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King or Parliament or of the officials of a Trust or TradeUnion.'»
(6) In the provision of terminology and apparatus to aid thought I do not think that Marshall did economists any greater service than by the explicit introduction of the idea of “elasticity.” Book III. chap. iii. of the first edition of the Principles, which introduces the definition of “ Elasticity of Demand," 1 is virtually the earliest treatment ? of a conception without the aid of which the advanced theory of Value and Distribution can scarcely make progress. The notion that demand may respond to a change of price to an extent that may be either more or less than in proportion had been, of course, familiar since the discussions at the beginning of the nineteenth century about the relation between the supply and the price of wheat. Indeed it is rather remarkable that the notion was not more clearly disentangled either by Mill or by Jevons. But it was so. And the concept e = m = -44 is wholly Marshall's.
Y The way in which Marshall introduces Elasticity, without any suggestion that the idea is novel, is remarkable and characteristic. The field of investigation opened up by this instrument of thought is again one where the full fruits have been reaped by Professor Pigou rather than by Marshall himself.
(7) The historical introduction to the Principles deserves some comment. In the first edition Book I. includes two chapters entitled “ The Growth of Free Industry and Enterprise.” In the latest editions most of what has been retained out of these chapters has been relegated to an Appendix. Marshall was always in two minds about this. On the one hand his views as to the perpetually changing character of the subject matter of Economics led him to attach great importance to the historical background as a corrective to the idea that the axioms of to-day are permanent. He was also dissatisfied with the learned but half-muddled work of the German historical school. On the other hand he was afraid of spending too much time on these matters (at one period he had embarked on historical inquiries on a scale which, he said, would have occupied six volumes), and of overloading with them the essential matter of his book. At the time when he was occupied with economic history, there was very little ready-made material to go upon, and he probably wasted much strength straying unnecessarily along historical by-ways and vacillating as to the importance to be given in his own book to the historical background. The resulting compromise, as realised in the Principles, was not very satisfactory. Everything is boiled down into wide generalisations, the evidence for which he has not space to display.1 Marshall's best historical work is to be found, perhaps, in Industry and Trade, published in 1919, many years after most of the work had been done. The historical passages of the Principles were brusquely assailed by Dr. William Cunningham in an address before the Royal Historical Society, printed in the ECONOMIC JOURNAL, Vol. II. (1892); and Marshall, breaking his general rule of not replying to criticism, came successfully out of the controversy in a reply printed in the same issue of the JOURNAL.
1 Supplemented by the mathematical note in the Appendix.
2 Strictly, the earliest reference to “ elasticity” is to be found in Marshall's contribution“ On the Graphic Method of Statistics” to the Jubilee Volume of the Royal Statistical Society (1885), p. 260. But it is introduced there only in a brief concluding note, and mainly with the object of showing that a simple diagrammatic measure of elasticity is furnished by the ratio between the two sections into which that part of the tangent to the demand curve which lies between the axes is divided by the point of contact. Mrs. Marshall tells me that he hit on the notion of elasticity, as he sat on the roof at Palermo shaded by the bath-cover in 1881, and was highly delighted with it.
3 Mill quotes Tooke's History of Prices in this connection.
• Professor Edgeworth in his article on “Elasticity” in Palgrave's Dictionary refers particularly to Mill's Political Economy, Book III. chap. ii. § 4, and chap. viii. § 2, as representative of the pre-Marshall treatment of the matter. The first of these passages points out the varying proportions in which demand may respond to variations of price; the second treats (in effect) of the unitary elasticity of the demand for money. Professor Edgeworth now adds a reference to Book III. chap. xviii. $ 5, where Mill deals in substance with the effect of elasticity on the Equation of International Demand. Elsewhere in this chapter Mill speaks of a demand being“ more extensible by cheapness" ($ 4) and of the "extensibility of their [foreign countries'] demand for its (the home country's] commodities” ($ 8). i Marshall himself wrote (in his reply to Dr. Cunningham, ECONOMIC JOURNAL, Vol. II. p. 507): “I once proposed to write a treatise on economic history, and for many years I collected materials for it. Afterwards I selected such part of these as helped to explain why many of the present conditions and problems of industry are only of recent date, and worked it into the chapters in question. But they took up much more space than could be spared for them. So I recast and compressed them; and in the process they lost, no doubt, some sharpness of outline and particularity of statement.”
The way in which Marshall's Principles of Economics is written, is more unusual than the casual reader will notice. It is elaborately unsensational and under-emphatic. Its rhetoric is of the simplest, most unadorned order. It flows in a steady, lucid stream, with
? Dr. Clapham writes : “In reading the Appendices to Industry and Trade I was very much impressed with Marshall's knowledge of economic history since the seventeenth century, as it was known thirty years ago, i.e. at the time of the controversy. I feel sure that at that time he understood the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries better than Cunningham, and he had-naturally-a feeling for their quantitative treatment to which Cunningham never attained."
few passages which stop or perplex the intelligent reader, even though he know but little economics. Claims to novelty or to originality on the part of the author himself are altogether absent.1 Passages imputing error to others are rare; and it is explained that earlier writers of repute must be held to have meant what is right and reasonable, whatever they may have said. The connexity and continuity of the economic elements, as signified in Marshall's two mottoes, “ Natura non facit saltum” and “ The many in the one, the one in the many," are the chief grounds of difficulty. But, subject to this, the chief impression which the book makes on the minds of uninitiated readersparticularly on those who do not get beyond Book IV.—is apt to be, that they are perusing a clear, apt and humane exposition of fairly obvious matters.
