Who was St. George William Joseph Stock?

It is rare to encounter a published author from the relatively recent past for which almost no biographical information can be found online. I have found such a person, in the form of a philosophy scholar by the curious and intriguing name of “St. George William Joseph Stock.” Who gets named “Saint,” or did he give himself that moniker? When was he born, and when did he die? Where did he live? Trying to suss out the life of this enigmatic “Saint George” is maddening.

Four of Stock’s books are available as free ebooks from Google Play (and elsewhere): Attempts At Truth (1882), Deductive Logic (1888), Selections From The Septuagint: According To The Text Of Swete (1905) and Stoicism (1908). These might not sound like the most exciting reads, but could something saucier be in the offing? I found a book on Amazon called The Romance of Chastisement; or, Revelations of the School and Bedroom, by “An Expert.” The pseudonym, “An Expert,” was later identified as one “St. George H. Stock.” St. George “H.” Stock? Where did the “H”come from? Can this be the same “St. George Stock,” and if not, just how many “St. George Stock”s are there floating around in the mists of lost time and forgotten history? [UPDATE: The “H” mystery has been (mostly) solved — see comment #7, below.]

The Romance of Chastisement; or, Revelations of the School and Bedroom is arguably the most sophisticated, most literary, and most amusing mid-Victorian fictional text focusing on flagellation. A collection of short stories and verse sparkling with sexual suggestion and wit, it was first published by John Camden Hotten in 1871 in a volume bearing the false imprint date 1870. It was reprinted by Edward Avery in 1888. An earlier book with the same title was issued by William Dugdale in 1866. This work had a different sub-heading: Revelations of Miss Darcy. The Victorian bibliographer Henry Spencer Ashbee suggests that both books were written by the same author, whom he reveals to have been St. George H. Stock. Formerly a lieutenant in the 2nd or Queen’s Royal Regiment, Stock issued his work originally in episodes from Dublin. Hotten purchased 200 sets from him and bound them into a single volume. St. George H. Stock also wrote the four short flagellant works that constitute Rosy Tales! (1874) and contributed to The Whippingham Papers (1888 [1887]), which are also available from Birchgrove Press.

Rosy Tales! Whippingham Papers! Could it be that a young St. George Stock, having already achieved personal sainthood, but still going by the middle initial “H” (Herbert? Hector? Haldric?), penned a smutty whip-smart book about flagellation, only to feel guilty as he grew older, for which he punished himself by flogging many books and articles about arcane corners of philosophy? This is purely speculative, mind you, but what else do I have to go on? The man’s a cipher.

Other than a bunch of sites that carry the Stock ebooks, Google has nothing on this guy. I even tried the U.K. National Archives, but found no entry for Mr. Stock. Google Books has a book, The Apology of Plato, from “pre-1923,” which includes an introduction by one “St. George Storck.” Looks like the “storck” has brought us another Stock baby. Can’t this lowly Saint get any respect?

Good old St. George Stock has even made the leap to iTunes, but you still can’t find any information about who he is. Maybe I’ll have to read his Attempts At Truth to get to the truth about his identity. Perhaps he’s divulged it all there, in code!

Somebody please answer this question: Who was St. George William Joseph Stock? If there are any philosophers or classical scholars out there with knowledge of this vanished Victorian scholar, this missing Saint, please post it in the Comments of this blog. Perhaps together we can solve this mystery, and return St. George William Joseph Stock to the historical record, with or without his whip.

19 thoughts on “Who was St. George William Joseph Stock?

  1. Pingback: Looking for a lost saint | Wordlab

  2. Wikisource and others offer this enigmatic age bracket for St. George Stock’s birth and non-death: “1850-?”, which seems to imply either, A) The Man is still alive, perhaps immortal, and living among us (AKA Larry King?), or B) It is not known when he died, or C) He met a questionable end, or D) All or None of the above.

    Looks like it’s time to hit the (old fashioned) library. Who among you can step up and be a hero on this and visit a good university library and see what you can dig up? If not for base intellectual curiosity, at least do it for the massive public glory that will be yours.

