Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: LIFE OF MANDEVILLE 1 - The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, Vol. 1
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I: LIFE OF MANDEVILLE 1 - Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, Vol. 1 
The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, 2 vols. With a Commentary Critical, Historical, and Explanatory by F.B. Kaye (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988). Vol. 1.
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LIFE OF MANDEVILLE 1
HEREDITY had its full share in Mandeville’s genius. From the sixteenth century men of prominence had been common in his family—on his father’s side, city governors, scholars, and physicians (his father, Michael, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather had all been eminent physicians); his mother’s kinsmen, the Verhaars, were naval officers.2
Bernard de Mandeville, or Bernard Mandeville, as he chose to call himself in later life,3 was baptized in Rotterdam, 20 November 1670.4 He attended the Erasmian School there until October 1685, when he matriculated at the University of Leyden.1 On this occasion he pronounced what he called, with a foreshadowing of the wit which was to make him famous, an oratiuncula,2 in which he stated his intention of devoting himself to the study of medicine. Nevertheless, he was registered the next year, 17 September, as a student in Philosophy.3 In 1689, on the twenty-third of March, he presented a dissertation under the mentorship of Burcherus de Volder, professor of Medicine and Philosophy.4 The subject-matter of this dissertation—Disputatio Philosophica de Brutorum Operationibus—suggests that Mandeville had continued for some time as a student in Philosophy. In 1690 Mandeville was still in residence,5 but the beadle’s lists for 1691 do not mention him, so that it is probable that he was away from Leyden during most of the college year of 1690 to 1691. This would explain his being once more entered in the Album Studiosorum Academiae in 1691, the nineteenth of March,1 on the thirtieth of which month he took the degree of Doctor of Medicine,2 apparently returning only for that purpose.
He then took up the practice of medicine as a specialist in nerve and stomach disorders, or, as he called them, the ‘hypochondriack and hysterick passions’ or ‘diseases’.3 His father had practised this very branch of medicine.4
Soon after, Mandeville left his native country and, possibly after a tour of Europe,5 went to London ‘to learn the Language; in which having happen’d to take great delight, and in the mean time found the Country and the Manners of it agreeable to his Humour, he has now been many Years, and is like to end his days in England’.1 Thus he himself explained his change of country.
His decision to remain in England must have been confirmed on 1 February 169 8/9, when he married Ruth Elizabeth Laurence at St. Giles-in-the-Fields.2 By her he was to have at least two children—Michael and Penelope.3
By 1703 he had achieved his wish of learning the language, for in that year he published the first extant of the English works which were to make him known to all the western world. 4
History now becomes paradoxical. Her file, which has not spared details of Mandeville’s youthful days of obscurity, records almost nothing of the years when he was one of the most celebrated men in the world. She notes a couple of his dwelling-places,5 lists his literary works,6 and records his death. That is almost all.
The will is endorsed, ‘Testator fuit põe Sti. Stephani Coleman street Lond et obijt 21 instan.’ The statement of probate 1 February by Michael Mandeville follows.
The affidavit (dated 31 January) to the genuineness of the will, preserved with it at Somerset House, was signed by John Brotherton (the publisher) and Daniel Wight.
