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spite of facts, in the laboratory where living deeds are transmuted into posthumous fame. No country, and no form of faith, is free from the imputation of having distorted history for the sake of glorifying those who were in any way identified with the national creed; and there is perhaps no influence which has so misplaced the statues in the temple of fame, as the religious sympathy which will ascribe nothing less than perfection to the memory of the great men with whom it delights to link itself by the association of a common faith.

There is, perhaps, some doubt how far a factitious admiration may gradually consolidate into a lasting worship. Something of the operation of this principle may be traced in the singular arrangement of the names of men of secondary eminence in poetry or art; and though the higher reputations, in every department of human life, seem to have been achieved by more natural influences, modern times have exhibited in such perfection the art of manufacturing opinion, that those (and there are many such) who are disposed to question the common verdict on any subject merely because it is the common verdict, have some plausible grounds to go upon when they class the artificial development of opinion among the influences which must be weighed in analyzing the value of a popular reputation.

It must be conceded that all these varied forces, with the exception of the last, have co-operated in the formation of the estimate of Newton, which has received the enduring impress of a national if not of a universal judgment; and it is not surprising that occasional attempts should have been made by paradoxical thinkers to explain away the great pre-eminence of Newton, and to elevate some of his contemporaries and predecessors to a position more nearly on a par with that of the discoverer of universal gravitation. To those who feel the sincerest veneration for the name of Newton, all such endeavours ought to afford the highest gratification; for, although it is undoubtedly true that Newton lived in an age of scientific giants, whom no genius short of his own could have dwarfed, it is not the less true that the most anxious scrutiny of all conflicting pretensions leaves the grand monopoly of glory to the philosopher who has ever since worn the crown by almost universal consent.

To those, however, who desire to mingle candour with their admiration, it is not permitted to ignore the subsidiary forces which have helped to lift the name of Newton to an unapproached and unapproachable elevation, and have made it fill a space so entirely without parallel in the records of discovery. It is a favourite and a just reflection of divines, that the perfection of 2 D2

the

the Creator's work is as manifest in the marvellous revelations of the microscope as in the stupendous mechanism which the telescope discloses to the instructed human eye; and no true philosopher will doubt that there is as much room for penetrating genius in the one direction as the other. In both we seem to approach to the confines of the infinite as the unfathomable idea presents itself to our imperfect apprehensions. If the contemplation of the starry heavens overwhelms us with a sense of the sublime order which rules the universe, and delights us with the discovery of those principles of eternal or almost eternal stability which have governed the motions of our own and distant systems since the creation day, the discoveries which have been brought to light in the minute field of the microscope have taught us the amazing depths to which the principle of life descends, and have laid bare to our vision the machinery by which the solid rocks of our earth have been consolidated from the ruins of earlier systems and the débris of animal existence. The colours of a soap-bubble involve a theory as recondite as the everlasting circling of the planets, or the erratic mystery of a comet's path; but the attraction of the most happy speculations into the phenomena which present themselves on the surface of our own planet, has never enthralled the human mind with the same power as those discoveries which seem to make the boundless universe do homage to the penetrating instinct of man. It is not necessary to go beyond the life of Newton himself to find an illustration of this truth. Scarcely less ingenuity, and fully as much originality, went to his optical investigations as were required to solve the one great problem of the heavens. Perhaps even more of the subtle acuteness of the mathematician was displayed in the invention, or, if that word may not be used, in the generalisation, of the fluxional method of investigation, than in the propositions of the 'Principia,' by which the laws of planetary motion were brought into obedience to the single principle of universal gravitation. But let the reader for a moment imagine himself removed from the circle of scientific knowledge, and from the indirect sway which it exercises over the whole area of cultivated society, and strive to think of Newton as he is thought of by thousands who help to give universality to his fame, and the image which will present itself will not be that of the mathematician who invented a new language by which to hold converse with the subtleties of natural science; nor even of the philosopher who unravelled the twisted skein of light, and anatomised the rainbow, and penetrated with loving assiduity into the secrets of the colour which adorns the world; but he will merely see before him the man who seized the heavens in his intellectual grasp, and promul

gated

gated the divine law which planets and moons, comets and stars, obey as faithfully as the apple which falls from the bough. The grandeur of the one subject eclipses the light of the most brilliant discoveries in those branches of science which have less power to strike the imagination with awe; and it is, beyond all doubt, the unparalleled immensity of the astronomical problem which he solved which has given to the memory of Newton a pre-eminence that all his genius, if confined to a smaller sphere, would have aspired to in vain.

