ELEVATED to the Chair of the Royal Society, and enjoying the confidence of the Prince Consort, Sir Isaac had it in his power to do something for the promotion of Science. He had long cherished the desire of having the observations of Flamsteed published; and Halley and his other friends had frequently urged their publication with a degree of pertinacity, which a personal interest in them could alone explain. It was a very natural wish on the part of physical astronomers to possess the best observations then made, by which they could test their specula <220> tions and their theories; and it was not an unreasonable expectation, that the Astronomer-Royal, the author and the custodier of these observations, should impart such of them to his friends as their researches might require, and as his leisure would permit him to reduce. This, however, was a very different thing from the systematic publication of an immense mass of observations accumulated by an astronomer who had a salary of only £100 per annum, and no allowance either for assistants or computers. Flamsteed had laid down a plan for reviewing the heavens, making a catalogue of the fixed stars, and instituting regular observations on the moon and the other planets. He again and again explained to Newton and others the reasons why he could not comply with their wishes, and, regardless of the clamours which were raised against him, and which he should have despised more than he did, he went steadily onward pursuing his own plan, till it was nearly ripe for execution.

In 1701 he had finished the greater number of the constellations, but it was not till the commencement of 1703 that his catalogue was so complete that he wished it to be made known, publicly, that he was ready and willing to publish it "at his own charge," provided the public would defray the expense "of copying his papers and books for the press." He had already employed calculators from the country, and made great progress in the preparation of his manuscripts, when Sir Isaac Newton paid him a visit on the 11th of April 1704. When dinner was over, Sir Isaac asked to see the state of his work, and, having been shown the catalogue of the fixed stars, the maps of the constellations, "his new lunar numbers fitted to his corrections," and the observations on the planets, he told Flamsteed that he would recommend <221> them to the Prince privately. To this Flamsteed objected, and insisted that it should be done publicly; — a request which Newton did not seem to think reasonable.[1] In order to have a proper document for the Prince's consideration, Flamsteed found that the papers would occupy 1400 folio pages, and, having "drawn up an estimate of them," he sent them to the Royal Society, where it was proposed that the work should be "recommended to the Prince." Sir Isaac concurred in this opinion, and, on the 7th of December, he waited on the Prince, and gave him a copy of Flamsteed's estimate of his observations. The Prince lost no time in coming to a decision on the subject. After perusing the estimate, he intimated to Newton on the 11th, through his secretary, Sir George Clark, his persuasion of Flamsteed's fitness for the work, and desired that Newton, Mr. Robartes, Sir C. Wren, Dr. Gregory, Dr. Arbuthnot, and any other members of the Society Sir Isaac thought qualified, should consider what papers were fit for the press. Newton communicated this intelligence to Flamsteed on the 18th December 1704, and asked him to meet "the referees" at dinner next day, and bring his papers with him in the morning. Flamsteed attended the meeting; but as the referees had not time to examine the papers which he brought, Newton went to dine with him at the Observatory on the 29th, and made himself acquainted with the papers which it was proposed to publish. He accordingly, on the 23d January 1705, drew up the report of the referees, which was submitted to the Prince, and received his approbation.[2]


During the rest of the year 1705, the printing of the work advanced slowly, on account of the ill health of the AstronomerRoyal, his distance from town, and differences of opinion which arose between him and Newton about the order of the observations. The Greenwich ones had been placed before the Derby ones, contrary to Sir Isaac's wishes; and, on the 25th of October, Flamsteed defends this arrangement, and adduces, as a sufficient warrant for his plan, that Albert Curtius, in publishing Tycho's Observations, began in 1582 with the most accurate. Along with this explanation he transmits the title of the work for Newton's approbation. The articles of agreement between Flamsteed and the referees were signed at Newton's house on the 17th November 1705;[3] and in a day or two after their signature, we find Flamsteed writing to his friend, Mr. Sharp,[4] "that Newton had at last forced him to enter into articles for printing his works, with a bookseller, very disadvantageous to himself;" that "he has thereby injured him;" and that he does "not see that they are nearer the press than before."

