De Morgan by his wife Sophia. Part 3

This file covers events in De Morgan's life from 1832 to 1837. The material is a version of that written by De Morgan's wife Sophia Elizabeth in 'S E De Morgan, Memoir of Augustus De Morgan by his wife Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (London, 1882)'.
There are four sections:
(i) The Royal Astronomical Society;
(ii) Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge;
(iii) Professor of Mathematics in University College again;
(iv) De Morgan married Sophia.

The other sections of these Memoirs are at
Part 1
Part 2

Part 4

1. The Royal Astronomical Society

In May 1828, shortly after his first coming to London, Mr De Morgan had been elected a Fellow of the Astronomical Society, and in February 1830 took his place on the Council. Of the state of Science just before that period, Sir John Herschel said:-
The end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century were remarkable for the small amount of scientific movement going on in this country, especially in its more exact departments. ... Mathematics were at the last gasp, and Astronomy nearly so I mean in those members of its frame which depend upon precise measurement and systematic calculation. The chilling torpor of routine had begun to spread itself over all those branches of Science which wanted the excitement of experimental research.
In 1820 the Astronomical Society was founded by Mr Baily in conjunction with Dr Pearson, and from the time of its formation the joint efforts of many earnest intellectual men were given to raise the higher sciences from the state of depression and inactivity described by Sir John Herschel. The work, however, had not been uninterrupted, and the difficulties attending their task were increased by some injudicious persons who liked better to attack old errors and abuses than to work harmoniously with those whose only aim was to introduce better methods and measures.

This was inseparable from a condition of reconstruction the same spirit of change and reconstruction that was at work in the political world and the obstacles thrown in the way of reform by men whose efforts went either in the wrong direction or too far in the right direction, were not felt only in science. Of this time my husband wrote some years after:-
I first began to know the Scientific world in 1828. The forces were then mustering for what may be called the great battle of 1830. The great epidemic which produced the French Revolution, and what is yet (1866) the English Reform Bill, showed its effect on the scientific world.
The nature and extent of the scientific works begun before this time and carried out to completeness during the half-century which followed, can be but slightly mentioned. Mr Francis Baily had effected the improvement in the 'Nautical Almanac,' and compiled the Society's 'Catalogue of Stars.' Sir John Herschel was engaged on his 'Catalogue of Double Stars,' to complete which he left England for the Cape of Good Hope nearly three years later. The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was in full operation, under the direction of Professor, now Sir George Airy. Astronomy was rapidly approaching that height on which it now stands, and the efforts of the Astronomical Society, a body of men working with earnestness and unanimity, did much to raise it to its present state.

Mr De Morgan was elected honorary secretary in 1831. He entered with zeal into every question brought before the Society, and his place was not a sinecure. It is not easy to say how much of the usefulness and prosperity of the Society during the years in which Mr De Morgan filled this place was due to his incessant energy and effort, and to his steady judgment at difficult junctures.

His work at the Society brought him into immediate contact with all its transactions and with all concerned in them, and as he never left London, and was known to be always at hand, much more than the routine duties of an honorary secretary would have fallen to his share, even if he had not voluntarily taken them upon himself. He drew up documents, wrote letters, and arranged for the meetings and the publication of memoirs. His obituary notices, written as one after another of his fellow-workers left the world, are biographical photographs, taken with a skill that makes the sunlight bring out all the finest as well as the most characteristic lines of the face.

In the year 1831, the second of Sir James South's presidency, a royal charter was granted to this Society. It was made out in the name of the President, owing to a legal formality, which would have involved greater expense to the Society if others of the Council had been included. But though no mention of differences of opinion appears on the minutes of the Society, there was certainly anything but unanimity as to the manner of receiving this grant, for Mr De Morgan has preserved the following letter from Captain, afterwards Admiral Smyth, in answer to the requisition officially made for another Council meeting to re-discuss the question. The style of the formal letter contrasts strongly with the friendly effusions to the 'Esteemed Sec.' and 'Dear Mentor' of after times:-
Professor De Morgan, Sec. Ast. Soc.

