Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: 1789—1791. Æt. 41—43. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER IX.: 1789—1791. Æt. 41—43. - 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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1789—1791. Æt. 41—43.
Correspondence on French Affairs.—Memoranda of Lord Lansdowne’s Ministerial Projects.—Lord Wycombe.—Memoir of a Portrait of Bentham.—His Wish to enter Parliament, and Correspondence with Lord Lansdowne.—Correspondence with Sir Samuel Bentham, Dr Price, Benjamin Vaughan, &c.
The progress of events in France, hurrying faster towards their crisis, naturally engrossed much of Bentham’s attention at this period, and became prominent in his correspondence.
A letter of Wilson, dated 21st May, 1789, says,—
“Trail and myself are out of humour with Necker’s conduct, and with his speech, and also with the order of the noblesse, and with the meetings at Paris. As to Mirabeau, he is, I fear, an incorrigible blackguard, and also very deficient in common sense. What could be more foolish than to publish anything at this time, which should give a pretence to say that the liberty of the press was dangerous? They would not have dared to suppress a journal which had given a fair account of the proceedings of the States.”
In the same letter, Wilson accuses Bentham of having divulged to the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, that Trail and he had taken part in the preparation of certain papers sent to the duke,* —as the communication might lower Romilly in the duke’s opinion, and be suspected of “a want of modesty and candour in passing off for his own, work which had been done by others.” To this charge Bentham replies:—
Bentham to George Wilson.
“Hendon, Friday,June 12, —89.
It is impossible for me to recollect the terms in which I expressed myself to Morellet about your share in Romilly’s paper. I well remember the term I did not use, which was the word triumvirate, which I suppose was the occasion of your alarm. My object—as far as a sentence of a line or two could be said to have an object—was to communicate to people there the sense entertained by me of the value of a present that was none of mine. Saying nothing but the truth, having no injunction, nor being under any obligation that I know of to conceal the truth,—saying nothing but what was honourable to the parties, as far as honour may be derivable from such a medium and from such a source,—I do not feel the smallest compunction for anything that I may have said, whatever it may have been. Having nothing to gain in any shape by misrepresentation, nor feeling in myself much propensity to misrepresentation, the probability, I hope, is, that I have used none. If I wanted diversion at your expense, I should like to hear you make your apology to Romilly for a no-injury from which you could derive no benefit, and in which you had no participation or concern. But were I in Romilly’s place, I should not be much flattered by an apology which supposed, on my part, a disappointed plan of passing as exclusively my own a work in which two others had so large a share. For whatever I may have said to the Abbé, the fact is, that the share you and Trail had in it was very considerable, as the original—in all your hands, and now before me—testifies. The fault you have to apologise to Romilly for, is his having lent me that original, and your having written in your own hand instead of forging his, for the sake of making what was yours appear his, when you knew nothing of any intention on his part to communicate it to anybody. What never entered into my head, I must confess, till you put it there, was, the idea that any one could look upon a paper of this kind as a thing to found a reputation upon. It was always spoken of to me as a collection of a few rules, which would not have been worth setting to paper but because they were known to everybody, but which, for the opposite reason, might be of use there. The value of such a work was as its accuracy, and the probability of its accuracy was as the number of hands it passed through. Whether Romilly mentioned to people there his having received any such assistance, is more than I know or hope ever to know. If be did not, it must have been either because it never occurred to him, or because he did not think it worth while. What I should have done in his place I am equally unable to determine. It is likely enough I might have mentioned the assistance, not conceiving it to be a matter in which either the vanity of talent or the vanity of modesty could have place, but that, as having the more title to confidence, the information might stand the better chance of being of use. But if Romilly would feel the smallest regret at hearing that the assistance received was known in its full extent, or, to speak shortly, if he would care a straw about the matter, he is a man very different from what I take him to be. Your scruples about the matter were refined to such a degree of subtlety, that it cost me no small effort to bring my conceptions to the same pitch. I gave no answer at first, in humble hope that maturer reflection or oblivion would have dissipated them: and because, to express myself in imitation of a great model, I have but one head, and cannot always spare that at the precise moment you would wish. The time it cost your one servant to take the letter to Lansdowne House, added to the time it took me to write the letter on the slave trade, are not, together, equal to the time it cost me to study your two letters and compose this, which, after all, will afford you little satisfaction.—Mem. To take care another time how I use the word triumvirate.
“With regard to the temporary miscarriage of the books, it was as I supposed: they are since arrived. I waited two message-cart days before I mentioned it. When such mistakes happen, the way to have them rectified is to mention them. Turgot’s came in course, for which I thank you.
“Necker is double damned in my estimation, were it only for his folly, and tyranny, and tergiversation, in suppressing all accounts of the debates.
The following is a curious memorandum of a conversation with Lord Lansdowne:—
“1789, Saturday, June 27.
“Lord L., in order to gain the empress, was for offering to accede to the armed neutrality; but conditionally—on condition of her mediating in our favour with Holland. Fox carried it against him in the cabinet to have the offer unconditional: and the letter from Fox, Home Secretary of State to Sweden, was penned accordingly. N. B.—I had already read the letter in a volume of correspondence Lord L. left for my perusal. Fox, to gain credit with the empress, gave her to understand what had passed on that occasion in the cabinet.
“[Lord L.] gave me to understand there was a negotiation then depending between him and the king for his coming in. Seemed to hesitate between the Foreign Department and Ireland. Spoke of Ireland as a thing below him, otherwise a place where he should find himself much at ease. ‘You, and I, and Romilly, should govern it with a hair.’ Many questions about my circumstances—my answers general—that it was true I had nothing, but that I had been used all my life-long to live upon nothing, and that nothing was perfectly sufficient. Questions about my aptitude and inclinations for parliament,—answers—that my voice was the most inaudible one that ever was; that I was perfectly unfit for talking upon commonplaces; that if I could do anything anywhere, it must be in committees, or in the way of reply; taking in pieces the arguments on the other side; that I never would, nor ever could, argue against my own opinions, verbally or in writing. He said he was not the man to expect it, as the Marquis of Rockingham did.
“Complained repeatedly of Pitt and Thurlow for breach of faith. Something had been concerted between him and Thurlow, that it was essential the king should not be apprized of. Thurlow promised him in the most solemn manner, laying his hand on his heart, to keep it secret. He went and told it the king immediately.
“This passed in the room where we were sitting. On the day of his (Lord L.’s) resignation, there was a meeting of Peers on that occasion at L. House. Pitt, fearing the intimation of resignation was not sufficiently explicit, came out to him from the Peers to desire he would make it more so. He did; and then Pitt, having got his assurance, accepted the place. This story he told me at two different times. It seemed to sit very heavy on him; but I did not perceive either time wherein the treachery consisted, nor how Pitt was to blame. There seemed to be a tacit reference to some compact, expressed or understood.
“The Duke of Leeds a poor creature. Lord Sidney a stupid fellow. His own character he conceived to stand high in Europe: he was sure it did in France. He had received a very flattering letter from the late king of Prussia.”
