WHILE Sir Isaac and his friends were striving with Flamsteed to complete the printing of the Greenwich Observations, his tranquillity was disturbed by an exciting dispute which took place in the Council of the Royal Society, between Dr. Sloane and Dr. Woodward. So early as 1700, before Newton was President of that body, the conduct of its Secretary, Dr. Sloane, in furnishing "unfit entertainment" at their meetings, and in conducting the publication of the Philosophical Transactions, had been the subject of animadversion. In a pamphlet, entitled The Transactioneer, with some of his Philosophical Fancies, the Royal Society, and particularly Dr. <244> Sloane, were severely satirized. The Council made great exertions to discover the author of this silly production,[1] "and Dr. Sloane, and his friend Mr. Pettiver, caused it to be set abroad, that Dr. Woodward was either the author, or at least concerned in its production." Dr. Woodward indignantly denied the charge. "I am sorry," he says, "to find two or three members of the Society, and my particular friends, ill treated in it: The writer of it is but meanly qualified for what he undertakes; though whether there was not occasion given, may be worth your consideration. This I am sure, the world has been now for some time past very loud upon that subject: and there were those who laid the charges so much wrong, that I have but too often occasion to vindicate the Society itself, and that in public company too." This homologation of the charges in the pamphlet, by a distinguished member of the body, could not fail to irritate the Secretary; and we need not wonder that a more public quarrel arose between Dr. Woodward and Dr. Sloane. At the anniversary meeting of the Society held on the 30th November 1709, Dr. Sloane was re-elected to the office of Secretary; and Mr. Richard Waller, who had been the other Secretary since 1687, was replaced by the Rev. John Harris, D.D., a friend of Dr. Woodward and his party.[2] Soon after this election, and at one of its ordinary meetings,[3] Dr. Sloane "entertained" the Society with a translation from the <245> Memoirs of the Academy of Sciences, in which it was "maintained that the Bezoar is a gall stone," and the Doctor himself asserted "that the stones in the gall-bladder were the cause of colic." Dr. Woodward denied the truth and probability of these opinions; and when his adversary "was not able to maintain what he had asserted by words, he had recourse to grimaces very strange and surprising, and such as were enough to provoke any ingenuous sensible man to a warmth, at least equal to that which Dr. Woodward used. His words were, no man that understands anatomy, can assert that the stones in the gall-bladder are the cause of the colic. When Dr. Sloane averred that all medical writers were of that opinion, Dr. Woodward replied, none, unless the writer of the History of Jamaica; challenging him to assign any one man, which he did not. But appealing to Dr. Mead, — which was only a small mean shift, the Doctor was forced to give it against him. Those recited were the very words Dr. Woodward used; and whether they are unfit, you are a proper judge. That they were not spoken till after Dr. Sloane had made his grimaces twice or thrice, you were assured by Mr. Clavel, and Mr. Knight is ready to confirm the same if you please to ask him. He is a gentleman, as modest, impartial, and creditable, and indeed, with Mr. Clavel and Dr. Harris,[4] sate so fronting Dr. Sloane, as to be able to see his face and grimaces. The rest, which were but few, sate out of fair view. In particular, Mr. Moreland, that with so much solemn formality, made asseveration, that to the very best of his memory the words preceded the grimaces, sate directly <246> behind Dr. Sloane, so that he neither did, nor possibly could, see one of those grimaces."

In defence of the language used by Woodward, the author of this letter reminds Sir Isaac, that he himself had on a previous occasion employed still stronger terms against Sloane. "You had complained," he says, "of Dr. Sloane's artifices in surprising you with things at the Council, frequently very unfit, without having given you any previous account. As upon others, you had declared to more than one friend, how little qualified he was for the post of Secretary, so upon these occasions you as freely declared him a tricking fellow; nay, a villain and rascal,[5] for his deceitful and ill usage of you in the affair of Dr. Wall. Such expressions do not fall forth of the mouth of a gentleman of your truly good sense and breeding, without cause. Indeed, all allow you had very great and just cause; and though Dr. Woodward has not used any such expressions, he has had causes as great and just, long and often, of which I have heard the particulars, but shall not trouble you with them here."

This appeal to Sir Isaac does not seem to have advanced the objects of Dr. Woodward and his party. The grimaces of Sloane, and the uncivil language of Woodward, were brought under the notice of the Council on the 10th of May 1710. Sloane denied the grimaces, and in such a way as to induce Woodward to say, "Speak sense, or English, and we shall understand you." The consideration of this new attack upon the Secretary <247> came before the Council on 24th May; and as the Doctor refused to make an apology, it was resolved, "that Dr. Woodward be removed from the Council for creating a disturbance by the said reflecting words." A resolution was, at the same time, passed, thanking Dr. Sloane for his pains and fidelity in serving the Society as Secretary. Dr. Woodward brought an action at law against the Council in order to reinstate him as a member of it, but he was unsuccessful. Dr. Sloane resigned the ofiice of Secretary in 1713, and on the 30th November 1727, he re-appeared in the Council with the rank of a baronet, — in the more dignified position of its President, and the successor of Sir Isaac Newton.[6]


We have already seen, in the history of the Principia,[7] that Newton had been occupied during many years in preparing for the press a second edition of the work. His disputes with Flamsteed, however, and his duties at the Mint, rendered more anxious by the disturbances which had arisen in that establishment, interfered greatly with its progress; and it was with much difficulty that Dr. Bentley persuaded him to intrust the publication to him. He accordingly sent him, in June 1708, or earlier, a portion of the copy of the work, with his corrections and additions; and on the 10th of that month Bentley sent him a proof of the first sheet for his approbation, accompanied with the following letter: —

"TRIN. COLL., June 10, 1708.

"DEAR SIR, — By this time I hope you have made some progress towards finishing your great work, which is now expected here with great impatience, and the prospect of it has already lowered the price of the former edition above half of what it once was. I have here sent you a specimen of the first sheet, of which I printed about a quire; so that the whole will not be wrought off before it have your approbation. I bought this week a hundred reams of this paper you see; it being impossible to have got so good in a year or two, (for it comes from Geneva,) if I had not taken this opportunity with my friend Sir Theodore Jansen, the great paper merchant of Britain. <249> I hope you will like it, and the letter too, which upon trials we found here to be more suitable to the volume than a greater, and more pleasant to the eye. I have sent you likewise the proof-sheet, that you may see what changes of pointing, putting letters, capitals, &c., I have made; and I hope much to the better. This proof-sheet was printed from your former edition, adjusted by your own corrections and additions. The alterations afterwards are mine, which will show and justify themselves, if you compare nicely the proof-sheet with the finished one. The old one was without a running title upon each page, which is deformed. The sections only made with Def. 1. Def. 2., which are now made full and in capitals — DEFINITIO I., &c. Pray look on Hugenius de Oscillatione, which is a book very masterly printed, and you'll see that it is done like this. Compare any period of the old and new, and you'll discern in the letter, by the change in the points and capitals, a clearness and emphasis that the other has not; as all that have seen this specimen acknowledge. Our English compositors are ignorant, and print Latin books as they are used to do English ones, if they are not set right by one used to observe the beauties of the best printing abroad. In a few places I have taken the liberty to change some words, either for the sake of the Latin, or the thought itself; as that in page 4, motrices, acceleratrices et absolutas, I placed so, because you explain them afterwards in that order.

"But all these alterations are submitted to your better judgment; nothing being to be wrought off finally without your approbation. I hope to see you in about a fortnight, and by that time you will have examined this proof, and thought of what's to come next. My wife has <250> brought me a son lately, who, I thank God, is a true healthful child. — I am, yours,


"Note that the print will look much better when a book is bound and beaten."

