Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II.: SCHOOL AND COLLEGE, 1754—1763. Æt. 6—15. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER II.: SCHOOL AND COLLEGE, 1754—1763. Æt. 6—15. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 10.
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SCHOOL AND COLLEGE, 1754—1763. Æt. 6—15.
Reminiscences of Westminster School: Dr Markham.—Cotton.—Schoolboys’ Stories, and their Influence on Bentham’s Mind.—Visit to Duke of Leeds.—Acquirements in French.—The Fagging System.—Mitford.—Bentham senior and the Scriveners’ Company.—Progress in Greek and Latin.—Autobiography of Constantia Philips.—Entrance at Oxford.—The Oaths: Love of Truth.—Jefferson his Tutor.—Dr Bentham.—Dr Burton.—Competition for a Presentation.—Hell-fire Club.—Concerts.—Reminiscences of his Habits and Companions at Oxford: Poore: Harris: Horsley.—Ode on the Accession of George III.: Dr Johnson’s Commendation.—Reminiscences and Anecdotes of his Feelings as to Loyalty.—A College Declamation.—College Anecdotes.—Macaroni Verses.—Degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Bentham’s father had thoughts of entering him at Merchant Tailors’ School, and with that view had taught him Lily’s Grammar. The manner in which he was to be educated was frequently discussed, and his father often embarrassed him by attempts to make an exhibition of the boy’s talents. On one occasion, when dining at Dr Markham’s house, there was a conversation as to what “genius” meant. It was vague enough, as such discussions generally are; but Bentham was called upon, by his father and the rest of the company, to tell them his notions of genius. “A pretty question to ask a poor, raw, timid boy!” said Bentham to me, when he told the story; “a boy who knew no more about it than he knew of the inside of a man. I looked foolish and humbled, and said nothing; but Dr Markham was a shallow fellow, and Mr Cox, who was there, was a shallow fellow;—they were satisfied with Latin and Greek.” It was, however, the intimacy existing between his father, Dr Markham, and Mr Cox, that decided Bentham’s going to Westminster School in 1755. Mr Cox was father of the Master in Chancery. He then lived in a large house in Chancery Lane, having an entrance also from Southampton Buildings. There it was that Bentham’s first conference with Dr Markham took place. “It was,” he said, “an awful meeting—with three reverend doctors of divinity at once, in a large room, to whom a trembling lad was introduced, who had been talked of as a prodigy.”*
The discussion about “genius” sadly puzzled Bentham. He was then between six and seven years old. He heard his father give a definition of “genius,” after long fumbling in his mind, and the definition left the subject darker than before. Bentham has more than once told me, that on this, as on many other occasions, his father’s attempts to show him off led to extreme embarrassment and inward distress. He had no fancy to have his “uncommon promise” thus drawn upon; and felt, naturally enough, like a scholar who, on some momentous occasion, when all eyes are fixed upon him, is discovered not to have learned his lesson, and is, in consequence, delivered over to disgrace. The question, “What is genius?” haunted young Bentham for many years. No distinct conception could be attached to it; but, at the age of twenty, Helvetius’ book, De l’Esprit, having fallen into his hands, it occurred to him that Genius was a noun-conjugate, derived from the verb gigno, of which the perfect tense was genui, and the sense became sufficiently indicated. Horace’s line, “Scit genius, natale comes qui temperat astrum,” did not bring any solution of the difficulty. But, to discover that genius meant invention or production, was no small matter; and the discovery acted powerfully on Bentham’s mind. “Have I a genius for anything? What can I produce?” That was the first inquiry he made of himself. Then came another: “What of all earthly pursuits is the most important?” Legislation, was the answer Helvetins gave. “Have I a genius for legislation?” Again and again was the question put to himself. He turned it over in his thoughts: he sought every symptom he could discover in his natural disposition or acquired habits. “And have I indeed a genius for legislation? I gave myself the answer, fearfully and tremblingly—Yes!”
I have noted this circumstance down almost in Bentham’s words, as illustrating the fact, that the pursuits of a life may be influenced by a word dropped carelessly from another person. Many, no doubt, there are who can trace, as I am able to trace, to a single phrase or suggestion, the shifting of the whole mental tendencies. A solitary maxim has sometimes given a different colouring to a long train of thoughts, feelings, and actions.
“A circumstance,” to use Bentham’s words, in 1827, “which had much to do with the formation of my character was this. I had been a short time, being then about eight years old, at Westminster School, boarding with Mrs Morell. The house contained quite as many boarders as it could conveniently hold. It was a large rumbling edifice, such as I have never seen elsewhere. There was a sort of irregular central spot, with processes, in the anatomical sense, issuing from it in various directions. Some of the rooms were occupied singly by boys belonging to aristocratical families; who, of course, paid in proportion. One was the son of the then Duke of Portland, named Edward, who occupied as many as two, if not three, rooms. In the room in which I lodged there were three beds. One of these I shared with different bedfellows; who, in the course of a dozen months, were changed perhaps half as many times. This bed was on the one side of two windows, between which was stationed a bureau, belonging to one of us; and on the other side of the farthest window was another bed, occupied by two boys, who were from two to four years older than I. One of them was named Mitford, and may, for aught I know, be still living (1827.) Not long ago, I remember meeting him in St James’ Park; I on foot, as usual; he on horseback. He was the son of an opulent country gentleman; I believe of Suffolk: but having lived rather too fast, both for pocket and constitution, he was glad to accept an office as one of the four chief clerks of the Treasury; in which capacity I often saw him; and he was of considerable use to me in my Panopticon discussions. His bedfellow was a boy of the name of Cotton; one of the Cottons of Cheshire. Not many years since, I heard of his being alive, in the character of a reverend divine, clothed in one of the rich sinecures to which his lineage gave him so incontestable a title. I had not been long at school, stationed in that same chamber, when, having stood out for the foundation, and obtained admission to it, he became an occasional visiter, sometimes for days together, at the boarding-house, where he had formerly lived, and resumed his former situation of bedfellow to Mitford. While I was lying in bed, I heard from his mouth, stories which excited the liveliest interest in my mind; stories of his own invention; but in which the heroes and heroines were models of kindness and beneficence. They exhibited the quality to which I afterwards gave the name of effective benevolence; and I became enamoured of that virtue. I remember forming solemn resolutions, that if ever I possessed the means, I would be an example of that excellence, which appeared so attractive to me. I lost sight of my unconscious instructor in after life: but in my controversies with government on the Panopticon project, I was thrown into contact with a brother of that Cotton; and Mitford was stationed in the very next seat to him. Thus I found two very important and influential friends; to whom afterwards was added a third, Mr Ramus, whose father had occupied some office about the king’s person—the Billy Ramus, I believe, of ‘Peter Pindar’—he himself one of the heroes of the autobiography of Mrs Baddeley. When I was doomed to continual solicitations at the foot of Mr Long, then Master of the Ceremonies at the Treasury Chambers, I bethought myself one day of drawing up, as a last expedient, a letter on the subject of my petition. I showed it to Mr Ramus, asking him to advise whether I might venture to present such an instrument, and whether the letter I had written would answer the purpose. It was not twenty lines, and the request was simple enough: but I used in the letter a phrase I had met with, ‘for the information of their Lordships.’ He expressed himself ‘enraptured’ with the formula. He mentioned it to other parties at the Treasury, as evidence of transcendent talent and aptitude for business. I never have been so lauded for great things as for this very little thing; and, in truth, it has often been my lot, when my mind has been stretched to accomplish the most important objects on the most important occasions, to have had less encouragement and praise than for some trifling or almost useless performance. I recollect once, when a question was referred to me, which found me in a state of the most alarming ignorance, I contrived, by a mixture of industry and good fortune, to obtain the reputation of extraordinary learning and knowledge: but a great reputation may be reared on a very narrow foundation.”