But though record has been thus discreet, rumour has been more communicative. The brilliant free-thinking doctor was a kind of scarecrow to frighten ministers with, and the most damning whispers about him rustle through the pages of the eighteenth century:
‘… his own life was far from being correct … an indulger in gross sensuality. …’ 1 ‘…. a man of very bad principles. …’2 ‘On dit que c’étoit un homme qui vivoit comme il écrivoit. …’ 3 ‘ … the Writer of the Fable of the Bees was neither a Saint in his Life, nor a Hermit in his Diet. …’ 4
Gossip such as this has a certain spice lacking to that duller but more dependable information which may be culled from first-hand sources, and this is probably a reason why these second-hand speculations have hitherto bulked so large in all accounts of Mandeville’s life. The reader, however, who remembers the usual treatment given by gossip to writers supposed to hold irreligious principles will approach these indefinite statements with some scepticism, and may even wonder why there have not been preserved for us some really exciting scandals about Mandeville, for, as Lounsbury put it, ‘There is no mendacity more unscrupulous than that which sets out to calumniate those whom its utterers choose to deem the enemies of God’.5
The nearest approach to such scandals was furnished by Sir John Hawkins, one of the most unamiable liars who ever lived. Sir John’s motto was decidedly not ‘de mortuis nil nisi bonum’, for he spent much of his life elaborating unpleasant fictions about dead geniuses. He libelled Dr. Johnson, and Boswell rages in a score of places against his ‘inaccuracy’ and ‘dark uncharitable’ assertions.1 Bishop Percy spoke of him as a detestable libeller; Sir Joshua Reynolds called him ‘mean’, ‘grovelling’, and ‘absolutely dishonest’, and Malone observed that he never knew any one who did not believe Hawkins a scoundrel.2 I mention the facts relating to Sir John Hawkins so that the reader may know in what attitude to approach the facts related by him.
Mandeville [he said],3 whose christian name was Bernard, was a native of Dort in Holland. He came to England young, and, as he says in some of his writings,4 was so pleased with the country, that he took up his residence in it, and made the language his study. He lived in obscure lodgings in London, and betook himself to the profession of physic, but was never able to acquire much practice. He was the author of the book above-mentioned [the Fable], as also of ‘Free Thoughts on Religion’, and ‘a Discourse on Hypochondriac Affections’, which Johnson would often commend; and wrote besides, sundry papers in the ‘ London Journal’, and other such publications, to favour the custom of drinking spirituous liquors, to which employment of his pen, it is supposed he was hired by the distillers. I once heard a London physician, who had married the daughter of one of that trade, mention him as a good sort of man, and one that he was acquainted with, and at the same time assert a fact, which I suppose he had learned from Mandeville, that the children of women addicted to dram-drinking, were never troubled with the rickets. He is said to have been coarse and overbearing in his manners where he durst be so; yet a great flatterer of some vulgar Dutch merchants, who allowed him a pension. This last information comes from a clerk of a city attorney, through whose hands the money passed.
In this string of statements—taken at the most unspecified second-hand and apparently an imaginative rendering of material originally in the Bibliothèque Britannique1 and of some reminiscences of Mandeville’s own works2 —there is scarcely an allegation which is not either highly improbable or capable of being directly disproved. If Mandeville wrote to increase the use of spirituous liquors, careful search through the contemporary journals has failed to reveal the fact.3 Such articles, indeed, would have been contrary to all his acknowledged opinions on the subject. In both the Fable of the Bees and the Treatise of the Hypochondriack and Hysterick Diseases, Mandeville dwelt vividly on the dangers of what he termed ‘this Liquid Poison’ (Fable i. 89).4 Concerning Mandeville’s supposed opinion about the children of dram-drinking mothers, it is worth noting the form in which Hawkins put it. A friend of Mandeville gave Hawkins a medical opinion, and without the slightest apparent reason Hawkins assumed that this friend, although himself a physician, must have learned the opinion from Mandeville. As to the ‘vulgar Dutch merchants’, if they ever existed they were probably John and Cornelius Backer.1 The ‘pension’, however, was in that case apparently no gratuitous endowment, but the South Sea Annuities which made up part of Mandeville’s income and which the Messrs. Backer held in trust for him.1
The assertions of Hawkins as to Mandeville’s worldly station and professional success are of more interest, and we have, I believe, sufficient authentic evidence to determine the truth of these two matters, which are interdependent.
In the first place, it would be well to note a remark in Mandeville’s Treatise. Philopirio, who acts as his mouthpiece throughout the book,2 says for him, in answer to the observation of another character that Philopirio would not ‘get into great Business’: ‘I could never go through a Multiplicity of Business. … I am naturally slow, and could no more attend a dozen Patients in a Day, and think of them as I should do, than I could fly.’3 In view of Hawkins’s general untrustworthiness and the fact that some of the information he retails is drawn from the Treatise, it is a fair prima facie assumption that the citation just given furnished the basis for Hawkins’s generalizations about Mandeville’s lack of worldly success. At any rate, there is positive evidence that Hawkins was romancing. Mandeville was one of the most successful authors and widely famed men of his day. His works were selling not only by editions but literally by dozens of editions.4 It is worthy of remark, too, that, in an age which specialized in personal abuse, none indictive attacks on Mandeville took what would have been an obvious course, had there been any grounds for it, of calling attention to his poverty. On the contrary, a contemporary opponent spoke of him as ‘well dress’d’ (Fable ii. 23). It is to be noted, furthermore, that Mandeville felt able to take the notice of his medical skill which appeared in the first edition of his Treatise1 out of the later one. Moréri’s Dictionnaire, also, which was far from holding a brief for him, mentioned that ‘il … passoit pour habile’.2 Positive evidence of Mandeville’s status is contained in a letter from him to Sir Hans Sloane,3 perhaps the leading physician of the day. This letter shows Mandeville in consultation with the famous court physician and on terms of easy familiarity with him. Mandeville, moreover, was a friend of the wealthy and powerful Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Macclesfield. The attachment between the Earl of Macclesfield and Mandeville has been noted a number of times,4 and a letter from Mandeville to the Chancellor indicates this relation to have been one of genuine intimacy.1 The friendship of the Earl would have amply insured Mandeville against poverty and neglect. Finally, Mandeville, when he died, managed to leave behind him a competency which, measured by the monetary standards of the day, was at least respectable.2 In view of all this, it is hardly possible that the world-famous author, the consultant of Sir Hans Sloane, and the friend of Lord Macclesfield was in anything resembling the circumstances in which Hawkins has painted him, and Hawkins may be generally discredited.
Stowe MS. 750, f. 429 (British Museum)
The ‘Lady Betty’ mentioned in this letter was Elizabeth Parker, Macclesfield’s daughter, who married William Heathcote of Hursley, Hampshire.
As a matter of fact, there is no authoritative firsthand evidence whatever as to Mandeville’s character and habits except what he himself has told us and the brief remark of one single contemporary.1 Through his spokesman Philopirio, in the Treatise, in answer to the observations of another character in the work, Misomedon, Mandeville thus speaks of himself:
… I hate a Crowd, and I hate to be in a Hurry. … I must own to you likewise, that I am a little selfish, and can’t help minding my own Enjoyments, and my own Diversion, and in short, my own Good, as well as the Good of others. I can, and do heartily admire at those publick-spirited People that can slave at an Employment from early in the Morning, ’till late at Night, and sacrifice every Inch of themselves to their Callings; but I could never have had the Power to imitate them: Not that I love to be idle; but I want to be employed to my own liking; and if a Man gives away to others two thirds of the Time he is awake, I think he deserves to have the rest for himself.
Pray, did you ever wish for a great Estate?
Often, and I should certainly have had one before now, if wishing could have procur’d it.
But I am sure, you never sought heartily after Riches.
I have always been frugal enough to have no Occasion for them.
I don’t believe you love Money.
Indeed I do.
I mean you have no Notion of the Worth of it, no real Esteem for it.
Yes I have; but I value it in the same manner as most People do their Health, which you know is seldom thought of but when it is wanted.1
In another place 2 Mandeville remarked, ‘I am a great Lover of Company. …’ This trait is noted also in the one other first-hand account we have—that of Benjamin Franklin, fortunately a sane witness. Dr. Lyons,3 wrote Franklin,4 ‘carried me to the Horns, a pale alehouse in ——— Lane, Cheapside, and introduced me to Dr. Mandeville, author of the “Fable of the Bees”, who had a club there, of which he was the soul, being a most facetious, entertaining companion’.
