DAVID MALLET, a poet and miscellaneous writer, is said to have been, by his original, one of the Macgregors, a clan of which the name was expressly abolished by an Act of the Privy Council, dated 3d April 1603, and against which a subsequent Act of Council (24th June 1613) and an Act of Parliament (1617, ch. xxvi.) were directed; and which again, in the early part of last century, under the conduct of Rob Roy, became formidable and infamous for violence and robbery.
The original name of the poet was Malloch. According to statements comparatively recent, he was the son of James Malloch, who kept an inn at Crieff in Perthshire, where David is said to have been born, about the year 1700. His baptism, however, is not found in the registers of that parish. Several of the old people in Crieff remember to have spoken with those who knew the alleged parents of David Malloch.
Dunblane, also, has been mentioned as the poet's birthplace, but without much reason.
The claim of Foulis Wester rests not on tradition, but on recorded evidence, which presents some slight presumption of its being his birth-place. The parish register contains the following entry, among many others, relating to the Malloch family:
"James Malloch and Beatrice Cock, both, in this parish, gave up their names, paid their dues, and were proclaimed for the first time, in order to marriage, Sab. 25th Oct. 1702, and were proclaimed on 1st and 8th Nov. following."
We have seen already that James Malloch and Beatrix "Clerk," his wife, were living at Crieff in 1704. Tradition has handed it down that David Mallet was educated at Crieff. The Christian name of his father was James, according to his own statement, as we shall find in the sequel. The Crieff register does not contain the proclamation of a James Malloch and Beatrix Clerk, nor, indeed, any entry relating to them, except the one above mentioned. The inference, then, is not unreasonable, that the two persons proclaimed at Foulis Wester in October and November 1702, are identical with those resident in Crieff in 1704; and that an error has been made in the entry in the Crieff register of the surname of the wife of James Malloch.
It may be matter of wonder, that, if these were the parents of David Malloch, there are no entries of baptisms of their children either at Foulis Wester or Crieff. If they had any children born at Foulis Wester, they may have neglected to register them: and so also at Crieff. Such negligence was not unusual at the period in question, and, indeed, is not at the present day. Nor was it confined to country villages. In the register for the city of Edinburgh, the baptisms of three of the children of Allan Ramsay were omitted.
The supposition, however, that we have here ascertained our author's parents, even if he was the eldest son, is invalidated by the record of his age at the time of his death, if it be an accurate record.
It is uncertain how long James Malloch, the innkeeper, resided in Crieff; probably till 1715, when that village was burnt.
We now pass to the parish of Muthill. The parish registers do not go further back than 1709, and the name of Malloch is not found in the registers of baptisms. At this time there is resident at Muthill a farmer of the name of Duncan Malloch, who states that his father and grandfather were born there.
The neighbouring parish of Monzievaird next presents its traditions and records to our notice, which lead us — upon grounds not merely plausible, but very probable — to the conclusion, that David Malloch the poet was not the son of the innkeeper of Crieff, but the son of parents of a less humble condition of life. The registers of that parish contain no entry concerning our author, but some facts of interest may here be mentioned.
A very aged woman named Ann Malloch, blind with age, died in the parish within the last six years. She repeatedly asserted that she had a grand-uncle, who, when quite a young man, went to London, travelled abroad, wrote a book, and died in England. She also mentioned that he rather avoided having any intercourse with his relations, and that he became a great man.
This woman's father was Duncan Malloch, a farmer's son in the parish. He died about the year 1794. His father was Matthew Malloch, farmer at Thornhill in Monzievaird, but he was a native of the adjoining parish of Muthill.