In answer to the requisition for a Council to meet on Saturday next to re-discuss the subject of the charter, I regret to say that indispensable occupations prevent my attendance; but, I must add, if leisure were at my command I should still strongly object to being called away from employment on account of the whims of an individual. I consider the point in question to have been already as well considered as the true spirit of our association requires; that any objection that has been started is more specious than valid; and that any farther alteration will be merely a distinction without a difference. I firmly believe that every member of the Council has acted to the best of his ability and opportunity, and also feel that the Council, as a body, has ever shown itself more zealous about substance than about quibbling forms; but they might as well frame laws and institutions for Mars or Jupiter as for those who are predetermined to be dissatisfied.

I therefore trust, in order that the vigour of the Society may not be fettered, that the Council will take effectual steps to repel every disorderly attempt to impute motives or impugn its conduct, as well as to stifle their rancorous disputes, which can only engender an atrophy of moral work. If this is not insisted on, the meeting, which was purely instituted for the propagation of Science, will quickly degenerate into a spouting club, in which, instead of the adduction of undistorted facts, we shall be exposed to all the artillery of premisses without conclusions, and conclusions without premisses, added to the iteration of undigested thoughts in all the turgidity of ill-taste; and even were the reasoning powers among us more perfect, we should only be making much noise and little progress, leaving the good uncertain and remote, while the evil would be certain and immediate. Moreover, the disputatious system, being both irritable and irritating, is altogether as absurd for astronomers as would be the dramatising of Newton's Principia.

I therefore firmly hope that a perfect union in the cause we are embarked on will distinguish our efforts, for the straightforward course of duty is as perfectly practicable as it is desirable. I have the honour to be, sir,

Your obedient servant,
W H Smyth.
Who the individual was whose 'whims' Captain Smyth refers to I cannot say. But it is a significant fact that Sir J South, whose Presidency had not expired when the charter was granted, was not re-elected in the new staff of officers, nor does his name appear on the Council after this time.

Mr De Morgan's acquaintance with his colleagues on the Council of the Astronomical Society became in several cases intimate friendship. His friends were Mr Baily, Sir John Herschel, the Astronomer Royal, Lord Wrottesley, Rev Richard Sheepshanks, Admiral Manners, Mr Galloway, and a few others. Mr Sheepshanks and Mr Galloway had houses in the immediate neighbourhood of Gower Street, and Mr Baily lived at 37 Tavistock Place a pleasant house in a garden sheltered by sycamores. This house, rendered famous by the repetition of the Cavendish experiment, had formerly belonged to Mr Perry, of the 'Times.' In it my mother had met Porson, and heard him repeat Greek poetry.

Mr Baily was well fitted by his clear-headed steadiness of character, as well as by his excellent temper and geniality, to form the centre of a knot of friends sharing in the same pursuits. The same qualities made him an excellent host, and a better President of the Astronomical Society than if he had been a more brilliant talker. His kindly, simple bearing gained the love of those who could only look at his work with wonder. I remember feeling proud of having played a game of chess, in which I was of course beaten, with him. His house and appointments were just what they should be, made perfect to his friends by the cordiality of his reception. After his sister came to live with him, when this welcome was extended to his friends' wives and sisters, no house in London, I suppose, had held more happy parties than 37 Tavistock Place.

I find an anecdote showing his characteristic order and neatness in a letter left by my husband for the Institute of Actuaries. The proposal referred to was made in 1835, and related to the Cavendish experiment.
That every rule must have its exceptions is true even of Baily's accuracy, though I should have thought the assertion must have failed if I had not known the contrary. Few persons, however, know that this assertion contradicts itself. For, if it be a rule that every rule has its exception, this rule must have its exception; that is, there must be a rule without exception. Leaving this bone for logicians to pick, I go on with my story. About 1835 the Government made an important proposal to the Astronomical Society. Mr Baily, the President, stated that he had summoned the Council to consider a communication from the Lords of the Admiralty, which he would forthwith read. He then put his hand in his pocket, and the paper was not there. This almost excited remark, for that Mr Baily should not remember in which pocket what he looked for was to be found, was a very unlikely thing. But the other pockets also answered in the negative, and the end of it was that Baily announced that he must have left his papers behind him. The announcement of a comet with satellites would not have created half the surprise which followed. There was nothing for it but to take a cab and get back as quick as possible, leaving the Council to decide nem. con., though it could not be entered on the minutes, that they liked the President all the better for being, to absolute demonstration, a man of like failings with themselves.
In the Supplement to the 'Penny Cyclopaedia' Mr De Morgan wrote of Mr Baily:-
The history of the astronomy of the nineteenth century will be incomplete without a catalogue of his labours. He was one of the founders of the Astronomical Society, and his attention to its affairs was as accurate and minute as if it had been a firm of which he was the chief clerk, with expectation of being taken into partnership.
Sir John Herschel, the most distinguished in general estimation of these co-workers, was not so often among them at this time. He left England for the Cape of Good Hope in 1833, and was of course unable during his absence to take part in the practical business of the Society. My husband's letters to him show how little his colleagues liked to consider him absent. This correspondence began in the year 1831, when Mr De Morgan, as secretary, addressed him with official formality, and continued till 1870, having for many years become the expression of affectionate friendship.

