Page images

derstanding, which was improved by his conversation and instruction. Under his tuition she became a considerable proficient in Algebra, and, with a view to qualify herself for the office of preceptor to her sister's son, who

one for the University library, I would not lose the opportunity of paying you my respects, by sending them. I need not tell you the occasion and design of that collection. You will see readily, that it affords such light concerning what it relates to, as could not easily have been discovered any other way; it also shews, that your great predecessor, whose illustrious example I don't doubt but you follow, never employed his time about things ordinary. I have no mathematical intelligence to send you. Mr. Keil thinks he has discovered a very easy and practical solution of the Keplerean problem. If Moreton's book is of no use to you, please to send it to me, though I fear it will yield me but small assistance, having occasion for variety of modern solstitial meridian altitudes of the Sun, such as may be depended upon. Helvetius, Flamstead, and the French observations, seem defective. I should be glad to be informed where Į can be supplied best. I am extremely pleased to find that Sir Isaac's book is so near being finished; and it is not less agreeable to me to hear, that your own book is in such forwardness. You are much in the right of it to print your lectures, and other papers, in a book by itself: it is better than to have them lie up and down among other things. What I formerly proposed, as to the putting of things in the Philosophical Transactions, is only fit for a sheet or two, but not exceeding that. I very much long to see those valuable pieces, and hope you will let me know in what time I may expect them,-Do me the justice to believe that I am, with all sincerity,

Your most humble servant,

From the same to the same.


London, April 29, 1713.

Ever since I received your very kind letter, and Moreton's book, I waited for an opportunity of sending you some old manuscripts I had by me, and at last am obliged to venture them by the carrier. They relate, in some measure, to the method of Differences: the folio one, I find, was written by one Nath. Torperly, a Shropshire man, who, when young, was amanuensis to Vieta, but afterwards writ against him. He was cotemporary with Briggs. The book, I think, can be of no other use to you, than in what relates to the history of that method, and in having the satisfaction of seeing what has been formerly done on that subject. I am mightily pleased to see the end of the Principia, and return you many thanks for the nstructive index, that you have taken

was destined to a maritime profession, made herself perfect in Trigonometry and the Theory of Navigation. Mrs. Jones, after the death of her husband, was urgently and repeatedly solicited, by the Countess of Macclesfield, to remain at Sherborne Castle; but having formed a plan for the education of her son, with an unalterable determination to pursue it, and being apprehensive that her residence at Sherborne might interfere with the execution of it, she declined accepting the friendly invitation of the countess, who never ceased to retain the most affectionate regard for her.

the pains to add, and hope it will not be long before we shall see the beginning of that noble book. I shall be in some pain till I hear that you have received my old manuscript, it being a favourite purely on account of some extravagancies in it; but I shall think it safe in your hands.

I am, Sir,

Your affectionate friend, and humble servant,

From the same to the same.


London, July 11, 1713.

It is impossible to represent to you, with what pleasure I received your inestimable present of the Principia, and am much concerned to find myself so deeply charged with obligations to you, and such I fear as all my future endeavours will never be able to requite. This edition is indeed exceedingly beautiful, and interspersed with great variety. of admirable discoveries so very natural to its great author; but it is more so from the additional advantage of your excellent preface, which I wish much to get published in some of the foreign journals; and since a better account of this. book cannot be given, I suppose it will not be difficult to get it done. Now, this great task being done, I hope you will think of publishing your papers, and not let such valuable pieces lie by. As to what you mentioned in your last, concerning my old manuscripts, (though for my part I know nothing worth your notice publickly in them) if you do find any, the end of my sending them is the better answered; and you know that you may do as you please.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,

In the plan adopted by Mrs. Jones for the instruction of her son, she proposed to reject the severity of discipline, and to lead his mind insensibly to knowledge and exertion, by exciting his curiosity, and directing it to useful objects. To his incessant importunities for information on casual topics of conversation, which she watchfully stimulated, she constantly replied, read, and you will know; a maxim, to the observance of which he always acknowledged himself indebted for his future attainments. By this method, his desire to learn became as eager as her wish to teach; and such was her talent of instruction, and his facility of retaining it, that in his fourth year he was able to read, distinctly and rapidly, any English book. She particularly attended at the same time to the cultivation of his memory, by making him learn and repeat some of the popular speeches in Shakespeare, and the best of Gay's Fables.

