William Stanley Jevons.

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Ex Ldbris













IN arranging this selection of my husband's letters,
my object has been to give an account of his life in his
own words, as much as possible. It is hardly neces-
sary to say that none of the letters were written with
a view to publication ; but with the exception of
omissions, and of occasional obvious errors, occurring
through haste in writing, they have been left quite

My warmest thanks are due to Mr. James Sime,
who has helped me in seeing this volume through
the press, as well as in the task of selecting and
arranging the letters. So many had been preserved
by different members of Mr. Jevons's family that
it would have been easy to fill two volumes of
this size, and I found it almost impossible to make a
selection which would give, to those who knew my
husband only by his writings, the best idea of his
character as a man in the different relations of life ;
and after all no one can be more conscious than
myself of the incompleteness of the book from this
point of view.


I have placed at the end of the volume as complete
a list as I could form of my husband's writings, with
the exception of reviews of books which he occasionally
wrote for Nature and other papers.

I wish to take this opportunity of most sincerely
thanking those correspondents of my husband who
have entrusted me with his letters, and permitted me
to make my own selection for publication.






Birth Parentage Early education University College School, London

Pages 1-13



At University College Begins to keep a Journal Examinations Walks in
London Work at College A change of prospects . . 14-3 9



Voyage Arrival in Sydney Preparations for work New home Death of his
father Excursion at Christmas Religious opinions Wreck of the Dunbar
His intention to leave the Mint Music His resignation . 40-1 1 1



Meteorology Overland route to Melbourne Visits gold-diggings Voyage to
South America Lima Havanna Lands in the United States Visit to
his brother in Minnesota Return to England . . . 112-147




Returns to University College Uncertainty of prospects Statistical work
Volunteering Publication of diagrams Sends papers to the British Asso-
ciation ...... Pages 148-176



Pamphlet on a Serious Fall in the Value of Gold Offer of tutorship at Owens
College Leaves London Publication of Pure Logic Settles in Manchester
The Coal Question The logical abacus Tour in Switzerland Letter
from Sir John Herschel ..... 177-217



Success of The Coal Question Appointed Professor of Logic and Political
Economy at Owens College Political opinions Paris Exhibition His
marriage .....".. 218-239



His logical machine Paper on the Gold Currency Publication of The Substitu-
tion of Similars Elementary Lessons in Logic The Theory of Political
Economy ....... 240-255



Ill health Tour in Norway Leave of absence from Owens College Second
tour in Norway The Principles of Science completed . . 256-289



The Principles of Science Tour to the South of France and Italy Death of his
elder brother Correspondence with Professor Leon Walras Revisits Nor-
way Publication of Money and the Mechanism of Exchange Birth of his
son Resigns his Professorship at Owens College . . 290-346




Logical notation Revisits Norway His new home Professor at University
College Sun-spots and the price of Corn Tour in Denmark and Sweden
Criticism of Mill's philosophy Theory of commercial crises Tour in
Norway . . . . . - Pages 347-409



Studies in Deductive Logic Resignation of his Professorship Pressure of literary
work Opinions on the Irish Question Visit to Bulverhythe Death
Literary work Religious opinions .... 410455


A Letters from H. R. Grenfell, Esq. To H. R. Grenfell, Esq. . 457-458
B Mr. Jevons' Writings . . . ... . 459-467

"For my (nun part I felt it to be almost presumptuous to
pronounce to myself the hopes I held and the schemes I formed.
Time alone could reveal whether they were empty or real; only
when proved real could they be known to others." Journal,
1862, p. 13.






WILLIAM STANLEY JEVONS, the son of Thomas and Mary
Anne Jevons, was born at No. 14 Alfred Street, Liverpool,
on the ist September 1835.

