The Papers of George Boole, F.R.S. (1815-1864)

Section 2

I. Letters to his children from George Boole


3 pages
13 Sept 1863

Typescript copy of a letter from Boole in Lincoln to his daughter Mary Ellen, telling her of his visit there. He is staying with Joseph Hill whom she met in Cork, and tells her Hill often invites children to his house. They met in school and Boole states they still learn from one another. He describes Lincoln for her and its history, adding Mr. Brooke who used and still does teach him is very interested in history: 'some people care more about old things than new ones and Mr. William Brooke is one of such people.' But adds he cares for new things when 'they are good and worth caring about.' He also looks at the world to see if it is going the way God want it to. Boole remarks, 'I think the best way for us to mend the world is to try to do our own duty in it as well as we can.' He inquires if she and her sisters are being good girls and he hopes they are minding their mother. He himself is feeling very well: 'I suppose because I am breathing my native air.'


1 pages
11 June 1864

Brief letter from Boole in London to his daughter Mary Ellen, sending her all his love and asking her to 'Give each of the little ones a kiss for me.'

II. Letters of Mary Boole

i. from her children


3 pages
13 Dec 1863

From Mary Ellen Boole to her mother (dictated to her father). She inquires cordially after her mother's health and that of her Uncle Robert. She tells of a trip to Queenstown where she bought a ball and an orange, and of how their father surprised them one day: 'You know very well that father never goes up to Cork without bringing us something down .... Father took out of his pocket a large yellow orange!!!' She also tells of her plans for the day, and inquires after the health of Mr. Porsche. She closes by saying 'I was very happy when I heard that you were coming here soon.'

ii. to and from Maryann Boole


4 pages
[ ]

From Mary Boole in Cork to Maryann, thanking her for the gift of flowers she sent over, and commenting that the local flowers are not so nice to keep. Discusses her favourite varieties using their Latin names. She tells her Puss (Mary Ellen) is fond of her new sister 'to a distressing degree and keeps me in a constant fidget for fear its eyes will be put out by one of her caresses.' The baby is very quiet and very like her father. Adds that she is glad to hear Maryann is going abroad for the winter.


4 pages

From Maryann to Mary Boole inquiring anxiously for news of George's health. Mary's uncle John Everest has been keeping her informed of any developments and she expresses her anger at Dr. Baxter's leaving his patient once Dr. Bullen was called in. She is eager for more news but does not want to trouble Mary. She offers to mind the children while George is convalescing. Adds Mrs. Stoney is also eager for news.

iii. to Mary Boole from Various


2 pages
30 Nov 1864

From J.W. Newman, 10 Circus Road, London NW, expressing his sympathy over her husband's illness, and assuring her that Boole 'should not trouble himself over a [scientific] question he sent to him, as there is no urgency involved in its answering.

BP/1/334 (See Also BP/1/312)

3 pages
3 Feb 1865

From [Isaac] Todhunter, St. John's College Cambridge, explaining subscriptions and donations had been made to a fund for her use after a report in The Times said Boole had left his family unprovided for. He apologises for any upset caused and states the subscriptions were refunded.

BP/1/335 (See Also BP/1/252)

7 pages
18 Nov 1869

From Dr. Bury to Mary, giving his recollections of Boole's early life. They first met in Lincoln in 1844 and Bury was immediately impressed 'by the greatness of his intellect .... for the first time I had found indications of Genius.' He also possessed 'noble moral characteristics' and Bury feels he would have been too modest to wish for a biography. He seemed 'to know everything and be able to do anything.' He also played various musical instruments and could converse about medicine, anatomy, physiology, Greek, Latin, maths, French and Italian literature. At the age of 12 he understood the first six and 11th and 12th books of Euclid. Bury mentions Boole always felt very grateful to Mr. Gregory for introducing him to the scientific world when he was editor of the Cambridge Maths Journal. He adds Boole found the lives of scientists more interesting than that of kings and emperors. He had spoken of going to Cambridge but preferred studying at home with his father and mother. He could spend three days and nights with no sleep while working on his maths and snatch a few minutes of sleep during a walk or a party. He worked best at night, often writing under the bedclothes only to be unable to decipher his writing in the morning. However he constructed a wooden frame to keep his writing straight in the dark.


1 pages
18 May 1878

From [E] Benan, 16 Rue St. Guillauime written in French.


