Dr William Stukeley: Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century England

David Boyd Haycock,

Wolfson College, Oxford: 28 May 2001.

Contents:

Acknowledgements.

Abbreviations.

Introduction.

Part I: 'The Book of Nature.'

1: 'Standing on the Sholders of Giants': The intellectual background.

2: 'Soe Suitable to my Genius': An eighteenth-century education.

3: 'The Microcosm': Doctor and anatomist.

4. 'The Macrocosm': New theories of the universe.

Part II: 'The Book of God.'

5: 'The Curious Itinerary': Antiquities and the history of Britain.

6: 'The Long-Lost Truth': Ancient history and the origins of theology.

7: 'Much Greater, Than Commonly Imagined': Celtic Druids and the universal religion.

8: 'I Have Ever Been Studious in Divinity': Archaeology in defence of Newtonianism.

9: 'A Truely to be Respected Learned Man': The reputation of Dr Stukeley.

10. 'These Learned Lives': The influence of Dr Stukeley.

Acknowledgements

I first visited Avebury on a hot August Bank Holiday Monday in 1993, and was immediately fascinated by the figure of William Stukeley, wondering how an eighteenth-century visitor might have interpreted the origins of those strange stones. I was fortunate in that my initial researches into this question brought me almost immediately into contact with Professor Michael Hunter. I registered for a PhD at Birkbeck College in the University of London under Professor Hunter's supervision, and completed my thesis in 1998. This book is based on the research undertaken for that thesis, and has been completed during a Junior Research Fellowship at Wolfson College, Oxford. In this time I have also held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship at De Montfort University, working under the stimulating guidance of Professor George S. Rousseau. My first debts of graduate are therefore to Professors Hunter and Rousseau, for their bountiful advice and friendship.

My research has been supported by a number of generous sources, not least of whom are my parents, who have always been enthusiastic supporters of my work, and to whom this book is kindly dedicated. For their financial support I am indebted to Birkbeck College, London, the Scouloudi Foundation and the Institute of Historical Research for their Research Fellowship in 1996-7, and to the British Archaeological Society for their Ochs Scholarship in 1998. Publication has been generously supported by awards from the Isobel Thornley Bequest Fund and the Scouloudi Foundation.

Over the years that this research has progressed numerous people have provided me with helpful advice and assistance, and indicated new directions that my work might take. I would like to thank all of them equally for their invaluable contributions: Dr Jeremy Black, Mr David Brown, Dr Justin Champion, Dr David Colclough, Professor Moti Feingold, Professor John Gascoigne, Dr Richard Gameson, Dr Rob Iliffe, Dr Thomas Kiley, Dr Kevin Meares, Dr Lucy Peltz, Dr James Raven, Dr Gervase Rosser, Dr Roey Sweet. I am particularly grateful to the librarians in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, for their ever friendly attitude and assistance. For permission to use their archives and to reproduce material I am grateful to: the Bodleian Library, Cardiff Central Library, Freemasons' Hall, the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal Society of London, the Society of Antiquaries of London, Spalding Gentlemen's Society, the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, and the Wiltshire Antiquarian and Natural History Society. I have many thanks too to Caroline Palmer at Boydell & Brewer, for her strong support in the publication of this book.

Introduction.

In 1687 Isaac Newton, Fellow of Trinity College and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, published the first edition of his landmark Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica. This book has been described by another Lucasian Professor, Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time as 'probably the most important single work ever published in the physical sciences.'[1] In that same auspicious year William Stukeley was born in Holbeach, a small market town near Spalding in Lincolnshire. When Stukeley and Newton subsequently met at the Royal Society thirty-one years later it was their common Lincolnshire background that brought them together, for Newton had grown up at Woolsthorpe and Grantham. But this was not all. The two men also shared a keen common interest in natural history, astronomy, and the history of religion -- particularly biblical chronology. Yet the full extent of Newton's interest in this last subject was not well known, either in his lifetime or after his death. In 1733 William Warburton (the soon to be famous author of the abstruse Divine Legation of Moses) wrote to Stukeley remarking on the posthumous publication of a new book by Newton, Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St John. Warburton observed rather casually of the author, 'Though he was a prodigy in his way, yet I never expected great things on this kind (which requires a perfect knowledge of antient Literature, History, and Mankind), from a man who spent all his days looking through a telescope.'[2] But this was only the public image of what was a very private man. Those closer to Newton knew him better. In April 1727 the Scottish mathematician and Newtonian scholar John Craig wrote, 'they were little acquainted with him, who imagine that he was so intent upon his studys of Geometry & Philosophy as to neglect that of Religion and other things subservient to it. And this I know that he was much more sollicitous in his inquirys into Religion than into Natural Philosophy.'[3]