The Jevons or Jevon family (for the final s was first
added by Stanley's grandfather) is evidently of Welsh origin,
but they had been settled in Staffordshire for many gener-
ations. At Cosely in that county Timothy Jevon, the
great-grandfather of Stanley, lived ; and here his grand-
father, William Jevons, was born and grew up to manhood.
William Jevons had but slight educational advantages, but
he was endowed with a great deal of good sense, and was a
man of strong affections and of much religious feeling.
Having been brought up at home and employed in his
father's trade of nail-making, he became assistant to a Mr.
Stokes, engaged in the nail trade at Old Swinford, and it
was to increase the business of Mr. Stokes that he removed
to Liverpool at the end of the year 1798, accompanied by
his wife and young family, consisting of three sons and a
daughter. He had not been long in Liverpool before he
was enabled, with the assistance of capital lent him by
a friend, to commence business on his own account as an
iron merchant. Mr. William Jevons gave to all his children



the best education in his power, and when his eldest son
Thomas grew up he took him into his own business, and
before long made him a partner. Later on, Timothy, the
youngest son, joined the firm, which was known as Jevons
and Sons.

Mr. William Jevons attended the Unitarian chapel, then
situated in Benn's Garden, and his second son William
became a Unitarian minister, after receiving his college
education at York, then the home of Manchester New
College. He was an intellectual, cultivated man, but owing
to a change in some of his opinions he early left the ministry.
He wrote several books one of them a small book on
astronomy for the use of schools. Between him and his
nephew Stanley there was great affection and sympathy,
and they corresponded a good deal.

Mr. Thomas Jevons, the father of Stanley, was a man of
much ability in many ways, and there is no doubt that
Stanley inherited a love of science from him. He was
greatly interested in all new engineering schemes, and was
acquainted with the first railway makers, Stephenson and
Locke. In 1815 he constructed probably the first iron
boat that sailed on sea water, and in 1822 he made an iron
life-preserving boat, and also a model of a floating ship or
landing-place for steamboats. He supported the scheme for
the construction of the Thames Tunnel, by which he lost a
considerable sum of money. In 1834 he published a small
book called Remarks on Criminal Law, and in 1840 a
pamphlet entitled The Prosperity of the Landholders not
Dependent on the Corn Laws. In later life Stanley described
his father as " one of the most humane of men," and as
being remarkable for " a calm clear mind." He was of too
shy and retiring a nature to go much into general society,
but he was always the devoted friend of his children, even
when the cares of business pressed most heavily upon him.

On the 23d November 1825, Thomas Jevons was
married to Mary Anne, the eldest daughter of William
Roscoe, the well-known author of the Life of Lorenzo de 1
Medici and of the Life and Pontificate of Leo X. Mrs.
Thomas Jevons was about thirty at the time of her marriage.
Her youth had been spent at Allerton Hall, near Liverpool,


where her father lived until the loss of his fortune caused him
to remove, about the year 1820, to a small house in the
immediate neighbourhood of Liverpool. She was remark-
ably handsome, with very fascinating manners, and her mind
had been cultivated by constant companionship with her
father and by the intellectual society which she enjoyed
under his roof. She inherited a good deal of her father's
poetical talent, and was the authoress of a small volume of
poems, printed for private circulation. She also edited the
Sacred Offering, a collection of poems which came out in
yearly volumes for several years, and the contents of which
were chiefly written by members of Mr. Roscoe's family,
for his younger daughter and several of his sons also in-
herited more or less of his talent. Mrs. Thomas Jevons
was a woman of strong religious feeling. Like her husband,
she had been brought up a Unitarian.

Although Stanley was the ninth child of his parents,
only three of those older than himself survived beyond
babyhood: Roscoe, born 1829; Lucy Anne, 1830; and
Herbert, 1831. At the time of his birth his mother was
still mourning the loss of a twin boy and girl who had died
of influenza in 1834, and of another baby boy who had
died in the spring of 1835. This must have made Stanley
as a young child somewhat solitary in his plays and occupa-
tions, for the two nearest to him in age were his brother
Herbert, who was four years older, and his sister Henrietta,
three and a half years younger, than himself. He had also
a younger brother, Thomas Edwin, born in October 1841,
who, though too young to be a companion in childhood, was
the closest friend of his later life.

