Victoria, Lady Welby
|Born||27 April 1837|
|Died||29 March 1912(aged 74)|
|Main interests||Language, logic|
|Notable ideas||Significs as meaning|
Welby was born to the Hon. Charles Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie and Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley, and christened Victoria Alexandrina Maria Louisa Stuart-Wortley. Following the death of her father in 1844 she travelled widely with her mother, events she recorded in her diary. Following the death of her mother in Syria in 1855 she returned to England and stayed with her grandfather the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. In 1858 she moved to Frogmore to live with the Duchess of Kent, who had been a friend of her mother. On the death of the Duchess she was appointed a Maid of Honour to her godmother, Queen Victoria.
In 1863 she married Sir William Earle Welby-Gregory, 4th baronet (1829–1898), who was active in British politics, and by whom she had three children. (Their daughter Nina married Edwardian rake and publisher Harry Cust.) She and Sir William lived together at Denton Manor in Lincolnshire.
Once her children were out of the house, Welby, who had had little formal education, began a fairly intense self-education that included mixing, corresponding, and conversing with some of the leading British thinkers of her day, some of whom she invited to the Manor. It was not unusual for Victorian Englishmen of means to become thinkers and writers (e.g., Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Lord Acton, J.S. Mill, Babbage). Welby is one of the few women of her place and time to do the same.
Her first publications were on Christian theology, especially the interpretation of the Christian scriptures, and this was the subject of her first book, Links and Clues (1881). Her early publications were little read and noticed, and her wondering why this was so led her to language, rhetoric, persuasion, and philosophy. By the late 19th century, she was publishing articles in the leading English language academic journals of the day, Mind and The Monist. She published her first philosophical book, What Is Meaning? Studies in the Development of Significance in 1903, following it with Significs and Language: The Articulate Form of Our Expressive and Interpretive Resources in 1911. In the same year she contributed to the Encyclopædia Britannica a long article titled "Significs", the name she gave to her theory of meaning. Her writings on the reality of time culminated in her book Time As Derivative (1907).
What Is Meaning? was sympathetically reviewed for The Nation by the founder of American pragmatism, Charles Sanders Peirce, and this led to an eight year correspondence between them, one that has been published three times, most recently as Hardwick (2001). Welby and Peirce were both academic outsiders, and their approaches to language and meaning had some things in common. But most of the correspondence consists of Peirce elaborating his related theory of semiotics. Welby's replies did not conceal that she found Peirce hard to follow, but by circulating copies of some of Peirce's letters to her, she did much to introduce Peirce to British thinkers. Contemporary Peircians have since returned the favour by being sympathetic students of Welby's ideas.
C. K. Ogden began corresponding with Welby in 1910, and his subsequent writings were very much influenced by her theories, although he tried to minimise this fact in his best-known book, The Meaning of Meaning (1923). She also corresponded with William James, F. C. S. Schiller, the Italian pragmatists Giovanni Vailati and Mario Calderoni, Bertrand Russell, and J. Cook Wilson.
"...every one of us is in one sense a born explorer: our only choice is what world we will explore, our only doubt whether our exploration will be worth the trouble. [...] And the idlest of us wonders: the stupidest of us stares: the most ignorant of us feels curiosity: while the thief actively explores his neighbour's pocket or breaks into the "world" of his neighbour's house and plate-closet". ("Sense, meaning, and interpretation (I)" Mind N.S. V; 1898)
Welby's concern with the problem of meaning included (perhaps especially) the everyday use of language, and she coined the word significs for her approach (replacing her first choice of "sensifics"). She preferred "significs" to semiotics and semantics, because the latter were theory-laden, and because "significs" pointed to her specific area of interest, which other approaches to language had tended to ignore.
She distinguished between different kinds of sense, and developed the various relations between them and ethical, aesthetic, pragmatic, and social values. She posited three main kinds of sense: sense, meaning, and significance. In turn, these corresponded to three levels of consciousness, which she called "planetary," "solar," and "cosmic," and explained in terms of a sort of Darwinian theory of evolution. The triadic structure of her thinking was a feature she shared with Peirce.