On the subject of the Declaration of Rights, Bentham thus expressed himself to Brissot:—
“I am sorry you have undertaken to publish a Declaration of Rights. It is a metaphysical work—the ne plus ultra of metaphysics. It may have been a necessary evil,—but it is nevertheless an evil. Political science is not far enough advanced for such a declaration. Let the articles be what they may, I will engage they must come under three heads—1. Unintelligible; 2. False; 3. A mixture of both. You will have no end that will not be contradicted or superseded by the laws of details which are to follow them. You are deluded by a bad example—that of the American Congress. See what I have said of it in my new 4to volume—the last page of the last note. Believe not that this manifesto served the cause. In my mind it weakened that cause. In moments of enthusiasm, any nonsense is welcomed as an argumentation in favour of liberty. Put forward any pompous generality—stick to it—therefore we ought to be free—conclusion and premises may have nothing to do with one another—they will not be the worse for that. What, then, will be the practical evil? Why this: you can never make a law against which it may not be averred, that by it you have abrogated the Declaration of Rights; and the averment will be unanswerable. Thus, you will be compelled either to withdraw a desirable act of legislation—or to give a false colouring (dangerous undertaking!) to the Declaration of Rights. The commentary will contradict the text. The contradiction may be persevered in, but this will only increase the confusion—heads will be weakened—the errors of the judgment will become errors of the heart. The best thing that can happen to the Declaration of Rights will be, that it should become a dead letter; and that is the best wish I can breathe for it. My first impressions have been strongly confirmed by looking over all the ‘projects’ which have hitherto had birth. It would be some remedy if any declaration were made provisional, or temporary. The National Assembly has more than once acted wisely in this particular; but would the impatience of the people tolerate the expression of doubts in a matter deemed so important?”
On De Witt’s letters, Lord Lansdowne says:—
“They are abominably stupid and uninteresting, with, however, some curious things interspersed, which I have marked sometimes with my nail, sometimes with doubling the leaf at top or at bottom, and sometimes with a pencil—you will read them in an hour. I thought I had marked the four volumes of negotiations; but it’s no matter, for there is so full a table of contents that you will easily find what’s interesting. I read them chiefly with a view of tracing the designs of the French upon the Low Countries, and the nature of their connexion with the Princes of Orange before Louis Fourteenth and William Third’s time. You will find several curious particulars upon both these heads, and the book, in general, well worth reading. I wish, if you read it, you would be so good as to mark for me whatever can be applied to modern times.”
A letter of George Wilson’s, of the 5th of July, has the following passage:—
“I received, a few days ago, an unpublished book of my friend Gregory’s, on the old controversy of liberty and necessity,—in which he undertakes to demonstrate that the doctrine of necessity leads to conclusions, which are, some of them false, and others absurd. The following paragraph is transcribed from his letter:—‘and one for your own perusal, and your friends, Bentham the usurer, and Trail, and Trail’s brother. I have great confidence in the soundness of your four heads, and the fitness of them for strict reasoning. I take it for granted that you will all dislike and distrust at first my mode of writing and reasoning. Possibly some of you may have a different system from mine as to my conclusion. So much the better: you will examine my argument more rigorously, which is just what I want. If it swerves in the least from the strictest mathematical reasoning by necessary inference from principles that are intuitively and necessarily true, then it must be arrant nonsense. If any of you can show me any error in the chain of reasoning, I give it up for ever, and shall suppress the work, and shall think myself much obliged to you for preventing me from exposing myself by publishing nonsense. I make the same offer to Priestley, who will be in very great wrath at the essay and the author of it.’
“I shall, therefore, unless you forbid me, send it to you in a day or two, and if you make any observations on it, shall transmit them to the author; but, at any rate, you must let me have it again in a week, because I am instructed to send it to another person before I leave town.
“I wish you joy of the complete victory of the Commons.
“In a late number of Mirabeau’s letters to his Commettans, which Romilly has, or will send you, are six principles relating to the manner of debating, translated verbatim from you, without acknowledgment, and without reasons, which, he says, he may add hereafter. I believe it is true that the troops refused, or were ready to refuse to act. I heard from good authority, that the Duc du Chatelet, who is colonel of the French Guards, told the king that he could not answer for his men. Our papers—I think the Diary, says, that they were all ordered to their quarters, but refused to be confined; and that, for several days, they walked about Paris, feasted by the inhabitants; and that all the coffee-houses in the Palais Royal were filled with them. After the junction on Saturday afternoon, Bailly adjourned them to Tuesday.”
Bentham answered thus:—
Bentham to George Wilson.
I am much flattered by Dr Gregory’s intentions in my favour, and concerned that it is not at present in my power to profit by them. My time is so much engrossed by subjects that will not wait, that I have none to spare for anything else, much less for one which would require not only the whole of the interval allowed me, but many such, to do it tolerable justice. When printed, I shall take the first opportunity of reading it. It seems to be a subject, of all others, on which a man need be least apprehensive of exposing himself: seeing how excusable error is, and how many illustrious names he will find to countenance him in it.
“The above is ostensible and copiable. Entre nous, I don’t care two straws about liberty and necessity at any time. I do not expect any new truths on the subject: and were I to see any lying at my feet, I should hardly think it worth while to stoop to pick them up—not but that I will read it when it comes out, and be ready to talk with him upon the subject vivâ voce, if ever he should come within my reach. I am sure you must have gone before me in regretting that a practical professional man should stand forth as an author upon subjects so purely speculative. Have you had, or will you have self-command enough to forbear communicating those regrets to the author to whom they can present no other ideas than what must be already present to his mind, and to whom, in the nature of things, they cannot be of any service. Should you ever have a hobby-horse of your own, you will feel how tender its hoofs are, and how little it can bear to have them trod upon.
“Gregory being your particular friend, I suppose, if you can find time, you will not refuse him the benefit of your revisal to see whether there be any such palpable defect as should render correction indispensable, or suppression necessary, if correction should be impracticable. This which you are desired to do is a very different thing from throwing cold water on the whole design, which certainly you are not desired to do. It would be contrary to my principles to ply you with this advice, were it not to save another man from advice which would be more burthensome.
“As to the Leyden Gazette, my arrangements are not yet formed, but will be before you go. In the meantime, let them come to me, if you please, as usual.
“The victory of the Commons I had full intelligence of on Wednesday, and was coming to you with the news, but was stopped by business which would not wait.
“The Duc du Chatelet, you have heard by this time, has resigned.
“There was a report yesterday about town, that the Count d’Artois had once more prevailed on the king to go back to the old system—that the command of the troops had been given to the Marshal Broglie—that the French Guards had been sent to a distance, and 30,000 Foreign troops sent for to curb the capital and the States-General. This, as to the latter part of it at least, must be nonsense. What clouds were the 30,000 Foreign troops to come out of?
“The No. in question, of Mirabeau, I have before me. The manner in which he has spoken of communications made him by another person, is not altogether what ours would have been: especially yours in the same case; but it is but a previous notice, and probably when the engagement comes to be fulfilled, the proper acknowledgments will accompany it. He could not with Dumont en tête mean anything dishonourable.
“Trail tells me of his brother’s being come to town; but when I desire to know where he lodges, that I may call upon him, does not answer me. I must confess myself unable to comprehend his wishes and intentions with respect to me, or to account for his conduct on the supposition of his wishing either to put an end to our acquaintance, or to continue it. In the latter case, I know full well what I should have done in his place many months ago. Adieu.
“Hendon,July 8, 1789.”
Lord Wycombe visited Russia in 1789, and was introduced to Colonel Bentham by his brother in these terms:—
Bentham to his Brother.
“This is a letter which I am desired to write to you, for the purpose of introducing to you the Earl of Wycombe. God knows when and where, if at any time and anywhere, it will be delivered to you. And who is the Earl of Wycombe? you will say. Why, he is the eldest of two sons of the Marquis of Lansdowne; as good a creature as ever breathed, and just what, from his countenance, you would imagine him to be. It is proper that you should know that he is a little deaf, in different degrees at different times—people hope that, as age advances, the infirmity will wear away. If this does not, I know of nothing else that should prevent his taking a leading part one of these days in public affairs. He has already begun to feel his ground, by taking a leading part in some novel propositions, and getting people to his side in a committee on the last Westminster election. Whatever intents he may be able to muster up, will be supported in the most powerful manner by an excellent and amiable character, which I dare venture to pronounce will never quit him. To this point, however, I speak rather from universal report than from particular experience. His father has opened to me a good deal of late, and I am become one of the Cabinet Council there, dining there regularly every week. With his son I have not equal intimacy, nothing in particular having happened to lead to it. Your age and character fit you better for an intimacy with him: the schoolmasterishness of mine acting naturally as a repellant. His father and I have lately come to a variety of explanations, and the result of it is, that he is as zealous as myself for universal liberty of government, commerce and religion, and universal peace. Consequently he is fond of the French; but the son, notwithstanding the unfeigned affection and respect he seems to feel for his father, is hitherto a sort of an Antigallican.”