I have not been able to discover any reason why the printing of the second edition, thus fairly begun, and for which paper was purchased, should have been discontinued, and why the duty of editing it had passed from the hands of Bentley into those of Cotes.

Newton was at this time occupied as one of the referees with the publication of the Greenwich Observations, and with his business in the Mint and at the Royal Society; and we may ascribe, as Mr. Edleston has done, the delay which took place, when the assistance of Cotes had been obtained in 1709, to the political excitement of the times, and to the occupation of Bentley with his quarrels with the seniors of his College.

It does not appear at what date Mr. Whiston delivered to Cotes "the greatest part of the copy of the Principia>." Newton intimates the transmission of it, in a letter dated October 11, 1709. Cotes was then in the country, where he had been for about a month, and Newton's letter to him was acknowledged by Bentley on the 20th in the following terms: —

"TRIN. COLL., Octob. 20, 1709.

"DEAR SIR, — Mr. Cotes, who had been in the country for about a month, returned hither the very day Dr. Clarke[8] brought your letter, in which, I perceive, you think <251> we have not yet begun your book; but I must acquaint you that five sheets are finely printed off already, and had not we staid for two cuts that Rowley carried to town to be mended by Lightbody, which we have not yet received, you had had sent you six sheets by this time. I am sure you'll be pleased with them when you see them. Besides the general running title at the head of every leaf, PHILOSOPHIÆ NATURALIS PRINCIPIA MATHEMATICA, I have added the subdivisions of the book (like Hugenii de Oscillatione), first, DEFINITIONES, then AXIOMATA SIVE LEGES MOTUS, then DE MOTU CORPORUM LIBER PRIMUS. Next will come SECUNDUS, and lastly, DE MUNDI SYSTEMATE LIBER TERTIUS. All these stand in the top of the margin of the several leaves. Your new corollary, which you would have inserted, came just in time, for we had printed to the fiftieth page of your former edition, and that very place where the insertion was to be was in the compositors' hands. The correction in the first sheet which you would have, plusquam duplo, et plusquam decuplo, was provided for before; for we printed it quasi duplo and quasi decuplo, which, you know, amounts to the same thing, for quasi denotes either the excess or the defect, and, in my opinion, since in that place you add no reason why it will be plusquam, 'tis neater to put it quasi, undetermined, and leave the reader to find it out. In the old edition, p. 34, lines 20 and 21, for infinite major, you had twice mended it minor. This, we thought, you did in haste; for it was right before, and so we have printed it major. I proposed to our master printer to have Lightbody come down and compose, which at first he agreed to; but the next day he had a character of his being a mere sot, and having played such pranks that nobody will take him into any print-house in London or <252> Oxford; and so he fears he'll debauch all his men. So we must let him alone, and I daresay we shall adjust the cuts very well without him. You need not be so shy of giving Mr. Cotes too much trouble. He has more esteem for you, and obligations to you, than to think the trouble toogrievous {sic}; but, however, he does it at my orders, to whom he owes more than that, and so pray you be easy as to that. We will take care that no little slip in a calculation shall pass this fine edition. Dr. Clarke tells me you are thinking for Chelsea, where I wish you all satisfaction. I hope my picture at Thornhill's will have your last sitting, before you leave the town.[9] The time you set under your hand is already lapsed. When the two cuts are sent us we shall print faster than you are aware of — therefore, pray take care to be ready for us. — I am, Sir, your very obedient humble servant,



at his house in Jermin Street,

near St. James's Church, London."

Newton received this letter when he was removing from Jermyn Street to Chelsea, where he had a house "near the College." On the 1st of July 1697, Dr. Wallis addressed letters to him at the Tower, as if he had lived at the Mint. That he had no official residence there, may be inferred from the observation of Charles Montague, in 1695, that he might have a lodging near him when he came to town to kiss the King's hand.[10] Towards the close of 1697, he occupied a house in Jermyn Street, near St. James's Church, where he remained thirteen years, till <253> he went to Chelsea in October 1709. About the end of September 1710, he removed to Martin Street, near Leicester Fields, where he resided during the rest of his life. This house, which we have represented in the adjoining sketch, from a photographic picture, is the first Figure house on the left hand, or east side of Martin Street, as you enter it from Leicester Square. It stands at the corner of Long's Court, beside a chapel, and is surmounted by a wooden erection, said to have been Newton's private observatory. The house, which is now occupied as a <254> printing-office, is described by Mr. Heneage as one "of good size, and formerly perhaps of some pretensions."[11]

Nearly four years elapsed before the second edition of the Principia was completed;[12] and, about the beginning of July 1713, this happy event was intimated to Sir Isaac in the following letter from Bentley, without date, but bearing the post-mark of July 1st: —

"DEAR SIR, — At last your book is happily brought forth, and I thank you anew that you did me the honour to be its conveyer to the world. You will receive by the carrier, according to your order, six copies; but pray be so free as to command what more you shall want. We have no binders here that either work well or quick, so you must accept of them in quires. I gave Roger (Cotes) a dozen, who presents one to Dr. Clarke and Whiston. This I tell you, that you may not give double; and on that account I tell you that I have sent one to the Treasurer, Lord Trevor, and Bishop of Ely. We thought it was properest for you to present Dr. Halley — so you will not forget him. I have sent (though at great abatement) 200 already to France and Holland. The edition in England to the last buyer is 15 s. in quires, and we shall take care to keep it up so for the honour of the book. I can think of nothing more at present, but shall expect your commands, if you have anything to order me. — I am, with all respect and esteem, your affectionate and humble servant,

"Ri. Bentley.

"Tuesday, TRIN. COLL.


at his house in Martin Street,

near Leicester Fields, London."


During the years 1712 and 1713, when Newton was occupied with this work, he was obliged to devote much of his leisure to the fluxionary controversy which had at this time begun to divide the mathematical world. The publication of the differential method of Leibnitz in 1684, before Newton had made public his method of fluxions, rendered it necessary that he should establish, by authentic documents, his prior claim to that great discovery. The Royal Society had, indeed, in 1712, appointed a committee of their body to examine the letters and papers which related to the question, but all the labour of research fell upon Newton, and the Commercium Epistolicum, which contained the documents and the report of the committee, though not written by him, in the ordinary sense of the term, was yet virtually his production. A controversy then arose between the English and continental mathematicians, which harassed him during the rest of his life; and though he seldom appeared in the front of the battle, yet he supplied the munitions of war, and guided the army of his disciples with all the prudence and skill of a leader.

