Alexis Clairaut (1713-1765)

Chronologie de la vie de Clairaut (1713-1765)

[(c. 9 juin) c. 29 mai 1749] : [John Machin] écrit à Clairaut :
To Clairaut.

You enquire of HIM about what may have been published by ME ; that is a HOME question, which can't be answer'd by HIM, il must be answered by ME. Alass ! [rayé : you know little of the state of things here, to make such a an inquiring, you think it is with us in England as] This inquiring shews you know little of the state of things in England, in thinking it is with us here as it is with you in France. To publish is to perform an act ; an to act implies the having of a judgment of one's own, and a will of one's own. 'T is true in France a man may claim something of his own ; he may have thoughts of his own, and works of his own, and a will of his owns ; but it is otherwise here now in this kingdom. We are all members but of one body ; one breast here serves to hold every will ; and one head and one soul to claim the merit of every act, and of every thought and of every work.

Every man here has his judgment held in trust for him ; but so has not to be used without leave from his betters.

Who dares for instance affirm, of his own head, in this country ; that the man is in the bottle, or that the man is not in the bottle, or even, that it may'nt be possible for him to be, both, in the bottle, and not in the bottle at the same time ?

For these things are thus thrown out, here, in the most publick manner possible, to prevent all manner of mistakes ; in notifying it clearly to the world, by the loud rattling of the chains, how firmly and how security the liberties of this people are at present fastned.

In France reason is still allow'd to claim a place in its own proper divine seat ; at least [tache] open and protest attempts have been made there to deshonore her absolutely.

But, here, infatuation daily battles it with reason, and tho' fighting on a ground, that is, really and truly as rotten as that near the mount in white chapel, yet is so senseless all the while, as neither to see nor to smell its own present scurvy condition.

In France they are continually erecting piles upon piles of knowledge and literature, and all for the enlargement of the boundaries of human freedom : Whilse we are digging down into piss of darkness to forge letters only for the children of posterity.

'T is private [...] and gain, that's the sordid end of this country, and of all its present low inhabitants ; knowledge and science avail nothing here, unless when prostituted to the use and service of some plunderers and pirates.

Even pleasure is self which abounds more than ever, is, here, secretly, at the bottom, nothing else the base prostitute of avarice.

Robbery and plunder is all the word here ; places, trusts, titles, rights, estates, priviledges and immunities, are almost all held here now up on some principle or other of robberry. In short no man now can well build safe upon in his own ground, who will not first engage to plunder some other man, or sell his brother.

This being our state of things, what has anyone to publish here ? unless it be to give posterity a view of all the burning shame and disgrace of this most miserable age and country.

Let then those who are so happy, as to live unshackled, in free'r states, exercise their talents, and bend all their powers, to remove, if they can, this a standing reproach to our the present renowned system of mechanical philosophy ; the lustse whose of so hash out things and quite darkens all the knowledge and science of antiquity : Let it not for shame he said, that it stops in the simple explication of the easy, the regular, and stately motion of a prime planet which obeys the sun only.

Let it unravel also all the intricate, unsteady motions and trepidations of the poor little satellites, who are distracted by double duty to the master and to the king. [Signé] ME (British Library, Add 6209, f. 250 (anciennement f. 185)).
Cette lettre anonyme et non datée est conservée parmi des papiers de John Machin, juste avant une lettre de Machin à Charles Mein datée du 29 mai 1749.

Dans (Taton 78) est mentionnée une lettre anonyme du 20 mai 1749 conservée à la Royal Society sous la cote Ms 6209, f. 250 mais cette cote ne correspond à aucune de celles de la RS (Ruper Baker, CP, 19 octobre 1998).

La réception du pli cacheté C. 40 par la Royal Society (cf. (12) 1 juin 1749), dont Machin sera informé (cf. (31 août 1749) 20 août 1749) le conduira à en déposer un lui-même (cf. (11 février 1751) 31 janvier 1750).
  • C. 40 : Clairaut (Alexis-Claude), « De l'orbite de la Lune, en ne négligeant pas les quarrés des quantités de même ordre que les forces perturbatrices », HARS 1748 (1752), Mém., pp. 421-440 [Télécharger] [20 décembre 1748 (1)] [(7 novembre) 27 octobre 1737 (1)] [13 juin 1744 (1)] [Plus].
  • CP : Communication personnelle.
  • HARS 17.. : Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences [de Paris] pour l'année 17.., avec les mémoires...
  • Mém. : Partie Mémoires de HARS 17..
  • RS : Royal Society, London.
Courcelle (Olivier), « [(c. 9 juin) c. 29 mai 1749] : [John Machin] écrit à Clairaut », Chronologie de la vie de Clairaut (1713-1765) [En ligne], [Notice publiée le 31 juillet 2010].