14th May

Born: John Dunton, 1659, Graff ham; Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, 1686, Dantzig; Robert Owen, philanthropic social reformer, 1771.

Died: Henry IV of France, assassinated at Paris, 1610; Louis XIII of France, 1643, St. Germain-en-Laye; Due de Maine, 1736; Professor David Runkenius, 1798, Leyden; Henry Grattan, statesman, 1820; Sir William Congreve, Bart., inventor of warlike missiles, 1828, Toulouse.

Feast Day: St. Pontius, martyr, about 258. St. Boniface, martyr, about 307. St. Pachomius, abbot, 348. St. Carthagh, Bishop of Lismore, about 637.


One of the most curious of autobiographies is the Life and Errors of John Dunton, a very erratic and versatile genius, who, combining the avocations of author and bookseller, wrote upwards of sixty works, and published more than six hundred. Dunton's mind has, not inaptly, been compared to 'a table, where the victuals were illsorted and worse dressed.' He was born at Graffham, in Huntingdonshire, and, at an early age, sent to school, where he passed through the general series of boyish adventures and mishaps - robbing orchards, swallowing bullets, falling into rivers, in short, improving in everything but learning, and not scrupling to tell lies when he could gain any advantage by concealing the truth. His family had been connected with the ministry for three generations; and though he felt prouder of this descent from the house of Levi, than if he had been a duke's son, yet being of too volatile a disposition to follow in the footsteps of his reverend ancestors, he was apprenticed to Thomas Parkhurst, a noted Presbyterian bookseller of the day, at the sign of the Bible and Three Crowns, Cheapside, London. Dunton and his master seem to have agreed very well together; a young lady, however, coming to visit Mr. Parkhurst's family, the apprentice made love to her, and they met occasionally in Grocers' Hall Garden; but the master making a 'timely discovery,' sent Miss Susanna back to her friends in the country.

Another slight difference occurred between master and apprentice. Parkhurst was a strict Presbyterian, and, according to the established custom of the period, Dunton was bound to attend the same place of worship as his master; but the rambling nature of the apprentice led him 'to break the order and harmony of the family,' by attending the ministrations of a Mr. Doolittle, a famous Nonconformist. This course did not escape its merited punishment. One Sunday, as Dunton's eyes were wandering round Mr. Doolittle's congregation, a certain beautiful Sarah Seaton gave him 'a mortal wound.' A courtship soon followed, with much letter-writing, to the loss of his master's time, and, worse still, clandestine visits to a dancing-school. How the affair ended we are not informed; in this instance love seems to have given place to polities; for the great struggle which led to the Revolution was in progress; the whole nation was divided into Whigs and Tories, and, of course, the bold 'prentices of London could not be 'neutral. So Dunton, joining the Whig apprentices, was chosen their treasurer, and one of a deputation that presented a petition bearing 30,000 signatures to the Lord Mayor. His lordship promised that he would acquaint the king with its contents, and then told them to return to their respective homes, and diligently attend to their masters' business.

At the expiration of his term of apprenticeship, Dunton gave his friends a feast to celebrate its 'funeral,' according to the usual custom. 'Such entertainments,' he truly observes, 'are vanity, and expensive;' and undoubtedly he had good reason to say so, for no less than one hundred apprentices were at the feast.

Soon afterwards, commencing trade on his own account, the cares of the world and business set him perfectly at ease from all inclinations to love or courtship. He was a bookseller now, but his great ambition was to be a publisher also. 'Printing,' he says, 'was uppermost in my thoughts, and authors began to ply me with specimens as earnestly, and with as much passion and concern, as the watermen do passengers with oars and sculls.' But Dunton had acquired a knowledge of the venal tribe of Grub-street when serving his time, and knew them to be 'paste and scissors hacks, and most inveterate liars also; for they will pretend to have studied six or seven years in the Bodleian library, and to have turned over all the Fathers, though you shall find that they can scarce tell whether they flourished before the Christian era or afterwards.' So avoiding those hack writers, Dunton's first publishing ventures were three religious works of sound doctrine, which did him good service. Moreover, discovering that politics, though very well for an apprentice, were not so suitable for a master tradesman, he avoided the pillory, in which more than one author and publisher of the time was uncomfortably exhibited; a notable instance being Benjamin Harris, bookseller, of Gracechurchstreet, whose brave wife stood on the scaffold beside him, to protect her husband from the missiles of the brutal mob. And it is pleasing to know that this faithful couple, emigrating to America, prospered in New England; and after the Revolution, returned to their old shop in Gracechurch-street, where they lived honoured and respected.

Dunton, becoming 'a rising tradesman,' now turned his attention to matrimony, cautiously consulting his friends respecting his choice of a partner for life. After careful consideration, three ladies were selected, as the most eligible. First, there was Sarah Day, extremely pretty, well-bred, of considerable fortune, and the best natured creature in the world. But then Sarah Doolittle would make a better wife by ten degrees, for her father was a popular author as well as preacher; one of his works had reached the twentieth edition, and his son-in-law might naturally expect a few copyrights for nothing. There was even a third Sarah, a Miss Briscoe, of Uxbridge, handsome, rich, and religious. During his embarrassment as to which of the three Sarahs he should select, Dunton chanced, in his desultory way, to step into Dr. Annesley's meeting-house one Sunday, where he saw a young lady, who almost charmed him dead, but on inquiry he found that she was pre-engaged. However, his friends advised him 'to make an experiment on her elder sister, they both being the daughters of Dr. Annesley.'

