Page images

excursions, presaged what might be expected from his riper age, when he had acquired more experience.

The curious in these studies were not disappointed, for with a sagacity peculiar to his great genius, with unwearied pains and industry, and some years spent in actual surveys, he investigated and published an account of those stupendous works of the remotest antiquity, Stonehenge and Abury, in 1743, and hath given the most probable and rational account of their origin and use, ascertaining also their dimensions with the greatest accuracy.

So great was his proficiency in Druidical History, that his familiar friends used to call him, "the arch-druid of this age." His works abound with particulars that shew his knowledge of this celebrated British priesthood.

In his "Carausius" he has shewed much learning and ingenuity in settling the principal events of that emperor's government in Britain.

To his interest and application we are indebted for recovering from obscurity Richard of Cirencester's History of Roman Britain, entitled, "Britannicarum Gentium, &c. Hauniæ, 1757." The same year, for the benefit of the English reader, with his usual skill and erudition, he published an illustration of these choice remains of antiquity, with a map, and the manner how they came to be dis covered.

His discourses, or sermons, under the title of "Palaographia Sacra," 1763, on the vegetable creation, &c. bespeak him a botanist, philosopher, and divine, replete with ancient learning, and excellent observations.

He closed the last scene of his life with completing a long and laborious work on ancient British coins, in particular of Cunobelin, on which he felicitated himself to have from them discovered many remarkable, curious, and new anecdotes, relating to the reign of that British king. This, with many other extraordinary performances, I am informed, are left ready for publishing, with which, it is hoped, his executors will enrich the commonwealth of learning.

These imperfect sketches of this great man's life, are inserted as a tribute due to a long friendship, in hopes they may excite others who have more leisure, and who are better acquainted with his works, to do justice to his memory. 1765, May.

P. C.

V. Anecdotes relative to OrWAY and LEE.


ALL the writers of the life of Nathaniel Lee, seem to have been ignorant both of the time and circumstances of his unsuccessful attempt as an actor. Even the author of the Biographia Britannica, from whom more accuracy is to be expected than from the rest, is as much a stranger to them as his brethren. This last writer, in the 5th volume of that work, p. 2913, says, 'It is not known whether he commenced. 'player before or after he began to write.'

From an old pamphlet, written by Downes, the prompter, printed in 1708, called Roscius Anglicanus, I learn that his appearance on the stage as an actor, was in 1672, three years before his first play was performed. The part which he attempted was that of Duncan, in Macbeth; but as Mr. Downes's account fixes the time also of another celebrated Bard's appearance on the stage, I shall give you the whole passage in his own words, only premising that Macbeth was revived in the same year, 1762, at which time, I suppose, Mr. Lee made his attempt, and failed. It is in page 34. The Jealous Bridegroom, wrote by Mrs. Behn, a good play, and lasted six days; but this made its exit too, to give room for a greater, the Tempest.'

[ocr errors]


Note, in this play, Mr. Otway, the poet, having an inclination to turn actor, Mrs. Behn gave him the king in the play, for a probation part, but he being not used to the stage, the full house put him to such a sweat and tremendous agony, being dasht, spoilt him for an actor. Mr. Nathaniel Lee had the same fate in acting Duncan, in Macbeth, which ruined him for an actor too. I must not 'forget myself. Being listed for an actor in Sir Wm. Davenant's company, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the very first day of opening the house there, with the Siege of Rhodes, being to act Haly, (the King, Duke of York, and all the 'nobility, in the house, and the first time the King was in 'a public theatre) the sight of that august presence spoilt 'me for an actor too. But being so in the company of 'two such eminent poets, as they proved afterward, made my disgrace so much the less; from that time, their genius set them upon poetry: the first wrote Alcibiades, the latter the tragedy of Nero; the one for the Duke's, and the other for the King's house.'


*So in the Book,

I shall only add to this account, that both their attempts were made at the theatre in Dorset gardens, in the Duke's company.

1767, Jan.

I am, &c.

VI. Particulars of the Life of Sir ISAAC NEWTON.


As the curiosity of the public seems to have been lately awakened about Sir Isaac Newton and his family, I have sent you the inclosed particulars, collected and transmitted to Dr. Mead by the late Dr. Stukeley, transcribed from the author's transcript of the original, in my possession, and

[blocks in formation]

"I SEND you, according to my promise, some memoirs of the life of our great friend Sir Isaac Newton, such as I could pick up here at Grantham, and at Colsterworth, where he was born, among ancient people, from their own knowJedge, or unquestionable tradition. Some are alive, who were his school-fellows; several are but lately dead, from whom, I apprehend, a larger information might have been expected. But I omitted no opportunity left, to contribute what I can, to do justice to the memory and history of so illustrious a person, the ornament of his country, or rather of human nature; and, if it chance that I shall be any way serviceable therein, it will be a particular addition to the pleasure I have reaped in chusing this for the place of my abode, that gives me this opportunity, whilst it is not altogether too late, being the place where he spent the early part of his life, and near that of his nativity. You will observe, that I have been very circumstantial, and, perhaps, now and then descended too low for the dignity of the subject, in the subsequent account; but I was willing that you might know the nature of the credit upon which I took it, nor would I omit any thing that was not absolutely improper.