Like Craig, Stukeley was well aware of this aspect of Newton's private studies, and likewise devoted his time to both religious history and natural philosophy. But he was also aware of the shades of unorthodoxy present in Newton's religious thought. A letter from Richard Mead on 4 April 1727 informed Stukeley that 'Our great Friend Sr Isaac Newton' was dead. Whilst Mead, who was Newton's personal physician, noted that he had not heard if Newton before dying 'sayd any thing about a Future State; This much I think I know of his Opinions, that he was a Christian, believd Revelation, though not all the Doctrines which our Orthodox Divines have made Articles of Faith.'[4] As Stukeley would himself later write of Newton, 'several people of heretical, & unsetled notions, particularly those of Arian principles, have taken great pains to inlist Sr Isaac into th[e]ir party. but that with as little justice, as the anti-christians. the ch[urch] of England intirely claims him as her son, in faith & in practice.'[5] It is this secrect veil concealing Newton's true personal faith, together with the dual aspects of natural philosophy and the history of religion that so interested him and Stukeley both -- and the extent to which they were intertwined -- that I explore in this book.

Newton was forty years Stukeley's senior, and there was more than a little hero worship in the younger man's demeanour to his esteemed friend. In July 1727 Stukeley told John Conduitt that he had erected a profile bust he'd made of Newton in his garden in Grantham, 'upon a pedestal somewhat like a tomb or cenotaph, with this inscription GENIO LOCI NEWTONO MAGNO.'[6] Conduitt was the husband of Newton's niece, and he was also Newton's literary executor, interested in gathering material for a biography. He had invited Stukeley, John Craig and others who had been close to Newton to send him any information they might have on the great man's life. Stukeley was well placed for performing this task. He had since the previous summer been living in Grantham, the town where Newton had been at school. Indeed, Newton had even been thinking of retiring from London to Grantham a few years before he died, asking Stukeley in April 1725 to look at a house there which he was thinking of buying.[7] When Mead had passed on the news of Newton's death he had also noted Conduitt's plan to write a biography, and told Stukeley that if he sent 'any Material Circumstances you can gather concerning him or his Family, they will be very acceptable.'[8] So during June and July 1727 Stukeley collected reminiscences, quizzing locals for their anecdotes about the young Newton. He also conversed with Humphrey Newton, who had been Isaac's amanuensis at Cambridge for five years in the 1680s. This was the period when Newton had composed the Principia and Humphrey, Stukeley noted, 'was assistant to him particularly in his chymical operations, wh[ich] he pursu'd many years.'[9] Describing him as Isaac's 'relation' (which he wasn't) and 'no extraordinary penman', Stukeley helped Humphrey answer some of Conduitt's queries.[10] He dispatched the results of all these conversations to Conduitt, via Mead, in the form of six letters. Mead told Conduitt that he would find amongst Stukeley's recollections 'a great deal of impertinent low stuff in 'em, but something, I believe, that may be to the purpose', and it was this personal information -- particularly regarding his childhood -- which has been of such subsequent interest to scholars of Newton.[11]

