Letter to John Conduitt, 12 August 1730
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1 January 2001
- Catalogue information compiled by Rob Iliffe, Peter Spargo & John Young
29 November 2005
- Transcribed from microfilm using Newton DTD 1x0 by John Young
1 December 2006
- Coding converted to modified TEI DTD and proofed by Michael Hawkins
20 April 2009
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29 September 2011
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- 1 January 2001
- Hand List
12 Aug. 1730
Thô I did intend not to trouble You with another Letter, till I had your Answer to that which I wrote on the 8th instant; yet hoping that possibly we may spare somewhat both of time and pains, I do dispatch this also, as being in some measure but a second part to my last.
I send You here, Sir, an Epitaph, so compassed that it may have an Oval Form, which the Engraver may make longer or narrower, as he thinks fit for the beauty of his characters. I cou'd not guess by that Epitaph which You sent me, whether You had fixed upon any particular Figure for it. But the Author seems not to have confined himself to one that cou'd please.
If I must further discharge the ungrateful task of a Critick, I must own that I am afraid the Word Ingenium, thô with the Epithet Divinius, seems to be below the Dignity of so great a Man as Sir Isaac Newton. It may be more proper for Authors of another Character and another kind.
I was myself averse from borrowing any thing of that Model which You sent me; and therefore have discontinued my Oval, over against the last four lines but two. It may be a Question. Whether the Epitaph wou'd not be better without them. But if You be altogether for making the best of that too glaring Expression, Hominem enim fuisse Hocce testatur marmor, I think I cannot veil and soften it, or introduce it with modesty, or imbellish it, more than I have done here. All that goes before seems chiefly to prepare the most justifiable sense of it; but likewise to make way for the second, thô it lies as dormant and concealed. I fear only that it may be said to be too fine a Thought or too witty, for so solemn a place. But its dress may make it pass. You may do, Sir, all the Iustice You please, to the Author that gave the first hint of it.
As I have been free in making, at Your desire, those Remarks which I have sent You, it is just, Sir, that Yourself and your Friends may, with the same liberty pass Your Critick on the Epitaph which I do now send. But let me not be named to any; thô I cannot hope to be concealed, were it only because of my Eclogue. I think it harder for me to find out than to correct my faults in this kind. But by this time I hope the greatest Rubbish is cleared. However I desire that no publick use may be made of this Epitaph or any part of it, without my consent. I believe, Sir, that if Sir Isaac had named the Person whom he wou'd have chosen to make his Epitaph, he wou'd have preferred me to any other of his Friends. But here, I own, the Performance and nothing else is to be regarded.
Those that have given their Approbation to the Epitaph sent me, cannot, I shou'd think, refuse it to the Epitaph here enclosed. It is all one if we write Mem. Sac. or H.S.E. &c. But the first helps me to diminish the Place and to magnifie the Letters for the Name of Sir Isaac; which is of great advantage in an Oval Figure.