of a college, prevented their marriage. Newton's esteem for her continued unabated during his life. He paid her a regular visit whenever he went to Woolsthorpe, and he liberally relieved her from little pecuniary embarrassments which seem to have occasionally beset her family.

At the death of the Rev. Mr. Smith in 1656, his widow, Sir Isaac's mother, left the rectory of North Witham, and, accompanied with her three children, Mary, Benjamin, and Hannah Smith, took up her residence at Woolsthorpe, which Mr. Smith had rebuilt. At this time Newton had reached his fifteenth year, and had acquired all the learning which a provincial school could supply. It does not appear that he had thought of following any particular profession, and it is probable that his mother intended to bring him up as a farmer and grazier, 1 and like his ancestors to take charge of her little property. He was therefore recalled from the school at Grantham, and entered upon the new and not very welcome duties of tilling the ground and disposing of its produce. He was thus frequently sent to Grantham on Saturday the marketday, in order to dispose of grain and other kinds of agricultural produce, and purchase articles of a domestic nature which the family required. On these occasions he was accompanied by an old and trustworthy manservant, till he acquired sufficient experience to do business by himself. The inn which they frequented was the Saracen’s Head in Westgate, but no sooner had they put up their horses than Isaac deserted his commercial duties, entrusted his marketings to the management of his rural Mentor, and went in search of knowledge to his former haunt in Mr. Clark's garret, where a parcel of old books

1 Mrs. Hutton mentioneıl 10 Mr. ('onduit that this was the profession to which Newton was to be brought up.

afforded an interesting occupation of his time till the hour arrived when it was necessary to return. When the luxuries in the garret had lost their novelty, our young philosopher thought it a waste of time to go so far as Grantham and do nothing ; he deserted his duties, therefore, at an earlier stage, and entrenched himself under a hedge on the wayside between Woolsthorpe and Grantham, devouring some favourite author till his companion roused him on his return. With such tastes and habits, it was not to be expected that the more urgent affairs of the farm would prosper under his management. When his mother ordered him into the fields to look after the sheep, or to watch the cattle when they were treading down the crops, he was equally negligent of the obligations which were imposed upon him. The sheep went astray, and the cattle enjoyed themselves among the growing corn, while he was perched under a tree with a book in his hands, or shaping wooden models with his knife, or luxuriating over the movements of an undershot water-wheel whirling the glittering spray from its floatboards, or arresting the passing traveller by its aqueous pulsations.

It was about this time, also, that he seems to have paid some attention to the subject of the resistance of fluids, to which his experiments with water-wheels would naturally lead him. Mr. Conduit," apparently on the authority of Mrs. Vincent, informs us that even when he was occupied with his paper-kites, he was endeavouring to find out the proper form of a body which would experience the least resistance when moving in a fluid. Sir Isaac himself told Mr. Conduit that one of the earliest scientific experiments which he made was in 1658, on the day of

MISS. of Conduit among the family papers.


the great storm when Cromwell died, and when he himself had just entered into his sixteenth year. In order to determine the force of the gale he jumped first in the direction in which the wind blew, and then in opposition to the wind; and after measuring the length of the leap in both directions, and comparing it with the length to which he could jump in a perfectly calm day, he was enabled to compute the force of the storm. Sir Isaac added, that when his companions seemed surprised at his saying that any particular wind was a foot stronger than any he had known before, he carried them to the place where he had made the experiment, and shewed them the measure and marks of his several leaps. This mode of jumping to a conclusion, or reaching it per saltum, was not the one which our philosopher afterwards used. Had he, like Coulomb, employed a shred of paper instead of his own person, and observed the time that it took to fly through a given distance, he would have obtained a better substitute for an anemometer.

Such were the occupations of Newton when his mother entrusted to him the management of her farm. Experience soon convinced her that he was not destined to be a cultivator of the soil ; and as his love of study and dislike of every other occupation increased with his years, she resolved to give him all the advantages which education could bestow. He was accordingly sent back to the school at Grantham, where he remained for nine months in active preparation for his academical studies. His uncle, the Rev. W. Ayscough, who was rector of Burton Coggles, about three miles east of Woolsthorpe, having one day discovered Newton under a hedge, occupied in the solution of a mathematical problem, confirmed Mrs. Smith in the resolution which she had taken: and as he had

[ocr errors]

himself studied at Trinity College, it was arranged that Newton should follow his example, and proceed to Cambridge at the approaching term.

We have not been able to discover the exact year in which Newton was sent back to school, or the nature of the studies by which he was to be prepared for the University. It is stated by Conduit that he went to Cambridge in 1660; but the records of the University place it beyond a doubt that he was not admitted there till 1661, so that he had a year more than has been supposed to fit him for college. This period of preparation must have extended from 1658 to 1661, from the 16th to the 19th year of his age, and we accordingly find in one of his memorandum books, a small volume about 31 inches square, and dated March 19, 1659,1 that he was engaged

1 Mr. Conduit, in his MSS. notes, mentions two of these memorandum books in the following manner :- “I find in a paper book of his to which he has put his name, and 1659,–Rules for drawing and making colours ;" and in another of the same year, “ Prosodia written out." The first of these books I did not find among the family papers; but the second is the one referred to in the text. The following is its title:

Quisquis in hunc librum

Teneros conjecit ocellos,
Nomen subscriptum perle-

gat ipse nomen.
Isaac Newton,

Martii 19, 1659. On the second page is the title Utilissimum Prosodice Supplementum, which terminates on the 33d page with the date March 26, and is followed by an Appendix of three pages.

At the end of the bock there is a list of his expenses, entitled Impensa propria, occupying fourteen pages. On the 4th page the expenses are summed up

thus : Totum,

£3 5 6 Habui,

4 0 0

[ocr errors]


0 14 6
On the 5th page there are fourteen loans of money, extended thus :

Lent Agatha, £0 11 1
Lent Gooch,

1 0 0 and he then adds at the bottom of the page, lent out 13 shillings more than £4. VOL. I.


in the study of prosody. This little volume contains various entries of his expenses during the first year that he was at college, but nothing, excepting the purchase of a dial, to indicate that he was engaged in physical or mathematical studies.

The day in which he quitted Grantham was one of much interest not only to himself but to his school-fellows and his venerable teacher. Mr. Conduiti has recorded it as a tradition in Grantham, that on that day the good old man, with the pride of a father, placed his favourite pupil in the most conspicuous part of the school, and having, with tears in his eyes, made a speech in praise of his character and talents, held him up to the scholars as a proper object of their love and imitation. We have not heard that the schoolmaster of Grantham lived long enough to feel a just pride in the transcendent reputation of his pupil ; but many of the youth to whom his affectionate counsel was addressed, may have had frequent opportunities of glorying in having been the school-fellows of Sir Isaac Newton.

Among the entries are Chessemen and dial,

£0 1 4 Effigies amoris,

0 1 0 Do.

0 0 10 and on the last page are entered seven loans, amounting to £3, 2s. 6d. There is likewise an entry of “Income from a glasse and other things to my chamber-fellow, £0 0 9." Another page is entitled



Sherbet and reaskes.
China ale.



Bottled beere.



MSS. of Conduit among the family papers.

« ForrigeFortsett »