The Mallochs had for many years been settled upon the farm of Dunruchan, on the Perth estate in that parish. They were people of great respectability, and of considerable wealth for their station. In 1715, they were concerned in the raising of the standard of the Chevalier de St. George; and again in 1745. On both occasions they were great sufferers pecuniarily. About the year 1746, when the Perth estate was confiscated, the Mallochs removed to the form of Thornhill. They still had some cattle but ill fortune fell heavily on them at Thornhill, and disease wasted in one season all the farm-stock which they had saved. When Matthew came to Thornhill, he was still accounted a yeoman of substance, and considered himself a person of some distinction in the district. He was, however, reduced to poverty before he died; but he never forgot the prerogatives of his better fortune. The Earls of Perth had always shown his family much attention; but in 1746 that source of distinction was destroyed. Matthew, who left Dunruchan for political reasons, came to live, in 1746, with his brother James, who was the first to settle at Thornhill; and accordingly, in the Monzievaird register, of date Feb. 24, 1751, there is the baptism of a child named Beatrix, daughter of James Malloch and Janet M'Innes, his wife, in Thornhill. It is conjectured that our author was a brother of Matthew and James. The name Beatrix, which is rare in Scotland, adds a new element of probability to this opinion. If this idea be well founded, James Malloch's child was named after his mother, a rule which in Scotland is seldom broken, and which requires that the second daughter in a family shall receive the name of the father's mother. There is reason to know that this Beatrix was the second daughter of James.
Dr. Johnson, in his life of our author, says, that "it was remarked of him, that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not commend." Assuming that we are correct as to his parentage and family, there was every reason which would induce him to avoid the intimacy of his countrymen. It was of the first importance that he should not be known as a member of a family of sturdy Jacobites much in the confidence and service of the Perth family. This also gives a clue to the statement of Anne Malloch, that her distinguished relative avoided intercourse with his family. Johnson also says "I never catched Mallet in a Scotch accent; and yet Mallet, I suppose, was past five-and-twenty before he came to London."
The traditions of all the Mallochs in the parish of Monsievaird, as to the close intimacy between James of Dunruchan (the father of Matthew) and the Perth family, sufficiently account for the ease of Mallet's deportment, and the absence of provincialisms in his conversation.
Lord Drummond, on whose estate James of Dunruchan was a favoured tenant, was attainted in 1716. The confidential intercourse between the Drummond house and their vassals at Dunruchan goes far to explain the origin of the polite attainments of Mallet even in early life; and the political sorrows of his family account for his singular reserve as to his own history or Scottish affairs.
In 1733, he describes himself as the son of James Malloch, of Perth, "gentleman." That he was able to contribute, at least, to his son's support is proved in a letter written in the winter of 1723-24: "I have lost my father. He died last month; and you know my fortune hitherto well enough: his death has embarrassed me in all respects." If his father's death embarrassed him, so that he had to ask a loan of money, it is evident that that event had placed him in more straitened circumstances than he had been in before.
To pass from traditions that have reference to Mallet's birth and parentage, we will consider the information that can be gained from his own statement. In the sequel, we shall find that he was 63 when he died, in 1765. He could not, then, be the son of James Malloch and Beatrice Cock of Foulis Wester. There is no reason for imagining that he was ignorant of the actual date of his birth; and though his declaration on entering the University of Oxford would give a later date than 1702 as the time of his birth, yet the record of his age ought fairly to outweigh a statement made, it might be, to avoid some difficulty in being admitted, or from a foolish affectation about concealing his real age.
It is not stated in any notice of our author, either in his lifetime, or afterwards, down to 1780, that he was the son of an innkeeper. Davies, who was likely to be acquainted with him, and Dr. Johnson, who admits that he had a very slight personal knowledge of him, are both silent as to his birth-place and parentage. Dr. Anderson, his most copious biographer, says (1794) only that "it is probable he was a native of Perthshire."
Tradition, moreover, says nothing of the poet in connection with an innkeeper.
There is no reason to doubt that the names of the parents of the poet were James and Beatrix. That Beatrix was the name of the wife of James of Dunruchan, different members of the family have asserted; and this is very materially corroborated by the name of the second granddaughter. James and Beatrix here mentioned were settled at Dunruchan long before and after 1702.
The statements in the letter of CREFENSIS [in Gentleman's Magazine 67 (1797) 8] are very improbable, and it does not appear that they rest on any good foundation.
Passing from the consideration of the parentage of our author, it may be observed, that his having been at Crieff school, when taught by Ker, is in no way inconsistent with the Dunruchan connection. The distance of Crieff from Dunruchan is but about four miles and a half, and the parish school of Crieff was at that time the nearest to Dunruchan.
One cause of the great difficulty in searching records, and identifying parties in this part of Scotland, arises mainly from the various names which the same parties have at different times or in different places assumed; and this, too, not merely for the purpose of evading justice by the help of an alias, but from highland pride and etiquette. The uncertainty about these matters was the more remarkable in the case of the Macgregors, as in some instances the name varied with each generation.
