Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Morgan, Thomas Charles

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MORGAN, Sir THOMAS CHARLES, M.D. (1783–1843), philosophical and miscellaneous writer, son of John Morgan of Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury, London, born in 1783, was educated at Eton, the Charterhouse, and Peterhouse, Cambridge, whence he graduated M.B. in 1804 and proceeded M.D. in 1809. He practised at first as a surgeon in Charlotte Street, and on 13 April 1805 married Miss Hammond, daughter of William Hammond of Queen Square, Bloomsbury, and the Stock Exchange. She died in 1809, leaving issue one child, a daughter. Morgan was a friend and admirer of Jenner, the discoverer of vaccination, and published in 1808 ‘An Expostulatory Letter to Dr. Moseley on his Review of the Report of the London College of Physicians,’ London, 8vo. On 30 Sept. 1809 he was admitted a candidate, and on 1 Oct. 1810 a fellow of the College of Physicians. As physician to the first Marquis of Abercorn he attended him to Ireland, and through his interest was knighted by the lord-lieutenant, Charles Lennox, fourth duke of Richmond [q. v.], at Dublin on 17 Sept. 1811. At Abercorn's seat, Baron's Court, co. Tyrone, Morgan met, and on 12 Jan. 1812 married, a protégée of the marchioness, Sydney Owenson [see Morgan, Sydney, Lady], then rising into repute as a popular authoress. After the marriage Morgan obtained the post of physician to the Marshalsea, Dublin, and took a house in that city, No. 35 Kildare Street, with the view of establishing a practice. Between 1815 and 1824, however, most part of his time was spent abroad with Lady Morgan, to whose works ‘France’ (1818) and ‘Italy’ (1821) he contributed appendices on law, medicine, and other matters. In 1818 he published ‘Sketches of the Philosophy of Life,’ and in 1822 ‘Sketches of the Philosophy of Morals’ (both London, 8vo), in which he attempted to popularise the ideas of Bichat, Cabanis, and Destutt de Tracy. The former work was unsparingly attacked on the ground of its materialism by the Rev. Thomas Rennell [q. v.], and Morgan's professional reputation was so seriously damaged that he retired from practice. The latter book fell almost stillborn from the press.

Morgan was a strenuous advocate of catholic emancipation and other liberal measures, and on the return of the whigs to power was placed on the commission of inquiry into the state of Irish fisheries (1835). He took an active part in the investigation, and compiled an ‘Historical Sketch of the British and Irish Fisheries’ for the appendix to the First Report (Parl. Papers, House of Commons, 1837, vol. xxii.) From 1824 to 1837 the Morgans resided at 35 Kildare Street, Dublin, where their evening receptions became famous [see Morgan, Sydney, Lady]. In the latter year they removed to William Street, Lowndes Square, London, where Morgan died on 28 Aug. 1843. For many years Morgan contributed slight essays or causeries to the ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ the ‘Metropolitan,’ and other periodicals. Those in the ‘New Monthly’ are distinguished by the signature μ. The best of these trifles are collected in the ‘Book without a Name,’ to which Lady Morgan also contributed, London, 1841, 2 vols. 12mo.

Morgan was an extremely minute philosopher, or rather philosophe. His mental calibre is evinced by an anecdote recorded by Crabb Robinson. Robinson quoted Kant's well-known apophthegm about the ‘starry heavens’ and the ‘moral law,’ upon which Morgan exclaimed contemptuously ‘German sentiment and nothing else,’ adding, ‘The starry heavens, philosophically considered, are no more objects of admiration than a basin of water.’

Besides the above mentioned publications Morgan is the author of a pasquinade in ottava rima entitled ‘The Royal Progress. A Canto: with Notes. Written on occasion of His M——y's Visit to Ireland, August 1821,’ London, 1821, 12mo.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 93; Gent. Mag. 1805 pt. i. p. 485, 1812 pt. i. p. 37, 1843 pt. ii. p. 436; Lit. Gaz. 1818 p. 721, 1822 p. 691; Townsend's Calendar of Knights, 1828, p. 203; Lady Morgan's Autobiography and Correspondence, ed. W. Hepworth Dixon, 1862; Lady Morgan's Passages from my Autobiography, 1859; Fitzpatrick's Friends, Foes, and Adventures of Lady Morgan, 1859, and Lady Morgan, her Career, Literary and Personal, 1860; Crabb Robinson's Diary, ed. Sadler, 1872, i. 408; Quarterly Review, vol. xvii.; Examiner, 2 Sept. 1843; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. ix. 307; Athenæum, 1843, p. 794.]

J. M. R.