Promoting Edgeworthstown's Heritage and History


Information about our town and it's rich history

Edgeworthstown has a rich history thanks to it's association with some of the greatest writers and thinkers of the 19th and early -20th Centuries. People like Maria Edgeworth, Abbé Edgeworth, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Oscar Wilde, Oliver Goldsmith, Walter Scott and others. This page gives you a brief look at these people and their connection to our town.

Early Edgeworths

FrancisEdgeworth.jpgThe first Edgeworths to come to  Ireland in 1585 were Edward and Francis, natives of Edgeworth or Edgware a town in Middlesex near..London.   Edward the elder became bishop of Down and Connor while his brother Francis entered the law in Dublin and was appointed to the office of Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper.   In 1619 he was granted some 600 acres of land near Mostrim by King James I.   His third wife was Jane Tuite daughter of Sir John Tuite of Sonnagh in Westmeath.   Their son John was brought up in England. and is returned with his wife to live at the castle of Crannelagh (Cranley). He was absent when the rebellion broke out in 1641, when his strife and three year old son also John were saved from death and smuggled to Dublin by a ruse by Edmond MacBrian Ferrall a servant of the household.   He also saved the castle from destruction by fire.   This son settled later in Lissard.   He was somewhat of a gambler and spendthrift but in 1670 bought the lands of Mostrim now Edgeworthstown though it was many years later that it became the home of the head. of the family when his son Francis came to live there at the end of the century of the death of his father Sir John, who although knighted in 1671 by the Duke of York later took the Williamite side at the revolution.   In the meantime he had left Lissard to live at Kilshrewley, but much of his life was spent in the Army and in England.   One of his sons Henry later came back to live in the old house at Lissard.
Sir Johns grandson Richard was left a penniless orphan at the age of' eight and was brought up by his half sister in Packenham Hall in Westmeath. At the age of 18 in 1719 on the death of his half sisters husband, Edward Packenham, he had take over the estate and paid off the debts of his father and grandfather and recovered losses incurred by the malpractices of his uncles Robert and Ambrose. He it was who built the house in the 1720's we know to-day.   It was built around an earlier house presumably that occupied, about 1697 by his father Francis.   He was the author of the Black Book of Edgeworthstown an estate record which tells us so much about the locality at that time.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth


The first member of the family we meet is Richard Lovell Edgeworth, father of Maria. Born in 1744, he survived four wives, and had twenty-two children before dying, aged 73, in 1817.

He was a liberal both in thought and in politics. He was in full sympathy with the eighteenth century enlightenment in science and belief in scientific method, in industrial progress and in educational thinking. He was a friend on the leading scientists and thinkers of the day – such as Erasmus Darwin, Sir Humphrey Davy, James Watt.

Distinguished as an inventor, he turned his wider-ranging inventive genius to such diverse objects as architecture and town planning, mechanical loaders, carts and carriages with springs, railroad tracks for the transport of peat. He designed and built the spire in the Parrish Church of Edgeworthstown. His architectural skill was in evidence at Pakenham Hall, particularly in the installation of an ingenious domestic heating system.

He was a pioneer of modern techniques of road construction; and it is a rather unfair accident of history that a less brilliant and successful contemporary, the Scotsman, Macadam, should have had his name perpetuated in road-making vocabulary, though Edgeworth did much more to merit that honour. Edgeworth did very important pioneering studies and experiments in telegraphy, and it was obscurantist on the part of the British Government of the time, not to implement his plans for a telegraphic communications system in Ireland before the end of the eighteenth century.

In the sphere of bogland development, Edgeworth remarkably anticipated the work, which had to wait more than a century after his death for full implementation by Bord na Mona. In 1808, the then Chief Secretary, Sir Arthur Wellesley, proposed the setting up of a commission to explore the possibilities of utilisation of the bogs of Ireland. A bill to this effect was introduced in the British Parliament in the following year. The commission was set up and began its investigations immediately.

Edgeworth was invited to act as one of the engineers to the commission. Although now a man of 65 and in failing health, he accepted and threw himself into the work with extraordinary energy declaring, characteristically, that “he could only die, and he would rather die doing something than doing nothing.” He was convinced of the great contribution the bogs could make to the economic prosperity of Ireland. He began by planning a survey of 35,000 acres of bogland on Co. Longford and adjacent areas of Co. Meath. The survey entailed systematic marking, draining, levelling of the bogs. A canal system was to provide for both drainage and transport. A portable rail system, based of movable wooden tracks, was designed. Special ploughs for bogland drainage were devised.

For most of twelve months, Edgeworth spent day after day, often for fifteen food-less hours at a stretch on the bogs of C. Longford. After this exhausting toil, he could confidently claim that the development of the Irish bogs was not only practicable but was economically viable and offered important employment prospect for the impoverished population of the country.

His work. Like several other precocious projects of his, failed to secure government support. In this instance, vested interests on the part of absentee landlords as well as of local proprietors conspired to thwart Edgeworth’s plans. But, he has been posthumously vindicated. A century later, a free Irish State gave reality to his dreams, following not only the spirit but also to methods and equipment and techniques. We should spare a thought for Edgeworth when we pass by Bord na Mona’s Installations at Lanesboro and elsewhere in the county.

A second area of Edgeworth’s vision gives equally impressive proof of his enlightened thinking, namely the sphere of education. He was influenced, in this domain, by the theories of Locke and Rousseau. His own writings though somewhat verbose and turgid, helped to diffuse new and more scientific approaches to education in the early eighteenth century.

His three volumes entitled “Practical Education,” published in 1798m drew upon the new empiricistic psychology to urge that education should depend upon natural associations of ideas rather than on rote memory; that spontaneous learning was preferable to coerced concentration; that teaching should proceed by teacher-pupil conversation rather than by cramming. The end-product of good educations he argued, would be, not the pupil who could mechanically reproduce facts, but the person who had “learned to generalise his ideas and to apply his observations and principles.” If the pupil can do this, he can be called educated, whether he can reproduce the facts of grammar, geography, or even Latin, or not. For he will desire better than merely knowing facts. In the subsequent business of life, he will out-distance the man “ who had only been technically taught, as certainly as the giant would overtake the panting dwarf, who night have many miles start of him in the race.”

Here again, as his biographer remarks, Edgeworth was more than a century ahead of his time. As Macadam annexed the reputation Edgeworth should have had in road-making, so Edgeworth lost to Montessori, Froebel, Pestalczzi and others the prestige he merited in the field of education.

His second book in this subject, “Practical education,” published in 1808, was less enlightened and less successful. But his contribution to the cause of education was not merely theoretical. He availed of his opportunity as Member of the Irish Parliament, convened in 1799, to introduce proposals “for the education of the peasantry and working part of the community in Ireland.” In his supporting speech, he declared, “the power of the sword is great, but the power of education is greater.” But, he urged, the state of education in Ireland was lamentably defective and only sweeping new legislation could remedy the situation. He proposed a building programme to provide one or more schools for each parish in the country. He advocated training and qualifications for teachers and inspection of schools.

The most notable and praiseworthy feature of Edgeworths educational plan was that it envisaged equal educational opportunity, at primary school level, for Catholics, with safeguards for their religious beliefs and total exclusion of proselytism. School books were to be approved by the clergy and separate religious instruction for Catholics to be provided by the clergy. It was to be many years yet before the British government and the Irish ascendancy were to be ready to enact such tolerant ideas into law and practice. Edgeworth had a different conception from Davis of the relationship between education and freedom; but he agreed with him on the importance of education for the nation’s good. He considered the education of the people “ to be of greater and more permanent importance than the union or than any merely political measure could prove to his country.”