When Conduitt died in 1737 without having produced his biography, Stukeley retrieved his papers and in 1752 worked them up in to a more extensive manuscript document. It was in this biography that Stukeley was the first person to record the now famous anecdote that Newton's search for the theory of universal gravitation had been stimulated by the fall of an apple from a tree.[12] The story is not apocryphal: it was told to Stukeley by Newton himself, though Newton -- an old and famous man by that stage -- may well have been indulging in some self-fashioning of his own myth. Unfortunately, it was almost two centuries before Stukeley's account was published. As A. Rupert Hall has recently written, 'Stukeley, in particular, would have greatly enlivened and enriched the eighteenth-century view of Newton, for he saw him as very human. The father of British archaeology was no fool: he could observe, remember and write.'[13] It is through this biography that most modern historians of Newton have heard of Stukeley, and given the closeness of their relationship -- even though it was in the twilight years of Newton's life (the 'years of decline' in Richard Westfall's biography) -- it is clearly profitable for us to know more about Stukeley as a 'Newtonian' scholar.

To define the principal terms used throughout this book, by 'Newtonian' and 'Newtonianism' I mean the assemblage of theories and propositions which resulted from responses in England to Newton's two principal publications in natural philosophy, Principia (1687) and Opticks (1704), and their subsequent new editions and translations. Together, these books provided eighteenth-century natural philosophers with a mathematical means for understanding the universe. Newton's presidency of the Royal Society of London helped establish his natural philosophy as the principal guiding light in scientific studies in England. In his preface to Principia, he had stated his wish that 'we could derive the rest of the phænomena of Nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles.' He was, he continued, 'induced by many reasons to suspect that they may all depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other; which forces being unknown, Philosophers have hitherto attempted the Search of Nature in vain.'[14] At the end of Opticks he also included a number of influential 'Queries' in which he proposed problems 'in order to a further search to be made by others'. These Queries, which increased with each new edition until they reached thirty-one, augmented the impression that Newton's explanation of God's 'grand design' had not been fully elaborated by him, and helped to establish a set of scientific problems that stimulated further enquiry and investigation. As John Theophilus Désaguliers observed in 1734, the Queries contained 'a vast fund of Philosophy; which … daily experiments and observations confirm.'[15] Furthermore, the mathematical and mechanical explanations of the natural world contained in these two revolutionary books were applied by his supporters to numerous differing disciplines, including astronomy, geology, theology, chronology and physiology.

But the principles of Newtonian philosophy were not accepted without reservation in England or the rest of Europe. They were even seen by some critics as dangerously anti-Christian. Both as a student at Cambridge and later as a Fellow of the Royal Society, Stukeley aligned himself with Newton's natural philosophy, and was particularly concerned with defending Newton's system from accusations that it encouraged deism or, worse, atheism. Another feature of Newtonianism which I shall be especially interested in was the belief, which Newton held and occasionally expressed, that his discoveries in natural philosophy were in fact the rediscovery of an ancient, but lost, wisdom: Stukeley described Newton in one of his manuscripts as 'the Great Restorer of True Philosophy.'[16] That the idea of a pristine knowledge which had been passed down through the ages, or the recovery of a lost and ancient philosophy, should still exist in the eighteenth century has been long overlooked, but the evidence for its survival amongst certain writers is clear, and warrants further examination. A number of historians have recently published interesting new work on these aspects of Newtonianism, focusing on those areas of his research which have, to most previous commentators, appeared irrelevant to his major achievements in science. These scholars, including Betty Dobbs, James Force, John Gascoigne, Rob Iliffe, Frank Manuel, J. E. McGuire, P. M. Rattansi and Richard Westfall, have skilfully explored subjects such as Newton's interest in alchemy, biblical history and chronology, and his personal religious beliefs. My own research in this subject is indebted to their work and the new light in which the intellectual activity of this period has been observed. It is in this context that Stukeley's career as the foremost antiquary of his day becomes significant.