Owing to the interest excited by this controversy, of which we have given an ample history in a former chapter, the Royal Society and its distinguished members became better known on the Continent, and foreigners of distinction sought for admission among its Fellows.[13] Among these was the Duke D'Aumont, who came to England as Ambassador Extraordinary from France in January 1713.[14] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on the 21st of May, and he afterwards addressed <256> a letter to the Society[15] of such a kind, that Newton "returns him their thanks for the great humanity and civility with which he has treated them;" tells him "that his letter was read in a full meeting of the Society to the great satisfaction and pleasure of all the members present," and assures him "that when any thing comes to their knowledge which they may think acceptable to his Grace, they will take care to communicate it."[16]

The Duke D'Aumont was accompanied to England by Mr. Deslandes, the author of a work entitled A Critical History of Philosophy.[17] Deslandes dined at Newton's house in company with Halley, Demoivre, and Mr. Craig, and has given the following interesting account of his visit: — "I may be permitted," he says, "to mention here an anecdote, not for the honour which may attach to me from having been familiar with the greatest men of the age, but from the bearing which it may have on the history of philosophy. Having gone to England with the late Duke D'Aumont, who united with the highest talents a generosity almost unknown in our times, I was invited to dine with the illustrious Mr. Newton. And as it is the custom in England, after dinner, to drink to the health of kings and princes whom philosophers generally do not know, and seldom associate with, Mr. Newton more judiciously proposed to me to drink the health of all honest persons, to whatever country they belonged. 'We are all friends,' he added to me, 'because we unanimously aim at the only object worthy of man, which is the knowledge of truth. <257> We are also all of the same religion, because, leading a simple life, we conform ourselves to what is right, and we endeavour sincerely to give to the Supreme Being that worship which, according to our feeble lights, we are persuaded will please him most.' The witnesses to this speech were Mr. Halley, Mr. De Moivre, and Mr. C — ,(Craig,) all mathematicians of the first order."

In the following year, Prince Alexander Menzikoff addressed a letter to Newton, expressing his admiration of the wisdom, bravery, and rare talents of the English nation, and soliciting admission into the illustrious Society of which he was the President.[18] He was accordingly elected on the 29th July 1714; and it appears from Newton's answer, that the English merchants had requested this honour for the Prince on account of his humanity, his love of science, and his affection for the English.[19]

The great problem of the determination of the longitude at sea, to which the discoveries of Newton so greatly contributed, had begun, at this time, to attract the notice of English mathematicians. At an earlier period indeed, the subject had been brought before the leading members of the Royal Society under very singular circumstances. Towards the close of 1674, Le Sieur de St. Pierre, a French charlatan, who commanded the interest of the Duchess of Portsmouth, had procured from the King a commission for examining a scheme for the discovery of the longitude. This commission, among other names, included those of Lord Brouncker, Dr. Ward, Sir C. Wren, Sir Jonas Moore, and Dr. Hook. In February 1675, Flamsteed was on a visit to Sir Jonas Moore, and having <258> accompanied him to a meeting of the commissioners, his name was added to their list. By his assistance the ignorance and presumption of the Frenchman were soon exposed; and the result, though mortifying to his patrons at court, proved highly advantageous to the interests of astronomy. Flamsteed had written a letter to the commissioners, and another to St. Pierre, explanatory of his views, and thus describes the origin of the Royal Observatory of Greenwich: — "I heard," he says, "no more of the Frenchman after this; but was told that my letters being shown King Charles, he, startled at the assertion of the fixed stars' places being false in the catalogue, (of Tycho,) and said with some vehemence, 'he must have them anew observed, examined, and corrected, for the use of his seamen;' and further, (when it was urged to him how necessary it was to have a good stock of observations taken for correcting the motions of the moon and planets,) with the same earnestness, 'he must have it done.' And when he was asked who could or who should do it? 'The person,' says he, 'that informs you of them.' Whereupon I was appointed to it."[20] In the royal warrant for the payment of Flamsteed's salary, the astronomical observator, as he was then called, was commanded "to apply himself forthwith, with the utmost care and diligence, to rectify the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting the art of navigation."[21]

No further steps seem to have been taken in this important matter till the 25th May 1714, when several captains of her Majesty's ships, merchants of London, and commanders of merchantmen, presented a petition to the <259> House of Commons, setting forth "that the discovery of longitude is of such consequence to Great Britain, for safety of the navy, for merchant ships, as well as of improvement of trade, that for want thereof many ships have been retarded in their voyages, and many lost; but if due encouragement were proposed by the public, for such as shall discover the same, some persons would offer themselves to prove the same before the most proper judges, in order to their entire satisfaction, for the safety of men's lives, her Majesty's navy, the increase of trade, and the shipping of these islands, and the lasting honour of the British nation."

This sagacious petition, which proved to be a grand step in the advancement of astronomy,[22] was submitted to a large committee, whose report was laid on the table of the House on the 7th of June, and taken into consideration on the 11th. The following is the report and resolution of the committee, which, as we shall see, forms an important event in the life of Newton: —

"Mr. Ditton and Mr. Whiston being examined, did inform the committee that they had made a discovery of the longitude, and were very certain that the same was true in the theory, and did not doubt but that, upon due trial made, it would prove certain and practicable at sea.

"That they had communicated the whole history of their proceedings towards the said discovery to Sir Isaac Newton, Dr. Clarke, Mr. Halley, and Mr. Cotes, who all seemed to allow of the truth of the proposition as to the theory, but doubted of several difficulties that would arise in the practice."

Sir Isaac Newton, attending the committee, said, —

"That for determining the longitude at sea there have <260> been several projects, true in theory, but difficult to execute.

"1. One is by a watch to keep time exactly; but, by reason of the motion of the ship, the variation of heat and cold, wet and dry, and the difference of gravity in different latitudes, such a watch hath not yet been made.

"2. Another is by the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites; but, by reason of the length of telescopes requisite to observe them, and the motion of a ship at sea, those eclipses cannot yet be there observed.

"3. A third is by the place of the moon; but her theory is not yet exact enough for that purpose. It is exact enough to determine the longitude within two or three degrees, but not within a degree.

"4. A fourth is Mr. Ditton's project: And this is rather for keeping an account of the longitude at sea, than for finding it, if at any time it should be lost, as it may easily be in cloudy weather. How far this is practicable, and with what charge, they that are skilled in sea affairs are best able to judge. In sailing by this method, whenever they are to pass over very deep seas, they must sail due east or west, without varying their latitude; and if their way over such a sea doth not lie due east or west, they must first sail into the latitude of the next place to which they are going beyond it, and then keep due east or west, till they come at that place.

"In the three first ways there must be a watch regulated by a spring, and rectified every visible sunrise and sunset, to tell the hour of the day or night. In the fourth way such a watch is not necessary. In the first way there must be two watches, this and the other above-mentioned.

"In any of the three first ways, it may be of some <261> service to find the longitude within a degree, and of much more service to find it within forty minutes, or half a degree if it may, and the success may deserve rewards accordingly.

"In the fourth way, it is easier to enable seamen to know their distance and bearing from the shore, forty, sixty, or eighty miles off, than to cross the seas; and some part of the reward may be given, when the first is performed on the coast of Great Britain, for the safety of ships coming home; and the rest, when seamen shall be enabled to sail to an assigned remote harbour without losing their longitude if it may be.

"Dr. Clarke said that there could no discredit arise to the Government in promising a reward in general, without respect to any particular project, to such person or persons who should discover the longitude at sea.

"Mr. Halley said, that Mr. Ditton's method for finding the longitude did seem to him to consist of many particulars which first ought to be experimented before he could give his opinion; and that it would cost a considerable sum to make the experiments, but what the expense would amount to he could not tell.

"Mr. Whiston affirmed that the undoubted benefit which would arise in the land, and near the shore, would vastly surmount the charges of experiments.

"Mr. Cotes said that the project was right in the theory near the shore, and the practical part ought to be experimented.

"And, upon the whole, the committee came to these resolutions: 'That it is the opinion of this committee that a reward be settled by Parliament upon such person or persons as shall discover a more certain and practicable method of ascertaining the longitude, than any yet in <262> practice; and the said reward be proportioned to the degree of exactness to which the said method shall reach.'"

This resolution was unanimously adopted by the House.

