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CHAPTER V.: 1859–1859. - William Stanley Jevons, Letters and Journal 
Letters and Journal of W. Stanley Jevons, edited by his Wife (Harriet A. Jevons) (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886).
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After spending about ten days with his sisters at Streatley on the Thames, Mr. Jevons accompanied them to London, and they settled in lodgings at 8 Porteus Road, Paddington, which continued to be his home until his removal to Manchester in 1863. At the commencement of the winter session he began to attend University College. His younger brother, for the completion of whose education he had advanced funds before he left Australia, was also a student there. From this date his brother Herbert, now the absent member of the family, was his chief correspondent, and to him he writes on the 15th October:—
“I have only been at the college two days as yet, and feel rather strange. I have entered senior Greek and Latin, higher and lower senior mathematics, and senior German, in company throughout with Tom. This is rather a difficult enterprise on my part, since I was in none of these classes before except lower senior mathematics, while it is seven years since I was in Latin or Greek. De Morgan has started right away in differential calculus. I think it would be impossible for me to keep up if I had not Tom's assistance, he having attended senior Greek and Latin last year. … London is certainly a stirring place, but the atmosphere is appalling to one accustomed to the clear skies of Australia.”
During the autumn Mr. Jevons wrote a paper entitled “Remarks on the Australian Gold Fields,” which was read at the November meeting of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and was published in their volume of memoirs for the session 1859–60.
To his brother Herbert.
8 Porteus Road, Paddington, 27th December 1859.
“A week since we had a rather sharp frost. Tom and myself had two good days' skating on the Serpentine and Kensington Garden pond. After six years' interval I was rather unsteady at first, but the second day skated, I think, as well as ever. Otherwise I cannot say that I find the slightest pleasure in going outside of the front door, and in consequence sit at home during these days (the Christmas holidays) in pretty constant work at mathematics, political economy, and such-like light occupations. … I should uncommonly like to see a North American winter. I often feel seriously ‘riled’ at the thick atmosphere, mud, and gloomy streets of London, when I go over in memory the beautiful bright countries, or clean neat towns, I have lately seen, and a very good and sensible novel (Geoffry Hamlin) which I read—exactly descriptive of Australian bush life—made me think very regretfully of the skies, waters, and woods of that land. My only resource is to turn my back to the window and plunge into De Morgan's differential calculus.”
To his brother Herbert.
8 Porteus Road, Paddington, London, W., 27th January 1860.
“Time slips by with me most rapidly, and things sometimes appear not a little dreary, although we have in our lodgings all the comforts of a home. I should feel very different, perhaps, if I were paying my expenses, and yet I am not inclined to cut off from my future prospects by giving up the chance of study. I have no definite plan of earning money, but after my B.A. will try what can be done in the way of writing or teaching, so as to keep myself while working for my M.A., which I have a great desire to take in the political economy and mental philosophy branch, as these are entirely the subjects I should follow in any case. Harry Roscoe, whom I saw in London at Christmas, is rather indignant that I am no longer a chemist, and wants to know how I shall get my bread, which perhaps is quite a pertinent question.
“I find the classes at college a little dull—the charm is rubbed off a few things; but then one learns more and more to adore De Morgan as an unfathomable fund of mathematics. We were delighted the other day when, in the higher senior, he at last appeared conscious that a demonstration about differential equations, which extended through the lecture, was difficult; he promised, indeed, to repeat it. But then one is disappointed to find that the hardest thing he gives in any of his classes is still to him a trifle, and that the bounds of mathematical knowledge are yet out of sight. I am working against such great odds in mathematics, Latin, and Greek, that I have at present no time to give for mental philosophy, in which my chief strength lies. Yet I spend much time in political economy, as there is a small scholarship of £30 a year for three years to be competed for at the end of this year.
“I have yet to mention the subject which is uppermost in men's minds here—viz., the rifle movement, concerning which the Queen, in her Parliament speech, expressed her gratification and pride. Indeed, Englishmen are now giving an unlooked-for proof that they are at least as good a race as ever, and an actual army of 100,000 volunteers has been enrolled in the last few months, which I expect will be nearly doubled during this year. It is done in such a very sensible and bonÂ fide manner, that I do not doubt the volunteers will be a permanent and most important institution, rendering invasion or alarm absurd, giving additional strength to all good government, and in some years to come, perhaps, rendering a reduction of the regular army possible. … I have myself joined the Queen's Own Rifles, a corps in the Westminster Brigade, chiefly because Frank and Fred Roscoe were already in it It is also rather a good corps, being the Queen's, and numbering already about 300 men, which will be increased to 500 or 600. The Westminster Brigade will be one of the chief, comprehending several other corps, and perhaps 1500 men. I have as yet been only twice to drill, which is carried on at night or on Saturday afternoon in Westminster Hall. And that grand old hall presents a very stirring, not to say warlike and alarming scene, when several hundred gentlemen, in a number of squads or companies, are going through their exercises, from the first awkward marching and facing to the finished practice with the Enfield rifle and a bright sword bayonet. For the present nearly all of the Queen's drill in plain clothes, and it is not necessary to appear in uniform until the summer, when I daresay there will be a grand field-day in Hyde Park.”
The following letter contains the first allusion to the “Theory of Political Economy,” a brief account of which Mr. Jevons sent to the meeting of the British Association in 1862, and which he further developed and published in 1871 under the title of A Theory of Political Economy.
To his brother Herbert.
8 Porteus Road, Paddington, 1st June 1860.
“… During the last session I have worked a good deal at political economy; in the last few months I have fortunately struck out what I have no doubt is the true Theory of Economy, so thorough-going and consistent, that I cannot now read other books on the subject without indignation. While the theory is entirely mathematical in principle, I show, at the same time, how the data of calculation are so complicated as to be for the present hopeless. Nevertheless, I obtain from the mathematical principles all the chief laws at which political economists have previously arrived, only arranged in a series of definitions, axioms, and theories almost as rigorous and connected as if they were so many geometrical problems. One of the most important axioms is, that as the quantity of any commodity, for instance, plain food, which a man has to consume, increases, so the utility or benefit derived from the last portion used decreases in degree. The decrease of enjoyment between the beginning and end of a meal may be taken as an example. And I assume that on an average, the ratio of utility is some continuous mathematical function of the quantity of commodity. This law of utility has, in fact, always been assumed by political economists under the more complex form and name of the Law of Supply and Demand. But once fairly stated in its simple form, it opens up the whole of the subject. Most of the conclusions are, of course, the old ones stated in a consistent form; but my definition of capital and law of the interest of capital are, as far as I have seen, quite new. I have no idea of letting these things lie by till somebody else has the advantage of them, and shall therefore try to publish them next spring.