A second term used recurrently throughout this book and requiring definition is 'antiquary' or 'antiquarianism'. Whilst it ought perhaps to be clearer-cut than 'Newtonianism', in response to the points made in the previous paragraphs I wish to suggest a more complex definition of the term than that which has commonly been used. Traditionally, historians of antiquarianism have treated it as a rather gentlemanly activity which loosely had its origins in the collection of historical and religious remains, both physical and literary, in the wake of the English Reformation, the dissolution of the monasteries and the Civil Wars. As such, John Leland (1506?--1552) and William Camden (1551-1623) are together recognized as the fathers of British antiquarianism. They were succeeded in the seventeenth century by scholars such as the bibliophile Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) and Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686) who concerned themselves with translating documents and collecting and cataloguing archive sources and monastic histories. Other notable seventeenth-century antiquaries such as John Aubrey (1626-1697), Robert Plot (1640-1696) and Edward Lhwyd (1660-1709), focused more of their attentions out of doors, travelling and collating information from around the counties on a wide range of subjects, from ancient forts and Roman roads to local customs, church histories, dialects and natural history. Yet by the early eighteenth century there are some antiquaries, such as Stukeley, Henry Rowlands (1655-1723) in Anglesey and William Borlase (1695-1772) in Cornwall, who do not quite fit into either of these two loose categories of antiquaries. Theirs, I suggest, was a different approach to historical remains, which today might be described as theoretical archaeology. These latter writers were concerned with both history and natural history, but they were also keenly interested in contemporary religious and scientific debate. They were simultaneously interested in questions such as the origins of mankind and the progress of religion, and their work freely incorporated ideas and materials from other disciplines. They were not reluctant to use their library researches to augment their fieldwork, a fact that has often led to accusations of fancy and invention against them. But all three men (all of them, significantly, country parsons) were aware that they relied to some extent on hypothesis, and apologized for taking this liberty, believing that they could not provide a satisfactory account for what we would now call 'prehistoric' events without venturing out into the unknown. Indeed, Stukeley wrote in an early draft for a book on 'Celtic Temples', 'I plead for the readers favor upon merit of novelty & the vast remoteness of the Antiquitys treated of', which 'renders this research very difficult'.[17] These antiquaries therefore actually defined themselves by their desire not simply to measure and record, but also to explain the most ancient of histories. Without recourse to explanation they would have considered themselves little more than passive observers or tourists. For example, on seeing the Cornish stone circle of Boscawen-un in the 1720s, Daniel Defoe had observed that he did not know 'whether it was a trophy, or a monument of a burial, or an altar for worship, or what else; so all that can be learn'd from them, is, That here they are.'[18] This resignation would not have satisfied the antiquaries, and they became men dedicated to the search for an answer. Richard Hayman has written of Defoe's comments that they are 'a reminder that not everybody was impressed by antiquarian speculation', but this, I believe, misses the distinction between the tourist and the antiquary, and later editions of Defoe's Tour were actually amended to incorporate Stukeley's identification of Avebury as a 'Druids Temple'.[19] The work of Stukeley, Borlase and Rowlands thus drew on and critically responded to such early modern writers on the religious history of mankind as Theophilus Gale, John Spencer, Herbert of Cherbury, Thomas Burnet, Isaac Newton, John Toland and Samuel Shuckford, as well as the works of continental European scholars such as Athanasius Kircher, Gerard Vossius and Jean LeClerc. Rather than clouding their judgement, this secondary material, together with classical texts, the Bible, contemporary travel literature and researches in natural philosophy helped to create a viable historical context in to which ancient archaeological remains such as stone circles could be placed. All these potential sources of knowledge, therefore, will play an important role in my account. Yet through this use of such fallible material they must be distinguished from more cautious -- and in the long run more reliable -- contemporary antiquaries such as John Horsley (1684/5-1732), author of Britannia Romana: Or the Roman Antiquities of Britain (1732). Horsley considered the inscriptions, geographies, and annals of the Roman period as 'the first history we have of Britain, which can be rely'd on. I may venture to call it the original and foundation of the true history of our island.'[20] Horsley, also a Fellow of the Royal Society and a respected mathematician as well as historian, met Stukeley in 1729. Stukeley recorded that they had a 'world of discourse' on the subject of Roman Britain.[21] But both in attitude to the ancient past, methodology and subsequent reputation, they were two very different historians.

