Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Lord Lansdowne. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Lord Lansdowne. - 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 Lansdowne.
Capt. Richard Brine of the Mary Frances—the ship which brought me from Italy to Smyrna—expects to be in London again by the latter end of March. He has promised me, if possible, which he thinks it will be, to take home for me a he, and two she goats of the Angora breed. Should they arrive safe, I hope Lady Lansdowne will do me the honour to accept of them, and that Bowood, in addition to its manifold luxuries, will in due time afford a stock of comfortable muffs, such as her ladyship, as I understand, has sometimes not disdained to wear. Should the breed prosper, I may perhaps, upon my return to England, become an humble suitor for a part of the progeny, in the view of trying how they may succeed in some northern part of Scotland, where their sequestered situation may the better secure them against admixture, and where the coldness of the climate gives the wool of the country a degree of fineness, which, according to my friend Dr Anderson, is superior to any produced in the southern parts of our island. I wish I could have had a better security than the promise above-mentioned for the arrival of those animals; but there were none to be procured, not even seen at Smyrna; they are to be had, if at all, only by the caravans, which travel but now and then, and take a fortnight’s journey to go from Angora to that part.
“Smyrna affords two sorts of grapes, the one of the raisin, the other of the currant size, which from a property which is common to them, and to the maiden berberines we have in England, have received a similar denomination. I have heard them called by Christians, virgin raisins; virgin currants, by Jews; eunuck currants, eunuchs. If neither appellation should be deemed so conformable as might be wished to the laws of delicacy, the blame must be at the door of the first authors. I can hear of no other epithet to distinguish them by. As the ideal imperfection to which they owe their name is generally looked upon as no small perfection with reference to the use we put them to, I have taken measures for sending to England a few plants of each sort, in hopes of your Lordship’s doing me the honour to give them a place at Wycombe or Bowood, leaving it to your Lordship’s ingenuity to rebaptize them in such manner as may be deemed most proper before they are introduced to the notice of the ladies; and that the learned at your Lordship’s table may be the better enabled to pronounce whether they are worth a place in either garden, I have taken the liberty of addressing to your Lordship, by Captain Brine above-mentioned, a small specimen of each contained in two drums, as they are called, which have been filled under my own inspection, and marked by me V. R. L., the other V. C. L.: each drum contained, as near as could be contrived, 1-4th of a quintal, Turkish, equal to 30½ lbs., English. I should not have thought of troubling your Lordship with such trash, but that I was told at Smyrna that they never found their way to England but in the shape of presents; the stock not being abundant enough to send to market.
“I landed at this port on Monday last, the 21st instant; I found the ambassador full of friendship and politeness, as might be expected from the letter I was honoured with. He would have insisted on my quartering myself in the palace, had not the spare room in it been completely preoccupied by Sir R—W—, his draughtsman Mr Revely, and the Hon. Mr Cadogan. The two former come from Egypt: the latter is going thither; and for the purpose of the expedition, is nourishing a pair of whiskers, which, respectable as they are in an Asiatic point of view, form an odd mixture with a garb in other respects completely English.
“What with the remonstrances of friends, the want of pilots, and the inconveniences or rather dangers of quarantine, the fruits of Russian management, I believe I shall be obliged to finish my tour by land: the return of a Moldavian princess, sister to the reigning prince, promises safety as far as Jassi, and perhaps society. Before I set out on the expedition, if ever I should set out, I shall not fail to turn to a book of instructions given me by a certain noble friend, with as much devotion as Peter, Jack, and Martin did to theirs. Therein shall I find totidem literis, if not totidem syllabis,—‘cut the coat according to thy cloth,’ and, moreover, in the words of the seer, ‘metiri se quemque suo modulo et pede.’ In the meantime, to cut off all occasion of scandal, I think it meet to declare and to protest that the princess, being of fit age and experience to make a prudent choice, hath for some time past committed the charge of her household affairs unto a man, by nation a Greek, of goodly stature, and of a ruddy countenance; and, moreover, that with my knowledge and acquiescence, a certain young English surgeon is soliciting to be intrusted during the course of her journey with the care of the health of her Moldavian Highness.”
