Front Page Titles (by Subject) Francis Villion to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Francis Villion to Bentham. - 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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Francis Villion to Bentham.
“Lothbury, No. 26,
“My Dear Sir,—
An engagement for yesterday brought me to town very late on Saturday evening. I had been pressed in an obliging manner to stay all the next morning, but I congratulated myself for having luckily withstood the civil importunities of my friends, as I anticipated by some hours the inexpressible satisfaction and comfort which your letter of the 14th inst. gave me. So kind, so friendly, so moving, so artless a letter, dictated by the heart,—coming from you to me,—makes more than ample amends for full ten years’ trouble and uneasiness of mind. I am sure in the course of a very long life, I should never forget a single word of it.
“I look upon it as a pledge that promises to me the continuation of what will soften the unavoidable misfortunes of this world,—will increase greatly the enjoyments it may afford; and, what I value more, will add dignity to me, not only in my own estimation, but in that of others.
“Had it been a more early hour,—had I not been afraid to disturb you,—had I been sure you could give me a bed,—I should have flyed directly to your chambers. I called there yesterday: to my very great disappointment I did not find you at home; and I left a note which I scribbled at the coffee-house in a hurry, and under the first impression of my chagrin at seeing my hopes frustrated.
“It is very unlucky for me that I cannot absolutely see you, nor to-day, nor to-morrow. If you be disengaged next Wednesday evening, I shall call upon you. Should not that day suit you, choose any other you please, and be assured that I shall make you a sacrifice of any engagement of mine, let it be of duty, business, or pleasure; for I can have none greater than that of assuring you, in person, how affectionately and truly I am, my dear Bentham,
“Your humble Servant, And sincere Friend,
George Wilson and James Trail were, of all Bentham’s acquaintance at that time, those with whom he was most intimate. It was to Wilson that most of the Bowood letters were addressed.
“George Wilson,” said he, “was my bosom friend. We had both of us been friendless. He had lived at Aberdeen, where his father had been collector of the customs. He had been at Edinburgh university. He was related by marriage to Dr Fordyce. I made acquaintance, before I was of age, with Dr Fordyce, in consequence of his lectures on chemistry; and I once gave him and (Chamberlain) Clarke a dinner in Lincoln’s Inn. Dr F. was, I think, at that time, the only chemical lecturer, and was very poorly attended. Wilson was first cousin to a Lord Forbes; and Fordyce invited Wilson to dinner to meet me. He had no legal acquaintance, except Sir Archibald Macdonald, who was an aristocrat and a puppy, and took no notice of Wilson; so that Wilson really knew nobody but Dr Fordyce, who was a queer creature, without conversation. Wilson and I there met. He was not a forward—no, he was rather a reserved, even bashful man; but he was six feet one inch in height. Not long after it happened, I was not so poor but I could go and live apart from my father; so I went to a little eating or chop-house, called the Three Tuns, where I used to dine for 13d., including 1d. to the waiter. While sitting at one table, he was at another. I recognised him, and asked him to take tea with me. I found he was fond of chess. I was passionately fond of it. This was long after our meeting at Fordyce’s, who was in the habit of bringing people together, giving no one any account of the others, so that they were constantly in awkward plights. He thus introduced me to Solander’s Club, where nobody knew me, and I knew nobody, and had nothing to say to anybody, nor anybody to me. At this time I was writing the Fragment. I showed him (Wilson) parts of it. He seemed struck with them, but uttered no praise, for he was afraid of being thought a flatterer. There was a constant correspondence between him and his sister, who was living with her father at Aberdeen. He used to show me her letters, by which I perceived the impression which the Fragment had made on his mind. Our intimacy strengthened, and at last we lived together constantly. While living in that habit of intimacy, came Lord Glenbervie and Silvester Douglas, who had been bear-leader to the Douglas whose legitimacy had been questioned. That Douglas a ward of Lord Mansfield; but he had, notwithstanding, so lived as to outrun the constable. The great Douglas had his opera-girl, and the little Douglas had his; so he was recalled in disgrace. Douglas, who was a pert, supercilious fellow, but had talents,—very considerable talents,—came and entered himself at Lincoln’s Inn. He and Wilson knew one another, and he used frequently to come and call Wilson to the other side of the room, and leave me in solitude, which annoyed me not a little. Douglas had seen much of the grand monde; Wilson nothing; so he would not lose any opportunity of hearing about it. Wilson was a most determined Whig, and a slave to the fashion. Very plain, but not the less anxious to be in the fashion. The aristocratical section of the Public-Opinion Tribunal had prodigious influence on him. In his study of the laws of property, he got hold of some of my phraseology, which was of great use to him. He admired Fearne* prodigiously—I held him in contempt. For many successive years we used to go, in the long vacation, to the country together. How I found means I know not, but that I had two or three trifling legacies. My father, on his second marriage, made a little settlement on me of a farm in Essex, worth £60, on which there was an excessive land-tax, reducing it to less than £50. Then there was a malt-house at Barking, which, when it was tenanted, gave £40; but it was not always tenanted: and for these allowances, I was to appear as a gentleman, with lace and embroidery on occasion. I had four guineas to pay my laundress, four guineas to my barber, and two to my shoeblack.