Lastly, it may be remarked, that the Roman Catholicism of the Mallochs quite accounts for the absence of entries in official records.
Of David Mallet's early years we have but scanty and discordant memorials. He is said to have received some part of his early education under Mr. John Ker, his earliest patron; but at what place is uncertain.
While Mr. Ker was one of the teachers at the High School of Edinburgh, Mallet, it is said, was employed for six months, in 1717, as the Janitor of that Institution.
This fact, as asserted by Dr. Johnson, and previously by Davies, the biographer of Garrick, though apparently established by recent inquiries, is still controverted.
It is certain that a person of the name of David Malloch held the office; and in favour of this person being the embryo poet, who was then about fifteen or sixteen, it is urged that several young men held the office its late as 1720 or 1725, employing porters, or female servants, as their deputies in the drudgery part of their work. On the other hand it is contended that the probability is against the appointment of a mere boy; and that as it was the duty of the Janitor to ring the bell for assembling the scholars, clean the class-rooms, and do menial offices, it was most improbable that he should be at the same time a student of the High School of Edinburgh, which was the resort of the sons of noblemen and persons of wealth and distinction: that, in 1794, when Dr. Anderson wrote the life of the poet, though many persons were living whose fathers had been educated at the High School between 1710 and 1730, yet no trace or tradition of such a Janitor existed. "Tradition," observes Dr. Anderson, "is silent concerning it, and immemorial usage is against the supposition of his eligibility for such an office." It is further argued that this assertion originated with Dr. Johnson and his friends, who, from a dislike to Mallet, would be very ready to receive any gossiping story about him: that Boswell would know that such a name had been in the list of Janitors, and would be quite ready to give currency to the allegation, which was not so likely to be openly contradicted by Mallet, who for other reasons was reserved about his early life.
It is insisted that there is no direct evidence that the story was ever told in Mallet's lifetime, or was known to any of his friends who might have inquired into its truth: that when the story was published, nearly twenty years after Mallet's death, there was no friend left behind him who would take the trouble to examine into the truth of it; and from his kindred he had notoriously estranged himself. Would such a man as Mallet was, it is asked, have written the following paragraph, had he ever in his life been a bell-ringer, though some men under similar circumstances might have done so?
A Prelate, &c.
Tho' 'twas the Doctor preach'd, — I toll'd the bell.
Verbal Criticism, line 97.
To the several objections here raised it may he replied, that in the argument as to immemorial usage there is a confusion of time: that tradition is not wanting, inasmuch as William Fraser, Dux of the High School in 1766, has stated that the Janitor at that time alluded to the poet having held the office, and that, in his early boyhood, his (Fraser's) father had spoken to him of its being a settled point that the poet had been Janitor.
It is beyond a doubt that Boswell entertained an unfriendly feeling towards Mallet. This was exhibited in 1763, but two years before the poet's death.
On May 16th in that year Boswell became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, and a few weeks after, when in Johnson's company, he mentions Mallet's Elvira, and that he and two others had joined in writing a pamphlet against it. On this occasion he might speak of Mallet's early years, and the High School of Edinburgh. It will not, however, be readily believed that Boswell would distort a fact within his knowledge, to throw slight and disparagement even on one whom as a critic he had attacked. It would he an insult to the memory of the great moralist to harbour the most vague suspicion that he would wantonly give currency to an allegation unless he were satisfied that it rested on a good foundation.
In corroboration of this fact further evidence is at hand. Davies in his account of our author, published nine or ten months before the life by Johnson, states that Mallet was, when very young, Janitor of the High School of Edinburgh. Now this is a special mention of the fact which a mere inspection of the document to be noticed presently would not authorise. Davies, however, had peculiar facilities of obtaining accurate knowledge on this subject. In 1728 and 1729 he was at the University of Edinburgh completing his education. He was afterwards in London at the Haymarket Theatre (1736), and eventually, after some absence, returned to London on an engagement at Drury Lane Theatre in 1753. From his connection with that theatre he probably had some personal knowledge of our author.