The bill passed through the House of Commons on the 3d of July,[23] and the House of Lords on the 8th of that month.[24]

This important bill, which, as predicted by British captains and merchants, has in various ways contributed "to the lasting honour of the British nation," contributes in no slight degree to the honour of Newton. Had the evidence of the different witnesses in Parliament been recorded without their names, it would not have required the sagacity of Bernoulli to have discovered the testimony of Newton, — the "lion from his claw." The most distinguished of his successors, with all the lights of a century and a half, could not have stated more correctly the true and the only methods of finding the longitude at sea. The method by chronometers has been brought to the highest perfection, and is doubtless the most correct and infallible. The method "by the place of the moon," has, by means of his own lunar theory, perfected by his successors, become second only to that of the watch."

So early as 1696, a report was spread among the members of the Royal Society, that Newton was occupied with the problem of finding the longitude at sea; but the report having no foundation, he requested Halley to acquaint the members "that he was not about it."[25] Long after this, however, his attention was directed to the <263> invention of an instrument for finding the longitude by the place of the moon; and, in the year 1700, he communicated to Dr. Halley the description of a reflecting sextant, for observing the moon's distance from the fixed stars at sea.[26]

The bill which had been enacted for rewarding the discovery of the longitude, seems to have stimulated the inventive powers of Sir Christopher Wren, then in his eighty-third year. He communicated the results of his study to the Royal Society, as indicated by the following curious document, which I found among the manuscripts of Newton: —

"Sir Christopher Wrenn's Cypher, describing three Instruments proper for discovering the Longitude at Sea, delivered to the Society Novemb. 30, 1714, by Mr. Wren:



We presume that each of these paragraphs of letters is the description of a separate instrument. If it be true that every cypher can be decyphered, these mysterious paragraphs, which their author did not live to expound, may disclose something interesting to science.

After the death of Newton, the problem of finding the longitude at sea became a subject of general interest throughout Europe. Various acts relating to it were passed in England. In 1726, our countryman, John Harrison, produced a timepiece of singular accuracy, and, <264> after many trials, in one of which it gave the longitude within 10′ 45″ of the truth, £10,000, half the reward offered in Queen Anne's Act, was adjudged to him; and the other half promised when an equally good timepiece, upon the same principle, should be made by himself or others. Mr. Kendal, who was appointed by the Board to make such a watch, succeeded so completely, that after it had been round the world with Captain Cook in the years 1772-1775, the second £10,000 was given to Mr. Harrison. In order still farther to encourage inventions for the discovery of the longitude, a new Act was passed in 1774, offering a reward of £5000 for a chronometer or timepiece that would determine the longitude within a degree, or sixty geographical miles; — of £7000 for determining it within two-thirds of a degree, or forty miles; and £10,000 for determining it within half a degree, or thirty miles. The very same rewards were offered for any other method by which the same accuracy was obtained; and a special reward of £5000 was promised to the author of such solar and lunar tables as were sufficiently exact to show the distance of the moon from the sun and stars, within fifteen seconds of a degree, "such tables being constructed entirely upon the principles of gravitation laid down hy Sir Isaac Newton, except with respect to those elements which must necessarily be taken from astronomical observations." In terms of this Act, the widow of Tobias Mayer received £3000 for his lunar tables, and Euler £300 for the theorems on which they were founded.[27]

The Board of Longitude in France, established to promote the same object as the English Board, rewarded Euler for the new tables which he published in 1771, and, during the rest of the eighteenth century, and the <265> first quarter of the nineteenth, these two Boards exerted themselves in the promotion of all those scientific objects which were calculated to improve the instruments and methods for determining the longitude at sea. The French Board, composed of the most distinguished astronomers in France, exists in all its original activity and usefulness; but, as if we had ceased to be a maritime nation, the British Board was abolished in 1828, — the only scientific Board in the kingdom which afforded salaries for scientific men.

Such is the official account of the part which Newton took in promoting this important measure, and a more clear and satisfactory testimony than his was never given before a committee of the House of Commons. Mr. Whiston, however, has left behind him an account of what took place in the committee, which has been interpreted by M. Biot in a way very offensive to the friends of Newton. "As soon as the committee was set," says Whiston,[28] "which was a very large one, Newton, Halley, Clarke, and Cotes appeared, a chair was placed for Sir Isaac near the chairman,[29] and I stood at the back of it. What the rest had to say they delivered by word of mouth, but Sir I. Newton delivered what he had to say in a paper. Upon the reading of this paper, the committee were at a loss, as not well understanding its contents, Sir I. Newton sitting still and saying nothing by way of explication. This gave the chairman an opportunity which it was perceived he wanted, of trying to stop the bill; which he did by declaring his own opinion to be, that 'unless Sir I. Newton would say that the method now proposed was likely to be useful <266> for the discovery of the longitude, he was against making a bill in general for a reward for such a discovery,' as Dr. Clarke had particularly proposed to the committee. Upon this opinion of his, not contradicted by any other member of the committee; and upon Sir Isaac Newton's silence all the while, I saw the whole design was in the utmost danger of miscarrying. I thought it therefore absolutely necessary to speak myself, which I did nearly in these words: — 'Mr. Chairman, the occasion of the puzzle you are now in, is nothing but Sir I. Newton's caution. He knows the usefulness of the present method near the shores, (which are the places of greatest danger.') Whereupon Sir Isaac stood up and said, that 'he thought this bill ought to pass, because of the present method's usefulness near the shores.' Which declaration of his was much the same with what he had said in his own paper, but which was not understood by the committee, and determined them unanimously to agree to such a bill." The effect of Newton's opinion upon the committee must have been highly gratifying to himself and his friends; and when he simply paused in repeating orally what he had so distinctly read from his paper, he little thought that a future biographer would ascribe an interval of silence to "puerility of conduct," to "an inexplicable timidity of mind, and to the consequences of a previous mental aberration."[30]

During the dissensions which prevailed in the ministry <267> before the death of Queen Anne, the Tories were desirous of securing for their friends some of the more valuable offices in the patronage of Government. The Mastership of the Mint was one of those which they thought within their reach, and the scheme of releasing Sir Isaac from the labours of his office, and thus giving him more leisure for the prosecution of his studies, seemed to be one that was likely to meet with general approbation. It was resolved, therefore, to offer him a pension of £2000 on the condition that he resigned the Mastership of the Mint, the salary of which was only about half of that sum; and Dr. Swift was commissioned by Bolingbroke, one of the Secretaries of State, to propose the plan to Mrs. Catherine Barton,[31] the particular friend of Swift, and the favourite niece of Newton. The liberality of the offer might have tempted ordinary functionaries, but it met with a very different reception from Newton, who saw at once the character and object of the proposal. When Mrs. Barton communicated to him the message from Bolingbroke, Sir Isaac replied, "My place is at their service, but I will have no pension."[32]

Although the character and talents of Newton had been <268> appreciated at Court during the life of Prince George of Denmark, yet in the latter years of Queen Anne, the political party to which he belonged had ceased to be in the ascendant. His patron, Lord Halifax, the supporter of every liberal measure in the Upper House, had thus excited the hostility of the Tories, and had rendered himself doubly obnoxious by his attachment to the House of Hanover. When the Act for the naturalization of the Hanoverian family, and the better securing the crown in the Protestant line had passed, Lord Halifax was selected to carry the act and the insignia of the Order of the Garter to the Electoral Prince; and in 1714 he succeeded in procuring a writ to call the Elector of Hanover as Duke of Cambridge to the House of Peers. These proofs of his devotion endeared him to the House of Hanover; and on the death of the Queen on the 1st of August 1714, and the accession of George the First, he was nominated one of the Lords of the Regency in his Majesty's absence. He discharged this trust with such zeal and fidelity, that he was admitted into the most secret counsels of the King, appointed First Lord of the Treasury, created Earl of Halifax, and admitted a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter. From the elevated position to which his friend had now attained, and the ascendency of those opinions which he had never ceased to advocate, Newton naturally became an object of interest at court. His high situation under Government — his European reputation — his spotless character, and, above all, his unaffected piety, attracted the attention of the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Consort of George the Second. This lady, who possessed a highly cultivated mind, derived the greatest pleasure from conversing with Newton and corresponding with Leibnitz. In all her difficulties she re <269> ceived from Sir Isaac that information and assistance which she had from other quarters sought in vain; and she had been often heard to declare, that she was fortunate in living at a time when she could enjoy the conversation of so great a genius.

