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Augustus De Morgan

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De Morgan, Augustus I De Morgan I, 1806-1871, mathematician. B.A. Cambridge, 1827. F.R.A.S. For more than thirty years professor of mathematics at University College, London. The list of his books and of his contributions to professional journals, to the Penny Cyclopaedia, and to other encyclopaedic works covers fifteen pages in Mrs. De Morgan's Memoir of her husband; in addition, made "voluminous contributions" to Athenaeum and N. & Q. In 1870 granted Civil List pension of £100 a year "In consideration of his distinguished merits as a mathematician" (Colles, Literature and the Pension List).

      De Morgan and his wife enjoyed Dickens's novels, some of which De Morgan read aloud to her as the monthly parts appeared. On one occasion, when they disagreed about an illustration in Nickleby, De Morgan wrote to Dickens to settle the question; Dickens's letter, April 12, 1840, explained the matter to "the gentleman and lady unknown." De Morgan met Dickens in 1851, being introduced to him by Charles Knight (Memoir, pp. 93-94; 265-66 and n). Crabb Robinson (On Books and Their Writers, II, 815) recorded De Morgan's leaving with him in 1865 a copy of the doggerel that circulated for some years:

      A splendid muse of fiction hath Charles Dickens,
      But now and then just as the interest thickens
      He stilts his pathos, and the reader sickens

(Variants of the lines appear in Kitton, Dickensiana, pp. 467-69.) De Morgan was a reader of both H.W. and A.Y.R. On one occasion he noted the anachronistic use of the word "reliable" by "one of the tale-writers" in A.Y.R. (Memoir, p. 322); on another, the absence of certain information relevant to a case related in one of Thornbury's "Old Stories Re-told" (Dickens to De Morgan, Sept. 20, 1867: typescript Huntington Library).
      De Morgan's brief H.W. item ["Chip: Edmund Waller" XVI, 402. Oct. 24, 1857], motivated by an article on the poet Waller, Sept. 12, 1857, concerns the known signatures of WaIler. It states that the British Museum has no specimen of Waller's penmanship, or, at least, had none "five years ago," but that "a well-known bibliographer" (i.e., Bolton Corney) possesses one, and that the writer of the H.W. article possesses a second, that signature being in a copy of J. A. Borelli's Euclides Restitutus, 1658. In the De Morgan Collection in the University of London Library (to which De Morgan's books were presented after his death) is the copy of BorelIi referred to. Two notes (one signed by De Morgan) are pasted to the half-title of the book, and two letters are tipped in. The notes and the letters contain De Morgan's proof of the facts stated in the H.W. article.
      In H.W., incidental references to De Morgan appeared in "National-Debt Doctors," "The Catalogue's Account of Itself," "Play," and "A Ride through the Raisin Country."

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971. 

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