So whilst Stukeley was and is generally known as an antiquary, and not a physician or a natural philosopher, he was still all of these things simultaneously. My intention is to show how, by placing his antiquarian writings -- particularly those on 'Celtic' stone temples and Druid religion -- firmly within the context of his interests as a Newtonian scholar, we may come to understand the complementary nature of his many and varied intellectual pursuits. Stuart Piggott in his 1985 revised edition of his 1950 biography, William Stukeley: An Eighteenth-Century Antiquary, has provided a good account of the life, but in many respects he misinterpreted or underestimated the intellectual background and progression of Stukeley's antiquarian studies. Stukeley's intellectual biography is complicated by the long delay between his years of field research at Stonehenge and Avebury in the early 1720s, and the subsequent publication of his two monographs in the early 1740s. This delay saw not only the publication in 1726 of a new and controversial book on the Druids by the pantheist writer John Toland, The Critical History of the Celtic Religion and Learning, but also Stukeley's professional metamorphosis from metropolitan physician to country parson. Piggott made the accusation that during these long intervening years Stukeley's work became 'embedded in the elaborate fantasies of Druids, ancient mythology and patriarchal religion'.[22] This interpretation, though now well established, is wrong. Piggott's view of Stukeley's antiquarianism itself developed over a number of years, from early articles written in the 1930s whilst assisting in Alexander Keiller's archaeological excavations and restorations at Avebury, to the first and then second editions of his biography.[23] Although he became a respected prehistorian and archaeologist, Piggott's interest in antiquarian thought was a sideline interest, and his historical analysis suffered accordingly. From the date of his earliest publication on the subject, he was labelling the eighteenth-century antiquaries as 'eccentric gentleman', an interpretation that would be repeated throughout his life's writings on the subject.[24] Interestingly, as an archaeologist Piggott was chary in drawing conclusions, observing, for example, that possible prehistoric rites associated with Avebury and Stonehenge 'must remain unknown, thanks to the very nature of archaeological evidence.' Hayman observes that 'A later generation would deem this approach too negative, yet it reveals a caution-neurosis in archaeologists which even today has not been eradicated.'[25] This caution may have exacerbated his criticisms of the early modern practitioners of his profession.

But it is Piggott's contention that Stukeley's career can be divided into two distinct periods, one of sound and objective fieldwork, followed by a longer one of speculation and invention leading up to publication, which has coloured almost all subsequent perceptions of him, and of eighteenth-century antiquarianism in general. In his contribution to Avebury Reconsidered (1991) Michael Hunter drew attention to this fundamental inaccuracy in Piggott's interpretation, writing that Piggott 'has imposed on Stukeley's intellectual life a chiasma which has no factual basis, with implications for the reigning view of Stukeley -- and his period'.[26] For in fact, as we shall see, from a very early stage Stukeley held a belief that the Druids were the builders of all the stone circles in Britain, a conviction he inherited from the Wiltshire antiquary John Aubrey. In all fairness to Piggott, he recognised some of the errors and omissions in his biography, and published some of these in an essay in Antiquity in 1986; he also read Avebury Reconsidered, and agreed with its reinterpretation of Stukeley.[27] Unfortunately, the damage was already done, and undoubtedly Piggott's biography continues to be the foremost source on Stukeley. In this book I advance upon the reinterpretation begun by Michael Hunter, drawing greater attention to Stukeley's scientific background, the Newtonian element in his work, the antiquarian element in Newton's own work, and the nature of contemporary religio-historical studies in the first half of the eighteenth century. It was, I believe, Piggott's failure to fully recognize this contemporary context that led to his misrepresentation of Stukeley's work. Whilst we may be critical of the limitations of some aspects of early modern scholarship, we must recognize that much of it was written by educated men and was (apparently) broadly accepted by their equally educated peers. On this last point there is, however, the problem to be considered that those scholars who wrote on this subject almost wholly accepted the authority and methodology of their peers and predecessors. Those who did not write on the subject do not appear to have taken a great deal of interest in it (beyond lampooning the dusty antiquary), and therefore there is little internal or external critique of the antiquarian and synchronistic methodology until the middle of the eighteenth century, a problem which I shall examine in my last two chapters.