I give, in Bentham’s words, some more of his Westminster School reminiscences:—“The Mr Cox who has been mentioned, was deemed a sort of a wit. Dr Markham was preceptor to the king; became Bishop of Chester; and afterwards Archbishop of York. He was concerned with Cox, and with a man of the name of Salter, a master of the Charter-house, in the erection of the square in Dean’s Yard, which was intended for the parents of those children who wished to send their sons to Westminster School. But they found no tenants, except one woman, who was an aunt of Gibbon the historian. There was considerable opposition to the building of this square, especially on the part of Prebendary Wilson, who was a sort of popular preacher. He took to ‘Wilkes and Liberty,’ and delivered anti-loyal sermons. My father was a member of the Antiquarian Society; and I, for a pun, was accustomed to call Mr Wilson the Anti-squarian. The anti-squarians were right—the scheme failed; and, when half-a-dozen houses were built, no new funds were forthcoming, and the houses were either pulled down or were left to decay. The consequence was, that most of the loss fell upon Cox, who himself lived in considerable state. Somehow or other, he was in debt to my father, and my father pressed hard upon him, and he complained of my father’s harshness; a harshness caused perhaps by his not receiving the money on application. But my father would say to me that Cox was a generous man, and that it was strange he did not make the accustomed present when he was selected as godfather to my brother Sam. Alas! I was perhaps the cause of my father’s severity; an innocent embezzlement of mine might have given occasion to it. I was probably the source of much suffering to this poor Cox; and very, very wretched was I from the thought. If I was involuntarily the instrument of pain to him, how much of anxiety and distress did he unintentionally inflict upon me! It lasted for years; and the memory of it, with all its circumstances, is still vivid in my mind. It was in the year 1757, when I had been about a year and a half at Westminster School, that the circumstance happened. It was at my brother’s baptism; and Mr Cox dined with my father. I was standing on the other side of the staircase, when he put a piece of paper into my hand with five guineas in it, saying—‘Give this to your mother; she will know what to do with it.’ At Westminster School, I had often heard of the money possessed and spent by the boys. Such money was called ‘a tip;’ and many a tip had they, but never a tip had I. My father had once given me 4s. 6d., of which I had spent a shilling, and another boy extorted the rest from me. It came to my father’s knowledge. ‘It was no use,’ said he, coldly, ‘to give me money.’ He might have safely given me a weekly allowance. I was made very uncomfortable, and thought the five guineas were a ‘tip’ for me. I put them into my pocket, and went on spending them, still frightened at what I was doing. I thought there would never be an end of my five guineas; so, as I was fond of chocolate, I ordered a large mess of it; and, having no room to myself, sought a retired place to enjoy it; and the place I fixed on was a staircase leading to a solitary apartment. I was dreadfully afraid inquiries would be made about my chocolate. I was seen by a head boy, a sort of patron of mine, who asked me ‘if I had got a tip?’ I was exceedingly anxious not to utter a falsehood, and I said, ‘five—five.’ He thought it was five shillings; and I had a momentary satisfaction in having avoided splitting upon that rock. I gave some money to a servant. How was I haunted with the dread of being discovered; for, had my father found me out, I should have died with shame and vexation; it being like the sword of Damocles over me, in the shape of terror and remorse. My mind was full of thoughtful struggles, partly with a sense of guilt, partly a conviction of innocence. The money was clearly meant for me; and what did I see in the school? The utmost prosperity on the part of the boys; the utmost destitution on mine. Then came the dread and distress at being the cause of my father’s resentment towards one who had been so generous to me. Time did not remove the pain; I could not, even after I grew up to manhood, have confessed it to my father, so fond was he of invective; and very long did my disquiet remain unsubdued.”
This incident is a striking illustration of the almost morbid sensibility of Bentham’s temperament. Often have I heard him speak of this event. It was a case in which he could not obtain the acquittal of his conscience; and once he said to me—“The recollection of that money was like ‘the worm that never dieth,’ within me.”
Bentham remembered, with extraordinary accuracy, almost every boy and every event connected with Westminster School. It would be too much to give all the details which I have heard from his lips, but I will give an example or two.
“Westminister School was a wretched place for instruction. I remember a boy of the name of Moysey; he was a great scholar, and famous in the school; every eye was turned upon him; yet he turned out good for nothing. A great reputation at Westminster was quite compatible with worthlessness. There was one dull boy, Hammond, who became a member of the College of Cursitors. There was a son of the Stevens who wrote about Shakespeare; and one Selby, a marvellously stupid chap, who talked of nothing but hounds and horses; he was very like one of the devils calling out for water, in a picture of the Last Judgment. All his conversation was to utter yoix, yoix. I was the least boy in the school but one, who was, I believe, a descendant of the Dearings, of the Civil Wars; and the bigger lads took a pleasure in pitting us one against another.
“There was one boy (Hindman) remarkable for strength: he could hold a heavy kitchen poker at arm’s length for half an hour; he became afterwards a tenant at Browning Hill, but was so thoughtless and extravagant, that he could not pay his rent. He left the farm, and returned to it once as a beggar.
“Our great glory was Dr Markham; he was a tall, portly man, and ‘high he held his head.’ He married a Dutch woman, who brought him a considerable fortune. He had a large quantity of classical knowledge. His business was rather in courting the great than in attending to the school. Any excuse served his purpose for deserting his post. He had a great deal of pomp, especially when he lifted his hand, waved it, and repeated Latin verses. If the boys performed their tasks well, it was well; if ill, it was not the less well. We stood prodigiously in awe of him; indeed, he was an object of adoration. He published a flaming Tory sermon, which was much animadverted on in its day. Though Dr Markham never took cognizance of the lower school, yet my father was in the habit of settling the accounts with him, for the purpose of obtaining what he called his ‘auspices.’*
“The higher school was divided from the lower by a bar, and it was one of our pastimes to get the cook to throw a pancake over it.”
Bentham was entered in the upper second form; beneath him were the under first, the upper first, and the petty. It was then the rule to place the newcomer under another boy, to whose fortunes he was attached; and they were called substance and shadow. Bentham’s substance was a lad of the name of Fakenham, of the family of the Longfords, in Ireland. When he left, Bentham became substance, and had for his shadow, Shipley, who afterwards took orders, and became Dean and Bishop of St Asaph’s.