“I am extremely interested in metaphysics; almost too much, in fact, so that I have had some doubts whether twenty-one months' continuous work at them for the M.A. would not be rather too much. The ultimate question of philosophy, that between idealism and materialism, is necessarily an insoluble one, but one also on which we cannot avoid speculating with interest. Nor can I say that I feel bottom; I am somewhat as I was among the water-lilies and rushes—out of my depth in a small Minnesota lake when the fishes proved a too interesting sport for my prudence.
“I find volunteering an excellent antidote to metaphysics; marching to a good band in full regimental order is really a most inspiring thing, and when we form a battalion square, bristling with bayonets, the effect is most warlike. I generally go on Saturday afternoons in uniform for parade and battalion drill; also once a week before breakfast for skirmishing exercise in Hyde Park; on the latter occasion I have some eight or ten miles' walking before breakfast, with the addition of a rifle to carry, and often a good deal of double marching (running). For four hours every day of the week, morning and evening, some or other of our corps are at drill, so that it is only a wonder that we do not make more rapid progress. We muster from fifty to a hundred in the mornings, and from four hundred to six hundred on Saturdays.”
To his brother Herbert.
8 Porteus Road, Paddington, 25th July 1860.
“On returning home with Tom from a walk of three days in North Wales, I am glad to find a letter from you arrived in the meantime, which I answer at once, as it appears to me a long time since I last wrote. …
“In the loss of most of the corn you planted, you experience some of the troubles of farming. It is doubtless not a cheering prospect to remain for many years in Minnesota, and I am somewhat sorry that you did not choose, when you were making a change, an English colony, whether town or country, where the society would, in the long run, have proved more suitable. … It is, I think, not practicable for you to farm in England, as you would have to compete with experienced farmers, and to struggle against high rents in a manner almost unknown in America; in short, you would require an agricultural education, and considerable capital, and might even then be ruined by a bad season or by an unfortunate choice. As to whether you would again undertake a town life and a clerk's work depends entirely on your own feelings; but you should not forget, after the hard but invigorating work of a settler's life, how dispiriting a town life may be to those who are not strongly enough excited by the love of gain, or some other love, and who have been once led to take wider views of the world than what are restricted within brick walls. For myself, if I were not affected by what I may almost call an unfortunate love of study, and of particular pursuits, I should not long be in London, but would prefer labouring in some fine open wild country; and unless I can really succeed in what I have in hand, I shall never cease to regret that I ever left Australia. If I undertake the M.A., as I intend, there will be nothing but study before me for two whole years, and then there is no better prospect than before of earning a living. I feel really so much better suited to a literary life than any other that I shall lay myself out for it, perhaps beginning with much work and small pay in the newspaper line.
“As regards your coming to London, we should all, I am sure, be glad to be reunited as far as possible, and if you could obtain a suitable place, and make up your mind to the murky streets, super-civilised manners, and contracted notions of Londoners—nothing could be better. But you must be aware that we have no real home in London—only lodgings. From our limited incomes, and the uncertainties in which we are all placed, it is not possible to take a permanent house, and we are lucky in having found lodgings comfortable, and on reasonable terms, and kept by a family who are apparently anxious for us to remain!
“… Now, however, I must attack in earnest the catalogue of work for the B.A. in October—viz., Latin, Greek, mathematics, Roman history, Greek history, English history, French, animal physiology, logic, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, all of which require looking up seriously, and many to be learnt from the beginning. In the college examinations I only went in for the mental philosophy and political economy. In the first the result came out, equal prizes and certificates—Theodore Waterhouse, W. S. Jevons. This is, on the whole, a satisfactory result since T. Water-house is certainly the first student of the college during the session, and has carried all other prizes before him. I had hopes of beating him, but am satisfied, considering that he attended better to the lectures than myself, to be equal.
“In political economy I had a sad reverse, such indeed as I never had before, for in spite of having studied the subject independently and originally, and having read some dozens of the best works in it, almost neglecting other classes for the purpose, I was placed third or fourth when I felt confident of the first prize. This I can only attribute to a difference of opinion, which is perfectly allowable, having prejudiced the professor against my answers. However, I shall fully avenge myself when I bring out my Theory of Economy, and re-establish the science on a sensible basis. … I do not wonder at your objection to further changes, since I feel the same myself—a certain restlessness seems likely to be the ruin of our family. We are all of us rolling stones, and gather no moss. I half suspect that I shall sometime be again an emigrant, in which case I shall certainly make for the beautiful scenery and the English-like colony of New Zealand, but I will first have a fair try of a good many years here.”
Previous to his brief walking tour in North Wales, Mr. Jevons had spent a pleasant fortnight at Englefield Green with his sisters, but this was all the holiday from work which he allowed himself during the long vacation. In October he took his B.A. degree, and resumed his attendance at University College, but without the companionship of his brother, who, having also taken his B.A. degree, had left College and removed to Liverpool to enter Messrs. Rath-bone's office. On the 28th November Mr. Jevons wrote from Porteus Road to his brother Herbert:—
“I am now attending college again regularly. My classes are De Morgan's higher senior mathematics, Potter's senior mathematical natural philosophy, Maiden's extra Greek class, and Mr. Martineau's mental philosophy class in the Manchester New College, which is close at hand in University Hall. I am, of course, better up to De Morgan's brain-rackings this session, and shall devote much time to mathematics, yet, from having no natural talent for figures or quick memory, have no hope of becoming a practical mathematician. Besides, it is somewhat late in the day at twenty-six to learn mathematics, with which you will succeed from the first or never. The extra Greek class is a very pleasant one, being a lecture once a week for the elder students out of the regular course. We are now reading a Greek tragedy, and are soon to do some of Aristotle, which is what I chiefly desire. I have not much knowledge of Greek, but am gaining by degrees a proper admiration for Greeks, who, as philosophers, poets, generals, and so forth, certainly exceeded anything which individuals of all later time are likely to produce.
