Saturday, February 28, 2015

Alexander Stuart: Physician, Natural Philospher, Meticulous Note Taker

Alexander Stuart was a man of elusive beginnings. His birth speculatively occurred around 1673 somewhere in northeast Scotland, possibly Aberdeen. There are no records of his early life until 1691 when he appears to have graduated MA from Marsichal College, Aberdeen. He is heard of again in 1698 as a practicing surgeon-apothecary and in 1701, he joined the trader London as the ship’s surgeon from 1701-1704. In 1704, he transferred to Europe, where he stayed until 1707 and began the habit of keeping meticulous notes on his surgical cases.
            Stuart corresponded with Hans Sloan for years and they appeared to have an amiable frienship. In one letter written before his ship departs from London in February 1701/1702, Stuart gives thanks to Sloan’s “extraordinary kindnesses... on all occasions” (Sloane MS 4038) and specifically mentions a provision of books Sloan had recently lent him. Their correspondence continued while Stuart was at sea, providing Sloan with accounts of his voyages and sending him natural history specimens. Several of these reports were published in the Philosophical Transaction such as in 1702 when he sent a letter to the publisher describing some Watersprouts he studied in the Mediterranean. Stuart eventually quit his life of the sea in 1708 and stayed briefly in Ireland before traveling to London to work as a surgeon. His connections with Sloan and Sir David Hamilton helped him gain admittance to the University of Leiden’s medical school, in which he enrolled at the age of thirty-six on 14 December 1709. It appears Sloan wrote a letter in favor of Stuart to a professor at Leiden, Boerhaave, which had an “extraordinary affect” (Sloane MS 4042). Stuart had profound admiration for Boerhaave for he appeared to be “a man of great Ingenuity, Learning and Candor” (Ibid). On 22 June 1711, Stuart graduated a doctor of medicine with a dissertation on the study of muscular motion, “De structura et motu musculari.”
            Stuart served in the British army in Flanders for a short period and returned to London in 1712. Starting out in the medical field proved a difficult feat, especially in London's competitive atmosphere. The first few years in the practice were difficult for Stuart, in which he earned very little money, accumulating merely 100 pounds during the year 1713. Nevertheless, his intellect did not go unnoticed. The Royal Society elected Stuart on 30 November 1714 and in December 1715, he was appointed the position first physician for Westminster Hospital. Stuart was eventually admitted licentiate on 25 June 1720 to the Royal College of Physicians of London.
            During the mid-1720s, Stuart was actively advocating for the smallpox inoculation and ran trials on several patients. Fellow physician, William Douglass, adamantly spoke out against inoculation in his pamphlet The Abuses and Scandals of some Late Pamphlets in Favour of Inoculation of the Small Pox. Published in 1722, Douglass addressed his argument to Stuart directly. No matter Douglass’s opinion, in 1728 Stuart received the MD from Cambridge, comitiis regiae, and subsequently the position of physician-in-ordinary to Queen Caroline. He was accepted as a fellow of the Royal Society of Physicians on 2 September 1728, where he was censor in 1732 and 1741. After an internal dispute at Westminster Hospital in October 1733, Stuart and several of his colleagues split with the hospital and founded St. George’s Hospital, where Stuart would remain until 9 July 1736.  
Although Stuart was making nearly 100 pounds a month by this point in his career, he faced financial difficulties that led him to invest into the South Sea Company in 1720. After the Bubble burst, Stuart faced heavy losses and needed to find a way to cover his debt. He married a woman named Susannah, who owned property in in the parish of St. Paul's, Covent Garden in January 1726 and a year later, Stuart turned over his assets to his wife. He retained his manuscripts planning to sell them and use the money toward paying off his debts.
Stuart's finances were a bit of a disaster but his career and intellect were anything but. Physiology had been the subject of his dissertation and he resumed this work in the 1720s. He wrote papers for the Philosophical Transactions on "The Use of Bile in the Animal Oeconomy" and "The Existence of a Fluid in the Nerves." His work on muscular motion got him invited to give a Croonian Lecture at the Royal Society in 1738 and later that year he was awarded a prize from the Academy of Bordeaux for a revision of his MD thesis. Stuart's popularity in France resulted in him becoming a foreign member of the French Academy of Sciences. 
Following Boerhaave and Archibald Pitcairne, Stuart's research on muscles broke from prevailing notions and instead emphasized a mechanical system as an explanation to muscular motion and nervous system activity. The concept, termed vascular hydraulics, was supported in part through his experiment on a decapitated frog, in which the frogs' the legs twitch after he inserted a probe into its spinal column. Stuart theorized the twitch in the leg was caused by fluid being pushed into the leg muscles. This experiment was published in the Philosophical Transactions in 1731 and had an influence on Whytt and Haller's later reflex studies, even though they ultimately disagreed with Stuart's conclusions. Stuart also backed his theory with microscopic examinations that compared the structures of blood vessels and nerves. Overall, this research earned Stuart the Copley medal by the Royal Society in 1740 and he was asked to deliver another Croonian lecture in 1740 and 1741.
Stuart passed away not long after these final achievements on 15 September 1742. Upon his death, he was still 3,000 pounds in debt from loans he received during the South Sea bubble two decades earlier. His will named Henry Baker and Hugh Frasier as executors but they refused. Baker was also asked to publish his remaining manuscripts and sell them as subscriptions but upon Baker's refusal, it became his wife's duty. The papers she managed to sell fetched only a paltry sum unable to cover the rest of his debts. 


