Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
From Anecdotes About 17th Century Authors

He was forty years old before he looked on Geometry; which happened accidentally. Being in a gentleman's library .... Euclid's Elements lay open, and 'twas the 47th El. libr i 1. He read the proposition. 'By God!' said he (he would now and then swear by way of emphasis), 'this is impossible!' So he reads the demonstration of it, which referred him back to such a proposition; which proposition he read. That referred him back to another, which he also read. Et sic deinceps, that at last he was demonstratively convinced of that truth. This made him in love with Geometry . . . I have heard Mr. Hobbes say that he was wont to draw lines on his thigh and on the sheets, abed, and also multiply and divide.

—From Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 332,333.

In 1646, when Charles II (then Prince of Wales) was an exile in Paris, Hobbes was engaged to teach him the elements of mathematics. Hobbes returned to England in 1651, and at the time of the Restoration was living in the household of his patron, the Earl of Devonshire.

IT happened, about two or three days after His Majesty's happy return, that, as he was passing in his coach through the Strand, Mr. Hobbes was standing at Little Salisbury House gate (where his lord then lived). The King espied him, put off his hat very kindly to him, and asked him how he did. About a week after, he had oral conference with His Majesty at Mr. S. Cowper's, where, as he sat for his picture, he was diverted by Mr. Hobbes's pleasant discourse. Here His Majesty's favours were redintegrated to him, and order was given that he should have free access to His Majesty, who was always much delighted in his wit and smart repartees.

The 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!'

—From Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 340.

IN his old age he was very bald (which claimed a veneration); yet within doors he used to study and sit bare-headed, and said he never took cold in his head, but that the greatest trouble was to keep off the flies from pitching on the baldness....

He had very few books. I never saw (nor Sir William Petty) above half a dozen about him in his chamber. Homer and Virgil were commonly an 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 ...

He had an inch-thick board about sixteen inches square, whereon paper was pasted. On this board he drew his lines (schemes). When a line came into his head, he would, as he was walking, take a rude memorandum of it, to preserve it in his memory till he came to his chamber. He was never idle; his thoughts were always working. . . .

He had always books of prick-song lying on his table (e.g. of Henry Lawes's, 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 to clear his pipes. He did believe it did his lungs good, and conduced much to prolong his life.

—From Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 347-8, 349, 351, 352.

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