“Two sons of the Duke of Leeds—namely, the Marquis of Carmarthen, and Lord Francis Osborn, were among the Westminster scholars. The duke came once or twice to see them: the duchess came more frequently. She was the sister of the Duchess of Newcastle, whose husband was that foolish and ignorant duke who was the Minister, and who spent a large fortune in gross eating and drinking, and said he did so for the good of his country, and in the service of his majesty. One day, as the Duchess of Leeds was traversing the play-ground where I was amusing myself with other boys—one little boy amongst many great ones—the duchess called me to her, and said—“Little Bentham! you know who I am.” I had no notion she was a great lady, and answered—“No, madam, no! I have not that honour.” I found that some strange tale had been told of my precocity, and my answer was thought very felicitous; and, not long afterwards, I was invited to go home with her sons to the duke’s. I was full of ambition; accustomed to hear myself puffed and praised; and my father was always dinning into my ears the necessity of pushing myself forward—so he hailed this visit as the making of my fortune. A short time before dinner, I was summoned up stairs to the duke’s apartment, where was a physician, to whom he said:—
“ ‘This is Bentham—a little philosopher.’
“ ‘A philosopher!’ said the doctor; ‘Can you screw your head off and on?’
“ ‘No, sir!’ said I.
“ ‘Oh, then, you are no philosopher.’
“Earl Godolphin, I remember, came in. I believe he had been in office in Queen Anne’s time. He was a thin, spindle-shanked man; very old. At dinner, my attention was excited by a Mr Trimmer, an humble dependant of the family, who sat at the bottom of the table, and wore gold lace like the rest; for everybody wore gold lace then: but narrow was the gold lace worn by Mr Trimmer. At parting, he put a guinea into my hand. I was to tell the story when I went home. I told the story of the guinea; and the guinea was taken from me for my pains. Many times I dined there afterwards, and always got my guinea; and always told the story; and always lost my guinea on getting home. I was not indulged with the spending of any of my guineas, though I was indulged with a sight of them, and with being allowed to count them, which my father thought was a better thing; but I thought that what was mine was mine; and once I stole a guinea. They counted those that were left; the theft was discovered; I was in prodigious disgrace and ready to sink into the earth. My cousin Mulford interceded for me; and, in process of time, my iniquity was forgotten.”
Bentham’s father had a great desire that his son should excel in accomplishments. At seven years old, he was taught to dance, which was a serious punishment to him; for he was so weak that he could not support himself on tiptoes. Attempt upon attempt was made by his father to force the feeble boy to go through the dancing exercise; but the ligaments which join the patella were so weak, that they could scarcely sustain the body. In later years, the ossification of age overgrew the infirmity. I have often heard Bentham say he was the feeblest of feeble boys; but, sensible of his defects, he supplied them by thought and care, and no one was more alert or active than he. His adroitness served for strength: and physical infirmity was counteracted by intellectual activity. He played at marbles with his thumbnail instead of his knuckle; and was a very tolerable fiddler, by the dexterity of his arm, though he wielded the bow with difficulty. It was yet more difficult for him to manage a small gun, with which he was supplied by his father, in order to learn the military exercise. The gun was called little and light; but Bentham found it large and heavy. There was a corporal in the Guards, whose name was Maclean, and who was Bentham’s preceptor.
Bentham’s father found him one day ornamenting capital letters; so he insisted he should learn drawing. He had no taste for it; and his father provided him with a most incompetent master, who knew nothing of the rationale of the art. Practice had enabled him to make tolerable trees; but Bentham found his master’s trees intolerable—not like trees at all; and his master could find no words to explain the laws of perspective, or the powers of light and shade. Bentham told his father that he should not break the commandment, which prohibited the making “the likeness of anything in the heavens above or the earth beneath.” When he sought to learn the laws of optics, his master was wholly unable to explain them. He was a boy inquiring into the reason of everything; and his master could give him no reasons at all. He wrote remarkably well, and was accustomed to hear himself quoted as a specimen of what a boy might do, in “running hand,” “text,” “round text,” and so forth; but his merits in this particular were, he thought, considerably embellished.
Of music he was always fond. It was associated with his early recollections and enjoyments. He played Corelli’s sonatas when he was very young; and, to the end of his days, the music of Handel was delightful to him. Indeed, of harmony he had an exquisite sense. “I hate the coarse unfeeling style of music. In playing I was afraid of a keyed instrument: If I touched a false note by accident, I was forced to play the true one. I composed a solo for the fiddle. I never had patience to study thorough base—its technicalities are so repulsive, like the a’s and y’s in algebra.”
At Westminster School Bentham obtained considerable reputation for Latin and Greek verses. He often prepared them for his aristocratic companions.* But he was much oppressed by the other boys. There was, however, one boy at Westminister, who played the part of protector to Bentham, and of whom Bentham always spoke with much affection. He was of a high family, and talked to Bentham of his descent. Bentham and he had conceived a sort of aversion to each other, which lasted for some time; one day, they mutually confessed their dislike, and each finding the other blameless, they became intimate, and wondered at their former alienation. They used to play at battledore together, and Bentham told me they had once kept up the shuttlecock 2730 times. So accurate was his memory of the most trifling occurrences of his boyhood.
“I recollect the very spot now,” he said to me, not long before he died. “I was then in my dwarfish state; but most of the scenes of my joys and sorrows have been swept away.”
Of other early amusements he thus spoke—
“Fishing is an abominable sport: waste of time associated with cruelty. Yet I fished; I wanted new ideas, and new associations and excitements.
“I was member of a cricket club, of which Historian Mitford was the hero. I was a dwarf, and too weak to enjoy it. When sixteen, I grew a head.”
In youth, Bentham accustomed himself to write in French, and he wrote with greater facility than in English. He was not embarrassed by the choice of words. His want of a thorough acquaintance with the language he felt to be an advantage, as no difficulties presented themselves in the phraseology. He wrote boldly on; while in English, he was stopping to weigh the value of words, and thus soon got embarrassed. The scrupulousness of his phraseology will in future times be one of the great recommendations of his style.
The fagging system was in full operation when Bentham was at Westminster School. He often spoke of its tyranny and cruelty, of its caprices and its injustice, with strongly excited feelings. “It was,” he said, “a horrid despotism.” The little boys of the schools were subjected to all sorts of intolerant treatment; they were sent to great distances whether with messages or not. In different departments of the school, the fagging system was different; in some it was more, in some it was less, oppressive; but oppression was everywhere.
Of the instruction, discipline, and usages of Westminster School, Bentham always spoke with reprobation. They were taught few useful and many useless things. The teachers were distinguished by their aptitude for some one or other trifle which was valueless. One man, the son of a tapster, and thence called Tappy Lloyd, was wholly occupied in teaching prosody; “a miserable invention,” said Bentham, “for consuming time.” Then Archbishop Williams’ Comments on the Catechism was another school-book which they were called on to study, and learn by heart. When there was a jingle of verses, Bentham got on very well, but he dreaded the sight and abhorred the labour of committing to memory what he thought was dull and stupid prose; but he learned it to avoid shame or punishment. “I never,” he one day repeated to me, “felt the touch of the rod at school—never—never. What the pain of being punished was, I never knew. My brothers and sisters were sometimes chastised by my grandmother; but I had no such experience.”