Bentham saw the sultan visit the mosque. He was on horseback, as were all his attendants, splendidly dressed, and the horses caparisoned with cloth of gold. He also met at the British ambassador’s, a brother of the Bey of Tunis, who had been in Europe, and strove to imitate our manners,—he sat upon a chair, and it was curious to see how he spread out his legs.
Bentham started from Constantinople by land. In passing through Bulgaria, where manure is precious, he observed they had collected a quantity of dung at the top of a hill, and it was washed away from time to time by the rain,—“This indeed,” exclaimed he, “is barbarism!” but coming back to England, he saw a repetition of the same ill-husbandry; but then his exclamation was, “Let us not be censorious!”
The churches of Bulgaria were ornamented with figures like those in Potter’s Antiquities,—no perspective,—and exhibiting the state of the arts as in Henry the Sixth’s time in England. They reminded Bentham of a picture of London Bridge, in which the man on horseback is twice as tall as the house by which he is passing, and the horse is walking on nothing at all.
Bentham’s servant would make a great noise in entering the villages,—smacking his whip, and insisting on lodgings,—sometimes in vain,—and when his master gave a few paras to the poor, the Janissary would grow furiously angry, but calmed himself by saying it was his own “danga,” (money.) At Bergas, about forty miles from Constantinople, was a manufacture of coarse earthen ware,—turned at the potter’s wheel,—painted red and ornamented with gold-leaf. Bentham endeavoured to get access to it, but was not able to make himself understood.
Bentham’s servant was very useful as an interpreter,—especially when sober,—but he often got drunk, and was then quarrelsome and abusive. He had been servant to that German-Russian who was on board the vessel in which Bentham went to Smyrna. Bentham and he met at Bucharest, and they went together to the house of an opulent Russian who lived on the roadside. In a corner of the room was a costly screen with fine pictures of the Russian saint,—one might almost say the Russian god, Nicholas,—when Bentham approached the screen, his friend said to him, “No! do not look hard at it,—you will give offence to the master of the house.”
The best maps at this time were very imperfect, and large towns were not noticed in them at all: for instance, Ruszig (Rustchuk on the Danube) which had nearly forty mosques. There were many detentions for want of horses, and stoppages from the badness of the roads. In travelling through Bulgaria, there is a striking distinction between the towns of the aborigines and those built by the Turks—the latter being generally gloomy dwellings of bricks, with holes, into which pieces of glass are put. Sprinkled among the Turks are a few Greek inhabitants. The Bulgarian houses are of mud, every house insulated, and having a sort of veranda or corridor projecting, under which you may walk: they have neat and very small windows covered with pieces of skin. The houses have cotton hangings, and generally a loom, in which a cloth inconceivably coarse is woven, used for their ordinary clothing. Many of the abodes have no chimney, but a hole in the roof.
At Bucharest, Bentham met with a Greek who was as much enamoured as himself with Helvetius. Bucharest has many leaning towers; one has given celebrity to Pisa. Bentham was wont to remark on the caprices of human judgment, of which this was an example; for Bucharest had many titles to the celebrity that Pisa has obtained,—yet has not obtained it. There are few towns which have such a number of churches in so small a space.
Jassy was a scene of new trouble. Bentham, to oblige a friend, had offered to convey a quantity of red caps, that were to be forwarded to the Crimea. They were seized by the officers, and he had to pay a large sum of money for their release.
Between Constantinople and the Danube, Bentham lost 200 ducats. Whether they were stolen or not, he never knew; but the loss reduced him to great perplexity. When they reached the Danube, Bentham offered ten ducats to the janissary who had conducted him from Constantinople. He was naturally dissatisfied; but Bentham could afford no more,—and was tormented with the thought that his resources would wholly fail him before he could obtain any fresh supply.
