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THE ECONOMIC JOURNAL
ALFRED MARSHALL, 1842–1924 1
ALFRED MARSHALL was born at Clapham on July 26, 1842, the son of William Marshall, a cashier in the Bank of England, by his marriage with Rebecca Oliver. The Marshalls were a clerical family of the West, sprung from William Marshall, incumbent of Saltash, Cornwall, at the end of the seventeenth century. Alfred was the great-great-grandson of the Reverend William Marshall, the half-legendary herculean parson of Devonshire, who, by twisting horseshoes with his hands, frightened local blacksmiths into fearing that they blew their bellows for the devil.3 His great-grandfather was the Reverend John Marshall, Headmaster of Exeter Grammar School, who married Mary Hawtrey, daughter of the Reverend Charles Hawtrey, Sub-Dean and Canon of Exeter, and aunt of the Provost of Eton.
His father, the cashier in the Bank of England, was a tough
1 In the preparation of this Memoir I have had great assistance from Mrs. Marshall. I have to thank her for placing at my disposal a number of papers and for writing out some personal notes from which I have quoted freely. Alfred Marshall himself left in writing several autobiographical scraps, of which I have made the best use I could.
2 By his third wife, Mary Kitson, the first child he christened in his parish, of whom he said in joke that she should be his little wife, as she duly was twenty years later.
* This is one of many stories of his prodigious strength which A, M. was fond of telling-how, for example, driving a pony trap in a narrow Devonshire lane and meeting another vehicle, he took the pony out and lifted the trap clean over the hedge. But we come to something more prognostical of Alfred in a little device of William Marshall's latter days. Being in old age heavy and unwieldy, yet so affected with gout as to be unable to walk up and down stairs, he had a hole made in the ceiling of the room in which he usually sat, through which he was drawn in his chair by pulleys to and from his bedroom above.
Thus Alfred Marshall was third cousin once removed to Ralph Hawtrey, author of Currency and Credit-80 there is not much in the true theory of Money which does not flow from that single stem. A. M. drew more from the subtle Hawtreys than from the Reverend Hercules.
No. 135.–VOL. XXXIV.
old character, of great resolution and perception, cast in the mould of the strictest Evangelicals, bony neck, bristly projecting chin, author of an Evangelical epic in a sort of Anglo-Saxon language of his own invention which found some favour in its appropriate circles, surviving despotically-minded into his ninety-second year. The nearest objects of his masterful instincts were his family, and their easiest victim his wife; but their empire extended in theory over the whole of womankind, the old gentleman writing a tract entitled Man's Rights and Woman's Duties. Heredity is mighty, and Alfred Marshall did not altogether escape the influence of the parental mould. An implanted masterfulness towards womankind warred in him with the deep affection and admiration which he bore to his own wife, and with an environment which threw him in closest touch with the education and liberation of women.
At nine years of age Alfred was sent to Merchant Taylors School, for which his father, perceiving the child's ability, had begged a nomination from a Director of the Bank. In mingled affection and severity his father recalls James Mill. He used to make the boy work with him for school, often at Hebrew, until eleven at night. Indeed Alfred was so much overworked by his father that, he used to say, his life was saved by his Aunt Louisa, with whom he spent long summer holidays near Dawlish. She gave him a boat and a gun and a pony, and by the end of the summer he would return home, brown and well. E. C. Dermer, his fellow-monitor at Merchant Taylors, tells that at school he was small and pale, badly dressed, looked overworked and was called “tallow candles”; that he cared little for games, was fond of propounding chess problems, and did not readily make friends.3
1 “Do you know that you are asking me for £200 ? " said the Director; but he gave it.
· Mrs. Marshall writes : “ As a boy, Alfred suffered severely from headache, for which the only cure was to play chess. His father therefore allowed chess for this purpose; but later on he made A. promise never to play chess. This promise was kept all through his life, though he could never see a chess problem in the newspapers without getting excited. But he said that his father was right to exact this promise, for otherwise he would have been tempted to spend all his time on it." A. M. himself once said : “ We are not at liberty to play chess games, or exercise ourselves upon subtleties that lead nowhere. It is well for the young to enjoy the mere pleasure of action, physical or intellectual. But the time presses; the responsibility on us is heavy."
3 His chief school friends were H. D. Trail, later Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, and Sidney Hall, afterwards an artist. Trail's brother gave him a copy of Mill's Logic, which Trail and he read with enthusiasm and discussed at meals at the Monitors' table.