His works comprised the following writings: 3
All Continental dates and all English year dates are given new style unless it is otherwise stated ; other English dates till 1752 are old style.
A genealogy of the family is given below, ii. 380–5, with the more important fragments of related information available in various city archives.
He first called himself Bernard Mandeville in 1704, on the title-page of Æsop Dress’d. In 1711 and 1715, on the title-page of the Treatise of the Hypochondriack … Passions, he used the particle, but from then on he consistently omitted it both on title-pages and on personal documents.
According to the Rotterdam archives (the ‘Doopregister der Gereformeerde Kerk’), which Dr. E. Wiersum, the Archivist, has been kind enough to examine for me. The Bibliothèque Britannique for 1733, i. 244, gave Mandeville’s birthplace as Dort (Dordrecht), and later historians have followed that periodical. Since Dort is scarcely more than ten miles from Rotterdam, it is, of course, just possible that Mandeville was born in Dortand baptized at Rotterdam. The Dort archives, however, show no traces of the de Mandevilles having ever been connected with the place, and in view of this and the fact that the Bibliothèque Britannique gave a false date for Mandeville’s death, although it had occurred that same year (see below, i. xxx, n. 1), there seems no reason to suppose that Mandeville was not born in the place in which he was baptized.
Mandeville, Oratio Scholastica, title-page.
Oratio Scholastica, p. 4.
Album Studiosorum Academiae, column 686. He gave his age at the time falsely as 20 years (see Album). On 19 Mar. 1691, the Album still records Mandeville’s age as 20 (column 714). The University pedelsrollen, or beadle’s lists, which Prof. Dr. Knappert has kindly examined for me, give his age as 20 on 13 Feb. 1687, as 21 on 23 Feb. 1688, as 22 on 17 Mar. 1689, and as 23 on 15 Mar. 1690.
Disputatio Philosophica, title page.
Column 714, this time enrolled as a student of medicine.
See Mandeville’s Disputatio Medica, title-page, and Treatise of the Hypochondriack . . . Diseases (1730), p. 132.
See his medical Treatise.
Treatise (1711), p. 40.
Sakmann conjectures (Bernard de Mandeville und die Bienenfabel-Controverse, ed. 1897, p. 7) on the evidence of the Treatise (1730), pp. 98–9, and certain unspecified references in Mandeville’s Origin of Honour that Mandeville had been to Paris and Rome. I am inclined to agree, on the basis of the reference in the Treatise, one in the Fable (ii. 154), a passage in the Origin of Honour (pp. 95–6)—this especially—and the tone of the reference to the Invalides in the Fable i. 172. The passage in the Origin of Honour reads, ‘ Of all the Shews and Solemnities that are exhibited at Rome, the greatest and most expensive, next to a Jubilee, is the Canonization of a Saint. For one that has never seen it, the Pomp is incredible. The Stateliness of the Processions, the Richness of Vestments and sacred Utensils that are display’d, the fine Painting and Sculpture that are expos’d at that Time, the Variety of good Voices and Musical Instruments that are heard, the Profusion of Wax-Candles, the Magnificence which the Whole is perform’d with, and the vast Concourse of People, that is occasion’d by those Solemnities, are all such, that it is impossible to describe them.’
Treatise (1730), p. xiii.
By licence dated 28 Jan. She gave her age as 25 years. According to the licence both had been living in the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields; according to the entry of the marriage in St. Giles’s register, in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
See Mandeville’s will, reproduced opposite. According to the parish register of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Michael was born 1 Mar. 169 8/9 and baptized in St. Martin’s the same day.
Some Fables after the Easie and Familiar Method of Monsieur de la Fontaine. The extraordinary vogue of Mandeville’s works is discussed below, ch. 5; the works themselves are listed at the end of this chapter.
