Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's life/Apology and Notes
The following Memoirs of this great man by some may be accounted trivial. imperfect they are own'd to be, & drawn up with a purpose only of assisting, toward a compleat life. The scituation I was then in, gave me no further opportunity of inquiry, than what I have here done. & by cooler minds it is thought not wholly unworthy of being communicated to the publick.
whoever writes a life, never fails to give what they can learn of the partys family, education, and the junior part of it. Such is chiefly the present work. but in that especially of so great a man, every reader burns with a desire of knowing somewhat of the primordia, the preparation and presages of his extraordinary abilitys; of the height to which he carryed; and the foundation on which he built, a new philosophy.
I succeeded so far as to gather these materials in the critical time when they were only to be had. the candid reader will accept of this Xtestimony of my respect to the memory of this incomparable person.
I have waited for this life to be done, as it deserves; & have not been overhasty, in printing, what was wrote 27 years ago.
there is this use in it likewise. for whilst we see how a great genius will early break out, & dawn, any obstacle; will show in miniature, what its ripening talents will adorn: so to a less pregnant one, such objects may be presented, & such measures taken, as will insensibly lead them to very considerable heights; when done with proper art, & judgment; by those that have the care of the education of youth. human like a plant must have the vital principle in its self: but it requires watering & proper culture to bring it to its destin'd perfection. So a botanist that has †got a rare flower or shrub, views with pleasure & attention its gradual advances in growth, & how it unfolds its beautiful foliages, & the cases of its flowers, till at length they arrive at the full blaze of their perfect state. I have need enough of an apology, who dare to take in hand the present subject. biography is a thing I have no claim to, and has only been well executed by the masterly pen of a Plutarch. a candid reader will make great allowances in the case; in confidence of I undertook it. nor shall I easily be excusd from a share of vanity, where I have so often brought my self upon the carpet. but when tis consider'd; it will be found very necessary, to an intelligent reader. I think I need say no more in justification of it, than that what I say is strictly true Θas far as my memory will serve me & as none of my countrymen have hitherto thought fit to give this important life to the publick, I flatter my self that what I have here done, tho' it cannot do justice to the subject, yet will give us a satisfaction in many particulars worth knowing; by no means to be thrown into oblivion. & the very name of Newton is able to wipe out all faults; and indeed that was the sole incentive, that made me think of publishing it. and in regard to him, it is judgd by some friends of mine especially of my native county, a debt due to the publick, as well as to his memory. that part of these papers which relates to his younger days, is not now to be recoverd. & tho' it must be accounted no otherwise than puerile: yet there is somewhat therein as much above the common level, as he himself was, in his more advanced years.
I have endevor'd to discharge somewhat of the debt, and it is all, that in my scituation, was in my power to do. & my scituation only cd enable me to do the most valuable part of what is here done.
for a professed account of his works I refer the learned Xto Mr. Maclaurin & Dr. Pemberton. What I have to say on his life is divided into 3 parts. I. What I knew of him personally, whilst I resided in London, in the flourishing part of my life.II. What I gatherd of his family & education at Grantham, after I went to live there.
III. Of his character.
a good part of what I write is from matters of my own knowledg; nor can I well seperate my self from it without writing absurdly. Nor need I be asham'd to own the little degree of friendship, he honor'd me withal. tis no mean satisfaction to me that I pass'd the most flourishing part of my life in an age, when there were a number of great men coeval with Sr. Isaac Newton, more than are mention'd in these memoirs, with most of whom I was well acquainted: men of great eminence & station, in all the literary societys then among us. If matters are now somewhat changed, tis owing to the natural revolutions incident to mundane affairs. men & sciences have their seasone, thir rise, thir height, and thir declension. nor is the best of things, religion excluded from this predicament. nought remains immutable but the sovereign author of the whole.