, and abundance of such Stuff," spreading "Tales and Stories from one to another, till she had set the whole Neighbourhood together by the Ears."[57] He consistently portrayed Whiston as beginning in mindless wonder at an oddity of nature and ending in a socially disruptive millenarian frenzy.

Arbuthnot satirized the attraction of the prodigious once more, this time by turning to a human monster, Lindamira-Indamora, in the Double Mistress episode of the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus. Arbuthnot had a major, perhaps the principal role in writing this episode; there exists a manuscript fragment in his hand, with corrections of Pope.[58] And certainly the episode plays out the themes that mark Arbuthnot's attitudes toward the prodigious: its appeal to irrationality (here, Martin's confusion of intellectual curiosity and sexual desire) and the resulting over-emotionalism and social discord (the battle among Martin, Mr. Randal, and the Black Prince and the legal, medical, and theological squabbles that follow).

Given Arbuthnot's temperament and his habitual sentiments, "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" easily could have come from his pen. The fact that an illiterate country woman had duped so many educated Londoners for so long with her tale of monstrous births obviously would appeal to a man confident of the regularity of nature and so alive to the absurdity of the wonderful and prodigious. Too, the near-hysteria of the reactions of the characters in "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife"—Clarges's anger, Whiston's millenarianism, Douglas's abandonment of his professional skepticism for unthinking enthusiasm—mirrors Arbuthnot's attitudes about the emotional effect of monsters, miracles,


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and anomalies. And, perhaps most importantly, the author of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" has gravitated to those instances of the greatest social discord in the Mary Toft incident, when people were "set . . . together by the Ears," as Arbuthnot described the result of a credulous belief in prodigies: Whiston's apocalyptic predictions, the struggle between Clarges and Manningham and Douglas over how to proceed with exposing the fraud, and the day of 4 December when Douglas gave the impression that he sanctioned the monstrous births, thus setting off a chaotic and acrimonious debate.

Did Arbuthnot, then, write "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife"? The evidence is not conclusive. But Douglas attributed the poem to him, and he was in an excellent position to know if Arbuthnot had written it. The probable reference to Douglas in the first stanza and, to a lesser degree, the references to Clarges and Whiston in the fourth and fifth stanzas, suggest that the writer of the poem knew first-hand what happened in the bagnio or was privy to the stories that were making the rounds among the medical men. Arbuthnot visited the bagnio, and what he did not witness for himself he could have learned from his medical colleagues. The attack on Whiston's millenarianism and what appears to be the good-humored tweaking of Peterborough—both in terms that were common among the Scriblerians—also point to Arbuthnot. The facts about the publication of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife," its loose, serial style, and its satiric themes are all markedly similar to Arbuthnot's works. And the exquisite sense of the ludicrous in the poem is something that could have come from the pen of Arbuthnot—something, in fact, like what had come from his pen in the Double Mistress episode of the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, where, too, a monster provokes learned and professional men into exposing their own foolishness. Until more evidence is brought forward, I think that we must take Douglas's attribution seriously and consider Arbuthnot's authorship of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" a strong possibility.



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Marjorie Hope Nicolson and G. S. Rousseau, "This Long Disease, My Life"; Alexander Pope and the Sciences (1968), pp. 109-115.


Warwick William Wroth, "Combe, Charles, M. D. (1743-1817)," DNB (1917); William Munk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London (1878), II, 337-338.


Gordon Goodwin, "Merriman, Samuel, M. D. (1771-1852)," DNB (1917); The Gentleman's Magazine (1853), 207-209.


I wish to thank John E. Ayres, Deputy Librarian, The Royal Society of Medicine, who furnished me with information from the Society's accessions register.


Merriman's notes and correspondence on the Mary Toft affair are in the Royal Society of Medicine scrapbook. His article on Hogarth's Cunicularii is in The Gentleman's Magazine (1842), 266-268.


N. H. Robinson, Librarian, The Royal Society, generously provided me with samples of the handwriting of Charles Combe. Specimens of the hands of both Merrimans are in the Royal Society of Medicine scrapbook.