“… Metaphysics is a rather too interesting study, and I am not inclined to pursue it so much as those, such as political economy and moral philosophy, which are equally in the clouds at present, but might become useful.
“I expect every success from my theory of political economy, which seems to develop itself with that facility which is a proof of its soundness. It assumes the form of a complicated mathematical problem, from which all the common laws with due limitations flow. Independently, however, of the mathematical form, it has led me to a new view of the action of capital, which affords a determining principle for interest, profits of trade, wages; and I now perceive how the want of knowledge of this determining principle throws the more complicated discussions of economists into confusion. The common law is that demand and supply of labour and capital determine the division between wages and profits. But I shall show that the whole capital employed can only be paid for at the same rate as the last portion added; hence it is the increase of produce or advantage, which this last addition gives, that determines the interest of the whole.
“I shall try to spare more time for this theory before long, and get it into form without much delay.”
To his sister Lucy and his brother Tom he wrote on the 9th December 1860:—
“You will hear with pleasure, if not with surprise, that the Ricardo Scholarship is actually within my reach, although it will not be formally given me and published until the College Council meet again next January. The examination was for six hours last Tuesday, and proved a rather hard fight. The amount of lucre, you know, is £60, but the first £20 is not payable till February.”
The Christmas of 1860 Mr. Jevons spent at his uncle's home in Liverpool. The weather was intensely cold, and he had the pleasure of a few days' good skating—a recreation of which he was always very fond. On his return to London, in addition to his college work, he found time for writing, and between January and August he prepared the following articles for the Chemical Dictionary, edited by H. Watts: “Balance,” “Barometer,” “Cloud,” “Gold,” “Assay,” “Hydrometer,” “Hygrometer,” “Thermometer,” “Volumenometer.” They were all published in the course of the work. To the July number of the National Review he contributed an article, “Light and Sunlight.” In September he attended the meetings of the British Association at Manchester, and wrote a series of seven articles for the Manchester Examiner, giving an account of the work of the sections. He also contributed a paper to the Mathematical and Physical Section, “On the Deficiency of Rain in an Elevated Raingauge as caused by Wind”—this was afterwards printed in the Philosophical Magazine for December. But this was not all his work. In October 1860 he first began to form diagrams to exhibit some statistics he had collected in his reading in the British Museum Library, and this led to the idea of a Statistical Atlas, of which he gives the following account:—
To his brother Herbert.
7th April 1861.
“I am very busy at present with an apparently dry and laborious piece of work, namely, compiling quantities of statistics concerning Great Britain, which are to be exhibited in the form of curves, and, if possible, published as a Statistical Atlas. The work will, I think, be very interesting and important when done, but the labour of rummaging the chaos of Parliamentary Papers, and then copying and calculating great columns of figures, is rather depressing to the spirits. I have been the last five days at the Museum upon it, but next week I shall have college work again to interfere with it Almost the whole of the statistics go back to 1780 or 1800, a large part extend to 1700 or 1720, and some—for instance, the price of corn—as far back as 1400. The quantity of statistics which I shall exhibit in about thirty plates will, I think, rather astonish people. For instance, there will be the population—births, deaths, marriages, emigration, etc., as far as known; the revenue from various sources, the expenditure, the Government loans, the National Debt at different periods, property in saving banks, fire offices, etc.; the operations of the clearing houses, Bank of England returns since 1770, circulation since 1760, weekly returns of Bank of England since 1843, the price of the funds since 1723; imports, exports to different countries, supplies of cotton, corn, wool, and every principal article; produce and prices of the metals, provisions, materials, etc.; the condition as to pauperism, the rate of wages, strikes (perhaps), etc.; the naval and military force of the country, the number of Acts of Parliament, the number of patents, as a whole, and in various branches since 1623; the criminal condition of the country; literature, etc.
“The chief interest of the work will be in the light thrown upon the commercial storms of 1793, 1815, 1826, 1839, 1847, 1857, etc., the causes of which will be rendered more or less apparent. I find that the number of Acts of Parliament, the number of patents, and the number of bricks manufactured, are the best indications of an approaching panic, which arises generally from a large investment of labour in works not immediately profitable, as machinery, canals, railways, etc. It is truly curious how well the curve of bricks produced shows this, bricks and mortar being the most enduring form of product. Most of the statistics, of course, are generally known, but have never been so fully combined or exhibited graphically. The statistics of patents, and some concerning literature, will be quite new. The mode of exhibiting numbers by curves and lines has, of course, been practised more or less any time on this side the Deluge. At the end of last century, indeed, I find that a book of Charts of Trade was published, exactly resembling mine in principle; but in statistics the method, never much used, has fallen almost entirely into disuse. It ought, I consider, to be almost as much used as maps are used in geography. I have only properly undertaken the work since Christmas, and have now got nearly as much statistics as I require or can obtain, but a large part of the more wearying work remains.”
Early in July Mr. Jevons again paid a short visit to North Wales. He wrote an account to his brother Tom of the interest with which he climbed one of the Eifel mountains near Clynnog, and found at the summit “remarkable British remains, consisting of a great rampart of loose stones surrounding the top of the hill, with cairns and abundant circular remains of loose stones, as if they were from old sheep-pens, but evidently having been dwelling-places.” Two days after he “tried to go up Cader Idris, but went somewhat wrong, and clouds and rain coming on, had a long wet walk through bogs for nothing—enough to damp any one's ardour.” On his way back to London he stopped at Stourbridge; he was at that time much interested in endeavouring to trace out his ancestors, and as his great-great-grandfather Job Jevan was buried at Old Swinford, in the neighbourhood of Stourbridge, he examined the churchyard, but failed to find his tomb. That the name Jevons was of Welsh origin he felt sure, and in October, when he was occupied in writing an essay on Celtic Literature in competition for a prize offered at University College, he wrote to his brother Tom:—“In the course of the work I was lucky enough to turn up a final confirmation of the theory Jevan and Jevons. In an old vocabulary of the extinct Cornish Celtic language by Edward Llwyd, printed 1707, I found ‘Jevan, John. Hence some families of the name of Evans, retaining the old orthography, write Jevans.’” On his return to London he began to read, especially with a view to his M.A. degree.
