Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Lord Shelburne. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Lord Shelburne. - 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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Bentham to Lord Shelburne.
“October 18, 1781.
“Since my arrival at my ‘villa,’ (a subject on which the public prints have been scandalously silent,) I have been honoured with two testimonies of your lordship’s kind attention. In the first I am told that ‘all Bowood desire to be remembered by me:’ as if any part of Bowood could ever cease to be remembered by me, while gratitude, or any quality I could ever value myself on, remained in me. In the latter, I am informed that my ‘Bowood friends are impatient to know how my hand does.’ These reproaches, as they might seem if literally taken, for not writing, may, I think, upon the fairest and least flattering interpretation, be construed into a permission to write. In this light I avail myself of them: for without some especial warrant, my lord, I should hardly have ventured to have given you any trouble with my pen, in addition to the unconscionable bond which particular circumstances, and the kind injunctions on your lordship’s part, which they gave birth to, were the means of my laying on ‘all Bowood’ by my company. I had indeed, as I have still, a pretence for writing in store, which I treasure up accordingly: I mean the commission I was honoured with to Colonel Skene; but it may be some time yet before I may have anything to say to your lordship on that subject. The time of doing it, I take for granted, is not very material, so as it be in the course of three weeks or a month; that is, till your lordship comes to town at the meeting of parliament. I shall, therefore, look upon myself as being at liberty, as things stand at present, to defer going thither myself for a week or ten days, by which time I hope to have put off the guise of an invalid. At present, though I make with some difficulty such use of my hand as your lordship sees, it is still so tender that I am obliged to attend to every motion I make. If, however, any reason should occur to your lordship, for wishing me to see the colonel sooner, any intimation to that effect shall be obeyed the instant I am apprized of it. In the meantime, I have written to Mr Hodgson to inquire where Colonel Skene is to be met with. Having no answer, I suppose he had left London before my letter got there. I am concerned for the poor captain: henceforward, should he ever feel bold enough to mount again, your lordship, in order to act the more completely the part of the good Samaritan, would do well, I think, to ‘set him upon your own beast,’ meaning either Lord Abingdon’s or Mr Miller’s: upon either of these he would be comparatively safe; for, granting that he might stand a chance of stumbling every other step, yet I have too good an opinion of their prudence to suppose that either of them could ever be prevailed upon to rise to a pace sufficient to make a tumble serious.
“As to the fiery courser which stands at present dignified by his name, I would humbly propose that he be new christened; and that some man of skill and spirit—myself, for example—be pitched upon for his godfather; in which case, I would further move, that an act of oblivion be passed at Bowood, forbidding, under the severest penalties, everything that could tend to revive the memory of the Corsham expedition.
“I beg my most respectful compliments to Lady S. and Miss F.; it would be a most flattering circumstance to me, if I could persuade myself that they, or either of them, were actually, as well as virtually, included under ‘all Bowood;’ and that they or either of them—I speak as a lawyer—took any distinct and individual part in the kind remembrances that were sent me. I am particularly anxious to know whether Miss F. has found anybody to give check to since the only man she could depend upon in that way has had the misfortune to quit her service; whether, for example, the gallant colonel, after the rebuff I was witness to, has ever mustered up courage to face her during any of the truces of the cribbage table. If I have entertained anything like a wish on the affirmative side, it must be acknowledged to be an effort of the highest generosity, the colonel being too formidable a rival not to destroy any chance I might otherwise have of procuring an odd corner in her memory. Missing the chess-board, it is possible that, for a week or so, she might be led to bestow a straggling thought upon the once happy man who used to sit on the other side of it.”
1781—1785. Æt. 33—37.
Reminiscences of the Visits to Bowood.—Lord Lansdowne: the Waldegraves: the Bowood Ladies.—Camden and Mansfield: the Pembrokes: Sir James Long: Townsend the Traveller.—Notice of Goldsmith.—Lord Dunmore.—Correspondence with Anderson, Stewart, Villion, Trail, Wilson, Swediaur, Symonds, and Townsend.—Extracts from Commonplace Book.
The attachment of Bentham to Lord Shelburne was very strong. “He raised me,” I have heard him say, “from the bottomless pit of humiliation—he made me feel I was something.” Of Lady Shelburne, (the present Lord Lansdowne’s mother,) Bentham said—“She had the best, highest aristocratical education possible. She was as gentle as a lamb; she talked French, and understood Latin extremely well. She was often with that lady who was a sort of queen among the aristocracy, Gertrude the Duchess of Bedford. Lady S. was quite a personage in those days, a governing personage. So wide was their circle, that cards from no less than nine hundred visiters were left in a season.”
Often did Bentham speak of the friends, the acquaintances, the guests of Bowood. I know not how I can better introduce them than in that sketchy and conversational way in which he was in the habit of conveying his recollections. When any name was mentioned, it served as a sort of text from which he preached; and it was my usage to record his talk, sometimes in shorthand in his presence; at other times, immediately after I had left him.