Though a man of robust health and a sound constitution, the Earl of Halifax did not long survive the honours which had been conferred upon him, and Newton had to mourn the loss of his earliest and best friend. When on a visit at the house of Mynheer Duvenvoord, one of the Dutch ambassadors, he was seized with inflammation in the lungs, of which he died on the 19th May 1715.[33]

This accomplished nobleman, to whom Sir Isaac owed his appointment in the Mint, was distinguished as the patron of literature as well as of science. He was the intimate friend of Addison, Congreve, Prior, Tickell, Steele, and Pope, and as the author of the Battle of the Boyne, the Man of Honour, and the greater part of the "Country Mouse and the City Mouse," he was ranked even by Addison among the poets of the day.[34]

I'm tired with rhyming, and would fain give o'er.

But justice still demands one labour more —

The noble Montague remains unnamed,

For wit, for humour, and for judgment famed.

Like Locke and Bentley, he was very desirous of understanding the Principia>, and he one day asked Sir Isaac if there was no way of making himself master of his discoveries without learning mathematics. Sir Isaac replied that it was impossible, but Mr. Maine having recommended to his Lordship Mr. Machin, a friend of Newton's, and <270> Professor of Astronomy in Gresham College, as a proper person to give him instructions in mathematics, he presented him with fifty guineas to encourage him. The task, however, proved more difficult than either party had expected, and Machin told Mr. Conduitt that, after trying various schemes, they gave it up in despair.[35]

As a frequent visitor at the house of Sir Isaac, Lord Halifax became acquainted with his niece, Mrs. Catherine Barton, a lady of wit, beauty, and accomplishments.[36] She was the daughter of Robert Barton, Esq. of Brigstock, in Northamptonshire, and Hannah Smith, Newton's half-sister; and so great an impression had she made upon Lord Halifax, that in a codicil to his will in 1706, he bequeathed to her all the jewels he should have at the time of his death, and three thousand pounds, "as a small token of the great love[37] and affection he had long had for her." Mrs. Catherine Barton was only in her twenty-seventh year, and, under ordinary circumstances, a marriage might have been expected as the result of so ardent an attachment. On the death, however, of his first wife, the Countess of Manchester, Halifax is said to have resolved to lead a single life, though it has been asserted, on the authority of his rival,[38] that he was disappointed in gaining the affections of a lady of great <271> birth and fortune, to whose hand he had aspired. But however this may be, his attachment to Miss Barton continued unabated, and, at his death in 1715, it was found that, by another codicil, dated February 1, 1712, he had greatly increased the bequest which he had made in 1706. He left to Sir Isaac Newton the sum of one hundred pounds, as "a mark of the great honour and esteem he had for so great a man;" and he "bequeathed to his niece, Mrs. Catherine Barton, the sum of five thousand pounds," with "a grant from the Crown, during her life, of the Rangership and Lodge of Bushy Park, with all the household goods and furniture;" and, to enable her to keep the house and garden in good order, he bequeathed his manor of Apscourt, in Surrey. "These gifts and legacies," he adds, "I leave to her as a token of the sincere love, affection, and esteem I have long had for her person, and as a small recompense for the pleasure and happiness I have had in her conversation." He charges also his executor to "transfer to her an annuity of two hundred pounds per annum, purchased in Sir Isaac Newton's name, and which he (Lord Halifax) held in trust for her."

When the contents of this will became known after the death of Halifax, Miss Barton did not escape the censure of the world, though she was regarded by all who knew her as a woman of strict honour and virtue. During his lordship's life, and when a frequent visitor at the house of Newton, his affection for Miss Barton, and his delight in her society, never once excited the criticism of his contemporaries; and there is not the slightest reason to believe that it exceeded that love and admiration which married men, and men of all ages, ever feel in the presence of physical and intellectual beauty. Halifax was <272> not a libertine, and the very terms of affection in which he accounts for his liberality to Miss Barton are the most satisfactory proof that his love was virtuous and her conduct pure. If there is one hour in man's life more solemn than another, it is that hour when he is preparing for his death.

Venit summa Dies, et ineluctabile fatum,

were the words which Halifax prefixed to the codicil, which evinces his affection and liberality to Miss Barton; and he little thought that the language of the heart, dictated at such an hour, would be regarded as a record of her shame. Nor is it a slight testimony to the purity of his affection for Miss Barton, that he introduces his liberality to her by a legacy to her pious uncle, Sir Isaac Newton, his earliest and best friend, "as a mark of the great honour and esteem he had for so great a man;" and that he records the fact of his holding for her in trust an annuity of two hundred pounds per annum, purchased in Sir Isaac Newton's name.

Although it is stated that Miss Barton did not escape from censure, yet calumny, with her many tongues, does not seem to have left upon record the slightest charge against her character. Flamsteed, who never scrupled to calumniate Newton in language applicable only to the most abandoned of mankind, would have gloated over a charge so destructive of the character of his friend. He mentions, however, merely the fact of Lord Halifax's bequest, and he has limited his malice, if he meant it to be malicious, to the simple act of placing the words excellent conversation in italics.[39]


The only contemporary document which really bears upon this question, is the following passage in an anonymous Life of the Earl of Halifax, published in 1715.[40]

"I am likewise to account," says the author, "for another omission in the course of this history, which is that of the death of Lord Halifax's lady;[41] upon whose decease his Lordship took a resolution of living single thenceforward, and cast his eye upon the widow of one Colonel Barton, and niece to the famous Sir Isaac Newton, to be superintendent of his domestic affairs. But as this lady was young, beautiful, and gay, so those that were given to censure, passed a judgment upon her which she no ways merited, since she was a woman of strict honour and virtue; and though she might be agreeable to his Lordship in every particular, that noble peer's complaisance to her, proceeded wholly from the great esteem he had for her wit and most exquisite understanding,[42] as will appear from what relates to her in his will at the close of these memoirs."[43]

With the exception of the mistake that the lady was the widow of Colonel Barton, we may admit the truth of the preceding passage. We shall therefore adopt it as <274> the foundation of our argument, and we may admit that it was known to Newton and his friends. After the death of Halifax, Miss Barton continued to reside, as she always did, in so far as there is any evidence on the subject, with her uncle Sir Isaac. He gave splendid entertainments at his house in Martin Street, where the most distinguished foreigners were occasionally assembled, and where doubtless the best company in London was to be found. Miss Barton presided at her uncle's table, and by her "excellent conversation," excited the love and affection even of some of her married friends. M. Montmort, a married man and a distinguished mathematician, had heard of her wit and beauty before he had visited England, and after he had met with her as a friend of Sir Isaac's, his admiration knew no bounds. In a letter addressed to Montmort by the celebrated Brook Taylor, another of Newton's friends, Miss Barton had sent her compliments to him, and he is thus led to express in the warmest terms, compared with which those of Halifax are cold, the great admiration with which Miss Barton had inspired him.[44]

Among the other admirers of Miss Barton, we must mention Dean Swift, who frequently visited her, and on one occasion "at her lodgings," that is, we presume, in the house of Sir Isaac Newton, with whom, as Mr. Conduitt distinctly tells us, "no other person ever lived." Thus loved and admired by politicians, wits, and philosophers, she remained in Newton's house till the 24th of August 1717, when she married John Conduitt, Esq.,[45] M.P., of Cranbury in Hampshire, a gentleman of independent circumstances, and much esteemed by Sir Isaac. The result of this marriage was an only daughter, Cathe <275> rine Conduitt, who was born in 1718, and who was married in 1740 to the Honourable John Wallop, afterwards Lord Viscount Lymington. She died in 1750, at the early age of thirty-two, leaving one daughter and four sons, from the eldest of whom the Portsmouth family are descended.