“Wilson became a silk-gownsman, and was at the head of the Norfolk circuit. He was cold in his manners, and rather touchy in his temper. I never but once had anything like a quarrel with him, and then we were meeting at Dr Fordyce’s, and he said he wanted to consult me on some point of law. I laughed at him. He was a lawyer of eminence—I had quitted the law. He took it in dedgeon, even after I had explained it, though the explanation was simple enough. He was out of humour; but ultimately I quieted him. I had been sadly plagued with these chambers of mine. I had divers tenants, more bad than good,—insolvent and solvent. Among the insolvent was F—, from whom I could never get rent, nor drive him from the chambers. They told me I had no redress. I could not eject him but through the benchers;—but the benchers denied me relief. Wilson was a bencher, but he refused me all assistance. This shocked me so much that I could not afterwards see him with pleasure. I thought the rascality was characteristic. The lawyer! the Scotch friend! They gave, as a reason, that F—was not a member of the society. I knew nothing of the existence of such a law; but I knew that if it existed, it was frequently violated, for there were many holders of chambers who were not members of the Inn.”
On another occasion he said of Wilson:—“He was a follower of mine; but he always put himself at the door of some aristocrat or other. He had a great deal of mauvaise honte, and fear of ridicule. His ideas were clarified by my phraseology. I was blind in 1781 for two or three months, and he was reading Coke upon Lyttleton. I wanted ideas, and asked him to read aloud, for their ideas were better than none. I made many observations, showing him that their ideas were to be amended: he did not want them to be amended, but only to learn how he could make money out of them. He once saved my life. We went to bathe at Leyton. I could not swim—not a single stroke. The tide was rapid. I walked on up to my neck. I thought of turning back. I turned round, but could not resist the tide. I floundered about, my head sometimes above, sometimes under the water. He was scampering about in the meadows. I cried out. He saw me, now up, now down: he plunged in and saved me. I was then thinking of my death, and the effect my death would have on others. George Wilson told me to be perfectly passive. I felt that I was a-going, a-going; but he rescued me, and dragged me to the shore.”
Bentham’s other friend, James Trail, had held a situation in one of the colonies; and in the course of his life had been deputy-usher at court, dramatic sublicenser, tutor to the Duke of Sussex, barrister, and M.P. for Oxford, which he owed to the Earl of Hertford, to whom Bentham represented him and his family as retainers. To his connexion with the Hertfords, Bentham attributed the severity with which he always judged the Shelburnes; for a feud existed between the two noble families, and Trail was in the habit of speaking of Lord Shelburne in terms of extreme abhorrence. So far was this pushed, that on the occasion when, in the solitary king’s speech prepared by Lord Shelburne, the words were introduced, that “Accounts cannot be too public,”—an admirable maxim, and whose recognition, on such an occasion, was a highly important conquest to reform, Trail set upon this phrase, as Bentham declared, “like a mastiff upon the throat of an assailant of his master, and called it ‘innovation,’ ‘hodge-podge,’ ‘miss-meddling,’ and ‘farrago.’ ”—So blinding are the effects of party-prejudice!*
In reference to the debates of the day, Trail writes, on the 22d January, 1784, from London:—
[* ] Essay on Remainders and Devises.
[* ] The following notice of trail is from the Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly, vol. i. p. 434:—
“My [Sir S. R.’s] first acquaintance with Wilson was in the year 1784. The first circuit I went, which was in the spring of that year, I met Trail, who was then travelling it for the last time. Having gone round to every assize town for three successive circuits without having a single brief, he gave it up in despair, as he afterwards relinquished the Chancery Bar. He was a very remarkable instance of a man most eminently qualified to have attained the highest honours of the profession, but who having no other recommendation than his great talents, was indeed respected, admired, and consulted continually; but it was only by those who were of the same rank in the profession with himself. No attorney ever discovered his merit; he never got any business, and the profession was to him only a source of expense and disappointment. By being continually in the same society during the three weeks or month that the circuit lasted, we became very well acquainted together; and he was so intimate with Wilson, that it was impossible to have formed a friendship with him, and not frequently to be in Wilson’s society. In a short time I became as intimate with the one as with the other; and our friendship remained undiminished and uninterrupted for a moment till I lost both of them by death: Trail, in 1809, and Wilson in the present year [1816.]”