Mathematical Theory of Political Economy,’ read before the Manchester Statistical Society 11 Nov. 1874, he showed that the French economist, Professor Léon Walras, and he had arrived independently at the same fundamental theorem, and delivered his soul with regrettable vehemence against the ‘ingenious fallacies’ abounding in writings which he had ‘studied for more than twenty years, and been unfortunately obliged to teach for more than ten.’ His ‘Primer of Political Economy,’ published in 1878, was translated into both French and Italian.
In 1873 Owens College was housed in new buildings. Jevons contributed a paper on the ‘Railways and the State’ to the volume of ‘Essays and Addresses,’ by the publication of which in 1874 the professors of the college commemorated the event. But though he conscientiously performed his college duties, to which in 1868 a London examinership in political economy had been added, he found the strain of work rather heavy. By the spring of 1872 he had suffered so much that he was for a time relieved of his college work. A retirement to Ludlow and a trip to Norway refreshed him, and in the following sessions he was able to accomplish reduced tasks of work. In 1872 he had been made a F.R.S.; in 1874–5 he examined for the moral science tripos at Cambridge; in 1875 he received an honorary doctorate at Edinburgh; and in 1876 he was appointed examiner in logic and mental and moral philosophy in the university of London. In November 1874 he writes that his books are beginning to pay at last, and that he is much oppressed by the too abundant exercises of his logic class (Letters and Journal, p. 324). Early in the year he had taken another holiday abroad, and there was every disposition during these years at Owens College to do what was possible to retain him. But his heart had been for some time set on London, and as the professorship of political economy at University College was in 1875 virtually placed at his disposal, he in October 1876 quitted Manchester, and settled on Branch Hill, Hampstead.
He resigned the University College professorship in 1880, and resolved henceforth never to ‘lecture, speechify, or do anything of that sort again if he could possibly help it’ (Harley, p. xi). Though he found time both for congenial society and for a good deal of travel, he worked hard, and probably to excess. In 1875 he had published a most readable volume in the ‘International Scientific Series,’ entitled ‘Money and the Mechanism of Exchange;’ but on the whole he was turning with increasing interest to social problems. For many years he had with unwearied diligence collected the most diverse statistical materials. The arrangement of his study at Hampstead showed him to be an inquirer to whom nothing came amiss in the way of facts, and from whom nothing went astray. ‘The State in Relation to Labour’ (1882), a mature and discriminating, though not an inspiriting treatise, formed part of Macmillan's ‘English Citizen Series;’ but most of his writings of this description originally appeared in periodical journals, and were after his death collected by his widow in a volume entitled ‘Methods of Social Reform and other Papers,’ 1883. He had himself intended to collect for republication his ‘Investigations in Currency and Finance;’ but this too was done by his widow, aided by Professor Foxwell. In his ‘Introduction’ to the volume, published in 1884, Mr. Foxwell notes that Jevons had occupied himself with historical research and bibliography, as shown by the ‘List of Selected Books in Political Economy’ (first printed in the ‘Monthly Notes of the Library Association,’ July 1882), his article on ‘Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy’ (originally published in the ‘Contemporary Review,’ January 1881), and his unfinished paper on ‘Sir Isaac Newton and Bimetallism.’ Other papers on the subject are given in the ‘Investigations.’ He also retained an interest in the physical sciences. The theory of sunspots, with which his economic studies brought him into contact, gave rise to several notes contributed by him to ‘Nature’ in 1879, and again in 1882. In 1878 he investigated the so-called Brownian movement of microscopic particles in liquids and analogous phenomena; and the last paper from his hand which saw the light during his lifetime was an article on ‘Reflected Rainbows’ in the ‘Field Naturalist,’ August 1882.
On 13 Aug. 1882 Jevons was drowned while bathing alone when on a visit to Galley Hill, Bulverhythe, near Hastings. Up to the day of his death he was working at a paper on the disadvantages of the employment of married women in factories for the next meeting of the Social Science Association. The widespread regard entertained for him was shortly after his death attested by the establishment, through public subscription, of a fund for the encouragement of economic research, to be administered by the university colleges of Manchester, London, and Liverpool.
The treatise on economics which Jevons had planned and partly written, and which he intended to make his magnum opus, will remain lost to the world. But he left behind