David Mallet

Samuel Jackson Pratt, in Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 4:185-86.

OF DAVID MALLET, whose real name was Malloch, we know little, till he made himself conspicuous by his talents. He was born about the beginning of the last century, and was probably a native of Perthshire, though neither his birth-place nor the condition of his parents are mentioned. It appears that he received some part of his school education at Aberdeen, and that he afterwards studied at the university of Edinburgh.

About this time, he exercised the office of tutor in the family of Mr. Horne of Dreghorn; and having evinced a taste for poetry, he attracted some notice, as a young man of promising talents.

In consequence of his good behaviour, he was recommended, about 1727, as tutor to the two younger sons of the duke of Montrose; and bidding adieu to his native country, he proceeded to Winchester, where the family then resided. In this situation, he had an opportunity of improving his talents, and extending his acquaintance; and when his pupils removed with their parents to London, for the winter, Mallet's sphere of action was enlarged, and he attempted dramatic poetry, and gained considerable applause.

Having attended his pupils on the fashionable tour of the continent, and his services being no longer wanted, he obtained the appointment of Under Secretary from the Prince of Wales, with a salary of 200 a-year, and associated with wits, statesmen, and nobles on terms of respectable and just equality.

In 1741 he married Miss Estlob, a lady of great beauty and merit. Six years after, he published Amyntor and Theodora, his largest poem, which importantly increased his reputation as a poet.

His connection with Bolingbroke, and his becoming the editor of his works, reflect little credit on the memory of Mallet as a moralist, though, probably, the love of gain rather than a wish to disseminate dangerous principles, was his ruling motive to this under taking.

The old Duchess of Marlborough engaged him to write the life of the great Duke; and for this he received a proper compliment, but it is said, never seriously took the task in hand.

In 1759, he published his own works in prose and verse, with a dedication to Lord Mansfield. On the accession of his present majesty, Mallet became a political writer, in favour of the earl of Bute; but his health declining, he soon ceased to interfere in the cabals of faction, and departed this life in 1755.

The character of Mallet has been variously represented, as friendship or enmity have held the pen. The attachment of his patrons prove that he could not be destitute of merit: and as a poet, he certainly deserves great praise. His plays and poetry have been frequently reprinted. His most popular pieces, of the smaller kind, are Edwin and Emma, and William and Margaret, which delighted our childhood, and are still recollected and read with pleasure.