BL, corresp., Sloane MSS 4038–4040, 4042, 4045–4056

Douglass, William. The Abuses and Scandals of some Late Pamphlets in Favour of Inoculation of the Small Pox. Boston: J. Franklin, 1722.
Munk, William, G. H. Brown. The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London: 1701- 1800. London: The College, 1878.

“Stuart, Alexander (1673?–1742),” Anita Guerrini in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, eee ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, January 2008, (accessed February 25, 2015).

Stuart, Alexander. Part of a Letter from Mr Alex. Stuart, (a Physician) to the Publisher, concerning Some Spouts He Observed in the Mediterranean. Phil Trans R Soc 1702 23: 1077-1082. 

James Craggs, the Younger: Ambitious, Traveled, and Intransigient

Quite a dashing young man, wasn't he?

James Craggs II was born on 9 April 1686 in Westminster, London as the second, but only surviving son, of James Cragg the elder, postmaster-general and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Richards, a corn chandler of Westminster. He began his education at Monsieur le Fevre’s school in Chelsea but the rest of his education consisted of traveling about the continent. The experience of being a well-versed traveler would come in handy later in his life. Richard Hill, envoy to Savoy in 1703, was initially his chaperone and supervisor but in 1704, his father recalled Craggs to England because of his son’s spendthrift and extravagant habits (His father was even tempted to disown him). Nevertheless, his grounding did not last long and in 1706, he was abroad again and spent most of his time in Hanover, Germany. While in Hanover, Craggs developed a speculatively romantic relationship with the electors’ half sister, the countess Sophia Charlotte von Platen. Although the nature of their relationship beyond amicable fondness is hazy, she did provide him with the opportunity to make an acquaintance with the elector of Hanover, the future King George I. During his time in Hanover, Craggs somehow became involved in an unspecified “difference” with Emmanuel Scrope, the British envoy, to whom Craggs’s habit of incurring debt was considered embarrassing and distasteful.
Due to the invaluable information and experience that Craggs gained throughout his travels, his father, who had influence with the duke of Marlborough, decided to find a way to utilize his knowledge. James Craggs I helped secure his son, once again through his father’s relationship with Marlborough, a position as secretary to James Stanhope, the envoy to Spain, on 8 April 1708. Craggs began his duties when he arrived in Barcelona on 29 May but soon return to London in September. Due to the fact Stanhope spent most of his time on campaigns away from Spain, Craggs requested to be made a minister in Spain so he would be allowed act and speak in Stanhope’s place. Lord Godolphin and Marlborough granted these credentials to Craggs on 29 September. For the next several years, he gained important political experience through his involvement as messenger in the secretive diplomatic network between Stanhope, Marlborough, and the London ministry. Stanhope required Craggs’s services when Stanhope was in the middle of negotiations with Charles III in regards to the succession of Minorca to Britain between 1708 and 1709 but these plans were eventually abandoned. Already an experienced traveler, Craggs spent his time between Spain, Germany, the Dutch Republic, and Italy. In 1709, Stanhope was embroiled in issues with a failing Spanish campaign and was torn between remaining on the continent and returning to Parliament. Craggs, who often regarded Stanhope as a “master and best friend” (Hanham), convinced him to return to England and defend the ministry, which was “persuaded you are the properest person to justify them and put ‘em in a good light” (Hayton, 545). Craggs himself returned to London around October 1710, only to have his post in Spain annulled in 1711. From an early age, Craggs was highly aware of how his non-aristocratic birth affected his possibilities for advancement and his desire for advancement would follow him for most of his life.
            Craggs the elder was highly involved with the Duke of Marlborough. At the end of the year 1711, Marlborough fell from grace, which left Craggs the elder out of a job and his son out favor. The juvenile ways of Craggs II's youth came back vigorously once Craggs had more time on his hands. His old ways led him to face off Captain Montagu in a duel after a disagreement and ended up wounding the Captain. His friendship with the Duchess of Marlborough ended with his attempted rape of one of her servants. Afterwards it appears she, not unsurprisingly, never wished to speak of hear from him again.
