1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Armstrong

John Aikin, in Select Works of the British Poets (1820) 693.



JOHN ARMSTRONG, a physician and poet, was born about 1709 at Castleton in Roxburghshire, where his father was the parish minister. He was brought up to the medical profession, which he studied at the university of Edinburgh, where he took his degree. He settled in London in the double capacity of physician and man of letters, and he rendered himself known by writings in each. In 1744 his capital work, the didactic poem, entitled The Art of preserving Health, made its appearance, and raised his literary reputation to a height which his subsequent publications scarcely sustained. It has therefore been selected for this work; and it may he affirmed, that of the class to which it belongs, scarcely any English performance can claim superiour merit. Its topics are judiciously chosen from all those which can add grace or beauty to a difficult subject; and as he was naturally gifted with a musical ear, his lines are scarcely ever harsh.

In 1760 Dr. Armstrong had interest enough to obtain the appointment of physician to the army in Germany, which he retained till its return. He then resumed his practice in London; but his habits and manners opposed an insurmountable bar against popular success. He possessed undoubted abilities, but a morbid sensibility preyed on his temper, and his intellectual efforts were damped by a languid listlessness. He died in September, 1779, leaving considerable savings from a very moderate income.