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REVIEW OF BOOKS.
Collections for the History of the Town and Soke of Grant
ham; containing authentic Memoirs of Sir Isaac Necoton, now first published, from the original MSS. in the Possession of the Earl of Portsmouth. By Edmund Turnor, F.R.S. F.A.S. 410. 11. 85. Miller.
As a topographical work this volume has many claims to praise, the ingenious author having availed himself of every authority, written, oral, and traditionary, to make it in all respects complete ; but the book is chiefly valuable on account of the authentic particulars it records of the life of our illustrious countryman, Sir Isaac Newton, of whose private history and conduct so little has hitherto been known. The valuable MSS. which have afforded these memoranda came into the possession of the Earl of Portsmouth from his lordship’s grandmother, Cathe. rine Viscountess Lymington, daughter and sole heiress of John Conduitt, Esq. by Catherine Barton, niece of Sir Isaac Newton. This lady, educated at Sir Isaac's expense, and who lived with him near twenty years, before and after her marriage with Mr. Conduitt, was celebrated for her wit and beauty; and was much noticed for her engaging manners by the Earl of Halifax, who made her a considerable bequest at his death.
It is curious to observe from what trifling accidents the most important occurrences sometimes arise ; but for the following rather ludicrous circumstance, it is not improbable that Newton might have remained a dunce all his life, and the world have lost its most enlightened philosopher.
os Sir Isaac used to relate that he was very negligent at school, and very low in it, till the boy above him gave him a kick in the belly, which put him to a great deal of pain. Not content with having thrashed his adversary, Sir Isaac could not rest till he had got before him in the school, and from that time he continued rising till he was the head-boy."
As every thing connected with the name of this won.
derful man must be interesting, we offer no apology to our readers for extracting the following information :
“ Sir Isaac lived in London ever since the year 1696, when he was made Warden of the Mint; nobody ever lived with him but my wife, who was with him near twenty years, before and after her marriage. He always lived in a very handsome generous manner, though without ostentation or vanity; always hospitable, and, upon proper occasions, gave splendid entertainments. He was generous and charitable without bounds; he used to say, that they who gave away nothing till they died, never gave, which, perhaps, was one reason why he did not make a will. I believe no inau of his circumstances ever gave away so much during his lifetime in alms, in encouraging ingenuity and learning, and to his relations, nor upon all occasions shewed a greater contempt of his own money, or a more scrupulous frugality of that which belonged to the public, or to any society he was entrusted for, He refused pensions and additional employments that were offered him, and was highly honoured and respected in all reigns, and under all administrations, even by those he opposed; for in every station he shewed an inflexible attachment to the cause of liberty, and our present happy establishment. .
“ Notwithstanding the extraordinary honours that were paid him, he had so humble an opinion of him. self, that he had no relish of the applause which was so deservedly paid him; and he was so little vain and depirous of glory from any of his works, that he, as it is well known, would have let others run away with the glory of those inventions, which have done so much ho. nour to human nature, if his friends and countrymen had not been more jealous than he of his and their glory. He was exceedingly courteous and affable, even to the lowest, and never despised any man for want of capacity, but always expressed freely his resentment against any immorality or impiety. He not only shewed a great and constant regard to religion in general, as well by an exemplary course of life as in all his writings, but was also a firm believer of revealed religion, which appears by the many papers he has left on that subject; but his notion of the Christian religion was not founded on a narrow bottom; nor his charity and morality so scanty, as to shew a coldness to those who thought otherwise than he did, in matters indifferent ; much less to
admit of persecution, of which he always expressed the strongest abhorrence and detestation. He had such a meekness and sweetness of temper, that a melancholy story would often draw tears from him, and he was exceedingly shocked at any act of cruelty to man or beast: mercy to both being the topic he loved to dwell upon. An innate modesty and simplicity shewed itself in all his actions and expressions. His whole life was one continued series of labour, patience, charity, generosity, temperance, piety, goodness, and all other virtues, without a mixture of any vice whatsoever.”
