Уильям Гамильтон, ирландский математик (1805-1865)
вели между собой обширную переписку в течение почти 25 лет, с начала 1840-х и до смерти Гамильтона. Они начали с обсуждения математических вопросов, но постепенно стали близкими друзьями, и их переписка включала в себя обсуждение множества разных тем, кроме математики, включая и личную их жизнь. де Морган, хоть был на год моложе, играл роль старшего товарища и ментора в этой переписке.
И за эти 25 лет близкой дружбы по переписке они ни разу не встретились (им случалось дважды быть в одной компании, еще до начала переписки, но по сути дела они не были лично знакомы). де Морган прожил все эти годы неотлучно в Лондоне, Гамильтон - в Дублине.
В 1865-м году Гамильтон умер после внезапного приступа подагры. де Морган узнал о смерти друга из газет. Вот письмо, которое он написал вдове Гамильтона в тот же день:
From Professor De Morgan to Lady Hamilton.
91, Adelaide-road, N.W., September 5, 1865.
Dear Lady Hamilton— I shall certainly not intrude on your
grief by sending this letter according to its date ; I write it on the
day on which I have received the shock of hearing that one of my
dearest friends has passed away, without my knowing that any the
least alteration had taken place in his health. That I shall sooner
or later offer you my heartfelt sympathy is a thing of course ; and
I cannot do it better than by writing at once, though I know the
sending it at once would be wrong.
Several months have passed since I heard from your husband.
This was not uncommon ; our correspondence was often interrupted
by longer periods ; it went and came by fits and starts. I hoped
that all things were going on as usual, and was meditating a letter
of inquiry to be replied to as many of the same kind had been
before, when three lines in the Daily Telegraph put me in posses-
sion of the sad news that nothing of my friend was left in this
world except his deathless fame and his mourning family.
I have called him one of my dearest friends, and most truly ;
for I know not how much longer than twenty-five years we have
been in intimate correspondence, of most friendly agreement or
disagreement, of most cordial interest in each other. And yet we
did not know each others' faces. I met him, about 1830, at
Babbage's breakfast-table, and there, for the only time in our
lives, we conversed. I saw him, a long way off, at the dinner
given to Herschel (about 1838) on his return from the Cape ;
and there we were not near enough, nor, on that crowded
day, could we get near enough, to exchange a word. And
this is all I ever saw, and, so it has pleased God, all I shall
see in this world, of a man whose friendly communications were
among my greatest social enjoyments and greatest intellectual
There is not a word which I could offer to you or yours, on
any of those considerations which bring such comfort as the case
allows, other than what must suggest itself, and must be better
enforced by those around you. That you should soon find comfort
in such considerations would be — nay, is — his chief wish for you
and your children. May you find it !
The time will come when you, or Miss Helen, will feel able to
write me something about his last months, his decline, and the state
in which his scientific matters are left. You will, I sincerely hope,
not hurry in compliance with my request. No number of months will
abate my interest in the matter. I have watched his career from the
beginning. When I — a year younger than himself, as it happens
— was an undergraduate not far advanced, and he must have been
about nineteen years old, I heard of the extraordinary attainments
of a very young student of Trinity College, which were noised
about at Cambridge. This rumour was made more interesting by
other rumours which also circulated about the same time concern-
ing another young Irishman, then recently matriculated at Cam-
bridge. This was poor Murphy, whose subsequent career, though
great in mathematics, fell short in conduct and discretion. He
wanted all but mathematical education in early youth. The
appearance of the two at once in the field gave both an interest,
and I was thus led to watch Hamilton's career before I knew
anything of him personally.
His memory will be very bright and very lasting. I trust
that care will be taken to illustrate the singular variety of his
attainments and the fertility of his mind. His publications give
no more than a glimpse of what he was out of mathematics. Nor
must it be left unrecorded how truly good he was as a man and a
member of Society. In exact science he will be the Irishman of
his day and of that to come, just as much as his namesake was in
mental speculation the Scotchman.
With the warmest wishes for you and yours, I am, dear Lady
Hamilton, sincerely yours, A. De Morgan.