Lastly, there can be furnished in addition documentary evidence, as it appears, of a character convincing and conclusive, in the custody of the Chamberlain of the City of Edinburgh are several receipts or discharges by those who have been Janitors of the High School. Amongst them is one signed David Mallock [signature reproduced]: It bears date Feb. 5, 1718, and is a discharge for the sum of 16s. 8d., being his full salary for the preceding half year. That was the exact period he held the office. The whole of the document, together with the indorsement, is obviously written by one person. The handwriting in its stiffness and want of freedom is that of a boy. The back of the document shows that after writing a few letters of the first word of the receipt, for some reason, he stopped and begun again on the other side of the paper.
"Received by me David Malloch present Janitor of the High School of Edinburgh from Mr. Robert Wightman present thesaurer of the Said burgh the Sum of ten pounds Scots money as an half years Aliment due to me from lambas Im VIIc seventeen years to Candlemass last by past Im VIIc eigteen years. And therefore I exoner and discharge the sd Mr. Robert Wightman thesaurer forsaid of the sd ten pounds Scots as the half years Aliment forsaid for now and ever. Which discharge I oblidge me to warrant att all hands & against all deadly as law will.... In witness whereof I have writen & Subscrived thir presents att Edinburgh the fifth day of Feberwary Im VIIc and eighteen years DAVID MALLOCH. [Indorsement.]
David Malloch to Mr. Robert Wightman 1718."
If David Mallet the Poet was the Janitor in question he was so when very young. That he was Janitor we have further proof of a decisive character.
A comparison of the signature of the receipt with the Poet's signature in 1721, 1722, and in later periods of his life, and a further comparison of the handwriting of the receipt itself with the letters of Mallet still preserved, and also with his will, leave no doubt that the assertion of Davies and Dr. Johnson rests on well-tested information.
It does not appear that Mallet was ever a student at Aberdeen, as has been stated.
In 1720 he resided in the family of Mr. Home, of Dreghorne, near Edinburgh, as tutor to his children, though without a fixed salary, and at the same time prosecuted his studies at the University of Edinburgh.
One of his first compositions was a Pastoral, published in the Edinburgh Miscellany. In the year 1721 he gave a poetical version, from the Latin, of a Congratulatory Poem, written by Mr. Ker. In the same year he wrote a poem on The Transfiguration, in imitation of Milton's style.
He was now rising into reputation, and easily obtained the acquaintance of Thomson, his fellow-collegian, with whom he was destined to be more intimately connected; of Paterson, the translator of Paterculus; Malcolm, author of the Treatise on Music; and Murdoch; and seems to have been particularly noticed by Ramsay and Hamilton. In 1723, the Duke of Montrose having inquired among the professors for a tutor to educate his sons, Mallet was recommended. "It is scarcely necessary to say," remarks one of his biographers, "that only the greatest merit could have procured for a youth of humble parentage so distinguished a preference over the rest of his fellow students." His salary was £30 per annum. In August of the same year he took his departure from Scotland for London, and proceeded from thence to Shawford, near Winchester, where the Duke of Montrose then resided. In December his father died. Shortly afterwards he came to town with his pupils. His first production in England was the celebrated ballad of William and Margaret, published in July 1724.
A letter to Mr. Ker, dated Shawford, September 15, 1724, has the following postscript:
"P.S. My cousin Mr. Paton would have me write my name 'Mallet,' for there is not one Englishman that can pronounce it."
The first time that the name of Mallet is met with is in 1726, in a list of the subscribers to Savage's Miscellanies. He continued, however, to write his name Malloch down to the year 1728, and probably some time longer.
In 1725 he wrote a poem in imitation of Ker's Donaides. This was afterwards published in his works, with several alterations, as Verses occasioned by Dr. Frazer's rebuilding part of the University of Aberdeen.
In the same year, at the request of Mr. Ker, Malloch translated his Latin verses on the death of Sir William Scott.
Towards the close of 1725, it seems probable that an offer was made by the University of Aberdeen to confer on our author the degree of M.A. Some intimation to that purport might be conveyed to him by Professor Ker, to whom in one of his letters Mallet thus writes: — "I never took any degree at Edinburgh, nor ever asked for any: when your society bestows that honour upon me, I will return them my thanks in a letter addressed to the whole body."
The following appears in the Records of the University and King's College, Aberdeen:
"11th January 1726.
The Masters having formerly seen and approven an English Poem, written by Mr. David Malloch, tutor to the Duke of Montrose's sons, in imitation of the Donaides, and having ordered the same to be published therewith, they, as a mark of esteem and respect, unanimously agreed that a diploma shall be sent to him, conferring on him the degree of Master of Arts."