The house in Alfred Street had been built for Mr.
Thomas Jevons, from his own designs, at the time of his
marriage, but it was not large enough for his increasing
family, and when Stanley was about a year and a half old,
his father removed to No. 9 Park Hill Road, one of two new
houses built from his own designs for Mr. Thomas Jevons
took great pleasure in planning houses, and showed much skill
in doing it. The other house was occupied for the first few
years by his brother, Mr. William Jevons, and later by his
younger brother, Mr. Timothy Jevons, and his family. His


father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. William Jevons, lived in a
large old house close by, the garden joining his son's. At
that time Park Hill Road was almost in the country : besides
the large gardens attached to the houses there were fields
and lanes close by, so that the children could have plenty
of healthy out-door life. Mr. Thomas Jevons' house is still
standing, and is now used for the Sunday school belonging
to the Unitarian Chapel in Toxteth Park Road. The
rooms remain the same as he planned them, but the sur-
roundings are so changed that it is difficult, if not im-
possible, to realise the place as it was. The gardens are
all gone, and the neighbourhood is built up with a poorer
class of houses, and is now part of the town.

The first thing that Stanley could remember occurred
during the great storm of January 1839, before he was three
and a half years old. One of the chimneys of the house
of his uncle, William Jevons, was blown down, and Stanley's
mother was so much alarmed that she had her children
roused from their beds and carried down to the cellar for
safety. He could also remember suffering, when he was
very young, from an attack of croup in the night, and being
put into a warm bath, with the doctor standing by. But
on the whole he retained a less vivid impression of his very
early childhood than many people of ordinary ability do.

Of all her children, Stanley was the one who most re-
sembled his mother in personal appearance. His eyes, which
were a blue-gray in colour, were, like hers, large and full of
expression, and were shaded with peculiarly long dark eye-
lashes, which greatly added to their beauty. A friend writing
of him says : " I remember him when such a little fellow with
bright curly hair. What a fine noble boy he was !" Another
friend remembers his running into the room one day when
she was with his mother, and asking for some employment,
saying with great energy, " I cannot live unless I have some-
thing to do." As a young child he almost always had
occupations which he made for himself, and nothing tried
his naturally passionate temper more than to be compelled
to leave the interest of the moment whilst still engrossed
in it.

His sister says that Stanley learned to read and write


without any difficulty, and certainly the following letter at
six years old in his own handwriting is very good for a
child of that age :

" MY DEAR GRANDPAPA When will you come home ?
I am six I was six on Wednesday, and Mamma gave me a
paint box. There was a beautiful rainbow to-night. I have
got a sixpenny little boat. Good-bye, dear grandpapa.
Your affectionate STANLEY JEVONS."

Another little letter has also been preserved, written when
he was seven years old, to Dr. Richard Roscoe, his mother's
younger brother, who was a frequent visitor at her house.

" DEAR UNCLE I thank you for the picture. I some-
times say my lessons well. I draw almost every day, and
I paint sometimes. Nurse is going, and another is coming.
Tommy is a very big boy, and is very funny. When will
you come again and see us ? Henny has got a bad cold.
Good-bye. Your affct. nephew, STANLEY."

Mrs. Thomas Jevons always encouraged her children in
their love of drawing and music ; and Stanley's love of music,
which he inherited from both his parents, was through life
one of his greatest pleasures. His mother also taught him
botany, in which he took great interest, and he always kept
the little microscope which she had given him to examine
flowers with. From her, too, came his first teachings in
political economy, as she read with him Archbishop Whate-
ley's Easy Lessons on Money Matters, written for children.
He was not what is usually called a precocious child, but he
was very thoughtful and extremely observant, and eager to
acquire information. In speaking of himself he once re-
marked, " I am said to possess much curiosity, and I often
felt a positive pain in passing any object which I could not
understand the construction and meaning of."

He was always very dexterous in using his fingers. His
uncle, Dr. Roscoe, gave him a set of bookbinding tools, and
I have a little book bound by him when quite a young boy,
the binding of which is a very creditable piece of workman-
ship for his age.

