<cover slip>


A {Drauer} 18


1. Character –

Bayle the greatest Freethinker of the last age priding himself that the most sublime Genij were of his sentiments – says il est rare de voir une grande devotion dans grans Mathematiciens – p. 2187 – 1st Column of notes upon his not receiving the sacrament on his death bed – it may be said his whole life was a preparation for another state he needed no other viaticum or provision for a journey to another world – he had his lamp always ready lit & his loins girted 12. Luke – v. 36 –

Not a bare speculatist in virtue as well as Philoso{phy} demonstrate his Philosophy by experiment {and} his virtues by practice –

As man appears a despicable cr{eature} in the condition Pliny describes {illeg} in the preface to the 7th book whe{n we} consider Sir I. N. wee may raise {our} Idea of the dignity of Human nature —

Upon Vigani's (with whom he was very intimate & took great pleasure in discoursing with him on Chymistry) telling him a loose story about a Nun, broke off all acquaintance with him – C. C.

Bishop Burnett said he valued him for something still more valuable than all his Philosophy for being the whitest soul he ever knew —


was Commissioner for Pauls – & having a dispute with Arch Bishop Wake about putting up pictures which he opposed, told a story of a Bishop who said on that subject that when this snow (pointing to his grey hairs) falls, there will be a great deal of dirt in churches & went no more afterwards to any of their meetings – C. C –

He could not bear to hear any one talk ludicrously of religion, often angry with Dr Halley on that score, & lessened his affection for {Dr} Bentley – C. C

{illeg} He was offered the Mastership {of Tri}nity College when it was given {to M}ontagu if he would take orders {illeg} Tennison importuned him to {take} any preferment in the Church saying to him – Why will you not? you know more divinity than all of us put together – Why then said Sir I. I shall be able to do you more service than if I was in orders –

Earl Pembroke offered him the Mastership of Catherine Hospital, to hold with his place at the Tower which he refused


Cassini when he came over after the peace of Reswick to see Sir I. N. in            offered him a large pension from the French King (who had given pensions to Huygens & other learned foreigners) which he likewise refused —–

Dr Bolingbroke sent Dr Swift to Mrs Conduitt to let him know he thought it a sin his thoughts should be diverted by his place at the Mint & that the Queen would settle upon him a pension of £2000 per annum which was near double the value of his employment but he refused it – which she told him & his answer was, my place is at their service but I will have no p{ension}

Dr Arbuthnott told me he told Sir I. Cheyne had writt an ingenious b{ook} upon Mathematicks – but that his coun{try} had not money to print – Bring {him} to me says Sir I. & when he brought him Sir I. offered Cheyne a bag of money, which he refused, & Sir I. would see him no more – He gave Stirling money & brought him from Venice – to recommend a person wrote to the Lord Provost of Edinburg he would allow Maclaurin a certain salary of £20 per annum till the professorship fell at Edinburgh – Gave Pemberton 200 Guineas for printing his Principia –


He said when he died he should haue the comfort of leaving Philosophy less mischievous than he found it –

I asking him how he came to let Bentley print his Principia which he did not understand – Why said he, he was covetous & I lett him do it to get mony –

He offered Cheselden for a fee a handfull of Guineas out of his coat pockett, & when he refused them & said a guinea or two was the most he ought to haue Sir I. laughed & said suppose I do give you more than your Fee Socrates lost a great summ without regret 4. v. Rokin – p. 353 –

When he missed Bank bills to the value {of} £3000 or more & there was the {great}est reason to suspect one of his {footm}en W– Whiston a nephew of {New}tons had picked his pocket because {illeg} time he left him & bought an estate in land of that value without any visible means, he never could be prevailed on to prosecute him, & when I asked him how much he had lost, he said too much – When he had been imposed upon in buying an estate at Bayden & given double the value, & might have vacated the bargain in equity, he said he would not for the sake of £2000 go to Westminster Hall to prove he had been made a fool of –


He had the ornament of a quiet & meek spirit which is in the sight of god of so great price Saint Peter. Tillotson p. 267. Men in years have made their last understanding – Ditto p. 280 – When he had made his not ruffled by Molineux telling him a new discovery had destroyed his Philosophy

His integrity in the execution of his office – Earl Halifax often said he could not have carried on the great recoinage without him –

His trouble when Warden in prosecuting clippers & coiners attended all the trials wee burnt boxfulls of informations in his own handwriting taken by himself he brought in the tool act – vide Iournals which destroyed counterfeiters as the mill{ing} the money had the clippers

He could not bear sports that kill bea{sts} as hunting shooting – said of one {of} his nephews when I spoke in his favour as an objection against him that he loved killing of birds – See for humanity to beasts – Guardian 1. Vol. p. 381. 2. 3

