Catherine Barton

Catherine Barton

Female adult bio
name = Catherine Barton Conduitt
photo =
caption = Catherine as a young woman
birth = 1679
location =
birthname = Catherine Barton
spouse =
death = 1739

Catherine Barton (1679 – 1739) was Isaac Newton's half-niece, wife of the British MP John Conduitt and probable mistress of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax.

She was the daughter of Robert Barton, Gent, and Hannah Smith, half-sister of Isaac Newton. Beautiful, witty and clever, sometime after Isaac moved to London to become Warden at the Mint she moved to London. She was known as a brilliant conversationalist, and attracted the admiration of such famous figures as Jonathan Swift and Voltaire. Her uncle was also fond of her; an excerpt of an uncharacteristically warm letter from Newton survives, regarding her contraction of smallpox: "Pray let me know by your next how your [face is] and if your fevour (sic) be going. Perhaps warm milk from ye Cow may [help] to abate it. I am Your loving Unkle (sic), Is. Newton."

Following the death of the earl of Halifax's wife in 1698, Barton became his housekeeper and probably his mistress. There was much contemporary gossip on the subject, and thinly disguised accusations appeared in print. Delariviere Manley's "Memoirs" of 1710 featured a character called Bartica who was widely taken to represent Barton. Halifax died of an inflammation of the lungs in May, 1715. His will contained a codicil dated 12 June, 1706, which left the sum of £3000 and his jewels to Barton. A further codicil of 1 February, 1713, left her an additional £5000 plus his interest in the rangership of Bushey Park and his manor of Apscourt in Surrey. A sum large enough to leave her independently wealthy by the standards of the time, Halifax's will stated that these bequests were 'as a token of the sincere love, affection and esteem, I have long had for her person, and as a small recompense for the pleasure and happiness I have had in her conversation.'

Barton then returned to live with her uncle at his home in St Martin's Street. Shortly afterwards, however, she became engaged; in 1717, she married John Conduitt, later a Member of Parliament and master of the Royal Mint. The couple had one daughter, Catherine, born in 1719.

Conduitt died on 23 May 1737 and was buried in Westminster Abbey to the right of Sir Isaac Newton. Barton died in 1739 and was buried with him. Their daughter married John Wallop, Viscount Lymington, the eldest son of the first earl of Portsmouth, and their son, John Wallop, succeeded as second earl of Portsmouth.

In fiction

A fictional Barton has a small role in Neal Stephenson's novel "The System of the World", the final installment in Stephenson's "Baroque Cycle".

She also has a role in Philip Kerr's novel "Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton".


* [ The Newton Project]

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