I have added a few things from my own knowledge, or what I formerly heard. Mr. Conduit, no doubt, will have many accounts from other hands. His judgment will direct him what to make use of, and comparing them together will clear up some circumstances, and, perhaps, overthrow others. For my part, I took what care I could to find out,

and relate the truth.

"April 2, 1726, I passed the whole day with Sir Isaac alone, at his lodgings in Orbel's Buildings, Kensington. He told me then, that he was born on Christmas-day, 1642. I have made inquiry at Colsterworth for the old registers, which have been very ill kept, the bare name of a person being commonly noted, without father's or mother's, or such other marks as are necessary to ascertain descents, and the like: but, what is worse, they are, for the most part, lost and destroyed, or obliterated, through carelessness. Mr. Mason, the present minister, searching in the old townchests, met with a few leaves, being the parish-register from A. D. 1571 to 1642, inclusive, the very year Sir Isaac was born; but there is intermitted, not lost, from anno 1630 to 1640 inclusive, which is a space of time wherein his father's marriage happened; and, probably, other circumstances in his family, or among his relations, which would have assisted us in the present affair. However, very luckily, upon the last leaf, which has been miserably abused, is this memorable account: Under the title, Baptized A. 1643, Isaac, sonne of Isaac and Hanna Newton, Jan 1.'

"It is probable, that the civil wars then beginning may have been one reason why it ends here. From these leaves I have extracted an account of all the Newtons therein, which are numerous; but, for the reason before-mentioned, of their being bare names only, they are of no great service in drawing out the genealogy, as was my intention. Sir Isaac had been curious in this inquiry himself formerly; for, at Colsterworth, in possession of John Newton, his heir at law, I saw a half-sheet of paper of Sir Isaac's own handwriting, being a draught thereof, as far as he knew it, with orders for searching registers to make it more perfect. But I believe his request was never fully answered; and, perhaps, Sir Isaac never saw these leaves of the register.*

"It has been observed by some, that many considerable men were born about the same time as Sir Isaac, and it may be reckoned an æra fruitful of great geniuses.

[* We refer those who wish to see the Pedigree to the Gent. Mag. for November, 1772.—Vol. XLII. p. 520. E.]

"It is probable this family had its name from Newton, borough in Lancashire. I have set down in the genealogy, one Isaac Newton, born in 1573, from the register, which does not particularize his father, but undoubtedly of this family, and seems to be great uncle to Sir Isaac, i. e. brother to his grandfather. I mention him as the first of the name of Isaac I can meet with. Another Isaac Newton died somewhat above twenty years ago, at Colsterworth, whose line ended with a daughter. The Ayscoughs, whence Sir Isaac's mother, have been very considerable in this county. One of them built Great Paunton steeple, a curious fabric, between Colsterworth and Grantham. Some of the family still remain at Cathorp, in this county; and I remember one James Ayscough, a surgeon, who lived at my native place, Holbech, who came from Sustern, near Colsterworth, and was cousin to Sir Isaac's mother. Sir Michael Newton's family comes from the younger branch, and was first raised by that co-heiress of Hickson, who was very rich. The other sister, too, raised the Welbies, an ancient and wealthy family in our neighbourhood, of the same stem as the Welbies of Gedney, to whom I am related.

"Sir Isaac Newton was born at Wolsthorp, a hamlet of Colsterworth, six miles south of Grantham, in the great road from London to the north. Wolsthorp is a pleasant little hollow, or convallis, on the west side of the valley of the river Witham, which arises near there, one spring thereof being in this hamlet. It has a good prospect eastward toward Colsterworth. The country hereabouts is thought to be the Montpellier of England; the air is exceeding good, the sharpness of the Mediterranean being tempered by the softuess of the low parts of Lincolnshire, which makes a fine medium, agrecable to most constitutions. I have seen many parts of England, and think none of a pleasanter view than about Colsterworth; and nothing can be imagined sweeter than the ride between it and Grantham. The country consists much of open heath, overgrown with fragrant serpyllum, much like the downs, in Wiltshire, differing chiefly in this, that our soil lies upon a white lime-stone good for building, that upon chalk. The valleys are gravelly; very delightful woods, plentiful springs, and rivulets of the purest water, abound.

"Such is the place that produced the greatest genius of the human race. He was born in the manor-house, which was the family estate, where they held a court-leet, and a court-baron. The old copies and records of the court are

« PreviousContinue »