Catalogue Entry: OTHE00084

Chapter XXIII

Author: David Brewster

Source: Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: 1855).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


In order to enjoy the conversation of the most distinguished literary men at that time in England, the "Princess of Wales appointed a particular day in the week, when they were invited to attend her Royal Highness in the evening; a practice which she continued after her accession to the throne. Of this company were Drs. Clarke, Hoadley, Berkeley, and Sherlock. Clarke and Berkeley were generally considered as principals in the debates that arose upon those occasions, and Hoadley adhered to the former as Sherlock did to the latter. Hoadley was no friend to Berkeley: he affected to consider his philosophy and his Bermuda project as the reveries of a visionary. Sherlock, (who was afterwards Bishop of London,) on the other hand, warmly espoused his cause, and particularly when the 'Minute Philosopher' came out, he carried a copy of it to the Queen, and left it to her Majesty to determine whether such a work could be the production of a disordered understanding." — Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Bishop of Cloyne, p. vii. Lond. 1837.


These two letters of Cavelier have been preserved by Sir Isaac.


It was entitled Abrégé de Chronologie de M. Le Chevalier Newton, fait par lui-même, et traduit sur le manuscript Anglois. Paris, 1725.


The existence of this manuscript in Paris was generally known, and was the subject of conversation before the date of Cavelier's first letter to Newton, (May 11, 1724), as appears from the following extract of a letter from M. Montmort (or perhaps from Conti) to Brook Taylor, dated Paris, January 15, 1724: —

"On m'a dit aussi que Mr. Newton imprime la Chronologie Raisonnée. Tout le monde l'attend avec bien de l'impatience. Faites luy mes complimens, je vous en prie; voicy une petit Sonnet que vous luy communiquerez; j'espère qu'il en sera content; car il verra l'attraction désigné par l'amour, qui règle le sistême de M. Descartes désigné par Phaeton. Dans le Mémoires de Leipsique, il aura vu si je suis du parti des Allemands.

'Lasciar mi il curro Governar del giorno,'

Disse à Febo l'Amor, 'e tosto sia

Rectificata in Ciel l'alta armonia

Che Fetonte turbó con suo gran scorno

Io diedi sede al cancro ed al capricorno

Ed al corpo lunar l'obliqua via

Io sterno al par del Caos; ed Io con lumeor

Forzo al mondo l'equilibro; ed Io l'adorno.

Disse:' e le Briglie imperioso stese

E corresse l'Aurora, ed agli infinite

Fonti del lume il corso antico rese

Ritornó i Pianet' ai primi siti

Il Solar Orbe a perni scai s'apese

E tal fu poi qual' O Newton l'additi.


Contemplatio Philosophica, and Life of Brook Taylor. Lond. 1793, p. 141.

M. Conti is supposed to be the Abbot who corresponded with Lady Mary Wortley Montague. See her Letters and Works, vol. i. p. 358, and vol. ii. pp. 11, 21, 119, and 128.


Phil. Trans. 1725, Vol. xxxiii. No. 389, p. 315. I have found seven distinctly written copies of this paper in Sir Isaac's handwriting.


Conti is said to have defended himself with much moderation, and with many expressions of esteem for Newton. See Biog. Univ., tom. ix. p. 517.


In the passage from the Acta Eruditorum, Conti is described as carrying letters of Newton's to Leibnitz, and communicating Leibnitz's letters to Newton. Conti was a very excellent and accomplished person, distinguished as a poet and a man of very considerable acquirements. He was a great favourite of the King, and acted as interpreter when Dr. Clarke, who could speak only Latin and English, was explaining to his Majesty the discoveries of Newton. It was at the King's request that he <307> interfered in the dispute between Newton and Leibnitz, and we see no reason to blame him for the part which he acted in that matter.


Signior Rizzetti, who afterwards published his attack upon Newton in a book entitled De Luminis Affectionibus Specimen Physico-Mathematicum. Venet. 1727. — See Desaguliers' Defence of Newton in the Phil. Trans. 1728, p. 596.


The words in italics are in another copy. I find also from one of these copies that Conti is charged with "sending Mr. Stirling to Italy, a person then unknown to me, to be ready to defend me there, if I would have contributed to his maintenance;" and in another, Conti is said to have "softened the business, by lately writing a poem upon him, and in the colour of a friend." This poem is probably that mentioned by Bolingbroke in a letter to Brook Taylor, Dec. 26, 1723. "He has begun a philosophical poem which will be finished, I believe, long before the Anti-Lucretius of the Cardinal de Polignac. Sir I. Newton's system will make the principal beauty in it. He recited the Exorde to me, which I thought very fine. I need not tell you that lie writes in Italian." — Life of Brook Taylor, p. 136.


The work is dedicated to the Queen by Mr. Conduitt, in an address of twelve quarto pages, in composing which he sought the assistance of Pope. We have given Pope's letter, containing his criticisms, in the APPENDIX, No. XXVII.


According to Whiston, Sir Isaac wrote out eighteen copies of this chapter with his own hand, differing little from one another. — Whiston's Life, p. 39.


This work forms the first article in the fifth volume of Dr. Horsley's edition of Newton's works, and is accompanied with copious notes. The next article in the volume is entitled, A Short Chronicle from a MS., the property of the Reverend Dr. Ekins, Dean of Carlisle," which is nothing more than an abstract of the chronology already printed in the same volume. We cannot even conjecture the reasons for publishing it, especially as it is less perfect than the abstract, two or three dates being wanting.


Phil. Trans. 1727, vol. xxxiv. pp. 205, 296.


Défense de la Chronologie contre le Systême de M. Newton. Paris, 1758, 4to.


Collection of Authentic Records, Part II. No. 24. 1727.


See an excellent view of this controversy in an able note by M. Daunou, attached to Biot's Life of Newton in the Biog. Universelle, tom. xxxi. p. 180.


This letter was first published without any date in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1755, vol. xxv. p. 3. I have found two copies of it among Sir Isaac's papers. Mr. Edleston informs us that the original is in the British Museum, presented by Mrs. Sharp. I have found also two copies of the communication he made to the Bishop of Worcester, which is published by Mr. Edleston in his Correspondence, &c. Appendix, p. 314. One of these copies is much fuller than that which is printed by Mr. Edleston.


I infer that this paper was written in 1699, from the statement in it that Pope Gregory's corrections "were made 118 years ago."


I find two copies of another paper in Latin, entitled Regulæ pro determinatione Paschœ. The subject of the Kalendar is touched upon in Newton's Chronology, p. 71, and in his Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel, p. 137, note.

© 2024 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 -

Privacy Statement

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