The referees had found it necessary, as the dispensers of the Prince's bounty, and as acting for public interests, to draw up articles binding themselves, as well as Flamsteed and the printer, to perform their relative obligations. It is therefore of importance to know what these articles were, before we can rightly judge of the conduct of the parties. Mr. Baily has seen "four copies or <223> draughts of these articles," so "similar to each other," that he "cannot ascertain which was the one actually agreed upon." He has overlooked the very title of these copies, and Flamsteed' s note,[5], written upon one of them, which prove that they are only articles proposed by Flamsteed,[6] and not the articles which he signed. Of these he has left no copy, because he had wilfully violated them. From the very first he seems to have resolved not to perform his part of the agreement, and to have thrown difficulties in the way, in order to procure more money from the referees. After signing the second agreement, he followed the same course, lamenting constantly the hardness of his bargain, because he had made the instruments, and paid his assistants out of his own funds, — facts which had nothing whatever to do with the agreement, and which, though well known, were never pleaded before the agreement was made. He complains, too, in one place, that the £125 owing to him, was not paid till above two months after it was due; and in another he says, "it was some months after (March 20, 1707-8) ere I could get the £125; and I am apt to think, had it not been for Dr. Arbuthnot, I should never have received it."[7] Now these statements he must have known to be false. I find by the agreement of the 20th March, that the £125 was due on the re-delivery of the Catalogue of stars to Sir Isaac, which took place on the 20th of March. The order upon Newton for the £125 <224> was signed by the referees on the 26th March, and Flamsteed received his money on the 12th April![8] It is strange how trivial writings are often preserved for the defence of innocence, and the establishment of truth.

I have not found a copy of the articles which were actually signed by the parties. I have before me, however, three drafts of them in Newton's handwriting, and I regret to say that they are essentially different from those published by Mr. Baily. In the latter, Flamsteed is brought under no obligation whatever, and he is made the custodier of all the copies of the work. In the former, he is brought under the most stringent obligation to produce "fair and correct copies" of his Catalogue, and of all his other tables, within a specified time; and there is no obligation to give him the custody of the printed work.[9] The discovery of these drafts of the articles, which cannot be very different from those really signed, justifies the anticipation of Mr. Edleston, that they would throw light upon the controversy. Halley has distinctly stated, that it was agreed to prefix the Catalogue of stars to the first volume of the work; and Mr. Baily, without any evidence, has denied this statement, and charged its author with many misrepresentations and misstatements. Flamsteed, indeed, has asserted that "he signed the articles, but covenanted that the Catalogue of the fixed stars mentioned to make a part of the first volume, should not be <225> printed, but with the last;" but this is an express declaration that the articles provided otherwise; and Flamsteed's covenant had this strange character, that after signing articles, he either said to himself, or wrote upon the document, that he "covenanted" something different from them. In the articles of March 20, 1708, for example, after he had got a copy of them, he writes, "underneath it," that he covenanted certain things which the articles did not contain. In the draft of the original articles which I have mentioned, the contents of the two volumes are distinctly written in Newton's hand; and it is not only stated in the contents, but it is the very first of the articles, that the first part of the first volume is to be the Catalogue of the fixed stars.[10]

The allusion in Flamsteed's letter to the observations of Tycho, seems to have drawn the attention of the referees to that subject; and they appear to have suggested to his Royal Highness the idea of having the unpublished observations of the Danish astronomer, which had been left in the King of Denmark's library, written in Tycho's own hand, printed at his expense, and published at the same time with Flamsteed's work. The Prince agreed to the suggestion; and in communicating his secretary's letter to Newton, Dr. Arbuthnot, one of his Royal Highness's physicians,[11] requests him to inform the referees and Mr. Halley, but not to let Flamsteed know, that Halley was consulted. As the Prince was "mighty desirous to have the eight volumes of Tycho's observations in his possession," Dr. Arbuthnot suggested, that as <226> they were sent into France by Olaus Roemer, the Danish astronomer, the referees should write to him giving an account of the substance of Flamsteed's observations, and requesting an abstract of the eight volumes of those of Tycho. Sir Isaac accordingly drew up a letter in the name of the referees, and addressed it to Roemer; but whether or not it was sent, and what was the result of the application, if it was, I have not been able to discover.

Notwithstanding these impediments, the first volume, containing the Sextant observations, was finished in December 1707; and preparations were made for printing the second volume, which was to contain the observations with the mural arc. On the 20th of March 1708, Flamsteed deposited the materials for this volume in the hands of the referees, copied out in 175 sheets of paper; and he soon after amended the catalogue which had been previously lodged in their hands under a new agreement.