Then, as now, in Poland, except in large towns, there were no inns but those kept by the Jews,—all alike, large, lofty, and dirty,—a vast waste of space, and a great deal of the room occupied by cattle. The Jews were clad in long gowns,—a costume they continue to wear. Bentham, who carried his bedding with him, was used, whenever he was able, to get a heap of straw into a corner, and there to spread his bed, removed from the annoyance of the filthy floor. He hired horses from town to town,—sometimes four, sometimes six, but always from the Jews, to drag the wagon. At Soroka was a Prussian lieutenant, in command of the place, with whom Bentham conversed in Latin. The custom-house officer invited him to a repast. It consisted of brown bread, stewed prunes, and a strange dish, which turned out to be made of onion seeds. Bentham was alarmed by the man’s curiosity to examine his cloth-bag, in which was all his finery, and a precious pair of fur gloves. The Prussian asked what had become of the servants, seeing only one. Bentham said he had no more; and the lieutenant said to the servant, he supposed his master was a stage-player. A handsome set of six horses conducted Bentham from Soroka. They were the commandant’s, who did not object to “turn a penny” by the supposed “stage-player.”
Bentham said one day, in reference to this journey, “I’ll make you a confession how I turned thief. When my servant left me, I arose to look over his things. Among them I found a shirt, which he had stolen from a man who had borrowed money from me, and never returned it; so I appropriated the shirt to myself.”
On this journey he said, “His wheels sometimes carried his sledge, and his sledge at others his wheels.”
Bentham reached Ovidiopol in the middle of January. There he performed his quarantine. To his great surprise, the medical attendant refused a ducat which was offered him, saying, he was sufficiently paid by his imperial mistress, and carried on his discourse in Latin. Bentham feared that the refusal of the money was a bad omen, and that he was to be subjected to some despotic caprice. The medical assistant was delighted to get a portion of the present that his master had refused; and after a short purification, the prisoner was released, and three horses obtained to convey him to Kremenschuk.
Bentham arrived at Kremenschuk on the 15th January, 1786. It was night when he reached, and he was obliged to cross the river on foot.
He dined there with the governor. There were silver covers and bottle-holders, plates of Wedgewood ware; but the knives and forks were iron,—very dirty, and not changed with the dishes,—bright lustres of Russian glass,—eight or ten coloured candles on the table, in brass candlesticks,—red sweet wine from the Don,—dry from Cyprus,—Sauterne, Mountain and Muscadine; Burton ale was also introduced. All the gentlemen in boots, though many ladies were of the party; but they wore warm ruffles. Between dinner and supper, the church quire sang anthems, also songs of the Ukraine, and some Russian songs in parts. Some of the guests, particularly the military, came from considerable distances. The evening was spent in card-playing; and people whose salaries were not more than 600 rubles a-year, lost 800 rubles in a day. Everybody played high. The accounts were kept with chalk upon the green-baized card-table, with a hard brush at hand to rub them out.
Among the guests was Potemkin’s physician, who said, that for two years he had not received a farthing, of salary or other remuneration. He had been ordered about from place to place,—was sent to Dobrovna,—then to Crichoff,—then ordered to the Crimea, but this order countermanded,—then to Kremenschuk.
The gambling between the wealthy nobility Bentham represents to be frightful. Orlov, Potemkin, and others, used to play by day-light at ombre for 100 rubles a fish. One of the winners told Bentham that he had carried off from one sitting between 120 and 130,000 silver rubles, (£20,000.)
The state of the Russian army was then extraordinary. One of the colonels commanded 6 companies each of 136 privates, making 816 men; but with officers and myrmidons, they amounted to 1100. Among them they had 86 horses, the average cost of which was 1800 rubles. They had marched 300 versts without a farthing in the military chest. The colonel thought such marches very beneficial for training. One of the sources of profit was the meal allowed to the troops, which they did not think it worth while to take, but gave receipts to the officers notwithstanding. The colonel had been punishing a robber, suspected of murder, who was to be put to death by the gauntlet; and though they supposed they had killed him, he survived notwithstanding. He had been transferred for his death-punishment to the colonel. This man had previously been made a clerk by superior orders, and was employed by the colonel, with a clog fastened to his leg. Before he recovered, he stole a piece of money—was detected, and, being unable to run, was taken. So much for appropriate punishment!
