<1>

Worcester 26 Aug. 1730

I have received Your Letter of the 17th instant, with the double Print for Sr Isaac Newton's Monument; and I desire You to accept of my most humble thanks for it. You are much in the right, Sir, to say that it is far from being a good Copy: whereof being sensible Yourself, I need not insist upon particulars. I see the Place for an Epitaph is very small indeed. And thô that Place were increased as much as it ought to be, yet it wou'd not admit of a long one. I say it ought to be enlarged. For in Architecture there ought always to be a Dominant Part, when many of them are joined together. But in the Print the undermost Basis of the whole Structure is too high and too equal in height to the Body of the small Piedestals or Attick; which ought in that Place, to be the Dominant Part.

The Authority from Horace is sufficient to justifie the Words Terra nunquam tulit, which I would prefer to Frustra quæsiveris. I was sensible of the just Objection You make against Coelum nunquam dedit; and therefore did avoid it in the long Epitaph which I sent, and which is fit only to remain buryed among your Papers and mine.

As to that new Copy which You were pleased to send in Your last, I am afraid Experientia Duce is not an Expression extensive enough. Sir Isaac grounded upon Experiments his Theory about the Resistence of Fluids. But the whole Doctrine of the System of the World is grounded upon Observations and Appearances or Phænomena, which can but improperly be called Experiments. Phenomenes is the more general Word, and comprehends Experiments under it: which I think cannot be said vice versa.

When Recompenses are publickly proposed, they may raise an Emulation and a desire to get the Prize. But as to the Gratification, Sir, which You are pleased to offer me if I do form for You such an Account of Sr. Isaac Newton's Works and Discovery's, as may be proper to be inserted in the Work You design; It is what I am not at liberty to accept; and I can only return You my thanks for Your intended Kindness. The Royal Academy of Sciences did some Years ago propose a Problem, whose true and only Solution was contained in Sir Isac Newton's Discoveries joined with my Theory of Gravity. I wou'd take no notice of it; And they gave their Prize to a Muscovite. Two Years ago they proposed again another Problem with a greater Prize; whose Solution was again contained in Sr Is. Newton's Principles, joined to my Theory of Gravity. I knew the deceased Founder of those Prizes, with whom I had a long Conversation at Paris about thirty Years ago, had establisht them on purpose to support Descartes his Philosophy; and that they were not at liberty to do me justice. However I did write in Imitation of Lucretius a Latin Poem wherein I explained the Cause of Gravity, after I had sent in prose to their Secretary a general Idea of that Theory of mine. To this first Letter I had a very kind Answer. But to my Letter sent with the Poëm, much shorter and much more imperfect than it is now, I had no Answer at all: I suppose because of some free Expressions, which probably they were offended at. For I gave them their full liberty to dispose of their Recompense as they pleased; and spoke freely about their Solemn Invitations to the Learned of all Nations whatsoever; when I knew their Recompenses were reserved in petto, for them that would favour Cartesianism most.

It was natural that such a Treatise shou'd be written in Prose and not in Verse. But partly because I knew the Academy was not altogether in good earnest; as well as for some other Reasons; and partly because my Theory proves the Intervention of an Almighty Power governing in the whole Extent of Infinite Space, I did write it in the Form of a Poëm; hoping that it might be an Antidote to the Books of Lucretius, which have done so much mischief in this Country, and probably too much in the rest of the World also. I speak often of Sr I. Newton in those my three Books about the Cause of Gravity. They contain about four or five hundred Hexameters each.

I have often wondered how the second and third Edition of Sr Is. N.s Principles do touch so lightly upon this matter. For if there be a Mechanical Cause of Gravity, as it is most probable; there is also a demonstration that there can be no other Cause of it than that which I give: And Sr I. knew it very well. Every one of the Phenomena|es| in Astronomy, upon which the Theory of the System of the World is grounded, confirms as much my Theory, as it does Sr I. Ns Conclusions about Gravity. And a great number of other Phenomenes concur to prove the Existence of that Cause, by many singular and otherwise unaccountable Effects. So that it cannot be looked upon as a meer Hypothesis, no more than Sr I.Ns Principles. If I do any more spend some considerable time about these matters, I may write that Theory in Propositions demonstrated after Sr Isaac's Method: So that it may not only seem to be of a piece with the rest of his Work, but really to be a very notable Part of the Whole, and the Key and Inlet both to it and to the Knowledg of the first Principles of Nature. Perhaps these three Books might be inserted in Your Work. I know that Sir Isaac had a greater value for this Theory, than he cared openly to own: as I can shew even from the last Edition of his Optics.

I don't know when I shal have made an end of adding to or altering further these my Books of Gravity. The Copy which I sent to Paris was written with too much haste; for I begun it when it was too late. But I hope they have destroyed it, according to their general Promise. I did flatter myself with the Thoughts that perhaps they wou'd improve this Occasion of recovering a greater liberty, by representing to their Parliament, That their Edicts, which have confirmed the Testator's Will, did expose them to appear among the Learned World and abroad, even contemptible in their Partiality. They were not sensible of my Design. Where the Principles leading to an unbounded Subjection have been long imbibed, it seems that a Philosophic Liberty is ashamed to be seen, and deterred from exerting itself.

I am with much respect

Hounoured Sir

Your most humble and most obedient Servant

N. Facio.

© 2019 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC