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Instead of giving any encouragement, indeed, to his son's fondness for study, his father did all in his power to cure him of what he deemed so idle and pernicious a propensity; and at last, it is said, after many reprimands, forbade him even to open a book, and insisted upon his confining himself to his loom the whole day. This injudicious severity, however, defeated its own object. The young man's repeated attempts to evade the harsh injunction that had been laid upon him led to perpetual quarrels between himself and his father, till he was one day ordered by the latter to leave the house altogether, and to go seek his fortune where and in whatever way he chose. In this extremity, he took refuge in the house of a tailor's widow, who let lodgings in the neighboring village of Nuneaton, and with whose son, two years older than himself, he had been previously acquainted. Here he contrived to maintain himself for a while by working at his business; and had at least a little time to spare besides for his favorite enjoyment of reading, when he could any where borrow a book. It chanced, however, that, among other humble travellers who sometimes took up their abode with the widow, was a pedler, who followed the profession of an astrologer and fortune-teller, as well as that of an itinerant merchant, and was, accordingly, accounted a man of no little learning by the rustics of those parts. Young Simpson's curiosity had been, some time before this, greatly excited by a remarkable eclipse of the sun, which happened on the 11th of May, 1724 ; but if this was the incident that gave his mind its first bias toward the studies in which he afterwards attained so high a distinction, it was to his casual connection with the astrologer that he owed the rudiments of his scientific knowledge. This personage, with whom he had become very intimate, had, it appears, a few books relating to the mystery he professed, and to the branches of real learning held to be connected with it. Among these were Cocker's “ Arithmetic," which had, fortunately, a treatise on algebra bound up with it—as well as
the less useful addition of a work written by Partridge, the famous Almanac maker, on the calculation of nativities. Both these volumes the pedler, on setting out upon a tour to Bristol, left in the hands of his young friend.
These were the first scientific works Simpson had ever had an opportunity of perusing, and they interested him exceedingly; even the book on nativities, notwithstanding the absurdities with which it was filled, probably not a little exciting his wonder and curiosity, both by its mysterious speculations on the prophetic language of the stars, and such scattered intimations as it afforded in regard to the sublime realities of astronomy. He studied his manuals with such ardor and assiduity, that the pedler, upon returning from his excursion, was quite confounded at his progress ; and looked upon him as so marvellous a genius, that he proceeded forthwith to draw his horoscope (to speak in the jargon of the art), or, in other words, to calculate the position of the planets on the day he was born, in order that he might ascertain the splendid destiny in store for him. He predicted that, in two years more, this miraculous pupil would actually turn out a greater philosopher than himself. After this, it cannot surprise us that our young aspirant should give himself to his occult studies with greater devotion than ever; and we find him, in fact, ere long, commencing business as fortuneteller on his own account, and rapidly rising in reputation in that capacity, until he became the oracle of the whole neighborhood. He now gave up working as a weaver ; but, to occupy his leisure, he added to his principal profession that of a schoolmaster; so that, his gains being now considerable, he looked upon himself as in the secure high road to prosperity, and, accordingly, married a wife in the person of his landlady, the tailor's widow, whom we have already mentioned. This was a somewhat singular connection ; for, if the account commonly given of the lady be correct, which account makes her die in the year 1782, at the age of one hundred and two, she must have
been, at the time of this her second marriage, about three times as old as her husband. Indeed, as we have already observed, she had (besides a daughter) a son by her former husband, two years older than her new partner.
It is necessary to mention these circumstances, in order to give a true picture of Simpson's situation at this period of his life, and of the multiplied difficulties through which he must have fought his way to the eminence he eventually attained. No starting-place for a literary career, one should think, could well be more awkward and hopeless, than that of a man who, besides many other disadvantages, had already a family to maintain before he had almost commenced his education, and no other means of doing so except a profession which necessarily excluded him from any association with the literary world in general, much more effectually than if he had eaten the bread of the humblest or most menial industry. It was quite necessary, indeed, that, if he was ever to give himself a chance either of advancement or respectability, he should exchange his trade of a fortune-teller and conjurer for some more reputable vocation, even although it should be, at the same time, a more laborious and less lucrative one. He removed to Derby soon after : here he wisely returned to his original occupation of a weaver; and, joining to his labors at the loom during the day, the teaching of a school at night, contrived for some time, though with much difficulty, to earn in this way a scanty subsistence for himself and his family.