The Astronomer Royal and Mrs Airy were among the most welcome of this circle of friends, who often met at the house of Mr Sheepshanks, where the presence of his sister, a woman full of genial kindness, made all feel welcome and happy. All were fond of music, and Mrs Airy's and her sister's ballads, sung with a spirit that gave them a character equal to Wilson's, were sometimes accompanied by Mr De Morgan's flute, and are still among my pleasantest remembrances.

Mr De Morgan had a strong regard for Mr Sheepshanks. Among many descriptive remarks, he says of him in the MS. before mentioned:-
He was the man from whom I learnt more than from all others of the way to feel and acknowledge the merits of an opponent. I have known many men cheerfully and candidly admit the good points of an antagonist, but hardly another, besides Sheepshanks, who would, in the course of opposition, systematically select them, bring them forward, maintain them against those of his own side; and this always, year after year, when engaged in warm opposition as well as in jocose conversation, when in public discussion with several as well as in private conversation with a single friend.
And that which must be noticed is the vigorous and practical character of his friendship. His active and unwearied assistance was as surely to be reckoned on as a law of nature, especially if to the cause of his friend was attached the opportunity of supporting some principle, or aiding some question of science. Nor was his kindness of feeing limited to his friends. It showed itself in real and thoughtful consideration for all with whom he came in contact. Had he been a physician, his fanciful and self-tormenting patients would have thought him the worst of their ills, his milder cases of real suffering would have been cheered by his bantering kindness, while severe and dangerous malady would have felt the presence of the sympathy which money cannot buy, shown with a delicacy which benevolence itself cannot always command.

The reference to an opponent points to Sir James South, who had become before this time a general opponent of most of his scientific friends. He joined Mr Babbage, who had accused some members of the Astronomical Society of being in a conspiracy against him, and this accusation elicited from Mr De Morgan the following description of his own relations with three of his friends:-
The only conspirators named were MM. Airy and Sheepshanks. These two and myself lived together in intimate friendship, officers of the Astronomical Society through a long course of years, ... we three, and each for himself, deciding that he was a rational and practicable man, and that the other two, no doubt worthy and rational, were a couple of obstinate fellows. Francis Baily thought the same of all three. I suppose we were an equi-tenacious triangle. But never a sharp word, I am sure, passed between any two of the four. Men of Science are not always quarrelsome ; and, as often happens when obstinate persons are reasoners, we were generally of one line of action, with occasional repudiation of each other's views. In all the many pleasant laughs we have had together about the doings of the two common assailants, nothing ever emerged which gave me the least impression of the existence of any common purpose in the two other minds, with reference to the eccentric anomalies of the Astronomical world.
Captain, afterwards Admiral Smyth, soon after this time came from Bedford, and took up his abode in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. He, assisted, I have heard, by his bowl of punch, was the life of the Astronomical Club, a little meeting of chosen friends who repaired after the business of the Society to the Piazza Coffee-house. Captain Smyth was a genial companion and a quaint, pleasant writer, devoted to Astronomical science. He also gave a good deal of attention to antiquarian research, published a quarto volume on the coins and other antiquities of Hartwell House, whither he went some years after to take charge of Dr Lee's observatory. I think that my husband's intercourse with his co-secretary, Admiral Manners, was at first chiefly official; but in after years we saw more of him, and he continued till death our cordial friend.

