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F David Mallet, having no written memorial, I am
able to give no other account than such as is supplied by the unauthorised loquacity of common fame, and a very slight personal knowledge.
He was by his original one of the Macgregors, a clan that became, about sixty years ago, under the conduct of Robin Roy, so formidable and so infamous for violence and robbery, that the name was annulled by a legal abolition; and when they were all to denominate themselves anew, the father, I suppose, of this author called himself Malloch.
David Malloch was, by the penury of his parents, compelled to be Janitor of the High School at Edinburgh ; a mean office, of which he did not afterwards delight to hear. But he surmounted the disadvantages of his birth and fortune ; for when the Duke of Montrose applied to the College of Edinburgh for a tutor to educate his sons, Malloch was recommended ; and I never heard that he dishonoured his credentials.
When his pupils were sent to see the world, they were entrusted to his care ; and having conducted them round the common circle of modish travels, he returned with them to London, where, by the influence of the family in which he resided, he naturally gained admission to many
1 Mr. Cunningham states that the Clan Macgregor was outlawed long before Rob Roy's time by an act of the Privy Council of James I. in
persons of the highest rank, and the highest character, to wits, nobles, and statesmen.
Of his works, I know not whether I can trace the series. His first production was “William and Margaret ; which, though it contains nothing very striking or difficult, he has been envied the reputation; and plagiarism has been boldly charged, but never proved.
Not long afterwards he published the “Excursion” (1728); a desultory and capricious view of such scenes of Nature as his fancy led him, or his knowledge enabled him, to describe. It is not devoid of poetical spirit. Many of the images are striking, and many of the paragraphs are elegant. The cast of diction seems to be copied from Thomson, whose “Seasons” were then in their full blossom of reputation. He has Thomson's beauties and his faults.
His poem on “ Verbal Criticism” (1733) was written to pay court to Pope,' on a subject which he either did not understand or willingly misrepresented; and is little more than an improvement, or rather expansion, of a fragment which Pope printed in a Miscellany long before he en
* Mallet's William and Margaret was printed in Aaron Hill's Plain Dealer, No. 36, July 24, 1724. In its original state it was very different from what it is in the last edition of his works.Johnson.
? Mallet's first pieces were published in the Edinburgh Miscellany, printed by a club called the Athenian Society. See Ald. Thomson, vol. i. p. XV.
2 The Plain Dealer for Aug. 28th, 1724, contained a letter from Malloch, giving an account of the “unhappy accident” which gave occasion to his ballad.
Pope procured him the situation of travelling tutor to the son of his friend and correspondent, Mrs. Newsham, an office of five years continuance spent in travelling abroad with profit and without expense.PETER CUNNINGHAM.
grafted it into a regular poem. There is in this piece more pertness than wit, and more confidence than knowledge. The versification is tolerable, nor can criticism allow it a higher praise.
His first tragedy was “Eurydice," acted at Drury-Lane in 1731 ; of which I know not the reception nor the merit, but have heard it mentioned as a mean performance. He was not then too high to accept a Prologue and Epilogue from Aaron Hill, neither of which can be much commended.
Having cleared his tongue from his native pronunciation so as to be no longer distinguished as a Scot,” he seems inclined to disencumber himself from all adherences of his original, and took upon him to change his name from Scotch Malloch to English Mallet, without any imaginable reason of preference which the eye or ear can discover. What other proofs he gave of disrespect to his native country I know not; but it was remarked of him, that he was the only Scot whom Scotchmen did not commend.
About this time Pope, whom he visited familiarly, published his “ Essay on Man,” but concealed the author ; and when Mallet entered one day, Pope asked him slightly what there was new. Mallet told him, that the newest piece was something called an “ Essay on Man," which he had inspected idly; and seeing the utter inability of the author, who had neither skill in writing nor knowledge of his subject, had tossed it away. Pope, to punish his selfconceit, told him the secret.
A new edition of the works of Bacon being prepared
I never catched Mallet in a Scotch accent; and yet Mallet, I suppose, was past five-and-twenty before he came to London.”— Boswell's Johnson, vol. ii. p. 156.
2 This change of name gave Johnson occasion to introduce Mallet into his dictionary under the article Alias. See Johnson's 8vo abridgment of 1756, it is not in the earlier folio and quarto editions.
(1740) for the press, Mallet was employed to prefix a Life, which he has written with elegance, perhaps with some affectation; but with so much more knowledge of history than of science, that when he afterwards undertook the Life of Marlborough, Warburton remarked, that he might perhaps forget that Marlborough was a general, as he had forgotten that Bacon was a philosopher.
When the Prince of Wales was driven from the palace, and, setting himself at the head of the opposition, kept a separate Court, he endeavoured to encrease his popularity by the patronage of literature, and made Mallet his undersecretary, with a salary of two hundred pounds a year: Thomson likewise had a pension ; and they were associated
; in the composition of the Masque of “ Alfred,” which in its original state was played at Cliefden in 1740; it was afterwards almost wholly changed by Mallet, and brought upon the stage at Drury-Lane in 1751, but with no great success.
Mallet, in a familiar conversation with Garrick, discoursing of the diligence which he was then exerting upon the Life of Marlborough, let him know that in the series of great men, quickly to be exhibited, he should find a nich for the hero of the theatre. Garrick professed to wonder by what artifice he could be introduced; but Mallet let him know, that, by a dexterous anticipation, he should fix him in a conspicuous place. “Mr. Mallet,” says Garrick, in his gratitude of exultation,“ have you left off to write for the stage ?” Mallet then confessed that he had a drama in his hands. Garrick promised to act it; and "Alfred” was produced.
“ The long retardation of the Life of the duke of Marlborough shews, with strong conviction, how little confidence can be placed in posthumous renown. When he died, it was soon determined that his story should be delivered to posterity; and the papers supposed to contain the necessary information were delivered
the lord Molesworth,' who had been his favourite in Flanders. When Molesworth died, the same papers were transferred with the same design to Sir Richard Steele, who in some of his exigences put them in pawn. They then remained with the old dutchess, who in her will assigned the task to Glover and Mallet, with a reward of a thousand pounds, and a prohibition to insert any verses. Glover rejected, I suppose, with disdain the legacy, and devolved the whole work upon Mallet ; who had from the late duke of Marlborough a pension to promote his industry, and who talked of the discoveries which he made ; but left not, when he died, any historical labours behind him.
While he was in the Prince's service he published * Mustapha," with a Prologue by Thomson, not mean, but far inferior to that which he had received from Mallet for “ Agamemnon." The Epilogue, said to be written by a friend, was composed in haste by Mallet, in the place of one promised, which was never given. This tragedy was dedicated to the Prince his master. It was acted at DruryLane in 1739, and was well received, but was never revived.
In 1740, he produced, as has been already mentioned, the masque of “ Alfred," in conjunction with Thomson.
” For some time afterwards he lay at rest. After a long interval, his next work was Amyntor and Theodora
1 Robert, Viscount Molesworth (1656-1725), vid. supr. vol. ii. p. 33. 2 Of Marlborough.
3 Richard Glover (1712-1785), at sixteen wrote a poem on Sir Isaac Newton, and afterwards several poems and plays. He also figured as a politician, chiefly in commercial subjects. In his Memoirs, published after his death, he regrets that“ the capricious restrictions of the will compelled him to reject the undertaking,” p. 57.
4 1739. Mustapha was acted fourteen nights, and was attended by the whole of the opposition. Its success as a party piece was complete. -P. CUNNINGHAM.
5 Amyntor and Theodora, or The Hermit. A Poem in Three Cantos. London, printed for Paul Vaillant in the Strand. 1747.