To his brother Tom.
8 Porteus Road, 23d July 1861.
“… I have begun to read Mansel's Aldrich's Artis Logicæ Rudimenta, of which Aldrich makes 50 pages and Mansel 250, and the 250 are full of nothing but a jargon of five different languages, about the most useless and confusing historical points. I fear Sir W. Hamilton has thrown us back into scholasticism, judging from himself and his bright pupils. Nothing can be more devoid of interest or profit than this sort of learning. It only tends entirely to becloud us, as it did Sir W. H. to a great extent. Nevertheless I read the books as a good exercise in the five languages. I am also reading a little of Leibnitz, but it is great stuff; his pre-established harmony is about the best, and his Monad Philosophy is just what you might expect I have looked into Kant's Critique (trans.), and shall read part of it some time. It is teeming with demonstrations, which are no demonstrations to me.”
To his brother Tom.
8 Porteus Road, 3d December 1861.
“… Volunteering still prospers here. … Last Saturday our prizes were distributed in Westminster Hall with considerable ceremony. … In our Company we had only the three regulation prizes of three Enfield rifles, given according to the results of the class firing at 650 and 700 yards. Now it happened that Frank, another sergeant, and myself, made equal scores of five out of ten shots at 650 and 700—hence our order was determined by the scores at 450-600 yards—which made Frank first and myself last I, however, received a London Armoury Company's Enfield rifle as the third prize, which is so far satisfactory. … I am beginning to get fairly into my M.A. work. Only lately the additional subjects for the M.A. were published, and are as follows:—
“'On the Nature and Principles of Social Order and Social Progress, or of Civilisation,' and in the history of philosophy, ‘Greek Speculation—the Theaetetus and Gorgias of Plato, and the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle.’ Is not this a pretty prospect? Just fancy learning the whole of Greek Speculation—in addition to reading Buckle—and buckling Plato and Aristotle. The ethics alone is no slight job, especially as Maiden told us there were many parts he could not translate.
“Then there is the whole of mental and moral philosophy—logic, political economy, etc. I am now partly engaged reading old fellows' works more or less, such as Berkeley, Hobbes, Leibnitz, Descartes, Spinoza, Bacon, etc. I am by degrees getting into the habit of reading the scholastic Latin, which will be a great convenience. I have also tried a little of Kant's German, which is not quite so hard as one would expect.
“My statistical matters proceed slowly, and the mere drawing of diagrams takes up an incredible deal of time.”
On the 8th December 1861 he wrote in his journal:—“It is now more than two years since my return to London, and I have been during this time almost incessantly working at philosophical subjects. In leaving Australia I had scarcely hoped to have more than a single year free in this manner, and I now seem to have heights of general learning before me which then seemed unapproachable. The M.A. degree, for instance, was then quite beyond hope.
“Within these two years my tastes have much widened, so that I may almost say I despise no kind of knowledge. Formerly I was unable to appreciate the value of classical and antiquarian learning, or the worth of poetry and general literature. It is only by degrees, for instance, that Shakespeare becomes quite congenial to me. At the same time the return from the newness of a colony to the venerable antiquity of this old country has given me almost an exaggerated taste for the antique. Thus nothing is more pleasant to me than to make some fresh slight discovery concerning our ancestors, worthless people though they seem to have generally been.
“The subjects which had pressed themselves upon me as my proper sphere of employment, viz. political economy and the social sciences, seem opening before me by degrees in a manner exceeding my first hopes. But it is of course always true that we can have no idea of what is to be found out and not yet known. I cannot avoid also paying some attention to philosophy proper, in addition to what is required for my degree, and I begin to understand things which were utterly beyond me some years ago. For a year, perhaps, I have entertained hopes of performing a general analysis of human knowledge, in which the fallacies of words would be as far as possible avoided, and philosophy would be shown to consist solely in pointing out the likeness of things.
“About October 1860, having then recently commenced reading at the Museum library, and met some statistics, I began to form some diagrams to exhibit them, the first, I think, showing Mr. Newmarch's Bill Circulation Research. I hit upon a mode of dividing a sheet of paper into one-tenth inch and then pricking off curves through it when in Sydney, and the square was ready at hand.
“After doing two or three diagrams the results appeared so interesting that I contemplated forming a series for my own information. Then it occurred to me that publication might be possible, and I finally undertook to form a statistical atlas of say thirty plates, exhibiting all the chief materials of historical statistics. For the last year this atlas has been my chief employment, and I fear to look back upon the labour I have spent in searching all likely books for series of statistics, then copying, calculating, arranging, and drawing the diagrams.
“Towards the end of last October I had some twenty eight diagrams more or less finished in the first copy, and thought it time to arrange for publication. I first wrote to Taylor and Walton, describing my work and wishes, and soon had a talk with Mr. Walton, a very respectable old gentleman, who was quite disinclined to undertake the publication, but took interest in it, and gave useful advice. He told me to apply to Longmans, to whom I accordingly wrote; receiving a note back from Mr. W. Longmans, I was in much hopes visiting Paternoster Row (I never see Paternoster Row without remembering when I once mentioned to my father that I had been through it on my first coming to London, and he expressed his regret in a letter or conversation, I forget which, that I seemed so little impressed with the memory of the great men who had trod that narrow lane with so various hopes and desires). He likewise took a pleasing interest in them, but was equally clear about having nothing further to do with them. He, however, recommended several map publishers, who would most suitably undertake the work, and also gave me an introduction to Mr. Newmarch. My spirits naturally were now zero, but fell still lower on visiting Mr. Newmarch at the insurance office, who looked at my diagrams without interest, and almost without a word, so that I soon left him. I took dinner and a glass of ale to restore my spirits, and then through crowded Cheapside, Fleet Street, and Strand, made my way to Charing Cross to Mr. Stanford, the map publisher there—a dry, sensible man of business, apparently with a liking for maps, so that he seemed pleased with the diagrams. Whether for this reason or not, he was not disinclined to undertake some risk in publishing them, but talked much of the opinions he would have to obtain upon them, and the toadying of the statistical magnates which would have to be done. To this I was so averse that before long I saw the work must be done at my own risk, and I accordingly asked him to give some rough estimate.”