At a meeting of the referees on the 13th July, it was agreed "that the press should go on without farther delay;" and "that if Mr. Flamsteed do not take care that the proofs be well corrected, and go on with dispatch, another corrector be employed." In order "to prevent the designed effect of this malicious order," Flamsteed wrote a long and temperate letter of remonstrance to Sir Christopher Wren, defending himself against the charge of delay, and protesting against anything being printed without his corrections. No answer was returned to this letter: The press was stopped, and before any arrangements could be made, Prince George died on the 28th October 1708, and the printing of the work was suspended for three years.[12]


During this long interval, no communication passed between Flamsteed and any of the referees. Newton had in his possession the synopses of lunar observations which it is said were given him, "with an express understanding that they were not to be published;" and also the uncompleted Catalogue of the stars, which, it is said, was sealed up at his own request. The obligation thus imposed, and the trust thus confided to him, he is charged with having violated. Had this charge appeared but in the letters and manuscripts in which it has slumbered for more than a century, a few astronomers only would have heard of it, and it might have been neutralized by the high character of the great and good man whose character it affected. But after being repeated in a variety of shapes, in the letters, and diary, and autobiography of its author, the calumny has been presented to the world in all its original bitterness, and in a more attractive form, by Mr. Baily; and the public money[13] has been expended in printing the volume which contains it, and in circulating it among all the distinguished astronomers and institutions throughout the world. I have felt it therefore a sacred duty to investigate the subject, and to defend an illustrious name, embalmed in the affections of his disciples and of his countrymen.

When Mr. Baily had seen the effect produced by his Life of Flamsteed, he found it necessary to publish a Supplement, in its explanation and defence; and from his preliminary observations, the reader will see the necessity of the task we have undertaken.

"It cannot be disguised," says Mr. Baily, "that the <228> quarrel between Newton and Flamsteed, relative to the printing of the Greenwich observations, has arrested a much greater portion of the public attention than any other incident recorded in Flamsteed's Life, and indeed greater than its relative importance seems to merit; and Newton's admirers have, as might have been expected, shewn a natural desire to remove from him every appearance of misconduct arising out of that dispute. In doing this, however, it seems to me that, in some instances at least, the tendency of their remarks has been to exculpate Newton, not so much by a direct refutation of the charges adduced by Flamsteed, as by attempting to lower the moral and scientific character of Flamsteed himself in public opinion, and thus to shew that Newton was most probably right in the line of conduct which he pursued. This course, however, can scarcely be tolerated at the present day: neither is it just to the character of Flamsteed, (nor indeed to that of Newton, which stands too high in the general opinion of mankind to need such support,) that the decision should rest on such grounds. The mere fact of mental superiority, which no one is disposed to deny, ought not to weigh one feather in the scale of justice, and the case must be decided solely on its own merits."

After this explanation, we may reasonably expect that the charge against Newton, when preferred by Mr. Baily, will be couched, as it is, in less exceptionable terms than in the vulgar and offensive phraseology of Flamsteed. We shall give it, therefore, in his own words, in order to make the charge and the answers to it perfectly intelligible.

"At the end of that period," says Mr. Baily, (the interval of three years,) "namely, in March 1710-11, Flam <229> steed learned, for the first time, (no communication having been had with him on the subject during the interval,) that this packet containing the Catalogue had been broken open, and that not only the Catalogue itself was at press, but also that the observations (copied out on the 175 sheets of paper as above-mentioned) were likewise in the course of being printed in a garbled and mutilated state.

"Flamsteed was of course very much annoyed and irritated at this unexpected piece of intelligence: he saw at once that his favourite plan of printing his observations in detail in the order in which they were made, and the only way indeed in which they could be essentially useful to the future astronomer, was without his knowledge or consent about to be sacrificed to a scheme that would render them of little or no practical utility, and compromise his own character as an observer. He likewise found that the places of the moon, which he had from time to time communicated to Newton, with an express understanding that they were not to be published, because they were deduced from an imperfect catalogue of the stars, were annexed to the work. He was convinced that this scheme had been long in agitation, since it must have taken the referees a considerable time to dissect and arrange the observations in the manner in which they were then prepared and sent to the press.[14] Upon what grounds this clandestine and improper conduct can he justified, I have ever been at a loss to imagine; and I have always <230> regretted, (in common I am sure with every other reader,) to find Newton's name mixed up with a transaction of this kind; since it is, in my opinion, the only portion of the series of disputes recorded in this volume that is worthy of a serious refutation; all the other sudden ebullitions of temper and apparent perversity of conduct being mere venial offences of our common nature. But I suspect it was in that day as at the present hour, that individuals of high and honourable character (when acting in concert with others having interested objects in view, and not quite so scrupulously austere in their conduct as themselves) may sometimes be led to countenance and sanction certain acts which, as private persons, and on their sole responsibility, they would cautiously avoid."[15]

Had Mr. Baily told us how Flamsteed first heard of the ill usage and clandestine proceedings so forcibly described in the preceding passage, and how he received the intelligence, we should have been better able to form an opinion of the nature of the offence. The whole statement of Mr. Baily, that he was annoyed and irritated at the piece of unexpected intelligence, is an entire fiction. The intelligence was received in March with perfect composure of mind, and the alleged irritation was not shown till October, seven months afterwards, and then too, not at the intelligence, but during a personal altercation with Sir Isaac Newton, in which Flamsteed was the aggressor! This important fact is proved by the correspondence which was begun by Dr. Arbuthnot on the 14th March 1710-11, and continued till the 23d of May. The fact of the Catalogue being in the press, and consequently of the packet having been opened, if it ever was sealed, is obvious from the very first letters of Arbuthnot; and in the five answers returned <231> by Flamsteed, there is not the slightest allusion made to the irritating event![16]