2 pages
25 Apr. 1885

From C. Mansford, Wesleyan Training College Westminster, enclosing letters from Boole to M.C. Taylor (a former pupil of his at Doncaster) which had been kept by his wife. He heard from Mr. Murr that she would like to read them.


5 pages
[ ]

From Harry Bendorf, written in unusually large handwriting, thanking her for her letter and postcard and telling her about his feelings towards Boole's Laws of Thought.It took him four years to understand the work when 'it came clear to me when I was crossing the lines and I saw what the Old Testament meant by writing laws on peoples hearts. I thought you would like to know this .... I don't know how to say "Thank You" to you for all your kindness to me. I have felt so stupid perhaps I shall be better able to Thank You in the next forty years.'

III. Letters of Mary Ellen Hinton

i. to her sister Lucy Everest Boole, a diary of her stay in Japan


54 pages
[1888 - 1891]

From Mary Ellen Hinton to her sister Lucy Everest Boole, a letter-book, detailing her stay in Japan with her family. She writes in the form of the journal describing the places she has been, and all the new and strange sights she has seen. She begins 7 Sept 1888, describing her visit to Haneoke Bay. Mentions she enjoys reading 'Scientific Views' for its natural history articles, while her husband (Charles Howard Hinton) likes it for its articles on electricity. She refers also to her surprise in finding fly larvae and pupae in a salt water pool in Joshima. She then describes a visit to Kaneola Bay where they stayed in a Temple and made friends with the priests, 'such gentle refined simple people' and described the ceremonies which took place there to protect fishermen from the perils of the sea. Mentions there were earthquakes in Yokohama. The next section [8 Jan 1889] describes her visit to Kojinoko/Homatsuya (little hill) to the hot springs there and declares: 'It was very dangerous to be near there. Perhaps that was some of the fascination.' The house they hired was made of paper and was quite cold, but it had a bathhouse for hot baths. However the sulphurous odour from the water was very unpleasant. She inquires does Lucy know the reason why when the ground and road were covered with ice, there was no frost on the grass or bamboo. She remarks she also found the total absence of wind very strange. She also mentions a plant she saw whose leaves resemble a butterfly and she wonders why a plant should imitate an insect. They travelled then to Ikao, a beautiful spot on a mountainside with many hot springs in the area. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and it rained all day, and stinging insects which bury themselves in peoples flesh thrive in the area. Mentions she is having an iron bath three times a day. They let their house in Yokohama to the Portuguese who are proving to be unsatisfactory tenants. 1 Sept [1889] They have now been at Ikao for seven weeks and plan to stay for four more days. It rained almost continually during the stay, sometimes for days on end without a break. In the house they are staying in, the bath is in the garden, and you sit in the hot water with the rain falling on your face. Wet skin is however never exposed to air, so colds are avoided. Where hot springs are found like in Yokohama, swimming pools are used to accommodate large numbers of people. The locals in Ikao dye all their cloth yellow from the iron springs, and all wear yellow clothing. Beads are also sometimes made from the iron deposits but it is a slow process. She mentions the looks of admiration she got from the local women for an old battered hat simply because it was yellow. 11 Dec [1889] She relates a discussion she had with Droku Enoye on the origin of the Japanese people. She argued that the Emperor Tenimco colonised Japan from China and Korea, while Enoye believed he came from heaven as did Jesus Christ: 'Ikoku said this with a gentle smile which meant, "Our absurdities are not more absurd than those of Fevergine's" and he objected to his race being spoken of as a curiosity.' 18 July 1890, describing a visit to a Nikko Temple, where a bell is rung to summon God each time an offering is made. She feels that is a good idea as 'I remember as a child being troubled by doubts as to whether Providence was paying attention.' The colours of the temples deeply impressed her. She remarks Buddhism is a growing religion with plenty of room for more people and she asks Lucy, 'Don't you find your dislike of xtianity grows stronger every year of your life? Selection of only a few for salvation and at even that few unfairly.' In Buddhism she remarks you can always be saved. 