Early in January 1862 Mr. Jevons' eldest sister was married to John Hutton, Esq., of Beaumaris; but his younger sister still continued to reside with him in London. In August 1861 Mr. Herbert Jevons had returned from Minnesota; and, during the winter, 1861–62, he also made his home in Porteus Road.
To his brother Tom.
University College, 28th April 1862.
“It is true I have not troubled you with many letters lately; but, one way or another, we hear all that is essential of each other. The M.A. work gets on pretty well, but I do not like so much of historical philosophy as the whole of Greek Speculation. I have finished reading the Nicomachean ethics, and the Theætetus and Gorgias straight through, and find Aristotle and Plato becoming pretty easy reading, especially the former. I am much inclined to think, however, that Plato is not only a more interesting writer than Aristotle, but that he had the way to the truth more clearly before him; putting aside, of course, all the absurd fancies and ontological speculations. Perhaps, however, the better parts to which I allude are truly Socratic. The Theætetus is very admirable, and I am willing to have it set. “… I have been rather vexed that more attention has not been paid to the Brighton Review. It was by far the most important and successful of volunteer undertakings. In fact I quite wonder at the punctuality and good management displayed by volunteers and regulars.
“I got up at 3.30, got two stunning cups of coffee and an egg, and then rushed off to headquarters, reaching there a little before 4 A.M. Many were there already, and by 5.30 we were fully assembled and had reached the station. In a few minutes we were in the train; the Scotch had a little the start of us, but, otherwise, we were the earliest from Victoria Station, got to Brighton shortly after 6 A.M., and marched right away out of the station, through a part of the town and up to a cricket ground surrounded with walls, where we were kept for two hours in excellent discipline, and fed upon nauseous coffee and bread and butter. Then, formed into two battalions of eight companies each, total about 1000 strong at least Marched in splendid order straight to the Pavilion at Brighton; all the other corps were collected at other points of the town. After waiting about three-quarters of an hour for other corps to pass, we joined in the second division of the army, and marched along the parade in sub-divisions; and, on reaching the Downs, in fours to the point for forming line of contiguous battalions. Battle began about 3.15 P.M., but we were posted in reserve behind two haystacks, and saw very little of the first and best attack. As far as we could see, the whole scene was splendid, and quite unlike anything else; but, if you do not know the ground, it is not easy to conceive the appearance.
“Between 5 and 6 P.M. we advanced from our cover, formed with the rest of the second division a tremendous long line, and, after much fire from skirmishers, pursued the enemy up to top of hill, and drove them off into the sea beyond. The last double up the hill did for a few of our fellows, and the doctors looked after them, but it was no easy work, the distance being considerable and all out from 4 A.M. We were very thirsty and hungry, but our colonels marched us right away back through the town and put us into the railway train. Fellows were greatly astonished when they found all chances of beer gone, but fell upon their haversacks; and, having become convivial, made a good meal on the journey home. Reached London at 10.45. … I was not a bit tired, and it did me a deal of good.”
In June Mr. Jevons passed his examination for the degree of Master of Arts at the University of London in the third branch, which included logic and moral philosophy, political philosophy, history of philosophy, and political economy; he received the gold medal which is given to the best candidate in each branch, if, in the opinion of the examiners, his answers are of sufficient merit to deserve it
To the London Quarterly Review he contributed in April an article on the “Spectrum”; and in the Philosophical Magazine for July he published a notice of Kirchkoff's researches on the “Spectrum.”
In the summer of 1862 Mr. Herbert Jevons decided, partly on account of his health, to go to Australia, with a view of settling there; the following letter was addressed to him at Liverpool, shortly before he sailed.
To his brother Herbert.
8 Porteus Road, 3d July 1862.
“Whatever you do, don't do it in a hurry, and all off hand. Whether you go to Melbourne or not, there can be no need to go by the very next ship. Henny and I shall of course come down to Liverpool to see you off, and we cannot come without some week or two of notice.
“I have been much occupied of late in bringing out the diagrams, which were finished just at the time of the examination. As yet I am quite unaware of the number sold, if any—and am very far from sanguine about the result. The total cost will be some £30 or £35, so that one cannot lose very much.
“The distribution of prizes took place on Tuesday, and I was mentioned in the report with reference to the M.A. I was disappointed, however, with regard to a prize of £5 for an essay on Celtic literature. There were three competitors—each of them deserving of a prize, as Masson the judge said—but a man now at Cambridge, and a B.A., carried it off, from having a considerable knowledge of Celtic; in which, of course, my acquaintance is as near zero as can well be imagined. The sympathies of the audience rather collapsed when a Cambridge man was announced successful. It is certainly not right that men who have all the rich prizes of Cambridge and Oxford, should come back and steal our small rewards, when it is impossible for us to approach the other universities unless by beginning from the beginning again.
“On Saturday our regiment was inspected in Regent's Park. There was a good attendance of some 800 or 900 men in all—and all the manæuvres went off, for the most part, in a very satisfactory manner. There are no signs of decay about the Queen's. In firing my classes I have had the misfortune to miss one of them—owing to using a new rifle, with the sighting of which I was not acquainted. This loses me the marksman's badge next year. I am now, however, just taking the duties and badge of a sergeant.”
Owing to the great expense of publishing his proposed Statistical Atlas, Mr. Jevons had decided, in the first place, to bring out two diagrams; one showing all the weekly accounts of the Bank of England since 1844, with the circulation and the bank minimum rate of discount; the other showing the price of the English funds, the price of wheat, the number of bankruptcies, and the rate of discount monthly since 1731. In a letter, dated 3d September 1862, Mr. Jevons thus describes the purpose of them.
