I have found it necessary, in the course of this volume, to speak of the departed; for the misgovernment of the Royal Society has not been wholly the result of even the present race. It is said, and I think with justice, in the life of Young inserted amongst Dr. Johnson’s, that the famous maxim, “De mortuis nil nisi bonum” “appears to savour more of female weakness than of manly reason.” The foibles and the follies of those who are gone, may, without injury to society, repose in oblivion. But, whoever would claim the admiration of mankind for their good actions, must prove his impartiality by fearlessly condemning their evil deeds. Adopt the maxim, and praise to the dead becomes worthless, from its universality; and history, a greater fable than it has been hitherto deemed.Charles Babbage, Reflections on the Decline of Science in England: And on Some of Its Causes (1830), xiii.
Babbage wrote this at a time when British science was transitioning from science as a gentlemens’ pursuit to a professionalisation. The Royal Society in particular was seen at this stage as moribund by many scientists.