18 Aug 1890, she is now in Nikko and advises Lucy to read up on its history which is very interesting. Historical relics are consciously preserved in the area. She mentions visiting the Torii, an emblem of the Shinto religion, built for the temple pigeons to rest on. She remarks on the beautifully covered gateways and wonders, 'Will any place in the world seem worth seeing after Japan? In fact I am perfectly infatuated by the country.' Her son George however prefers living works of nature to the most magnificent creations of man and preferred playing with the temple pony rather than admiring the architecture. [ ] Describing a barge trip they were forced to take from Nikko as heavy rains had flooded the roads. The trip took 12 hours but was not too uncomfortable. They stayed overnight in the bishop's house before returning to Yokohama where the weather was very hot and they found their house covered in a type of blue mould. They then returned to Nikko where they plan to stay until the end of September. In response to Lucy's enquiries about Japanese customs, she says she can't say much as Yokohama isn't like the rest of Japan, as it is very westernised. She gets her pupils to write essays on their nature customs and that is how she finds out what little she knows. One pupil explained that women wrap a blue cloth around their face when they go outdoors because "women are not nice in face." Remarks she finds Tokoyo very beautiful and solemn. [ ] Mentions their garden is now being used as a workshop for the building of a new classroom. They visited Professor Fenolosus (Professor of Philosophy in Tokoyo Naval College), as part of a 'duty call' to parents. He told them a story about a Japanese family of fire-fighters. The young men of the family would undergo vigorous training for months, and when ready, a large fire would be kindled around them which they would stand in the middle of and handle the live coals. However the family has been performing the ritual for so long that they have forgotten its purpose. [ ] She remarks that Sir Edwin Arnold in his letters to 'The Telegraph' does not exaggerate the beauty of Japan, but he does not mention enough its· other side where disease and illness can be seen 'walking openly in the streets. It is most pain full to a new-comer.' She also describes a teashop decorated with plum blossom and cabbage 'being a European vegetable it was deemed worthy of use for artistic purposes.' She attended a Lenten exhibition by the Photographic Society where Professor Milne showed slides of the effects of earthquakes and gave advice on choosing a sturdy building. Her husband intends to get a sensitometer to warn them about approaching earthquakes and she states to feel the ground shake is a frightening thing. There are also some separate sheets containing Mary Ellen's letters to Lucy. [ ] She is glad to hear their mother's health has improved, and she explains the origins of the gifts she sent and to whom each one was for. They are moving to a half Japanese, half European house, she would have preferred a totally Japanese one but none was vacant. They are thinking of hiring a cow, as milk is often hard to get and is very expensive. Mentions a Japanese woman remarked that her son Sebastian's red hair was ugly. She remarks she finds Japanese homes very attractive: 'The maximum amount of beauty and comfort with the minimum amount of trouble' and extols about their spaciousness and cleanliness. 6 Nov 1891 She details the effects of the last earthquake to hit Japan. Its effects were mild in Kanazana, where she lives, while other towns were almost destroyed. The earthquake itself was a terrifying experience, worse than any other type of natural calamity. 'In the Wakayana floods thousands of people perished but nobody seemed to mind particularly whereas Bandaisan will remain a word of terror.' Aftershocks are still being felt. She then speaks of the Madra, a tapestry on brown silk depicting a series of scenes of the Buddhist paradise embroidered from hair donated by 84,000 women; it is being taken on a tour allover Japan. She feels the Japanese people have been touched by the values of Buddhism. 'Here you may give a stranger a $10 note when you owe him 50 cents and feel quite sure that he will bring back the change', but she feels that religion 'has not the power to take hold of a nation and hold it. Let it then give place to some religion which can.' She feels England has not yet found its religion. The recent earthquake made her think more about religion and she states: 'Only think till you have no more religious feeling left - and you arrive at no result. It is aimless groping. If these were to be the last words I should ever write I wouldn't add to them.' She then moves on to describe her children for Lucy and their different personalities and behaviour. She inquires after her own family adding: 'You are such a soothing little person when I write to you I go straight ahead my pen runs along fast and ideas flow.'

ii. to her son George Hinton


4 pages
[ ]

To George Hinton from his mother Mary Ellen Boole. Describing a holiday she took in an area of Parne where the flowers and grasses reached up to her waist. She is quite amazed at the fact the long stems never seem to tangle as they grow. She says as she writes she is looking at his photograph, and inquires if Nelly read him the bible on Sunday and if he has learned to swim. Mentions she is reading Divine Love and Wisdom, which she hopes he will read. Adds there are children where she is staying to play with.