“Lord Shelburne introduced Blackstone to the king—it was the best thing he could do under the circumstances; his book was then ‘The Truth.’ When the Fragment appeared, Lord Shelburne patronized the Fragment, which seemed better Truth. He was a favourite of the king, who promised to make him a duke. I do not know how he was originally brought into contact with the king, but I think it was through Lord Chatham, and he considered himself as always having a hold on the king’s affections.
“Now I’ll tell you the persons by whose means he was informed of everything that passed. They were the two Lady Waldegraves, the daughters of the Duchess of Gloucester. You know Lord Waldegrave’s Memoirs, how interesting they are. Well! these ladies lived at Court—ladies of honour, or some such thing. In the year 1789, I made a bit of a tour with Lord Lansdowne. We went to Warwick, where we stayed a week: these ladies were there also on a visit. The party were, Lord Lansdowne and myself (men,)—the ladies, Miss V. and Miss F. There was another lady, living with the queen, a Lady Dartry, the wife of a banker at Dublin. When I knew her it was at Bowood with her husband, whose name, I think, was Dawson; he was afterwards raised a peg on the peerage, called Viscount Cremorne; and as Lord Lansdowne was indebted no less than £300,000, a great deal of it came from this banking lord, and from Sir Francis Baring. Well! and you see these Ladies Waldegrave used to write to the Miss V—s, and report what passed at court. Lord Lansdowne did not tell me on the occasion, but he told me, on after occasions, that he knew all that passed, through this channel.
“Blankett* was a retainer of Lord Shelburne, one of the numerous hangerson who were tale-bearers to my lord, and was familiar with the Whigs. He was an ignorant, confident, amusing fellow, an object of great aversion to the Bowood ladies from his coarse manners. But he was employed by Lord Shelburne to repeat to him what passed among the Whigs, and especially to report the conversations at the Admiralty. I was once playing a duet with Lord Shelburne’s upper servant, when this Captain Blankett pushed against me. I lounged at him with my bow, and broke my bow. He was always talking about a vast continent in the Pacific. We had a dispute about the relative size of Sicily and Ireland. He would have it that Sicily was the biggest. But though ill-read and assuming, and addicted to falsehood, rather from temerity than mendacity, he was a necessary instrument to Lord Shelburne; and Jekyll, whose wit obtained him a welcome everywhere, was another instrument. They were to watch in the quarters of the enemy.
“Lord Shelburne used frequently to say, ‘Tell me what is right and proper—tell me what a man of virtue would do in this matter.’ I told him that Balak, the son of Zippoi, wanted Balaam to prophesy, who answered, ‘that which the Lord puts into my mouth will I prophesy;’ and that was the answer I made. He caught hold of the most imperfect scrap of an idea, and filled it up in his own mind—sometimes correctly—sometimes erroneously. His manner was very imposing, very dignified, and he talked his vague generalities in the House of Lords in a very emphatic way, as if something grand were at the bottom, when, in fact, there was nothing at all. He asked me what he could do for me—I told him, ‘nothing;’ and he found this so different to the universal spirit of those about him, as to endear me to him. He was afraid of me, so there was not much intimate communication. I was occupied in writing and reading between breakfast and dinner, while he took walks with the eldest Miss V—(now Mrs B—S—.) I seldom saw him except at dinner, when there was mostly company. Supper I never took, but betook myself to my room. I was of more importance, however, to him, than I could bring myself to believe. I was cowed by my past humiliation.—I felt like an outcast in the world.—I had known a few tolerable people, one at a time, but no extensive acquaintance. That a man should be born in the great place called ‘abroad,’ was a sufficient recommendation.
“Lord Shelburne had a wildness about him, and conceived groundless suspicions about nothing at all. I remember going to ride out with one of his servants, and being accosted by some man, whom I spoke to out of pure civility; and, on mentioning it to Lord Shelburne, he seemed to think I was deserving of suspicion. About the last time I was at his house, I mentioned something about Count Woronzof, and he fancied I had been sent by Woronzof to communicate it. Yet there was about him a good deal of sympathy, of intelligent sympathy: a curious mixture too of what was natural and what was factitious. He had a sort of systematic plan for gaining people. I was quite surprised to find the interest he had shown towards me. The particulars did not immediately occur to my thoughts, nor did I immediately gather up the threads of them till long afterwards. He had many projects for marrying me to ladies of his acquaintance.
“It was a fine thing for my father when Lord Shelburne, being minister, sent for me. Nobody was there but Barré. Lady Shelburne talked in a strange way. When speaking of a palsy which had visited somebody on the continent, she said—‘It had left nothing but an imperceptible haziness on the tongue.’ The green official boxes were brought in, and their contents were subjects of conversation that was delightful to me.
“Lady Shelburne’s dressing-room was next door to her bedroom. To follow her thither was a prodigious privilege. She was extremely reserved; there was nothing in her of active insolence; she was mildness and ice: but of extraordinary altitude. Her sister was more icy even than she. Acquaintance, however, somewhat melted both, and we had our innocent gambols. In earlier life, Lord Shelburne had been rather promiscuous in his attentions to females; he had, to use his own expression, a place full of women: but he was now exclusive in his attention to his lady.
“The ladies at Bowood were all taciturn, reflective, and prudent. The youngest had somewhat more of frankness and less of beauty than the rest. Miss—resembled a statue of Minerva, somewhat larger than life—so we called her Minerva, and she took to the sobriquet very well.
“Among the ladies was the Lady Carr; who was the celebrated beauty of the day. She had been, I believe, a Miss Gunning, and her sister set her cap at the Marquis of Lorn, eldest son of the Duke of Argyle. A song circulated about her, of which the burthen was, ‘This is the Maiden all for-Lorn.’ She wrote novels; but did not get hold of the marquis.*
“There was a Lady Betty Clayton to whom Lord Lansdowne used to go for advice. She was his oracle—his familiar oracle. His oracle for law was Sir John Eardley Wilmot, the ex-Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. At Hastings’ trial, Lord Lansdowne made me give my opinion on some of the evidence. It was unfavourable to his views. He did not much care about Hastings; but knowing the part the king took, and having all the king’s conversations reported to him, he professed to take Hastings’ part. The borough of Calne was held by a tottering hold, and the Treasury once or twice endeavoured to shake him in it.
“The Miss C—s were daughters of an Irish baronet, and were at Bath lodging together. Lord Shelburne mentioned them to me as relatives of his. One of them was afterwards invited to Bowood, and came to Bowood. Lord Shelburne had been trumpeting me up, in order to make her think highly of me. I remember their singing a duet (Alley Croker) in a tragical sort of way. I like cheerful singing. Lord Shelburne asked me my opinion of the singing; and when he saw I was no admirer of the style, he gave up the scheme he had contemplated.”
There was a small menagerie at Bowood, to which Bentham added a white fox, which his brother had sent from Archangel.—“Lord Shelburne was fond of collecting anything that was rather out of the way. The white fox gave occasion to some pleasantries in those days—when we called some of the Bowood ladies ‘The White Foxes.’ ”
To the end of his days Bentham spoke of Bowood and its inhabitants with intense affection. I have often seen tears roll down his cheeks when reverting to some of the loved inhabitants of that mansion. The truth is, even his tenderest affections had been engaged by one of the fair ladies of Bowood. It was only a short time before his death that he sent a playful “love epistle” to that lady—speaking of the gray hairs of age, and the bliss of youth. I was with Bentham when the answer came to this letter—that answer was cold and distant—it contained no reference to the state of former affections; and he was indescribably hurt and disappointed by it. I talked to him, however, of “auld langsyne,” and reminded him of Burns’ song, and his beautiful reference to the times gone by. When I repeated, “We twa ha’e pu’ed the gowans fine,” he was cheered a little; the past recollection was brighter than the present thought—but he was for a long time silent, and greatly moved. At last he said, “Take me forward, I entreat you, to the future—do not let me go back to the past—talk of something—find out something to remove my thoughts from the time of my youth.”
“One day, when calling on Miss —, at Little Holland House, on a Sunday, I found her and Miss — on their way to church, We were joined by S. S—, and when near the church, I said to him, from Horace—
‘Parcus Deorum cultor et infrequens;’
and he answered, ‘I go because it is my trade.’
“I went to Streatham at this time (1783.) Lord Shelburne was then minister. There was the house which belonged to Mr Thrale, which was hired by the minister to retire to. I remember there were pictures of all the wits of the age. Lord Fitzmaurice had a little turn of malignity—a sort of child in intellect. He told me of the amours of the Duchess of —, who was a sort of Messelina. There was, in the Shelburne family, a kind of division into factions—that of the child by the first bed, and the child by the second. Lord Shelburne was a good-looking, on the whole a handsome man, with a coarse skin. He had a little disposition to be rather knock-kneed.
“Lord Fitzmaurice once attempted to speak in the House of Commons: he was put down by Pitt. He married a widow who had a large family of children. He was a poor creature. He spent much money at Southampton on a castle without any ground to it. In 1783, though of man’s stature, he did not dine with the family. He used to put me in a cart, a large child’s cart, and drag me about.”
Yet even Bowood could have its annoyances. On one occasion, Lord Chatham, William Pitt, Lord Camden, and Banks, determined to make Bentham the subject of their joke. It was after dinner, and they were all taking coffee. He said something, upon which one burst into a loud laugh, and was followed by the three others. He asked what it meant; and, instead of answering, they all laughed again; and they repeated this every time he spoke. No doubt, some trick had been practised upon him of which he was not aware. The whole matter was then, and ever after, incomprehensible to him; for the laughing took place in the midst of serious conversation, in which nothing ridiculous was said by himself or others. But Bentham was sorely mortified, and probably exhibited his vexation; for, soon after, he overheard a conversation between Lord Lansdowne and Mr Banks to this effect:—Mr B., “Has he then taken offence?”—“No! he is too good-natured a man for that, and will think nothing of it.” The parties had become conscious of their ill behaviour.
Bentham’s susceptibilities were always most acute; and he was touched to the quick by what he considered a confederation of important personages to practice on these susceptibilities.