Among the papers relating to French politics, transferred to Bentham for his opinion, is one written by Benjamin Vaughan, and addressed to Turgot. It contains suggestions of considerable value:—
“The ladies and women of France are equally patriotic with the men. Why not call this patriotism into immediate action, by an animated and flattering address made to them by the National Assembly? Good order, economy, education, and perhaps a rural life, are natural objects to which to direct their cares; and in favour of the three first, they are capable, perhaps, of being made perfectly enthusiastic at the present moment.
“May not the National Assembly be separated into two parts, when deciding upon some subjects, and remain undivided when determining upon others; since a division gives the king a negative upon what passes, whenever he gains over a half of either of the divided bodies, (which is only a quarter of the whole)? Thus, for example,—may not the Assembly preserve its general form for general and ordinary affairs, and be divided, for whatever peculiarly respects the king, nobility, or higher clergy?
“A division has been proposed, by throwing the nobles and church dignitaries into one body, and the rest of the deputies into another. But might not a part of the National Assembly be made more or less permanent, (this part to be selected by the choice of the public, of the Assembly itself, or of the king, as shall be most agreeable;) and thus, by changing a part of the Assembly rapidly, and another part at more distant periods, the influence of a sudden national enthusiasm upon the legislative body receive a check?
“Instead of the nobility and high clergy deputing themselves at the general elections, might not the choice of the deputies out of their bodies always rest with the public at large? The deputies for these orders would still be nobles and church dignitaries, but they would be the persons of the order most agreeable to the public. They are now the persons of the order most agreeable to the orders.
“England has obtained her ascendancy in Europe by her money, and by the nature of her forces, which are illsuited to continental conquests. If France dismisses her foreign troops, and reduces her national land forces onethird, or one-half, and trusts more to her militia, navy, and fortresses for self-defence than at present, she may obtain and employ great resources of money; and, by increasing her naval forces, she may become more independent of other nations, as having little need of intriguing with foreign powers for the use of their navies. When her navy is more on a par with that of England, she may be more tranquil about England.
“Why need the power of making war be left anywhere but in the nation? Is it true that a king can, in fact, begin a war with the advantages of secrecy, when, in general, it is seen that armaments are now always made proportionally on each side, previous to a war; and that in the forwardness of these armaments, lies the aptitude of beginning a war? On the other hand, will not a constant attention to self-defence prevent much of the danger of a surprise, in case of being attacked? A king may readily be allowed to make a peace, and his people can always force him to it, should he be backward when they want it on their side. Or, if he is to have a power of making war, may it not be after obtaining the consent of a council of secrecy to be chosen by the National Assembly, to confer with him on this subject; which council might be a standing institution, the members changing from time to time? To fetter the king in declaring war, is not to lessen his executive powers; he may conduct the war, and in this be executive; but to declare who shall or shall not be deemed a national enemy is to make the king legislative in a most important point.
“By stripping great persons of their court pensions, and of their feudal privileges on their estates, many will be reduced to nothing. The state must, naturally, take care of the creditors, at least of the persons whom it thus deliberately ruins; but how are the individuals, so reduced, to be made easy in their new situation, and kept free from faction and intrigue? Will not a sumptuary law operate in their favour, by checking the insulting ostentation of others who are less reduced in fortune? To prevent the sumptuary law from lessening the employment of the poor, and of the manufacturers for home consumption, (who alone need be much affected,) the public purse must be opened, or some of the lands forming part of the king’s domain must be given to them, upon which they might settle, with the loan of a capital or certain immunities; similar to what happens in the colonies, for these would in fact, be internal colonies. Till these, or other resources, are prepared, it will be difficult for a sumptuary law not to do mischief. A sumptuary law may vary in different parts of the kingdom.
“Till France puts her post-horses into private hands, as in England, collecting the duty of travelling, through the medium of inn-keepers, her internal communications never can be perfect or secure; for the actual system is particularly calculated to suit the return of despotism and the race of spies.
“Might not monasteries of every kind be gradually abolished, by directing, that as the individuals composing them at present die, none shall fill up their places; but that the dying persons shall have liberty to give away by will, to any individuals whatever, a certain portion of the property of the foundation which had supported them, government coming in for its share at each death? A few monasteries might or not be preserved, as shall seem prudent, upon the old plan; or persons might live as monks and nuns at their own expense.”
In a letter of Dumont to Bentham, dated 27th Sept. 1789, he says:—
Dumont to Bentham.
“I have shown your plan of Parliamentary Tactics to M. de Mirabean and the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, and some others, who have admired this truly philosophical conception, and this ensemble which forms the system of a work absolutely new and original. In completing it, you will fill up one of the blanks of political literature, and nobody can do it but you; for you alone have surveyed the whole field, and laid the foundation of the edifice. Not that I promise you a prompt success,—for the French are yet but children stammering in their National Assembly,—no order,—no sequence,—no discussion,—they are driven to and fro by chance,—anybody will be president, and they have all the mania for doing all. Imagine an assembly composed of discordant elements—the commons have incensed the clergy by taking away the tithes,—the nobility are still exasperated by the remembrance of their forced union,—they consider themselves as prisoners of war, and men make no sincere peace with their conquerors. The two parties only agree each to check the other, and to hold the whole assembly in a do-nothing fermentation.”
A speculation of Lord Wycombe’s, in a letter dated from Petersburg, October 17th, 1789, is worth preserving:—
“It may fairly be presumed, that, at no very distant period, the situation of the southern parts of this empire will be materially altered. When the Turks are driven out of Europe, or even when the navigation of the Euxine is opened, commerce will assume a different shape, and the larger portion of that vast produce which is supplied by the interior of this country will seek its way to foreigners, through the channel of the Mediterranean. The consideration which has hitherto been justly given to the Baltic, must then proportionably diminish, and the same circumstances of expediency which occasioned the establishment of the capital in this inhospitable corner of the world, will tempt a future sovereign once more to change the seat of government. The stately palaces, which at present decorate the banks of the Neva, will be left to moulder into ruin; the advantages of trade and population will find their way to districts which must now be considered as inanimate, and resources will quickly develop themselves, which have hitherto been unknown to this, or indeed to any other nation. Such I conceive to be the prospects of the ensuing century: you may perhaps laugh at my predictions, and say that I am neither a politician nor a prophet. I have, however, no small confidence in the persuasion, that a revolution, in some degree resembling that of which I have traced to you the outline, is likely to take place; but of this time must be the test.”