For outdoor occupations Stanley had his own little
garden in which he worked ; he had also some ducks for


pets, of which he seems to have been very fond. But his
greatest pleasure was to be with his eldest brother, Roscoe,
who had great talents for mechanical construction. Their
workshop was a coach-house and stable, and here many
happy hours were passed by Stanley in watching and helping
his brother. When Mr. Timothy Jevons came to occupy
the third house instead of his brother William, Stanley had
the companionship of two boys about his own age, and the
cousins must have had frequent opportunities of meeting,
for they had the kindest of grandparents, who permitted
their garden to be the constant play place of the two families
of cousins.

Until the failure of his mother's health, Stanley's home
must have been as happy a one as a child could have,
and he always felt it to have been so; but, in 1845, Mrs.
Thomas Jevons became so ill that she went to London,
chiefly to be under her brother Dr. Roscoe's care, and in
November of that year she died there without seeing her
children again.

The following letter was written to his mother whilst
she was away :

" MY DEAR MAMMA I hope you are better. I am quite
well now, and I am getting on very well in my lessons. I
am translating very small histories of great men, and of
countries, and I know the first twenty propositions of Euclid,
and I also write French exercises and the verbs, and exer-
cises in English composition, and write copies. Yesterday
Roscoe, Herbert, and I took a very long walk to Allerton
Hall. We started at half-past three, and went up through
the Prince's Park, and then went past Mrs. M - 's old
house into Aigburth road a great way, and through roads,
and at last found our way by finger-posts, and came back
the proper way about six o'clock, when it was nearly dark,
not very much tired ; and in the morning we went to chapel,
but papa did not go. We are getting on very well in every-
thing. I found a book of Uncle Richard's, called the Pre-
scribed s Pharmacopoeia. Roscoe, Lucy, Herbert, I especi-
ally, and all the rest of us, send our best love. Good-bye.
Your most affectionate son,



From this time Stanley's eldest sister filled, as far as she
could, her mother's place in the home ; and though a gover-
ness continued to reside with them for a year or two, it
was to their sister that the younger ones were indebted for a
love and care which can only be described as motherly, and
which was returned on their parts by the warmest affection
for her. Until he was more than ten years old Stanley was
taught at home by a governess, but early in 1 846 he became
a day scholar at the Mechanics' Institute High School in
Liverpool, which his brother Herbert was attending. The
late Dr. Hodgson, afterwards Professor of Political Economy
at Edinburgh, was then headmaster of the High School.
Two or three of the school reports of Stanley's conduct and
progress have been preserved, with Dr. Hodgson's com-
ments to his father. In April 1846 he writes, "W. S.
seems a very fine little boy," and in January 1847, "W.
S. J. will do very well indeed, if he gain courage and spirit
as he grows older." The French master writes in the
reports that he is very good and very industrious, but far
too quiet, makes no noise, and does not read above his
breath. He adds, " I should go to sleep if all the class
were like him."

In after life Stanley felt that he had gained much from
Dr. Hodgson's teaching ; and he regretted that his father
had removed him so soon from the school. In June 1847
he received the prize of his class, a large volume of Crabbe's
poems, in which the following inscription is written :

" This Book, being one of the Prizes granted by George
Holt, Esq., is assigned to W. S. Jevons, as first pupil in the
6th class of the High School, his conduct and attention
throughout the year having been not less satisfactory than
his progress."

Mr. Thomas Jevons at this time removed both his sons
from the High School, because he thought some of the boys
attending it were undesirable companions for them, and
after the summer holidays, Stanley was sent to Mr. Beck-
with's private school in Lodge Lane as a day scholar.

In January 1848 the firm of Jevons and Sons failed.
Stanley never forgot one Sunday when, instead of going to
chapel as they were in the habit of doing, his grandfather,

8 W. STANLEY JEVONS. /ET. 12-14.

father, and uncle were shut up all the morning together
with the books of the firm. He was much puzzled and
rather shocked at the proceeding, which was his first in-
timation that anything was wrong.

This misfortune made a great change in the circum-
stances of the three families in Park Hill Road. The
houses were given up at once, and Mr. Thomas Jevons
removed with his family to No. 125 Chatham Street. Mr.
William Jevons, who had lost his wife in 1846, became
from this time a member of his eldest son's household. He
brought with him an organ, on which Stanley used to play a
good deal ; and he did it well enough to give much pleasure
to his grandfather and father, who were both very fond of
music, although unable to play any instrument themselves.