—“Lord Camden,” he said, “was a hobbledy-hoy, and had no polish of manners. Pitt was cold; showed little curiosity about, or complacency for other men; and, on ordinary occasions was incapable of rudeness. His manners had little grace or kindness. Once, when riding out with Bentham, who entreated him to slacken his pace, as he (Bentham) was mounted on a dangerous horse; he did so, but with an unchanged countenance, and without dropping a word of interest or kindness. Of Banks, Bentham formed a low estimate.
In the preface to the second edition of “The Fragment,” Bentham has recorded his opinions of Lords Camden and Mansfield. I give these opinions here, in a more elaborate shape, from another MS.:—
“Lord Camden. One incident occurred at Bowood that afforded me more particular insight into his mind than could have been naturally afforded in a mixed and numerous company of both sexes. One day happened to be particularly thin of visiters. When the ladies were retired, nobody was left in the vast dining-room but the ex-Chancellor, the ex-Secretary of State, and the obscure and visionary ex-lawyer. The conversation turned upon Lord Mansfield. To the two noble friends, he was the object of conjunct and undisguised antipathy. How he fared between them may be imagined: nor yet do I suspect them of injustice. Lord Mansfield, much as he has been talked of, has perhaps nowhere been more fully or more impressively described than in Lord Orford’s, say rather Horace Walpole’s, Memoirs. Lord Shelburne was, ever and anon, at some pains in the endeavour to impress upon my mind a conception of the beauty of the mind of his noble friend. One occasion, I remember, on which the result did not decidedly correspond to his expectations. ‘Observe,’ said he, ‘the difference between such a man as Lord Mansfield and such a man as Lord Camden. It was a habit, real or pretended, of Mansfield,’ said Lord Camden to me one day, ‘to be particularly cautious never to hear out of court so much as a syllable from anybody about a cause that was to come before him. He was afraid, or pretended to be afraid, of being influenced by it. How different it is with me! I care not what I hear, nor how much I hear; be it what it may, I never can be influenced by it.’ ” (Here ends the self-eulogium.)
“If, in this particular, Lord Camden was his superior, the beauty of his mind will, it must be admitted, be incontestable.
“When,” continued Lord Camden, “I attended at the great Douglas cause, in which I myself had no more interest than if the subject of it had taken place in the moon; it seemed to me as if, somehow or other, they had both been on the same side, and that a side on which it was matter of astonishment to me that a man who had not an interest in it should be found.
“The course taken by the great judge to produce a conviction of his inexorable impartiality, seemed to be rather too much of a piece with the course sometimes taken by the knight and his princess, to prevent too near an approach, while stretched on the same couch. In those days, a naked sword sufficed; in the present, the sort of security that kept Pyramus and Thisbe separate would be rather more satisfactory. It was, I think, in my hearing, that the noble and learned Lord heard a certain prayer once, in which ‘Lead us not into temptation’ is one clause. The persons, for whose use the prayer was framed, were certainly not, in the eyes of its author, altogether temptation-proof.
“Between the two great rivals in regard to constitutional dispositions and affections—for it would be too much to say of principles—there seems to have been this difference:—The chief of the Whigs was well content with the system in the state in which he found it—force, intimidation, corruption, delusion, depredation, and oppression in their several actually existing proportions—and was determined not to suffer them to be lessened, but wished not they should be augmented, nor would suffer them, if he could help it, to be augmented by any rival hand. The system pursued by his great Tory rival, or rather by his senior, of whom he was become the rival, (for Mansfield was his superior in age and standing, as well as in original rank,) this system, howsoever restrained by his notorious and so much-talked-of mental cowardice, had something of activity in it: his desires were bent, and with them, as much of his endeavours as he could venture to bring into action, to the rendering it, with the greatest velocity possible, as much worse as possible; to the rendering the fate of suitors as completely dependent as possible upon his own caprices, secret interests, and passions; while the pretended representatives of the People should be kept as blind and indifferent as usual; and nothing more could be wanting, or easily conceived as wanting, to the depredation and oppression exercised by the powers of judicature, and the power of arbitrary legislation exercised by the connivance of the legislation on the pretence of judicature.
“In fluency and aptitude of diction, Pratt was, in my eyes, equal to Murray—in argument, perhaps superior; not so in grace and dignity; in which two qualities, neither recollection presents to view, nor is imagination equal to paint, anything superior to Mansfield. As to Camden, whether towards individuals in general there was anything of peevishness of deportment in private life, I had no adequate means of judging. On the bench, there was a sort of petulance, which had something of the appearance of it; when in the exercise of the highest dignity, his language and manner had, every now and then, more of the advocate in it than of the judge; he seemed as if conscious of having a superior, to whom, in imagination, he was addressing himself. Mansfield spoke and looked as if assured of having none. One example I will mention:—He was sitting on the bench in Lincoln’s Inn Hall—he was sitting as if, in a more especial manner, the representative of the king, in his quality of visiter of Christ Church College, Oxford. It was a cause in which my feelings were, in no slight degree, interested, and interested on the side in favour of which his decision was pronounced.