The following piece of pleasantry (in Bentham’s handwriting) professes to be a letter written by Miss F—, to Miss V—, giving an account of Bentham himself:
“Well, was there ever anything so designing as Lord L.? I might well have my suspicions: and the oddest accident in the world has enabled me to convince you of the justice of them, by such proofs as you could little have expected. Just now, Mr B., as he was leaving the room, pulled out his handkerchief, and the enclosed dropt out of his pocket unperceived. As it fell into one of the elbow-chairs, where he was sitting, next mine, the handwriting involuntarily caught my eye: so, as nobody happened to be looking that way, I whipped it up, and here you have it. Send it me back, that I may toss it into his room some day when he is not there: he will think he dropt it there himself. You see Lord L. knew what he was about, and knew how much we were against having Mr B. here; so he writes to him to beg our leave; but as we heard nothing from him, we conclude he was afraid to write to us, and that Lord L., when he saw him, told him some story or other, to make him believe we had forgiven him. I forgot to tell you, he said that he had written the other letters which are escaped: one, a further journal of the society, which he burned on finding that none of us took any further notice of them; another, a penitentiary letter to Lord L., which he wrote in a fit of the gripes, and burned because it was too foolish.
“Would you have thought it? Wycombe is as bad as B. Here we have got Mr B. again. We said everything you desired us to Lord L.; and as there came no more foolish letters, we were in hopes we should see nothing of the foolish writer for the time at least. Lord L., as you may imagine, said what he could to excuse him; but as he saw it would not do, he gave it up at last, and there was an end, as we thought, of Mr B., for this year at least. Our evil stars had decreed otherwise. T’other day, as we were at L. House, talking about our returning here, as there is room for one, says Lord L., ‘I have thoughts of taking down Mr B. with me, if you have no objection.’ How could we help ourselves? As there were other people in the room, to have said, No, would have seemed particular. We looked at one another, each expecting the other to speak, and, as neither spoke, silence gave consent, and so it was concluded. You may imagine what passed when Miss E. and I found ourselves alone. We vowed we would not suffer it; but who should attack Lord L. about it?—there was the difficulty. Miss E. wanted to put it off upon me, saying, it was more my concern than hers, as I should be plagued with him most. I said it would look very odd for me to speak about such a thing instead of her; and so, as neither of us could pluck up courage to be spokeswoman, there was nothing to be done but patience. Don’t you think it was rather unkind in Lord L. to take us in that manner, at a disadvantage? Miss E. says, it was only thoughtlessness—but I won’t believe any such thing. That’s no foible of Lord L’s, I am sure; as if it were possible he could have so soon forgotten all that we said to him about the letters. That comes of your not being here: if you had, a glance from you would have been sufficient—not that you would have been put to the expense, for he would not have dared mention any such thing. I can’t think, for my part, what Lord L. can see in the man, that he wants always to have him about him, he seems so attached to him; and so says Miss E. But you know he likes to have odd people about him, and always did. Then these political men, it is so difficult to know what to make of them: they may have their reasons for harbouring such fellows, that they won’t let us women hear of. Though he pretends to tell you everything, I have my suspicions to the contrary: and this, amongst other things, is a proof of it. Who can tell but that Mr B. may know of something that Lord L. has done—that my uncle Charles, if he were to hear of it, would impeach him for? Lord L., I do believe, is as honest as any of them; but as I often heard them say it is impossible that a man can have been minister without doing many things which he could not answer for, if he were called to account. If so, he is more to be pitied than blamed; and it may be very necessary for him to keep this man in good humour; besides, though one were sure of getting off, there is nobody that would like to be brought into trouble, you know, if they could help it. To do the man justice, he has not broke out yet, that we know of, in any shape. I don’t recollect anything in particular that he has done or said amiss as yet, either during the journey or since; nor Miss E. neither. He has not offered to knock down Miss E. once, nor me either, though he has had several books within his reach. One thing is, indeed, certain—he is grown mighty humble since his disgrace, and hardly dares to look up or open his mouth. This is worse than before: if you must be troubled with one or t’other, better have a merry fool, say I, than a melancholy madman. He has not dared to tease me yet, at least, about reading; and as to writing, I think he has had enough of that to mortify him for a while. I don’t think he will be soon at that again, after the mortifications he has undergone. Suppose now, you were to give him a line or two to tell him you will endeavour to forgive him, and that one thing, I will venture to say for him, that if ever a creature of his sex had a true respect for one of ours, he has for you. This will set him to rights again: as it now is, he goes moping about the house at such a rate that it is enough to give one the vapours to look at him. Miss E. speaks to him now and then, and so do I, to try to raise his spirits; but all won’t do, while he is in disgrace with you. I don’t mention this as any merit in him, only that it serves to show that there is one thing in which he is like other people. By Miss E.’s advice, I let him accompany me again: you know it would look particular to refuse him; and Miss E. observes, that as you know who seems to like music, I may as well make use of this man as not, to keep my hand in, as I can’t have Mr Schuman here. As Lord L. says, I don’t think he ever means any harm; and when he does, or says anything amiss, it is only through ignorance; then you know how submissive he is, so that one might do what one would with him, if it were worth the while.
“I can’t say but that I thought you rather hard upon him, when you reproached him with not having learnt of you what you had never tried to teach him. Not that he did, or said anything at that time, to call for it; but as Lord II. was by and nobody else, I thought it would have been a good opportunity for him. No lessons, as you have often observed, are so impressive as those which are offered by contrast, and it was in this view that the wise Spartans exposed their slaves to view in a state of intoxication, in order to inculcate sobriety on their children.
“Enough, you will say, and more than enough about such a subject. But what else can one write about? For there is not a creature here but him.
“Miss E. joins with me in love, and so forth: Kiss my dear cousins for me a thousand times, and believe me ever, my dear aunt, &c. &c.
“Excuse the trouble I shall have put you to, to make out this scrawl—the pens here are so bad that I declare I hardly know my own handwriting.
“Don’t let Miss E. know what I say, but the truth is that Lord L. does just what he pleases when you are not here.
“Yesterday, for example, as soon as tea was over, as you were not here to play at cribbage with him, he took himself off to the Land of Nod, where be remained till supper time.
“Perhaps you gave him the meeting, and he got his usual number of games, in spite of distance. I would have asked him whether that was not the case, if Mr B. had not been by. Miss E. was busy at her plans and elevations, and there sat Mr B. like a post, and never said a word to me about music, until it was time almost to have done. I could not help wishing for you, were it only to have given him one of your lectures upon behaviour.”
Bentham visited Oxford in this year with the young Earl of Shelburne. In the chambers of Mr Parker, afterwards Earl of Morley, Canning, then a youth with a freshman’s gown on his shoulders, was pointed out by Lord Lansdowne to Bentham as one likely to become the Prime Minister of England.
A letter, dated Tobolsk, 3d December, 1789, from Colonel Bentham to his brother, gives some interesting particulars of the state of things in the South Eastern Russian frontier:—
“I wrote to you at my setting off for Siberia, telling you of my having received the command of two battalions, belonging to the corps there: each battalion is similar to the one I commanded at Crichoff, but they are a great distance one from the other, according to my desire. The one, at which I am at present, occupies a space of about 200 versts, on the frontiers towards the Kirgises: you will see, in the map, a line of fortresses, and foreposts, as they are called, (how little soever they deserve that name,) all along the Kirgisian frontiers; all those from Chernovitsh to Semiarsk, besides my battalion, which is quartered within that distance, together with so much of the frontiers are under my immediate command, during my residence here; Yarnischoff, which is likewise a town, should be my quarters, and the house there is larger and something better than the Crichoff one is; but as the commerce or barter with the Kirgise is carried on at Korohoff, 50 versts to the northward, I choose rather to reside there the short time I shall probably remain in one place. My neighbours, the Kirgises, are as peaceable at present as one could wish,—and though they steal a few cattle, or now and then a man or two, upon laying hold of one of the tribe, everything is returned. They assemble every day on the other side of the river Irtish, which marks the boundary, bringing with them skins of different kinds, horses, oxen, and sheep. These they barter for cheap clothes, leather, iron-work, and trumpery ornaments. It is reported that there are some mines of silver and gold, as well as copper; I am, therefore, preparing to set out in two or three days, on an expedition amongst them, not conceiving they are people any ways to be afraid of. My General will not give me leave to go more than 50 versts into their country, but when I get so far, no one can stop me, and I must be doing what no one else has done before me,
“After having spent about five weeks with the Kirgise, and in that time rode about 1200 versts in their country, I returned, well pleased with my journey. As I had an Englishman with me, a lieutenant in one of our battalions, he kept a journal of our tour in English; you shall one day or other have a copy of it. This Englishman, of the name of Newton, is son of a gentleman of property in Newcastle; he served at the taking of Ochakoff, and then, at his desire, was sent to me by Prince Potemkin; he arrived just in time to accompany me to the Kirgise; and, as I have various propositions to make to the prince, I am preparing to despatch this Mr Newton express to Petersburg.
