Morgan, Thomas Charles (Sir), c.1780—1843
by Benjamin Colbert
Thomas Charles Morgan (c.1780-1843), physician and miscellaneous writer, was the eldest son of John Morgan, of Bloomsbury, London. He was educated at Eton, Charterhouse, and Peterhouse, Cambridge (BA 1804; MD 1809). On 13 April 1805, he married Anne Hammond (d. 1809), who, four years later died in childbirth. Their daughter survived and was named after her mother, Anne Hammond Morgan (1809-1850). In 1811, father and daughter moved to Ireland where Charles Morgan became resident physician to John James Hamilton, first marquess of Abercorn at his estate at Stanmore. There Morgan met the celebrated Irish novelist Sydney Owenson, companion to Anne Jane Hamilton, marchioness of Abercorn. After an extended courtship, during with time Morgan was granted a knighthood through the Abercorns’ influence, Morgan persuaded Owenson to marry him and the ceremony took place in January 1812.
From this time until his death just over 30 years later, Morgan’s fortunes were tied to those of his more famous wife. He settled with her in Dublin, travelled with her to France in the spring and summer of 1816, and contributed an appendix ‘On the State of Law, Finance, Medicine, and Political Opinion, in France’ to her travel book, France (1817). This was not his first foray into print – as early as 1808 he had defended the vaccination theories of his friend Edward Jenner in a pamphlet – but it shared in the controversy generated by the critical backlash against Lady Morgan in the Quarterly Review and the Journal des debats, among other voices in London and Paris. More controversial still was his Sketches of the Philosophy of Life (1819) widely treated as supporting the materialist position in the vitalism debate; and partly as a consequence, Morgan withdrew from medical practice. In the autumn and winter of 1818-19, the Morgans returned to Paris en route to Italy, where Lady Morgan was to research her next travel book, Italy (1821), again accompanied by appendices written by Morgan himself.
Morgan’s next book, Sketches of the Philosophy of Morals (1822), attempted to popularize the utilitarian ideas of Destutt de Tracy in England but was received in the same harsh vein as his previous one. Though his work was taken more seriously in France and de Tracy himself oversaw the translation of Philosophy of Morals, Morgan thereafter diverted his literary talents to lighter pieces for Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine and other periodicals, a selection of which were eventually reprinted in the collection jointly written with Lady Morgan, The Book Without a Name (1841). Morgan produced no further travel appendices or sketches, however, despite his and Lady Morgan’s third extended visit to France in 1829-30, followed by a visit to the Low Countries.
In 1837, after Lady Morgan had been granted a literary pension by the British government, the Morgans relocated to London, permanently. Thomas Charles Morgan died abruptly in 1843 after a brief illness.
Campbell, Mary. Lady Morgan: The Life and Times of Sydney Owenson. London: Pandora, 1988. Print.
Colbert, Benjamin, ed. Women’s Travel Writing in Post-Napoleonic France. Vols 5-6: Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan, France (1817). London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012. Print.
Fitzpatrick, William John. Lady Morgan; Her Career, Literary and Personal, with a Glimpse of Her Friends, and a Word to Her Calumniators. London: Charles J. Skeet, 1860. Print.
Rigg, J. M., and C. A. Creffield. 'Morgan, Sir Thomas Charles [pseud. μ] (c. 1780–1843), philosopher and writer'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sept. 2004. Oxford University Press. Web. 29 May 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/19240
‘Sir T. C. Morgan, M.D.’ [Obit.]. Gentleman’s Mag. (Oct. 1843): 436-37. Print.