“The still surviving Dean of St Asaph, who had been my contemporary at Westminster School, and stood, in regard to me, soon after our admission, in the relation, styled in the language of Westminster, of that of a shadow to a substance, had been accused of some little irregularity, and been expelled. From the sentence of expulsion, he had made his appeal to the king, in his quality of visiter of the college. Being at the head of the Whigs, Lord Camden was Low Church, and nothing more. Notwithstanding my still remaining admiration for Lord Mansfield, I was Low Church also; and, in politics at least, had, at that time, scarce a conception of anything beyond or better. Shipley, the appellant, was not present. Barrington—one of the canons of Christ Church—one of the constituted authorities by whom the sentence of expulsion had been pronounced—was standing by me, behind the bar and in front of the bench. The censorial lash was visited upon the backs of the reverend dignitaries, and with a smartness which seemed to come from the heart. One expression—I took a note of what was said—one expression I remember: it was that by which, in regard to a certain point—and that, I believe, a principal one—the appellant, it was declared, ‘had been condemned unheard.’ In this there was nothing that offended dignity; but other two expressions there were which, to my eyes, presented the image of the advocate, in place of the judge. These were—“I am bold to affirm;” and “I am free to confess.” No such affected boldness, no such boast of freedom, ever issued from the lips of Mansfield. My prepossessions were, at that time, altogether in favour of Lord Camden. If Lord Mansfield was one of the gods of my idolatry, Lord Camden was another. Every lash which fell upon the Christ-Church dignitaries, delighted me as it fell. Yet the conception now expressed on the subject of Lord Camden’s eloquence is, without any variation, the conception which, at that time, I entertained of it.”
Lord Mansfield was a rank and intolerant Tory. He was in habits of intimacy with Lind, Bentham’s intimate friend; and, through Lind, Bentham learnt his opinion on many topics. He lauded the “Fragment on Government,” not because he understood or admired the philosophy, but because it wounded Blackstone, with whom he had had a quarrel. He praised the work, but he paid little attention to the author; though on one occasion Bentham was employed to draw up the contract for the engraving of Lord Mansfield’s portrait, and the wording of the contract was spoken of by his lordship in the most flattering terms. His conversation had little in it that was intellectual. He was a sensualist, and accustomed to drink his champagne in solitude. On one or two occasions, when he met Bentham at table, he never addressed a word to him, though a word from him would have been most delightful. One of the times when they were in company was at the Mansion House, during the mayoralty of Sir Barlow Trevethick, who married a sister of Sir William Meredith—a privy-councillor, and an earnest friend of the People.
“Of the undisguised contempt,” said Bentham, “entertained by this favourite of fortune, in relation to the great majority of those whose interests constitute the universal interest, and out of whose pockets the matter of his vast wealth had been extracted, one testimony I remember, which is not, to my knowledge, in any printed publication. Upon the occasion of one of the trials of the then celebrated John Wilkes for libels, printed reports of former trials for libels had, by some friend or friends of justice, been sent to the several persons who had been expected to serve as jurymen. The information thus endeavoured to be conveyed to the minds in question, from the most authentic and unquestionable sources, was stigmatized by him as if it had been an attempt at corruption.”*
Of Daines Barrington, Bentham said—“He was a very indifferent judge; a quiet, good sort of a man; not proud but liberal; and vastly superior to Blackstone in his disposition to improvement: more impartial in his judgment of men and things,—less sycophancy, and a higher intellect. He was an English polyglot lawyer. He sits in judgment on kings and others; exhibits their arbitrary tricks, not in the spirit of those who pour out all land upon that king, who, in cutting men’s throats, manages to cut more throats of some other king’s people than of his own people. His book was a great treasure; and when I saw the placid little man in the Strand, I used to look at him with prodigious veneration. He had a particular way of holding his hands before him and twisting his thumbs. He never got higher than to be a Welch judge. He was not, intentionally, a bad judge, though he was often a bad one. He took merit to himself for cancelling a hundred pages of his book. I do not know the cause: the book is everything, apropos of everything. I wrote volumes upon his volume.”
Of Charles Abbott, afterwards Speaker of the House of Commons, Bentham thought highly. “He (Lord Colchester) has more talent,” said he “than all the Tories put together. His finance reports are the first of their kind; their order and method are admirable; yet it is well he is not in office; he would do nothing but mischief. He has no relish for physical science; for nothing but grimgibber. He supported Panopticon because my brother and he were play-fellows.”
At Bowood, all the statesmen he met seemed wanting in the great elements of statesmanship; always engaged in discussion about what was, and seldom or never about what ought to be.
“I have sent,” he said, “to the present Lord Lansdowne, a history of my intercourse with his father and his family. He will have shown it to those who remain of that generation. He was in his nurse’s arms when Miss V—was about twenty or twenty-one. She had the reputation of a great beauty, which I could never discover. The Earl of P—courted, and was refused, because he had the scurvy; and Lord E—, the son of the Duke of G—, was not allowed to marry her by his father, because she was not rich enough. She was a piece of aristocratical ice. The unmarried Miss V—was a good, sociable kind of person, very good tempered. I went with Moore, Secretary to the Society of Arts, to Warwick castle with B— S—. Miss V—blushed; but there had been no flirtation between her and me. Miss E. V—was not more than seven or eight years older than Miss F—.