The experiment proving successful, the languishing Philaret, as Dunton styles himself, gives a history of the courtship, a sketch of his own and the lady's personal appearance, a recital of the love letters, an abstract of the wedding sermon preached by the father of the lovely Iris, an account of the wedding dinner, and a description of the wedding ring, the device being two hearts united, with the motto

God save thee
Most fit for me

Dunton now removed to a large house, the sign of the Black Raven, near the Royal Exchange. The lovely Iris, whose real prose name was Elizabeth, becoming his bookseller and cash-keeper, managed all his affairs, leaving him entirely to his own rambling and scribbling humours. These were his 'golden days.' Among other works at this period, he published Maggots; or Poems on several Subjects, written, at the age of nineteen, by Samuel Wesley, his brother-in-law, and father of the celebrated founder of Methodism ( John Wesley).

It is quite probable that his wife's business habits left Dunton too much to his own devices. When the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion was trampled down, Dunton, suddenly remembering that his debtors in New England owed him five hundred pounds, started off across the Atlantic. It is not unlikely that John, like many other citizens of London, was implicated in Monmouth's melancholy affair, and thought it best to get out of the way for a short time.

Dunton gives an amusing and interesting description of New England, as he observed it. In Boston, he saw a woman, who had been condemned to wear for life, on her right arm, the figure of an Indian cut out of red cloth; the mode of punishment so powerfully represented in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. The books he took over sold well, though the people of Boston were, even at that early period, 'smart' customers and slow paymasters. After a pleasant sojourn of some months, he returned to London, and found that his wife had admirably managed business during his absence.

His next excursion was to Holland; and then, seeing a prospect of better times, he returned to England, removed to a new shop in the Poultry, and opened it on the same day the Prince of Orange entered London. The better times had arrived; Dunton set himself steadily to business, and soon became a leading and prosperous publisher. He says The world now smiled with me; I sailed with the wind and tide, and had humble servants enough among the booksellers, stationers, printers, and binders; but especially my own relations on every side were all upon the very height of love and tenderness.' His most fortunate speculation as a publisher, and of which he seems to have been proudest, was the Athenian Mercury, a weekly periodical. This work professed to answer all inquiries on matters of history, divinity, philosophy, love, or marriage. It had a great success, many men of mark were contributors, and it flourished for six years; till the great increase of similar publications of a lighter character caused Dunton to give it up. The complete series forms twenty folio volumes, and there have at various times been several selections of questions and answers reprinted from it. Dunton says, 'Mr. Swift, a country gentleman, sent an ode, which, being an ingenious poem, was prefixed to the fifth supplement of the Athenian Mercury.' This country gentleman was subsequently the witty Dean of t Patrick's; and the ode has since been incorporated in his collected works. There is an anecdote respecting this poem worth noticing. On reading it Dryden said to Swift, 'Cousin, you will never be a poet;' and this denunciation is supposed to have been the cause of Swift's perpetual hostility to Dryden.

Prosperity still attended Dunton. Succeeding to some property by the death of a relative, he took up the livery of the Stationers' Company, and with the master, wardens, and a select few of the liverymen, dined with the Lord Mayor. The dinner was sumptuous, and his lordship presented each one of the guests with 'a noble spoon' to take home to his wife.

Evil days, however, were at hand. The lovely Iris sickened and breathed her last. John provided mourning for twenty of her relations, buried her handsomely in Bunhill Fields, and procured Mr. Rogers, a learned divine, to preach her funeral sermon in her late father's meeting-house. Dunton published this sermon, and also erected a gravestone to her memory, with a long inscription in verse of his own composition.

The extravagance of Dunton's grief for the loss of his wife clearly indicated that it would not last long. In about six months, he was married again to Sarah, daughter of Madame Jane Nicholas, of St. Albans. Of this lady, whom he terms Valerie, he says, 'She seemed to be his first wife in a new edition, corrected and enlarged, or rather, in a new binding,' for he had only changed the person, not the virtues.' The marriage did not tend either to his comfort or happiness. His mother-in-law possessed some property, which Dunton wished her to sell, and invest the proceeds in his business, a course she very wisely refused to adopt. The disputes on this subject led to a separation; and there being no one to look after business, the Black Raven was closed, Dunton setting off to Dublin with a venture of books. There he became involved in a ridiculous dispute with a rival bookseller, of which he published an account in a pamphlet termed The Dublin Scuffle. His wayward and unsettled disposition was now fast leading to its inevitable result. In 1705 we find him in terror of a gaol, hiding from his creditors, while writing his Life and Errors. As a bookseller he is no more known, though he long existed as a political pamphleteer, having written no less than forty tracts in favour of the Hanoverian succession. Swift says that one of Dunton's pamphlets, entitled Neck or Nothing, was one of the best ever published. In 1723, he petitioned George I for a pension, comparing his unrequited services to those of Mordecai, but his application was unsuccessful. Surviving his second wife, he died in 1735, at the age of seventy-six; and the last literary notice of him is in The Dunciad, where he is not unjustly termed a broken bookseller and abusive scribbler.