There were, in Westminster School, masters who were perfect sinecurists. They were paid fees for doing nothing; and Bentham’s impression generally was, that the higher their rank, the less their efficiency. Bentham’s father sometimes rewarded his attention to his studies by escorting him to the inns and coffee-houses which he was in the habit of visiting. Many such little episodes in Bentham’s history he was fond of narrating; as, for example:—
“When I was at Westminster, my father took me with him to the Rainbow Coffee-house. There it was that the quality of the Scriveners’ Company mustered. The place was kept by one Jerry Hargreaves, and many were the jokes about him and the other Jerrys. In one corner of the coffee-room sat a Mr Wilcock, a prodigious favourite of mine, for he used to sing, to my ecstatic delight, ‘Four and Twenty Fiddlers all in a Row.’ He was a shrewd Scotsman withal, and in the Court of Assistants of the Scriveners’ Company. He never failed to be present at all feasts and festivals, and especially at the dinner of the 29th July, to which I was sometimes invited. There I saw my father work the miracle of whisking away three bottles of indifferent and watery port, and replacing them by costly hock, which he did not allow to circulate beyond the three persons who, with himself, sat at the end of the table. I heard the fifth man grumble; but the aristocracy cared not for his grumbling. It was one of my father’s master-strokes of generalship. Under the plea of catering for the many at the great dinner, the privileged few, among whom my father was, always managed to get for themselves an initiatory—a little dinner; and the Scriveners’ Company paid for both. I remember when they got to turtle dinners; and the next step was to send home turtle to their wives.”
One of the visits which his father and he paid to White Conduit House in 1758, Bentham thus described:—“It was a delightful visit. There was a circular part, with little boxes around it, where we used to drink tea, eat hot rolls, and sometimes went so far as to order a syllabub fresh from the cow. In those times there was an organ: but the unpaid put down the organ and suppressed the music. There was also a large tea-room, somewhat on the Panopticon plan. This was an eye-sore to the unpaid, and they shut it up. It became afterwards a Methodist meeting-house, and scenes of mourning and terror superseded the scenes of merriment and comfort.”
In 1758, Bentham had made such progress in Greek and Latin, that he was able to write a letter in both languages to Dr Bentham, the Subdean of Christ Church; and I find the following inscription, copied in his father’s handwriting, which probably accompanied a copy of Bossuet’s “Oraisons Funebres.”
Optimæ Spei Puero decenni
Ob eximios ingenij et industriæ fructus
In certamine literario Westmonaster
Cal. Maij 1758 exhibitos
Ædis Xti Oxon. Sub Dec.
L. M. D.
Bentham preferred Greek to Latin; as the Greek expletives always came to his aid when he was writing verses. In attempting English verse, he said he could only find two expletives to help him out of any metrical scrape, and they were O! and Sir!
To a circumstance occurring at this period, I find the following reference among Bentham’s papers:—
“Chance threw into my hand, in the year of our Lord 1759, a precious autobiography. Author, in form Paul Whitehead, poet-laureate of that day—in substance and name the then celebrated courtezan, Teresa Constantia Philips. It was dated—one of the several editions—From the hermitage in which I have been so long hidden.
“Strong as was the first draught, which I had taken from the sweet fountain of Telemachus, still stronger was the second: taken as it was from the fountain, such as it was, which I found playing from the pen of my fair predecessor. In her sad history, for a sad one it was, a period of gallantry was closed by marriage. The husband—a Dutch merchant, Muilman by name—was beset by meddling relations and friends. Broken were the barriers of his conscience. This was before the Marriage Act. Suborned by his learned assistants, a hireling swore to a prior marriage.
“Dingdong went the tocain of the law. Tossed from pillar to post was the fair penitent—from Courts Temporal to Courts Spiritual, by Blackstone called Courts Christian: and be it as it may with Christianity in its original form, in this griping, in this screwing, in this eviscerating form—that Christianity (as the saying is) is part and parcel of the law of the land is but too true. Lengthy of course was the vibration. Particulars of it are not remembered: nor matters it that they should be. What is remembered is—that while reading and musing, the Dæmon of Chicane appeared to me in all his hideousness. What followed? I abjured his empire. I vowed war against him. My vow has been accomplished. With what effect will be acknowledged when I am no more. Gratitude to him who deserved well of mankind is never wanting, when to profit by the fruits of it is impossible.”
Some months before Bentham was entered as a student at Oxford, his father took him there to witness Lord Westmoreland’s installation. I have heard him say that his respect for a place was measured by its distance from London, so that the proposal to visit Oxford was a most welcome one. They had for a companion a clergyman, whose father had a post in the king’s kitchen; and he supplied them with royal gingerbread for the journey, a viaticum which the young traveller then tasted for the first time. Dr Herbert Mayo had recommended that Bentham should be sent to St John’s, as being celebrated for logic; but some other influence decided for Queen’s.
On the 27th June, 1760, Bentham’s father set out with his son to settle him in Oxford; and this is the entry in his Diary:—“June 27-28. Aujourd’hui à midi, set out with my friend, Mr William Brown, and my son Jeremy, from London for Oxford. Lay at Orkney’s Arms, by Maidenhead bridge. Got to Oxford at dinner, après midi. Entered my son a commoner at Queen’s College; and he subscribed the statutes of the University in the apartment of Dr Browne, the Provost of Queen’s, he being the present vice-chancellor;* and, by his recommendation, I placed my son under the care of Mr Jacob Jefferson, as his tutor—paying Mr Jefferson for caution-money, £8; entrance to Butler, &c. 10s.; matriculation, 17s. 6d.; table fees, 10s. The age of my dear son, upon his being admitted of the University this day, is twelve years, three months, and thirteen days. On the 29th, matin à l’eglise of St Mary; après midi dined with the vice-chancellor at his own apartments at Queen’s. 30th, Dined in commons at Queen’s College with Mr Jefferson and the rest of the fellows and gownsmen of the house. Paid for a commoner’s gown for my son, £1:12:6. Paid for a cap and tassel, 7s. Expenses of journey to Oxford, £7:5:3.”
Thus Bentham was a collegian at Oxford when only twelve years and a quarter old—an extraordinary age, or youth rather, for University education; but the precocity of Bentham’s talents was the cause. He was not only very young, but very short—quite a dwarf—so that he was stared at in the streets wherever he went.†
Bentham, on account of his tenderage, was not required to take the oaths; and it relieved his mind from a state of very painful doubt. Even then, the objections he felt against needless swearing were strong; and the germs of his future writings on the subject of useless oaths were present to his thoughts. His scruples of conscience were not always understood by those to whom he confessed them. Once his father led him to a place, such as he had been unused to, where he heard a person preach in an unwonted style:—
“What place is this?” inquired he.
“It is a Dissenting meeting-house,” answered his father.
“What! may we go there?” was the boy’s query.
“We may just put our heads in,” replied his father.
But the answer shocked Bentham. If it was right just to put in the head, it was right, he thought, to put in the whole body; and, if not right to put in the whole body, it was not right just to put in the head. Bentham could not understand such inconsistency, such indifferent logic. In the latest years of his life he once said to me:—
“I never told a lie. I never, in my remembrance, did what I knew to be a dishonest thing.”