“Though Lord Lansdowne has neither the wish nor the power to do much good, yet the other lords are as much below him, as he is below what he ought to be. He said to me, the lords were a wall against improvement. Only conceive his father, with a bad education, taking up ‘Judicial Establishment’* with the highest glee. There was much criticism that was amusing to him. He was ‘awestruck,’ he said, with the ‘Essay on Morals and Legislation,’ which he read through.
“I am so much an animal mei generis, that people must bear from me what they would not bear from others. I shall tell Lord Lansdowne that aristocracy is on the wane, and that things would have been borne in his father’s time, which would not be borne now.”
Among the beauties of the day were Lady Pembroke, and her sister Lady Diana Beanclerc (alluded to above, p. 91.) They were daughters of the Duke of Marlborough. Lady Pembroke was somewhat short, but had still a handsome countenance, on which Bentham often looked with delight, charmed with being in the presence of one he had often heard called a goddess. He found that she was on bad terms with her lord; and no wonder: for Lord Pembroke was a roué, and openly unfaithful. There was some management at Bowood, so to invite Lord and Lady Pembroke that they might not meet. Bentham visited Lord Pembroke, who showed him many curiosities: he was a great horse-breeder; and, on exhibiting a fine Arabian steed, took some trouble to explain how the genuine race might be distinguished from the mixed or spurious. The thickness of the neck was the only point that Bentham brought away from the lesson. Lord P.’s house was like a statuary’s shop—crowded with antiquities. He told many anecdotes; among which was one of a serious dispute between two French naturalists, who had long vehemently discussed the existence or non-existence of an animal between a horse and a mule, called a Jumard. One of them, Maupertuis, (the other was Beaugerard,) cried out, on his deathbed, “Laissez moi mourir dans la douce persuasion qu’il n’y a point de Jumard.” Lady Diana Beauclerc was renowned for her limning productions, and was considered a most accomplished person. Her husband, though but a commoner, had ducal and royal blood in his veins. He studied chemistry, and to much purpose, under the instructions of Dr Fordyce, at a time when scarcely anybody but professional men condescended to pay attention to the subject. “One of the visiters at Lord Pembroke’s was Fonthill Beckford, who, as soon as he entered, sat down at the harpsichord, and played delightfully. The Bishop of Derry was another guest. He, with Flood, my old bed-fellow’s brother, had afterwards well-nigh republicanized Ireland; but they were put down by Lord Charlemont. The bishop was a pleasant and a clever man. He did not believe in revealed religion: he was very tolerant in his judgment of others; and, in political opinions, most liberal.
“There were, Sir James Long; Mr Bull, who managed, I think, the borough of Calne; Lord Dartry, who loved the bottle so well, that Lord S. used to complain of his passing it too briskly; but Lord S. owed him no small number of pecuniary favours; there were Mr Banks, Mr Pratt, and Mr Dunning, who shocked me by narrating one of his exploits at Bristol. He had been hanging two poor wretches there, and he talked of it with consummate glee. There was then an odd sort of animal in the House of Lords, whom we sometimes saw,—one Lord Harborough, who was not a bishop, but only a parson!”
Bentham once met at Bowood Edward P., whom I have mentioned among his fellow-students at Oxford. Edward was a very remarkable character. He was of a considerable family in Wiltshire, one of whom had been a Welsh judge. He was two years older than Bentham, and joined him at Oxford, having got a five-guinea prize at Winchester. He was very precocious, but withal a conceited, chattering coxcomb, and remarkably ugly. But his head was full of ideas, as was Bentham’s, and so they became intimate friends. The friendship did not last. Poore came into possession of a large estate—went to Italy—fell into profligate habits—came home, and went to Italy again. He was a barrister on the Western Circuit. His language was pompous and affected. On one occasion, in a case about rubbish, he called the rubbish in his opening, quisquillious matter; and Jekyll, on his cross-examination of the first witness, asked, “Did you ever see any quisquillious matter deposited?” “No, not I indeed,” was the reply. Harris, who had patronised Poore, was compelled to drop him. He fell into all sorts of misfortunes, and became the object of public indignation. Once, while Poore was in his opulent state, and during their greatest intimacy, Bentham had been robbed of all his money, and asked of Poore the loan of a guinea. He refused.—“Strange creature!” was Bentham’s ejaculation when speaking of him.
“Lord L—, the son of the great Lord L—, was a tall, pale-faced lord, whose countenance indicated a bad disposition; but for that unfortunate expression of visage, he might have been deemed handsome.
“Linguet wrote a book in defence of despotism. He was the violent enemy of the democrats, and was the most celebrated orator of his time. He was clapped into the Bastille. He was the remarkable man of his day for the eloquence with which he justified despotism. He used to dress himself out very finely with sword and satin in all its glory. Lord Shelburne introduced him to my acquaintance. He was obliged to expatriate himself. His plaidoyers are extant, and I made use of them.* He speaks of the enormous expenses of the decrees of the judge.
