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several important documents, I was enabled to collect many valuable materials unknown to preceding biographers.
After the death of Sir Isaac, his nephew, Mr. Conduitt, drew up a memorial, containing a sketch of his life, for the use of Fontenelle, the Secretary to the Academy of Sciences in Paris, whose duty it was to write his Eloge, as one of the eight Associates of the Academy. This memorial was published by Edmund Turnor, Esq., in his “ Collections for the History of the Town and Soke of Grantham," and was supposed to contain all the information that Mr. Conduitt could collect from persons then alive, and from other sources, respecting Sir Isaac's life. This, however, was a mistake. After the publication of Fontenelle's Eloge, Mr. Conduitt resolved to draw up a Life of his illustrious relative, and, with this view, he wrote the following letter, requesting the assistance of Sir Isaac's personal friends :
" 6th February, 1727. “ SIR,—I have taken the liberty to trouble you with some short hints of that part of our honoured friend, Sir I. Newton's life, which I must beg the favour of you to undertake, there being nobody, without dispute, so well qualified to do it as yourself. I send you, at the same time, Fontenelle's Eloge, wherein you will find a very imperfect attempt of the same kind; but I fear he had neither abilities nor inclination to do justice to that great man, who had eclipsed the glory of their hero, Descartes. As Sir I. Newton was a national man, I think every one ought to contribute to a work intended to do him justice, particularly those who had so great a share in his esteem as you had, and as I pretend to nothing more than to compile it, I shall acquaint the public in the Preface, to whom they are indebted for each particular part of it.
1 This letter is docqueted by Conduitt, “ Letter sent by me concerning Sir I. N.'s Inventions."
“I am persuaded, that the hints I have sent you are very imperfect, and that your own genius will suggest to you many others much more proper and significant, and I beg of you to put down every thing that occurs to your thoughts, and you think fit to be inserted in such a work.
“ I conjure you not to put off what I take the liberty to recommend to you. As on one hand the complying with my request will be a mark of your gratitude to your old friend, and an eternal obligation on me, so your delaying it will be the most mortifying disappointment to
“ JOHN CONDUITT.”1
1 I have not succeeded in ascertaining to whom this letter was addressed. It was probably a circular sent to more than one person. I have found a letter from John Craig, and a paper by De Moivre, which have the appearance of being answers to it, but the dates of both are earlier than that of Conduitt's letter. In a letter dated April 16, 1729, Conduitt made a similar application to Professor Machin.
Although Mr. Conduitt had at this time resolved to compile a Life of Sir Isaac, and had obtained much information from Dr. Stukely, Mr. Wickins, and Dr. Humphrey Newton of Grantham, yet he seems to have so far relinquished his design, that in June 1729, nearly eighteen months after the date of his letter, he intimates to a friend that “he has some thoughts of writing the Life of Sir Isaae Newton himself." That he made the attempt, appears from an indigested mass of manuscript which he has left behind him, and which does not lead us to regret much that he abandoned his design. The materials, however, which he obtained from Mrs. Conduitt, and from the friends of Newton then alive, are of great value ; and, in so far as Mr. H. A. Fellowes and I could make an abstract of these and other manuscripts during a week's visit at Hurtsbourne Park, I have availed myself of them in composing the first volume of this work, which was printed before the papers themselves came into my hands.
Before I began the second volume, which contains the history of the Fluxionary controversy, and the Life of Newton subsequent to the publication of the first edition of the Principia, I had the good fortune to obtain from the Earl of Portsmouth, through the kindness of Lord Brougham, the collection of manuscripts and correspondence which the late Mr. H. A. Fellowes had examined and arranged as peculiarly fitted to throw light on the Life and Discoveries of Sir Isaac. In these manuscripts I found much new information respecting the history of the Principia, which, though it might have been more appropriately placed in the first volume, I have introduced into those chapters of the second which relate to the period when the other editions of the Principia were published.
1 In a letter on the subject of a large “ monumental picture to Newton's memory,” for Conduitt himself. This letter is docqueted, “ Sent to Westgarth," who seems to have been then in Italy.
In the different controversies in which Newton's discoveries involved him, his moral character had never been the subject of suspicion. In Hooke, he found a jealous but an honest rival, who, though he claimed discoveries which substantially belonged to Newton, never cast a reproach upon his name ; and amid all the bitterness of the Fluxionary controversy, Leibnitz and Bernoulli, and their anonymous auxiliaries, never hesitated to acknowledge the purity of Newton's motives, and the scrupulous correctness of his conduct. It was reserved for two English astronomers, the one a contemporary and the other a disciple, to misrepresent and calumniate their illustrious countryman.
In 1835 the scientific world was startled by the publication of Baily's Life of Flamsteed, a huge volume, deeply affecting the character of Newton, and, strange to say, printed, and circulated throughout the world, at the expense of the Board of Admiralty. The friends of the great philosopher were thus summoned to a painful controversy, which, had it been raised in his lifetime, would have been summarily extinguished; but a century and a quarter had elapsed before the slumbering calumnies revived, and it was hardly to be expected that the means of defence would have enjoyed the same vitality. Under these circumstances Mr. Fellowes and I anxiously searched, but in vain, for the letters of Flamsteed to Newton, and other relative documents which were necessary for his defence. In this difficulty,
In this difficulty, some of the admirers of Newton, among whom I must mention my friend Mr. Robert Brown, the distinguished President of the Linnean Society, sent me some important facts ; but valuable as they were, they were not sufficient to refute the calumnies of the Astronomer-Royal. From this embarrassment, however, I have been relieved by the receipt of all Flamsteed's letters and other important papers which Newton had carefully preserved, and which Mr. Fellowes had discovered and set aside for my use.
With these documents I trust I have been able, though at a greater length than I could have wished, to defend the illustrious subject of this work against a system of calumny and misrepresentation unexampled in the history of science.
When I published my Life of Newton in 1831, I had not seen his correspondence with Mr. Cotes and other mathematicians in the Library of Trinity College. Mr. Halliwell, however, who had made copious extracts from these manuscripts, kindly put them into my hands ; but the subsequent publication of the correspondence by Mr.