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A KEN SIDE.
ARK AKENSIDE was born on
M the ninth of November, 1721, at
Newcastle upon Tyne. His father, Mark,' was a butcher of the Prefbyterian fect; his mother's name was Mary Lumfden. He received the first part of his education at the grammar-fchool of Newcastle; and was afterwards inftructed by Mr. Wilfon, who kept a private academy.
At the age of eighteen he was sent to Edinburgh, that he might qualify himself for the office of a diffenting minifter, and received fome affiftance from the fund which
the Diffenters employ in educating young men of fcanty fortune. But a wider view of the world opened other fcenes, and prompted other hopes: he determined to ftudy phyfic, and repaid that contribution, which, being received for a different purpofe, he juftly thought it difhonourable to retain.
Whether, when he refolved not to be a diffenting minifter, he ceased to be a Diffenter, I know not. He certainly retained an unneceffary and outrageous zeal for what he called and thought liberty; a zeal which fometimes disguises from the world, and not rarely from the mind which it poffeffes, an envious defire of plundering wealth or degrading greatnefs; and of which the immediate tendency is innovation and anarchy, an impetuous eagerness to fubvert and confound, with very little care what shall be established.
Akenfide was one of those poets who have felt very early the motions of genius, and one of thofe ftudents who have very early ftored their memories with fentiments and images. Many of his performances were produced in his youth; and his greatest work, The Pleafures of Imagination, appeared in 1744. I have heard Dodfley, by whom it was published, relate, that when the copy was offered him, the price demanded for it, which was an hundred and twenty pounds, being fuch as he was not inclined to give
precipitately, he carried the work to Pope, who, having looked into it, advised him not to make a niggardly offer; for this was no every-day writer.
In 1741 he went to Leyden, in pursuit of medical knowledge; and three years afterwards (May 16, 1744) became doctor of phyfick, having, according to the custom of the Dutch Universities, published a thefis, or differtation. The subject which he chose was the Original and Growth of the Human Fætus; in which he is faid to have departed, with great judgement, from the opinion then established, and to have delivered that which has been fince confirmed and received.
Akenfide was a young man, warm with every notion that by nature or accident had been connected with the found of liberty, and by an excentricity which such dispositions do not easily avoid, a lover of contradiction, and no friend to any thing established. He adopted Shaftesbury's foolish affertion of the efficacy of ridicule for the discovery of truth. For this he was attacked by Warburton, and defended by Dyson: Warburton afterwards reprinted
reprinted his remarks at the end of his dedication to the Freethinkers.
The refult of all the arguments which have been produced in a long and eager difcuffion of this idle question, may easily be collected. If ridicule be applied to any pofition as the test of truth, it will then become a question whether fuch ridicule be juft; and this can only be decided by the application of truth, as the teft of ridicule. Two men, fearing, one a real and the other a fancied danger, will be for a while equally exposed to the inevitable confequences of cowardice, contemptuous cenfure, and ludicrous reprefentation; and the true ftate of both cafes must be known, before it can be decided whofe terror is rational, and whofe is ridiculous; who is to be pitied, and who to be defpifed. Both are for a while equally expofed to laughter, but both are not therefore equally. contemptible.
In the revifal of his poem, which he died before he had finifhed, he omitted the lines which had given occafion to Warburton's objections.
He published, foon after his return from Leyden (1745), his firft collection of odes; and was impelled by his rage of patriotism. to write a very acrimonious epiftle to Pulteney, whom he ftigmatizes, under the name of Curio, as the betrayer of his country.
Being now to live by his profeffion, he first commenced phyfician at Northampton, where Dr. Stonhouse then practifed, with fuch reputation and fuccefs, that a stranger was not likely to gain ground upon him. Akenfide tried the contest a while; and, having deafened the place with clamours for liberty, removed to Hampstead, where he refided more than two years, and then fixed himself in London, the proper place for a man of accomplishments like his.
At London he was known as a poet, but was still to make his way as a physician; and would perhaps have been reduced to great exigences, but that Mr. Dyson, with an ardour of friendship that has not many examples, allowed him three hundred pounds a year. Thus fupported, he advanced graF f 4