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were connected with the M'Gregors is implied in the fact that, when he used a crest, he adopted that of the M'Gregors, and gave one of his daughters that
Neither his parentage, nor his birthplace, have been traced with certainty his latest biographer, Dr Dinsdale, having abandoned the traditional belief that he was the son of James Malloch, an innkeeper in Crieff, adopts that of his being the son of James Malloch and Beatrix who occupied the farm of Dunruchan (Dun fraochan, Heathery Knowe), about four miles from Crieff. The session records of Crieff place it beyond doubt that a James Malloch and his wife Beatrix Clerk kept an inn at Crieff in 1704, and the strange coincidence of two James Mallochs, both of whose wives were named Beatrix, is sufficient to account for the confusion as to the identity of the poet's parents.
To whichever of the two he belonged, he was educated at the parish school of Crieff, under Mr Ker, afterwards one of the masters of the High School, Edinburgh, and subsequently professor both in Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities. It is probably to his teacher, who continued his friend during life, that he owed his appointment, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, as janitor of the High School of Edinburgh. He is said to have studied in Aberdeen for some time, but this does not appear to have been the case; for though that University in 1726 conferred on him the degree of M.A., it was on account of a poem in imitation of Professor Ker's "Doniades." In 1720, he became tutor in the family of Mr Home of Dreghorn, near Edin
burgh, on such terms as admitted of his attending the University at the same time. It was then that he made the acquaintance of Thomson, when the two became fast friends.
Mallet was also a literary confidant of Allan Ramsay, who wrote some stanzas addressed to him on the occasion of his leaving Scotland, from which it appears that "William and Margaret" was known to Ramsay a year at least before it was published in England.
On the recommendation of the University professors, Mallet was appointed tutor to the sons of the Duke of Montrose; and in this capacity he accompanied the family to London in 1723. In 1724, he sent "William and Margaret" as an anonymous contribution to the Plain Dealer, Aaron Hill's serial. From the introduction by the author of the Plain Dealer, and Ramsay's reference, it would appear as if it was first printed in one of those ephemeral "pennyworths," in which Ramsay published a great many of his own pieces before adopting the more ambitious profession of bookseller and publisher, for which he abandoned wig-making. The fame of Mallet's ballad, and his own address, soon procured his introduction into the best literary society in London, and he became the intimate acquaintance of Pope, Young, and other literary magnates of the time. In 1726, he changed his name to Mallet, on the plea that Englishmen were unable to pronounce Malloch; and in 1727, he made the tour of Europe with his pupils. In 1728, he published the "Excursion," after the style of Thomson's "Winter," but with little resemb
lance to his friend's verse beyond the
His next literary effort was "Eurydice," a tragedy, which was performed at Drury Lane Theatre in 1731. A satire on Bently, entitled "Verbal Criticism," he dedicated to Pope, on whose recommendation he received the appointment of tutor and travelling companion to Mr Newsham, son of Mrs Knight of Gosfield. In this situation he remained for five years, during part of which he was abroad with his pupil. He also matriculated at Oxford, along with Mr Newsham, in 1734, and obtained the degree of M.A. About the same time he received the same honour from the University of Edinburgh.
His first marriage, of which so little is known, is supposed to have taken place at this time; for his wife, whose name was Susanna, died in January 1741, leaving him with a family of three daughters. In 1739, his tragedy of "Mustapha" was acted at Drury Lane; it was dedicated to the Prince of Wales, and the prologue was written by Thomson. His next literary work was the masque of "Alfred," written in conjunction with Thomson, and performed before the Prince of Wales at Cliefden, in 1740. It was greatly altered by Mallet in 1751, after Thomson's death, and was represented at Drury Lane Theatre. In this piece first appeared the song of "Rule Britannia," whose composition is generally attributed to Thomson, though more than one of Mallet's biographers claim it for him. About this time he wrote a life of Lord Bacon, as a preface to an edition of Bacon's works.
In 1742, he was made under-secretary to the Prince of Wales, and shortly afterwards he married his second wife, Lucy Elstob, a lady with a fortune of £10,000, and like himself said to be of very advanced religious opinions.
On the death of the Duchess of Marlborough, in 1744, it was found that she left £1000 to Glover, the author of "Leonidas," and Mallet jointly, on condition of writing a memoir of her husband, the great duke. Glover declined in consequence of its being made a stipulation that the life, before being published, was to be submitted to the inspection of the Earl of Chesterfield. Mallet undertook the work alone, and had a pension allowed him by the second Earl of Marlborough; yet notwithstanding his having accepted the money, the life never made its appearance.
In 1747, he published Amyntor and Theodora, a tale, in blank verse, of which the scene is laid in the island of St Kilda. Gibbon considered this to be Mallet's chief claim to poetic fame, but the result has not justified the historian's anticipations.
On Pope's death in 1744, Lord Bolingbroke discovered what he considered a breach of faith on the part of the poet, and Mallet drew up a statement of the case against Pope in the form of an advertisement to an edition of Bolingbroke's "Patriot King," of which Pope was said to have surreptitiously printed an edition of 1500 copies. Bolingbroke died in 1751, and left Mallet the legacy of his writings, which in 1754 he published in five volumes. In 1755, his Masque of Britania was re
presented at Drury Lane; and in 1756, he wrote a letter accusing Admiral Byng of cowardice, for which he is said, without authority, however, to have got a pension. The probability of such being the case may be judged of by the fact that the party benefited was not then in power.
In 1759, he published a collected edition of his own works in prose and poetry, inscribed to Lord Mansfield; and in 1760 appeared "Edwin and Emma," which, near the close of his life, is a resumption of his earliest style. In 1762, his "poems on several occasions" made their appearance, with a dedication to the Duke of Marlborough; and Elvira, his best tragedy, inscribed to Lord Bute, was represented at Drury Lane, in 1763. This same year he received the appointment of keeper of the Book of Entries at the port of London. But shortly after his health began to give way, and he made a visit to France, accompanied by his wife. He did not long survive his return, for he died in April 1765, in his sixty-third year.
Mallet's character as a man has been the subject of much animadversion, and as a poet he cannot claim a high position. That he was a man of great literary culture and talent, but rather of an imitative than an original type, is evident. It is possible that his practical instincts, and the ambition to command an important social position, may have induced him to keep his original powers in check, or to regard their cultivation as a hindrance to his advancement.
WILLIAM AND MARGARET.
'Twas at the silent solemn hour,
When night and morning meet ; In glided Margaret's grimly ghost,
And stood at William's feet.
Her face was like an April morn
So shall the fairest face appear
When youth and years are flown : Such is the robe that kings must wear, When death has reft their crown.
Her bloom was like the springing flower,
But love had, like the canker-worm,
She died before her time.
Awake! she cried, thy true love calls, Come from her midnight grave: Now let thy pity hear the maid
Thy love refused to save.
This is the dumb and dreary hour
When injured ghosts complain; When yawning graves give up their dead,
To haunt the faithless swain.
Bethink thee, William, of thy fault, Thy pledge and broken oath! And give me back my maiden-vow, And give me back my troth.
And stretched him on the grass-green turf A mutual flame was quickly caught,
That wrapt her breathless clay.
Was quickly too revealed;