At this early period of our author's career it cannot be uninteresting to notice the terms in which he is mentioned by his distinguished friend and countryman Thomson. In the preface to his Winter, 1720, Thomson thus writes: "It perhaps might be reckoned vanity in me to say how richly I value the approbation of a gentleman of Mr. Malloch's fine and exact taste; so justly dear and valuable to all those that have the happiness of knowing him; and who, to say no more of him, will abundantly make good to the world the early promise his admired piece of William and Margaret has given."
In the early part of 1727, along with his noble pupils, he made the tour of Europe; and on his return, from the influence of the noble family in which he resided, and his poetical reputation, he was admitted to association with the first characters of the age, whether for dignity of rank or eminence for ability; amongst whom were Frederick Prince of Wales, Lyttelton, Chesterfield, Bolingbroke, Pope, and Young. In 1728 he published his poem, The Excursion, in two cantos. "It is not," remarks Dr. Johnson, "devoid of poetical spirit. Many of the images are striking, and many of the paragraphs are elegant." In 1731 his tragedy of Eurydice was performed with great success at Drury Lane. The Prologue and Epilogue were written by Aaron Hill.
Mallet continued with the Montrose family up to about the end of 1731, and was occasionally at the two country seats of the Duke, Shawford near Winchester, and Clye near Swaffham, Norfolk. To the latter place we find letters addressed to him in September and as late as December in 1731. After a connection of above eight years, Mallet left the Montrose family for that of Mr. Knight at Gosfield. This new engagement seems to have been entered upon some time before he left the Montrose family. In a letter from Pope to John Knight, Esq., dated August 23, 1731, there is a reference to Mallet. He and his pupil, the son of Mrs. Knight, subsequently travelled abroad. In a letter from Pope to Mrs. Knight (then a second time a widow), dated August 5, 1734, is the following passage: — "I wish Mr. Newsham all that you wish him to have, and to be. Where is he and Mr. Mallet?" in a subsequent letter, dated Sept. 1, 1734, Pope thus writes: — "... I had the most entertaining letter imaginable from Mr. Mallet, from Wales. Believe me, without more words, yours. First, the post told you so, when I had no other messenger, then Harte had a line to tell you so, and now Mr. Newsham." From the beginning and the close of this letter, it appears to have been taken by Mr. Newsham to his mother from Pope.
At this time, then, it seems that Mallet and his pupil were not together; but his connection with the family had not ceased, as we find from a letter of Pope to Mrs. Knight, dated Nov. 25, 1735: "... To prove to you how little essential to friendship I hold letter-writing, after the experience of thirty years (for so long Mr. Curll tells you I kept a regular correspondence), I have not yet written to Mr. Mallet, whom I love and esteem greatly, nay, whom I know to have as tender a heart, and that feels a remembrance as long as any man. Pray send him the enclosed...."
From this we find that he and his pupil were again together. In a later letter to the same lady (then Mrs. Nugent), dated Sept. 6, 1736, Pope thus writes: "... I foresee Mr. Newsham's return is approaching. I doubt not he will bring you back the completion of your happiness; and if he does, I must say you will owe something to Mr. Mallet, in not only restoring you a son as good as he carried him out (which few tutors do), but in a great degree making and building up, as well as strengthening and improving, what is the greatest work man or woman ought to he proud of, a worthy mind and sound body...."
We see, then, that Mallet's connection with this family continued for a period of five years, though at certain intervals his pupil was not with him.
The premature death of his friend Mr. Aikman, in 1731, called forth from Mallet a touching epitaph, which was engraven on the tomb of Aikman and his son in the Grey Friars' Churchyard, Edinburgh. In 1733 (April) he published his poem on Verbal Criticism, designed to pay court to Pope.
In the same year, Nov. 9, at the same time as his pupil Mr. Newsham, he was matriculated as a member of St. Mary Hall, Oxford. He represented himself as the son of James Malloch of Perth, gentleman, and stated his age to be twenty-eight on his last birthday. He entered as a gentleman commoner.
In the early part of 1734 he renewed his connection with the University of Edinburgh, as will be seen from the following document, extracted from the minutes of the Senate of that University.
"Edinburgh College, March 5, 1734.