Owing to the failure it had become necessary for the
family to live as economically as possible. Stanley was old
enough to understand this, and it early taught him to be
very careful in what he spent, and always to try to lay out
his small sums of money to the best advantage. He still
continued at Mr. Beckwith's school. He used to speak
of this as almost a wasted time in his education after
the teaching he had had at the Mechanics' Institute High
School ; but he acknowledged that the attention paid to
Latin at Mr. Beckwith's was of service to him, and saved
him future trouble, for he had no natural talent for learning
languages. His half holidays were often spent in walks with
his two cousins, who still lived near. The summer holidays
were spent either at Parkgate, a little old-fashioned place at
the mouth of the Dee, or at West Kirby, also on the Dee;
and he always retained an affection for that neighbourhood.

He was at this time a quiet thoughtful boy, very shy
and reserved, and quite unconscious of his own abilities, but
on 3 1st January 1849 his elder sister made the following
entry in her diary : " In Stanley I see the dawning of a
great mind."

In the summer of 1 849 Stanley went with his younger
sister and brother to Nantwich, to pay a visit to his mother's
sister, Mrs. Hornblower, whose husband was the Unitarian
minister there. Aunt Jane had great affection for her
nephews and nieces, and Stanley at different times spent


many pleasant weeks under her roof. During this visit his
father wrote to him : " I must begin this letter by thanking
you for your manly and excellent note to me. In it I see
signs of ripening thought and judgment, which gives me great
joy. In this visit you are not only adding vigour to your
bodily frame, but I feel satisfied that you are gaining manli-
ness, and gaining some little power over that natural timidity
of character which is the worst or perhaps I may say almost
the only weakness you have. A little more observation of
the world, and a habit of looking closely into the origin of
the fears that create the timidity or bashfulness which you
occasionally display, will help you wonderfully to get the
better of it."

After the summer holidays of 1850, when he was just
fifteen, Stanley was sent to London to attend University
College School ; and for a short time he stayed with his
brother Herbert in Harrington Street. Afterwards he lived
for several months in Gower Street, in the house of a lady
who received as boarders boys attending University College
School. Here he was very unhappy, partly perhaps because
it was the first time he had lived with strangers, but also
because he had good reason to dislike his three fellow-
boarders. Years afterwards he wrote in his journal that he
never passed the house without a feeling of dread at the
remembrance of what he suffered there.

Five weeks after his arrival in London he wrote to his
father : " Everything is done so systematically that I like
the school altogether very much." On the i/th of Nov-
ember 1850 he again wrote to his father : " I have been a
grand sight-seeing to-day, and have walked nearly from one
end of London to the other. I started a little before ten
o'clock, and went straight to St. Paul's. They do not let
you go into the choir if you come very late, and I only saw
what I had seen before. I then went and saw Smithfield
and St. Bartholomew's and the Post Office, after which I
went along Cheapside to the Exchange, etc. I next found
my way to the Tower of London, and then to the Thames
Tunnel, into which I went. From the Tunnel I came back
and went along the Strand, Whitehall, St. James's Park, and
Green Park, the Exhibition in Hyde Park, and then along


Oxford Street, Regent Street, and home, where I arrived at
half-past four ready for dinner. The Glass Palace is getting
on famously, and I saw some of the glass. All the work
looks very light and slender, but I suppose that the iron will
be quite strong enough. Great crowds go to see it. If the
half-finished building makes such a stir, what will the
Exhibition itself do !"

He was greatly interested in the " Glass Palace," and
often visited it. On the ist of June 1851 he wrote to his
father : " Last Wednesday I went to the Exhibition. I
think that nothing can be more astonishing or wonderful
than to walk round the galleries, or to look from one end to
another, and though I had heard every one talk of it for a
long time, and had seen numbers of pictures of it, I did not

Online LibraryWilliam Stanley JevonsLetters & journal of W. Stanley Jevons → online text (page 1 of 42)