Irregular life is attended with an irregular head – truth is the offspring of silence unbroken meditations. Woollaston. p. 60 – amusements & sensual parts of learning


Sir I. N. did not dwell on what are vulgar{ly} called the sensual parts of learning but true knowledge which like virtue gives a more solid & lasting satisfaction Demosthenes not to haue his thoughts dissipated or diverted, 3 shaved only half his face 1 neglected his dress & disfigured himself to put him under a necessity of having recourse to solitude & hiding himself for fear of being the ridicule of all who should see him, but Sir I. was reduced to none of those shifts his studies were so engaging he wanted no other confinement, & indeed had often the {same} effect upon him as Demosthenes {illeg} had upon himself – (here add the {sever}al instances of his absence of {thou}ght to common affairs) Car un genie quelque elevé qu'il soit ne laisse pas de tenir toujours par quelque chose a l'humanité les grans hommes sont grans et hommes tout ensemble) Miramur, peregre est animus sine corpore velox

Read the Corollaries from Sir I. Ns works by Whiston of the definition of a God


The only thing he was heard to say with pleasure of his work was that when he died he should haue the satisfaction of leaving Philosophy when he died less mischievous than he found it – Those who will consider his Irenicum & Creed might allow him to have said the same of revealed religion – If there be any of so narrow principles as not to bear with his not going into eve{ry} point of the highest {illeg} orthodoxy let them refle{ct} what an advantage it is to Christianity in general in this age of infidelity to have a Lay man such a Philosopher &c haue spent so much Study upon divinity & so publick & strenuous an advocate for it.


Sir I. says in one of his letters that if he saw farther than others it was because he stood on the shoulders of the Giants – What then may they say who came after him (who as Leibnitz told Sir A. Fountaine at Berlin) When he was at Berlin with Leibnitz in 1701 and at supper with the Queen of Prussia & she asked him his opinion of Sir Isaac Newton. Leibnitz said that taking Mathematicks from the beginning of the world to the time of Sir I. What he had done was much the better half – & added that he had consulted all the learned in Europe upon some difficult point without having any satisfaction & that when he wrote to Sir I. he sent him answer by the first post to do so & so & then he would find it out. & stand on the advantage ground of his discoveries, they will stand not only on the shoulders of the Giants but if I may be allowed to carry on the Metaphor on Pelion & Ossa heaped thereupon not indeed with a vain design of bidding defiance to the Creater but to enforce & demonstrate the power & superintendency of a supreme being –


Creditur vulgo testamenta hominum speculum esse morum – Tibere – 196 – perhaps Sir I reservedness in giving his opinion the reason why he made no will –

Sir I. honoured his parent obeyed strictly that only commandment to which long life is promised enjoyed that promise & reward here & without all doubt hereafter in the extensive sense given it by Dr Clarke in his Church Chatechism – p. 182 – viz an emblem of Eternity –

Sir I had the happiness of being born in a land of liberty & in an age where he {might} speak his mind – not afraid of {the} Inquisition as Galileo was for {saying} the sun stood still & the earth {moved} his works not in danger of being expunged as DesCartes's was nor he obliged to go into another country as Descartes was into Holland to vent his opinions, nor reduced to the miserable shifts as Descartes was of saying his <5v> Philosophy was the Philosophy of Moses & that he could proue Transubstantiation mathematically vide life of Descartes

It has been x[1] observed that among the Romans the age of Augustus produced the finest wits but the preceeding one of the civil wars the greatest men – May not the same be said of the reign of Charles 2 – Leibnitz called it the siecle d'or of learning, that which preceeded it certainly produced the greater men –

[2] Tycho Brahe made verses upon Copernicus – Kepler upon Tycho Urania was their Muse – Halley upon Sir I. went as much beyond the others as his subject ——

Bentley to shew he spared the living no more than the dead altered Halley's verses when he printed the Principia, here could be no error in M.S. or various lection & he was reduced to his own peremptory criticism, {sin} dixisse debuit — Halley told me Sir I. N <6r> made him hope that in Pemberton's edition his verses should be printed from his own copy, but complained they were not for he made it

Æternique operis fundamina fixit

& it is printed

operum quæ fundamenta locarit

& when I said that perhaps Sir I. did not care for having any thing appear before his book that seemed to favour the opinion that the world was eternal – Yes said he that is what Pemberton would fix upon me but æternum is only æviternum, & I meant no more.