In the autumn general election in 1713, Craggs the younger gained a parliamentary seat in Tregony, a rotten borough in Cornwall. After his election to the Commons, Craggs joined the Hanover Club, which was founded in 1712 under the pretense of providing support for the Hanoverian succession but mostly functioned as an adjunct of Kit-Cat in order to coordinate Whig activities in Parliament and the constituencies. The members of this hebdomadal club swore to provide “all the opposition they could in their several stations” (Hayton, 1.765) to Tories and Jacobites. By 1714, Craggs had developed a friendship with Richard Steele and helped disseminate Steele’s controversial pamphlet, The Crisis. When Richard Steele was expelled from Parliament for his offense writings in favor of a Hanoverian succession, Craggs fiercely defended Steele and suggested the ministry was responsible for jeopardizing the succession. In 1714, likely due to his familiarity with Hanover, Craggs was assigned by the Privy Council to deliver the message to the Hanoverian Elector that Queen Anne was dying. The Hanoverian envoy, Bothmer, sent a letter to the Elector from London and recommended the new King reward Craggs with an office, as opposed to gold, for his fidelity.
Once the Hanoverian dynasty was established, Craggs was rewarded for his loyal support by being appointed to cofferer to the Prince of Wales. In 1715, he was reelected to Tregony and was proclaimed secretary of war two years later on 13 April 1717. Craggs did not hold this position long and resigned in December on 1717 due to the acrimonious quarrel between the king and the Prince of Wales. Nevertheless, an appointment to secretary of state for the south on 15 March 1718, which included a position on the Privy Council, made Craggs believe he was finally moving on the better things.  
Craggs continued to hold Stanhope in great esteem throughout his life and once he became part of the Commons, Craggs stuck firmly with the Stanhope- Sunderland ministry. In April of 1713, Craggs joined with Robert Walpole against the Tories and the Treaty of Utrecht however, he would eventually split with Walpole. Walpole suggested in 1718 to reduce the size the standing army, to which Craggs responded that “in all wise governments, the security of the state is the rule chiefly to be regarded… after all, it is no less than a piece of justice than matter of prudence to keep up as great a number of officers as possible” (Cobbett, 7.505-506). Later that year in a debate on half-pay officers, Craggs spoke out adamantly, only to be belittled by Walpole’s mention of his lack of experience. Craggs conceded that he had not long been in office but “he was sure of, that as a novice, he would, ten years hence, be of the same opinion he was of at present, and not imitate them who changed theirs, as they were in and out of place” (Ibid, 7.534). Craggs butted heads against Walpole again in 1719 in his avid defense of the Peerage Bill, although he personally did not like the measure, while Walpole definitively argued in opposition.
In 1720, Craggs became embroiled in the South Sea scandal. He, in collaboration with John Aislabie, helped manage legislation “that converted national debt into South Sea stock” (Handley). His father was even more involved in the scandal and was accused of having received a transfer of 30,000 pounds worth of stock in 1720. His son was not a beneficiary of the stock but managed lists of subscribers and found a way to make the king’s mistresses beneficiaries. He apparently believed it would prove beneficial for the company to “have friends in the Royal Family” (Carswell, 115), so he set up subscriptions the Duchess of Kendal, her daughters by the king (referred to as her “nieces”) and Craggs’s patroness and old friend, Countess von Platen. An equivocal comment by William Shippen on 4 January 1721 implicated “there were some men in great stations… who were no less guilty than the Directors” (Cobbett, 7.693) in propagating the scandal.  Reading in between the lines, Craggs boldly stated, “he was ready to give satisfaction any man that could question him, either in that House or out of it” (Ibid, 7.694). This comment was seen by Lord Molesworth as a challenge to the entire House of Commons and sent the members into an uproar. Craggs quickly attempted to clarify his comment by stating that he only meant to clear his own conduct.
Craggs passed away after a bout of smallpox on 16 February 1721, the same day the secret committee was set to present their report of their investigation of the South Sea scandal to the Commons. He was buried in Henry VII’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey overnight on 2 March. Although Craggs died without a wife, he fathered a natural daughter with the actress Hester Santlow. Harriot Craggs was born around February 1713 and from the lack of sources, it appears she did not correspond with her father frequently.