If, from the subsequent eminence of Sir William Jones, any general conclusion should be eagerly drawn in favour of early tuition, we must not forget to advert to the uncommon talents both of the pupil and the teacher.

In common cases, premature instruction has often been found to retard, rather than accelerate, the progress of the intellectual faculties; and the success of it so much depends upon the judgment of the tutor and the capacity of the scholar, upon the skill of the one as well as upon the disposition and powers of the other, that it is impossible to prescribe a general rule, when instruction ought to begin, or a general mode, by which it should be conveyed; the determination, in both cases, must be left to the discretion of parents, who ought to be the most competent to decide.

In this year of his life, Jones providentially escaped from two accidents; one of which had nearly proved

fatal to his sight, the other to his life. Being left alone in a room, in attempting to scrape some soot from the chimney, he fell into the fire, and his clothes were instantly in flames: his cries brought the servants to his assistance, and he was preserved with some difficulty; but his face, neck, and arms, were much burnt. A short time afterwards, when his attendants were putting on his clothes, which were imprudently fastened with hooks, he struggled, either in play, or in some childish pet, and a hook was fixed in his right eye. By due care, under the directions of Dr. Mead, whose friendship with his family continued unabated after his father's death, the wound was healed; but the eye was so much weakened, that the sight of it ever remained imperfect.

His propensity to reading, which had begun to display itself, was for a time checked by these accidents; but the habit was acquired, and, after his recovery, he indulged it without restraint, by perusing eagerly any books that came in his way, and with an attention proportioned to his ability to comprehend them. In his fifth year, as he was one morning turning over the leaves of a bible in his mother's closet, his attention was forcibly arrested by the sublime description of the angel, in the tenth chapter of the Apocalypse; and the impression which his imagination received from it was never effaced. At a period of mature judgment he considered the passage as equal in sublimity to any in the inspired writers, and far superior to any that could be produced from mere human compositions; and he was fond of retracing and mentioning the rapture which he felt, when he first read it. In his sixth year, by the assistance of a friend, he was initiated in the rudiments of the Latin grammar, and he committed some passages of it to memory; but the dull elements of a new language having nothing to captivate his childish attention, he

made little progress in it; nor was he encouraged to perseverance by his mother, who, intending him for a public education, was unwilling to perplex his mind with the study of a dead language, before he had acquired a competent knowledge of his native tongue.

At Michaelmas, 1753, in the close of his seventh year, he was placed at Harrow School, of which the worthy and amiable Dr. Thackeray was then headmaster. The amusements and occupations of a schoolboy are of little importance to the public; yet it cannot be uninteresting or uninstructive to trace the progress of a youth of genius and abilities, from his earliest efforts to that proficiency in universal literature which he afterwards attained. During the two first years of his residence at Harrow, he was rather remarked for diligence and application, than for the superiority of his talents, or the extent of his acquisitions; and his attention was almost equally divided between his books and a little garden, the cultivation and embellishment of which occupied all his leisure hours. His faculties, however, necessarily gained strength by exercise; and, during his school vacations, the sedulity of a fond parent was, without intermission, exerted to improve his knowledge of his own language. She also taught him the rudiments of drawing, in which she excelled.

In his ninth year, he had the misfortune to break his thigh-bone, in a scramble with his school-fellows; and this accident detained him from school twelve months. After his relief from pain, however, the period of his confinement was not suffered to pass in indolence; his mother was his constant companion, and amused him daily with the perusal of such English books as she deemed adapted to his taste and capacity. The juvenile poems of Pope, and Dryden's Translation of the Æneid, afforded him incessant delight, and excited his

« PreviousContinue »