Mr. Baily asserts on Flamsteed's authority,[17] that it was in March 1711 that he first learned that the sealed Catalogue was broken open, but the incorrectness of this statement, which Mr. Baily ought to have known, is proved by the very letters of Flamsteed himself. In his petition to the Queen, April 16, 1712, he distinctly states that "some time after, (March 1706,) he was told that the copy of the Catalogue was opened and unsealed;" and in a letter to Sharp, May 15, 1711, he tells him, "we met on March 20, 1707-8, (the date of the second agreement,) and then Sir Isaac had opened the Catalogue, and desired me to insert the magnitude of the stars to their places, for they had not always been inserted in it." Now it is here placed beyond a doubt, that Flamsteed knew in March 1708, that the Catalogue was open — that he found no fault whatever with its being open, and did not at the time charge Newton with having opened it. Nay, he is so well pleased with this second agreement, and the payment to himself of £125, to which he had no claim by the original articles, that he tells Sharp, on the 19th April 1708, of this "change in his affairs which it will not be displeasing to him to hear," and he finds no fault with the Catalogue being open, though he adds that it was part of the new agreement that the <232> magnitudes were to be inserted in it. In the whole of his correspondence with Sharp, the depositary of his afflictions and his calumnies, from March 1708, when he knew that the Catalogue was opened, till the end of November 1712, he makes no charge against Newton or any other person for having unsealed the Catalogue. At that date, however, when the arrangement between him and the referees was at an end, he tells his correspondent for the first time that "he was forced to trust in the hands of Sir Isaac Newton an imperfect copy of the Catalogue, which he very treacherously broke open, though it was at his own desire sealed up and so delivered into his hands."!


The next charge which Mr. Baily makes against Newton and his colleagues is, that without Flamsteed's knowledge and consent they sacrificed "his favourite plan of printing his observations in detail in the order in which they were made," to "a scheme of little or no practical utility, and compromising his character as an observer." To this charge it is sufficient to reply, that the scheme here condemned is that which forms the first article of the agreement signed by Flamsteed himself! Of the same character is the charge that, in "annexing to the work" the places of the moon, Newton had violated an express understanding that they were not to be published. Now, Mr. Baily ought to have known that this understanding was imposed upon Newton in 1694, when he received these observations for his lunar theory. By the articles of agreement, these lunar observations were to form part of the Historia Cœlestis, and for the purposes of collation the referees were authorized to call for all the original <233> papers in Flamsteed's custody. These observations, whether in Newton's possession or anywhere else, had thus become the property of the referees for publication, and they were guilty of no clandestine conduct in annexing them to the work. In a note, which we have not quoted, Mr. Baily says, "that no demand was ever made by the referees for any observations subsequent to the year 1705," whereas it is expressly stipulated in the first article, "that the observations made with the wall quadrant telescope and micrometer," shall be those "made in and after 1689, until the finishing of the impression!"

After making these injurious attacks upon Newton, which we trust have been satisfactorily repelled, Mr. Baily "imagines that it may now be left to the candid and unbiassed judgment of the public to decide whether there is the slightest foundation for the opinion that Flamsteed opposed any impediment to the publication of his astronomical observations, or whether, on the other hand, Newton exhibited any great anxiety for their speedy appearance, in order to complete his Theory of Gravitation." A brief notice of the conduct of the two parties thus placed at the bar of the public, will enable it to give the unbiassed decision which Mr. Baily solicits.

Previous to the 10th of April 1704,[19] the Prince, whose "help to print had been craved by Flamsteed,"[20] had expressed a willingness to bear the expense of printing his Observations. At the above date, Newton saw the Book of Observations, the Catalogue, so far as finished, and the Maps of the Constellations; and an estimate by Flamsteed of the number of pages or extent of <234> the work was laid before the Royal Society, who recommended the publication of it. The referees appointed by the Prince inspected the papers, and on the 23d January 1705, they reported that the expense of printing 1200 pages, "all which was ready for the press," would be £683, including £100 for copying the papers and correcting the press. At the end of the report, the referees observe, "that it may he very proper to print the places of the moon, planets, and comets, 600 being computed, and 1400 not, and that the charges of two calculators to finish them, and of paper, press-work, and printing, will be about £180; so that the whole charge will be about £863."[21]

It will be seen from these arrangements, that the idea of Flamsteed's receiving any recompense for his own labours was never contemplated by the Prince or the referees; but in about a month after the date of the report, he suggested to Newton that he should have an honourable recompense for his pains.[22] No notice being taken of the suggestion, he again, on the 15th June 1705, complains that on that occasion Newton did not say a word of any recompense for thirty years' pains, <235> though he said it would be for the committee's honour to provide for that first; and, on the 29th August 1705, he pronounces it "extremely unjust that no care should be taken to secure him the reimbursement of his large expenses for above thirty years," adding, "that it was a great dishonour to the Queen, the Prince, and the nation, that no reward was proposed."