About 1711 he was living in Manchester Buildings, Cannon Row, Westminster, or, as he put it in accord with contemporary colloquial usage, ‘Manchester-Court, Channel-Row’ (Treatise, ed. 1711, 2nd issue, title-page and p. xiv). When Mandeville died in 1733 he had been living in the parish of St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, London (see the endorsement on his will, opposite).
See below, i. xxx–xxxii.
J. W. Newman, Lounger’s Common-Place Book, 3rd ed., 1805, ii. 306.
Hawkins, General History of Music (1776) v. 316, n.
Bibliothèque Britannique for 1733, i. 245, and Moréri, Grand Dictionnaire (1759), art. ‘Mandeville’.
John Brown, Essays on the Characteristics (1751), p. 175. Also Gentleman’s Magazine xxi. 298.
Shakespeare and Voltaire (N.Y., 1902), p. 14.
Cf. Boswell’s Life of Johnson, ed. Hill, 1887, i. 28.
Prior, Life of Edmond Malone (1860), pp. 425–7.
Life of Johnson (1787), p. 263, n.
See Mandeville’s Treatise of the Hypochondriack . . . Diseases (1730), p. xiii.
The Bibliothèque Britannique was responsible for the belief that Mandeville was born in Dort (see above, i. xvii, n. 4).
Cf. above, i. xxii, n. 4 and below, i. xxv.
The London Journal which I have gone through carefully without finding the articles mentioned by Hawkins, may have suggested itself to Hawkins because Mandeville published there-in his Vindication of the Fable of the Bees (see Fable i. 401 sqq.).
In his Treatise, he devotes much space to this matter (for instance, ed. 1730, pp. 356–76), concluding that wine is a cordial and restorative only ‘to those, that are unacquainted with, or at least make no constant Practise of using it: Upon us that either out of Luxury, Pride, or a foolish Custom have brought our selves to drink it daily, and made it a Part of our Diet, its Medicinal Virtue … is lost’ (p. 375). He speaks also of ‘hot Vinous Liquors, by the constant sipping of which it is incredible how many have been destroy’d’ (p. 356). To be sure, he admits the healthfulness of its use in moderation, and even indulges in a literary rhapsody in imitation of the classics as to its effects (pp. 360–3); but his final professional verdict is that it is useful, except as a restorative, only because, otherwise, people who dislike water would not drink enough with their meals to saturate their solid nourishment (pp. 367–8); and he counterbalances his rhapsody by the assertion that ‘the innumerable Mischiefs, which Wine, as it is managed, creates to Mankind, far exceed whatever Horace, or any body else can say in Commendation of it’ (p. 365). His attitude towards wine-drinking, indeed, is extraordinarily unfavourable for a century in which respectable men used regularly to drink themselves into an after-dinner stupor. In fact, Mandeville’s advice (p. 375) ‘to forbear Wine for a Fortnight or longer’ every now and then was so contrary to the custom of his day that he feels forced to add that ‘most People in plentiful Circumstances would laugh at’ this admonition (p. 375).
These men, who were Mandeville’s financial agents, were originally of Dutch extraction, being naturalized by Private Acts 6 Geo. I, c. 23 and c. 25.
See Mandeville’s will, facing p. xx.
Cf. Treatise (1730), p. xiii.
Treatise (1730), p. 351.
See below, i. xxx–xxxvii.
It originally appeared on pp. 40 and xii–xiii.
Grand Dictionnaire Historique (1759), article on Mandeville.
See above, frontispiece.
Cf. Johnson, Lives of the English Poets, ed. Hill, 1905, ii. 123; Hawkins, Life of Johnson (1787), p. 264, n., and General History of … Music (1776) v. 316, n.; and J. W. Newman, Lounger’s Common-Place Book, 3rd ed., 1805, ii. 307–8. The latter account stated: ‘… it was his custom to call the excellent and respectable Mr. Addison, a parson in a tye-wig [Johnson and Hawkins (Life of Johnson) both mention this]; having on a certain occasion offended a clergyman, by the grossness and indecorum of his language, the latter told him, that his name bespoke his character, Mandeville, or a devil of a man.