Mr and Mrs Bishop were living at South Villa, George Regent's Park. Mr Bishop was at one time President and for many years treasurer of the Royal Astronomical Society. His love of science never abated while he lived, and it led him to undertake a difficult study at an age when most men hold elementary learning out of the question. Shortly after this time he came to Mr De Morgan for lessons in algebra, in order to read the Mécanique Céleste. The little observatory in the Regent's Park was rendered famous by Mr Hind's discovery of many asteroids.

It was at Mr Baily's suggestion that in the year 1827 or 1828, the state of the Nautical Almanac was made the subject of Government inquiry. This ephemeris, which was under the management of the Admiralty, had not, as to the information it afforded to navigators, kept pace with Continental works of the same character; and its defects and errors were great in comparison with theirs. The Board of Longitude had suggested improvement, but this Board was dissolved in 1827, and there seemed to be no hope that the work, upon which the navigation of the country greatly depended, should be brought to that degree of perfection which the amount of scientific knowledge in England rendered possible. A strong remonstrance from Mr Baily drew attention to the matter, and after some discussion in various quarters, the Commissioners of the Admiralty entrusted to the Astronomical Society the task of revising and remodelling the Nautical Almanac. A committee was appointed and a Report drawn up by Mr Baily, who had given the subject unremitting attention. The recommendations of this Report were adopted by Government, and the Nautical Almanac, in its improved state, was the result. Lieutenant Stratford was appointed Superintendent.

The pendulum experiments had been repeated by Mr Baily in 1828, under conditions which precluded any but an almost imperceptible amount of error. Many other determinations depended on these, a most important one being the national standard of length; for, in the event of the standard yard being lost, the length of vibration of the seconds pendulum was the only source from which a new measure could be constructed. In 1832 a new scale was formed by the Astronomical Society under Mr Baily's superintendence. This, which was rigorously tested, was compared with the imperial standard, and with another made by Bird in 1758. It was well that this work was completed, as both these scales, as well as the national standard of weight, were destroyed by fire in the Houses of Parliament in 1834.

In all these works, after 1828, Mr De Morgan took a deep interest, but he was not an experimenter. He had a great love for scientific instruments, and in his various writings described their construction and work in such a way as to make them readily understood by any person of average intelligence. But his want of sight prevented his using them himself, and his share of the work done at this time of revival was, at least as to applied Science, that of an expounder and historian. I believe that every discovery, or determination of fact, of any importance, was made as clear to the world as the subject allowed in his articles in the 'Companion to the Almanac,' 'The Penny Cyclopaedia,' and many other works.

2. Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge

The institution of the London University had been an effect of that quickening of thought and action which accompanied what Mr De Morgan called the social pot-boiling. Another result in the same direction was the formation of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. It was founded in 1826 by Lord Brougham, Mr J Hume, M.P., and others, most of whom had also taken part in the establishment of the University. The object was to spread scientific and other knowledge, by means of cheap and clearly written treatises by the best writers of the time. Partly from the character of free thought ascribed to some of its founders, partly perhaps from its designation - for there is much in a name, and 'Diffusion of Useful Knowledge' sounded to some undistinguishing ears like a parody of 'Promotion of Christian Knowledge' - the Society was held by some timorous lookers on to be a sort of conspiracy to subvert all law and religion; and the publication of the 'Saturday Magazine,' a markedly religious periodical, just after the appearance of the 'Penny Magazine' of the Society, showed the feeling of opposition that was in people's minds. One reason given for this rival publication was that the 'Penny Magazine,' like the other works of the Society, was too dry and scientific for general readers. As for the Magazine itself, it spread far and wide, and the 'Penny Cyclopaedia,' one volume of which appeared at the end of the first year, had a great circulation, and has taken its place as a high-class book of reference. The charge of dryness is not so easy to get rid of as regards some of the tracts; but then it would not be easy to make light and popular reading of the higher branches of Mathematics, Chemistry, Hydrostatics, or the Polarisation of Light. The Society did good to its adversaries by making them give a better and sounder character to their own works of professedly religious aim. A few words from the 'Address of the Committee' in the year 1846, when the Society's labours came to an end, will give an idea of the principles on which it was founded, and to which it adhered throughout.
At its commencement the Society determined with obvious prudence to avoid the great subjects of religion and government, on which it was impossible to touch without provoking angry discussion. At a time when the spirit which produced the effects of 1828, 1829, and 1832, was struggling with those who, not very long before, had tried to subdue it by force; when religious disqualification and political exclusion occupied the daily attention of the press, and when the friends of education were themselves divided on the best way of adjusting these and other matters of legislation, any interference with theology or politics would have endangered the existence of a union which demanded the most cordial co-operation from all who wished well to the cause. That the Society took an appearance of political colour from the fact that almost all its original supporters were of one party in politics, is true; but it is as true that if the committee had waited to commence operations until both parties had been ready to act together the work would have been yet to begin, and the good which so many of the Society's old opponents admit that it has done would have been left undone. But the committee remember with great satisfaction that this impossibility of combining different views in support of a great object extended only to politics. From the commencement the Society consisted of men of almost every religious persuasion. The harmony in which they have worked together is sufficient proof that there is nothing in difference of doctrinal creed which need prevent successful association when the object is good and the points of dispute are avoided.
Mr De Morgan, who became a member of the committee in the year 1843, was from the first a very large contributor to its publications. His work 'The Differential and Integral Calculus' formed a portion of the series of tracts. The long list of articles in the 'Penny Cyclopaedia,' amounting in all to nearly one-sixth of the whole work, were begun by him at the outset, and concluded with the last volume of the Supplement, in 1858.

