Reference numberLBO/1/6
Alternative reference numberLBO/1/16
TitleCopy letter from Christopher Wren, Oxford, to Paul Neile
Date1 October 1661
Description ' Concerning Saturne'

' Honored Sir
You know of what prevalency your commands alone are with me, although they had not been Seconded by the votes of the best Society of Europe; to directly which, would not be rudeness alone, but Gothisme and enmity to the progresse of learning; yet if it were not my resolution , that I ought to suffer any thing, rather then be deficient to so much duty; you should not have obtained of me, to expose myselfe so many wayes, as I must of necessity doe, in this litle Trifle, the Hypothesis of Saturne. For had it been so fortunate to come into your hands, while it could have told you any newes, it might possibly have been as well received, as the first messenger of a victorie is wont to be though he brings but an imperfect story; but when Hugenius hath outrid me, who Stay'd to being a fuller relation; to give you a stale account, will no doubt be as pleasant a thing to you, as unseasonable wellmeanings are wont to be, but can not give you any serious satisfaction. I must confess, I have often had the pusillanimity, rather to neglect that Right, I might in Justice have vindicated, then, by challenging it too late, incurre the jealousy of being a plagiary. And since you it is, that will not suffer me to continue in this peaceable humour, I shall not need to feare, that you will entertaine any such suspicion, especially since this kind of Saturne was long before hatched by your influence at Whitewaltham, upon the observation of December 3, 1657. when first we had an apprehension that the armes of [Saturn?] kept their length, which produced this hypothesis, made first in 2 pastboards; not to say any thing of our attempts in wax, in January 1655. The hypothesis made more durable in metall was exposed on the top of that Obeliske, which was erected at Gresham Colledge in May 1658 (if I mistake, be pleased to rectifie me) to rayse th 435 foot Telescope of your donation. At the same time I was put upon writing on this subject, for which I supposed I had tolerable observtions and materialls at hand; but first I was enjoyned to give that short and genrerall account of it, which about that time I drew up in this sheete:
[Note in margin 'This writing is to be found upon the File of the Society]
but when in a shorte while after, the hypothesis of Hugenius was sent over in writing, I confess I was so fond of the neatnesse of it, and the Naturall Simplicity of the contrivance, agreeing so well with the physicall causes of the heavenly bodies, that I loved the invention beyond my owne, and though this be so much an aquipollent with that of Hugenius, that I suppose future observations will never be able to determine, which is the truest, yet I would not proceed with my designe, nor expose so much as this sheete any farther, then to the eye of my bosome friend, to whome even my errors lay alwayes open. Neither had I now been perswaded to it, but that I could not endure a Regresse, in a Reall learning, having always had a Zeale for the progresse of it: and to see ingenious men, neglecting what was determined before, to doe worse, on the same subject, because they would doe otherwise, was alwayes wont to make me passionate; and therefore I could not with Charity suffer a persone (whose greate wit unusefully applyed would e a losse to the world) to trouble himselfe with this lesse considerable Hypothesis, which if he had known not to be newe, he had possibly despised: and yet it is very well advised of him, that we should not so build upon Hugenius Hypothesis as to neglect the observations, about the full pasis, which, till they are obtained, litle more can be determined in this thing, then what Hugenius hath done. And there fore though I might have taken occasion together with this old paper to have lent some thoughts, and to hav esuggested some newe Hypothesis; yet considering they woudl as yet be but meer conjectures, I have lett alone those thoughtsd. And if it be suspected, that any thing sayd in this, superficiall draught of Saturne be of this sort, that is, contrived since the seeing of Hugenius; I have a double appeale to make; one to my honored friend Mr Rooke, who at firs saw the onlyely copy; and an other to the stile, which speakes, I had not yet used the industrie to refine it, above what might have proceeded from my childish pen, having not them been so sofficiently convinced, of the necessity of workds as well as tings; neither would I change it now, tht I might be conscious to my selfe of sincerity; but where too much obscurity in the expression onely, forced me ion two or three places. For these reasons I earnestly beg this favour of you (as a friend I desire it) that you would keep it in your hands, and restore it again, which as the case stands, will give me almost as much Satisfaction, as if I had found the confidence to have excused myselfe, when it was enjoyned me at the Society: which i might well have done, considering that divers there, had been at the trouble, to heare the Astronomy Reader at Gresham give fuller discourses on the same subject, which he thought then was publication enough; and might have saved the impertinencie of these Apologies, for that which he thinkes deserves not now so much of his care, otherwise then as it is a command from Them.

Your most obedient humble Servant
Christopher Wren

Oxford October 1, 1661 '
Access statusOpen
Fellows associated with this archive
NA8299Wren; Sir; Christopher (1632 - 1723); architect, astronomer, and mathematician1632 - 1723
NA8265Neile; Sir; Paul (1613 - 1686); courtier and patron of science1613 - 1686
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