When officers are put under arrest, their allowance is only bread and water. The colonel said, that money was made out of non-effective horses, and short allowances to men.
Of another dinner party with Prince Potemkin’s steward, are these memoranda:—
“Good Sherry wine, Russian beer in small square Hungarian bottles, light sparkling pleasant mead. Just before dinner, in a separate room, cold sausage, caviar with oil and vinegar, herrings with chopped onions. Then for dinner, bouilli, soups of two sorts. Pie with game, spiced meat, heath-cocks, Turkey-Russian pancakes, pickled mushrooms, to eat with turkey. Just before parting, dessert of apples, nuts, and raisins. Then retired the guests, that the host might have his feet tickled to sleep.”
“Another day, with Count Razumovsky: goose soup with bread-meat balls, roast-beef goose-pie, beef-steaks stewed, goose salted and boiled, omelettes prepared by the host. Extempore diet, bread excellent, Burton ale, claret, sweet wine from Cyprus, Hungarian wine remarkably delicate, Judac wine ten or eleven years old, sparkling like champagne, but better.”
“The soldiers have a considerable fund. They choose their own steward, they keep their resources in gold, that they may pass in any country, notwithstanding the agio. The money is under two locks—one the steward’s, the other the officer’s. This fund is responsible for each member, that he shall have his compliment of clothing, &c. What a member gets by labour goes to the fund. An officer may strike a soldier, but he must register the cause. Officers plead the necessity of the power, on the ground of their responsibility. When a soldier is in good humour, he calls his officer Batiushka, (Father,) otherwise by the name of his rank; Batiushka, and Matushka, (Mother,) are given to equals and superiors, even to Excellencies.
“There are three Russian merchants of the first class for wealth: Sabaxin, Wolodomirov, and another. The Demidovs are of the second class. Sabaxin, dying some time ago, left to seven sons, and the son of an eighth son, 1,800,000 rubles, in money, each (then about £300,000) besides fixed capital. Wolodomir has or had 400,000 rubles a-year.
“My host (Sitov) has only twenty servants, drives but a pair—qui déroge. His chariot cost 200 rubles, including conveyance hither from Moscow, being 30 rubles. He was of age at twenty, and spent his fortune of 200,000 rubles before he was twenty-three. Having had a bad mother-in-law, he forbears second marriage. At his estate, 250 versts off, on the Dnieper, he has a travelling carriage, that lets down behind and in front when he sleeps, it serving for a bed. Three hundred such, he says, are to be bought at Moscow.
“While I was at Kremenschuk, a soldier was accused by his wife of having seduced their daughter. The General sent him to be judged by the bishop.”
To his brother, Bentham was strongly attached. “General Bentham was,” said he, “of an inventive genius, full of schemes of mechanical improvement. One of his projects was to create an unchangeable temperature for time-pieces. My brother’s letters were subjects of great delight to me. He left Westminster school before he got to the highest forms; but he had got so far as to make Greek verses. He made Greek verses in Spring, and Latin verses in the Autumn.
“When he left England in 1774, he had no less than eighty-six letters of introduction. For three weeks previously, he lay on the floor to accommodate himself to that mode of life.
“On returning from his journey to Kiaktha, he made sundry suggestions to the empress, which were well received, but his plans were defeated by one of the governors, who said she was putting too much confidence in a young stranger.
“He contrived a scheme for baggage-wagons to pass through rivers without the use of pontoons. I proposed it to Sir F. Baring, who had a very narrow mind, and who did not think it worth his notice, because, he said, he did not see how it would benefit my brother.
“He travelled with Prince Potemkin from Petersburg, into the Crimea, and was in the same carriage with him for six weeks. He would sometimes be for three weeks together playing at cards,—so that if any business was done, it was when the cards were dealing.”
