Cuming, William

, born Sept. 30, 1714, was the son of Mr. James Cuming, an eminent merchant in Edinburgh. Alter a suitable education in the high-school of that city, and under the particular tuition of Mr. Alexander Muir, formerly professor of philosophy at Aberdeen, he applied himself to the study of physic four years in the university of Edinburgh, and became connected with some of the most eminent students in that science. In 1735 he spent nine months at Paris, improving himself in anatomy and the French language: and he passed some time at Leyden the following year; but returned immediately before the death of his father.*


An elegant ode, addressed to him on his going to France, Aug. 31, 1735, by Mf. S. Boyse, is printed in Nichols’s Miscellany Poems, vol. VI. p. 342; and in the same volume, p. 328, is the “Vision of Patience,” an allegorical poem, sacred to the memory of Mr. Alexander Cuming, a young gentleman unfortunately lost in the northern ocean, on his return from China, 1740. He was elder brother of the doctor, and first supercargo of the Suecia, a Swedish East India ship, which was wrecked on a rock about two miles east of the island of North Ronalsha, the northernmost of the Orkney islands, Nov. 18, 1740. Immediately on the ship’s striking, Mr. Cuming went off in the barge, accompanied by the surgeon, and six of the boldest seamen, in order to discover what the island was, but were never more heard of. Thirty-one of the sailors were saved out of one hundred, the ship’s complement.

In 1738 he quitted | Edinburgh for London: and while his friends were meditating a settlement for him at Lynne in the room of the late sir William Browne, his friend Dr, Fothergill found out a more promising situation at Dorchester; where he remained to the last, notwithstanding the most pressing invitations from Dr. Fothergill to succeed Dr. Russel in London. In the space of a few years after his establishment at Dorchester, he came to be employed in many, and in process of time, with an exception of three or four at most, in all the families of distinction within the county, and frequently in the adjacent ones. At length his chaste manners, his learning, and his probity, as they were more generally known, rendered him not only the physician, but the confidential friend of some of the best families into which he was introduced. His warm and friendly attention to the interests of the late Mr. Hutchins, author of the History of Dorset, in advancing the publication of that well written and well arranged work, cannot better be expressed than in the grateful language of its author: “One of the gentlemen to whom my acknowledgments are eminently due, permitted part of that time which is so beneficially employed to far better purposes, and is so precious to a gentleman of his extensive practice, to be diverted to the work in hand; the publication of which he patronised and promoted with great zeal and assiduity: nor did his success fall short of his zeal. Without his friendly assistance my papers might yet have remained undelivered to the press; or, if they had been committed to the public, would have wanted several advantages and embellishments with which they now appear.” The doctor bequeathed his interleaved copy of this work to Mr.Gough, his friend and coadjutor in its publication. In 1752 he received a diploma from the university of Edinburgh; and was soon after elected a fellow of the royal college of physicians there, of which he died senior fellow. He was elected in 1769 fellow of the society of antiquaries of London; and in 1781 of that of Scotland. The tenderness of his eyes was, through life, the greatest misfortune he had to struggle with; and, considering the many obstacles which the complaints in those organs have occasioned in the pursuit of knowledge, it is wonderful how he attained the degree of erudition which he was well known to possess. In his retreat from the more busy pursuits of this world, the surviving companions of his youth continued the friends and correspondents of | his advanced years; and he enjoyed to the last the singular satisfaction of being visited by the most respectable persons in the county for probity, rank, and fortune. We cannot but regret that the doctor, who lias been the means of so many valuable performances being laid before the public, and some of them improved by his pen, had not himself stood forth, to give that information for which he was so well qualified, both in point of classical learning and elegant composition. He died of a dropsy, in the 7 kh year of his age, March 25, 1788. 1

From Memoirs of his Life, at the end of the fourth edition of Dr. Lettsom’s Life of Dr. Fothergill, 1786, 8vo. The Sherborn Mercury of March 31 records his death, with this honourable testimony: “He was a physician of learning, strict integrity, and great humanity: possessed of a happy turn for inquiry and observation; devoted from an early age to the faithful discharge of the duties of his profession. The death of this excellent man is a misfortune to his friends and neighbours more immediately, to the faculty in general, and to all mankind.