Sir I thought Pythagoras's Musi{ck} of the spheres was intende{d} to typify gravity, & as he makes the sounds & notes to depend on the size of the strings so gravity depends on the density of matter ——

Prometheus was an Astronomer the fable of the Vultur was his setting up & his painfull studies – this makes Fontenelle's apology for Leibnitz's stealing Sir I.s inventions more apposite —


Fluxions – the scaffolding of that edifice celeste the contrivance of which required as much art as the building – worth disputing had Sir I. N. sunk that & printed his principia without producing that all the world would have been in a maze & a much higher admiration —–

Mr Machin told me that telling Sir I. once that he admired very much his fine problems in Geometry, but infinitely more his Theory of the Moon for which he had no rule that was all sagacity – Sir I. smiled & said his head never ached but with his studies on the moon —

Halley told me he often pressed Sir I. to compleat his Theory of the Moon saying no body else euer could, Sir I. told him it had made his head ach & kept him awake so often that he would think of it no more, but Sir I. said afterwards to me that if he lived till Halley had made six years observations he would haue t'other stroke at it


No enthusiasm –

Fancy never got astride Sir I. N's reason Enthusiasm has possessed a great power in the Kingdom of Knowledge, where it is hard to assign one art or science which has not annexed to it some Fanatick branch – Philosopher's stone Grand Elixir – Planetary worlds – squaring the circle – summum bonum Utopian Commonwealth – might haue added Longitude – Tale of a Tub – p. 289 –

Sir I. N. told Bentley all his merit was patient thought

Kepler had whims – Descartes – Halley – subterra{nean} world – saltness of sea – Observation of great {illeg} nearly allied to madness – that no great light comes in but through a crack too frequently verified when wee see what havock Enthusiasm makes in the finest understandings – but Sir I reached the heights of Philosophy without forming any Hypotheses – Chymistry without the Philosopher's stone or Elixir – Revelation & Prophecies without Enthusiasm or superstition or commencing a Prophet –


Whiston has spread about that Sir I abstained from eating rabbitts because strangled & from black puddings because made of blood, but he is mistaken Sir I. did not – he often mentioned & followed the rule of Saint Paul Take & eat what comes from the shambles without asking questions for conscience sake he said meats strangled were forbid because that was a painfull death & the letting out the blood the easiest & that animals should be put to as little pain as possible, that the reason why eating blood was forbid was because it was thought the eating blood inclined men to be cruel – C. C –

Constant study or reading requires a stronger bent & intenseness of thought than the mind can generally bear & though unwilling to be altogether idle that the whole burden may not be always {be} a duty is forced to call the senses often in to her {hand} to rest upon as it were & divert her self <8r> with Musick & statuary & painting but Sir I. had no releif but going from one study to another, from Philosophy to Chronology, & from Chronology to divinity – showing out new discoveries & dispelling the clouds & darkness that were cast over them

& like the Sun only leaves one world to enlighten another –

He used to say of Earl Pembroke that he was a lover of stone Dolls —

Plato talked of trifling familiar things with strangers & charm{ed} them without calling Philosop{hy} to his aid – Dacier's life of Pla{to} p. 27. 28 – so did Sir Isaac –

Montague – 3. book – 2. c – says Socrates desired to die when he was 70 being unwilling to see the decay of his understanding – Sir I. at 84 had not that reason for he had all his senses in perfection –

Socrates declared publickly he would have bought a cloak if he had had <8v> money then every one pressed to give him one but they should haue done it before & not have put him to the blush to expose his wants – 4. b. Rollin p. 353. Earl Halifax gave Sir I. an employment before he wanted it or asked it – he would not suffer the lamp that gaue so much light to want oil —– Memorandum Anaxagoras's answer to one he had taught who let him starve –

Sir I. resembled Socrates in keeping between the medium of luxury & penury was grave & chearfull – Ditto 355. had a serenity & tranquillity that nothing ruffled – {In} much more modest than Socrates 454

x[3]Dacier exclaims with a sort of indignation against those who prostitute the venerable name of Philosopher to persons who pass their life in making experiments upon the pressure of the air or the virtues of the loadstone, or to the Chymist, or to Free thinkers – He says Philosophy is something more grand than what are commonly called arts & sciences


It is the love of true wisdom the knowledge of things human & divine that is, the knowledge of God, that knowledge which teaches us the relation our soul has necessarily with it's Creator & all rational creatures, & teaches us our duty towards God our neighbour & our selves – That the true Philosopher must have temperance justice & a firmness of mind be a lover of truth avoid pleasures & despise riches break loose as much as is possible from that bond & subjections which the soul is in to the body, not be afraid of poverty or ignominy or calumny in the cause of justice & truth do good even to enemies, to have no thought but how to die well, & for that purpose to give up every thing & even your self —–

Sir I. was a Philosopher according to this definition as much in his morals as his writings he joined morality to Philosophy So <9v> Socrates abandoned one to follow the other

[1] Hughes's Life of Spencer – p. 2

[2] {illeg}ck

[3] {illeg} of his edition of Plato

© 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