During the century and a half which has passed away since the death of Halifax, no stain has been cast on the memory of Mrs. Conduitt, and the very writer whose ambiguous words have been misinterpreted to her injury, has himself declared that she was a woman of strict honour and virtue, and that the complaisance to her of the noble peer proceeded wholly from the great esteem he had for her wit and most exquisite understanding.[46] On such authority the biographers of Newton, while they recounted with pride the beauty and accomplishments of his niece, could not but feel another interest in one who had been the ornament of his domestic circle, and the solace of his declining years. They did not attempt to conceal the warmth of Halifax's attachment to her, or omit to record the liberality with which it was marked; but they never imagined that the affection breathed in the solemn pages of a will would be viewed as the expression of unhallowed love, and that a bequest to a female friend would be regarded as the wages of iniquity. <276> As every event in Newton's life, and every topic with which his name is associated, possess the deepest interest, it is desirable that those which affect the character of so great a man, should be examined and discussed when it is possible to find materials by which we may explain what is ambiguous, or refute what is false. Viewed in this light, we are disposed to welcome the discussion which has lately been raised by Mr. De Morgan in reference to the nature of the attachment which subsisted between Miss Barton and the Earl of Halifax.[47]

Assuming it as proved, by the single testimony of the biographer of Halifax, that Miss Barton "was received by Montague into his house as superintendent of his domestic affairs," and that she left the house of her uncle Sir Isaac Newton to cohabit with that nobleman, and believing it to be impossible that Newton could be ignorant that his niece was regarded by the world as the mistress of his friend and political patron, Mr. De Morgan "takes it to be established that she was either the wife or the mistress of Halifax;" and on various grounds, which it is unnecessary to repeat, he prefers the alternative of a private marriage. In coming to this conclusion, the most favourable certainly to Newton's reputation, Mr. De Morgan finds it difficult to explain why the marriage was concealed in the lifetime of Halifax. He ascribes it to the inferior station of Miss Barton as the grand-daughter of a country clergyman, which would have given the marriage the character of a mésalliance, from which Halifax would have been weak enough to shrink. In opposition to this estimate of Mrs. Barton's social position, we have to state <277> that the "Bartons of Brigstock possessed estates in Northamptonshire for several hundred years, and were nearly related to the Earl of Rockingham, Lord Griffin, Sir Jeffrey Palmer, and other honourable families in that neighbourhood."[48] But Mr. De Morgan finds it a still greater difficulty, and entirely fails in surmounting it, to explain how there was no record of the marriage, and what could induce Sir Isaac, Mrs. Conduitt, and her husband, to conceal it, after Halifax's death, and thus to leave it as the most probable conclusion, that the niece of the one and the wife of the other had been the mistress, instead of the wife of Halifax. If there was no marriage, some kind friend might have propagated a rumour that there was; but no such rumour was ever heard, and no attempt has ever been made to obtain such a solution of this mysterious connexion. To infer a marriage, when the parties themselves have never acknowledged it, — when no trace of a record can be found, — and when no friend or relation has ever attempted even to make it the subject of conjecture, is to violate every principle of sound reasoning; and we are disposed to think that Mr. De Morgan's respect for the memory of Newton has led him to what he regards as the only conclusion which is compatible with the character of a man so great and pure.

In denying the marriage, we do not admit one of the grounds upon which it has been maintained. We deny that Miss Barton ever lived a single night under the roof of Lord Halifax. His biographer makes no such state <278> ment. The passage which has given rise to the discussion contains three distinct propositions, —

1. That Halifax had resolved never to marry.

2. That he cast his eye upon Miss Barton to be the superintendent of his domestic affairs; and,

3. That she was a woman of strict honour and virtue.

The first of these propositions overturns the theory of a marriage; and the second merely proves a plan or a wish on the part of Halifax that Miss Barton should superintend his household, — a wish, too, which was never expressed amid the gossip of contemporary correspondence, or in the hearing of any witness. It rests, indeed, upon no other evidence than that of the anonymous biographer. Where, then, is the proof, or even its shadow, that Miss Barton occupied such a situation, or was ever once seen seated at Halifax's table? In 1710, Swift visited Miss Barton frequently, and once "at her lodgings." He dined with Halifax on the 28th November, and with Miss Barton on the 30th; and though he mentions this fact to Stella, he never alludes to any connexion whatever between his two friends.[49] But independent of these facts, there is no evidence whatever that Miss Barton ever slept out of her uncle's house; and we are distinctly told by Mr. Conduitt, that "nobody ever lived with Sir Isaac but his wife, who was with him near twenty years, before and after her marriage." It is not known at what time Miss Barton took up her residence with her uncle, or during what periods she may have been absent before and after her marriage, either on visits to her friends in <279> the one case, or when living with her husband in the other;[50] but whatever may be its amount, its addition to the twenty years of her residence with Newton, before and after her marriage, will not allow us to assign any period during which, under Halifax's roof, that love and affection which, previous to 1706, he had long had for her, could have been developed.

Mr. De Morgan lays great stress upon the admitted fact, that the statement in the "Life of Halifax" was "left uncontradicted by herself, (Mrs. Conduitt,) — by her husband, — by her daughter, — by Lord Lymington, her son-in-law, — and by the uncle (Sir Isaac Newton) who had stood to her in the place of a father. It is impossible," he adds, "that Newton could have been ignorant that his niece was living in Montague's House, — enjoyed an annuity[51] <280> bought in his own name, — and was regarded by the world as the mistress of his friend and political patron." Now, the very fact that such respectable parties, so deeply interested in the character of their accomplished relative, contradicted neither the fact, if it was a fact, nor the rumour, if it was a rumour, is a proof that there was neither fact nor rumour to contradict. How could any person contradict the cast of an eye, — the only act ascribed to Halifax by his biographer? How could they contradict the statement made only in 1853, that Miss Barton lived in Montague's House, when no person in their own lifetime ever made such a statement? How could they express their indignation at the charge, that she was the mistress of Halifax, when calumny had never <281> breathed that she was, and when the very biographer, whose words are in every other respect admitted as true, declares that "she was a woman of strict honour and virtue?" However different may have been the state of public morals in the reign of George I., it would require substantial evidence to prove that the Earl of Halifax, the First Minister of the Crown, and a great favourite of the royal family, was (unknown to any contemporary writer) living in open concubinage with Miss Barton, — one of the beauties and toasts of the day,[52] — the friend of Swift and Lady Betty Germain, and the accomplished and favourite niece of Sir Isaac Newton, — himself the religious instructor of the Princess of Wales, — the personal friend of the dignitaries of the Church, — and a man universally esteemed for his piety and virtue.


