Uncovering the Mystery:
The Life of The Poetical Works of Mark Akenside bound with The Poetical Works of J. Armstrong, M.D.
England during the 1700s was filled with religious schisms and the various transitions of governmental power. Mark Akenside, a native of England, began his life in an environment composed of dissenters, English Separatists, and the theological information received from these dissenters. Since Akenside’s life occurred during the 18th century, he was most likely a “Rational Dissenter.” This group of people believed that state-regulated religion encroached upon the principles of freedom and therefore, disagreed with the hierarchy and financial ties within the Church of England ("Mark Akenside"). This environment eventually led Akenside to attend the dissenting academy of the town and then to study theology at the University of Edinburgh in 1739 ("Mark Akenside"). He was able to create this goal because his expenses were paid by his community, that wanted him to become a dissenting pastor, which would, in turn, benefit their community. However, while at college Akenside began studying medicine, paid back his community, and then completely altered his religious pathway from a “Rational Dissenter” to a Deist ("Mark Akenside"). In his early and adult life, Akenside wrote literature that was eventually published. At that point in his life, he was an established writer and a recent graduate of medical school. He went on to publish numerous pieces of poetry, including “The Pleasures of the Imagination,” an aspect of The Poetical Works of Mark Akenside ("Mark Akenside").
Approximately during the same time in Scotland, John Armstrong was following a similar path of medicine and poetry. According to an article in the Dictionary of National Biography, Armstrong he grew up in a religious environment and successfully attained high status in both aspects of literature and medicine. Another important similarity is that he also attended the University of Edinburgh and graduated in 1732 (Dictionary of National Biography). However, where Akenside failed, Armstrong was abundantly successful. For instance, Akenside tried to start up his medical practice twice and failed. John, on the other hand, studied, gained his medical degree as the first graduate with distinction, and established a successful medical practice in London (Dictionary of National Biography). Regarding literature, Akenside attained a few followers, but was faced with controversy over his works. Armstrong is remembered for being the friend of several literary celebrities of the time and for writing the poem “The Art of Preserving Health,” an aspect of The Poetical Works of J. Armstrong (Dictionary of National Biography).
The two books were later bound together by the owner based on complementary literary styles or because the two books were the favorites of the owner.