  3. This is a great find, George. Thanks for sending. Now we know more about his family, including that his granddaughter because the actress Heather Angel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heather_Angel_%28actress%29

    Here is the gravestone of St. George’s brother, Edwin Henry Douglas Stock, and this webpage tells more about the early life and family of St. George: http://stsepulchres.org.uk/burials/stock_edwin.html. This page also identifies St. George William Joseph Stock as “St George Henry Stock (Junior),” the father of the two brothers being “St George Henry Stock (Junior).” So now we know what the initial “H” that sometimes appeared in his name referred to. No clue why the page about his brother’s gravestone refers to him as “St George Henry Stock,” while the page about his wife’s gravestone calls him “St George William Joseph Stock.” Perhaps he had a full name that was very long, something like “St George Henry William Joseph Stock,” and as young man he just cut it short after Henry, but as he grew into an adult and was making his way in the world, and perhaps to distinguish himself from his father, he switched to “St George William Joseph Stock.” Pure speculation at this point, but plausible.

    That his granddaughter Heather Grace Angel (born 1908/9) became a pretty successful Hollywood actress is fascinating. It died in 1986 and apparently had no children, so no one to track down there. Her older sister, Marion Muriel Angel (born 1907), I could not find any information about, so no idea of there are descendents in that family line. If you are out there, descendents, please let us know so we can update this post.

    This is great. I’m now starting to feel a connection to St. George as a person, not just a mysterious name. Keep the tips coming!

  4. Interesting. I came across him through the book “Deductive Logic” on Gutenberg. As I was interested in Logic and the title contained the word, I started to read the book. I only read the beginning and then left (happens with many books due to lazyness 🙁 ), but whatever I read, I found it very decent. I will try to read again further. He has also written on Stoicism and I am interested in it too, so I think I will go through it too. All in all very interesting!

  5. Thank you David for your page on St George Stock in your ebook, Logic Gallery, which includes this quote from Stock’s book, Deductive Logic: “The most obvious and the most important division of propositions is into the true and the false, but with this we are not concerned. Formal logic can recognize no difference between true and false propositions.”

  6. Here is another good passage in his Deductive Logic.

    “The laws of thought are all reducible to the three following axioms, which are known as The Three Fundamental Laws of Thought.

    1. The Law of Identity; Whatever is, is ; or, in a more precise form,
    Every A is A.

    2. The Law of Contradiction; Nothing can both be and not be ;
    Nothing can be A and not A.

    3. The Law of Excluded Middle; Everything must either be or not be ;
    Everything is either A or not A.

    Each of these principles is independent and self-evident. “

  7. But not so fast!

    These two paragraphs from his Logic book reveal an important insight–one that still little understood over 100 years later.

    § 432. When, after observing that gold, silver, lead, and other metals, are capable of being reduced to a liquid state by the application of heat, the mind leaps to the conclusion that the same will hold true of some other metal, as platinum, or of all metals, we have then an inductive inference, in which the conclusion, or consequent, is a new proposition, which was not contained in those that went before. We are led to this conclusion, not by reason, but by an instinct which teaches us to expect like results, under like circumstances. Experience can tell us only of the past: but we allow it to affect our notions of the future through a blind belief that the thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done ; and there is no new thing under the sun. Take away this conviction, and the bridge is cut which connects the known with the unknown, the past with the future. The commonest acts of daily life would fail to be performed, were it not for this assumption, which is itself no product of the reason. Thus man’s intellect, like his faculties generally, rests upon a basis of instinct. He walks by faith, not by sight.

    § 433. It is a mistake to talk of inductive reasoning as though it were a distinct species from deductive. The fact is that inductive inferences are either wholly instinctive, and so unsusceptible of logical vindication, or else they may be exhibited under the form of deductive inferences. We cannot be justified in inferring that platinum will be melted by heat, except where we have equal reason for asserting the same thing of copper or any other metal. In fact we are justified in drawing an individual inference only when we can lay down the universal proposition “Every metal can be melted by heat”. But the moment this universal proposition is stated, the truth of the proposition in the individual instance flows from it by way of deductive inference. Take away the universal, and we have no logical warrant for arguing from one individual case to another. We do so, as was said before, only in virtue of that vague instinct which leads us to anticipate like results from like appearances.

  8. St George Stock is NOT the only oddball figure in the history of logic.
    We all know about Aristotle, Boole, Venn, Frege, Russell, Gödel, Quine, and Kripke.
    But there are others who though they did NOT contribute much to the science of logic, had interesting lives and deserve our remembering them:
    Richard Frederick Clarke
    Victor Doublet
    Joseph Henry Gilmore
    W. H. B. Joseph
    George Hayward Joyce
    William Minto
    Octavius Freire owen
    Almira Phelps
    Joseph Priestley
    René Rapin
    Isidore of Seville

    Each has an easy to digest single page in the Open Access pf download http://humbox.ac.uk/3682/

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