Booth , Hester (c.1690–1773),” Moira Goff in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, eee ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, January 2008, (accessed February 26, 2015).

Craggs, James, the younger (1686–1721),” Stuart Handley in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, eee ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, January 2009, (accessed February 26, 2015).

Cruikshanks, S., D. Hayton, S. Handley. “Craggs, James II (1686-1721), of Jermyn Street, Westminster.” The History of Parliament. Accessed February 25, 2015.

Hansard, Thomas Curson. Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England. London: T. C. Hansard, 1811.

Hayton, David. The House of Commons, 1690-1715, Volume 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.,+1715%E2%80%9354&source=bl&ots=n85p0UV1iI&sig=yWYIt98-PkrhpHJiE8JhzWKT4vI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5d3sVLryNo-eyATYqICwCg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Hayton, David, Eveline Cruickshanks, and Stuart Handley. The House of Commons 1690-1715: Constituencies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nicholas Brady: Chaplain, Poet, Amateur Playwrite

Nicholas Brady's hair (or whig) virtually defies gravity

Nicholas Brady was born in Bandon, Country Cork Ireland on 28 October 1659 to Major Nicholas Brady, a Protestant Irish army officer, and his wife Martha, daughter of Luke Gernon, Munster provincial judge. Brady’s great- grandfather was Hugh Brady, the first Protestant bishop of Meath. Before being sent to England at the age of twelve, Brady was educated at St. Finbarre’s School in Cork by a Dr. Tindall. In England, he was admitted to the Westminster School, where he became a captain and a king’s scholar by 1763. Brady began his religious career in December 1678 upon his admittance on a Westminster Studentship to Christ Church, Oxford and enrolled on 4 February 1689. It is mentioned that he was “sent down for some unknown offense in 1682” (Sambrook). He finished his education back in Ireland at Trinity College, from which he graduated BA in 1685 and MA in 1686. After becoming an ordained priest in Cork during September of 1687, Edward Wetenhall, bishop of Cork and Ross, took him in as his domestic chaplain. Wetenhall helped him secure a prebend on 9 July 1688, which is a stipend taken from the revenue of a cathedral (or collegiate church) to a canon or member of the chapter, in the Cork Cathedral. He also obtained livings at Ballymoney, Drinagh, and Kilmeen.
            Brady became popular among the Jacobites by staying in Ireland after the Roman Catholic viceroy of James II came to power and by preaching ideologies near and dear to the Jacobite heart, such as the divine right of kings. During this time, Brady was a marked supporter of the Revolution but as a result, Brady would eventually suffer some loss. When trouble broke out in Ireland in 1689/90 after the Bandon Protestants took over, James ordered three times for Brady’s hometown to be burned. Brady had a close relationship with general Justin McCarthy, to whom the order was given, and managed to persuade McCarthy on all three occasions to leave the town alone and settle for an indemnity of 1,500 pounds. The people of the town respected Brady and requested that he present their grievances to Parliament, which included a petition for compensation, that same year.
            Brady eventually married into a family with a long religious background on 29 June 1690. His new wife, Laetitita, was the daughter of Richard Synge, archdeacon of Cork and granddaughter of Edmond Synge, bishop of Cork. The couple would have four sons and four daughters but unfortunately, two daughters and one son died in infancy. Brady was promoted on 16 July 1691 to curate of St. Katherine Cree and chosen as a lecturer of St. Michael’s on Wood Street, which led him to relinquish his preferments in Ireland and settle his family in London. In London, Brady became “noted for his abilities in the pulpit” (Kippis, 2.564) and he reentered to the position as chaplain but this time for James Butler, second duke of Ormond. Although Brady had spent part of his time in Ireland friendly with the Jacobites, by this time Brady had become an avid supporter of the Protestant king, William III.
