Little books —

N.o 1.

Herodotus says they shewed at Cumæ the place where Homer repeated his verses

Shew Sir I. N.s furnace at Cambridge

When the problem in 1697 was sent by Bernoulli – Sir I. N. was in the midst of the hurry of the great recoinage did not come home till four from the Tower very much tired, but did not sleep till he had solved it which was by 4 in the morning C. C.

Servants used to find him in winter sitting in his shirt & writing at the window in a morning –

Always told him dinner was ready half an hour before hand – sometimes let it stand two hours on the table – & often when he came down if he found any paper or book he would let the dinner stand hours – his gruel or milk & eggs that was carried him warm for his supper he would often eat cold for his breakfast C. C.

Gassendi afraid of criticizing Aristotle's Philosophy for fear of being persecuted – say of him what was said of Descartes – {(Letter} that he shewed an elevation & depth of Genius but w{as} infelix operis {summa}. Bayle p. 325.


Thales sacrificed an Ox for hitting on the method of inscribing a rectangled triangle within a circle. Pythagoras said he would give an Ecatomb for a trifling problem What then would he have given for Sir I. Ns inventions &c – Diogenes Laertius in Thalete – Sir I. N. told Mr Iones all he did in the edition of Varenius before which is put Curante Isaaco Newtono was to draw the schemes which in the Elzevir Edition were referred to & were not there he told me who first pressed him to read Pemberton's view – that he had only read some pages cursorily that he believed he understood his principia that the stile of what he had read was not as he had been told obscure but added very distinctly that he had not altered a tyttle or done any thing to make the book in any degree his – as the {leaves} for lives &c – which are printed in his name, a bookseller prevailed with him only to look over one page & so he writt what is there mentioned –

His Arithmetick was first printed by Whiston against Sir I. inclination but being full of errors, he afterwards printed it himself corrected the faults & Machin over looked the press for which he intended to haue given him 100 Guineas but he made him wait 3 years for a preface & then did not write one but left it to the Bookseller to put in one —

Theon a Greek commentator says Comets were regular bodies beyond the Moon — Seneca the same –

Milton had probably read Kepler whence <2r> he had the hint of the Newtonian System –

In Coste's preface to the Opticks mention is made that some old author said some person would come who would dissect light &c tho it seemed to be a work above Human nature –

Seneca said the same of Comets –

No. 2 –

Huygens did not at first understand his Theory of light, call it an Hypothesis say two colours made white could not find it out when told, he who had made opticks his particular study – vide letters

See – Fontenelles Eloge about Mariotte –

Loch took his propositions for granted on hearing Huygens say he had proved them — Mario

Barrow's opticks mention Sir I.

See preface to Keill's astronomy

Sir I. admired Pythagoras thought his Musick was gravity —

Bentley said – Sir I. told him all his merit was patient thought

After Sir I. printed his principia, as he passed by the students at Cambridge said there goes the man who has writt a book that neither he nor any one else understands –


Leibnitz – Hooke –
   may be compared to the man in the fable who when he had stoln Hercules's club could not lift it & when he had attempted to do it, it fell on his toes & crippled him – Ulysses's Bow which none could use but himself –

Sir I. N. was the father of Geometry as Homer was of Poetry, from his fountain others draw a small stream which some have improved as Machin on the Moon – Maclaurin curves Du Moivre Algebra & fluxions Halley Astronomy Longitude, but all own him for their father —–

Dr Cheyne said this next century will live upon his scraps & spoils – Mr Machin told me the French do not yet thoroughly understand his works, particularly his opticks & the Queries by which Sir I. meant more than is generally understood, that he knows how far the French are got in the Opticks by their memoirs in which they print what they understand as new discoveries – Machin says more on the Opticks than principia <3r> a fund of Philosophy which will employ the learned for many centuries, hints which few understand – Hawksbee told me he learned several things about refining metals particularly transmuting iron to copper from those hints which vulgar mechanicks do not know, when I asked him to tell me he desired to keep those facts a secret for his own profit – Machin told me he let Hawksbee into the secret – –

When Sir I. N was first made President the Society intended to chuse Sir Christopher Wren but he desired they would make Sir I. N. x as Alcibiades did by Socrates he took the laurel off his own head to put it on Sir Isaac's – his modesty would not suffer him to take the chair in Philosophy whilst Sir I. N. was in being which the Common voice of all learning had given Sir I. –

Machin – said 2d fluxions were ridiculous only fluxions of fluxions that they might as well be carried to 3d and 4th &c – that Sir I. did every thing with out them & so did he –

Sir I. told me Machin understood his principia best – that He was the best Geometer & Halley the best astronomer –


Earl Halifax asked Sir I. N. if there was no
* method to make him master of his discoueries without learning Mathematicks – Sir I. said No it was impossible, but Mr Maine recommended <4r> Machin to his Lordship for that purpose who have him 50 Guineas by way of encouragement Machin as he told me himself tried made several schemes but never any that satisfied him & gave it up in despair Pemberton attempted it with great emolument to himself 3000 subscriptions at a Guinea which shewed the earnest desire of all ranks &c –

Monsignor Bianchini the Pope's Chamberlain came over as he said only to see Sir I. N. he came the last year of the Queen & some said it was with a message from the Pretender, but Mr Cunningham who had been so long Resident at Venice informed me that Bianchini told him at Rome the year before that he expected to carry a cap to a <4v> French Cardinal & that if he did he would certainly come to England to see Sir I. Newton – he did carry one I think to Cardinal Polignac at Utrecht that year Quære