If Parliament failed to adopt his proposal, Edgeworth would at least make a beginning with his own estates. He founded, in Edgeworthstown, in 1816, a school for boys, which was open to Catholic and Protestant boys alike, and educated poorer and richer children side by side in the same benches. The better-off boys were boarders, with separate dormitory quarters; but the mingling of social classes during class hours was a distinctive feature of the school. The pupils went out to their respective churches for worship and their own clergymen came in to teach then religion during school hours. Edgeworth arranged for a “post-primary” section in the school, where boys might remain on after the school-leaving age to learn book-keeping, mechanics, commerce, and elementary science. He also provided a playground, believing that games too had their place in education.

This remarkable experiment was unfortunate in its immediate direction. Edgeworth’s son, Lovell, who was put in charge of it, proved inefficient, improvident and bibulous, and soon ruined a noble and pioneering educational project. But it lasted long enough to justify Edgeworth’s own boast: “Edgeworthstown is a village remarkable for the health and longevity of its inhabitants. As to religion and moral education here, happily the ministers of both the Protestant and Catholic religion are free from bigotry and live on the best of terms with each other without the slightest mutual jealousy.”

The liberalism, of Edgeworth found expression in his political stances, as several courageous speeches testify. The years after ’98, he wrote: “To justify myself to the Orange Party here can only be done by wearing orange ribbons and becoming a member of the Orange Lodge-a thing I would never be induced to do.”

The ’98 rebellion was followed by a wave of orange fanaticism, bigotry and bitter sectarian reprisals. These so disgusted Edgeworth that he contemplated leaving Ireland for good. He wrote at this time “I have lived in Ireland for no other motive than a sense of duty and a desire to improve the circle around me. I shall lose about £10,000 sunk in the country by removal, but I shall live the remainder of my life amongst men instead of warring savages.”

These words do something to offset the Edgeworths’ attitude to the Irish insurgents at Ballinamuck. In fact Edgeworth was in greater personal danger from Orange loyalists at the time of the Ballinamuck battle, than he was from the Irish rebels. The leader of insurgents personally guarded the entrance to Edgeworthstown House and refused admittance to any of his men. The Orange yeomanry in Longford, knowing Edgeworths’ scorn for their bigotry, and his detestation of their politics, drove him out of the town with stones and staves.

The fullest expression of Edgeworth’s political liberalism was given, a decade before ’98, in his address to the Irish Volunteers. In this address, he demanded equal civil rights for Catholics. He called for the emergence of a yeomanry “which will diffuse liberty and industry throughout every class of the inhabitants of Ireland.” He predicted that the aristocracy would come to bless the hour that turns their ambition from a sordid scramble for titles and places to the solid happiness of serving an industrious and prosperous people.” His political testament may be found in the same address, “For myself, I have no interest to serve, no private pique to gratify, nor have I any view in offering you my advice, but what every Irishman would be proud to avow-the liberty and glory of my country.”

Edgeworth’s patriotism was qualified, his nationalism conditioned by the inevitable ambivalance of the colonist. But it would be narrow-minded and chauvinist to exclude such men as Edgeworth from their place in the pre-history of modern Irish nationalism, and it would be unhistorical to define patriotism in such a way as totally to refuse the term patriotic to a man whom the British loyalists in ’98 regarded as a renegade and suspected of treachery.

Edgeworth died in 1817. Five days before the end he wrote calmly about his impending death. “If a careful retrospect be made of former life; if faults which we have committed strike us with regret, and if we do sincerely believe that we should avoid them were we to live over again; and if upon the whole we feel the internal conviction that we have exerted our faculties in the exercise of our domestic duties and, in so far as it has been in our power, for the public good, I do believe the descent to the grave, if we can escape bodily pain, may resemble sinking into deep sleep.” Maria wrote that his last words were “I die with the soft feeling of gratitude to my friends, and submission to God, who made us.”



Maria Edgeworth

Maria2.jpgMaria Edgeworth, though she regarded herself as merely the pupil and secretary of her revered father, is more celebrated and much better known to posterity than he. Born in 1767, she died, aged 82, in 1849. She was utterly dedicated to her father’s projects, his landed and business interests, his literary production and his reputation. She shared her father’s tolerance and his liberalism.

Her place in English letters is that of a gifted minor writer – and this is an attribute of praise, not if disparagement. Walter Scott praised her work and presented her with a marble-inlaid writing table as a token of encouragement and literary fellowship. One commentator, Helen Zimmern, perceptively remarks that Maria was somewhat inhibited in her literary sensitivity by the rather avid utilitarian moral outlook she imbibed from her father and her fathers circle. All religion tended to be merged into morals and morality itself became excessively rationalised into a calculus of sums of human happiness, assessed by slide-rule by purely rational operators. “Miss Edgeworth,” this writer concludes, “was hemmed in by the visible; she did not seek to justify the ways of God to man; life was to her a riddle; if man would be act rightly, all would be well: she deemed that it is given onto his own hands to do good or evil, to be happy or the reverse. There was in her nothing of the poet or the seer; and by so much she fails to speak to humanity in all its aspects, by so much she fails to take rank among the greatest teachers of our race.”

This judgement on Maria Edgeworth by a friendly critic recalls the fiercer protest by John Mitchell against another Benthamite moralist Lord Macauley. In his outburst against the historian-moralist of Empire, Mitchell was exposing the fallacies of the established moral system of that Empire, which thought it was expressing the voice of reason when it was merely rationalising the prejudices and defending the interests of an imperialist power.

In unforgettable pages of the “Jail Journal” Mitchell confronts Macauley’s this-worldly wisdom with the Sermon on the Mount: “What a very poor fool Jesus Christ would have been, judged by the ‘new philosophy . . .’ In a coruscating crescendo Mitchell ends: “By terrible signs and wonders it shall be made known that comfort is not the chief end of man, I do affirm that Capital is not the ruler of the world- that the Almighty has no interest in the stability of the funds or the European balance of power - finally that no engineering, civil or military, can raise man above the heavens or shake the throne of God.”

Maria Edgeworth has been described as a pioneer of regionalism in the novel. This is both her merit and her limitation. Her dilemma was that of Anglo-Irish writers generally: as English writers living and writing in Ireland they tended to decline from regionalism to provincialism; to gain depth of inspiration they need to re-source themselves in the springs of native Irish culture and tradition and in the shared experience of the Irish people. This Maria never achieved. Her sympathy with the Irish never became empathy; her attitude remained closer to condescension than to identification. And yet it is sufficient tribute to her abilities to know that Turgenie hailed her as an inspiration for his work.

Maria’s inability to identify with the Irish people is revealed in many paragraphs of her letters. To her brother in India she wrote:

“It is impossible to draw Ireland as she now is in a book of fiction – realities are too strong, party-passion too violent to bear to see, or care to look at their faces in the looking glass. The people would only break the glass, and curse the fool who held the mirror up to nature – distorted nature, in a fever. We are in too perilous a case to laugh, humour would be out of season, worse than bad taste.”

Maria’s sympathised with the people’s demand for justice in Ireland, but could not understand the irresistible urgency of that demand. Much of Britain’s failure in this country is reflected in this passage from another letter:

“I fear we have much to go through in this country before we come to a quiet settled life, and a ready obedience to the laws. There is literally no rein of law at this moment to hold the Irish: and through the whole country there is what I cannot justify call a spirit of Reform, but a spirit of REVOLUTION under the name of reform; a restless desire to overthrow what is, and a hope – more than a hope – an expectation of gaining liberty or wealth, or both, in the struggle; and if they do gain either, they will afterwards quarrel amongst themselves, destroy one another, and be again enslaved with heavier chains. I am, and have been all my life, a sincere friend to moderate measures, as long as reason can be heard; but there comes a time at the actual commencement of uproar when reason cannot be heard, and when the ultimate law of force must be resorted to, to prevent greater evils. That time was lost in the beginning of the French Revolution – I hope it may not be lost in Ireland. It is scarcely possible that this country can now be tranquillised without military force to re-establish law; the people MUST be made to obey laws, or they cannot be ruled after any concessions. Nor would the mob be able to rule if they got all they desire; they would only tear each other to pieces and die drunk or famish sober. The misfortune of this country has been that England has always yielded to clamour what should have been granted to justice.”