The distress of mind which he experienced, when called on to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, he thus forcibly describes:
“Understanding that of such a signature the effect and sole object was the declaring, after reflection, with solemnity and upon record, that the propositions therein contained were, in my opinion, every one of them true; what seemed to me a matter of duty was, to examine them in that view, in order to see whether that were really the case. The examination was unfortunate. In some of them no meaning at all could I find; in others no meaning but one which, in my eyes, was but too plainly irreconcileable either to reason or to scripture. Communicating my distress to some of my fellow-collegiates, I found them sharers in it. Upon inquiry it was found, that among the fellows of the college there was one, to whose office it belonged, among other things, to remove all such scruples. We repaired to him with fear and trembling. His answer was cold; and the substance of it was—that it was not for uninformed youths, such as we, to presume to set up our private judgments against a public one, formed by some of the holiest as well as best and wisest men that ever lived. . . . . I signed: but by the view I found myself forced to take of the whole business, such an impression was made, as will never depart from me but with life.”
Jacob Jefferson, who was appointed to be Bentham’s tutor, was a morose and gloomy personage, sour and repulsive—a sort of Protestant monk. His only anxiety about his pupil was, to prevent his having any amusement. A very harmless battledore and shuttlecock, were one of the enjoyments of Bentham; but Jefferson made it a point to interrupt him, not for the purpose of calling him away to his studies, but solely to stop any pleasurable excitement. He forced him to read “Tully’s Orations,” all of which he knew by heart; or the Greek Testament, which he had mastered years before; so that the tasks were alike an annoyance and humiliation. Jefferson felt pleasure in mortifying others; and Bentham thought that his time was wasted without instruction. Jefferson gave or professed to give, what he called lectures on geography. This was one of his lectures—“Where is Constantinople?” and then he touched the part of the map, where Constantinople is, with a wand. Queen’s College had, at this time, considerable reputation for its logic; and Bentham owned that Jefferson gave him, out of Sanderson’s Logic, some materials for correct reasoning. The English logic taught was Watts’, which Bentham always called “Old woman’s logic.” But his tutor took no trouble to ascertain what his pupils knew or knew not. He cared not whether they advanced or retrograded. The philosophy they learned was from Rowning; and they were amused by such paradoxes as that “water is as solid as a diamond.” Bentham took to the study of mathematics of his own accord, and without the assistance or even the knowledge of his tutor, who was always more ready to reprove than to encourage. He graduated his animadversions thus:—“Fie for shame!” that was for the slightest misdemeanour: then followed—“Fie, fie for shame!” and then, for some higher offence—“Fie, fie, fie for shame!” increasing in solemnity of utterance. The tutor had a morose and melancholy look—very unlike another instructor of Bentham’s, Dr Fothergill, who had a jolly rubicund complexion, though a very bashful man. Fothergill’s conversation was pithless and insipid. In his old age he took to himself a wife; and it was the general wonderment that he had found courage to ask anybody to marry him. As Jefferson took pupils for six guineas, and his rival, Dr Fothergill, required eight, the cheaper was selected by Bentham’s father. It mattered little—the difference was only between Bævius and Mævius. The professors generally spent all their mornings in useless routine, and all their evenings in playing cards.
Having been introduced at Oxford, Bentham returned to Westminster school—but went finally to Oxford, as already mentioned, the following October.
The narrow allowance which Bentham got from his father, did not enable him to live without incurring debt at Oxford; and miserable he was when obliged to confess the fact to his father. Dr Bentham, who was the Regius Professor of Divinity, and Canon of Christ Church, was the channel through whom the communication was made; and a remittance of ten pounds was sent to relieve the student from his embarrassments. Bentham had been a candidate at Westminster School for one of the nine vacancies to the University presentation; and Dr Bentham was one of the reverend examiners. Bentham stood out the last, and the least of the boys, and succeeded in obtaining the right of admission to King’s College; but he was dwarfish, and so weak, that ill-usage was apprehended; and he did not go after all. The successful candidates were clad in a solemn suit of black, and looked like old men. Bentham’s appearance was most singular, and attracted great attention. He was only between nine and ten years old; as diminutive in figure as precocious in intellect; and wearing short breeches, skirted coat, and the rest of the costume of mature age. The procession passed before the dignitaries, who were seated in the hall of the school, with great formality. Among them was Dr Burton, the Jaccus Etonensis, who was supposed to be an admirable Latin scholar, and whose reputation for ancient learning made him an object of special awe. He was scarcely less distinguished as a bon vivant, and for a habit of mixing quidlibet cum quolibet on the same plate. Bentham’s father applied to Dr Bentham for a studentship; but got for an answer that his patronage was engaged. Afterwards, he spontaneously offered one to Bentham; who was so humbled by neglect and annoyance, and so desponding, that, after consulting his morose tutor, Mr Jefferson, he declined the favour which the Doctor proffered.*
A memorandum of his father, at about this period is curious:—“August 18, 1760.—Paid given son Jerry more than received back from him of the guinea I gave him to play a pool at quadrille.”
“Oh, I remember this”—on my calling the memorandum to Bentham’s attention—“This was at some aristocrat’s house. I never got any money but to play at cards; and only when I won money was I allowed to keep it; so that a passion for play was likely to be excited in me. But I was cured at Oxford, where they always forced me to pay when I lost; but I never could get the money when I won: so I gave up the habit.”
Among the persons to whom Bentham was introduced at Oxford, was Oldfield Bowles, a gentleman commoner of Queen’s College; a proud man, who received Bentham somewhat disdainfully. He was the patron of a place where the Hell-Fire Club was held; a club somewhat characteristic of the then state of Oxford. It was a club of Unbelievers, Atheists, and Deists, who professed that, as they had a knowledge of their future destiny, it became them to prepare for it; and they used, it was said, to strip naked, and turn themselves round before a huge fire. Infidelity was certainly very rife at Oxford, and exhibited itself in forms the most offensive. The hypocrisy of the place disgusted Bentham, and he spoke of that University with asperity to the end of his days.
His father forced him to take a part in many matters which were annoying to him. He subscribed for him to the concerts, and required him to attend. “I attended,” he said, “in a most melancholy state. I sat still while the music played: not a living soul had I to speak to. Unhappy while I was there, I was not less unhappy when I came away.” On one occasion his father got into a long and angry dispute with a paper-hanger at Oxford, about papering Bentham’s room; and it ended in his sending paper down from town. This brought upon Bentham the ill-will of the Oxford paper-hanger; who found many ways of saying and doing, and causing others to say and do, unfriendly things. The chamber which was the origin of the misunderstanding, was a very gloomy one. It looked into the churchyard, and was covered with lugubrious hangings. Bentham’s fear of ghosts, and of the visitations of spiritual beings, was strong upon him; and the darkness of the chamber and its neighbourhood added to his alarms. But he was enabled to effect a change with another student, and got two guineas in addition, for his thirdings, on account of his better furniture. Once, at Oxford, going round to see the sights, his father took him into the hall at Christ Church, where the students were all assembled at dinner. He compelled the timid boy to go from the bottom to the top of the hall, to walk round the tables, and to report whether he recognised any school-fellow. Bentham was ready to faint—to sink into the earth with agony. “O, would he but change places with me!” said the poor lad to himself; but he dared not give utterance to any such thoughts. His father thought it excellent strategy to force him into notice; and among other arrangements for that purpose, he sent him a silk gown to wear, while the other students wore gowns of stuff.