Count Marsigli came over on the same account –

Dr Arbuthnott told me that he being in France in 1699, the Marquis de l'Hospital hearing he understood Mathematicks sent to him & said none of the English could explain to him the problem of what curve would find the least resistance in a fluid – the Doctor shewed him that problem in a scholium of Sir I N.s Principia which the Marquis had overlooked – he cried out with admiration Good god What a fund of knowledge there is in that book? he then asked the Doctor every particular about Sir I. even to the colour of his hair <5r> said does he eat & drink & sleep is he like other men? & was surprized when the Doctor told him he conversed chearfully with his friends assumed nothing & put himself upon a level with all mankind –

the Marquis's wife was the last remains of the House of *[1] Coligni, & was going to see her Cousin Coligni & he was resolved to go to England to see a greater man Sir I. N. but he died soon after – It was at the time King William's army was disbanded though Iames 2. then in France & a new war expected – the Marquis said nothing gave him a greater Idea of the English nation than their obliging a great prince at the head of a victorious army to disband it contrary to his inclination, that the English were wise d'etre maitres chès eux, you see what has happened to us & When the Doctor complimented <5v> the nation on the encouragement of arts & sciences giuen by Lewis the 14th, he said you have a better encouragement Liberty

Dr Halley told me he pressed Sir I. to compleat his Theory of the Moon saying no body else could do it. Sir I. said it has broke my rest so often I will think of it no more, but afterwards told me that when Halley had made six years observations he would have t'other stroke at the moon – at another time said if he was younger he would have another touch at metals


[2] The Hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in righteousness – 16 c. proverbs – v. 31 —

Upon telling what Mr Molineux related to me – viz – that after he & Mr Graham & Bradley had put up a perpendicular Telescope at Kew to find out the Parallax of the fixed stars they found a certain nutation in the earth which they could not account for & which Molineux told me he thought destroyed entirely the Newtonian system, & therefore he was under the greatest difficulty how to break it to Sir I, & when he did it broke it by degrees in the softest manner & all Sir I. said in answer when he had told him his opinion, was, it may be so, there is no arguing against facts & experiments, so cold was he to all sense of fame & this at a time when <6v> as Tillotson said a man has formed his last understanding – vide. p. 202 of Burnet's Theory – of inclination & reasoned opinions where he gives his own character in describing that of Lucretius –

[3] Machin told me that Flamstead said Sir I. worked with the oar he had dug, to which Sir I. replied if he dug the oar I made the gold ring – Flamstead complained that Sir I. had stoln 300 Stars from him —–

13. May 1730 –

Dr Halley told me that Flamstead's observations which he had compared erred about two minutes & a half his own former ones about 1 minute from the truth of Sir I.'s Theory at the most 5 minutes from observations which might perhaps err one minute at least from the truth – that though Sir Isaac made no observations himself he made use of such as he could get & (often complained <7r> of the poverty of the materials he had {for} his Theory of the Moon –) that he could not haue made his Theory without some observations When I told the Doctor I hoped he and his family would haue a share of the premium for the Longitude in proportion to the observations he had made he said Sir I.s family by the same rule ought to have their share for without his Theory no body could ever have attempted to make observations – He said Sir I.s Theory was most defective in the Quarters of the Moon between midnight & morning for which he had the fewest observations —–

Dr Halley coming one day to dine with Sir I. at the Mint, I asked him how he went on with the Moon, & how he found Sir I. Theory agree with his observations to which he <7v> answered very exact – some few excursions but fewer than could be imagined – Sir I. then said others made Theories of the Moon from observations which erred 20 minutes, I made one which seldom errs three & neuer aboue 5 only by arguing from the cause     must not that be the true cause?

Dr Halley in May – 1730 told me he had made 812 years observations & had made in that time above 1300 on the Moon but that still there would be Hiatus valde {deflexius} in M.SS. because sometimes the moon would not be visible for 8 or 9 days, that it was a pity there was not two observers abroad one at Aleppo or in Syria at summer & one in N. America all winter where the Moon would always be visible – He said Kepler had whims Sir I. none – Kepler shewed the ore or how – Sir I. the δει τε or wherefore <8r> Memorandum Quære what were the whims of Kepler – Des Cartes – Leibnitz Halley's own – viz – subterranean world – saltness of sea – &c

Halley said that the reflecting Telescop{e} which Fontenelle mentions {to b}e as go{od} as one of 20 feet is a{s good as} a common one of 50 – {illeg}{ssle} when in England saw in it the shadow of Saturn's ring which he had never seen before —–

Wright's travells – 2. V. p. 457 mentions an inscription setting forth that as Hannibal Carracia died as he was painting some fine pieces – id fatebene potius intactas spectari quam alienam manu tractatas – Vide — this may be applied to the printing the treatise upon Fluxions which Pemberton asked 60 Guineas to perfect, & the proposal made by the relations to hire some persons to finish what Sir I. had left imperfect

<8v> <9r>

At enim hominum membra {illeg} contentione mente ipsam ac {illeg} moneantur sic numine de{illeg} omnia fingi moveri mut{illeg} posse, neque id dicitis sup{illeg} atque aniliter sed Phys{illeg} This is said in the 3d book {illeg} de Naturâ Deorum near {the} en{d} by Cotta who soke the sentiment of the Academicians, as charged upon the Stoicks of whose opinion Cicero was – Is not this something like what Sir I. N. says of space being the sensorium of God —— Vide wether this be more explained by Balbus in the second book —–

[1] Memorandum Fontenelle in the Eloge of the Marquis gives no such account ergo Quære –


[3] Flamstead

[4] Character

[5] Dacier Discours sur Platon –

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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

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