Following the revisionist interpretation begun by Hunter, I offer here an alternative picture of the Doctor, and radically reassess the nature of antiquarian studies in the eighteenth century.[28] For this reason, it will often be necessary to give considerable detail regarding the intellectual background of Stukeley's researches, particularly the study of religious history and chronology in the early modern period. Even more than most men of his day, Stukeley was a polymath. Whilst trained in medicine at Cambridge University, his interests extended to architecture, antiquities, astronomy, botany, chemistry, comparative anatomy, geography, music, history and natural history in all their permutations. (In fact, ironically, one of the few fields in which he did not claim much skill was mathematics, something of a handicap for a professed Newtonian.) Yet few, if any, of these subjects were studied independently in the eighteenth century, and all were taken to reflect upon a greater glory, the divine creator who had made all things in Heaven and Earth. Francis Bacon's oft-quoted dictum published in The Advancement of Learning in 1605 continued to stand a century later: 'Let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain, that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works, divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both'.[29] Religion, science, and antiquities will, therefore, be my unifying themes.

*

On the eve of the publication of Stonehenge in 1740, Warburton wrote to Stukeley warning him of the potential dangers surrounding his enterprise: 'I am greatly pleased that you will let us have Stonehenge at last. I think you need not doubt the success of it … But you know how dangerous new roads in Theology are, by the clamour of the bigots against me'.[30] What on earth could have been so dangerous about a new book about Stonehenge? Yet they were not the first words of warning Stukeley had received. In 1730 another friend, Roger Gale, had suggested that though his antiquarian work at Avebury would 'certainly be well received', he cautioned him that 'as your notions will not be vulgar [i.e. commonplace] you must expect there will be great carping & picqueering upon everything you advance, at which I am not in much pain, since I am satisfyed they will be proposed with a clearness, & supported with a learning, as uncommon as themselves.'[31] It is the contexts behind these warnings that I hope to elucidate in the following chapters. The road to the answer is long and convoluted. As I have already noted, it will require frequent digressions and detailed examination of the ongoing intellectual and religious environment. This will, however, give an interesting picture of the eighteenth-century intellectual environment. A particular recurrent theme here will be that of travel, and the way in which the voyages of discovery of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries profoundly effected responses to the natural world and the history of mankind. The discovery of different -- or, depending upon your viewpoint, similar -- religious practices as far afield as Egypt, China, Peru and the South Seas raised fundamental questions concerning religion and the legitimacy of the Genesis account of Creation and human origins contained in the Bible. For example, was the Flood a genuine and global event, and if so how could it be explained by science? Were all humans descended directly from Adam and Noah, or had there existed a race of 'Preadamites'? Had the world really been created in six days in 4004 BC as Archbishop Ussher had calculated in the seventeenth century, or was it much older? Was Christianity the one true faith, and what exactly was the relationship between 'natural' and 'revealed' religion? The orthodox answers to these questions were all being challenged in Stukeley's lifetime, and he intended to defend them through his publications in both natural philosophy and antiquarianism. It was these contentious issues that spelled potential danger for his two major antiquarian publications, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids (1740) and Abury: A Temple of the British Druids (1743). As he piously declared in 1732:

To You, My Lord, I desire to dedicate these my labors, who have deserv'd so well of Brittan, who have shown your eminent care & skill in preserving its antiquitys; but more, so prudently & zealously protect our most excellent Church against the insolent attacks of atheists, Deists, sceptics, infidels, & all its open & Secret enemys.[32]