A grievous annoyance to Bentham, at Oxford, was the formal dressing of the hair. “Mine,” he said, “was turned up in the shape of a kidney: a quince or a club was against the statutes; a kidney was in accordance with the statutes. I had a fellow-student whose passion it was to dress hair, and he used to employ a part of his mornings in shaping my kidney properly.”
Generally speaking, the tutors and professors at Oxford offered nothing to win the affections of Bentham. Some of them were profligate; and he was shocked with their profligacy: others were morose; and their moroseness alienated him: but the greatest part of them were insipid; and he had no taste for insipidity.
Among the few persons whom he remembered with pleasure, in talking of this period of his life, was a Mr Darling, who was a curate near Andover, and whom he visited with his father. He noticed Bentham with great kindness; and Bentham, in return, applied to him one of Martial’s epigrams; and, instead of the poet’s hero, inserted the good clergyman’s name. For this he got no little praise; and the visit was a succession of enjoyments. He showed to Bentham, among other things, a solar microscope. “That man was rooted deep,” he said, “in everybody’s affections; and everybody lamented that no preferment was given to so excellent a person. At last, preferment came, in the shape of the living of Wargrave, in Berkshire; and everybody felt as happy as if some individual good fortune had been conferred on them.”
If the teachings of the University were not very instructive, so neither were its amusements very interesting. Fishing was one of them. Bentham sometimes went to fish, as a relief from the weary monotony of existence. It brought some new ideas, and new occupations. At that time, a bubble on the water’s surface was a variety, and had a charm; and, to catch a minnow, was an interruption to the dulness of the day. But even the fishing sports partook of the system of neglect with which all education was conducted. Generally a poacher was hired to go with a casting-net. He caught the fish; and the youths went and got it dressed at a neighbouring inn. A few practised fly-fishing, who had skill and strength. Bentham had neither the one nor the other. No living being could be thrown into a situation less congenial than his was. Once or twice he was asked to hunt and to shoot. Others killed partridges—he only killed time. He fired as often as the rest; but the flash of the gunpowder hurt his eyes. Too timid to confess his dislike to sports that were so popular, he generally found or made an excuse for refusing to join them. In his later days, he applied his utilitarian philosophy to the subject, and made the whole animal creation objects of his benevolent suggestions; insisting that their claims to be spared the unnecessary infliction of pain stands upon the same basis as the claims of man himself.
All sorts of oppressions were exercised by the older on the younger students. One day a gentleman commoner asked Bentham to sup with him; and, after a magnificent supper, waylaid him on his return home, in a narrow lane, and seriously cut his eye, walking abruptly away. For such affrays, there was neither interference nor redress.
At Oxford, there was scarcely a companion in whose society Bentham could discover any pleasure. He found the college a stupid one, and the people in it as stupid. Mitford was a gentleman commoner there—Bentham only a commoner. They were members of the same breakfast club. Bentham thought his conversation commonplace, and never expected he would become an author. He was distinguished by his good looks, and his personal strength. “I took,” said he, “to Edward Cranmer, a descendant of Bishop Cranmer, in default of better company. But he was a noodle; and there was another noodle of the name of Archer, who, with his brother, bought a commission in the Guards, which he afterwards quitted, and became a parson. There was one Poore. At fourteen he had a strong black beard. He had obtained one of the gold medals at Winchester, for a copy of verses; and this intoxicated him. He was quite jealous if I spoke to anybody but him; when, all of a sudden, he took to another youth, and discarded me entirely. The boy’s name was Bower, whose elder brother or cousin became distinguished at the Chancery bar. There was a staid, sober fellow, of the name of Burleigh. His father was a parson; and he became a parson in turn. There was Stillingfleet—a proud priest, holding his head aloft in the air. There was a man of the name of Skip, who had some cleverness and some knowledge; and, after taking a bachelor’s degree, he went to Edinburgh—learnt more—returned to Oxford, and became M.A. At Edinburgh he picked up a little unbelief, which he retailed at Oxford on his return. We had Nicholls of Barbadoes, who afterwards got a rural deanery. He was a great dandy, but an ugly little fellow, who had reached man’s estate. He led me, now and then, into his chambers; and there, for the first time, I saw Hume’s History, which was a great treat to me. There was a gentleman commoner, who took to me a little—De Sellis, a Swiss. His chambers were underneath mine. He took in the Annual Register, which had then just appeared. I was a child; he a man; so we had few ideas in common: but the Annual Register delighted me. There was a little party that moved round Dr Smith, who knew something of chemistry, and read lectures on chemistry to a small class. I would have given one of my ears to have attended him: but that was out of the question. This little party were proud of their distinction. One of them was Wynn of Wales; and another, Bishop Bathurst, a distinguished character.
“It was at Poore’s chambers that I met Horseley. Poore was excessively vain. He was a protegé of Harris, the author of Hermes. Harris’ son, the first Earl of Malmesbury, was then at Oxford: much too great a man to speak to me; but Poore had access to him. Poore talked a great deal about music, and was admitted to Harris’ concerts. Horseley was a man of free conversation; he was proud and insolent. Poore was a professed, nay, an ostentatious unbeliever. Horseley’s discourse was such as none but an unbeliever could use. Wilberforce knew his character; he had a perfect abhorrence of Horseley, and I have heard him call him ‘a dirty rascal,’ and ‘a dirty scoundrel.’ Poore used to boast to me, that he had made Franklin a Platonist; and he boasted loudly of the feat. I told him he had turned a wise man away from useful pursuits, to pursuits that were of no use at all. I dare say Franklin heard him very quietly, and was not moved in the least. There were two St Johns there. Goodyear St John, if he had ever learned anything, had forgotten it all. His life was one of gaming, drinking, and strumpeting. He used to take me by the heels and hold me, my head downwards; and I remember losing half-a-guinea in consequence, which fell out of my pocket. He became a parson, as there were livings in the family; so did another drunken fellow of the name of Popham. There was a young wag called Crop, who was also a debauché. I do not know what became of him, but I remember he got a lecture from the Monk Jefferson, who told him he would bring his father’s gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. ‘No! I sha’n’t,’ said he, ‘my father wears a wig.’ There was another sot, Lechmere, who used to drink till his eyes became purple, like Sheridan’s. He came into parliament. They were all either stupid or dissipated. I learnt nothing. I played at tennis once or twice. I took to reading Greek of my own fancy; but there was no encouragement: we just went to the foolish lectures of our tutors, to be taught something of logical jargon.”
When Bentham was thirteen, he wrote this Latin Ode on the death of George II., and the advent of George III.:—
These verses made some noise, as being the composition of so young a person; and were given, by Chamberlain Clarke, to Sir John Hawkins, in order that he might obtain Dr Johnson’s opinion of them. That opinion was sent to Oxford, that Bentham might benefit by his corrections. Bentham himself said of his Ode—“It was a mediocre performance, on a trumpery subject, written by a miserable child. It was, perhaps, as good as those which were accepted.”
I have, however, in Dr Johnson’s handwriting, his observations on the Ode. He suggests some alterations; but concludes by saying—
“When these objections are removed, the copy will, I believe, be received; for it is a very pretty performance of a young man.”