Her noble and generous sympathy were strikingly revealed at the time of the Great Hunger of 1847. She spent all her time during that terrible year in the relief of distress among the starving population whether by personal distribution of food and aid or by letters of urgent appeal for aid despatched to friends and contacts everywhere. She wrote a story for children, “Orlandino,” in her last published book in order to secure revenues for famine relief. A group of children in Boston, admirers of her book, collected monies to send a consignment of flour and rice for the starving Irish. It was consigned “to Miss Edgeworth, for the poor.” The dockers who loaded it would accept no payment foe the work. Maria personally knit a pullover to send to each of them in gratitude. One relief parcel found its way from America addressed only “Miss Maria Ireland.” Her exertions for the starving at this time certainly hastened her end.

Just a few weeks before her death in May 1849, she wrote verses which reveal the ambivalence of the affection – incomprehension relationship of even the best Angle-Irish towards Ireland:

“Ireland, with all thy faults, thy follies too,
I love thee still; still with candid eye must view
Thy wit too quick, still blundering into sense;
Thy reckless humour; sad improvidence;
and even what sober judges follies call –
I, looking at the heart, forget them all.”

The Anglo-Irish mind, reflected in these verses, could never understand that condescending love was no substitute for equality or freedom and that Ireland sought no forgiveness for her demand for justice. And yet the last word of modern Irishmen to Maria Edgeworth must be one of gratitude to “little Maria” on behalf of “ her poor” and of recognition of her honourable place in Angle-Irish literature.


Abbé Edgeworth

Abbe Edgeworth.jpg
Henry Essex Edgeworth, who was born in 1745 and died ages 62, in 1807, at the height of Napoleon’s campaign against Russia.

He was born at the Rectory at Edgeworthstown, the son of the Rector, Robert Edgeworth who was a first cousin of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Maria’s father. He was a great-grandson of Archbishop Ussher, distinguished Anglican scholar-Archbishop of Armagh. His grandfather had been Rector in the same vicarage before his father.

By a decision of remarkable courage and integrity, Robert Edgeworth became a Catholic, as the result of a long process of prayer and reflection and study of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church. One of the dominant reasons for his decision was a growing conviction of the biblical truth of the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence. It was while preaching on “the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper” from the pulpit of his Parish Church, that his conviction of the truth of the Catholic Church became final. He broke down in the middle of his sermon and
could not continue. He came down the steps of the pulpit and was never able to bring himself to mount them again. His reception into the Catholic Church followed soon after.

This was in 1749. It was henceforth impossible for the ex-Rector and his family to remain in Ireland. He went to France and settled at Toulouse. A modest revenue followed his annually, from a small property at home called Firmount. Later, when his son, now fully gallicised, found that Frenchmen had difficulty in pronouncing the name Edgeworth, he borrowed the “Firmount,” in the French form, “Firmont,” and called himself Henri Essex de Firmont.

Henry Essex grew up as an ordinary French Catholic boy. Educated by the Jesuits in Toulouse and later at the Sorbonne in Paris, he felt a vocation to the priesthood and was ordained for the diocese of Paris. He devoted himself with ardour to pastoral work among the poor of the Paris slums. He continued to reside in the seminary of the Missions Etrangeres de Paris on the Rue du Bac. But devoted himself to spiritual direction and work of the confessional. He rapidly became much sought after as spiritual director and confessor.

His name became known at the court, and in 1791, on St. Patrick’s Day, he was summoned to the Royal Palace of the Tulleries and asked to become confessor to the sister of Louis XVI, Madame Elizabeth. From now on the Abbe Edgeworth or as he was better known in France, the Abbe Firmont, was to be closely identified with the fortunes and fate of the French Royal Family in the most tragic moments of their history.

When Louis XVI was in prison, it was the Abbe Edgeworth whom he summoned to give him spiritual ministration. The Abbe’s letters and notes are among the most precious records of the ill-fated monarch’s personal reactions to the blows of the Revolution. When he came to the King’s side in his prison cell, the King said: “Now, sir, the great business of my salvation is the only one which ought to occupy my thoughts. The only business of real importance! What are all other subjects compared to this”?

The Abbe accompanied Louis XVI to the scaffold. He has left to history an eye-witness account of the last moments of Louis Seize, or Citizen Capet, as the revolutionaries called him as he waited for the guillotine to fall. The King bore himself erect with remarkable fortitude. He declared that all his happiness and strength in this extremity came to him from his religious principles. He requested the revolutionary guards to respect and spare “this good man,” the Abbé Edgeworth. He died protesting his innocence of the crimes laid to his
charge, and praying that his blood might never be visited on France.

The Abbe, his clothes drenched in the King’s blood, was able to slip away unnoticed amidst the frenzied crowd. He may not have said the words: “Fils de Saint Louis, montez au ciel.” “Son of Saint Louis, go up to Heaven,” – but the words express the feelings the Abbe from Edgeworthstown would have had as he slipped through the revolutionary crowd in the Place de la Revolution, which had until a few months before been called the Place de Louis XV and was later to be called, more hopefully, Place de la Concorde.

The Abbe escaped from Paris and experienced exile in England, Germany, Russia and finally Latvia, in the company of two survivors of the French Royal Family. To whom he remained loyal to the end.

In 1807, during Napoleon’s Russian campaign, they were at Mitau( now Jelgava) in Latvia. Twenty-three soldiers from Napoleon’s army were brought to hospital there in high and virulent fever. The armies of Napoleon were, in the Abbe’s circle, regarded as ministers of evil. But for the Abbe the soldiers were only souls to save, Christians in need of priestly help. As soon as he heard of their presence, regardless of the danger of infection, the Abbe went and ministered
to their spiritual and material needs. He caught the fever, but continued day and night to bend over their bedside. After a few days he could struggle on no longer. He collapsed after Mass one morning and died a few days later. His epitaph in the cemetery at Mitau commemorates “the Very Reverend Henry Essex Edgeworth of Firmont, a priest of the Holy Church of God, who, pursuing the steps of our Redeemer was an eye to the blind, a staff to the lame, a father to the poor, and a consoler to the afflicted.”



Francis Ysidro Edgeworth


FRANCIS YSIDRO EDGEWORTH (1845-1926). Francis Beaufort Edgeworth was a restless philosophy student at Cambridge on his way to Germany when in November 1831 he met at a Hampstead’s inn, in the environs of London, a teenage Catalonian refugee, Rosa Florentina Eroles, and married her three weeks after. The seventh and last outcome of their marriage was Ysidro Francis Edgeworth (the name order was reversed later), who was destined to become one of the most brilliant and eccentric economists and statisticians of the 19th Century.
Edgeworth was born in 1845 in Edgeworthstown, County Longford, Ireland into a large and well-connected Anglo-Irish landowning family. The famous novelist Maria Edgeworth, of Castle Rackrent fame, was his (elderly) aunt. Although Edgeworth was the sixth son of a ninth son, all the other heirs eventually died, leaving him to inherit Edgeworthstown in 1911. A lifelong bachelor (for a very brief period, he hopelessly attempted to court Beatrice Potter), the Edgeworth line died out with him.
Edgeworth was educated at Edgeworthstown by tutors until 1861, when he went on to study Classics and Mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin. He proceeded in 1867 to Oxford (initially at Exeter, then Magdalen and then, finally, from 1868, Balliol College). He graduated in 1869 with a First in Literae Humaniores, but his degree was only awarded in 1873.
Around 1870, Edgeworth moved to Hampstead. Very little is known about the next decade of his life. Edgeworth subsisted in London on private income, mainly proceeding from his Irish grandmother’s inheritance. He must certainly have studied law, for in 1877, he was called to the bar by the Inner Temple. It is also presumed that he learnt more mathematics and statistics on his own. It is likely that his interest in these topics, out of Trinity College, was stimulated by his father's friend, William Rowan Hamilton, by his Oxford tutor, Benjamin Jowett, and by his friendship with his Hampstead neighbor, William Stanley Jevons.
In his first book, New and Old Methods of Ethics (1877), Edgeworth combined his interests, applying mathematics -- notably the calculus of variations and the method of Lagrangian multipliers -- to problems of utilitarian philosophy. His main concern, following up on Sidgwick, was "exact utilitarianism", defined loosely as the optimal allocation of resources that maximized happiness of a society. He argued that ultimately it falls upon the "capacity for pleasure" of people in a society. He recognized that, under uncertainty, "equal capacity" ought to be assumed. However, he then went on to argue that certain classes of people "obviously" have a greater capacity for pleasure than others (e.g. men more than women), and thus some amount of inequality is justifiable on utilitarian principles. He struck a Darwinist note when, in an attempt to sound optimistic, he argued that "capacities" would evolve over time in a manner that the egalitarian solution would become justifiable in the future. He resurrected his argument, and gave it a more frighteningly eugenicist tinge, in his 1879 paper.
Although qualified as a barrister, Edgeworth did not practice law but rather fell into the academic underground of Victorian Britain for the next decade. Edgeworth lectured on a wide variety of topics (Greek, English theatre, logic, moral sciences, etc.) in a wide variety of settings, from Bedford College for Women in London to Wren's private training school for Indian civil servants. The pay was miserable and prestige non-existent. A hopelessly impractical and deferential man, his applications for more permanent and lucrative positions at established academic institutions met with heartbreakingly little success.
He was giving evening lectures on logic at King's College, London when he published his most famous and original book, Mathematical Psychics (1881). From 1883 onwards, Edgeworth began making his monumental contributions to probability theory and statistics. In his 1885 book Metretike, Edgeworth presented the application and interpretation of significance tests for the comparisions of means. In a series of 1892 papers, Edgeworth examined methods of estimating correlation coefficients. Among his many results was "Edgeworth's Theorem" giving the correlation coefficients of the multi-dimensional normal distribution. For his efforts, he was elected President of Section F of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1889 and later served as president of the Royal Statistical Society (1912 to 1914).
In 1888, on the strength of testimonials from friends and luminaries such as Jevons (dead in 1882) and Marshall, Edgeworth finally attained his first professional appointment, to the Tooke Chair in Economic Sciences and Statistics and King's College, London. But that was only a stepping stone. In 1891, he was elected Drummond Professor and Fellow of All-Soul's College in Oxford, a much-craved position he would hold until retirement.
In 1891, he was also appointed the first editor of The Economic Journal, the main organ of the fledgling British Economic Association (what later became the Royal Economic Society). This was a task he performed with remarkable diligence until 1911, when the post was assumed by John Maynard Keynes. Edgeworth returned as joint editor in 1919, when Keynes had gotten too busy with other activities. Edgeworth continued actively in this role until his death in 1926 at the Acland Home of Oxford, after a few days of malaise due to ‘an attack of illness’.


Through this permanent contact between the two co-editors, Edgeworth became one of the main influences on Keynes’s works. Moreover, these works present a striking coincidence of subjects with those developed by Edgeworth —probabilities, statistical foundations of aggregate’s behaviour, index numbers, the need of institutional arbitration and regulation, the consequences of the reparations of the First World War, etc.
In 1897, he published a lengthy survey of taxation. It was here that he articulated his famous "taxation paradox", i.e. that taxation of a good may actually result in a decrease in price. His paradox was disbelieved by contemporaries, "a slip of Mr Edgeworth", as E.R.A. Seligman put it. However, many years later, Harold Hotelling (1932) rigorously proved that Edgeworth had been correct. Edgeworth also set the utilitarian foundations for highly progressive taxation, arguing that the optimal distribution of taxes should be such that "the marginal disutility incurred by each taxpayer should be the same" (Edgeworth, 1897).
Edgeworth's contributions to economics were stunning in their originality and depth. But he was notoriously poor at expressing his ideas in a way that was understandable to most of his contemporaries. Trained in languages and the classics, he habitually wrote (and spoke!) in long, intricate and erudite sentences, sprinkling them with numerous obscure classical and literary references. He was in the habit of inventing words (e.g. brachistopone = the "curve of minimal work") without bothering to define them clearly for readers who could not spot the Greek roots.
If his prose was taxing to read, his use of mathematics was even more negligent of his readers' abilities. Having taught himself high-level mathematics, Edgeworth must have assumed everyone else had done so as well. He did not bother to provide preliminary explanations of the techniques he was using. Without warning, Edgeworth would glide breathlessly back and forth from his impenetrable prose to no less impenetrable mathematical notation and analysis. In fact, along his whole life he applied two proverbs of his Oxford’s tutor, Benjamin Jowett:

“Never retreat, never explain. Get it done and let them howl”

“The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit for doing them.”

Barbé, L., Francis Ysidro Edgeworth. A Portrait with Family and Friends, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, U.K., 2010.
Butler, H.J. & Butler H.E., The Black Book of Edgeworthstown and Other Edgeworth Memories 1585-1817, Faber & Gwyer, London, 1927.
Keynes, J.M., ‘Francis Ysidro Edgeworth (1845-1926)’, Economic Journal, March, 1926.
The History of Economic Thought Website, ‘Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, 1845-1926’.




Oscar and Isola Wilde


Oscar kept a lock of Isola's hair in this envelope all his life.

Acccording to the death register in St. John's Church, Isola Wilde was 'nearly ten' when she died in 1867. Isola Francesca Wilde, younger sister of Oscar Wilde, was visiting her aunt and uncle at the Rectory in Edgeworthtsown when she caught a fever and died. Her aunt(her father's sister) was married to Rev. William Noble. Her grave is unmarked today, but believed to be near the wall of the gravyard on the right hand side of the the main gate. The grave may have been vandalised at the time of the scandal associated with Oscar Wilde. Oscar was said to be a frequent visitor to her graveside, Isola was two years younger than Oscar. In later years Oscar wrote a poem 'Requiescat' in her memory.

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow.
Speak lightly, she can hear
The daisies grow

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust


Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams and plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment which was followed by his early death.
Wilde's parents were successful Dublin intellectuals. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art", and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day.
At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.
At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, prosecuted for libel, a charge carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison. The trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years' hard labour. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.

Walter Scott

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Sir Walter Scott and his home at Abbotsford
Sir Walter Scott (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a prolific Scottish historical novelist and poet popular throughout Europe during his time. Born in College Wynd in the Old Town of Edinburgh in 1771, the son of a solicitor the young Walter Scott survived a childhood bout of polio in 1773 that would leave him lame. At the age of 25 he began dabbling in writing, translating works from German. In 1814 he published his novel Waverley, Rob Roy in 1817 and in 1819 Ivanhoe. He built a house near the site of the Battle of Melrose, called Abbotsford. In 1823 Edgeworth spent 2 weeks with Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford, and in 1825 Scott visited her at Edgeworthstown, which had become a shrine at which all visitors to Ireland paid homage. Scott described his meeting with Maria as follows: he found her "full of fun and spirit; a little slight figure, very active, very good-humoured, and full of enthusiasm.". One of Scott's friends wrote about the visit. "August 1823," he writes, "was one of the happiest in Scott's life. Never did I see a brighter day at Abbotsford than that on which Miss Edgeworth arrived there. Never can I forget her look and accent when she was received by him at his archway, and exclaimed: 'Everything about you is exactly what one ought to have had wit enough to dream !' . . . Day after day, as long as she could remain, her host had always some new plan of gaiety. One day there was fishing on the Cauldshields Loch, and a dinner on the heathy bank. Another, the whole party feasted by Thomas the Rhymer's waterfall in the glen; and the stone on which 'Maria' sat that day was ever afterwards called 'Edgeworth's Stone.' . . . Thus a fortnight was passed–and then the vision closed. Miss Edgeworth never saw Abbotsford again."