“I am at present at Tobolsk; in the month of June, I was here in my way to my battalion, and I then despatched the Englishman I had brought with me from Cherson, to examine the mouth of the river Ob, and a small part of the coast of the White Sea, with a view of attempting a communication with Archangel. There is no doubt of this passage being, at certain times, practicable; but the object is the ascertaining the degree of danger and delay occasioned by the drifts of ice, which, even in summer, by certain winds are brought upon the coast, so as entirely to interrupt the navigation. Some of the people are come back, having made a chart of the river and part of the Gulf. But a Russian captain, with some of them, will pass the winter in travelling by land about the coast. The last summer they had nothing but an open boat; but, for next year, I hope to find means of building them a vessel in which they may go to sea. An officer, and 50 men I have brought with me from my battalion, are to be employed in preparing a vessel for this expedition.
“Having settled this business, I set off for my other battalion, which is at about 3500 versts = 2600 miles from hence, and about the same distance from the other. Its quarters were on the other side of the lake Baikal, in the neighbourhood of Kiaktha. It was for the purpose of getting more intelligence about the Chinese frontiers, that I chose this battalion before the spring. It is probable I may then go to Petersburg, and I have permission to take a trip to England; but if my projects here are attended to, they may keep me here another year, before I can go even to Petersburg.
“I may truly say, I am pleasantly circumstanced enough,—enjoying a degree of respect from those I associate with, and meeting with none, who, if they were disposed, dare to give me any vexation. Here, at Tobolsk at least, I can associate with people of philosophy, talents, and amiability: moreover, the variety of my projects, and a present good state of health, leave nothing but my attachment to England to cause any regret.
“While I was at Cherson, at the breaking out of the war, Admiral Mordwinoff had orders to give passports to any who would fit out privateers, as well in the Mediterranean and Archipelago, as in the Black Sea; but few people of enterprise presented themselves to obtain such permission. A Greek of the name of Lambro, whom the prince had taken into the service with rank of captain, seemed the fittest of all men for such enterprises; but money, the most essential article, was wanting.
“Lotteries and card-playing I had always avoided; but, in this case, besides the views of gain, the idea of setting an example, and a rising enmity against the Turks, induced Mordwinoff and me to raise a sum for the fitting out of Lambro. Mordwinoff gave 3000 rubles, and I and two others 1000 each; and with this, we sent him off to Leghorn, where he fitted out a vessel, and, prize after prize, became master of twenty-two sail. Of these, some were lost; but before I left Cherson, although we had got no account of him of the profits cleared from his prizes, I should have found no difficulty in selling my share. I chose rather to take my chance of the future success; and, according to the newspapers, our Lambro (called always Major Lambro) has done wonders. Besides so immensely rich prizes, he has taken fortresses and islands, and dares all the Turkish force. It is ten to one that he does not keep his head long on his shoulders; but though I have heard nothing from the parties concerned, I have no doubt but that they will look after their interest, and that mine will necessarily keep pace with theirs.”
I possess a portrait of Bentham, painted in 1789, on the back of which is this inscription:—
The Portrait of Jeremy Bentham, Esq. of Lincoln’s Inn.
“A rare example of the most disinterested, shrewd, and independent spirit, who, soon after he was called to the bar as a counsel, although possessed of abilities equal to any attainment in the law, found himself obliged to quit the practise of it, from the consideration of its subjecting him to the necessity of maintaining indiscriminately the cause of chicanery and falsehood, as well as that of right and justice. But he, nevertheless, continued to devote his time and his thoughts to the improvement of jurisprudence in general, and the development of errors in the legal system, not only of his own country, but even of France, in consequence of the Revolution that had lately taken place there; and to that end, he communicated to the National Assembly at Paris a plan, to be adopted by them for the improvement and establishment of a legal jurisdiction in that country, which was so well received, that he had their public thanks and acknowledgments, as appears by one of their periodical publications to the following effect: viz.
Du Courrier de Provence, No. 121.
Pour servir de suite aux Lettres du Cte. de Mirabeau à ses Commèttans.
Seances du Lundi 22 au 23 Mars, 1790, p. 123.
“Dans ce moment où l’Assemblée va s’occuper de l’Organisation du Pouvoir Judiciaire, nous presentons à nos Lecteurs comme une varieté des plus interessantes, l’extrait suivant d’un ouvrage manuscrit de M. Bentham, sur le plan du Comité de Constitution. Cet auteur Anglois, l’un des plus grands penseurs et des hommes les plus versés dans la Jurisprudence Legislative qui existent actuellement en Angleterre, a consacré par pure philanthropie, un temps precieux à l’etude des Lois françoises, à la recherche de celles qui conviennent le mieux au caractere nationale, et aux principes de la constitution que l’Assemblee a adoptée.”
From the Courier of Provence, No. 121.
To serve as a Continuation of the Letters of Count de Mirabeau to his Constituents.
The Sessions of Monday 22 to 23 of March, 1790, page 123.
“At the moment when the National Assembly was going to be employed about the Organization of the Justiciary Power, we present to our readers, as a variety the most interesting, a manuscript work of M. Bentham upon the plan of the Constitutional Committee. This English author, one of the deepest thinkers, and most conversant in Legislative Jurisprudence of any who are now in England, has consecrated, from the purest principles of philanthropy, his valuable time to the study of the French laws, to the examination of such as are most suitable to the national character, and to the principles of the Constitution which the Assembly has adopted.”
“And should this portrait ever chance to fall into the hands of any one (besides his own family) that may have the least inclination to know more of him than is above related, there is another portrait of him in full length, which, in 1789, was made a present of by his father to the Marquis of Lansdowne, at Lansdowne House in Berkeley Square, accompanied with a letter, explanatory of some particulars of that portrait, which, as it contains a further account of the original, and was honoured with an answer from his lordship, expressive of his esteem for the original, may possibly be considered as not altogether unworthy of notice by those whose curiosity may lead them to drop their eye upon the letters themselves, which are literally as follows, viz.:—
“My Good Lord,—
Your acceptance of a portrait of my eldest son is so flattering a testimony of your lordship’s friendship and regard for the original, that I cannot let it go without making my acknowledgments for the honour it does him, by giving it a place where there is so noble and valuable a collection, that I could wish the piece itself had more pretensions to such a distinction. The portrait, at least the capital part of it, I mean the head, was done by Frye, a painter of no small eminence in his time, and was then looked upon as a very striking resemblance, how little likeness soever there may appear to be now; but by the death of Frye before it was finished, the under part was the work of a different, and I am sorry to say of an indifferent hand. The two stanzas inscribed on it were part of a copy of verses of my son’s own composition in the collection of the university,—verses upon the occasion of the death of the late king, and the accession of his present majesty, and were introduced into the picture for the purpose of denoting the time when it was drawn, he being then a member of Queen’s College, Oxford, to which he was admitted when he was but thirteen years of age, and where he took his degree of A.B. at the age of sixteen, and his subsequent degree of A.M. by the time he was twenty, by which, as I was informed, he became the youngest graduate that had ever been in the regular course of education of either of our universities. With respect to the violin, which makes a part of the picture, it gives me occasion to mention, that before he was five years old, he wanted much to know the meaning of musical notes; and being told they could not be explained but by means of some instrument, a friend made him a present of a kind of violin called a kit; and as he had an ear, he was soon capable of playing several tunes, which afterwards encouraged me to give him the assistance of a master of the profession. That he has at present, and has always had so much of the philosopher in him, your lordship will probably think it the less to be wondered at when I tell you that some of those who knew him when only five years of age, used to call him by that name; and if he really was one, he must, indeed, be said to be the Minute Philosopher, although he could not be supposed to be one of those whom the late Bishop Berkeley attacked with so much spirit in a book he published under the title of the ‘Minute Philosopher.’ These few anecdotes I have taken the liberty to mention, by way of explanation of the picture, is the only addition your lordship would have occasion for to know as much of the person they relate to as his father, since, to the best of my recollection, he has past more days, and slept more nights under your lordship’s roof from the time of his going from Westminster School to Oxford, than he has ever done under mine.
