A portrait of Isaac Newton by Frank E. Manual

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By Frank E. Manual

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The degree to which all human activities had to be limited 62 Failure to pray and inattentiveness in church constituted another category of sins against God. Missing chapel and Carelessly hearing and committing many sermons remind one of the strict regimen that required young men to listen to sermons and learn them by heart. After Whitsunday 1662, Newton’s censor concentrated on sins of omission like Negligence at the chapel; Sermons at Saint Marys 4; Neglecting to pray 3. In his relations with his fellowmen Newton had broken the commandment against stealing and then had compounded the felony by lying about it: Stealing cherry cobs from Eduard Storer; Denying that I did so; Robbing my mothers box of plums and sugar; Denying a crossbow to my mother and grand mother though I \new of it.

It was a story repeated more than once, and Edmund Tum or sum­ marized it from the Conduitt manuscripts. “Sir Isaac used to relate that he was very negligent at school, and very low at it, till the boy above him gave him a kick in the belly, which put him to a great deal of pain. ”^^ Spurred on by the schoolmaster’s son, who had witnessed the fight, to complete the humiliation of the bully, Newton had dragged him to the church by the ears and rubbed his nose against the wall,^^ a ceremony that he would re-enact on more than one occasion later in life, especially when there were authorities about to give him sanction.

He was com­ monly too cunning for them in every thing. They were sensible he had more ingenuity than they, and ’tis an old observation, that in 42 43 THE LAD FROM LINCOLNSHIRE all Societys, even of men, he who has most understanding, is least regarded. One instance of Sir Isaacs craft was this:— “On the day that Oliver Cromwell dy’d, there was a very great wind or tempest over the whole kingdom. That day, as the boys were playing, a sett of them were leaping. ^” T h at knowledge might give him the power to outstrip those before whom he felt himself inferior in some respect was not lost on him.

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