“When Sir Benjamin Hobhouse visited Bowood, in 1781, he was put into my hands, to show him the lions.
“Townsend, the Spanish traveller, was a favourite at Bowood. He married a person who was a Lady Clark: she was the widow of a navy captain; plain enough; but she was a good cook, and Townsend liked good eating. She had something of a jointure too. When I visited them, the table was distinguished for many delicacies and much variety. There were all sorts of meat-powders, such as of hung beef, to spread upon bread and butter. Something was wrong with the lady’s mouth; I know not what; but I know she wore what were called plumpers, or pieces of cork in her mouth. There was always a piece of work to manage the plumpers so that the defects might not appear. I used to be amused with the droll effect of her anxiety about her plumpers. She spent the whole morning at her toilette, plumping and painting, and never appeared till three o’clock in the afternoon.”
At Bowood Bentham was engaged in writing his “Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.” It made progress by no means satisfactory to him. “I had got into a mizmaze,” he said; “I could not see my way clearly,—it was a dark forest,—for the vast field of law was around me with all its labyrinths. Little by little great principles threw their light upon the field, and the path became clear. At this period of my life I was not proof against dogmatism. I was more willing to listen to the man who spoke of what ought to be, than to him who described what was. Experience has given a different value to conversation.”
Bentham sent, in 1782, at the request of Lord Shelburne, to Lord Ashburton, this as yet unpublished work. Lord Shelburne had read the volume in MS., and recommended it to Lord Ashburton; but I find from a memorandum, that the proof-sheets were neither acknowledged nor returned.
The following are farther memoranda, collected from Bentham’s conversation, in relation to this period of his life:—
“I was one day in an eating-house in Clement’s Churchyard, with Clarke; and just as we had done dinner, in came Goldsmith. He and Clarke talked together; I was too young and too insignificant to be talked to. I supped at the Mitre Tavern once, when they exhibited a complete service of plate. We came to hear Johnson’s good things. There was Bickerstaff,—there was Ellis, the last scrivener of the city of London, who died at the age of ninety-four, a pleasant, old fellow,—there was Hoole,—there was White, a clerk of Ellis’,—and there was Goldsmith. But I was angry with Goldsmith for writing the ‘Deserted Village.’ I liked nothing gloomy; besides, it was not true, for there were no such villages. Bickerstaff was obliged to march out of England some time after.
“Lord Dunmore* used to call on me. He was a sort of a liberal; and we used to stimulate one another by talking of the despotism which had been exhibited by the expulsion of the six Methodists at Oxford. He told me his notion was, there had been several revelations,—Jesus’ one, Mahomet’s another, at which I was very much scandalized. We made trifling chemical experiments together, it was just then the airs (gases) were invented.
“He had a tutor of the name of Watkins, who went to Virginia, where he had a living, and where, I believe, he died. For a Church-of-England man, Dunmore was free of prejudices, and we had many common sympathies. Watkins went to the unhealthy parts of Essex, where the curacies are doubly as large as the ordinary healthful curacies. He was there cheated by a Parson Griffinhoof. I took up the pen for him, and made Parson Griffinhoof pay what was due. Parson Griffinhoof (as I was afterwards told) said, ‘I do not know who Mr Bentham is, but he must be some old experienced man.’ ”
In 1782, Bentham took a journey to the north of England. At Buxton he was much struck with the beauty of a Miss Meynell,—a sweet girl, he said. He met her twenty years after her marriage with Sir George Cornwall, at Sir John Coghill’s. She had many daughters, and Bentham was urged by Lord Lansdowne to attach himself to one of them.
Strangely varied were the subjects which occupied Bentham’s thoughts. At this time I find him engaged in writing for some favoured Melpomene “Instructions for the Harpsichord,” some of which are very characteristic.
After remarking that facility of playing depends on the choice of fingers—and its accuracy on the verticality of the fingers over the keys to be struck—that expression is the result of the smartness of the stroke, and of the evenness—and the staccato in their appropriate places—he points how the “timidity inseparable to early practice is the cause of error” in the non-verticality of the fingers.
“As every time of shifting the whole hand to a new position endangers a miscarriage, the beginner covets to execute as many notes together as he can without shifting it. When at last a note comes at such a distance from that preceding it, that shifting can no longer be forborne; one finger is sent out before the rest, like the dove out of the Ark, by way of trial to be followed by the whole hand if it succeeds.
“For a long time before the learner can form a comprehensive idea of the relation of the respective distances between that numerous assemblage of keys that are necessary to the instrument, and for want of having the idea of the distance of each key from that which is to succeed it ready in his mind, he is forced to measure it, as it were, at the time of striking. In consequence, he is obliged to keep his finger over the first key while he is feeling for the second. If he moves his whole hand at once, he knows not how far to carry it.
“As confidence increases by habitual exercitation, the danger is gradually obviated. The practitioner becomes less afraid of trusting his whole hand to move at once. In time, practice of itself will effect a cure. But the cure may be accelerated by its being known on what circumstances it depends. The practitioner, when he sees clearly what these circumstances are, will better understand how to conduct himself so as to favour their operation. He will understand, for example, that his business is to repress his solicitude for success, not to mind at first if he does stumble on a wrong key, but to move his hand freely so as all along to give his fingers the requisite vertical direction.