For this letter see opposite.
See Mandeville’s will, facing p. xx. Between the time when Mandeville made his will and the date of his death, South Sea Annuities, according to the quotations in the newspapers, averaged over 107, with a low mark of 103 3/8 (in 1729) and a high one of 111 7/8 (in 1732).
The lack of definite basis for the various innuendoes about Mandeville’s character is well illustrated by the following passage in Byrom’s Private Journal for 29 June 1729 (ed. Chetham Soc., vol. 34, i. 381): ‘Strutt and White took up the time in a long and warm dispute about Dr. Mandeville; they were extremely hot, and White in a very furious passion; Strut said that Mandeville had kept company with scrubs, White said there could not be worse scrubs than he that said so. I proposed the dixi to them, which took place awhile, and we had all our speeches round after Strut had fetched the Doctor’s book of the Fable of the Bees, and I declared for virtue’s being always proper to promote the good of the society in all cases, and vice always bad for it. Mr. White desired me to read the book, they kept still appealing to me all along.’
Treatise (1730), pp. –2.
Fable i. 337.
William Lyons, author of The Infallibility of Human Judgment, 1719.
Writings, ed. Smyth, N.Y., 1905, i. 278, in the Autobiography.
Hackney is given as the place of his death by the Historical Register for 1733 (p. 9 of the ‘Chronological Diary’ bound at the end); the London Evening-Post, no. 831, 20–23 Jan. 1733, p. 2; B. Berington’s Evening Post, 23 Jan. 1733, p. 3 ; and Applebee’s Original Weekly Journal, 27 Jan. 1733, p. 2. The latter two periodicals print the following obituary notice: ‘On Sunday Morning last died at Hackney, in the 63d Year of his Age, Bernard Mandeville, M.D. Author of the Fable of the Bees, of a Treatise of the Hypocondriac and Hysteric Passions and several other curious Pieces, some of which have been published in Foreign Languages. He had an extensive Genius, common Wit, and strong Judgment. He was thoroughly versed in the Learning of the Ancients, well skill’d in many Parts of Philosophy, and a curious Searcher into Human Nature; which Accomplishments rendered him a valuable and entertaining companion, and justly procured him the Esteem of Men [of] Sense and Literature. In his Profession he was of known Benevolence and Humanity; in his private Character, a sincere Friend; and in the whole Conduct of Life, a Gentleman of great Probity and Integrity’ (Berington’s)
Morning is given as the time of his death in many contemporary newspapers; e. g., the Country Journal: or, the Craftsman, no. 343, 27 Jan., p. 2, and the Weekly Register: or, Universal Journal, no. 146, 27 Jan., p. 2.
According to the endorsement on his will (see above, facing p. xx) and dozens of contemporary periodicals, including all those named in the preceding two notes. The Bibliothèque Britannique for 1733, i. 244, incorrectly gave 19 Jan. as the date, and has often been followed, especially in Continental works.
The Grub-street Journal for 25 Jan. 173 2/3 under a paragraph headed, ‘Friday, Jan. 19’, states, ‘There was last night a very slender appearance at the masquerade on occasion of this reigning distemper’. This distemper is identified as ‘ the late fatal Colds’ in the Bee:or, Universal Weekly Pamphlet i. 43, for 3–10 Feb. 1733. The Weekly Register: or, Universal Journal for 27 Jan. 1733, in a section dated 23 Jan., mentions the ‘present raging Colds and Coughs’.
I have attempted the canon of Mandeville’s works in my article, ‘The Writings of Bernard Mandeville’, in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology for 1921, xx. 419–67. I there assemble my reasons for the classification of Mandeville’s works given above. Where the above list differs from the article, the present tabulation is the more authoritative.