Dr. Johnson says that it was written in 1700 by Dr. William King, "a man of shallowness;" and Mr. Weld, who has looked into the copy of it in the British Museum, characterizes it as "of so low and ridiculous a nature, that it is surprising the Council should have thought it worth their while to notice it." — History of the Royal Society, vol. i. pp. 352-355.


Mr. Waller was reinstated in place of Dr. Harris at the next election on the 30th November 1710.


The following account of the quarrel I find in an anonymous letter addressed to Sir Isaac Newton, and dated March 28, 1710.


Dr. Harris was the author of a work published in 1697, in defence of Woodward's "Essay towards a Natural History of the Earth." It was entitled, "Remarks on some Late Papers, relating to the Universal Deluge, and to the Natural History of the Earth." — Ward's Lives of the Gresham Professors, p. 286.


Without better evidence than that of a partisan, we cannot believe that these words were in Newton's vocabulary. When he was irritated at the conduct of Flamsteed, he could not command a harsher term than that of Puppy. See p. 239. The letter, however, is well written, and contains many useful and temperate suggestions for improving the Society. The author, too, seems not at all disposed to maintain his incognito, as he expresses a willingness to have a personal interview with Sir Isaac.


Sir Hans Sloane and Dr. Woodward were both of them distinguished men, and great national benefactors. Dr. Woodward was Professor of Physic in Gresham College. He not only collected much valuable information respecting the geological structure of the earth, but so early as 1695, he began to form a collection of fossils, which after arranging and cataloguing it, he bequeathed to the University of Cambridge, of which he was a member, with the sum of £150, "for the maintenance of a lecturer to read there on the subject of the Doctor's Natural History of the Earth," &c. He was born May 1, 1665, and died April 25, 1728. His expulsion from the Council of the Royal Society does not seem to have alienated him from Newton, as in 1714 he dedicated to him his Naturalis Historia Telluris, of which he says, "it is wholly owing to you, it being begun, carried on, and finished at your request." — Fossils of all Kinds, 1728. Letter I.

Sir Hans Sloane, who was of Scotch extraction, was born in Ireland on the 16th April 1660. In the year 1705, he published the first volume of his Natural History of Jamaica, and the second volume in 1725. He wrote also twenty-four Papers for the Phil. Transactions. He was created a Baronet in 1716, and died on the 11th January 1753. On the condition of his family receiving £20,000, he bequeathed his museum to the public, with his library of 50,000 volumes, and 3566 manuscripts. The original cost of his museum was £50,000. Parliament accepted the trust, and these valuable collections form the nucleus of the British Museum. — Weld's History of the Royal Society, vol. i. p. 456.

During the time of the dispute, however, in the Royal Society, Newton is said to have remarked, "that Dr. Woodward might be a good natural philosopher, but that he was not a good moral one."

In consequence of some difference of opinion on medical subjects, Woodward and Dr. Mead fought a duel under the gate of Gresham College. Woodward's foot slipped, and he fell. "Take your life," exclaimed Mead: "Any thing," replied Woodward, "but your physic." An amusing account of this duel, by Dr. Wood <248> ward, will be found in the Weekly Journal of June 20, 1719, and in Nichol's Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, vol. vi. p. 641.

In writing to Abraham Sharp on the 14th July 1710, Flamsteed says, "Sir Isaac Newton has hurt our Royal Society by his partiality for E. Halley and Dr. Sloane, upon a small and inconsiderable occasion; so that they have broke up some few weeks before their time. Dr. Harris has lost all his reputation by actions not fit for me to tell you." — Baily's Flamsteed, p. 276, note.


See vol. i. p. 312.


Dr. Clarke had probably come up to perform some exercises for the degree of D.D. which he took in 1710.


This picture was bequeathed by Bentley to Trinity College.


I find it stated in Conduitt'a MSS., that Halley once dined with Newton at the Mint.


Literary and Historical Memorials of London, 2 vols.: Lond. 1847. Mr. Croker, in his edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, mantions a plan of converting Newton's house into a lecture-room.


See vol. i. pp. 314-319.


A very large number of foreign ambassadors and persons of distinction were chosen Fellows of the Society at this period.


Swift's Works, January 2d and 4th, 1713, vol. xiv. pp. 333, 335. Edit. 1784.


This letter, dated February 25, 1714, and an English version of it, are preserved in the Royal Society, A 55, 56.


This letter, dated May 27, 1714, is published in the Macclesfield Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 420.


Histoire Critique de la Philosophie, par Mr. D. [Deslandes,] 4 vols. 12mo. Amst. 1737. Vol. ii pp. 264, 265.


This letter, dated Petersburg, Aug. 23, 1714, has been preserved. The Prince's signature, as if written with a paralytic hand, is illegible.


Three drafts have been preserved of Newton's letter written in Latin, and dated October 25, 1714.


Baily's Flamsteed, pp. 37, 38.


Ibid. pp. 111, 112.


See vol. i. p. 351.


Journals of the House of Commons, vol. xvii. pp. 641, 671, 677, and 716.


In consequence of this Act, Henry Gully, an Englishman, devoted himself to the improvements of timekeepers. He settled in Paris, made various improvements upon watches, and had for his pupil the celebrated Julien le Roy, to whom, and to his son, M. Berthoud, the art of watchmaking is under great obligations.


Macclesfield Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 419.


See vol. i. p. 239.


See vol. i. pp. 350-352.


Historical Preface to some of the copies of his "Longitude Discovered, Lond. 1738," p. v., dated, as Mr. Edleston conjectures, in 1742. — Correspondence, &c., p. lxxvi.


Mr. Clayton, M.P. for Liverpool.


"Les trois derniers (Halley, Cotes, and Clarke) exprimèrent leur avis verbalement; mais Newton lut le sien, sur un papier écrit qu'il avait apporté, et qui ne fut compris de personne; puis il se rassit, et garda obstinément le silence, quelque instance qu'on lui fit de s'expliquer plus ouvertement. Enfin Whiston voyant que le bill allait être retiré, prit sur lui de dire que si M. Newton ne voulait pas s'expliquer davantage, c'était par crainte de se compromettre; mais qu'au fond, il trouvait le projet utile: Alors M. Newton répéta presque mot à mot ce qu'avait dit Whiston, et le projet du bill fut accepté. Cette conduite presque puérile, dans une circonstance si solennelle pourrait prêter aux plus étranges conséquences, surtout si on la <267> rapporte au fatal accident que Newton aurait éprouvé en 1695." Biot, Biog. Univ. Art. Newton, pp. 192, 193.

Mr. Edleston justly remarks, that "this is not a model of accurate condensation," and he leaves it to the reader, who will, of course, make the requisite allowance for the forwardness and vanity of the reporter, to judge whether M. Biot's term "presque puérile" be a proper epithet to apply lo the part that Newton took on the occasion." — Correspondence, &c., p. lxxvi., note 167.

A more correct view of Newton's conduct was taken by my distinguished friend the late Professor Rigaud. "What kind of persons," he says, "the committee must have consisted of, that such a plain statement as Newton's should not have been understood by any one of them, I cannot tell. The whole story is evidently tinctured by Whiston's spleen and disappointment." — MS. letter, Oct. 21, 1830. M. Biot is mistaken in saying that the act of 1714 is still in force. It was repealed, along with various Longitude Acts, in 1774.


The name Mrs. was then given to unmarried women.


Conduitt's MSS.


Born April 16, 1661.


The Poetical Works of the late Right Hon. CHARLES EARL OF HALIFAX. London, 1716, 2d edit.


Conduitt's MSS.


Born 1679, married August 26, 1717, died 20th January 1739.