An admiration thus founded on the dignity of the discovery, as much as on the acuteness of the discoverer, is, perhaps, more wholesome than the estimate of the keenest critic who ever dissected the operations of an intellect immeasurably removed from his own; and it is no disparagement to Newton to ascribe his glory to the splendour of the edifice which he unveiled as much as to the penetrating power which pierced through the mists that hid the grand simplicity of the universe from the eyes of all his predecessors. But in acknowledging another element which contributed indirectly to Newton's fame, we descend to a lower ground. If the seventeenth century was an age of unequalled scientific power, it was a time when intellectual greatness was associated with a moral littleness of spirit which Newton almost alone among his contemporaries escaped, even if he ought not to be considered as tainted with the prevailing feeling. Private emulation and national jealousy fought over the field where the choicest workmen whom nature ever produced were building, with marvellous skill, the walls of the temple of science. A philosopher in those days worked, like the Jews of old, with the instruments of his craft in one hand, and a weapon of attack in the other. All the machinery of anonymous calumny was brought to bear to discredit the originality of discoveries made by an inquirer of a foreign nation or a different school. The perpetual personal contentions among savans gradually swelled into national controversies; and, long before Newton's death, his name had become the symbol of a warfare in which the strongest minds of England were pitted against the keenest of their foreign rivals. As usual in such cases, falsehood and detraction embittered the dispute, and the man who was endowed with a natural serenity, which has seldom been associated with the extraordinary vigour which he manifested, was made the centre of a scientific controversy which excited national feelings almost as keen as those which a material conflict could have brought forth. The envy and jealousy, the heartburnings and recriminations of rival philosophers have sunk into comparative oblivion, now that the world has learned to do justice to all, unswayed by the prejudices of

of nationality; but the struggle for pre-eminence gave to the triumph of Newton something of the character of a national victory. The love of national glory associated itself with the purer worship of truth, and gave additional strength to the feeling with which the memory of Newton was cherished by his countrymen.

Yet another influence of incalculable strength was derived from the obvious association of the discoveries of Newton with the teachings of religion, and with the theological speculations of the philosopher himself. While the pages of the Principia' were fresh from the press, and before the truths which they contained had been recognised by the University which Newton adorned, or acknowledged by the submission of his illustrious rivals in the world of science, Bentley had, with characteristic energy, grappled with the difficulties of an untried study, for the sake of illustrating, by the new theories of his fellow collegian, the doctrines of natural theology which he had come forward to vindicate against the carpings of a sceptical age. At a much later period when those who were most distinguished among the foreign followers of Newton had banded together to assault the faith of Christendom, with a zeal as great as their earnestness in the pursuit of scientific truth-no contrast was more often on the lips of English preachers than that which was presented between the piety and the Biblical researches of the great English interpreter of nature and the sceptical hardness of the Encyclopædist school. Through the teaching of the pulpit the humblest classes of English society were constantly reminded that their country could boast of a natural philosopher with whom none of the infidel teachers of Paris could compete, and who did not disdain to apply his powers to the reverent study of the mysteries which they affected to despise. Without discussing the wisdom of thus in some sort appealing to the scientific intellect to pronounce on the truths of religion, we may be sure that the theme which was descanted on from a thousand pulpits must have furnished food for ample meditation, and have contributed in large measure to preserve the memory of Newton's achievements in the minds even of those whose training would admit only of the vaguest appreciation of the work which he had so well performed.

One natural and almost inevitable error in the popular view has always indeed been obvious to those who have given the most cursory attention to the history of the great series of discoveries which culminated in the work of Newton. It is not given to any man, not even to the greatest of all discoverers, to build except on the foundation which earlier generations have reared, and with the materials which the thought of his own age

supplies.

supplies. The popular idea takes a very imperfect note of qualifications and conditions such as these. The impression which prevails with the least instructed and the most numerous class of the admirers of Newton is, that the heavens presented an unfathomable chaos to the minds of all inquirers until the divine instinct of the English philosopher, prompted by the happy accident of a falling apple, seized in a moment the simple law by which the universe is swayed. The semi-mythical apple-tree is to thousands the symbol of the scientific sagacity of the philosopher, while the apocryphal story of 'poor Diamond' serves as the illustration of the moral serenity which had perhaps more to do with his career of discovery than would be allowed by those in whom scientific acuteness is combined with a more excitable temperament. The vague notion, which thus ignores the whole history of astronomical science before the epoch of Newton, falls, of course, before the first rays of scientific light; but, with all its exaggeration, the rough picture which is thus presented of Newton's career errs more in degree than in kind.

In estimating the glory of a leader of scientific thought, the popular judgment must, of necessity, submit to an appeal to the tribunal of the scientific world; but it is remarkable how fully the common verdict is sustained in substance as well by the authority of philosophers of all nations as by the careful examination of the evidence which has been collected by patient inquirers. If questions of this kind could be determined by the recorded declarations of the most illustrious followers of Newton, not of our country alone but throughout the world, the last suspicion even of exaggeration would almost be removed from the high conception which the general mind of England has formed of Sir Isaac Newton. Laplace and Lagrange, Delambre and Biot, have vied with each other in their eulogies of the English astronomer; and even Leibnitz, in a moment of candour, is reported to have said that, taking mathematics from the beginning of the world to the time when Newton lived, what he had done was much the better half. But neither the faith of the many nor the judgment of the few can dispense with the examination of the facts on which the glory of Newton rests. Such works as Sir David Brewster's careful though rather partial biography are of the utmost value in presenting a faithful summary of all that materially illustrates the character of the mind of our great philosopher; and few, even of those who may have cherished a more extravagant though a less definite idea, will gain a more precise knowledge of the career of Newton without increasing their admiration for his fertile genius.

There is comparatively little, in the authentic domestic history

of

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