This, then, will be unashamedly an intellectual rather than a literary biography. Whilst I hope to convey a picture of Stukeley's interesting, complex and entertaining character and the social circles in which he moved (a picture helped by the survival of his extensive diaries, letters, autobiographies and reminiscences), my principal interest is in uncovering the agendas behind eighteenth-century historical and antiquarian studies. The book is divided into two parts, using the popular early modern metaphor of the book. As Stukeley expressed it, 'Doubtless the Creator of the World designed this Universe of Things as a Curious & Voluminous Book, & We to be the Readers of it. Tis indeed an Original Divine Manuscript & illuminated with infinite Art & Power'.[33] As Bacon had noted above, this book was in turn divided into two volumes: the book of nature, or the natural world, and the book of God, or Scripture. In the four chapters of Part I, 'The Book of Nature', I summarize the background to natural philosophical studies in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England, and particularly its relationship with the Anglican Church and the defence of a Christian deity, a divine creator who had fashioned a faultless world. I show how Newtonian natural philosophy, founded upon interpretations of the Principia and Opticks, was utilized to this religious end by men of science. I place Stukeley within this context, through a discussion of his education at Cambridge University, and his involvement in intellectual society during his years in London between 1717 and 1726. This includes detailed examination of Stukeley's principal essays, lectures and papers from this period. These papers include his contributions to the debate on the origins of fossils and 'theories of the Earth', his defence of Mosaic accounts of creation and the flood contained in Genesis, eighteenth-century medicine and anatomy, and his speculations upon the origin of the universe, the plurality of worlds, ancient scientific knowledge, and the 'music of the spheres'. They clearly position him as an orthodox champion of Newtonian natural philosophy.

In the six chapters of Part II, 'The Book of God', I shall relate this philosophical background to Newton's belief in the prisca theologia, the Neoplatonic conception of a highly advanced but lost or corrupted ancient religious and scientific wisdom, whereby Newton could conceive of his work in physics as a recovery rather than a discovery. I shall look in detail at the relationship between Stukeley and Newton up to the latter's death, and their interest in biblical chronology and the origins of religious belief and idolatry. This will raise questions over the extent to which contemporaries were aware of Newton's private religious position.[34] I also explore Newton's heterodox revocation of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity which led him and two of his principal supporters at Cambridge University, Samuel Clarke and William Whiston, into the fourth-century unitarian heresy of Arianism. This is placed within revived contemporary debates about the importance of the Trinity as a fundamental tenet of orthodox Christianity, a key issue given Stukeley's interpretation of the prehistoric complex at Avebury as, quite literally, a sign of ancient Trinitarian practice by British Druids who had been in all essentials proto-Christians. I shall also explore Stukeley's work on ancient history and religion, and assess the status of 'Celtic' and Druidic studies at this time. This includes an examination of Stukeley's involvement in Freemasonry and his assessment of it as the remains of 'the mysterys of the antients.' Stukeley declared in a significant remark in 1730 that his 'main motive' in pursuing his antiquarian studies was to 'combat the deists from an unexpected quarter'.[35] I shall suggest that the 'deism' Stukeley was actually targeting was the Arian heterodoxy of his former Cambridge teacher and friend William Whiston, and not the fulminations over priestcraft by the pantheist John Toland, as all previous commentators have claimed.[36] In my final chapter I examine the reception and influence of the historical and archaeological theories contained in Stonehenge and Abury. I show how Stukeley's work on the history of religion was utilized, expanded and often corrupted and exaggerated by late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century antiquaries. My conclusion will show that many of the problems surrounding prehistoric temples and ancient religion which had perplexed and fascinated early modern antiquaries, historians, philosophers and astronomers remained, whilst our modern view of Stukeley has often been negatively filtered through this later viewpoint. By placing Stukeley firmly within his early-eighteenth-century context I reveal him to have been a man very much concerned with contemporary intellectual culture, society and religion. A man who provided in antiquarianism a unique response to what he perceived to be the dire threats to its greatest institution, the Church of England.

[1] Hawking (1988), p. 4.

[2] William Warburton to Stukeley, 10 February 1733, Nichols (1817), Vol. 2, p. 21.