“As natural as it may be for a parent to extend his views and wishes with respect to his children, I am, however, become so much of a philosopher by contracting mine as to content myself with the reflection, that the satisfaction my son enjoys arises so much from himself, that no accidents of life are likely to deprive him of it while he has that share of the health and soundness of mind which he has at present, and which seem to promise to be lasting.
“That it may long continue to be so when I am no more, is a wish with which, I persuade myself, your lordship will have the goodness to allow me to conclude the trouble I have now given you, together with the assurance that I am, with the most perfect regard, my good lord, your lordship’s most obedient and very humble servant,
“Queen’s Square Place,
No one could make me a more acceptable present than the picture you have been so good as to send me of your son. The character you give of him, makes his society invaluable to me, whose lot it has been, hitherto, to spend my life in a political hospital. His disinterestedness and originality of character, refresh me as much as the country air does a London physician. Besides, Lord Wycombe loves him as much as I do; so that his portrait will be sure to be respected for two generations: but I beg you will say nothing to him of the present which you have been so good as to make me.
“I hope you will present my respects to Mrs Bentham, and that you will believe me, with great regard, your faithful humble servant.
“To Jereh. Bentham, Esq.”
“Meus Cujusque is est Quisque.”
As an example of the different styles of Bentham and Romilly, I give a passage, as it was originally written by the former and improved on by the latter. It can scarcely be denied that the emendations have enfeebled the text—and that the diffnseness of the elaborating critic has added little to the clearness of the first conception:—
“The Sudder-Adawlut presents itself here, of course, to every one who recollects anything of English-East-India Judicature. To others how can this oriental field of judicature be pointed out? In English there is no name for it. In Hebrew some have rendered it Aceldama. To complete the triumph of iniquity, the chapel of St Stephen is now also marked out for an Aceldama. Is there nobody left whose honest zeal will stand forth once more and endeavour to cleanse it from such contamination? Does it follow that, because one parliament has refused to punish a Judge for not having reprieved a criminal indubitably guilty, another will refuse to punish?”
“The Sudder-Adawlut must here occur to every one, who is at all acquainted with the history of English-East-India Judicature. To those who are strangers to the disgraceful history, it must be difficult to express all the ideas which the right word conveys. The Hebrew language, indeed, has a word which may serve to explain them, which most men have heard of—Aceldama. The Sudder-Adawlut will not, it is to be hoped, be forgotten by the members of the British Parliament, now that they have a living memorial of it among themselves; for it will hardly be contended that a resolution by one parliament not to prosecute for one crime, can operate as a bar to the prosecution of any other parliament for any other crimes. A resolution of the House of Commons not to prosecute, will hardly be thought to have the wonderful efficacy which the law of England ascribes to the king’s pardon, that of saving the offender from punishment, not only of the offence of which he has been convicted, but for all former crimes; and of doing away with, not only the amenability to law, but even the criminality of the offender; so that a man who stood one day at the bar of the House, charged with crimes and misdemeanours, shall, by the magic of a single vote, be qualified to take his seat among the prosecutors of Indian delnquency.”
The following is a letter written at this period to Brissot:—
Bentham to Brissot.
“I have to thank you, my worthy friend, for your kind letter, received through the hands of a gentleman,—Bancal I believe his name is,—and several pamphlets of yours which accompanied it. I write this not for the sake of telling you with what pleasure I remember you, and how much I wish to be remembered by you, nor for the sake of letting you know what a great man I am become here, upon the strength of being able to reckon M. Brissot in the number of my friends: I have too proper a sense of the value of your time to think of taking up any part of it with common compliments or even amicable remembrances.
“It is for the sake of sending you a book, which I send likewise to M. Garran de Coulon, containing an account of a project of improvement for which there is but too much room in every country, and, I am afraid, not least in France: it is a mill for grinding rogues honest, and idle men industrious.* I shall say no more about it, as it says but too much for itself.
“To M. Garran de Coulon I send an extract of it in French, done by a friend of yours, which I wish to get before the National Assembly in some shape or other. The interest he has been pleased to take in my works in so public a manner, pointed him out as the properest person, indeed the only person, to whom I could send it, though, in every other respect, the most perfect stranger to me. I shall say no more to you. You love your country, you love mankind, you love that sort of morality, and that alone, which has their happiness for its object. If you think the project a good one,—such a one as promises to that end,—anything I could say to you in private would be unnecessary; if otherwise, anything I could say to you in the same manner would be to no purpose.
“Look first at the large table at the end: it may perhaps save you the trouble of looking into the book: at any rate, do not plague yourself with the architectural details. Run over the preface and the contents before each volume. Supplicate Madame Brissot’s protection for it; and if she has patience to read any part of it, let it be the letter on Schools. The book, though printed, has never been made public here. If you can find time for reading anything more about it than as above, the best way would be for you to get from M. Garran the memoir in French, which was too long, as you will see, to copy; and I suppose he would make no difficulty in showing you a short letter which accompanied it.”
Nothing can more strongly show the high estimation in which Bentham was held by Lord Lansdowne, than the following letter of Lord L. to the Duke de la Rochefoucauld:—
“London, 1st April, 1790.
“Monsieur le Duc,—Mr Bentham’s name is already known to you, at least Mr Dumont tells me that you read and admired a short tract of his upon ‘Political Tactics,’ and you may have read another work of his, noticed by M. de Mirabean, upon ‘Usury.’ He has, since the new organization of the judicial establishment has been proposed in the National Assembly, applied himself with incredible diligence to sift the proposition to the bottom, and to suggest another, from the best and purest motives possible. He has, for several years past, devoted his whole time to the study of general principles, and is, by an hundred degrees, the most capable person in this country to judge of the subject. He has just finished, and sends by the mail of this night, through the channel of the ambassador, one hundred copies to the President of the Assembly; and what I would request of you, M. le Duc, would be, to have it understood that it is the work of no ordinary person, that his time is valuable, and that his work certainly deserves more than ordinary attention.
“I love him very tenderly as a man, to the full as much as I admire him as an author, and look up to him as a lawyer; but this makes no part of the motive of anything I say. I know, M. le Duc, that you are governed by motives of a much higher nature; and I flatter myself that you give me credit for not being insensible to the same feelings in regard to your country, as well as my own.”