Bentham gave this account of his poetical attempt:—“Thirteen years had not been numbered by me when the second of the Guelphs was gathered to his fathers. Waste of time had been commenced by me at Queen’s College, Oxford. Tears were demanded by the occasion, and tears were actually paid accordingly. Meantime, according to custom, at that source and choice seat of learning, loyalty, and piety, a fasciculus of poetry—appropriate poetry—was called for, at the hands of the ingenious youths, or such of them whose pens were rich enough to be guided by private tutors. My quill, with the others, went to work; though, alas! without learned or reverend hand to guide it. In process of time, by dint of hard labour, out of Ainsworth’s Dictionary and the Gradus ad Parnassum, were manufactured stanzas of Latin Alcaics, beginning Eheu Georgi! certifying and proclaiming the experienced attributes of the dead god and the surely-expected ditto of the living one, with grief in proper form at the beginning, and consolation, in no less proper form, at the end.”
One of Bentham’s jokes, dated Crutched Friars, January 29, 1761, I find in his father’s hand-writing, in English and Latin. It is not amiss for a boy yet under fourteen, though not very complimentary to his friend:—
In amicum meum, Stanyfordum Blanckley, et Simiam ejus:—
“In those days,” said Bentham, “came the coronation. My father was indulgent. I was sent for from College to take a gape at the raree-show. Passing along the Park, as the young sovereign was traversing it likewise, some how or other I caught a glimpse of him. In rushed upon my mind the exclamation in the Æneid—O Deus certè. Nothing but the apprehension of a false concord could have prevented the ecstatic utterance of it. At any rate, to the being an angel of light nothing was wanting in him but wings.”
It was amusing to hear Bentham talk of the early impressions of his life respecting great people. For kings, and especially the kings of England, he had felt unbounded reverence. “Loyalty and virtue,” I have heard him say, “were then synonymous terms.” When a little boy—and, as I have mentioned, he was singularly little—he made a great effort to get a peep at George the Second, and succeeded to his ineffable delight in seeing the top of his wig—the king was then in company with the Duke of Cumberland. He was present at the coronation of George the Third, and remembered that he described the young monarch as “a most beautiful man.” In after life far different sentiments filled his mind. His opinion of George the Third was as low, as mean, as one human being could well have of another. He called him treacherous, selfish, deceitful, tyrannical, vehemently attached to all abuses—violently opposed to all reforms—a hypocrite and a liar.
I do not believe he ever conversed with George the Third. He only saw him once when he (Bentham) was travelling with Lord Lansdowne, and Lord Lansdowne got out of the carriage and went to talk to the king, leaving Bentham alone; but Lord L. did not mention when he returned what had passed between them.
Illustrative of Bentham’s situation at Oxford, is the following, addressed by him (ætat. 13) to his father, on
“Tuesday, 30th June, 1761.
I have sent you a declamation I spoke last Saturday, with the approbation of all my acquaintances, who liked the thing itself very well, but still better my manner of speaking it. Even a bachelor of my acquaintance went so far as to say that he never heard but one speak a declamation better all the time he has been in College; which, indeed, is not much to say, as, perhaps, you imagine, for sure nobody can speak worse than we do here; for, in short, ’tis like repeating just so many lines out of a Propria quæ Maribus. I have disputed, too, in the Hall once, and am going in again to-morrow. There also I came off with honour, having fairly beat off, not only my proper antagonist, but the moderator himself; for he was forced to supply my antagonist with arguments, the invalidity of which I clearly demonstrated. I should have disputed much oftener, but for the holidays or eves, that happen on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and, besides, we went three times into the Hall before we disputed ourselves, that we might see the method. Indeed, I am very sorry it did not come to my turn to dispute every disputation day; for, for my own part, I desire no better sport. I wish you would let me come home very soon, for my clothes are dropping off my back; and if I don’t go home very soon, to get new ones, I must not go down stairs, they are so bad; for as soon as one hole is mended, another breaks out again; and, as almost all the commoners either are gone for the vacation, or will go in a day or two’s time, very little business will be going forward. Pray, give me an answer very soon, that I may know whether I am to wear clothes or go in rags. Pray, give my duty to grandmamma, and love to dear Sammy, and represent the woful condition of one who is, nevertheless, your dutiful and affectionate son,
“I should be glad to know yours and Mr Skinner’s opinion of Higgenbroccius.
“Pray, see if you can make out this thing, which is strictly true here:—Nostra parva ursa non solum est rus, vel, sed etiam oportet ego.
“Pray, excuse my not writing over my declamation.
“From Queen’s College, Oxford.”
The following amusing Oxford story I find in Bentham’s MSS. of this period:—
“Among the curiosities in the museum at Oxford, a certain cicerone, who was entertaining some strangers with the inspection of the contents of that repository, came at last to an old sword, deeply enriched with the precious rust of antiquity.
“ ‘This sword,’ says he—‘ay, let me see—yes, this sword is the very sword that Balaam slew the ass with.’
“ ‘I beg pardon, sir,’ observed one of the company, ‘for interrupting you; but my notion had all along been that the ass had found a friend to intercede for him, and that, as to all but a sound drubbing, poor dapple came off with a whole skin. I am speaking of the common accounts we have of that celebrated transaction; but, perhaps, these valuable archives may have furnished you with some more authentic evidence, to show that the intercession of the ass’s friend was attended with like consequences to those of Don Quixote’s interposition in favour of the young ploughboy that was receiving discipline from his father.’
“ ‘Indeed, sir,’ replied the cicerone. ‘I know no more of the business than every gentleman present knows. It was my mistake. What you say is right: the ass was not slain. This sword, therefore, is the sword he would have slain the ass with, if he could have got one.’ ”*
In 1763, being then about sixteen—a rare honour for so young a lad—Bentham took his degree of Bachelor of Arts. He had, for some time, been in possession of a small exhibition, amounting to about £20 a-year.
It would seem to have been a usage at Oxford, for students to wear borrowed plumes in order to obtain degrees. In Bentham’s hand-writing I find this memorandum:—
“The following three epigrams were made by Jeremy Bentham, Commoner of Queen’s College, Oxon., for a friend of his, and were spoken by his friend in the public schools, for his exercise as a determining bachelor, on Ash-Wednesday, in Lent Term, 1763:—
When Bentham came to town from Oxford, his father insisted upon his attention to the dancing-master; and, though he hinted at his repugnance, it was in vain.
“I never can make out this figure of eight,” he said, “which the dancing-master will have me to learn. If the other dancers will stand still—if they will consent to be statues for a little while—I will make the figure of eight around or about them; but, as they are always moving, I know not where to find them.”
With all his love and admiration of his son, it is strange how Mr Bentham should have so completely failed in obtaining his confidence. Never were too natures more unlike. The consequence was that Bentham never opened his heart to his father. He could not even communicate to him his sorrows. Bentham was more than once penniless. All his money was stolen from him at Oxford by the person who made his bed. He never breathed a word of the calamity. I find the latest letters to his father commence with the words—“Honoured Sir.”
[* ] What follows is a specimen of Bentham’s Latinity, written when he was eight years old:—
“Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit.”
Septembris, Die 17° Anno Dt. 1756.
