Battie, William

, an English physician of considerable eminence, was born at Medbury, in Devonshire, 1704, the son of Edward Battie, and grandson of William Battie, D. D. He received his education at Eton, where his mother resided after her husband’s death, in order to assist | her son, on the spot, with that advice, and those accommodations, which would have been more useless and expensive, had she lived at a greater distance. In 1722 he" was sent to King’s college, Cambridge, and on a vacancy of the Craven scholarship, he succeeded to it by a com-1 bination of singular circumstances. The candidates being reduced to six, the provost, Dr. Snape, examined them all together, that they might, as he said, be witnesses to the successful candidate. The three candidates from King’s were examined in Greek authors, and the provost dismissed them with this pleasing compliment, that not being yet determined in his choice, he must trouble them to come again. The other electors were so divided, as, after a year and a day, to let the scholarship lapse to the donor’s family, when lord Craven gave it to Battle. Probably the remembrance continued with him, and induced him to make a similar foundation in the university, with a stipend of 20l. a year, and the same conditions for the beuetit of others, which is called Dr. Battie’s foundation. He nominated to it himself, while living, and it is now filled up by the electors to the Craven scholarships. To Battie this scholarship was of much importance, and, as appears by a letter he wrote in 1725, when he got it, he was enabled to live comfortably. In 1726, he took his bachelor’s, and in 1730, his master’s degree.

His intention now was to study the law, and in order to procure the means, he applied to two old bachelors, his cousins, both wealthy citizens, whose names were Colemari, soliciting the loan of a small allowance, that he might be qualified to reside at one of the inns of court, but they declined interfering with his concerns. This disappointment diverted his attention to physic, and he first commenced practitioner at Cambridge, where, in 1729, he printed “Isocratis Orationes septem et epistolæ. Codicibus Mss. nonnullis, et impressis melioris notæ exemplaribus collatis: varias lectiones subjecit, versionern novam, notasque, ex Hieronymo Wolfio potissimum desumptas, adjecit Gul. Battie, Col. Reg. Cantab. Socius,” 8vo, with a promise in the preface, that the remainder of the work should be given nitidiore vestitu. This word vestitu being construed by Dr. Morell into an allusion to Battie’s residence in Taylors-inn, he wrote some ludicrous verses, which were inserted at the time in the Grub-street Journal. On this edition of Isocrates, however, Battie regularly employed himself for a certain | time every day. In 1737 he took his degree of M. D. and probably about this period, the Colemans retiring from business, settled at Brent Ely Hall, in the county of Suffolk, near enough to admit of Dr. Baltic’s accepting a general invitation to their house, of which he was encouraged to make use whenever the nature of his business allowed him the leisure. This he did with no small inconvenience to himself, without the least prospect of advantage, not to mention the wide disproportion between their political principles, the Colemans being genuine city Tories, and the doctor a staunch Whig; though both parties afterwards reversed their opinions; yet Dr. Battie was one whom no consideration of advantage in the most trying exigencies of life could ever prevail on to swerve from what he conscientiously believed to be truth.

A fair opening for a physician happening at Uxbridge, induced Dr. Battie to settle in that town. At his first coming there, Dr. Godolphin, provost of Eton, sent his coach and four for him, as his patient; but the doctor sitting to write a prescription, the provost, raising himself up, said, “You need not trouble yourself to write; I only sent for you to give you credit in the neighbourhood.” His medical skill here being attended with success, he was quickly enabled to accumulate 500l. with which in his pocket, he again paid a visit to his relations in Suffolk, requesting their advice how to dispose of his wealth to the best advantage; and they were so pleased with his industry and discretion, that from that hour they behaved towards him with the firmest friendship. He then removed to London, where the established emoluments of his practice produced him 1000l. a year. In 1738 or 1739, he fulfilled by marriage a long attachment he had preserved for a daughter of Barnham Goode, the under-master of Eton school of the year 1691, against whom, at all times, the Colemans expressed the most inveterate political antipathy. They, however, behaved to the wife with the utmost civility, and when they died, they left Dr. Battie 30,000l.

In 1746 he published an Harveian oration, and in 1749, being then S. published his complete edition of Isocrates, 2 vols. 8vo, a work of which the learned and critical Harles does not speak in the highest terms of commendation, and seems to insinuate that the editor was deficient in judgment and talents. In the dispute which the college of physicians had with Dr. Schomberg, about the year 1750, Dr. Battie was one of the censors, and took a | very active part against that gentleman, in consequence of which he was thus severely, but not altogether unjustly ridiculed, in a poem called “The Battiad,” said to be written by Moses Mendez, Paul Whitehead, and Dr. Schomberg, and since reprinted in Dilly’s “Repository,1776. The lines are these

"First Battus came, deep read in worldly art,

Whose tongue ne’er knew the secrets of his heart:

In mischief mighty, though but mean of size,

And, like the tempter, ever in disguise.