IV. Letters from Ethel Lilian Boole Voynich to Sir Geoffrey Taylor


4 pages
23 Mar 1954

Discussing recent family news and also their researches about her father. Her health is bad, her arteries are hardening and she is weakening, and adds [her daughter] Anne will not be able to combine looking after her and having a job. She discusses her father's poetry which she feels is overall not worth publishing, but she finds their spirit delightful. 'His Irish poems show a deep feeling for Irish troubles and a tragic incapacity to understand them.' His finest poem she feels is 'Sonnet on the number 3' (see also BP/1/295) which she equates with Goethe's Hymn of the Three Archangels. Relates anecdotes she heard from her mother 'the missus' about his strength of character and states although she never knew him she is proud to be his daughter.


4 pages
30 Apr-9 May 1954

Photocopy of a letter in which she discusses many of her father's papers. She thanks him for sending her a copy of Sonnet to The Number 3, and mentions John Walsh as a 'crank' who went to see her father about 'squaring the circle' (term used in alchemy). She also agrees to give the papers to The Royal Irish Academy. She mentions the Parry family of Lincoln, a daughter of which Boole is reputed to have fallen in love with in his youth, and never got over until he met Mary Everest. She refused to marry him as he would not sign the 39 Articles of the Church of England. She also states a bitter rivalry existed between her mother and her aunt Maryann Boole, as Maryann believed Mary Boole hastened her husband's death by following the recommendations of a doctor who advocated cold water cures, and making Boole lie shivering between the sheets. Ethel remarks 'The Everests do seem to have been a family of crooks and cranks.' She ends with some more up-to-date family news, she is working on a cantata 'Jerusalem' but feels at the rate she is going, she will be over by the time the entire cantata is published.

V. Printed works by Boole's Children and their Descendants

i. by Alicia Boole Stott


22 pages

'On Certain Series of Sections of the Regular Four dimensional Hypersolids'. Printed in Amsterdam by Johannes Muller. 'Maggie & Eddeid' is written on the front.


30 pages

'Geometrical deduction of semiregular from regular polytopes and space fillings'. Printed in Amsterdam by Johannes Muller. Inscribed 'Mary Boole Stott with the writers compliments'.


3 pages

'Reciprocity in connexion with semiregular polytopes and nets' by Alicia Boole and Prof. P.M. Schoute. Printed in Amsterdam. Inscribed 'M. Taylor with love.'

ii. by Lucy Everest Boole


15 pages

'An enquiry into the nature of the vesicating constituent of Croton Oil' by L.E. Boole and Wyndham R. Dunsten, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 1896.

iii. by Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor


15 pages
[ ]

Article by Taylor describing the work of Alice Boole. Reprint from Man, Science, Learning & Education.

VI. Printed works about Boole's family


1 pages
[ ]

R.M. Fox' A forgotten Irish writer', about Ethel Lilian Voynich.

VII. Will of Mary Everest Boole


5 pages
[ ] Includes covering note from

Includes covering note from [ ] Hart , 23 Surney Street, London to Mrs. Taylor, 30 Clifton Hill, St. John's Wood, London, dated 27 June 1910. The will appoints Arthur Sommerwell and Alfred Wing Everest trustees. To Mary Boole Stott of Cheshire (her granddaughter) she leaves any money in her post office savings bank. To her trustees she gives the copyrights of her published work, to be held for the benefit of her daughters Mary Ellen, Margaret, Alicia and Ethel or their heirs. The trustees are also to sell and hold in trust for her daughters and 'my devoted and faithful friend Agnes Marsh' 16 Ladbroke Road, Notting Hill, all residue of property, and divide the proceeds in equal shares. Witnesses were Edith Lance Somerwell, 1 Albert Place, Kensington, London and Matthew Lambert, Holme Cottage, Northrepps, Schoolteacher. There is a codicil dated 1905, since Mary Ellen Hinton died her name and issue is to be omitted and the estate to be divided between her remaining three daughters and Agnes Marsh and also to the effect if any other daughter should predecease her their name is to be omitted. Witnesses Edward M. Hart, Solicitor and Edith Maria Walsham, 7 Cavendish Place, London (widow).

VIII. Family trees compiled by Boole's descendants


1 pages
[ ]

Schematic family tree of George Boole Hinton, son of Charles Howard Hinton and Mary Ellen Boole.


1 pages

Table of Boole's descendants compiled by Sir Geoffrey Taylor, and given to The Royal Irish Academy.