Sederunt the Principal, Messrs. Goudie, Stuart, Drummond, Maclaurin, St. Clair, Dawson, Stevenson. Mr. Stuart acquainted the meeting that David Mallet, now at Oxford, formerly a student in this University, had writ desiring a diploma of Master of Arts from us. It was found by the registers that he had studied at least three years in this University, and it was testified by his Professors that he had studied diligently; and he having by some of his works, which have been published, given sufficient proofs of his learning to the world, they agreed to give him a diploma of Master of Arts, to be delivered to him upon his subscribing the oath usually signed in such eases; and they did appoint Messrs. Stuart and Stevenson to oversee the draft of the diploma."
In the "Record of Degrees in Arts" the following entry is preserved:
"Decimo sexto die mensis Aprilis D. David Malloch, alias Mallet (olim Alumnus Roster), Artium liberalium Magister Renunciatus, datis eam in rem Literis uberrimis dicto die."
In the "Register of Fees" the following' entry occurs:
"1734, Apr. 16. David Malloch, alias Mallet, Artium Magr."
It may be inferred that Mallet was desirous of procuring his Edinburgh degree, that he might the more readily obtain a similar degree in Oxford. It will be observed, that on March 5th the University of Edinburgh agreed to give him the diploma of M.A. This step might be considered a sufficient groundwork for his admission to a degree in Arts in the University of Oxford. Accordingly we find that on March 15th he was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts by decree of Convocation. The Chancellor, Lord Arran, had written in his favour the following letter, which was read in Convocation, March 15th, 1783:
"MR. VICE-CHANCELLOR AND GENTLEMEN,
I have been moved on the behalfe of David Mallet, gentleman commoner of St. Mary Hall, who resided in the University of Edinbrough above four years, and then took the degree of Master of Arts about ten years since; but having been some time entred in this University, where he intends to do his exercise and proceed Master of Arts, he humbly prays that by the favor of the Convocation the degree of Bachelor of Arts may be conferred on him in order to determine this Lent, and also that so soon as he hath performed the rest of his Exercise for his Master's degree, he may be allowed to he a Candidate for the said degree without any further Dispensation. To this his request I give my consent, and am,
Mr. Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen, Your affectionate friend and servant,
Grosvenor Street, March 8, 1733-4."
Now, it will be at once obvious that Lord Arran's letter, though in all probability founded on Mallet's own information, must have been written by him hastily, and with an imperfect recollection of the facts stated by him; for it would be very improbable that Mallet would peril his position or degrees in the University by any misrepresentation, when the truth could be so easily ascertained either by the Chancellor or the University. The statements in his lordship's letter may indeed, by a slight transposition, be reconciled with the facts as already mentioned. Mallet had resided three or four years in the University of Edinburgh, about ten years before, and had obtained the diploma of MA., although it was not formally completed till the 16th April 1734.
On the occasion of the Prince of Orange's visit, the University of Oxford presented a volume of Verses, in several languages, commendatory of their royal visitor. The volume is designated Epithalamia Oxoniensia. It contains the tribute of all the dignified and distinguished men at the University. A copy of verses by Mallet was comprised in the volume. These verses are reprinted in his Works, 3 vols. 1759, but considerably altered from the original.
On the 6th April 1734 Mallet was admitted to the degree of M.A. in the University of Oxford. It is probable his first marriage took place in the latter part of this year.
In 1739 his tragedy of Mustapha was acted at Drury Lane with great applause. The Prologue was by Thomson. This tragedy was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.
The lines To Mira, from the Country, were published in 1740.
Mallet's next dramatic performance was the Masque of Alfred, written jointly with Thomson, by command of the Prince. It was acted at Clifden, August 1, 1740, in honour of the birthday of the Princess Augusta. It was afterwards almost wholly changed by Mallet, and brought upon the stage at Drury Lane in 1751.
Of Mallet's remaining writings the principal are a Life of Lord Bacon, prefixed to an edition of Bacon's works, published in 1740.
The Prince of Wales being at variance with his royal father was desirous of acquiring popularity by the patronage of men of letters. Amongst these was our author, who was appointed in 1742, May 27th, Under-Secretary to his Royal Highness, with a salary of £200 a year.
In 1743, October, appeared The Works of Mr. Mallet, consisting of Plays and Poems.