On the 14th of May 1796, the immortal Edward Jenner conclusively established the important principles of vaccination; proving that it was possible to propagate the vaccine affection by artificial inoculation from one human being to another, and thereby at will communicate security to all who were liable to small-pox. In a letter to his friend Gardner, the great discoverer thus modestly expresses himself on this memorable experiment: 'A boy of the name of Phipps was inoculated in the arm, from a pustule on the hand of a young woman, who was infected by her master's cows. Having never seen the disease but in its casual way before, that is, when communicated from the cow to the hand of the milker, I was astonished at the close resemblance of the pustules, in some of their stages, to the variolous pustules. But now listen to the most delightful part of my story. The boy has since been inoculated for the small-pox, which, as I ventured to predict, produced no effect.'

Never was there a discovery so beneficial to the human race, and never did a discovery meet with so violent, so virulent an opposition. The lowest scribblers, excited by political animosity or personal rivalry, never vented such coarse, illiberal absurdities, as the learned physicians who opposed vaccination. Charges of murder and falsehood were freely made by them; nor was the war waged in the medical schools alone; it polluted the sanctity of the pulpit, and malignantly invaded the social harmonies of private life. Dr. Mosely, one of the first of the antivaccinists, sagely asks:

Can any person say what may be the consequences of introducing a bestial humour into the human frame, after a long lapse of years? Who knows, besides, what ideas may rise in course of time from a brutal fever having excited its incongruous impressions on the brain? Who knows but that the human character may undergo strange mutations from quadrupedan sympathy?

After vaccination had been for some time doing its benign work, a Dr. Rowley adduced no less than five hundred cases 'of beastly new diseases' produced by vaccination, in a pamphlet adorned by two coloured engravings, representing the ox-faced boy and the cow-manged girl. Nor does he confine himself to the medical part of the subject; he asserts that small-pox is a visitation of God, while cow-pox is produced by impious and wicked men. The former being ordained by Heaven, the latter became neither more nor less than a daring impiety- 'an attempt to wrest out of the hands of the Almighty the divine dispensations of Providence.'

Mosely described a boy whose face and part of his body, after vaccination, became covered with cow's hair; and a Dr. Smyth says:

'Among the numerous shocking cases of cow-pox which I have heard of, I know not if the most horrible of all has yet been published, viz., of a child at Peckham, who, after being inoculated with the cow-pox, had his former natural disposition absolutely changed to the brutal; so that it ran upon all fours, bellowing like a cow, and butting with its head like a bull.'
Well, indeed, might a satirical poet of the day thus sing:
0 Mosely! thy books mighty phantasies rousing,
Full oft make me quake for my heart's dearest treasures:
For fancy, in dreams, oft presents them all brow-sing
On commons, just like little Nebuchadnezzars.
There, nibbling at thistles, stand Jem, Joe, and Mary;
On their foreheads, oh, horrible crumpled horns bud:
Here Tom with a tail, and poor William all hairy,
Reclined in a corner, are chewing the cud.

The wildest opponent of vaccination was a certain Ferdinand Smyth Stuart, who described himself as 'physician, barrack-master, and great-grandson to Charles the Second.' The frontispiece to Smyth's work represents Dr. Jenner, with a tail and hoofs, feeding a hideous monster with infants, out of baskets. Of course this monster is the pictorial representative of vaccination, and is thus described:

A mighty and horrible monster, with the horns of a bull, the hind hoofs of a horse, the jaws of the kraken, the teeth and claws of a tiger, the tail of a cow, -all the evils of Pandora's box in his belly,--plague, pestilence, leprosy, purple blotches, fetid ulcers, and filthy sores, covering his body, -and an atmosphere of accumulated disease, pain, and death around him, has made his appearance in the world, and devours mankind, -especially poor, helpless infants; not by scores only, or hundreds, or thousands, but by hundreds of thousands.

The spirit and wisdom of this member of a royal house will be sufficiently exemplified by one more quotation: Rising with his subject, he exclaims:

The omnipotent God of nature, the inconceivable Creator of all existence, has permitted Evil, Buonaparte, and Vaccination to exist, to prosper, and even to triumph for a short space of time, perhaps as the scourge and punishment of mankind for their sins, and for reasons no doubt the best, far beyond the powers of our circumscribed and limited portion of penetration and knowledge to discover. But are we to worship, to applaud, or even to submit to Evil, to Buonaparte, or to Vaccination, because they have for some time been prosperous? No! Never let us degrade our honour, our virtue, or our conscience by such servility; let us contend against them with all our exertions and might, not doubting we shall ultimately triumph in a cause supported by truth, humanity, and virtue, and which there-fore we well know Heaven itself will approve.