“The diagrams, which you are so good as to intend noticing in the Economist, accompany this.
“They are designed, not so much to allow of reference to particular numbers, which can be better had from printed tables of figures, as to exhibit to the eye the general results of large masses of figures which it is hopeless to attack in any other way than by graphical representation.
“My diagrams not only show the minutest details given in the tables, but also supersede the taking of averages, since the eye or mind of itself notices the general course of a set of numbers.
“It is only by representing large masses of statistics in this manner that any sure foundation can be laid for political economical arguments. Most statistical arguments depend upon a few figures picked out at random.
“In the latter part of the funds diagram, it is very obvious that a rise in the price of corn is followed by a rise in the rate of interest, and by increased bankruptcy. This is remarked in one of the notes at the foot, where I also speak of corn as forming part of the capital of the country. It perhaps sounds rather odd, as we are accustomed to think of capital as so much money, but the expression is theoretically correct.
“The bank diagram, when properly studied, throws light on many questions, especially that of the circulation of Bank of England notes, which is seen to be comparatively little variable, but always rises slowly for two or even three years after a large accumulation of bullion has taken place, as in 1852 and 1858. The same seems now to be taking place even in a greater degree, the present circulation being nearly £1,500,000 over that of this time last year, so the Times says.
“It is all nonsense to ascribe a rise in prices to bank notes being increased in numbers. It is a superabundance of gold that raises prices and perhaps quickens business, and the increased circulation of notes is the result, so clearly shown on the diagram.
“I send these few lines because the purpose of the diagrams is not stated upon the face of them.”
To his brother Herbert.
Beaumaris, Sunday, 17th August 1862.
“As it is so few days since you started, it is of course unlikely I should have much to tell you of here. We were sorry to find from the Mercury that the Champion did not get clear away on the first try, but was driven back with loss of an anchor and cable. On hearing this Tom and I went down and ascertained the position of the Champion; but Baines and Co., to more than one inquiry, told us there was no steamer going to it, and no means of communication. We intended, indeed, to go off and see you by sailing boat. On getting down to the stage, however, the wind seemed to be blowing so fresh, and the ship lay so far from New Brighton, that we thought it more prudent to give up the plan.
“Your letter, sent back by the tug-boat, gave us much pleasure, as it seemed to show you would have a cheerful voyage in spite of some discomforts. By the time you get this you will feel disposed to forget the voyage, and set to the disagreeable work of finding employment in a large city like Melbourne. …
“Our family enjoy some blessings, but also lie under certain curses—one of which is a certain stupid simplicity of character which continually mars their undertakings. A little wiliness, and a rather thicker skin, would make us succeed far better in this world; and I really cannot believe that success in this world is always to be sacrificed. We have between us so much good-nature and inflexible honesty, that it sometimes seems as if we can none of us ever be of the least use to friend or foe.
“There is nothing more necessary than to remember that everybody you meet is more or less imperfect and apt to do wrong. Take this as a matter of course, and make the best of it. You will have hard enough work to keep yourself always right.
“I write down a few such reflections, which have often occurred to me before, because it is now most necessary that you should take some active steps to secure good success in a new continent. A still greater fault, and one more peculiar to yourself among our family, is a want of deliberation in planning an undertaking, and then a want of resolution in carrying it through the first slight difficulties. Everything that is worth doing must be commenced with some degree of painful exertion, only to be recompensed by the hope of success. It is only as work actually proves successful and easy from practice that it can be agreeable and spontaneous. The theory which you once propounded to me, that everything should be done spontaneously, that is, without exertion, is not only totally false but fatally so, if it could really ever be carried out in practice. It is like expecting fruit to fall into your mouth as you spontaneously sit upon the ground; it might do so by chance, but most people who waited for it would die of starvation. A man of any sense climbs the tree at the cost of much labour and some risk, but is rewarded by as much fruit as he requires. The life of a civilised man is distinguished from that of a savage chiefly by the rule that the former exerts himself for future, the latter only for present purposes. The degree in which a man studies the future, and sacrifices present ease to probable future satisfaction, is the best measure of his ability as a builder of his own fortune, apart, of course, from all consideration of what he esteems good-fortune.
I shall probably leave Beaumaris in a day or two, and return almost straight to London, but it will be time enough in succeeding mails to tell you of our affairs in England.”
To his brother Herbert.
8 Porteus Road, W., 14th September 1862.
“Although I am somewhat tired by writing most of the day and reading the rest, I must at least make a beginning of a letter to you, as for the present at least I shall certainly not let a mail go without a letter.
“Both the letter you sent ashore by me and that by the tug-boat, tended greatly to diminish the trouble which we could not but feel at losing you again for a series of years. The members of our family do not always agree together perfectly in little things of common life, but they never cease to regard each other in everything that is of greater moment; and as I was the one so frequently thought of when in your distant position, so will you be now. …
“Landing in a colony is very gloomy, anxious work, as far as I had any experience of it, and it can scarcely be so well for you as it was for me. As you know, however, I was very short of money on getting to Sydney—and the mint prospects altogether were in a state of uncertainty. I am now in no enviable position here, as, my college work being entirely finished, I must look for money-making employment. To make money by writing is so very severe an employment that I am almost afraid of it, and yet it seems the only one I could thoroughly take to.
“I am beginning some articles in the Spectator—one in this week's number. I am also finishing some very laborious statistical calculations, what, in fact, you copied out for me,—the bank returns,—and shall probably offer them to the Economist. I may also undertake some other articles. I have resolved, however, at last to let out my theory of economy, and have accordingly written a short paper entitled, ‘Notice of a General Mathematical Theory of Economy,’ which will, I hope, be read at the British Association Meeting at the beginning of next month. Although I know pretty well the paper is perhaps worth all the others that will be read there put together, I cannot pretend to say how it will be received—whether it will be read at all, or whether it won't be considered nonsense. … I am very curious, indeed, to know what effect my theory will have both upon my friends and the world in general. I shall watch it like an artilleryman watches the flight of a shell or shot, to see whether its effects equal his intentions.