The words love and affection had not, in Halifax's day, the same meaning which they have now. Swift, for example, writes to Stella that he "loves Mrs. Barton better than any one here." Speaking of the Duke of Argyle, he says, "I love that Duke mightily. Lady Mountjoy is a little body I love very well." Speaking of the pictures of Lady Orkney, Lord Bolingbroke, and Lady Masham, he says, "I shall have the pictures of those I really love here." In like manner, Pope writes to H. Cromwell, "I should be glad to tell all the world that I have an extreme affection and esteem for you."


The Earl of Shaftesbury. See his Letters to Robert Molesworth, Esq. Edit. 1750, lett. iii. pp. 70-72.


Baily's Flamsteed, Letter to Sharp, July 9, 1715. He adds, "Sir I. Newton loses his support in him (Halifax,) and having been in with Lord Oxford, Bolingbroke, and Dr. Arbuthnot, is not now looked upon as he was formerly," p. 314. See also pp. 73 and 317, where the great intimacy of Newton and Halifax is mentioned.


This Life of Halifax, written by some literary hack of the disreputable house of Curll and Co., cannot be regarded as a work of any authority upon the statements of which we can safely rely. The anonymous author obviously received no information from the family of Halifax, and therefore any fact which he did not derive from public documents, must be considered as resting upon vulgar rumour. The author himself says in his Dedication to George Earl of Halifax, that "he is sensible that he has been guilty of many omissions through want of intelligence from persons who might have obliged him with proper information." In a copy of the first edition of the Life of Halifax, in the University Library of Cambridge, the author is said to be William Pittis.


The Countess Dowager of Manchester, whom Charles Montague married "some time before the Revolution in 1688." — Life of Halifax, p. 3.


Oldisworth, in "The British Court" says —

"Give Cowper wit, still Barton will have sense."

[43] Life of Halifax, pp. 195, 196, 2d edit. Lond. 1716.

[44] See APPENDIX, No. XIX.

[45] Born 1688; died May 20, 1737, æt. 49.


The sneer of Voltaire in ascribing Newton's promotion to the Mint to the beauty of his niece, scarcely deserves our notice. Miss Barton was only sixteen when he received the appointment, and Montague could not then have seen her. Voltaire, however, makes no insinuation against the character of Miss Barton. "J'avais cru, dans ma jeunesse," says he, "que Newton avait fait sa fortune par son extrême mérite. Je m'étais imaginé que la cour, et la ville de Londres l'avait nommé par acclamation grand maître des monnaies du royaume. Point du tout. Isaac Newton avait une nièce assez aimable nommé Madame Conduitt, elle plut beaucoup au grand Trésorier Halifax. Le calcul infinitésimal et le gravitation ne lui auraient servi de rien sans une jolie nièce." — Dict. Philos. tom. iv. p. 61.


This discussion will be found under the title of Lord Halifax and Mrs. Catherine Barton, in Notes and Queries, No. 210, November 5, 1853, pp. 429, 433, in an elaborate article marked by the usual acuteness of that distinguished writer.


Conduitt's MSS. I find it stated in the handwriting of Mrs. Catherine Barton, upon the back of a drawing of the arms of the Swinfords of Stamford, that "the Hartons were descended from the Swinfords," from Catherine Swinford, the wife of Sir Hugh Swinford, who became the mistress of John of Gaunt.


Swift's great admiration of Miss Barton, notwithstanding her Whig politics', is no slight proof of the purity of her social position. I have placed in APPENDIX, No. XX, a letter from Mrs. Conduitt to himself, and all the passages in which she and Halifax are mentioned in his journal to Stella.


I find letters addressed to Mr. Conduitt at Cranbury, his country house in Hampshire, where it is probable he and his family frequently resided, when he was not attending his duty in the House of Commons. During Newton's illness in 1726, Dr. Mead addressed several letters to him "at his house near Winchester." Miss Barton, as we have already seen, (p. 213), was boarded in Oxfordshire, where she had an attack of the small-pox, in August 1700. There is no evidence that she lived with Newton before this date, and we have not been able to determine at what time she took up her residence under his roof. If we suppose it to have been in 1701, we obtain sixteen years as the period of her residence in Newton's house before her marriage, and four years for her residence with him after her marriage in 1717 — the other six years having been spent with her husband.


Mr. De Morgan says, that Halifax bought this annuity for Miss Barton in Newton's name; but this is a conjecture, and not a fact; and we consider it quite certain, from a fair interpretation of the words, that Newton purchased this annuity, and, being nearly twenty years older than Halifax, made him the trustee. He is simply the trustee, and not the granter of the annuity. Had he granted the annuity, he would have mentioned it as one of the "gifts and legacies" which he left her. An annuity purchased in Sir Isaac Newton's name can mean nothing else than an annuity purchased by Sir Isaac Newton. I find among Newton's papers a scroll of the beginning of the act of transference from the executor, George Lord Halifax, in which the date of the trust is stated to be October 26, 1706. Mr. De Morgan remarks, that if "the annuity had been bought by Newton, Conduitt would haye mentioned it in his list of the benefactions which Newton's relatives received from him." But the annuity was not a benefaction like those contained in Conduitt's list. It was virtually a debt due to his favourite niece whom he had educated, and <280> who had for twenty years kept his house; and if she had not received it from Sir Isaac, his conduct would have been very unjust, as, owing to his not having made a will, she got only the eighth part of his personal estate along with his four nephews and nieces. Mr. De Morgan makes other statements which it is necessary to examine. After mentioning the important fact, that though "Swift writes to Stella of every kind of small talk, he never mentions Halifax and Miss Barton together, — never makes the slightest allusion to either in connexion with the other, though in one and the same letter he minutes his having dined with Halifax on the 28th, and with Miss Barton on the 30th, (September 1710)," he adds, "there must have been intentional suppression in this." Certainly, if Swift knew or believed that Miss Barton lived with Halifax; but the true inference is, that she not only did not live with him, but that it was never even reported that she did. Mr. De Morgan, however, adds, "All the world knew that there was some liaison between the two." On the contrary, we maintain that not one person in the world knew this, or could know it, in 1710. There is not a single fact to prove that the codicil of 1706 was known to any individual. Mr. De Morgan goes on to say, as if in proof of "intentional suppression," for which we can see no motive, that when Swift (November 20, 1711) records his having been "teased with Whiggish discourse" by Miss Barton, "he does not even drop a sarcasm about her politics having been learnt from Halifax." Why make Miss Barton the political pupil of Halifax, seeing that her own uncle, Sir Isaac Newton, with whom she had spent the greater part of her life, and from beneath whose roof she never strayed, was one of the most decided Whigs of the day? This Whig conversation took place in the house of Lady Betty Germain, from which "it appears," as Mr. De Morgan has justly observed, "that she (Miss Barton) was regarded as a respectable woman," — a fact of which there are abundant indications.


"In a poem called the Toasters, where all the distinguished beauties at that time are celebrated in distinct epigrams, these two appear in honour of Miss Barton: —

Stampt with her reigning charms this brittle glass

Will safely through the realms of Bacchus pass;

Full fraught with beauty, will new flames impart,

And mount her shining image in the heart.

Another —

Beauty and Wit strive each in vain,

To vanquish Bacchus and his train;

But Barton, with successful charms,

From both their quivers drew her arms,

The roving god his sway resigns,

And cheerfully submits his vines."

Art. MONTAGUE, Biographia Britannica, vol. v. p. 3156, note.

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Professor Rob Iliffe
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Scott Mandelbrote,
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