J.J. Thomson (1856-1940), Recollections and Reflections
(London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1936), p. 49:
Though [George] Stokes was such an accomplished lecturer, his power of keeping silent was equally remarkable. He, like Newton, represented Cambridge University in Parliament: he was member for four years and attended the House with great regularity, but never spoke. It is reported of Newton, who was member for two years, that the only time he addressed the House was to move that a window be opened, and Sir Joseph Larmor, another Lucasian Professor, was member for about eleven years and only spoke once, so that the Lucasian Professors cannot be accused of having wasted the time of the House. Stokes certainly had not much small-talk. A story is current in Cambridge that a visitor, who did not know that it was Lady Stokes she was speaking to, said, "There are two men in Cambridge whom it is positively painful to sit next at dinner: they never say a word". Lady Stokes said, "Yes, George is one, but who is the other?" He was, however, quite ready to talk on subjects on which he felt he had something to say. I once saw an amusing instance of this. He was sitting at lunch next a very charming American lady who started one subject after another without getting any reply but yes or no. At last in desperation, she asked him which did he like best, arithmetic or algebra? The change was marvellous; he became quite fluent and talked freely for the rest of the lunch.