“Yesterday I had the satisfaction of seeing my diagrams in a publisher's window in the Royal Exchange. I persuaded Stanford to send them on sale, as he promised, to several places, but I do not yet know how many are sold.”
Until the last few years of his life Mr. Jevons was accustomed to enter in a note-book the title and date of everything which he published. In September 1862 he made this entry:—
“The following papers were forwarded to the meeting of the British Association at Cambridge. I was informed by the Secretary that they were read before the F Section, and the second was approved of.
“Brief abstracts are contained in the Report of the Proceedings, 1862, pp. 157, 158. A fuller explanation and publication of the above-mentioned theory is deferred until a more suitable period for establishing a matter of such difficulty.”
In his journal Mr. Jevons writes on 5th October 1862: “I have generally taken it for granted that, though my style of writing was generally heavy, I might, by a little practice, make it lighter, and. thus newspaper writing or magazine contributing was any time within my power. But in writing a couple of articles for the Spectator, and an essay, I get on so slowly, painfully, and heavily, that I almost distrust my former confidence. If my distrust be well founded, I here meet a new obstacle to my present success. Light easy writing is not essential to philosophical subjects; it is perhaps rather prejudicial to ultimate soundness; but, of course, it is nearly essential to making any money by a literary life.
“During the last five days I have been almost wholly occupied in entertaining my uncle, William Jevons, now a bent old man, but filled with the true affection and the calm clear mind for which he and my father have been remarkable. … His expressions of affection and satisfaction are so warm that I must feel pleasure in believing him to be truly pleased. But I never have unalloyed satisfaction in society, especially where I am not perfectly at my ease, for every now and then I unskilfully say things which I regret unavailingly long after, and now especially, I am so glum and wrapped up in my serious thoughts, that I can scarcely give any attention to the entertainment of others.
“Yesterday afternoon, after leaving Uncle William at the Victoria Station, I wandered again to Westminster Abbey, of which I shall never tire. Nowhere else can one feel so surrounded and encouraged by the greatness of humanity. After looking over a great many tombs of second-rate heroes and writers, I succeeded in finding the venerable tomb of Chaucer—venerable in its age and simplicity amongst the venerable. The crumbling stone has lost its inscription, yet his tales remain not only the well of English undefiled, the first great monument of the greatest of languages, but a mine of true simple poetry, and of sound philosophy. Shakespeare excepted, he is doubtless the poet that I shall best admire among the English.”
In December 1862 he wrote in his journal: “It was a bold and momentous decision which brought me out of Australia. I shall not regret it, even if my remaining days be spent in poverty. In spite of industry I could not have done much in Sydney. I thought what I did very clever then, but it seems foolishness to me now, and my first efforts at a theory of economy look strange beside the theory which has gradually opened upon me. At Sydney I had by me Whately's Logic, but had never read it. I scarcely knew what logic meant. After a time, however, I read John Mill's Logic, which I perhaps partly understood; and yet, on the other hand, I admired Whewell's Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences which now (December 1862) seems nothing but fog.
“I conclude that I knew little or nothing about logic then, and never should have done but for the new exercise for my thoughts afforded in my second college course. It seems rather late in life to be learning what logic is, yet it is better late than never. It may prove that my visit to Australia, by breaking my college course and giving time to mature my powers, did peculiar service.
“I left Sydney with many exaggerated notions of my own powers and probable achievements. To spend a year in successful travelling over the Globe—perhaps publishing accounts of what I had seen when I got home—this was one of the things I thought worth my notice. I had thought myself so successful in writing flowery letters home, and my letters and papers were so freely printed in the colonial papers and magazines, that I entertained no doubt that it would be the same at home. Reviews and magazines were freely open to me if I cared to write, and if I found any difficulty in getting money other ways, to take to the newspaper profession seemed always open to me. I did not see that one kind of writing and thinking may be inconsistent with other kinds.
“21st December 1862.—I have had a good deal of disappointment in the last six months, but now the shortest and darkest days are past; we may begin to hope for something better. In short, my plans are considerably altered, and as it now seems to me, improved. The notion of struggling on in London year after year until some sort of literary success should at last come is fairly given up. Harry Roscoe wants me to go as tutor to Owens College, where I may make £200, and I shall go if all can be favourably arranged.
“I do not find that my life, passed half at home, half at the Museum, is favourable in any respect. As I take up each new subject and get a few new facts about it, my interest and hopes rise so highly and suddenly that I can think of nothing else. Hence most exaggerated notions of what I can do with it. After working a few months at it very hard the interest of new discovery ceases, and the materials have to be worked up and finished. A breath of doubt and disgust seems to dispel the illusion, and I soon become as much depressed as I was before excited. This is just the history of my work at the subject of the volunteer system in England. I amassed a great quantity of amusing and new facts about the volunteers. In setting to work to write them out in a formal account, I soon grew disgusted.”
To his brother Tom.
8 Porteus Road, 28th December 1862.
“Boxing day was not a general field-day here, but our regiment was out at noon. There were not, however, more than 400 or 500 men. We marched in capital order from Westminster Hall to Hampstead. Arrived on the Heath, we commenced by storming Jack Straw's castle, which was taken in the twinkling of an eye. Refreshed by the plunder, we then extended over the Heath in skirmishing order. The place is perfect for the purpose, being covered with gorse bushes and gravel pits which serve for rifle pits. Our men skirmished rather wildly, and without a rigid observance of the field exercise-book. Still, it was a good lesson as regards the real purpose of light infantry movements. With the fineness of the day we got our spirits up, and we contributed greatly to the amusement of a numerous crowd of people, who regarded us and our band with great favour.
“I rather like my sergeant's duties, which I am now beginning to exercise a little. I looked well after my section, one of the privates of which was Calder Marshall, R.A., the sculptor; but some of my men would get mixed up in other companies, and not even the sculptor had any clear idea of good cover.
“I think the popularity of the force increases. I must say I am interested when we are in Hyde Park, Wimbledon, Hampstead, or elsewhere, to think how often the same ground was covered by the old volunteers.