Previous to these expressions of his views,[23] Flamsteed had communicated, in a letter to his nephew, Mr. Hodgson, a plan of doubtful honesty, for making money out of the "Prince's Bounty," — a plan which he never could have meant for the public eye, and which Mr. Baily ought not to have published.[24] It is obvious, indeed, that before and after he had signed the articles in 1705, the grand object of the Queen's Astronomer was to secure a sum of money for himself, and that to obtain this he threw every obstruction in the way of completing the work.

On the 13th July 1708, nearly three years after the work had begun, and when it ought to have been finished, the delay on Flamsteed's part was so great, that the referees, as we have previously stated, agreed, that if he "did not go on with despatch, another corrector would be employed."


In order to thwart this resolution, Flamsteed immediately addressed a letter to Sir Christopher Wren,[25] in which he lays the whole of the blame upon Newton; and, in order to give authenticity to the copy of it which he preserved, he tells us that "he took a copy of it himself to shew any acquaintance, friends, and some gentlemen that had an opinion of Sir Isaac Newton before, and could not think he could be guilty of such collusion as this order and my letter proved upon him."[26] This copy, which exists in Flamsteed's handwriting,[27] was transferred to his autobiography for the avowed purpose of proving Newton's guilt, and correcting the good opinion entertained of him by the friends of the Queen's Astronomer and others. The letter certainly has not such a tendency, but in order to give it efficacy, Flamsteed cancelled a paragraph in the original sent to Wren, and substituted another in the incorrect copy, which he submitted as evidence to the contemporary jury that was to try Newton, and to the more solemn judgment of posterity. Sir Isaac had fortunately preserved the original letter, which, after slumbering for a century and a half, and eluding the search of Mr. Baily, has reappeared to defend Newton, and cast a doubt on every document Flamsteed left behind him that is not authenticated by other evidence than his own.[28]

In the original, or cancelled paragraph, Flamsteed declares his willingness, and even his desire, to finish the work. He instructs his nephew to correct the proofs: He leaves six sheets to be added: He authorizes Newton to go on with the 175 sheets of the second volume, that <237> the press may proceed while he is completing the Catalogue, so that there should be no stop on his account, as there never was, and never should be.[29] Nothing could be more satisfactory to the referees than this communication. Whatever misunderstandings had occurred, the Queen's Astronomer here bound himself anew to complete the Catalogue, and avoid all further delay; but after the Prince's death, when he had refused to complete the Catalogue, and, in 1716, when he came to write his autobiography, he was willing to forget the obligations in the original paragraph, and he therefore falsified the document by the substitution of a paragraph, in which he abjures hurrying on the work in his absence, and limits his former promise, that there shall be no stop on his account, by the condition that "heed should be given to his advice;" or, in other words, that he should have his own way, which he took in spite of all his written promises and sealed obligations.[30]

Previous to Flamsteed's correspondence with Arbuthnot, the Royal Society, anxious to make the Greenwich Observatory useful for the promotion of astronomy and navigation, applied to the Queen to place it under the superintendence of a Board. An order was accordingly issued on the 12th December 1710, appointing the Pre <238> sident, and such other members of the Royal Society as it should name, to suggest observations to be made, — to repair and renew the instruments in the Observatory, and to receive from the Astronomer-Royal the annual observations which he has recorded. Armed with this authority, and by an order from the Queen to print the observations, in the hands of the referees, the Society requested Dr. Arbuthnot to apply to Flamsteed, as we have seen he did, in March 1711, for the rest of his Catalogue, the part of it in their hands having been already in the press. The sheets were sent to Flamsteed, who asserted that they contained many errors and unnecessary alterations, while Halley[31] declared that he had corrected numerous errors in the original Catalogue — that he had asked Flamsteed for any corrections he thought necessary, and that he offered to make them and reprint the whole sheet if required.[32]

While matters were in this state, Sir Isaac requested Flamsteed to meet him at the Royal Society's house on the 26th October 1711. Flamsteed accordingly went, and found there Dr. Sloane and Dr. Mead along with <239> Newton. Flamsteed has given three[33] accounts of this meeting, which are not very consistent with one another. According to him, Newton asked what instruments he wanted, and what repairs. Upon which Flamsteed said that he would not suffer any one to concern themselves about repairing his own instruments. To this Newton replied, "As good have no observatory as no instruments." Flamsteed then complained that he had been robbed of the fruit of his labours. "At this," says Flamsteed, "the impetuous man grew outrageous, and said, 'We are then robbers of your labours?'" I answered, "I was sorry that they owned themselves to be so." After which "all he said was in a rage. He called me many hard names — puppy was the most innocent of them."