By this stylistic achievement Marshall attained some of his objects. The book reached the general public. It increased the public esteem of Economics. The minimum of controversy was provoked. The average reviewer liked the author's attitude to his subject-matter, to his predecessors, and to his readers, and delighted Marshall by calling attention to the proper stress laid by him on the ethical element and to the much required humanising which the dismal science received at his hands ; 3 and, at the same time, could remain happily insensible to the book's intellectual stature. As time has gone on, moreover, the intellectual qualities of the book have permeated English economic thought, without noise or disturbance, in a degree which can easily be overlooked.
1 As one intelligent reviewer remarked (The Guardian, Oct. 15, 1890): “ This book has two aspects. On the one hand, it is an honest and obstinate endeavour to find out the truth; on the other hand, it is an ingenious attempt to disclaim any credit for discovering it, on the ground that it was all implicitly contained in the works of earlier writers, especially Ricardo.” But most of them were taken in. The following is typical (Daily Chronicle, July 24, 1890): “Mr. Marshall makes no affectation of new discoveries or new departures; he professes merely to give a modern version of the old doctrines adjusted to the results of more recent investigation.”
2 Marshall carried this rather too far. But it was an essential truth to which he held firmly, that those individuals who are endowed with a special genius for the subject and have a powerful economic intuition will often be more right in their conclusions and implicit presumptions than in their explanations and explicit statements. That is to say, their intuitions will be in advance of their analysis and their terminology. Great respect, therefore, is due to their general scheme of thought, and it is a poor thing to pester their memories with criticism which is really verbal. Marshall's own economic intuition was extraordinary, and lenience towards the apparent errors of great predecessors is treatment to which in future times he will himself have an exceptional claim.
3 Fashions change! When, nearly thirty years later, Industry and Trade appeared, one reviewer wrote (Athendum, Oct. 31, 1919): “ Perhaps its least satisfactory feature is its moral tone. Not because that tone is low-quite the contrary; but because, in a scientific treatise, a moral tone, however elevated, seems altogether out of place."
The method has, on the other hand, serious disadvantages. The lack of emphasis and of strong light and shade, the sedulous rubbing away of rough edges and salients and projections, until what is most novel can appear as trite, allows the reader to pass too easily through. Like a duck leaving water, he can escape from this douche of ideas with scarce a wetting. The difficulties are concealed; the most ticklish problems are solved in footnotes; a pregnant and original judgment is dressed up as a platitude. The author furnishes his ideas with no labels of salesmanship and few hooks for them to hang by in the wardrobe of the mind. A student can read the Principles, be fascinated by its pervading charm, think that he comprehends it, and, yet, a week later, know but little about it. How often has it not happened even to those who have been brought up on the Principles, lighting upon what seems a new problem or a new solution, to go back to it and to find, after all, that the problem and a better solution have been always there, yet quite escaping notice! It needs much study and independent thought on the reader's own part, before he can know the half of what is contained in the concealed crevices of that rounded globe of knowledge, which is Marshall's Principles of Economics.
The Marshalls returned in 1885 to the Cambridge of the early years after the reforms, which finally removed restrictions upon the marriage of Fellows. They built for themselves a small house, called Balliol Croft, on St. John's College land in the Madingley Road, close to the Backs, yet just on the outskirts of the town, so that on one side open country stretched towards Madingley Hill. Here Alfred Marshall lived for nearly forty years. The house, built in a sufficient garden, on an unconventional plan so as to get as much light as possible, just accommodated the two of them and a faithful maid. His study, lined with books, and filled transversally with shelves, had space by the fire for two chairs. Here were held his innumerable tête-à-têtes with pupils, who would be furnished as the afternoon wore on with a cup of tea and a slice of cake on an adjacent stool or shelf. Larger gatherings took place downstairs, where
the dining-room and Mrs. Marshall's sitting-room could be thrown into one on the occasion of entertainments. The unvarying character of the surroundings—upstairs the books and nests of drawers containing manuscript, downstairs the Michaelangelo figures from the Sistine Chapel let into the furniture, and at the door the face of Sarah the maid, had a charm and fascination for those who paid visits to their Master year after year, like the Cell or Oratory of a Sage.
In that first age of married society in Cambridge, when the narrow circle of the spouses-regnant of the Heads of Colleges and of a few wives of Professors was first extended, several of the most notable Dons, particularly in the School of Moral Science, married students of Newnham. The double link between husbands and between wives bound together a small cultured society of great simplicity and distinction. This circle was at its full strength in my boyhood, and, when I was first old enough to be asked out to luncheon or to dinner, it was to these houses that I went. I remember a homely, intellectual atmosphere which it is harder to find in the swollen, heterogeneous Cambridge of to-day. The entertainments at the Marshalls' were generally occasioned, in later days, by the visit of some fellow-economist, often an eminent foreigner, and the small luncheon party would usually include a couple of undergraduates and a student or young lecturer from Newnham. I particularly remember meeting in this way Adolf Wagner and N. G. Pierson, representatives of a generation of economists which is now almost passed. Marshall did not much care about going to other people's houses, and was at his best fitting his guests comfortably into a narrow space, calling out staff directions to his wife, in unembarrassed, half-embarrassed mood, with laughing, high-pitched voice and habitual jokes and phrases. He had great conversational powers on all manner of matters; his cheerfulness and gaiety were unbroken; and, in the presence of his bright eyes and smiling talk and unaffected absurdity, no one could feel dull.
In earlier days, particularly between 1885 and 1900, he was fond of asking working-men leaders to spend a week-end with him,-for example, Thomas Burt, Ben Tillett, Tom Mann and many others. Sometimes these visits would be fitted in
1 She lived with them for more than forty years on terms almost of intimacy. Marshall would often extol her judgment and wisdom. He himself designed the small kitchen, like a ship's cabin, in which she dwelt at Balliol Croft. Marshall was always much loved by his servants and College gyps. He treated them like human beings and talked to them about the things which he was interested in himself.