            In 1692, Brady decided to try his poetic hand at playwriting and produced a tragedy, The Rape, also known as The Innocent Imposters, which involved fifth- century Vandals and Goths. Its first performance occurred in May 1692 at Drury Lane. Dramatist Thomas Shadwell helped put the play on stage and wrote the epilogue while Brady wrote a dedication to the earl of Dorset, Charles Sackville. Unfortunately, Brady’s play did not gain much recognition and disappeared until after his death, when it was recast and performed four times at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in November of 1729. In 1730, the play went through several changes, the biggest of these being the replacement of Goths and Vandals with Spanish and Portuguese. Language such as “rape” was replaced with “crime,” “ravish” with “dishonor,” and “lustful” with “hateful.” The graphic rape scenes and the role of a cross-dressing male were also removed. Nevertheless, Brady had better luck with his “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day,” in part because Henry Purcell was the one who set it to music. His ode was sung in public for the first time on 22 November 1692.
            On 23 April 1694, Brady moved positions again and became chaplain for the foot regiment under Colonel Sir Richard Atkins. Yet, it was as chaplain of William III and Queen Mary when he produced, in collaboration with Nahum Tate who was another protestant Irish clergyman, the most popular work of his career. Titled, New Version of the Psalm of David, this joint work was a metrical version of the Psalms with a smoother rhythm that contemporaries found sufficiently pleasing and was published in 1696. The work was dedicated to William III and petitioned to the king for its use in “Congregations as shall think fit to receive it” (Brady and Tate). Evidently the king thought well of the publication and on 3 December 1696 made the order that the New Version be used “in all Churches, Chapels and Congregations” (Brady and Tate). Not only did this version win over the king but the Whigs also found its subtle political allusions to their liking. Brady and Tate’s work eventually replaced a version by Sternhold and Hopkins and held sway in Anglican churches across England until the mid-nineteenth century. As a sign of its popularity, the work ran to approximately three hundred versions.
            While working on the New Version, Brady found himself in Surrey, where he met and made a favorable impression on the vicar of Kingston, Gideon Harding. Harding appointed Brady as perpetual curate of Richmond chaperly, Surrey in June 1696. Upon this promotion, Brady resigned his position at St. Katherine Creed. Brady’s intellectual achievements reached back to Trinity College, which awarded him the degrees of BD and DD (Doctor of Divinity) on 15 November 1699. Esteemed senior fellow, Dr. Pratt, made a trip to England in order to deliver the honors to Brady in person. The earl of Dorset helped him secure a vicarage at Stratford upon Avon, which Brady held from 10 November 1702 until 15 October 1705. On 21 February 1706, Dame Rebekah Adkins, who was the mother of Colonel Sir Richard Adkins, presented him to the rectory of the Holy Trinity, Clapham, Surrey. Even with these various appointments and responsibilities, Brady was also chaplain to Queen Anne and eventually Caroline when she was Princess of Wales.
            The accumulation of his various preferments amounted to close to 600 pounds a year. It has been speculated that with his qualifications, Brady could have been raised “to some of the greatest dignities in the church” had he not had such expensive and hospitable habits or chosen to settle in a country in which he was technically a foreigner (Kippis 2.565). Due this personality that “rendered him careless of his private interest and fortune” (Kippis 2.565), Brady kept a school at Richmond, which proved to be a slightly more fruitful scheme than his attempt in 1713 to publish a blank- verse version of Virgil’s Aeneid in English for four guineas a subscription. His translation was never noted in the numerous criticisms of the translations of Virgil so it seems to have “sunk into oblivion, if not contempt” (Kippis, 2.565).
            Brady was remembered as a person of “a most obliging, sweet, affable temper, a polite gentleman, an excellent preacher, and a good poet” (Kippis, 2.565). In his lifetime he published three volumes of his sermons, which were printed in London. After his death his eldest son, Nicholas who was vicar at Tooting, Surrey, published three more volumes of his father’s sermons in 1730.  Nicholas Brady passed away on 20 May 1726 at Richmond and was buried in Richmond church.


Brady, Nicholas and Nahum Tate. A New Version of the Psalm of David: Fitted to the Tunes Used in Churches. London: E. A. James, 1754.

Kippis, Andrew. Biographia Britannia Vol. 2. London: W. and A. Strahan, 1780.

Lowenthal, Cynthia. Performing Identities on the Restoration Stage. SIU Press, 2003.

Sambrook, James. “Brady, Nicholas (1659–1726).” James Sambrook In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, . (accessed February 20, 2015).

The Encyclopedia Britannica. New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910.