Such is Flamsteed's account of an altercation which he did not make known at the time it happened, in order to allow the other three parties concerned to give their account of what actually took place. We have Flamsteed' s own authority for stating that Dr. Mead ran into the same passion, and charged him with having insulted the President. If it be true that Newton lost his temper and called Flamsteed a puppy, we leave it to those who have perused the correspondence, and studied the character of Flamsteed as gathered from the preceding pages, to determine the amount of provocation which Newton seems to have received. How simple-minded must he have been in whose vocabulary of vituperation the epithet given to Flamsteed was the most prominent!

The referees, by orders from the Queen, proceeded to print the copy of the Catalogue when they could procure no other, and therefore they, and not Newton, must have broken open the seal if it was sealed. In violation of the <240> promise contained in his letter to Wren, Flamsteed had refused to go on with it, and we find him telling Sharp, what he durst not insinuate to the referees, that he shall not urge the press forward again till he sees a good fund settled and secured[34] No sooner, however, does he find that his Catalogue is printing, and that the press is urged forward by the referees, than he assails them with the most violent language. Halley is called a malicious thief. His property, which he gave to Newton, and got money for it, is said to have been surreptitiously forced out of his hands by his profligate enemies, and under the influence of these feelings he determined to print his observations at his own expense, thus violating two solemn obligations, and frustrating the liberal arrangements of Prince George, after he had received £125 of his money, and caused £250 more to be expended in printing the work, and in paying Machin for correcting his own calculations.

Under these circumstances the referees, with the assistance of Dr. Halley as its editor, published in 1712, under the title of Historia Cœlestis, the part of the work which had been executed at the expense of the Prince and the Government.[35] Of the 400 copies that were printed, nearly 100, including 30 reserved by the Treasury, were presented to eminent individuals and public bodies, and the remaining 300 were given to Flamsteed by Sir Robert Walpole, when First Lord of the Treasury. Flamsteed committed them to the flames, preserving only what is now the first 97 sheets of the Historia Cœlestis which he left almost ready for publication at the time of his death, on the 31st December <241> 1719. The work was published in 1725 by his executors, in three vols. folio, and dedicated by them to the King.[36]

In taking a general view of this painful controversy, Mr. Baily has remarked, that the friends of Newton have defended him by attempting to lower the moral and scientific character of Flamsteed;[37] a course which he thinks can scarcely be tolerated in the present day. Attainments in science have certainly nothing to do with <242> the present question; but after Flamsteed has charged Newton with illegal, unjust, and immoral acts, upon no evidence but his own, and has sullied that venerable name with vulgar and offensive abuse, — it is a strange position to maintain, that we are not to inquire into the temper and character of the accuser.[38] In the revolting correspondence which Flamsteed has bequeathed to posterity, he has delineated his own character in sharp outline and glaring tints; and Newton requires no other Ægis to defend him than one whose compartments are emblazoned with the scurrilous invectives against himself, and garnished with pious appeals to God and to Providence. We have hesitated, however, to associate the sacred character of the accuser with systematic calumny; and we hasten to forget that there may be an astronomer without principle, and a divine without charity.


An account of this interview by Flamsteed will be found in Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 69, 217.


In this Report, the original of which I have found in Sir Isaac's handwriting, the expense of printing 400 copies is £683, with £180 to pay the charges of two calculators, &c. "This set of observations," the reporters say, "we repute the fullest <222> and completest that has ever yet been made, and as it leads to the perfection of astronomy and navigation, so, if it should be lost, the loss would be irreparable." The Report is published in Baily's Flamsteed, p. 234.


I have found three rough copies of these articles, all in Sir Isaac's handwriting, and obviously drawn up by himself. The very receipts granted by Flamsteed were written by Newton.


November 20, 1705. Baily's Flamsteed, p. 256.


In this note he offers immediately to put the first volume into the hands of the referees.


Flamsteed says that he himself had drawn up articles which "were not to Newton's purpose;" and he refers to certain topics in "the articles," which are not mentioned in what Mr. Baily has ventured to consider as the genuine articles. See pages 80 and 81 of his Autobiography.


Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 86 and 320.


I have now before me the originals of the order upon Newton, of the 26th March, the order of Flamsteed of the 10th April, to pay the money to Mr. Hodgson, and Hodgson's receipt of the 12th April, all carefully preserved by Sir Isaac.


In Newton's drafts of these articles, two different modes of paying Flamsteed are mentioned. One of these provides that he shall receive £50 for copying and correcting the press of each volume; and also 1s. 6d. per place, for computing the longitudes and latitudes of the planets, the places not exceeding 100, and the same sum for the places of the moon. The other mode is to pay two hundred and . . . pounds lor bofh volumes.


This draft of the articles is given in APPENDIX, No. XV.


In an unpublished letter, dated Windsor, July 30, 1706. On the 8th of January 1707, Sir Isaac was requested by the Royal Society to endeavour to procure Tycho's MSS., to be printed with Mr. Flamsteed's observations, and on the 27th he stated that he would endeavour to procure them. Tycho's observations on the comets of 1585, 1590, and 1596, were given to the Royal Society by Newton, October 5, 1722. — Miscellaneous MSS. lvii.


The agreement with the Prince was considered as cancelled by his death. His treasurer had advanced £375; and as £25 of this had not been expended, it was returned to his administrators. See APPENDIX, No. XVII.


Mr. Baily's Life of Flamsteed was printed by order of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1835, and copies of it presented by them to numerous individuals and institutions.


"The same remark may perhaps be applied to the Catalogue; and therefore Flamsteed's assertion that the Queen's order, (to open the packet,) if obtained at all, had been obtained after the offence was comniitted, is probably correct; as that order would not have been given prior to February, and the Catalogue containing the additional stars by Halley, was at press in the following month, and actually finished by the month of June." See page 232.

[15] Baily's Flamsteed. Supplement, pp. 727, 728.


Flamsteed tells us in his autobiography written long afterwards, that in March 1711 he was "privately told that his Catalogue was in the press," (p. 93;) and in his letter to Sharp, dated May 15, 1711, he says, "March 25th last past I was informed by a friend that my Catalogue was in the press, and some sheets of it printed off;" but this was no secret, for on the 21st February, at a meeting of the Royal Society, Dr. Sloane was ordered "to write a letter to him, desiring him to furnish the deficient part of his Catalogue of the Fixed Stars, now printing by order of the Queen."


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 93.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 298.


Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 73 and 219.


Ibid. p. 76.


It is here important to notice that the printing of the places of the planets, &c., is not a necessary part of the arrangement, and that if it is thought proper to adopt it, it is to be paid for by a separate sum. In two copies of this report, found among Flamsteed's MSS., this £180 is not mentioned. — Baily's Flamsteed, p. 76, note. But in giving in his autobiography a copy of the estimated expense, Flamsteed not only inserts the £180 along with the other sums, but he gives it as the sum to be paid for two calculators, thus making it appear that £280 out of the £863 is to be at his disposal. After his statement of the charges of printing, &c., Flamsteed adds, "But the last particular of the charge (£180 for two calculators) was not mentioned in it (the Report), but added in a note under it, for what reason those know best who drew it up." The Report states distinctly the reason. It is strange that an editor like Mr. Baily, who has given the real Report as possessed by Flamsteed, should have allowed these misstatements to pass unreproved.


Feb. 28, 1705.


March 22, 1705.


"I think to be very plain with Mr. Aston, and desire that he, I, and Mr. Churchill, may understand one another fully, and know what each shall advantage themselves by my pains; for his and Mr. Churchill's will be little or nothing, but to accept their shares, and this will be no equal bargain for me that must be at all the labour and trouble here, nor for Mr. Newton, who saves us the labour of soliciting for the Prince's bounty at Court. And therefore I think he too ought to be acquainted with what advantage every one of us shall make, and go and share with us. I shall say this to him when he returns from Cambridge." — March 22, 1705. It may be conjectured, from the postscript to this letter, that the parties were, according to this plan, to divide the profits arising from the sale of the 400 copies of the work.


Dated July 19, 1708, and sent by Wren to Newton.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 87.

[27] Ibid., p.87, note.


See pages 172, note; 180, note; and 181, note.


This paragraph, and the one substituted for it, sire given in APPENDIX, No. XIV.


Nearly three years after this letter to Wren was written, on the 26th April 1711, Flamsteed desired Dr. Arbuthnot "to peruse his letter to Sir C. Wren, of which he had given him a copy, and particularly the last paragraph, whereby he would be satisfied that he had done all that lay in his power to expedite his work, and had taken great care of the Catalogue of the fixed stars." Now it is only in the original letter actually sent to Wren, that these matters occur in the last paragraph, so that Flamsteed referred to the real letter, of which he had taken a correct copy for Arbuthnot. The incorrect copy was, therefore, manufactured at a later date for the purposes we have mentioned.