See him, with aspect grave, and gentle tread,

By slow degrees approach the sickly bed.

Then at his club behold him alter d soon,

The solemn doctor turns a low buffoon:

And he, who lately in a learned freak

Poach’d every lexicon, and published Greek,

Still madly emulous of vulgar praise,

From Punch’s forehead wrings the dirty bays."

These last linos allude to a fact and by successfully mimicking that low character, Dr. Battie is said to have once saved a young patient’s life. He was sent for to a gentleman who was alive in 1782, but at that time only fourteen or fifteen years old, who was in extreme misery from a swelling in his throat; when the doctor understood what the complaint was, he opened the curtains, turned his wig, and acted Punch with so much humour and success, that the young man, thrown almost into convulsions from laughing, was so agitated, as to occasion the tumour to break, and a complete cure was the immediate consequence.

In 1751, he published “De principiis animalibus exercitationes in Coll. Reg. Medicorum,” in three parts; which were followed the year after, by a fourth. These were his Lumleian lectures, delivered at the college of physicians. In 1757, being then physician to St. Luke’s hospital, and master of a private mad-house near Wood’s close, in the road to Islington, he published in 4to, “A treatise on Madness;” in which, having thrown out some censures on the medicinal practice formerly used in Bethlem hospital, he was replied to, and severely animadverted on, by Dr. John Monro, whose father had been lightly spoken of in the forementioned treatise. Monro having humorously enough taken Horace’s O major tandem parcas insane minori, for the motto of his Remarks on Battie’s Treatise, the wits gave him the name of major Battie, | iiistead of doctor. In 1762 he published “Aphorism! cle cognoscendis et curandis morbis nonnullis ad principia, animalia accommodati.” Feb. 1763, he was examined before a committee of the house of commons on the state of the private mad-houses in this kingdom, and received in their printed report a testimony very honourable to his abilities.

In April 1764, he resigned the office of physician to St. Luke’s hospital. In 1767, when disputesran very high between the college of physicians and the licentiates, Dr. Battie wrote several letters in the public papers, in vindication of the college. In 1776, he was seized with a paralytic stroke, which proved fatal, June 13, in his 72d year. The night he expired, conversing with his servant, a lad who attended on him as a nurse, he said to him, “Young man, you have heard, no doubt, how great are the terrors of death. This night will probably afford you some experience; but may you learn, and may you profit by the example, that a conscientious endeavour to perform his duty through life, will ever close a Christian’s eyes with comfort and tranquillity.” He soon after departed, without a struggle or a groan, and was buried by his own direction, at Kingston-upon-Thames, “as near as possible to his wife, without any monument or memorial whatever.” He left three daughters, Anne, Catherine, and Philadelphia, of whom the eldest was married to sir George Young (a gallant English admiral who died in 1810.) This lady sold her father’s house and estate at Marlow, called Court garden, to Mr. Davenport, an eminent surgeon of London. The second was married to Jonathan Rashleigh, esq. and the third to John, afterwards sir John Call, bart. in the hon. East India company’s service. Dr. Battie gave by his will 100l. to St. Luke’s hospital; 100l. to the corporation for the relief of widows and children of clergymen, and twenty guineas to earl Camden, as a token of regard for his many public and private virtues. His books and papers, whether published or not, he gave to his daughter Anne. Among these was a tract on the meaning of 1 Cor. xv. 22, and some others which were printed before his death, but not published, nor have we seen a copy.

Dr. Battie, it may already be surmised, was of that class called humourists, and he had also a turn for speculations a little out of the way of his profession. His house at Harlow was built under his own direction, but he | forgot the stair-case, and all the offices below were constantly under water. A favourite scheme of his, for having the barges drawn up the river by horses instead of men, rendered him unpopular among the bargemen, and at one time he narrowly escaped being thrown over the bridge by them, but he pacified them by acting Punch. In this sclu ae he is said to have lost 1000l. and for fear of future insults, he always carried pocket-pistols about him. He affected in the country to be his own day-labourer, and to dress like one, and was, on one occasion, refused admittance to a gentleman’s house, where he was intimate, the servants not knowing him in this disguise, but he forced himself in by main force. Upon the whole, however, he was a man of learning, benevolence, and skill. 1


Nichols’s Life of Bowyer, 8vo. Harwood’s Alumni Etonenses,