On the death of the Duchess of Marlborough, 1744, it was found by her will that she had left to Glover and Mallet the sum of £1000, on condition that they should draw up from the family papers a life of the great Duke. Glover declined the task, and the whole devolved upon Mallet. The life, however, never appeared. It is not doubted that he took some trouble in collecting materials for his work, and that he intended to do it at some time.
After a long interval, his next work was Amyntor and Theodora, 1747, "in which," Dr. Johnson observes, "it cannot be denied that there is copiousness and elegance of language, vigour of sentiment, and imagery well adapted to take possession of the fancy." Of this poem Gibbon thus records his opinion: "If my friend should ever attain poetic fame, it will be acquired by this work."
Early in 1748 Thomson, West, and Mallet were deprived of their pensions of £100 a-year which Lyttelton's influence with the Prince had procured for them, and which were taken away when he incurred the displeasure of their patron. In a letter (1748, April) to his friend Paterson, Thomson says "I must learn to work at this mine a little more, being struck off from a certain hundred pounds a year which you know I had. West, Mallet, and I were all routed in one day."
When, after Pope's death, Lord Bolingbroke resolved to take vengeance on his memory for having clandestinely printed his pamphlet called The Patriot King, Mallet was employed to bring forward the charge in an advertisement to a publication of that and some other tracts. He was rewarded, not long after, with the legacy of Lord Bolingbroke's works, published and unpublished. About 1749 he wrote An Epistle to the Author of a libel entitled A Letter to the Editor of Bolingbroke's Works, and A Familiar Epistle to the most Impudent Man living.
The poem of Cupid and Hymen, or the Wedding Day, appears to have been written in 1750. On March 20th, 1750-51, death deprived our author of his illustrious patron, Frederick Prince of Wales. In 1754, March 6, he published an edition of Bolingbroke's works, in 5 vols. 4to. When this edition was prepared for the press, a claim was made by Franklin, the printer, who had previously published Bolingbroke's political tracts and other works. The matter in dispute was left to arbitration, and the decision was in favour of the printer; but Mallet revoked his submission. In 1755 his Masque of Britannia appeared at Drury Lane, and was received with universal applause.
In 1756 he was employed to turn the public vengeance upon Admiral Byng, and wrote a letter of accusation under the character of "A Plain Man." He is said to have received a pension for his services. This, however, is improbable, inasmuch as the party for whom he was waiting, being out of office, was consequently out of power, and therefore had not the means of granting pensions.
In 1759 he published a collection of his Works in Prose and Verse, in 3 vols., inscribed to Lord Mansfield.
In March 1760 appeared his ballad of Edwin and Emma, but without the name of the author. In 1761, to serve his countryman Lord Bute, he published Truth in Rhyme. On this production Lord Chesterfield thus addresses the author:
It has no faults, or I no faults can spy;
It is all beauty, or all blindness I.
In 1762 he published a small collection of Poems on Several Occasions, with a dedication to the Duke of Marlborough. His tragedy of Elvira, dedicated to the Earl of Bute, was acted at Drury Lane in 1763, in which year he was appointed Keeper of the Book of Entries for ships in the Port of London.
Towards the end of his life he went with his wife to France; but after a while, finding his health declining, he returned alone to England, and died on Sunday the 21st of April 1765, aged sixty-three years.
Mallet was twice married. Of his first wife, who died in January 1741-42, nothing particular is known; but he had by her several children. One daughter, who married a Genoese gentleman named Celesia, who had formerly resided in London as Consul, wrote a tragedy called Almida, in 1771, and Indolence, a poem, in 1772. Almida was acted at Drury Lane with great success. This lady died at Genoa in September 1790.
Mallet married secondly, in 1742, Miss Lucy Elstob, of the county of York, a lady of great merit and beauty, the youngest daughter of Lewis Elstob, a steward of the Earl of Carlisle. By this lady he got a fortune of £10,000. It has been stated, that by a settlement after marriage £4000 was settled to particular uses, over which Mallet had no control. There were two daughters by this marriage. One married Captain Macgregor, in the French service; the other Captain Williams of the British Engineers. Mrs. Macgregor became deranged, and was confined in an asylum at Paris. Mrs. Williams parted in two months from her husband.
Mrs. Mallet survived her husband, and died in Paris on the 17th September 1795, at the age of seventy-nine years.
