The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

V. Arbuthnot and Lesser Prose Writers

§ 6. William King

There seems to be no evidence that Arbuthnot knew William King; but King was a tory, used his wit in the interests of the party and was acquainted with Swift and Gay. If Arbuthnot and King met, they must have had a good deal in common, besides easy-going temperaments. King was born in 1663, and was educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree of D.C.L. in 1692. (He should not be confused either with Dr. William King, archbishop of Dublin, or with Dr. William King, of St. Mary hall, Oxford, who wrote The Toast.) His first noticeable piece was an amusing Dialogue showing the way to Modern Preferment (1690). He became an advocate at Doctors’ Commons and secretary to princess Anne, and joined Charles Boyle in the campaign against Bentley, in the very clever Dialogues of the Dead, and other pieces. Other amusing works were A Journey to London in the year 1698, in which King burlesqued a book on Paris written by Martin Lister, and The Transactioner, with some of his philosophical Fancies (1700), in which he ridiculed Sir Hans Sloane, editor of the Transactions of the Royal Society. King was given several posts in Ireland, where he wrote a poem, Molly of Mountown, on a cow whose milk he used; but he returned to England about 1707, with straitened means. He had already issued a volume of Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, dedicated to the members of the Beef-Steak club, which contains much of his best work. A clever poem was published, in 1708, under the title The Art of Cookery, in imitation of Horace’s Art of Poetry, and, in 1709, he printed three parts of Useful Transactions in Philosophy and other sorts of Learning, a skit on the Philosophical Transactions and on Sloane, which may have furnished hints to Arbuthnot when writing the Memoirs of Scriblerus.

King wrote on the side of the high church party in the Sacheverell controversy, and attacked Marlborough in Rufinus (1712). He seems to have been an inmate of the Fleet prison; but Swift obtained for the “poor starving wit” the post of gazetteer, an office which he resigned in six months because, apparently, it required too much work, and regular hours. His last piece of importance was Useful Miscellanies, Part the First (1712), a curious but amusing compilation. A few months later, he died. His writings, which were edited by the indefatigable John Nichols in 1776, deserve to be better known than they now are.