John Collins writes about himself
In a letter to James Gregory, who was living in Padua at the time, John Collins introduces himself and writes a little about his situation. We have omitted that part of the letter in which Collins asks Gregory if he can purchase certain books for him:
Sir, it was once my good hap to meet with you in an alehouse, or in Sion College, and though I have not been educated at universities, and so my attainments are mean, yet I have an ardent love to these studies, and endeavouring to raise a catalogue of mathematical books, and to procure scarce ones for the use of the Royal Society and my own delight, I crave your assistance in procuring what I mention in this letter, or the enclosed paper. ... I can give you an account of many books, printed lately at Paris, and some of them for private persons, which I wish I could have for my money, and perchance you will desire to meet with some of them in your return. I am now in a troublesome employment that prevents my studies, to wit, chief accountant to the commissioners for examining the accounts of the late war, and manage an accountantship in the Excise office by a substitute; so that, if you vouchsafe an answer, direct it to me as an accountant at the Excise-office in Bloomsbury, to be left with Mr Bourne at the posthouse.
I remain ... John Collins
Collins explains more about his situation in a letter to Gregory on 1 March 1670:
... the business of our accounts I am apt to think lost labour, I have obtained a pension of £50 per annum for the loss of my place as accountant in the Excise, and I, thank God, hope to live very well without any of the like public employments very laborious and little profitable that I have hitherto spent my time in, and know that this employment will cease at Christmas next if not before, and then resolve God willing to set up a Bookseller's shop and to keep some merchants accounts ...
Again on 29 September 1670 Collins writes to Gregory:
... his Majesty has constituted a privy Council for taking care of trade and welfare of his foreign plantations, hereof the Earl of Sandwich is Lord President, the members are ... and Secretary, all of these are believed will have a standing salary or reward from his Majesty, the Secretary will have a salary or allowance besides for his clerks, which are but two at present, whereof I am the first, both of us are to attend Council, and I hope the employment will be better and afford more leisure than any I have been yet concerned in ...
Again in early 1671, Collins writes to the French Jesuit mathematician Jean Bertet:
I have for these four years past been so busily employed chiefly in examining the accounts of the late chargeable Sea Warre, that I have had no spare hours for mathematics, and therefore have troubled some of my friends with those problems [about solving equations] ...
Collins write to Gregory on 17 March 1671:-
I must confess my unwilling neglect in not answering yours [of 15 February] sooner, but the case is this: his Majesty is pleased to increase the number of the Council for Plantations by adding diverse persons of great dignity thereto, to wit his highness the Duke of York, ... , and it fell to my lot to write copies of the commissions and instructions for their use.
On 8 November 1672 Collins wrote to Gregory:
... for above three months I have been concerned in a double employment, the former (from which I am now almost at freedom) was as one of the clerks attending on the Council of Plantations, where I met with much work, and to my sorrow have an arrear of £300 sterling due to me, which I am like to hope for with Patience, the latter as farthing treasurer wherein I find much trouble and the pay not proportional, and now I can obtain a little leisure.