Below: Table presented to Maria Edgeworth by Sir Walter.


Oliver Goldsmith

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Oliver Goldsmith was born on the 10th of November, 1728, at the hamlet of Pallas, or Pallasmore, county of Longford, in Ireland. He sprang from a respectable, but by no means a thrifty stock. Oliver's education began when he was about three years old. At six years of age he passed into the hands of the village schoolmaster, one Thomas (or, as he was commonly and irreverently named, Paddy) Byrne.Later Oliver was transferred to schools of a higher order, to prepare him for the University; first to one at Athlone, kept by the Rev. Mr. Campbell, and, at the end of two years, to one at Edgeworthstown, under the superintendence of the Rev. Patrick Hughes. Even at these schools his proficiency does not appear to have been brilliant. He was indolent and careless, however, rather than dull, and, on the whole, appears to have been well thought of by his teachers.

James Bronterre O'Brien


James O'Brien, was born in County Longford, Ireland in 1805. O'Brien went to a local church school but one of his teachers recognised his intellectual abilities and arranged for him to be educated at the progressive Lovell Edgeworth School. In 1822 he proceeded to Trinty College, Dublin, where he won several academic prizes including the Science Gold Medal. After studying law at King's Inn, O'Brien moved to England in 1829 with the intention of becoming a lawyer in London.

In London he joined the Radical Reform Association where he met Henry 'Orator' Hunt, William Cobbett, Henry Hetherington and other leaders of the struggle for universal suffrage. In 1836 he joined the London Working Men's Association.

O'Brien began contributing articles to Henry Hetherington's Poor Man's Guardian. He signed these articles with the pseudonym 'Bronterre' and James O'Brien eventually adopted it as his middle name. He worked very closely with Hetherington and when he was imprisoned for publishing an unstamped newspaper, O'Brien took over the editorship of the Poor Man's Guardian. O'Brien and Hetherington also collaborated on other unstamped newspapers such as The Destructive and the London Dispatch. In 1837 O'Brien began publishing Bronterre's National Reformer. In an attempt to avoid paying stamp duty, the journal included essays rather than news items. During this period, Henry Hetherington and O'Brien led the struggle against the stamp duty and were consistent in their arguments that working people needed cheap newspapers that contained political information.

O'Brien was influenced by the socialist writer, Gracchus Babeuf, who had been executed during the French Revolution. In 1836 O'Brien began publishing translations of Babuef's work in the Poor Man's Guardian. He also included Philip Buonarotti's account of Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals. O'Brien became fascinated with the history of radicalism and began work on books on the French Revolution and the English Commonwealth. However, the authorities raided his house in 1838 and seized his manuscripts and the projects were never completed.

In 1838 O'Brien added his support for a more militant approach to winning the vote that was being advocated by Feargus O'Connor and George Julian Harney. However, O'Brien, unlike O'Connor, refused to support the use of violence to achieving universal suffrage. O'Brien argued that the Chartist should adopt a policy that was midway between the petitioning supported by William Lovett and the Moral Force Chartists, and the violence being threatened by O'Connor's Physical Force group.

After Bronterre's National Reformer ceased publication, O'Brien worked for O'Connor's Northern Star. His articles played an important role in increasing the circulation of what had become the most important of the radical newspapers. As well as writing for the Northern Star, James O'Brien also found time to publish his own newspaper The Operative.

O'Brien continued to be active in the Chartist movement and in 1840 he was arrested and charged with making a seditious speech in Manchester. He was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months in Lancaster Prison. When O'Brien was released from prison he found it difficult to continue working with Feargus O'Connor. The two men disagreed over the issue of Physical Force. Another source of dispute concerned parliamentary elections. O'Brien favoured the idea of putting up Chartist candidates whereas O'Connor preferred the tactic of putting pressure on the Whig government by threatening to vote for Tory candidates.

O'Brien finally broke with O'Connor when along with Henry Vincent and Robert Gammage he joined the Complete Suffrage Union. O'Brien continued to publish newspapers. He joined with his old friend Henry Hetherington to revive the Poor Man's Guardian in 1843 and this was followed by the National Reformer in 1844. These newspapers were not a financial success and by May, 1847, both papers had ceased publication.

After the failure of these two newspapers O'Brien concentrated on writing for other publications such as The Reynolds Weekly and the Glasgow Sentinel. He also gave public lectures and in 1851 he opened the Electric Institute in Denmark Street, Soho, London, where adult education classes were offered in English, French, science and mathematics.

By the 1850s O'Brien's poverty began to damage his health. He suffered from bronchitis and his Chartist friends attempted to raise money in recognition of the great sacrifices that he had made in the struggle to win universal suffrage and the freedom of the press. However, the damage to his health was so bad that he spent his last years bed-ridden.

James Bronterre O'Brien died on 23rd December, 1864.

George Edward Dobson

DOBSON, GEORGE EDWARD (1848–1895), zoologist, born on 4 Sept. 1848, at Edgeworthstown, co. Longford, was the son of Parke Dobson of Killinagh in West Meath. He was educated at the royal school of Enniskillen and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1866, M.B. and M.Ch. in 1867, and M.A. in 1875. He was first senior moderator and first gold medallist in experimental and natural science, and was also awarded the gold medal of the Dublin Pathological Society for his 'Essay on the Diagnosis and Pathology of the Injuries and Diseases of the Shoulderblade.' He entered the army medical department in 1868, retiring in 1888 with the rank of surgeon-major. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 16 April 1874, and a fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1883. He was also a fellow of the Zoological Society and a corresponding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and of the Biological Society of Washington.
Dobson will be chiefly remembered for his laborious investigation into the structure and classification of two groups of mammals, the chiroptera and insectivora, on both of which he became the chief authority of his time. This occupation formed the main employment of twenty years of his life. While stationed in India he made a careful study of the bats of that country. His first published paper on the subject, entitled 'On four new Species of Malayan Bats from the Collection of Dr. Stoliczka,' appeared in the 'Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal' for 1871. This was followed by numerous memoirs upon various members of the group in the same journal, in the 'Proceedings of the Zoological Society,' and in the 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History.' In 1876 the trustees of the Indian Museum brought out his 'Monograph of the Asiatic 'Chiroptera,' Calcutta and London, 8vo, which led to his being employed by the trustees of the British Museum on his return to England to prepare the 'Catalogue of the Chiroptera in the Collection of the British Museum,' which appeared in 1878 (London, 8vo). It still remains the standard work on the anatomy, nomenclature, and classification of bats, although the four hundred species described in it have been considerably increased by subsequent investigators.
Dobson was soon afterwards placed in charge of the museum of the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, where he had further opportunities of pursuing his zoological studies. He began to extend his researches to other groups of mammals, and in 1882 commenced 'A Monograph of the Insectivora, Systematic and Anatomical,' London, 8vo. The second part appeared in 1883, and the first division of the third in 1890, but it was not completed at the time of Dobson's death. He also made investigations into muscular anatomy, which resulted in an important paper 'On the Homologies of the long Flexor Muscles of the Feet of Mammalia,' published in the 'Journal of Anatomy and Physiology ' in 1883.
Dobson died on 26 Nov. 1895, and was buried on 29 Nov. at West Mailing. Besides the works already mentioned he wrote 'Medical Hints to Travellers,' published by the Royal Geographical Society, which reached a seventh edition in 1893, and contributed the sections 'Insectivora,' 'Chiroptera,' and 'Rodentia,' in the article 'Mammalia,' and the articles 'Mole,' 'Shrew,' and 'Vampire ' to the ninth edition of the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica.' These articles were afterwards used by (Sir) William Henry Flower [q. v. Suppl.] and Mr. Richard Lydekker in their 'Introduction to the Study of Mammals,' 1891. He wrote numerous papers on zoology and comparative anatomy for British and foreign scientific journals.
[Nature, 28 Nov. 1895; Proceedings of Royal Society, 1895-6, vol. lix. pp. xv-xvii; Men and Women of the Time, 1895.]