Bentham lived a very secluded life during his visit to his brother, occupied principally in his literary studies. The name of the estate where his brother was settled, is Zadobras, near Crichoff, (sometimes written Kriezew, and sometimes Tcherigov,) a small town to the south of Mstislav, in the province of Moghilev. Crichoff is situated on the right bank of the river Don, which runs into the Dnieper at Loev. Zadobras is situated on an elevation rather precipitous, of sixty or eighty feet, the river running at the bottom. The establishment, at whose head was Sir Samuel, then Colonel Bentham, was created under Potemkin’s auspices, for the introduction of various manufactures into that part of Russia. They had imported a master tanner, a master currier, a gardener, and divers other mechanics and artisans. Near Crichoff, was a lake whose waters were employed, and in the lake a floating island, on which were fine willows and large trees, which was sometimes at one end of the lake, and sometimes at the other. It was sometimes so near that it could be jumped on from the mainland. Zadobras had been a sort of infirmary. On occasions, all the mechanics were called away from their labours to make hay, which was sold to the governor at a fixed price. There was a sort of military command given to Sir Samuel, but his rule was disturbed by no small confusion, if not anarchy; and Bentham himself, who frequently did not visit the town for weeks together, was not wholly free from the consequences of misunderstanding and mismanagement. Dr Debraw, who had charge of the English workmen, sent to Bentham a most deplorable account of their proceedings. It seems to have been a scene of perfect bewilderment. He sends a “Journal of Transactions,” in which laziness, thievery, quarrelling, drinking—“large demands for doing nothing”—“all outgoings”—“no incomings,” form pretty nearly the whole record. Only one man of all the people imported from England, is represented as trustworthy, and against him the rest confederated. The poor Doctor writes as if he were driven to craziness by the rebellion of his subordinates—whom he calls a “Newcastle election mob”—“hirelings from that rabble town.” On one occasion the military were sent for to enforce subordination. The result of all this was what will be easily imagined. Much money was lost,—and much discontent existed; and the place was afterwards sold by Potemkin to a Pole. A piano, and a few books, among which was the Dictionaire de Jurisprudence, were Bentham’s principal external sources of intellectual amusement.
Once, during his residence at Crichoff, a German endeavoured to extort money from Bentham by holding a pistol at his head. The money was indeed owed by his brother, but it was demanded of him on whom there was no claim whatever. The Crichoff experiment has been characterized above as a very absurd attempt to domesticate in a barbarous part of Russia all sorts of civilisation. It was a hobby of Potemkin’s, and cost him many thousand pounds. Zadobras had a momentary fame,—it was prettily situated,—but has fallen into ruin. It was one of two of Potemkin’s civilisation experiments: one under Colonel Bentham, who had abundance of invention, cleverness and genius; another under Stahl, a German. Genius and economy, Bentham often said, are always quarrelling,—their thoughts run in separate channels. At Zadobras there was the strangest collection,—an English gardener, a Welsh majordomo, a Quaker tanner, a German quack doctor, to say nothing of a host of subordinates who took to quarrelling and plaguing everybody about and above them. From such scenes and such actors it is not wonderful that Bentham was most anxious to escape.
Many were the altercations which took place at Crichoff, and the confusion of tongues only made the quarrels the fiercer. Bentham had paid some attention to the Russian language,—enough to make his wants known, but not enough to understand what was said to him,—and he did not fall into the common folly of asserting that he understood more than he could speak,—a declaration which self-love and ignorance are prone enough to make.
“I know just as much of Russ,” said he, “as I know of the language of cats,—I could speak their language, and obtain an answer, but the answer I never understood.”
Of the reigning empress, Bentham said,—“Catherine the Second had celebrity; nor that altogether undeserved. In a feminine body she had a masculine mind. She laid the foundation of a code,—an all-comprehensive code.”
A letter from Chamberlain Clark, of 31st August, 1786, has this passage:—