Of Sir Isaac's amusements while a lad, the following relation from a letter by Dr. Stukeley, now first publish ed in a complete state, presents a minute and very in. teresting picture :
• A new wind-inill was set up near Grantham, in the way to Gunnerby, which is now demolished, this country chiefly using water-mills. Our lad's imitating spirit was soon excited, and by frequently prying into the fabric of it, as they were making it, he became master enough to make a very perfect model thereof, and it was said to be as clean and curious a piece of workmanship as the origipal, This sometimes he would set upon the housetop, where he lodged, and, clothing it with sail-cloth, the wind would readily turn it; but what was most extraordinary in its composition was, that he put a mouse into it, which he called the miller, and that the mouse made the mill turn round when he pleased; and he wauld joke too upon the miller eating the corn that was put in. Some say that he tied a string to the mouse's tail, which was put into a wheel, like that of turnspit dogs, so that pulling the string made the mouse go forward by way of resistance, and this turned the mill. Others suppose there was some coru placed above the wheel; this the inouse endeavouring to get to, made it turn. Moreover Sir Isaac's water-clock is much talked of. This he inade out of a box he begged of Mr. Clark's (his landlord) wife's brother. As described to me, it resembled pretty much our common clocks and clock-cases, but less; for it was not above four feet in height, and of a proportionable breadth. There was a dial-plate at top, with figures of the hours. The index was turned by a piece of wood, which either fell or rose by water dropping. This stood in the room where he lay, and he took care every morning to suppy it with its proper quantity of water; and the family upon occasion would go to see what was the hour by it. It was left in the house long after he went away to the university. .“ These fancies sometimes engrossed so much of his thoughts, that he was apt to neglect his book, and dull boys were now and then put over him in form. But this made him redouble his pains to overtake them, and such was his capacity that he could soon do it, and outstrip them when he pleased ; and it was taken notice of by his master. Still nothing could induce him to lay by his mechanical experiments : but all holidays, and what time the boys had allowed to play, he spent entirely in knocking and hammering in his lodging-room, pursuing that strong bent of his inclination not only in things serious, but ludicrous too, and what would please his school-fellows, as well as himself; yet it was in order to bring them off from trifling sports, and teach them, as we may call it, to play philosophically, and in which he might willingly bear a part ; and he was particularly ingenious at inverting diversions for them above the vulgar kind, as, for instance, in making paper kites, which he first introduced here. He took pains, they say, in finding out their proportions and figures, and whereabouts the strings should be fastened to the greatest advantage, and in how many places. Likewise he first made lanteros of paper crimpled, which he used to go to school by, in winter mornings, with a candle, and tied them to the tails of the kites in a dark night, which at first affrighted the country people exceedingly, thinking they were comets. It is thought that he first invented this method; I cannot tell how true. They tell us too how diligent he was in observing the motion of the sun, especially in the yard of the house where he lived, against the walls and roofs, wherein he would drive pegs, to mark the hours and half-hours made by the shade * which by degrees, from some years observations, he made very exact, and any body knew what o'clock it was by Isaac's dial, as they ordinarily called it; thus in his youngest years did that immense genius discover his sublime imagination, that since has filled, or rather comprehended, the world.
66 Thelad was not only very expert with his mechanical tools, but he was equally so with his pen. For he busied himself very much in drawing, which I suppose he learnt from his own inclination, and observation of nature. By inquiry, I was informed, that one old Barley (as he was called) was his writing master, who lived where now is the Millstone alehouse, in Castle-street; but they don't remember that he (Barley) had any nack in drawing. However, by this means Sir Isaac furnished his whole room with pictures of his own making, which probably he copied froin prints, as well as from life. They mention several of the king's heads, Dr. Donne, and likewise his Master Stokes. Under the picture of King Charles I. he wrote these verses, which I had from Mrs. Vincent by memory, who fancies he made them; if that be true, it is most probable he designed the print too, which is common to this day:- .
“ A secret art my soul requires to try,
Is full of bliss and of eternity. “ These pictures he made frames to himself, and coloured them over in a workman-like manner.
" Mrs. Vincent is a widow gentlewoman living here, aged 82. Her maiden name was Storey, sister to Dr. Storey, a physician of Buckminster, near Colsterworth. Her mother, who was a handsome woman, was second wife to Mr. Clark, the apothecary where Sir Isaac lodged; so that she lived with him in the same house all the time of his being at Grantham, which was about seven years. Her mother and Sir Isaac's mother were intimately acquainted, which was the reason of his lodging at Mr. Clark's. She gave me much of the foregoing account. She says Sir Isaac was always a sober, silent, thinking lad, and was never known scarce to play with the boys abroad at their silly amusements; but would rather choose to be at home, even among the girls, and would frequently make little tables, cupboards, and other utensils for her and her playfellows, to set their babies and trinkets on. She mentions likewise a cart he