1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

David Mallet

William Tooke, Note to The Prophecy of Famine; Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 1:128-29n.



Thence Malloch, friend alike of church and state,
Of Christ and Liberty, by grateful Fate
Rais'd to rewards, which, in a pious reign,
All daring infidels should seek in vain....

David Mallett or Malloch, as he first called himself. His real name was Macgregor, the clan of which name had rendered themselves so notorious for acts of violence and robbery, that they were obliged by act of parliament to change their appellation. At his outset in life he was through penury compelled to be janitor of the high school at Edinburgh; he afterwards became tutor to the sons of the Duke of Montrose, with whom he travelled, and on his return settled in London, where he became an author by profession. Here his literary reputation so highly advanced, that the Duchess of Marlborough left him and Mr. Glover 1,000 between them to write the life of the great Duke her husband. Mr. Glover declining the task the whole 1,000 became the property of Mallett, who never executed it. In 1740, when the Prince of Wales had a separate Court, he made Mallett his under-secretary; and when it was found that Pope had clandestinely printed an unauthorized number of the "Patriot King," Bolingbroke employed Mallett, in 1747, to be the executioner of his vengeance in traducing the memory of his deceased friend, and rewarded him for this office by the legacy of his own works, which were published with success very much below the editor's expectation. In the political disputes, which commenced with the present reign, Mr. Mallett took part with his countryman, Lord Bute; to serve whom he wrote his tragedy of Elvira, and was rewarded with the office of keeper of the book of entries for ships in the port of London, to which he was appointed in 1763. He enjoyed also a considerable pension which had been bestowed on him for his success in turning the public vengeance upon Admiral Byng, by means of a letter of accusation under the character of "a plain man." Towards the latter end of his life he went to France, but finding his health declining he returned to England, and died in 1765. He was an avowed free-thinker, and a very free-speaker of his thoughts at his own table; indeed, the lady of the house (who was a staunch advocate for her husband's opinions) would often, in the warmth of argument, say, "Sir, we Deists." She once made use of this expression in a mixed company to David Hume, who declined the intended compliment by asserting that he was a very good Christian; for the truth of which he appealed to a worthy clergyman present, and this occasioned a laugh which not a little disconcerted Mr. and Mrs. Mallett. As a writer. Mallett holds a very inferior rank. There is no species of composition in which he was eminent. In his life of Lord Bacon, published in 1740, he omitted to notice that great man as a philosopher, which rendered it highly probable that had he written the long expected memoirs of the Duke of Marlborough, he might have forgotten to relate his merit as a General. His dramas had their day, a short day, and were forgotten. Dr. Johnson remarked of him that he was the only Scot whom Scotsmen did not commend.