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MARK AKENSIDE, M.D.
This poet, distinguished as the originater of the Poems of the Pleasures, was a native of Newcastleupon-Tyne, where he was born on the 9th of November, 1721. His father was a respectable butcher, noted for moral and religious deportment, and zealous in his attachment to the Presbyterian sect of dissenters. His mother's name was Mary Lumsden, of decent, although not wealthy parentage. Mark received the rudiments of his education at the grammar school of Newcastle. He was afterwards placed under the tuition of a Mr. Wilson, who kept a private academy in the same town.
The religious predilections of his father rendered him desirous that his son should be educated for the office of a Presbyterian minister; and with this view, Mark was, at the age of eighteen, sent to the University of Edinburgh. Here he received some assistance from the fund employed by the Church of Scotland in educating young men of limited means, for the ministry. But from some cause unknown, probably from
that which has induced many young men, under similar circumstances, to disappoint the wishes of their parents in regard to the clerical profession, a reluctance to assume the solemn responsibilities which a proper discharge of its duties imposes,-he changed the nature of his studies, and directed his attention to the acquirement of medical knowledge. It is no slight evidence of conscientious feelings having an influence in producing this change in his pursuits, that he voluntarily returned to the trustees of the Presbyterian fund, the money he had received from them, deeming it dishonourable to retain it when he no longer intended to fulfil the conditions on which it had been given. This creditable act may also be considered a proof of the care which had been taken by his parents, to impress his mind with a due regard for the obligations of morality, and the requirements of honour in his intercourse with the world.
He continued nearly three years at Edinburgh, and then, in 1741, removed to the Dutch University of Leyden, where, in 1744, he took his degree of Doctor of Medicine. The thesis which, according to collegiate custom, he wrote on this occasion, drew considerable attention, on account of the power of professional research and the sound philosophical reasoning which it displayed. The subject was, “The Origin and Growth of the Human Fætus,” in which he very judiciously combatted the theory then established, and brought forward that which has since been universally adopted.
Whether Akenside conceived, and altogether wrote The Pleasures of Imagination, while at Leyden, is unknown; but that he finished it there is certain, for soon after receiving his degree, he visited London with the manuscript, which he offered to the celebrated bookseller, Dodsley. This publisher, although in general a liberal encourager of the muses, hesitated in the purchase on account of the price,-a hundred and twenty pounds,—which was demanded by the nameless and unknown author. He asked permission to consult Mr. Pope. That great poet at once discerned the merit of the work, and advised Dodsley to accede to the author's terms, observing, “ This is no every-day writer."
The poem was received by the public with great favour, and raised its author at once to a high rank among the poets of the day. Soon after its appearance, Akenside issued a severe political invective against the famous Poulteney, Earl of Bath, in an epistle signed “ Curio,” whom, in the ardour of patriotism, he assails as the betrayer of his country.
In 1745, he published a “Hymn to the Naiads," and a variety of odes, which, although they added nothing to the reputation he had gained by the Pleasures of Imagination, showed him to be well versed in Grecian philosophy, and a warm admirer of classical literature. The poetical miscellany called “Dodsley's Collection,” contains many of his poetical effusions, chiefly odes, which he, from time to time, continued for several years to produce, but none of which would