Welby's theories on signification in general were one of a number of approaches to the theory of language that emerged in the late 19th century and anticipated contemporary semantics, semiotics, and semiology. Welby had a direct effect on the Significs group, most of whose members were Dutch, including Gerrit Mannoury and Frederik van Eeden. Hence she indirectly influenced L. E. J. Brouwer, the founder of intuitionistic logic.
Bibliography & references
|Library resources about
Victoria, Lady Welby
|By Victoria, Lady Welby|
- 1893, "Meaning and metaphor," Monist 3: 510–525. Reprinted in Welby (1985).
- 1896, "Sense, meaning, and interpretation I" Mind 5: 24–37. Reprinted in Welby (1985). Extract in M. Warnock, ed., 1996. Women Philosophers. J.M. Dent. ISBN 0-460-87721-6.
- 1896, "Sense, meaning, and interpretation II" Mind 5: 186–202. Reprinted in Welby (1985).
- 1901, "Notes on the ‘Welby Prize Essay," Mind 10: 188–209.
- 1931. Other Dimensions: A Selection from the Later Correspondence of Victoria, Lady Welby. Mrs Henry Cust, ed. Jonathan Cape.
- 1983 (1903). What Is Meaning? Studies in the Development of Significance. John Benjamins.
- 1985 (1911). Significs and Language: The Articulate Form of Our Expressive and Interpretive Resources. Schmitz, H. Walter, ed., John Benjamins.
- 2001 (1977). Semiotic and Significs: Correspondence between Charles S. Peirce and Victoria Lady Welby. Edited by Charles S. Hardwick, with the assistance of James Cook. Texas Tech University Press.
- Dale, Russell, 1996. The Theory of Meaning., Chapter 2, "The Theory of Meaning in the Twentieth Century".
- Deledalle, Gerard, 1990. "Victoria Lady Welby and Charles Sanders Peirce: meaning and signification" (in A. Eschbach [ed.] Essays on Significs John Benjamins, 1990)
- Joseph, John E. 2012. "Meaning in the margins: Victoria Lady Welby and significs". Times Literary Supplement no. 5686, 23 March 2012, pp. 14–15.
- King, Peter J., 2004. One Hundred Philosophers. Apple Press,. ISBN 1-84092-462-4
- Myers, William Andrew, 1995. "Victoria, Lady Welby (1837–1912)" in M.E. Waithe, ed., A History of Women Philosophers vol. 4, Kluwer.
- Petrilli, Susan, 1999, "The biological basis of Victoria Welby's significs," Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies 127: nn-nn.
- Schmitz, H. Walter, 1985, "Victoria Lady Welby's significs: the origin of the signific movement." In Welby (1985).
- Schmitz, H. Walter, ed., 1990. Essays on Significs: Papers Presented on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Victoria Lady Welby (1837–1912). John Benjamins.
- Toennies, Ferdinand, 1901, "Note in response to Welby," Mind 10: 204–209.
- She never adopted the additional name of Gregory and was always known as Lady Welby
- She visited them in Italy in 1903: H. S. Thayer, 1968, Meaning and Action: A Critical History of Pragmatism. P.333.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Philosophers: The Hon. Victoria, Lady Welby-Gregory — short introduction
- Nubiola, Jaime, 1996, "Scholarship on the relations between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Charles S. Peirce" in I. Angelelli & M. Cerezo, eds, Proceedings of the III Symposium on History of Logic. Gruyter. See the section titled "Peirce's reception in British philosophy: Lady Welby, Ogden and Russell."
- Lady Welby Library — a collection in Senate House Library, University of London.
- Lady Victoria Aleandrina Maria Louisa Welby fonds an archive of over 5 metres Lady Welby's correspondence, research and reference notes, publications, poetry, newspaper clippings, and printed material, held at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, York University, Toronto, Canada.