[3] John Craig to John Conduitt, 7 April 1727, Keynes MS 132.

[4] Mead to Stukeley, 4 April 1727, Bod. MS Eng. misc. c. 114, f. 50.

[5] Stukeley, Royal Society MS 142, f. 67.

[6] Keynes MS 136, Stukeley to John Conduitt, 15 July 1727.

[7] Roy. Soc. MS 142 f.14. See Hall (1999), pp. 13-34.

[8] Mead to Stukeley, 4 April 1727, Bod. MS Eng. misc. c. 114, f. 50.

[9] Roy. Soc. MS 142 f. 54.

[10] King's College, Cambridge, Keynes MS 136, January 1728.

[11] Keynes MS 136, marginal note by Mead added to Stukeley's letters sent, via him, to Conduitt in July 1727.

[12] Two drafts of Stukeley's biography survive, one in the archives of the Royal Society of London (MS 142), the other at Grantham Public Library. An edition of the Royal Society version of the biography was published in 1936 as Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life, edited by A. Hastings White, but is not wholly faithful to its source.

[13] Hall (1999) p. 7.

[14] Newton (1729), unpaginated 'Author's Preface'.

[15] Desaguliers A Course of Experimental Philosophy, Vol. I (1734), quoted in Iliffe (1995), p. 160. The first edition of Opticks (1704) contained sixteen queries, seven were added to the Latin edition of 1706, and eight to the second English edition (1718). Query 23 in the 1706 edition became Query 31 after the addition of eight new queries to the 1718 edition.

[16] Stukeley FM MS 1130 Stu (1) f. 179.

[17] Bod. MS Eng. misc. c. 323 f. 81.

[18] Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, quoted in Hayman (1997), 74. In their enthusiasm though the antiquarians were sometimes too eager to see what was not really there.

[19] See Ucko et al (1991), p. 56.

[20] Horsley (1732), Preface, p. iii.

[21] Stukeley, SS 2, p. 71.

[22] Piggott (1985), p. 89.

[23] For example, the suggestion made in the first edition of the biography that Stukeley had suffered a mental breakdown akin to the one also attributed to Newton was dropped in the second edition. In the 'Preface to the Revised Edition' Piggott noted that his first book 'represented something of a pioneering effort' , with the subsequent thirty years 'seeing the picture of British history within which William Stukeley's work needs to be assessed' changing 'beyond recognition.' Piggott (1985), p. 7.

[24] Piggott (1935), p. 22.

[25] Hayman (1997), p. 142,

[26] Ucko et al (1991), p. 54; whilst Avebury Reconsidered was a collaborative project, Michael Hunter was responsible for the material on the antiquarian background and Stukeley's intellectual evolution; Hunter had previously questioned the existence of such a dichotomy in Stukeley's work, see Hunter (1971), p. 190.

[27] Piggott (1986), and Ucko et al, 'Acknowledgements', p. xiii.

[28] For a valuable recent re-evaluation of antiquarianism in this period, see the essays collected in Myrone and Peltz (1999), and in particular their preface.

[29] Bacon, The first book, I.3.

[30] Warburton to Stukeley, 1 January 1740, in Nichols (1817), p. 53.

[31] Roger Gale to Stukeley, 30 June 1730, in SS 1, p. 327.

[32] Stukeley, 'Disquisitio de Deo. Or an Enquiry into the Nature of the DEITY'. Bod. MS Eng. misc. e. 650. The dedication appears to be God Himself.

[33] Stukeley, FM MS Stu 1130 (1) ff. 1-2.

[34] Two interesting recent essays have addressed this problem, Stewart (1996) and Pfizenmaier (1997).

[35] Stukeley to Roger Gale, 25 June 1730, in SS 3, p. 267.

[36] See for example Piggott (1950) and (1985), Owen (1962), Ucko et al (1991), Hayman (1997).

© 2013 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

University of Sussex, East Sussex - BN1 9SH - newtonproject@sussex.ac.uk

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