Gustavus Brooke

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Gustavus Vaughan Brooke (25 April 1818 – 11 January 1866) was an Irish stage actor who enjoyed success in Ireland, England and Australia.
Brooke was born in Dublin, Ireland, the eldest son of Gustavus Brooke (died 1827), a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and his wife Frances, daughter of Matthew Bathurst. He was educated at a school at Edgeworthstown under Lovell Edgeworth, a brother of the novelist Maria Edgeworth,

The school was described like this:

" I went to that celebrated academy in the year 1826, and
remained there for two years ; at that time there were upwards
of 500 boys, composed of boarders, out-boarders, and day scholars

The boarders occupied a large house adjoining the school, and paid
a considerable sum for the privileges pertaining thereto. Master
Brooke, however, owing to his youth and other circumstances,
paid much less than any other boy in the house.

" The out-boarders were quartered through the town, and
were looked alter by the various ladies who accommodated them,
and who were responsible to Mr. Edge worth for their conduct and

" The three classes of boys were dressed in nice well-made
blouses, ornamented according to the taste of their respective
mothers or guardians, and were inspected every morning on
entering the school-room by Lovell Edgeworth himself. That
gentleman lived outside the town in a beautiful large house, well
wooded, with many ornamental walks and shrubberies."

Later Gustavus went to Dublin to a school run by the Rev. William Jones. There he showed talent in a school play; when he was allowed to see William Charles Macready perform in Dublin in March 1832 he was determined to go on the stage. He interviewed Calcraft, the manager of the Dublin Theatre, and early in 1833 on account of the failure of Edmund Kean to fulfil his engagement at Dublin, Brooke was given an opportunity to appear in the part of William Tell. He was billed as "a young gentleman under 14 years of age" (he was really almost 15) and played with some success. Other appearances followed as Virginius and Young Norval. He appeared at the Royal Victoria Theatre, London, in October 1834 as Virginius with little success.
Brooke toured the English provincial theatres for three years, and then played a season at Dublin in October 1837. He had a qualified success, which was followed by a more successful season at Belfast in January 1838. He continued to play in the provinces and in Ireland, and in 1841 accepted an engagement with Macready's company in London, but finding himself cast for a small part declined the role. He returned to the provinces and refused several offers of parts in London. He had successful seasons at Manchester, Liverpool and other large towns, among his characters being Richard III, Romeo, Macbeth, Virginius, Hamlet, Othello, Iago and Brutus. He played Othello to Macready's Iago at Manchester. Later on he was with Edwin Forrest, and in October 1846 took the part of Romeo at Dublin to Helena Faucit's Juliet. Other roles opposite Faucit included Claude Melnotte, Orlando, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, Sir Giles Overreach, Leontes and Faulconbridge.
On 3 January 1848 Brooke was a success as Othello at the Olympic Theatre, London. In the same season his rendering of Sir Giles Overreach was pronounced by one critic as not falling far short of Edmund Kean's, and more than one writer called him the greatest tragedian of the day. Brooke, however, did not have the temperament to make the best use of his success. He was not a good businessman and drank too much. After playing for some time in the country his magnificent voice began to fail, and in 1850 he was obtaining advice from a London specialist who would not allow him to appear more than once or twice a week. However, in November of that year he was playing with Helena Faucit again and drawing large crowds. In October 1851 he was married to Marianne Bray. In December 1851 he went to America, and during the next 18 months had much success.
On his return to England, Brooke played several of his old parts at Drury Lane, and for the first time, Macbeth, with such success that he not only re-established his own reputation but saved the fortunes of the theatre. In 1854 he met George Coppin and agreed to go to Australia to give two hundred performances in the major towns there and in New Zealand. He left England on 25 November 1854, played a week at Cape Town Garrison Theatre and arrived at Melbourne on 23 February 1855. The Australian tour opened three days later at the Queen's Theatre, Melbourne; Brooke stayed in Australia for more than six years. When he arrived he had a repertoire of some 40 characters, and before he left he had almost doubled the number. His voice had regained its beauty, his art had matured. He did some of his best work while in Australia. The critics were unanimous in placing him as one of the great actors of all time, although occasional failures were admitted, Romeo being one of his less successful characters. He excelled particularly in tragedy, but also played comedy and Irish parts with success. Brooke's last Melbourne appearance was on 28 May 1861.
In early life Brooke was financially careless, but in Australia for a time lived comparatively carefully, and while in partnership with Coppin at one time thought himself to be a rich man. But his ventures were not always successful. He eventually lost everything, and unfortunately began drinking again. On his return to England about the middle of 1861 he played a season at Drury Lane, beginning in October with so little success that at its conclusion he found himself in financial difficulties. In February he married Avonia Stanhope Jones (12 July 1839-4 October 1867), a young actress of considerable ability whom he had met in Australia. Unfortunately his drinking habits continued and he was often in great difficulties. His wife, who had been away playing an engagement in America, contacted George Coppin, then on a visit to England, who offered Brooke an engagement for two years in Australia. Brooke pulled himself together to play a farewell season at Belfast, and his last performance as Richard III on 23 December 1865 was enthusiastically received.
He left Plymouth for Australia on 1 January 1866 in the S.S. London which went down in a storm ten days later. Brooke toiled bravely at the pumps of the sinking vessel, and when all hope was gone was seen standing composedly by the companion way. As the last overcrowded lifeboat pulled away he called "Give my last farewell to the people of Melbourne". He was 47 years old. His widow, who had remained in England rather than risk encountering Brooke's first wife Marianne, died from consumption the following year.

Thomas Lovell Beddoes


Painting_of_Thomas_Lovell_Beddoes_by_Rosalind_Bliss_2007.jpgThomas Lovell Beddoes (30 June 1803 – 26 January 1849) was an English poet, dramatist and physician. Born in Clifton, Bristol, England, he was the son of Dr. Thomas Beddoes, a friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Anna Edgeworth, sister of Maria Edgeworth. He was educated at Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Oxford. He published in 1821 The Improvisatore, which he afterwards endeavoured to suppress. His next venture, a blank-verse drama called The Bride's Tragedy (1822), was published and well reviewed, and won for him the friendship of Barry Cornwall, an English poet.
Beddoes' work shows a constant preoccupation with death. In 1824, he went to Göttingen to study medicine, motivated by his hope of discovering physical evidence of a human spirit which survives the death of the body. He was expelled, and then went to Würzburg to complete his training. He then wandered about practising his profession, and expounding democratic theories which got him into trouble. He spent most of his adult life in various cities in Continental Europe (once being banished from Göttingen because of drunkenness, later being banished from Bavaria and Sweden for radical political activity), studying medicine and anatomy as well as writing. He continued to write, but published nothing. He led an itinerant life after leaving Switzerland, returning to England only in 1846, before going back to Germany. He became increasingly disturbed, and committed suicide by poison at Basel, in 1849, at the age of 45. For some time before his death he had been engaged on a drama, Death's Jest Book, which was published in 1850 with a memoir by his friend, T. F. Kelsall. His Collected Poems were published in 1851.