That his labours in this direction were fully appreciated is certain. He gave time, advice, and help in every way to the Society's work. I find on the title-page of the Address from which the extract is made, in his own handwriting:-
This Address was drawn up by me; even as to p 17, I had to blow my own trumpet, because those who insisted on its being blown, and proposed to do it for me, were going to blow louder than I liked.
A De Morgan.
August 26, 1852.
P 17 contained, to the best of my recollection, his own modified version of the laudatory expressions inserted in the rough draft by the President and Vice-President, who had taken it home for inspection.

Private pupils occupied a good deal of the time which Mr De Morgan had before spent in lecturing in University College. He was also engaged in writing for the 'Quarterly Journal of Education' of the Useful Knowledge Society, of which the first volume appeared in 1831. It was carried on for five years under the editorship of Mr George Long, formerly Professor in University College.

3. Professor of Mathematics in University College again

Before the end of this year he again took his place as Professor of Mathematics in University College. In October 1836, Mr White, his successor, who had been spending the vacation in the Channel Islands, ventured, with his wife and child, to cross from Guernsey to Jersey in a small sailing boat. The sea was unusually rough, and the remonstrances of the boatmen were unheeded. The boat capsized, and all on board were lost. This grievous event took place at the end of the College vacation. The classes were to open immediately, and the Mathematical chair in some respects the most important of all, as, independently of its own importance, that of Natural Philosophy depended on it was without a Professor, and the difficulty of filling it, either for a time or permanently, was greater than it would have been at another season of the year, when the authorities would have been in London.

Mr De Morgan felt the great emergency of the case, and immediately offered to supply the want until the Christmas following. Only one who, like himself, had filled the chair before, could have taken it on so short a notice, and I am certain that in acting on his first impulse he consulted the needs of the Institution, without any thought of the chances of a permanent return. But, once installed in his old place, it was foreseen by all his friends that an effort would be made to keep him there; and he judged, from the changes which had been made in the management, that his former objections to holding office in the College would not recur. An intimation soon came that the offer would be made, unless it should be distinctly understood that it would be rejected. His thoughts on this occasion were set forth in a letter to his friend Sir Harris Nicolas, by whose opinion as a lawyer he determined to abide.
My Dear Mr Harris, - I will not make any apology for asking of your friendship to consider the following case, and to give me your advice; firstly, because I believe you will willingly give me your opinion; and secondly, because I do not even make you run the risk of incurring the ordinary odium which unfortunate advisers are sure to meet with if they do not turn out to be right. For I do not want you to advise me what is right or what is wrong, or what is safe or what is unsafe; but I only want to ascertain the effect upon the mind of an unprejudiced person produced by the following account, without reference to the question whether such effect could or could not be made the basis of safe and honourable rule of action. The London University opened in 1828, and I was one of the Professors. The tenure of the Professorships amounted to this, that they were removable by the Council with or without reason assigned, having right of appeal against such dismissal to the Court of Proprietors; a body, as it afterwards turned out, not without materials for agitation, but the numerical strength of which could always be swayed by the Council, partly owing to its consisting of men of business, who could not, or would not, take any great interest, partly by the system of voting by proxy, the Council holding, as might be supposed, a great number of proxies.