It was during his residence at Derby, amid the fatigues of hard and unceasing labor, and the cares and vexations of poverty, that this extraordinary man made his most important advances in scientific knowledge. His principal source of information was the “ Ladies' Diary," of which he was a regular and attentive reader. It was in this publication that he first read of that branch of mathematical learning called Fluxions, or the Differential Calculus, the recent discovery of Sir Isaac Newton and Leibnitz; but the places in which it was noticed scarcely informed him
of more than its name, and its immense importance in all the higher investigations of mathematics. But this was enough for such a mind as his. He determined to make himself master of the subject, and could not rest until he had possessed himself of the means of commencing the study of it. · The only treatise on fluxions which had at that time appeared in English, was a work by an author of the name of Hayes; but it was a dear and somewhat scarce book, so that he found it impossible to procure a copy of it. Providentially, however, in the year 1730, appeared Edmund Stone's translation of the Marquis de l'Hôpital's French work on the subject. This Simpson borrowed from a friend; and, immediately setting about the study of it with his characteristic ardor, prosecuted it with so much success, that he not only made himself in a short time familiar with the new science, but qualified himself to compose a work of his own upon it, which, when published a few years after, turned out to be much more complete and valuable than either that of Hayes or that of Stone. When he had finished this performance, he set out for London, leaving his wife and family in the mean time at Derby. He reached the capital without even a letter of introduction, and with scarcely any thing except his manuscript in his pocket. He was at this time in his twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth year. Having established himself in humble lodgings in the neighborhood of Spitalfields, he maintained himself, in the first instance, as he had been wont to do in the country, by working at his trade during the day, while he occupied his evenings in teaching mathematics to such pupils as he could procure. In this latter employment, his engaging method of instruction, and admirable talent for explaining and simplifying the difficulties of his subject, in a short time procured him notice and friends; and his success was so considerable, that he was enabled to bring his family to town. He now also ventured to announce the publication of his “ Treatise on Fluxions," by subscription ; and it accordingly appeared in quarto, in
the year 1737. From this era, his fortunes and his celebrity went on steadily advancing. But the most remarkable and honorable part of his history is that which recounts his unwearied exertion as a writer on his favorite subjects, after he had acquired a station and a regular income, as well as a degree of distinction, which would have satisfied the ambition, and relaxed the industry, of many others whose early struggles had been so severe as his.
Here, then, is an inspiring example, showing how a man may triumph over almost any outward circumstances. Nor let it be said that such victories are reserved only for persons of extraordinary intellectual powers. We repeat that it is not genius, but resolution and perseverance, that are wanted. Simpson was not a man of much original or inventive talent; nor did he possess any quality of mind which would have made him one of the wonders of his time, if he had set out in life with the ordinary advantages. His writings are all able, generally useful, and sometimes ingenious; but he is not to be enumerated among those who have carried science forward, or materially assisted in any of its great conquests. Not that he was, in point even of mental capacity, by any means an ordinary man; but there is an immeasurable interval between such men as Simpson and those whose writings and discoveries are destined to influence and mould their own and all succeeding ages. His chief talent was great clearness and quickness of apprehension ; and very much of this he owed to the eagerness and devotion with which he gave himself up to the study of whatever he wished to make himself master of, and the unrelaxed attention which he was consequently enabled to apply to it. This, indeed, is rather a habit of mind which may be acquired, than a talent that one must be born with ; or, at least, it depends, much more than many other sorts of talent, on those moral qualities which may be excited and strengthened by proper discipline in every man.
It was here that Simpson's superiority principally lay-in that passionate 'love of knowledge which