Songs From “Death’s Jest-Book” II - Dirge

IF thou wilt ease thine heart
Of love and all its smart,
Then sleep, dear, sleep;
And not a sorrow
Hang any tear on your eye-lashes;
Lie still and deep,
Sad soul, until the sea-wave washes
The rim o’ the sun to-morrow,
In eastern sky.

But wilt thou cure thine heart
Of love and all its smart,
Then die, dear, die;
’T is deeper, sweeter,
Than on a rose bank to lie dreaming
With folded eye;
And then alone, amid the beaming
Of love’s stars, thou ’lt meet her
In eastern sky.
Thomas Lovell Beddoes

Michael Pakenham Edgeworth


MICHAEL PAKENHAM EDGEWORTH (1812–1881) was an Irish botanist who specialized in seed plants and ferns, and spent 25 years of his life in India. He was born in County Longford, Ireland in 1812, the last of the twenty-two children to Richard Lovell Edgeworth. His mother's name was Frances Anne Beaufort. His half-sister, born to Anna Maria Elers, was the novelist Maria Edgeworth. Among his other siblings were Charles Sneyd (half-brother), Honora (half-sister), Fanny (sister), Harriet (sister), Lucy (sister), and Francis Beaufort (brother).
Educated at the Charterhouse School, the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, (Botany) and the East India College, Haileybury, (Oriental Languages, Political Economy), at a young age he left for India in 1831 to join the Indian Civil Service of the British Colonial regime. Edgeworth's post of judicial and administrative work encompassed an area from Lahore to Madras. Being possessed of a curious spirit, Edgeworth travelled widely throughout India and the island of Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) where he collected plants and made notes. In 1842, on leave in Scotland, he married Christina Macpherson, sister of his best friend William. Back in India, they had a daughter named Christina, but she only lived a few months. In 1849 he was appointed as one of the Commissioners in the Punjab. In addition to his interest in botany, he also wrote about Indian tongues and culture, topography, and antiquities.
In 1851, Pakenham and Christina had a second daughter, Harriet Jessie, in Multan (West Punjab). But they had to leave India, due to a ‘sunstroke’ that paralysed Pakenham’s right side. Back in Great Britain, he finally took an early retirement in September 1856 and settled first in Norwood and, after 1861, in Anerly, southeast London.
A correspondence from Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker mentions a conversation held between himself, Edgeworth and biologists John Lubbock and George Charles Wallich, at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London (18 April 1861) less than two years after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (22 November 1859). Unfortunately, very little of the content of this conversation is revealed in the letter.
In the field of botany, Edgeworth wrote:
Descriptions of Some Unpublished Species of Plants from North-Western India (R.Taylor, 1851)
‘Catalogue of Plants found in the Banda district, 1847-49’, pp.60.8 (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta 1852, Vol. xxi.)
Pollen (Hardwicke + Bogue, 1877)
He also kept meticulous diaries from the years 1828 (just a few years before going to India) to 1867, compiled in the weighty, 8,000-page volume entitled India in the Age of Empire - The Journals of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881). It chronicles the broadening of British imperial influence in the Indian territories and is principally of cultural and political interest. It was published after his sudden death in the summer of 1881 on the Isle of Eigg (Scottish Inner Hebrides) in the MacPherson’s domains.
Barbé, L., Francis Ysidro Edgeworth. A Portrait with Family and Friends, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, U.K., 2010.
Wikipedia: ‘Michael Pakenham Edgeworth’.


Below the Edgeworth Chrysanthemum named for Michael P. Edgeworth


Francis Beaufort


Beaufort, Sir Francis, K. C.B., Admiral, was born at Navan in 1774. He entered the navy in 1787, and soon rose by his bravery and talent in the services on which he was engaged under Lord Howe and others, and was appointed Lieutenant in 1796. He greatly distinguished himself while Lieutenant of the Phaeton in 1800, by cutting out a Spanish vessel, the San Josef, from under the guns of a battery near Malaga. For this service he received a commander's commission. Disabled by wounds, and forced to remain at home from November 1803 to June 1804, he devoted his time, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Richard L. Edgeworth, to the construction of a telegraph from Dublin to Galway. Francis Beaufort had a lifelong keen awareness of the value of accurate charts for those risking the seas, having been shipwrecked himself at age fifteen due to a faulty chart, and his life's biggest accomplishments were in nautical charting. Gazetted anew, and after seeing more service in South America, off Spain, and in the Levant, he was paid off in 1812. During these early years of command, Beaufort developed the first versions of his Wind Force Scale and Weather Notation coding, which he was to use in his journals for the remainder of his life. From the circle representing a weather station, a staff (rather like the stem of a note in musical notation) extends, with one or more half or whole barbs. For example, a stave with 3½ barbs represents Beaufort seven on the scale, decoded as 32–38 mph, or a "Fresh Gale". Beaufort didn't really invent something new here; rather, he eventually succeeded in getting others to adopt it as a standard when there was no existing standard. or eight years, Beaufort directed the Arctic Council during its search for the explorer, Sir John Franklin, lost in his last polar voyage to search for the legendary Northwest Passage.
As a council member of the Royal Society, the Royal Observatory, and the Royal Geographic Society (which he helped found), Beaufort used his position and prestige as a top administrator to act as a "middleman" for many scientists of his time. Beaufort represented the geographers, astronomers, oceanographers, geodesists, and meteorologists to that government agency, the Hydrographic Office, which could support their research.
Having given much attention to coast surveys, he received the appointment of Hydrographer to the Admiralty, and in 1846 attained the rank of Admiral. His second wife was a daughter, by a third marriage, of his brother-in-law, Mr. Edgeworth; he was consequently uncle and brother-in-law to Maria Edgeworth. He died at Brighton, 16th December 1857.

Kenneth Edgeworth

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Kenneth Essex Edgeworth was a professional soldier who made original contributions to economics and especially to the theory of the origin of the solar system. He was born 26 February 1880 at Daramona House, Streete, Co. Westmeath. His father Thomas belonged to the junior branch of the Edgeworth family of Kilshrewly, Co. Longford.

He was educated at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and the School of Military Engineering at Chatham. He served with the Royal Engineers in South Africa, Somaliland, Egypt, Sudan, Chatham and Dublin . During World War I he was in charge of a Signals unit in France , was awarded the DSO. and MC and was three times mentioned in dispatches. He retired from the army in 1926 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and in 1931 he became chief engineer in the Sudanese Department of Posts and Telegraphs at Khartoum. After five years in this post, he resigned and returned to Ireland to live at Cherbury, Booterstown, Co. Dublin, his parents’ former home.

In retirement, Edgeworth turned his attention to economics and theoretical astronomy. He published four books on economics and the ideas which he put forward have since been judged very progressive. However, it was theoretical astronomy that interested him most and over a 23-year period he published a score of papers and letters culminating in his book, ‘The Earth, the Planets and the Stars: Their Birth and Evolution’ (1961).

Edgeworth’s astronomical work was concerned mainly with star formation and the origin and development of the solar system. In 1943 he published a paper on ‘The Evolution of our Planetary System’ in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association where he suggested the existence of a vast reservoir of cometary material beyond the orbit of Neptune. This was seven years before Jan Oort made a similar suggestion and eight years before Gerard Kuiper presented his ideas on this topic. This reservoir of cometary material is generally known as the Kuiper Belt and the first object belonging to it was discovered in 1992 by D.C. Jewitt and J.X. Luu. Many more members of the Belt have since been detected and it is estimated that there are at least 70,000 trans-Neptunian objects with diameters greater than 100km in the radial zone extending from 30 to 50AU (Astronomical Units). These objects are confined to a thick band around the plane of the solar system.