This, in fact, is the history of a similar compilation, the Gough collection of Toft material, now in the possession of the Bodleian Library. This compilation was built around a core of eight printed tracts from a collection purchased in 1781 but gathered together


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earlier in the century. See John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth (1785; facsimile rpt. 1971), p. 148.


The best modern account of the Mary Toft incident is S. A. Seligman, "Mary Toft—The Rabbit Breeder," Medical History, 5 (1961), 349-360. For Douglas, see K. Bryn Thomas, James Douglas of the Pouch and his Pupil William Hunter (1964).


The Daily Journal, 15 December 1726.


"A Song of the Rabbit Breeder" (1727).


Manningham's Diary was announced as "This Day is publish'd" in The Daily Post, 12 December 1726. In an early draft of his reply to Manningham, dated 12 December, Douglas remarked that the Diary was "published this day" (Douglas Papers D330).


This allows us to date the composition of "The Rabbit-Man-Midwife" fairly accurately. As I will show below, the first stanza refers to an incident that happened on the afternoon of 4 December and the fourth alludes to the actions of Sir Thomas Clarges, who first entered the case on the evening of the same day. Thus, the poem was written between 4 and 16 December 1726.


Hervey to Henry Fox, 3 December 1726, Hervey MSS. 941/47/4, pp. 28-32, Suffolk Record Office, Bury St. Edmunds.


The numerous drafts of An Advertisement are gathered together in the Douglas Papers D330. In the manuscript, it is clear that Douglas had in mind Arbuthnot in particular. He originally wrote, "This I told Dr Arbuthnot who was by" and then added "& others" above the line. This passage was considerably altered by the time An Advertisement was published: "But the most remarkable Thing that occurr'd to me that Day, was, that having desired to visit the Woman, I was denied Admittance, Mr. St. Andrè and Mr. Howard being both abroad. I told several Gentlemen, then at the Bagnio, that I was afraid some new Monster was breeding; and went away with a Resolution to return no more" (An Advertisement Occasion'd by Some Passages in Sir R. Manningham's Diary Lately Publish'd [1727], p. 15).


A New Miscellany (1730), p. 33.


"What are the Lords? a few in Number, only possess'd (as one Author has it) of an imaginary Dignity; they represent nothing but themselves, and so can have no addition of Strength but from themselves; they are in no Circumstances which make them popular, but rather remain a Mark for Envy: the greatest part of them are poor, and none of them are possess'd of a dangerous Wealth; they have no Holdings which procure them Dependencies; they are possess'd of no Castles, or strong Places, nor have they any Being as to Action, but at the power of another; that is, when consider'd as a Body, they are dissolvable at pleasure: and can there be a Description of more harmless Creatures?" (Remarks on a Pamphlet, Entitled, The Thoughts of a Member of the Lower House [1719], p. 25).


Swift to Pope, 20 September 1723; Swift to Archbishop King, 12 July 1711; Swift to Charles Ford, 13 February 1723; in The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. Harold Williams (1963-65), II, 464; I, 237; III, 7.


Pope to Swift, [November 1735]; The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, ed. George Sherburn (1956), III, 509.


Arbuthnot to Pope, [September 1723]; Correspondence of Pope, II, 196.


In fact, Peterborough was acquainted with St. André. An anonymous defender of St. André, "who knew him intimately . . . for the last twenty years of his life," remarked: "Though he was disgraced at Court [because of his role in the Mary Toft incident], he was not abandoned by all his noble friends. The great Lord Peterborough, who was his patron and patient long before he went to Lisbon, entertained a very high opinion of him to the last." (The defense, signed "Impartial," was first published in The Public Advertiser, 1781, reprinted in The Gentleman's Magazine the same year, and reprinted once again in the third edition of John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, from which I quote, p. 467.) The statement by "Impartial" is certainly correct, though I have not been able to establish how early the two men knew each other. Peterborough was cared for by St. André during the last few years of his life (see Joseph Spence, Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters of Books and Men, ed. James M. Osborn [1966], I, 114-115; and William Stebbing, Peterborough [1890], p. 220). Peterborough was on friendly terms with him in


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1735, when he wrote a letter to Pope from St. André's apartment in Bath (Correspondence of Pope, III, 468), and it is extremely likely that he was acquainted with him much earlier since St. André was known within the Pope circle and had treated Pope for a cut hand he had gotten in a coach accident a few months before the Mary Toft incident (Correspondence of Pope, II, 399-400 and 402-403; and George Sherburn, "An Accident in 1726," The Harvard Library Bulletin, 2 [1948], 121-123).


