it is with the mysteries of our religion, as with wholesome pills for
the sick, which swallowed whole, have the virtue to cure; but chewed,
are for the most part cast up again without effect.
is nothing else than conception caused by speech.
and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues.
is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others
to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; yet they will hardly
believe there be many so wise as themselves.
description by his biographer friend, John Aubrey
he had many enemies (though undeserved; for he would not provoke, but
if provoked, he was sharp and bitter): and as a prophet is not esteemed
in his own country, so he was more esteemed by foreigners than by his
would often complain that algebra (though of great use) was too much
admired, and so followed after, that it made men not contemplate and
consider so much the nature and power of lines, which was a great hindrance
to the growth of geometry; for that though algebra did rarely well and
quickly in right lines, yet it would not bite in solid geometry.
wits at court were wont to bait him, but he feared none of them, and
would make his part good. The king would call him the bear: 'here comes
the bear to be baited.'
was marvellous happy and ready in his replies, and that without rancour
(except provoked) but now I speak of his readiness in replies as to
wit and drollery. … He always avoided, as much as he could, to
year 1665 he told me that he was willing to do some good to the town
where he was born; that his majesty loved him well, and if I could find
out something in our country that was in his gift, he did believe he
could beg it of his majesty, and seeing he was bred a scholar, he thought
it most proper to endow a free school there.
walked much and contemplated, and he had in the head of his cane a pen
and ink-horn, carried always a note-book in his pocket, and as soon
as a thought darted, he presently entered it into his book, or otherwise
he might perhaps have lost it.
manner of thinking: - His place of meditation was then in the portico
in the garden. He said that he sometimes would set his thoughts upon
researching and contemplating, always with this rule that he very much
and deeply considered one thing at a time (scilicet, a week or sometimes
had very few books. I never saw above half a dozen about him in his
chamber. Homer and Virgil were commonly on his table; sometimes Xenophon,
or some probable history, and Greek Testament, or so.
He had read much, if one considers his long life; but his contemplation
was much more than his reading. He was wont to say that if he had read
as much as other men, he should have known no more than other men.
and diet. He was, even in his youth, (generally) temperate, both as
to wine and women. I have heard him say that he did believe he had been
in excess in his life, a hundred times; which, considering his great
age, did not amount to above once a year: when he did drink, he would
drink to excess to have the benefit of vomiting, which he did easily;
by which benefit neither his wit was disturbed (longer than he was spewing)
nor his stomach oppressed; but he never was, nor could not endure to
be, habitually a good fellow, i.e. to drink every day wine with company,
which, though not to drunkenness, spoils the brain.
his last thirty or more years, his diet, etc, was very moderate and
regular. After sixty he drank no wine, his stomach grew weak, and he
did eat most fish, especially whitings, for he said he digested fish
better than flesh. He rose about seven, had his breakfast of bread and
butter; and took his walk, meditating till ten. In the afternoon he
penned his morning thoughts.
had always books of prick-song lying on his table - e.g. of H. Lawes',
etc, Songs - which at night, when he was abed, and the doors made fast,
and was sure nobody heard him, he sang aloud (not that he had a very
good voice, but for his health's sake); he did believe it did his lungs
good and conduced much to prolong his life.
had the shaking palsy in his hands; which began in France before the
year 1650, and has grown upon him by degrees, ever since, so that he
has not been able to write very legibly since 1665 or 1666, as I find
by some of his letters to me.
time, I remember, going into the Strand, a poor and infirm old man craved
his alms. He beholding him with eyes of pity and compassion, put his
hands in his pocket, and gave him 6d. Said Dr Jasper Mayne that stood
by - 'Would you have done this, if it had not been Christ's command?'
'Yes,' said he. 'Why?' said the other. 'Because,' said he, 'I was in
pain to consider the miserable condition of the old man; and now my
alms, giving him some relief, doth also ease me.'
For his being branded with atheism, his writings and virtuous life testify
against it. And that he was a Christian, it is clear, for he received
the sacrament of Dr Pierson, and in his confession to Dr John Cosins,
on his (as he thought) death-bed, declared that he liked the religion
of the Church of England best of all other.
have heard him say that Aristotle was the worst teacher that ever was,
the worst politician and ethic …
Waller esquire of Beconsfield: 'but what he was most to be commended
for was that he being a private person threw down the strongholds of
the Church, and let in light.'
Stevens, serjeant at law, was wont to say of him, and that truly, that
'no man had so much, so deeply, seriously and profoundly considered
human nature as he'.
he hath no countryman living who hath known him so long (since 1634)
as myself, or of his friends, who knows so much about him.
a letter to John Aubrey from James Wheldon, 16 January 1679.
fell sick about the middle of October last. His disease was the strangury,
and the physicians judged it incurable by reason of his great age and
natural decay. About the 20th of November … he was conveyed safely …
but seven or eight days after, his whole right side was taken with the
dead palsy, and at the same time he was made speechless. He lived after
this seven days, taking very little nourishment, slept well, and by
intervals endeavoured to speak, but could not. In the whole time of
his sickness he was free from fever. He seemed therefore to die rather
for want of the fuel of life (which was spent in him) and mere weakness
and decay, than by power of his disease, which was thought to be only
an effect of his age and weakness... “