Edgeworth died in Dublin on 10 October 1972 at the age of 92. Although he was elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy in 1948, the full significance of his astronomical research was not recognised until 1995. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1903, a member of the British Astronomical Association in 1943 and he also belonged to the Institution of Electrical Engineers.


Richard Edgeworth

This article is taken from the  DICTIONARY OF NORTH CAROLINA BIOGRAPHY: VOLUME 6, T-Z edited by William S. Powell.  Copyright © 1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Website link:

Edgeworth, Richard

by Edgar E. MacDonald, 1986

1764–19 Aug. 1796

Richard Edgeworth, mechanical engineer and planter, was born in Oxfordshire, England, at Black Bourton, the ancestral estate of his Hungerford grandmother. He was the oldest son of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744–1817) and Anna Maria Elers. His father, whose living was derived from a family estate in Edgeworthstown, Ireland, was interested in science and mechanical inventions. An admirer of the educational theories of Rousseau, Edgeworth gave his son Richard a practical rather than a classical education, one designed to make him independent and self-sufficient. In 1771 he took him to France, where the seven-year-old boy met the French philosopher. In Lyons the elder Edgeworth became involved in the engineering feat of diverting the Rhone River. Richard soon spoke French better than his English tutor, and Edgeworth became aware that his son's education was making him alarmingly independent. While in France, Richard was placed in a Jesuit school; later, in 1776, he was sent to the Charter House in London. While not a remarkable student, Richard shared his father's interests in mechanics. In 1778, at the age of thirteen, he was awarded a silver medal for "Early Mechanic Genius" by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures. Finally, father and son decided that a naval career might best suit Richard's temperament, and he joined the British Navy, with the encouragement of his cousin Edward Pakenham, Lord Longford, who was later killed at the Battle of New Orleans.

By 1781 Edgeworth was a midshipman on the Monmouth, which had seen service in the American Revolution. While aboard the Monmouth he participated in battles against the French off the Coromandel Coast of India, at Madras, and off Ceylon, the ship suffering heavy damages and loss of life. On 10 Feb. 1783 Edgeworth, not yet nineteen, jumped ship at Goa, thereby forfeiting his naval career as well as exhausting his father's patience. He was "lost" to his family for several years.

Edgeworth appeared in the Pee Dee area on the North Carolina-South Carolina border, having come down from Virginia, in 1786 or 1787. He became a tutor in the home of Claudius Pegues, a planter, and some time later in the homes of several gentlemen in Georgetown, S.C. In May 1788 he was married in Richmond County by John Speed, J.P., to Elizabeth Knight, daughter of a hatter. By her he had three sons, Nathaniel Lovell (1789), Achilles Sneyd (1791), and Richard (1795). Edgeworth purchased land in Anson County on the Pee Dee River, where he projected establishing a town. Having effected a reconciliation with his father, he returned to visit his family in England in 1792 and 1795. He stayed some time at a property named Ashton Bower, near Clifton, rented by two maiden stepaunts, the Misses Mary and Charlotte Sneyd. Furnished with monies and credit from his father, he bought more land in Anson and named his plantation Ashton. In projecting a town on the Pee Dee, he doubtless had his father's work at Lyons in mind. If he could make the river navigable from Georgetown, S.C., to Anson County, a town at the head of navigation should prosper. He would name the town Sneydsboro after his two step-aunts who listened so sympathetically to his plans. But Edgeworth returned from his last trip to England a very ill man, and, owing to a flood of the Pee Dee and an epidemic of equine distemper, he suffered financial reverses. He was forced to sell Ashton to pay his debts. On 7 Mar. 1796 he sold it to William Johnson with the understanding that, if a town were established on the property, it should be named Sneydsboro. Five months later Edgeworth died in Anson; his place of burial is unknown. His will, written 23 Nov. 1792 and proved in the January Anson court 16 Jan. 1797, was subject to much misinterpretation by his descendants. The property he left his two youngest sons had been sold to pay his debts. The European property left to his oldest son was not the Edgeworthstown estate still in the possession of his father but three small properties left to him by his grandfather. Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his daughter Maria, soon to become celebrated as an author of educational treatises and popular novels, endeavored to aid the widow of Richard and his three young sons. Owing to the difficulties of communication and the legalities of disposing of the three small Irish properties, years elapsed before any substantial assistance could be made. Nathaniel Edgeworth migrated to Alabama and left descendants there and in Mississippi; Achilles moved to Fort Valley, Ga., and left descendants there and in Texas; Richard, the youngest, lived in Chesterfield County, S.C., and left descendants there, as well as in North Carolina and Virginia.

On 3 Apr. 1902 an almost wholly fictitious account of the life of Richard Edgeworth and his family appeared in the Wadesboro Messenger and Intelligencer. Unfortunately this article became the basis of fabrications by other journalists so that the early history of Sneedsboro, the town that came into being after Edgeworth's death, is largely apocryphal. These fictions appeared most recently in A History of Anson County (1977). The correspondence of Maria Edgeworth with Rachel Mordecai Lazarus perhaps gave currency to the myth that Maria and her father had established schools in North Carolina. The Mordecai School in Warrenton incorporated the educational principles advocated by the Edgeworths, and later a school in Greensboro was named the Edgeworth Female Seminary, but Richard Edgeworth was the only member of that family to come to these shores.


Harriet Jessie Butler and Harold Edgeworth Butler, The Black Book of Edgeworthstown and Other Edgeworth Memories, 1585–1817 (1927).

Desmond Clarke, The Ingenious Mr. Edgeworth (1965).

Edgar E. MacDonald, The American Edgeworths (1970).

Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Esq., Begun by Himself and Concluded by His Daughter (1820).

William Edgeworth

He was the son of Richard Lovell Edgeworth and his third wife Elizabeth, making him one of a very large Anglo-Irish family, including the novelist Maria Edgeworth. His father moved to Ireland to take care of an estate near Edgeworthstown. William Edgeworth's practical interests initially followed those of his father, such as surveying; he moved into cartography..
Edgeworth was involved in the construction of the Church of Ireland parish church at Collon in County Louth, where he worked with Daniel Augustus Beaufort (father of Richard Lovell Edgeworth's fourth wife). Others were William Fletcher (killed there in the building work), and Samuel Jones, brought up by William Edgeworth.
Edgeworth's surveying work in Ireland included soundings in the River Inny and the mapping of bogs. Irish Bogs Commission was active in the period 1809 to 1814, and under an Act from 1774 there was funding for county maps from grand juries; Edgeworth reported on issues of bog drainage and reclamation. His 1813 map of County Longford was noted, and was followed by a map of County Roscommon with Richard Griffith. He worked also with William Hampton and John Brinkley. Unlike some other surveyors in Ireland at the time, he encountered little opposition to his work; he took a tactful and communicative line with local people.
William Strutt, a connection of his father's through Lunar Society who became a close friend, gave William Edgeworth introductions to Peter Ewart and George Augustus Lee. He paid a visit to Lee's mills in Manchester.
Later Edgeworth was employed by Alexander Nimmo. This took him to County Galway and County Waterford. He worked on the Glengariff road. Henry Habberly Price engaged him to do a survey of the River Tees, in north-east England, in 1825–7, on behalf of the Tees Navigation Company; this work was later used by the Stockton & Darlington Railway, and for conservancy by William Bald. He carried out an early railway survey of 1828 in Ulster (Armagh to Newry), done in fact two years before that.
Edgeworth was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1829, and was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Astronomical Society. He corresponded with William Rowan Hamilton.
Edgeworth died, unmarried, at Edgeworthstown, 21 April 1829.
Charles Babbage wrote, as illustration of economic doctrine, about a "money pump" devised by Edgeworth.