“Habit—blind habit—will of itself do much: but it will do much more, it will do the same thing in much less time, when enlightened by observation.
“To Melpomene the following hints will be matter rather of curiosity than of use:—
“The momentary and casual evanescent instructions that are given vivâ voce by a master, may be rendered much more efficacious by being registered in writing, and worked up into general standing rules; since the design of them is only to assist other young practitioners in their progress towards that perfection which she has attained already. But if there is a kind of melancholy pleasure, as the poet says,
‘Suave mari,’ &c.,
in seeing others struggling under the difficulties we have ourselves surmounted, we may reap a pleasure of a purer and less exceptionable kind in contemplating the causes of those difficulties, and such expedients by which others may be assisted in removing them. If there is a pleasure in the recollection of vanquished difficulties, that pleasure will, in a generous mind, be improved by a view of such expedients as are calculated to enable others to surmount the like.”
It is amusing and instructive to follow Bentham in his studies of the art of composition. Many of his MSS. are curious evidences of the way in which he exercised himself in order to train his style to precision. One specimen will serve to exhibit what he calls the “Forms Direct and Indirect of Legislation”—as where stealing is forbidden, and the punishment of death attached to it.
“1. Steal not: if thou do, thou shalt be hanged.
“2. Thou shalt not steal: if thou do, thou shalt be hanged.
“3. He that stealeth shall be hanged.
“4. Whoso stealeth shall be hanged.
“5. If any one steal, he shall be hanged.
“6. All persons that steal shall be hanged.
“7. Every person that stealeth shall be hanged.
“8. For him that stealeth, the punishment shall be hanging.
“9. For any one that stealeth, the punishment shall be hanging.
“10. For all persons that steal, the punishment shall be hanging.
“11. For every person that stealeth, the punishment shall be hanging.
“12. Let no one steal: if he do, he shall be hanged.
“13. If thou steal, thou shalt be hanged.
“14. Stealing, or theft, shall be punished by hanging.
“15. For stealing, the punishment shall be hanging.”
When the Treaty of Peace was negotiated in 1783, M. Rayneval assisted the Count Choiseul in the negotiations. The count found rank—the plebeian, brains. Rayneval, though somewhat clever, was both dull and proud. He and the young Viscount de Vergennes, son of the prince, then Prime Minister of France, were handed over by Lord Shelburne to Bentham, for the purpose of being escorted to the sights of London. Bentham was struck with the extraordinary ignorance of the viscount, who, though only from twenty to twenty-three years old, was married, and carried about his wife’s picture in his fob with his watch. His visit lasted some weeks. Lord Shelburne’s eldest son was generally of the company. Sharp’s Iron Works, Boydell’s Print Shop, and Longman’s Musical Instrument Manufactory were, at that time, among the most interesting of the trading establishments of the metropolis. At one of the dinners at Lord Shelburne’s, Gibraltar was the topic, and Rayneval was very desirous it should be given up by the English. There were among the guests those who thought Gibraltar was not worth keeping. One instance of Vergennes’s incredible want of knowledge, was this:—He said to Bentham, “Are there any such people in England as authors?” “Yes, truly,” was the answer; “there are—perhaps not so numerous, nor so good, as at Paris, but the race is not wholly unknown.” “Indeed!” said he, “are there really?” He was a very child in information, yet was he the man sent to make peace between two great nations. His ignorance offended less than Rayneval’s morgue; he covered it over with no veil, however thin. I have heard Bentham mention his fright at having overturned a screen upon Rayneval, who, however, did not resent the misfortune. It was compensated by a breakfast which Bentham gave him in Lincoln’s Inn, and by some lessons in the pronunciation of the English language.
The following Letter of Bentham to Lord Shelburne, refers to a rare book, which, Lord Shelburne says in his answer, he had lent to Mr Pitt, who had not returned it:—
[* ] This gentleman, so frequently mentioned, was John Blankett, captain, R.N., in 1780, and admiral in 1799. He died in 1801.
[* ] Bentham’s recollections of the celebrated Irish beauties, the fortunate sisters Gunning, appears, as with him in other instances of merely fashionable characters, to have been imperfect. The lady to whom he refers was not the Miss Gunning who wrote novels, and was “all for-Lorn” but the sister of Lady Coventry, not Carr, and successively Duchess of Hamilton and Duchess of Argyle;—“a Duchess of two tails,” as from her double titles she was termed by Dr Johnson, when he saw her grace on his Scottish tour.
[* ] After a most pointed invective against the purblind endeavour to poison the source of justice—and “this” (concluded he) “is what they call an appeal to an impartial public; a sort of public which, if ever it judges right, never does so for a right reason!”
[* ] Draught of a Code for the organization of the Judicial Establishment in France, in vol v. of the works.
[* ] They are frequently referred to in the Rationale of Evidence.
[* ] John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore,—a Scottish peerage. The family received a British baronage in 1830.