This letter of Halley's to Flamsteed, dated June 23, 1711, is the only appearance he makes in person in this multifarious correspondence. When we consider the innumerable and coarse attacks made upon his character, and the vulgar abuse of him which almost every letter contains, the following advice to Flamsteed at the close of his epistle will not be thought unfriendly: — "Pray govern your passion, and when you have seen and considered what I have done for you, you may perhaps think I deserve at your hands a much better treatment than you have for a long time been pleased to bestow on your quondam friend, and not yet profligate enemy (as you call me)." This advice is not so severe as that of Flamsteed's own particular friend Dr. Smith. "My advice is that you represent your case nakedly, clearly, and without any flourish, or without any kind of resentment, as you are a philosopher and a mathematician, and above all, as you are a clergyman.' — Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 293 and 747.


On the 18th March 1712, when Halley visited the Observatory, "He offered," says Flamsteed, "to burn his Catalogue if I would print mine." Dr. Arbuthnot had previously offered to "reprint, change, or alter anything Flamsteed allowed."


In his Autobiography and Diary, and in a letter to Sharp.


Baily's Flamsteed, p. 270; March 24, 1709.


In APPENDIX No. XVII., I have given an account of the expense incurred by the Prince and the Government in printing the work.


The correspondence between Newton and Flamsteed seems to have terminated with Flamsteed's letter of September 14, 1706. I have found, however, among the Portsmouth papers, a draft of a letter from Newton to Flamsteed, without a date, and certainly written about the 24th of March 1711. It shows his great anxiety to get on with the printing of the work, in place of stopping it, as Flamsteed maintained. It will be found in APPENDIX, No. XVIII. There is also a short one from Flamsteed, dated April 23, 1716, wishing Newton to return some of his manuscripts.

It may be proper here to notice an observation made by Professor De Morgan in reference to the omission of Flamsteed's name from the second edition of the Principia. "Shortly afterwards," he says, "the second edition of the Principia appeared. Flamsteed, whose observations had been of more service to Newton than those of any other individual, and to whotn proper acknowledgment had been made in the first edition, and who had increased the obligation in the interval, had his name erased in all the passages in which it appeared: (we have verified for this occasion eight or nine places ourselves.) To such a pitch is this petty resentment carried, that whereas in one place of the first edition (prop. 18, book iii.) there is in a parenthesis 'by the observations of Cassini and Flamsteed," the corresponding place of the second is 'by the consent of the observations of astronomers.'" — Sketch of the Life of Newton, Cabinet Portrait Gallery, vol. xi. p. 101: Lond. 1846. In reply to this statement, Mr. Edleston observes, "the name, however, will be found in pages 441, 443, 445, 458, 465, 478, and 479: The last two references occur in some additional matter on comets, which was put into Cotes's hand in October 1712. (See p. 141 of this work.) I question very much whether the suppression of Flamsteed's name in several places where it had appeared in the first edition, was not such as was necessary in the process of improving the work." — Correspondence, &c. p. lxxv. note 162. In thus correcting the numerical oversight of Professor De Morgan, we must admit that his criticism is substantially correct. Mr. Edleston's explanation is not applicable to the omission of the joint names of Cassini and Flamsteed; but even if it had an application to them, it would not justify the omission. Newton owed to Flamsteed substantial obligations, and we do not think that these obligations are sufficiently acknowledged in the Principia, even if his name had in every case been retained in the second edition.


The following opinion of the Principia, given by Flamsteed in 1713, might have either justified an attempt on the part of Newton's friends, to lower his scientific character, or rendered it unnecessary. "I think his new Principia worse than the old, save in the moon!" — Baily's Flamsteed, p. 307.


The injurious tendency of Mr. Baily's work, is strikingly exhibited in the notices of it in our two leading reviews. Both the Edinburgh and the Quarterly Review took the part of Flamsteed, and made no attempt to defend Newton against his charges. It never seems to have occurred to the writers of these articles, that the charges are supported by no other evidence than that of the choleric individual by whom they are preferred; and neither of them has been at the trouble of cross-questioning their solitary witness. The Quarterly Reviewer goes so far, as "charitably to attribute Newton's letter of the 6th of January 1699, to the effect of that distressing malady which overwhelmed Newton for a time in 1692 — a malady rashly ascribed by some to mental aberration!"— See Edinburgh Review, vol. lxii. p. 359, June 1836; and Quarterly Review, vol. lv. p. 96, December 1835.

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