Some account of the places of Mallet's residence may now be given. In 1735, and up to 1748, he resided in the parish of Chiswick; the greater part, if not the whole, of that period, at Strand on the Green. Some of his letters during this interval are addressed from London. In December 1742, Lord Orrery writes to him in Arlington Street, which is mentioned also in a letter to him from A. Hill, May 5, 1749.
In 1738 he appears to have been abroad, and in 1745 he travelled into Holland. In July of that year he brought his wife to London, previous to the birth of her second child. They occupied lodgings in Pall Mall, near the Palace. In 1746 Mallet and his wife visited Tunbridge Wells. It seems not unlikely but that he was an occasional visitant at that place of then fashionable resort. In 1748 (Ladyday) Mallet changed his residence for Putney. Writing in July, he states that for seven months past he had been very ill. From a note of Mrs. Mallet (May 1765) written on a letter of Sir W. Chetwynd to Mallet, it appears that Mallet was in Paris in 1755. From about 1758 to the time of his death he resided in George Street, Hanover Square, within a very short distance from the mansion wherein he found a home during his early residence in London.
His plays and poems have been frequently reprinted. His ballad of William and Margaret has been translated into Latin verse by Vincent Bourne. His Life of Bacon, Amyntor and Theodora, and The Excursion, have been translated into French.
The character of Mallet has been variously represented by his friends and by his enemies. It may be that, owing to the prejudices of Johnson, and the envy of some of his contemporaries, an impartial judgment of him has not been formed. According to Hill, who knew him well, his manners were as amiable as his abilities were respectable. With Young, Pope, Thomson, and Lyttelton he lived on terms of familiar intimacy. To Gibbon his friendly advice was afforded on several occasions. With his own countrymen many of his most intimate connections were formed. It is stated by Theophilus Cibber, that "when Thomson arrived in London, it was his immediate care to wait on Mr. Mallet, who then lived in Hanover Square, in the character of tutor to his Grace the Duke of Montrose, and his late brother Lord George Graham." "Mr. Mallet," it is further observed, "was his quondam schoolfellow, but much his junior. They contracted an early intimacy, which improved with their years; nor was it ever once disturbed by any casual mistake, envy, or jealousy on either side." "Some of his letters," says Campbell, "in the earlier part of his life, express an interest and a friendship for the poet Thomson which do honour to his heart."
William Falconer, the author of The Shipwreck, was intimately connected with him. He had also an adherent in Smollett, who engaged him to write in the Critical Review. David Hume, another of his countrymen, who was very anxious to subject his style to the critical eye of Mallet, in order that he might mark those expressions which appeared Scotticisms, confesses his extreme obligation to him for his kindness, which, indeed, the historian seems not to have deserved.
"His behaviour to Pope after his death [writes Robert Anderson in British Poets] has drawn upon him the universal accusation of ingratitude; but if he had not virtue, or had not spirit to refuse the office assigned him by Bolingbroke, it ought to be remembered that Pope was not innocent, and that he had some dependence on the favour of Bolingbroke. He is said to have adopted the peculiar sentiments of his patron with regard to religion; but of this there is no better evidence than the publication of his posthumous works, in which he seems to have acted from considerations of gain rather than zeal for the propagation of his opinions. His integrity in business and in life is unimpeached."
The poetic fame of Mallet rests on his ballads, and chiefly on his William and Margaret. "As a poet [writes Anderson], though he may not be altogether secure from the objections of the critic, he has very little to fear from the strictest moral or religions censure; his works are not only the productions of a genius truly poetical, but they are friendly to the best interests of morality and liberty; they inspire virtue, truth, and patriotism, and inculcate the necessity of goodness to the present and future happiness of mankind. His compositions are characterised by elegance of diction and correctness of judgment, rather than vigour of expression or sublimity of sentiment; neither of which are wanting."
"In stature," says Dr. Johnson, "Mallet was diminutive, but he was regularly formed; and his appearance, till he grew corpulent, was agreeable; and he suffered it to want no recommendation that dress could give it. His conversation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may, without injury to his memory, sink into silence."
"This last observation [writes Anderson] cannot be generally allowed; his gratitude to Mr. Ker, his kindness to his brother, his services to Hill and Thomson, his beneficence to Derrick, and his exemplary tenderness in the discharge of the relative duties of husband and parent, command our esteem for his character, and confer a lasting honour on his memory."