Rising to be Third Monitor, he became entitled in 1861, under old statutes, to a scholarship at St. John's College, Oxford, which would have led in three years to a Fellowship, and would have furnished him with the same permanence of security as belonged in those days to Eton Scholars at King's or Winchester Scholars at New College. It was the first step to ordination in the Evangelical ministry for which his father designed him. But this was not the main point for Alfred -it meant a continued servitude to the Classics. He had painful recollections in later days of his tyrant father keeping him awake into the night for the better study of Hebrew, whilst at the same time forbidding him the fascinating paths of mathematics. His father hated the sight of a mathematical book, but Alfred would conceal Potts' Euclid in his pocket as he walked to and from school. He read a proposition and then worked it out in his mind as he walked along, standing still at intervals, with his toes turned in. The fact that the curriculum of the Sixth Form at Merchant Taylors reached so far as the Differential Calculus, had excited native proclivities. Airy, the mathematical master, said that “he had a genius for mathematics.” Mathematics represented for Alfred emancipation, and he used to rejoice greatly that his father could not understand them. No! he would not be buried at Oxford under dead languages; he would run away—to be a cabin-boy at Cambridge and climb the rigging of geometry and spy out the heavens.
At this point there comes on the scene a well-disposed uncle, willing to lend him a little money (for his father was too poor to help further, when the Oxford Scholarship was abandoned)-repaid by Alfred soon after taking his degree from what he earned by teaching—which, with a Parkin's Exhibition ? of £40 a year from St. John's College, Cambridge, 1 opened to him the doors of Mathematics and of Cambridge. Since it was a legacy of £250 from this same uncle which enabled him, fourteen years later, to pay his visit to the United States, the story of the sources of this uncle's wealth, which Alfred often told, deserve a record here. Having sought his fortunes in Australia and being established there at the date of the gold discoveries, a little family eccentricity disposed him to seek his benefit indirectly. So he remained a pastoralist, but, to the mirth of his neighbours, refused to employ anyone about his place who did not suffer from some physical defect, staffing himself entirely with the halt, the blind, and the maimed. When the gold boom reached its height, his reward came. All the able-bodied labourers migrated to the goldfields and Charles Marshall was the only man in the place able to carry on. A few years later he returned to England with a fortune, ready to take an interest in a clever, rebellious nephew.
1 Near the end of his life A. M. wrote the following characteristic sentences about his classical studies : “When at school I was told to take no account of accents in pronouncing Greek words. I concluded that to burden my memory with accents would take up time and energy that might be turned to account; so I did not look out my accents in the dictionary; and received the only very heavy punishment of my life. This suggested to me that classical studies do not induce an appreciation of the value of time; and I turned away from them as far as I could towards mathematics. In later years I have observed that fine students of science are greedy of time : but many classical men seem to value it lightly. I will add that my headmaster was a broad-minded man; and succeeded in making his head form write Latin Essays, thought out in Latin : not thought out in English and translated into Latin. I am more grateful for that than for anything else he did for me." ? He was promoted to a Scholarship in the same year.
In 1917 Marshall put into writing the following account of his methods of work at this time and later : “An epoch in my life occurred when I was, I think, about seventeen years old. I was in Regent Street, and saw a workman standing idle before a shop-window : but his face indicated alert energy, so I stood still and watched. He was preparing to sketch on the window of a shop guiding lines for a short statement of the business concerned, which was to be shown by white letters fixed to the glass. Each stroke of arm and hand needed to be made with a single free sweep, so as to give a graceful result; it occupied perhaps two seconds of keen excitement. He stayed still for a few minutes after each stroke, so that his pulse might grow quiet. If he had saved the ten minutes thus lost, his employers would have been injured by more than the value of his wages for a whole day. That set up a train of thought which led me to the resolve never to use my mind when it was not fresh; and to regard the intervals between successive strains as sacred to absolute repose. When I went to Cambridge and became full master of myself, I resolved never to read a mathematical book for more than a quarter of an hour at a time, without a break.
1 There is a letter from Dr. Bateson, Master of St. John's, to Dr. Hessey, Headmaster of Merchant Taylors, dated June 15, 1861, announcing this Exhibi. tion, and giving early evidence of the interest which Dr. Bateson-like Dr. Jowett in later days-always maintained in Alfred Marshall. When A. M. applied for the Bristol appointment in 1877, Dr. Bateson wrote: “I have a great admiration for his character, which is remarkable for its great simplicity, earnestness, and self-sacrificing conscientiousness."