I give some farther fragments of Bentham’s playful correspondence with the ladies of Bowood:—
“Which of my guardian angels, I wonder, is this? The gravity and dignity bespeaks my former correspondent; but the cypher on the seal seems to indicate a new one. The ice, too, if my thermometer does not flatter me, is not quite so hard as it used to be: a spark or two of the compassion I once experienced in a manner not to be forgotten, seems to have fallen upon it. Favours like this are a bounty upon ill-humour. I must e’en pout on were it only in this view, as a froward child, that has been used to have its crying stopped by sugar-plums, keeps on roaring to get more of them. Query, what degree of perverseness would be sufficient to procure a sugar-plum from Miss F—? . . . . .
“Come now, I will give you a piece of dramatic criticism. Did you ever happen to hear the true history of Othello, and what it was made him take on so when he found the handkerchief was gone? It was the inconvenience he considered it would put him to, to get such another in Cheapside. Apropos, how many people have you just now at Bowood? When you write next, could not you go round the company, apron in hand, and collect enough, at a penny a-piece, to put the matter upon a level for me in point of convenience?
“See what it is to be a guardian angel: to have no passions, and to be made up of nothing but prudence! Such superior beings know not how to lower themselves, even in idea, to the condition of poor, frail, suffering men: one of whom would not bate three words, though it were only on the outside, from the hand in question for elevenpence three-farthings. . . . .
“This ought to have gone sooner, but I was in London yesterday (Friday) when yours arrived here; and to-day I could not leave off kissing it, time enough to answer it, before the post went out: so this of mine will not go from hence till Monday.—Ha! what does the fellow say? Kissing, indeed? Yes, madam, with submission, kissing. Is there any law against kissing paper, and that at a hundred miles distance from the hand that wrote it? . . . .
“Well, it is a rare thing for one poor frail mortal to have three guardian angels, but this last is a sad severe one! You who know all my pursuits, will you be pleased to give me a list of those in which I have manifested this want of perseverance? As to the French business, the time for perseverance is at an end, and yet I persevere. A sixth number is at the printer’s completed, and more than half of it printed; not to mention others, which may as well come from my executors as from me. It is very good in you to take me under your wing, and very natural to recommend me to your other protegés, the bishop and archbishop. Bishops must be strange bishops, if angels speak to them in vain. Under such inspiration, it would be incredulity to doubt the willingness of their spirit; but what could their flesh do for others in an assembly that has decreed to reduce them to skin and bone? No, madam; there, or elsewhere, I persevere, with reverence be it spoken, for mere perseverance’ sake, and without the smallest prospect upon earth. I have preached to them: they have turned their backs upon preachments, with a contempt scarcely exceeded by that which they have manifested over and over again for their own successors, for ever and ever, whose hands they are tying knot after knot, satisfied that, with the present irregularly chosen and semi-aristocratically composed assembly, so lives and dies all will of their own, together with all common honesty and common sense. They have rejected my preachments; and now what remains for me, but to take a leaf out of the book of disappointed preachers, my predecessor and first namesake among the number, and follow up my rejected preachments by eroaking prophecies?
“O rare Mr Romilly! what a happy thing it is to ‘succeed beyond expression,’ where a man would wish beyond expression to succeed! What would Mr Romilly give to see this concluding paragraph, were it possible that a success, which is no secret even to me, should be so to the succeeder? You angel, who know everything that passes, or does not pass in the bosom of me, a sinner, so much better than I do myself, say how long I have entertained so heroic a friendship for Mr Romilly? That I regarded and esteemed him, on account of so much as I know of his political principles, I was myself aware; but friendship is with me a sacred name, scarcely employed till after a degree of mutual explanation and épanchement du cœur which seemed approaching, but, as yet, has scarcely taken place betwixt me and Mr Romilly. Howsoever that be, to confess the truth, (for I know you love to amuse yourself with confessions,) this late inexplicable success of his is somehow or other better calculated to raise him in my esteem, than in my affection. To have seen the same thing in Runic characters, would have given me a satisfaction tolerably pure; but in this delicate Italian, the dose is rather of the strongest. To be thus lugged in, head and shoulders, a man need not repine; otherwise, to be sure, never was man lugged in, head and shoulders, in a more egregious manner than this same happy one Mr Romilly. As to the news you ask about Bowood, this is another instance of omniscience overshadowing ignorance. D—l a bit, madam angel, would Sancho Panza have answered in my place, did I say a syllable that I know of about news. I was neither in the humour, nor had any pretension to put any such queries; but there are some sorts of news which one gets without asking, and which jump into one’s mouth without its being so much as opened for them. O rare, once more, Mr Romilly! Did not you hear a gun go off? No, not I. Well, now we are talking about a gun: I will tell a story about an acquaintance of your cold uncle’s. The business that you know of has led me of late to consult with an architect, a man of vertu, that other great men have consulted likewise. Calling at his house t’other day, by appointment, at half-past 12, no Mr R. was there, nor was expected till 2.* Instead of him, I was introduced to the pretty Mrs R., an old Constantinople acquaintance. He came in rather sooner than expected, and found us occupied—how, do you think? Just as you and I might be: she at her pianoforte—I scraping upon a fiddle. He could not imagine who his wife had got with her. There were but two fiddle-players ever came there—Mr such-a-one and Mr such-a-one. And he knew that they were both at a great distance. Besides being pretty, which is nothing to anybody but her husband, and painting, and speaking all languages as well as any master ever heard, she plays upon the pianoforte beyond expression, which will doubtless give you satisfaction on account of my fondness for music, not to mention virtuous and accomplished pretty women, who are to me what pretty pictures are to your cold uncle. I question whether I shall be able to fix him in Ireland, (an idea not of mine, but of Mr Vaughan’s, if you please,) even if I go there. He is loath to leave his papa, a queer, impertinent old prig, whom I saw; and he is frightened out of his wits at the thoughts of oath boys and white boys, whom, he conceives, form all the Dublin company.
“He talks of going backwards and forwards to do the business if he gets it, in which case his rib, which is the best part about him, would, I suppose, be left behind. I intend to have a magnificent organ, you must know, to help to humanize, amongst other things, my brute in human shape. It would be a good thing to bribe her with a magnificent organ, and the place of organist, were it only to take this poor innocent creature out of the way of such specious men as your cold uncle and his grave son, who, it seems, are not unknown here. The way is, for one of them to go on pretence of inquiring for the other. What charming things are paternal and filial affection! but they are their own sufficient reward, neither will get any other there.
“Does your omniscience know anything stronger than my vanity? Yes! my discretion; and I will give you the most convincing proof of it. Not a creature will ever know from me of my having received this angelic letter, more than he knows of any of the former ones: that is, not a creature breathing, except such as may have heard of them from the writers. If there be such a thing as self-denial virtue, this is; for never was king of Siam vainer of his white elephant, than I am of this favour from the whitest and most beautiful of all hands,—I mean, always provided you will be quick and give me such another: otherwise it will go to all the papers, and eclipse the Munro and Mac-what-is-it? controversy. Is not this in your catalogue of honest note?”
The mind of Bentham was strongly set on obtaining a seat in Parliament, and he conceived that Lord Lansdowne was pledged to bring him in for one of his boroughs. Disappointed in his expectations, he addressed the following remarkable letter to his noble friend:—
Bentham to Lord Lansdowne.*
My return hither brings me to the irksome but necessary task of conclusive explanation. The subject is no secret to you. Since the starting of it, the sound of the word justice has tingled in my ears. Everything turns upon the coincidence or final disagreement of your Lordship’s version and mine. The last time I found you with the gout, and complaining of its effects on your head. This was an effectual bar to any discourse which might run any risk of adding to your uneasiness. It may be as well as it is. Conversation is apt to draw into digressions, to leave things half-explained. I revert to the first morning. Justice, you said, stood in your scale of pretension above principles. The opposition might seem singular, and would require explanation to a third person: but we understood one another; and that is the end of language. Justice, then, was to be preferred to principles. Such then is the maxim; and the application of it is, that those who have been preferred had, and as it should seem always will have, justice on their side; and that justice was not, nor ever will be, on mine. It has been my misfortune to conceive that, as to the future at least, it is I who have justice on my side, and that nobody else has; at least for anything that was said in explanation at the time.