For Arbuthnot's close friendship with Peterborough, see George A. Aitken, The Life and Works of John Arbuthnot (1892), esp. pp. 120, 147, 150-53, 161, and 166. For Arbuthnot's willingness to tweak his friends, see his muted satire on Garth and his rather more harsh treatment of Harley in The History of John Bull, eds. Alan W. Bower and Robert A. Erickson (1976), pp. 67, 63, and 86.


Whiston's prophecy and his account of his discussion with Molyneux are in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. William Whiston. Part III (1750), pp. 110-122. The lampoon on Whiston is one sentence: "The learned Mr. Wh---on takes her to be the Whore of Babylon, with seven Heads and ten Horns; which the Divines of our Church have always interpreted to be the Church of Rome" (A Philosophical Enquiry into the wonderful CONEY-WARREN; lately discovered at Godalmin near Guilford in Surrey [1726], p. 2).


For a discussion of the contemporary reactions to Whiston, see John Redwood, Reason, Ridicule and Religion: The Age of Enlightenment in England, 1660-1750 (1976), pp. 37, 118-119, 123-124, 130, 165-169, 182, 204-205, and 209-210.


"[Whiston] has at, last publish'd his project of the longitude; the most ridiculous thing that ever was thought on, but a pox on him he has spoild one of my papers of Scriblerus', which was a proposal for the longitude not very unlike his to this purpose, that since ther was no pole for East & west that all the princes of Europe should joyn & build two prodigious poles upon high mountains with a vast Light house to serve for a pole Star. I was thinking of a calculation of the time charges & dimensions. Now you must understand his project is by light houses & explosion of bombs, at a certain hour" (Arbuthnot to Swift, 17 July 1714; Correspondence of Swift, II, 70). The two jabs at Whiston in the Memoirs are Martin's "Method of discovering the Longitude by Bomb-Vessels" and his project "to build Two Poles to the Meridian, with immense Light-houses on the top of them; to supply the defect of Nature, and to make the Longitude as easy to be calculated as the Latitude" (Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus, ed. Charles Kerby-Miller [1950; rpt. 1966], pp. 167-168).


The Humble Petition of the Colliers, in Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, pp. 375-378.


There is no complete scholarly study of Whiston. Discussions of his religious and scientific theories can be found in Redwood, Reason, Ridicule and Religion; Frank E. Manuel, Isaac Newton, Historian (1963); and Katharine Brownell Collier, Cosmogonies of our Fathers (1934), pp. 109-124. Whiston's religious ideas were scored by the Scriblerians in "Ode, for Musick"; Swift attacked him as one who "denies the Divinity of Christ" in Mr. C----ns's Discourse of Free-Thinking (The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis et al. [1939-68], IV, 31, 34, and 36); Pope referred to his "wicked Works" in "An Epistle to Henry Cromwell, Esq;" (The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt et al. [1939-69], VI, 25.) Two works are invaluable for detailing the reactions of the Scriblerians to Whiston: Nicolson and Rousseau, "This Long Disease," pp. 133-87; and Ernest Tuveson, "Swift and the World-Makers," Journal of the History of Ideas, 11 (1950), 54-74.


An Examination of Dr. Woodward's Account of the Deluge (1697), pp. 9, 8, 31, and 13.


Arbuthnot to Swift, 6 August 1715; Correspondence of Swift, II, 184-185.


Prose Works of Swift, XI, 148-149. See David Charles Leonard, "Swift, Whiston and the Comet," English Language Notes, 16 (June 1979), 284-287.


God's Revenge Against Punning, in The Prose Works of Alexander Pope: The Earlier Works, 1711-1720, ed. Norman Ault (1936; rpt. 1968), pp. 169-170.


A True and Faithful Narrative of What pass'd in London during the general Consternation of all Ranks and Degrees of Mankind; in John Gay: Poetry and Prose, ed. Vinton A Dearing and Charles E. Beckwith (1974), II, 465.


Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, pp. 167 and 149. See Kerby-Miller's footnotes to these passages.


An Exact Diary of what was observ'd during a Close Attendance upon Mary Toft, the pretended Rabbet-Breeder of Godalming in Surrey (1727), pp. 26-31.


Ahler's account of the fraud was published as Some Observations Concerning the Woman of Godlyman in Surrey (1726). I have been able to find only two mentions of Ahlers in the Mary Toft satires, and neither charges him with believing her. In the anonymous Much Ado about Nothing: Or, a Plain Refutation of All that has been Written or Said Concerning the Rabbit-Woman of Godalming (1727), he was briefly glanced at as "a fumblfisted fellar" who hurt Mary Toft when he examined her (p. 16). He appeared once more in the anonymous "A Song of the Rabbit Breeder" as the man who angered St. André by not believing the story.


An Exact Diary, pp. 9 and 24.


The London Journal, 17 December 1726.


Much Ado about Nothing also attacked Manningham, but it attacked him for his barbarous treatment of Mary Toft (Manningham had threatened her with a painful operation unless she confessed). Finally, Hogarth satirized Manningham in his print Cunicularii, but he appears to be attacking him for his credulity, not for changing his mind about Mary Toft. I have discussed this point in "Three Characters in Hogarth's Cunicularii—and Some Implications," Eighteenth-Century Studies, 16 (1982), 24-46.


An Exact Diary, pp. 23-25.


An Advertisement, pp. 33-35.


The first notice of An Advertisement is in The Daily Post, which announced it as "This Day is published" 11 January 1727, but it probably came out a few days earlier, as is implied by the title of the reply to it, "A Shorter and Truer Advertisement By way of Supplement, To what was published the 7th Instant." "A Shorter and Truer Advertisement" was first announced as "This Day is publish'd" in The Daily Post, 19 January 1727.


Douglas Papers D331.


The Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, with the Characters, ed. John Bradshaw (1926), III, 1411-12.


Pope to John Gay, 11 September 1722; Correspondence of Pope, II, 133. For Arbuthnot's putting off his works on others, see Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, pp. 39-40.


For Arbuthnot's publication habits and his casual attitude about his works, see Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, passim; Robert C. Steensma, Dr. John Arbuthnot (1979), pp. 101 and 127. Arbuthnot mentions "a hundred incorrect Copys" of what apparently was one of his own works circulating around London, Arbuthnot to Oxford, 16 November 1726; Correspondence of Pope, II, 411.


See especially Kerby-Miller, Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, p. 12; Lester M. Beattie, John Arbuthnot: Mathematician and Satirist (1935; rpt. 1967), pp. 3-4, 64, 396-397.


The History of John Bull, p. lxxxiv.


Beattie, Arbuthnot: Mathematician and Satirist, p. 64.


John Arbuthnot, An Essay Concerning the Nature of Aliments, and the Choice of Them, According to the different Constitutions of Human Bodies (1731), p. v.


Examination of Woodward's Account, p. 8.


An Essay on the Usefulness of Mathematical Learning, in Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, pp. 414 and 422.


John Arbuthnot, An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies (1733), p. 149.


Essay Concerning Air, pp. 173-174; Essay Concerning Aliments, p. v; Essay Concerning Air, p. vii.


Usefulness of Mathematical Learning, in Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, p. 412.


The Art of Political Lying, in Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, p. 295.


Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, pp. 144 and 93. See also Cornelius's defense of his own theories of anatomy when a professor proves him wrong by showing him a human body: "Ocular demonstration . . . seems to be on your side, yet I shall not give it up; shew me any viscus of a human body, and I will bring you a monster that differs from the common rule in the structure of it" (p. 125). This episode occurs in the chapter "Anatomy," which Arbuthnot, as the only physician among the Scriblerians, surely had a major hand in.


The Art of Political Lying, in Aitken, Life and Works of Arbuthnot, p. 299.


The History of John Bull, pp. 35-36. See also his attack on Grub Street's fascination with natural "wonders," p. 94.


See "Appendix IV," Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, pp. 364-369.