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A Budget of Paradoxes, Volume I by De Morgan

Demonville in my possession are as follows


which Messrs. Goulburn {290}

and Yates Peel[626] defeated Lord Palmerston[627] and Mr. Cavendish.[628] They add that Mr. Gunning, the well-known Esquire Bedell of the University, attributed the hoax to the late Rev. R. Sheepshanks, to whom, they state, are also attributed certain clever fictitious biographies--of public men, as I understand it--which were palmed upon the editor of the _Cambridge Chronicle_, who never suspected their genuineness to the day of his death. Being in most confidential intercourse with Mr. Sheepshanks,[629] both at the time and all the rest of his life (twenty-five years), and never heard him allude to any such things--which were not in his line, though he had satirical power of quite another {291} kind--I feel satisfied he had nothing to do with them. I may add that others, his nearest friends, and also members of his family, never heard him allude to these hoaxes as their author, and disbelieve his authorship as much as I do myself. I say this not as imputing any blame to the true author, such hoaxes being fair election jokes in all time, but merely to put the saddle off the wrong horse, and to give one more instance of the insecurity of imputed authorship. Had Mr. Sheepshanks ever told me that he had perpetrated the hoax, I should have had no hesitation in giving it to him. I consider all clever election squibs, free from bitterness and personal imputation, as giving the multitude good channels for the vent of feelings which but for them would certainly find bad ones.

justify;">[But I now suspect that Mr. Babbage[630] had some hand in the hoax. He gives it in his "Passages, &c." and is evidently writing from memory, for he gives the wrong year. But he has given the paragraph, though not accurately, yet with such a recollection of the points as brings suspicion of the authorship upon him, perhaps in conjunction with D. B.[631] Both were on Cavendish's committee. Mr. Babbage adds, that "late one evening a cab drove up in hot haste to the office of the _Morning Post_, delivered the copy as coming from Mr. Goulburn's committee, and at the same time ordered fifty extra copies of the _Post_ to be sent next morning to their committee-room." I think the man--the only one I ever heard of--who knew all about the cab and the extra copies must have known more.]

ON M. DEMONVILLE.

_Demonville._--A Frenchman's Christian name is his own secret, unless there be two of the surname. M. Demonville is a very good instance of the difference between a {292} French and English discoverer. In England there is a public to listen to discoveries in mathematical subjects made without mathematics: a public which will hear, and wonder, and think it possible that the pretensions of the discoverer have some foundation. The unnoticed man may possibly be right: and the old country-town reputation which I once heard of, attaching to a man who "had written a book about the signs of the zodiac which all the philosophers in London could not answer," is fame as far as it goes. Accordingly, we have plenty of discoverers who, even in astronomy, pronounce the learned in error because of mathematics. In France, beyond the sphere of influence of the Academy of Sciences, there is no one to cast a thought upon the matter: all who take the least interest repose entire faith in the Institute. Hence the French discoverer turns all his thoughts to the Institute, and looks for his only hearing in that quarter. He therefore throws no slur upon the means of knowledge, but would say, with M. Demonville: "A l'egard de M. Poisson,[632] j'envie loyalement la millieme partie de ses connaissances mathematiques, pour prouver mon systeme d'astronomie aux plus incredules."[633] This system is that the only bodies of our system are the earth, the sun, and the moon; all the others being illusions, caused by reflection of the sun and moon from the ice of the polar regions. In mathematics, addition and subtraction are for men; multiplication and division, which are in truth creation and destruction, are prerogatives of deity. But _nothing_ multiplied by _nothing_ is _one_. M. Demonville obtained an introduction to William the Fourth, who desired the opinion of the Royal Society upon his system: the {293} answer was very brief. The King was quite right; so was the Society: the fault lay with those who advised His Majesty on a matter they knew nothing about. The writings of M. Demonville in my possession are as follows.[634] The dates--which were only on covers torn off in binding--were about 1831-34:


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