[* ] To Dr Markham, Bentham addressed the following ode. He was then somewhat more than ten years old:—
Reverendo doctissimo dilectissimoque Viro,
GULIELMO MARKHAM, D.D. Scholæ Westmonasteriensis Archididascalo.
Unus ex Alumnis
12° die Septris 1759.
[* ] These are specimens which I find in his handwriting:—
Jeremiæ Benthami Scholæ
Westmonester alumni, fact. 31° Augti. 1757, apud Baghurst, in Comitatu Southtoñ, anno ætatis suæ decimo.
pii vates, et phæbo digna locuti.
Sta pes, sta, peto, pes, peto sta pes, sta, peto, mî pes.
Ἱστμθι, ὦ μου ποῦς, συ μὲν εὕχομαι, ἴσταθι, μου πως.
20th January, 1759.
VELIS ID QUOD POSSIS.
[* ] The certificate of Bentham’s admission I find in these words:—“Oxoniæ, Junii 28vo, Anno Domini 1760. Quo die comperuit coram me Jeremias Bentham è Coll. Reg. Arm. fil. et subscripsit Articulis Fidei et Religiouis.
“Jo. Browne, Vice-Can.”
[† ] It is not uninteresting to know what were the books which composed Bentham’s library at Oxford, and I therefore copy the following from his father’s hand-writing:—
A catalogue of the books sent with Jeremy Bentham to Queen’s College in Oxford, upon his going to settle there, on Friday, the 17th October, 1760.
Potter’s Greek Antiquities, 2 vols.
Ovidii Opera Omnia. Elzevir.
Latin Version of the Psalms. By Johnston.
Orations of Thucydides, Plato, and Lysias. By Dr Bentham.
Euclid’s Elements. By Stone.
Elements of Arithmetic. By Hardy.
Statutes of the University of Oxford.
Munutius Felix. By Davis.
Pliny. By Elzevir.
Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Cæsar’s Commentaries. Delphin.
Æschines’ and Demosthenes’, Orations (Oxford edition.)
Musæ Anglicanæ, 3 vols.
Manuscript Diary of ditto.
Petit’s Hebrew Guide.
Essay upon General History. By Voltaire. 7 vols.
Moliere’s Works. 5 vols.
Gordon’s Geographical Grammar.
Greek Common Prayer and Testament, (together.)
English Common Prayer-Book.
Labbe de Pronunciatione.
Demosthenis Orationes. Greek and Latin.
Seeds of Greek Pronunciation.
Lucian’s Dialogues. Greek and Latin.
— Sonatos, 4 vols.
Hasse’s Concertos, 3 vols.
A Slate and Pencil.
A Double Sliding Rule.
A Case of Mathematical Instruments; also,
Homer’s Iliad, in Greek only.
Diary of ditto.
A Greek Lexicon. Quarto.
[* ] Latin verses written by Bentham at this period:—
[* ] The 1st and 4th of the above stanzas are inscribed on his picture painted by Mr Fry, and afterwards presented to Lord Shelburne.
[* ] I insert two specimens of Bentham’s Latinity at this period, the one in verse, the other in prose:—
NUNQUAM MINUS SOLUS, QUAM CUM SOLUS.
Est genus hominum, qui neminem beatum esse existimant qui non in populorum conspectu et frequentiâ versantur, ant in rebus gerendis, et negotiis hinc inde prementibus sunt implicati. His in more est, solitudinem tanquam miserrimam vitæ sortem in quâ nihil læti sit, nihil jucundi, nihil nisi quod horrorem etiam cogitantibus incutiat, damnare, totisque viribus refugere. Liceat mihi horum hominum opinionem minuere, et vitæ solitariæ amœnitates rudibus et inexpertis paulisper explicare: adducere eos aggrediamur ut aliquando esse soli velint et experiri discant quot quantique solitudinis fructus. Enimvero cum a multitudine, cum a strepitu, cum a negotio, nos sevooemus, quid aliud agimus nisi quod animum nugis jam diu vacantem, vel curarum mole fatiscentem, ad seipsum advocamus, secum colloqui docemus, et secum meditari assuescimus? In turbâ plus oculis quam mente laboratur, in conclavi vero et in seceasu, cogitando, inquirendo et consulendo, plurima eaque præclarissima consequimur. Neque enim, domestici parietes qui oculorum aciem definiunt, iisdem terminis etiam animum includunt, quin, nisi iners sit atque ignavus, res infinitas, easque longè dissitas, acriter indagare, acutè penetrare, et liberrimè valeat, percurrere; talis enim divinæ hujus particulæ vis est, ut perpetuâ quâdam agitatione semper emicet, et cum rerum harum minutarum impedimentis libera sit et soluta, res altissimas, ortûs sui scilicet non immemor tanquam ad se maximè pertinentes, summo nisu contendat. Hæc autem animi excellentia nusquam magis cernitur quam in conclavi, hoc est enim quasi privatum quoddam theatrum, ubi res universæ animo libere sese spectandas exhibent: hic nos negotiis abstracti, longiori et clariori prospectu intuemur. Hic per continuam rerum novitatem cogitationumque varietatem semper perducimur. Ecquis igitur nisi rationis expers, amabilem hunc recessum tanquam solitarium, damnat? Ecquis adeo multitudini deditus, ut non vel ipsum forum majoris accusaret solitudinis quam conclave? nam inter fori prædones vir bonus sæpe solus est, in conclavi vero solus esse non potest, dum secum versatur. Non autem Musæum meum ita omni ornatu denudari vellem ut nil mihi præter mentem relinqueretur; vellem mihi a dextra et a lævâ adesse bonam librorum copiam. Ii enim domum literatam pulcherrimè adornant. Ii solitudinis amatori optimos sese socios exhibent. In picturis cæterâque ædium supellectili inanem tantum superficiem admiramur; in libris vero ipsos auctores (ut ita dicam) nobiscum colloquentes audimus; audimus inter comites,—nudo tantum sermone delectamur, in libris autem ipsos Scriptorum animos intuemur. Quid vero dulcius, quid utilius, quam veteres istos præclaros, Homerum, Virgilium, Ciceronem tecum totos dies noctesque versari, ubi velis præsto adesse, ubi nolis, recedere? O veram sinceramque Societatem! O dulce honesteque otium omni negotio longè fructuosius! Non vobis, Epicurei, conceditur hujusce solitudinis fructus percipere, qui recessum ideo quæritis ut ventri et somno securius indulgeatis. Non vobis, Stoici, tranquillitate hac uti licet, qui ideo ab hominum frequentiâ reciditis, ut majori cum impunitate omnes præter vos ipsos intemperantiæ damnetis neque denuo homines melancholiæ aut iracundiæ dediti sese solitudine credant, qui quanto reconditiores sunt tanto funestiora sibi aut aliis machinantur. Sed ex juvenibus, ii soli bene secum versari norunt, quibus benignissima Academia optimam ingenii sui excolendi opportunitatem suppeditat: Ex senioribus vero, ii soli otium et recessum cum laude quærunt, qui Ciceronis ad instar maximis in patriæ commodum officiis publice perfuncti; in conclave redeunt majoribus perfuncti, in conclavi majoribus perfuncturi.
Bentham habita in Aulâ Coll. Reg. Oxon. Julii 1762.