Shortly after the commencement of the Institution various causes of irritation arose between the Council and Professors, partly owing, in my belief, to the desire of power and influence in an individual who stood in an ill-defined position; partly to the jealousy of some members of the Council whose political bias led them to think the best way of preventing an administrative officer from going wrong was to tie him up so tight that he could neither go right nor wrong, but very much from a feeling among the Professors that their position was not safe, and in particular a suspicion, which suppose well founded, that the Council intended to divide the Professorships as soon as the income became considerable.

In the course of the years 1828 and 1829 the Professors that is, a considerable number of them made such representations to the Council of their unwillingness to remain in so ambiguous a position, backed with a declaration of their intention to retire, as induced that body to subject themselves to by-laws in regard to dismissal of a Professor, requiring long notice, considerable attendance, and decided majority before a Professor could be dismissed. It is to be noticed that these by-laws, though rescindable at the pleasure of the body which imposed them, were honourably adhered to in the subsequent matters, and that no technical difficulties were thrown in the way of the appeal to the Court of Proprietors.

This matter being settled for the present, though no great confidence in either body existed on the part of the other, disturbances arose in the Anatomical class, the pupils questioning the competency of their Professor. Suppose it admitted that these disturbances were excited in the first instance by insinuations of two other Professors in their lectures, and were culpably fomented by the individual already alluded to, and by certain members of the Council; suppose also that repeated investigations into the competency of the Professor in question failed in establishing anything against him, and that he was finally dismissed in consequence of the Council not being able to quell the disturbance, and of the interference of the Court of Proprietors, under the name of a Select Committee, which resolved to the effect that there could be no peace in the University while Mr. --- remained, and then denied that they had recommended his dismissal?

On this dismissal, within twenty minutes of hearing it authenticated, I retired from the University, writing the following letter to the Council.

This took place in July or August 1831. In consequence of the retirement of other Professors, and of the severe loss sustained by the classes, as I suppose, a different system of management was finally adopted. It is detailed in the printed paper enclosed, of which the parts in question are scored in black ink where they relate to the Professor and Council, and in red ink where they relate to the Professor and his pupils.

My successor has, most unfortunately for the University, been lost at sea, which was communicated to me very suddenly by one of my old colleagues. My first impulse was to offer to perform the duties till Christmas, which I accordingly did, looking at the moment only to the inconvenience and probable loss which would be sustained by the institution opening without one of its most material chairs.

But on looking out into the world in this new character of a pro tempore substitute of my former self, I find in the first place a wish on the part of all I have spoken to (or rather, who have spoken to me) that I should return to my old post permanently, mixed, I suspect, with a strong notion that such is my desire. I am, therefore, if I do not choose finally to make any overture on this subject, or to allow any to be made, in a position to be supposed to have coquetted with this divorcee of mine, and unsuccessfully. This I mean to avoid by taking a very early opportunity of stating to anybody who thinks it worth while to ask the question, whether I will take it or not. I want the opinion of an unprejudiced person, who knows the world, on the following questions:-
  1. Do the regulations here submitted amount to bona fide moral security that Professorships in the University of London are offices tenable during good behaviour, and not held at pleasure?
  2. In addition to the practical security, supposing it to exist, do they offer that exterior show of being so held which would place the holders in that advantageous position as to respectability which a gentleman (meaning only by education and sentiments, for God knows all the rest is but leather and prunella) requires, one who believes that no independent man can hold at the pleasure of any individual or corporation, except perhaps the Crown, and then only because usage has made laws?
  3. Does the regulation relating to that case provide the security which a prudent man would think requisite against the subdivision of the Professorship in the event of its becoming lucrative?
We will suppose it comparatively immaterial what shall or shall not be good behaviour, and who shall decide, presuming on the check of public opinion, which operated strongly though not effectually on a former occasion. And, on the one hand, let the affirmative of the question (1) have all the advantage of its having been found very difficult to remove a Professor, even under the old regime; while, on the other hand, it must have all the disadvantage of the appeal to the Court of Proprietors being utterly worthless.