“You will be inquiring about my volunteer history. This has rather come to grief. For after almost completing the information necessary, I found I had not the light imaginative pen necessary for making a book popular in the present day. The history would have proved little more than a series of historical notes, yet it is a pity to let so many interesting facts go waste.
“I am at present going on with my old work of diagrams. I am now thinking of a small atlas with plates about 6 × 8 inches, from 1844–62, comprising monthly quotations of prices, exports, imports, etc., all fully reduced, analysed, etc., so as to make quite a small gem of a work—which cannot fail to be successful—and comprising the bank accounts as usefully as the large diagram. It is somewhat the same idea with which I just began nearly two years ago, but I have learnt so much by experience that my first diagrams are quite laughable beside the little gems I now produce. I have just begun drawing to-day a glorious one of the cotton trade, comprising prices of five kinds of cotton, also of yarn, twist, two kinds of cloth, with imports, exports, consumption, and stock of cotton. The atlas would contain perhaps twelve plates, including (1) bank accounts, (2) money market, stock market, corn of several kinds, agricultural produce, butcher's meat, the principal exports and imports, prices, etc., all the fluctuations during the year, and the seasons are to be fully worked out. A good deal of the work is done, but, of course, infinite labour will be necessary for finishing it satisfactorily.
In his journal, 31st December 1862, he writes:—“Still at the old work, and in rather better spirits. Yet I know I shall shortly be in as bad spirits as ever, these changes being regularly periodic with me. Harry Roscoe lately wanted me to go tutor to Owens College, and the prospect of more regular work and an income nearly made me give up all London plans. Lucy, however, sent a vigorous protest against it, which caused me to think twice, and I shall go on here for at least nine months.
“My atlas of monthly commercial statistics progresses satisfactorily, but my logical speculations give me most confidence. I cannot disbelieve, yet I can hardly believe, that in the principle of sameness I have found that which will reduce the whole theory of reasoning to one consistent lucid process. I can hardly confess to myself the value of such a work. Surely I ought not to want confidence in following my own plans out, regardless of the opinions of others, when I may expect such fruit from them. And yet how irksome is it to have everything in the future, nothing, comparatively in the present. Of late I have not been altogether wanting in exertions towards correcting some of my greatest failings. For many years I have had such a fear of speaking in public that even in reading in the college classes my voice shook. I regarded it as a physical impossibility. When I had papers to communicate to societies, I got Dr. Smith, or Harry, or Clifton, to read them, and slunk away myself out of danger. This seemed so very foolish and so serious a bar to my advancement, that I resolved to try to get over the difficulty by joining the college debating society. On the first night I said a word or two about some inconsiderable matter. I was named by the president to open the debate of the following meeting. Suspended between the desire to do the thing, and fear of incapability, I at last doubtingly consented, prepared a speech, and did not appear when I had engaged, to the disgust of the society. I willingly paid the fine and bore some little censure and ridicule, and did not give the matter up. In the last few months I have been a pretty frequent attendant, making brief remarks, and undertaking, on one occasion, to reply. That I can ever be a good speaker is altogether beyond hope—but to be able to read with self-possession is almost sufficient for any position I am likely to have, and this I shall no doubt be soon able to do. I am even engaged in getting up a literary and scientific society at college for the reading of original papers, in which I shall be much more at my ease.1 In all public life such as I have at college, in the rifle corps, in society, I feel a constant unreadiness of thought, a want of tact, of practice, of quickness, which puts me in awkward positions, saying and doing things which cause no little subsequent regret. I have especially an incapacity of remembering people and their names, which is very troublesome. And yet if these are the accompaniments of superior power in other ways, I should put up with them contentedly, and not be too thin skinned.
“The year of which only five minutes have now to run seems to have been a long one. It has seen many of my hopes fulfilled, many frustrated. It has made me an M.A. It has seen my theory of economy offered to a learned society (?) and received without a word of interest or belief. It has convinced me that success in my line of endeavour is even a slower achievement than I thought. This year has taken much youthfulness out of me.
“It is often a cause of regret to me that my pursuits and my utter want of influence in society prevent me giving any assistance to others, even my own sisters and brothers.
“1st January 1863.—How gladly would I brighten their lives—how could I enjoy a pleasant house, a well-filled purse, a power of aiding and pleasing others each hour of the day. What would I not give to inspire Herbert again with that energy and hope which alone can make this life tolerable! How I fear that he has lost them for ever—and that Australia promises to him little more than Minnesota! How gladly would I return Henny's forgetfulness of self and constant devotion to the good of others by such return as could be made, instead of keeping her in an uncomfortable lodging and in uncertainty! But all this, it seems, I must suffer and regret in quiet, and with but faint hope that I shall be justified by the result.
“During the year now begun I hope that I may not falter and distrust even my highest hopes of doing good in my own peculiar way. In action, social influence, etc., I am nothing—never shall be of the slightest consequence. In many kinds of mental influence I am nothing—no imagination—an imperfect memory, no classical or mathematical scholar, a heavy writer. I have but one slight thread of hope, a capacity of seeing the sameness and difference of things, which, if history and the sayings of experienced men are to be believed, is a rare and valuable kind of power. Let me set the single purpose before me of developing and properly using it, not pretending to what I am not and cannot be, in order that I may be what others seem incapable of being.
“A week or two ago, when Harry Roscoe proposed my going to Manchester, I took a violent dislike to the Museum, and thought my escape from it would prove a turning-point in my life. Now I am again nearly caught in the toils of literary dissipation. I intend fairly to try my plan of literary agency, although I am somewhat ashamed of it. To send circulars and hire out one's time at three shillings per hour seems rather infra dig., but perhaps it is false pride, and I ought not to stick at anything short of moral wrong.”
The formation of a literary and philosophical Society amongst the students was suggested to Mr. Jevons by his friend and fellow-student, Mr. Philip Magnus, who tells me that Mr. Jevons was chosen as president of the new society, and that he contributed a paper on the value of gold, prior to the publication of his “A Serious Fall in the Value of Gold.” This paper was published in a volume of the transactions of the society.