Your opinion should be given on no supposition of the affirmative being desired, if possible.

Should I accept any offer (for I shall certainly not be a candidate) I should rather lose than gain for the time; and I do not consider the prospect of ultimate gain as greater than that I now have. The advantage would be the resumption of an occupation which is in itself pleasant to me, and which has some few pleasing associations. But in a thing so nearly indifferent to myself, the notion of what people in general would think would have some weight.

If your answers are such as would not please any parties concerned, I will keep this communication entirely secret, and remain,

Yours sincerely,
5 Upper Gower Street,
Oct. 10, 1836.

N.B. The appeal to the Court of Proprietors is abolished, which must be considered as increasing the respectability of the Professorships, since, entre nous, a body of commercial Englishmen got together upon a point of trade (and with these gentlemen, as was sufficiently evident before, the honour and character of a Professor was avowedly, and almost ipsissimis verbis, made a question of trade) knows neither right from wrong, nor reason from anything else.
The answer must have been such as would please all parties, for when, immediately after, an offer of the Mathematical chair accompanied the thanks of the Council for Mr De Morgan's considerate kindness, the offer was accepted, and the Professor once more settled in his old place. I dare not, in the face of his and my firm belief that all things are ordered for us by a wiser judgment than our own, express regret that this should have been; but the six-and-thirty years of intense labour which followed, ill paid at the time, and terminated by a disappointment which broke his heart, may well make me hesitate to record his return with satisfaction. But he loved his work, and his pupils were endeared to him by the interest they took in his teaching, and their efforts to profit by it.

4. De Morgan married Sophia

In the vacation of this year [1837] we were married. Mr De Morgan's religious views are by this time well known to the reader. I had been brought up in my father's belief, but had not adhered to it without much modification. My husband's objection to the marriage ceremony was much stronger than my own, but my respect for his scruples made me willing to comply with his wish that we should not be married by the form prescribed by the Church of England. We were married at the registrar's office by the Rev Thomas Madge, and by a form of words differing from that in the prayer book only by the omission of the very small part to which we could not assent with our whole hearts, and of the long exordium of St Paul on the duties of husbands and wives.

After a short tour in Normandy we settled at our first home, 69 Gower Street. The books, which were then tolerably numerous, had been taken from 5 Upper Gower Street, a few weeks before, when his mother went to a larger house in Manchester Street, Manchester Square. Our house was so near the college that my husband could come home in the intervals between his morning and afternoon lectures, instead of remaining away from 8 A.M. till 5 P.M., as he was obliged to do afterwards when we lived at a greater distance from Gower Street.

My father was living in Tavistock Square at the time of our marriage. My husband had long known almost all my father's circle of acquaintance. One exception - a dear and early friend of mine whom he did not know personally till shortly before our marriage - was Lady Noel Byron, whose health kept her much at home, and whom he accompanied me to see at her house near Acton. She soon became as truly his friend as she had been mine. Lady Byron was always shy with strangers, especially with those who excited her veneration. This shyness gave her an appearance of coldness, but she and my husband soon knew each other's worth, and she never lost an opportunity of showing her regard for him and trust in his judgment. He was rather surprised to find in one commonly reputed to be hard and austere, qualities of quite an opposite nature. She was impulsive and affectionate almost to a fault, but the expression of her feelings was often checked by the habitual state of repression in which the circumstances of her life had placed her. I had known her from my childhood. My father, whom she always held in the highest esteem, had taught her Mathematics, as a friend, before her marriage. My husband afterwards gave her daughter, Lady Lovelace, then Lady King, much help in her mathematical studies, which were carried farther than her mother's had been. I well remember accompanying her to see Mr Babbage's wonderful analytical engine. While other visitors gazed at the working of this beautiful instrument with the sort of expression, and I dare say the sort of feeling, that some savages are said to have shown on first seeing a looking-glass or hearing a gun - if, indeed, they had as strong an idea of its marvelousness - Miss Byron, young as she was, understood its working, and saw the great beauty of the invention. She had read the Differential Calculus to some extent, and after her marriage she pursued the study and translated a small work of the Italian Mathematician Menabrea, in which the mathematical principles of its construction are explained.

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Last Updated July 2020