“I admit very freely, and find the most heartfelt satisfaction in being able to acknowledge, that whatever disappointment my past hopes have met with, has nothing in it incompatible with justice: adding, with equal frankness, that that satisfaction would altogether fail me were the remnant of them to meet with the same fate.
“Another satisfaction I have is, that there did not appear the smallest disagreement between your lordship’s recollection and mine of the conversations on which those hopes were founded. You mentioned parliament to me in the precisest terms; asking me whether I should like to have a seat there. My answer was in substance, that it was more than I could possibly assure myself how far I might be able to do anything in such a situation; that, besides the want of fluency, the weakness of my voice might, for aught I knew, be an insuperable bar to my being able to make myself heard, in the literal sense of the word, in the House; but at any rate in Committees, I flattered myself I might do as well as other people. I spoke according to my fears. How could I speak otherwise on the sudden with regard to a situation of which the idea was so new to me? I think it was on that same day your lordship was pleased to say several things about my fitness in other respects for public business, and about the terms of connexion, in such a case, between a nominor and a nominee. Admitting, and not discommending, the strictness of my principles, and my singularities in that and other respects, you took notice with declared satisfaction that you saw in them, however, no reason to apprehend their rendering me, as similar causes had rendered other people whom you had put into such a situation—Lord Stanhope, for instance,—visionary and impracticable. That it was the way of some people, Lord Lonsdale, for instance, to require of his nominees an implicit observance of his will, and that that was not your way: and that though, as to the great lines, a man of course would hardly think of pitching upon one whose notions differed capitally from his own; yet, as to details, you should never think of hampering men or exacting from them any compliances incompatible with their own notions of honour and propriety.
“What was I to think of all this? Could I suppose a thing of this sort was thus thrown out and dwelt upon without reflection or design? Was there any want of time for deliberation on your part? Are these the sort of things which people throw out without a meaning? Was it that sort of thing which it was natural for a veteran statesman, a man who had been Minister so often, and in so many shapes, to toss like a bone to the first animal that came in his way, for want of knowing its value? Was it like an expedition to the play, or a morning’s walk to see pictures; a thing that might be mentioned one moment, and equally out of the memory of both parties the next? Could any man with the most decided intentions have mentioned it in a more decided manner to one of whose inclinations on that head it had not as yet occurred to him to be informed? Was there in the nature of things any other or more deliberate way of mentioning it? If it was not meant, it should be taken as an offer to raise expectations not then determined to be fulfilled, was it not natural to have intermixed something in the way of caution not to look upon it as absolute? Could I suppose that an offer thus made and dwelt upon in a têteà-tête was thrown out as a mere lure; that the only intention of it was to feed me with false hopes, to sport with my sensibility and my gratitude, with my sympathy for your own afflictions, with my honest and, as you well know, not interested ambition, and to rob of his tranquillity the man you were marking out for your bosom friend? What had I done to deserve, if any man could deserve, such treatment at your hands? Could I suppose, that to a man tortured and worried as you had been, a man of a frame of mind surely not naturally hard, and at that time, above all others, worn and softened by a complication of distress, it was a matter of amusement to look out for some obscure and unoffending individual, whom he might bite, on pretence of an embrace, and that all this confidence, and tenderness, and kindness, was only a project for a good joke?
“Could there be a more decided bargain in a transaction which, from the very nature of it, was all grace and kindness on the one hand, all gratitude on the other? Was it not, to every intent and purpose, but the technical form of words, a promise? Was it natural, in such a case, for the one party to superadd, or possible for the other to require, a formal promise; or, consistently with the smallest particle of gratitude or delicacy, to spell for such a thing in the most distant manner, or to conceive that it would superadd anything to his security? Was there anything, on my part, like a declining of the offer? Was it so much as a nolo episcopari? Did not frankness rather outstrip delicacy than otherwise in going even so far as I did to meet it?
“Did the mention of the business come from anybody but yourself? Was there the shadow of a project, or so much as a hope or thought on my part? Did I take you unawares, as designing men used to take Lord Granby? Lord Granby used to look upon himself as bound by such engagements, though stolen from him by artifice. Shall Lord Lansdowne look upon such offers as nothing, because made by him of his own accord to a man whose only reproach is that of simplicity?
“That it was a decided offer, which, when coupled with acceptance, makes a promise, I could not suffer myself to doubt; one thing only prevented me from regarding it as an unconditional and immediate one. The only vacancy apparently in view, was that which seemed the natural result of your breach with Colonel Barré. I could not tell, from anything you had at that time said to me, whether the breach was absolutely irreparable: I could not tell whether, in the event of its being irreparable, some positive engagement or notions of expediency might not induce you to leave him in possession of his seat. Those two points, it seemed natural to suppose, might, one or both of them, still remain undecided in your mind. This consideration was of itself perfectly sufficient to prevent my introducing the subject or saying a syllable more upon it at any time, than what your own communications expresaly called for, Was it for me to take advantage of a recent resentment to do anything that might widen the breach, to endeavour to contribute directly or indirectly to your taking any step which, in your cooler moments, might be productive of regret? The subject was distressing to you: in the nature of things it could not but be so in the highest degree: what you found relief in telling me, I heard with that sort of sympathy which you did not doubt of: what you did not tell me I forbore to ask for. Conscious that nothing in my power could lessen your affliction, all that remained for me was to take care not to say anything that by prying into and probing into it might render it more acute.
“If such as I have mentioned were my grounds for not being able to look upon the offer in any other light than that of a serious one, considering it in itself, and independently of all past discourses and professions—how much stronger those grounds appear when fortified by such a reference! How much had been said, and how frequently, in public as well as in private, indeed in a manner much more public than I wished, in the way of self-accusation, for not having done anything for me at a time when the means of doing so were in hand? When an offer so distinct, so expressly made, of a matter of another kind, which was so perfectly within power, and so much more valuable to me: Could I draw a line and say to myself, all that has gone before had a meaning, but this which is now mentioned has none?
“In this honourable and substantial offer, as it appeared to me, I beheld, as I thought, a rich amends, not for any neglect in not providing for me in another way,—for, God knows, I neither ever had, nor ever conceived myself to have the smallest foundation for complaint on that score,—but for the mode in which that supposed cause of complaint had so frequently been brought upon the carpet.
“The first time of my hearing anything to that effect, was in your powdering room—Lord Wycombe either present, or backwards and forwards during the time. I had furnished you, at your desire, with a short paper on evidence, on the occasion of Hastings’ trial. It was from that slight incident you seemed to take occasion, most perfectly to my surprise, to call to mind your having never done anything for me when in power—to speak of it with regret—to take notice of my never having asked you for anything—to express a sort of sensibility at the thoughts of my not having done so—to remark the difference betwixt me and many, or most others, in that respect, Scotchmen in particular—to recount a conversation that had passed between you and my father, on the occasion of your expressing similar sentiments to him—and, in conclusion, to give me a formal commission to consider what would best suit me in the event of your coming again into office. At the hearing of all this, my surprise was extreme, and my satisfaction, to confess the truth, not extraordinary. Compassion, which was the tone that pervaded the whole, was a sentiment which it was never my ambition to excite; and the prospect it afforded me, however new and unexpected, did not, I must confess, present itself in the shape of an equivalent for a sensation which drew the blood into my face. Neither then, nor ever, was it in my nature to take otherwise than in good part, what appeared to me to have kindness for its principle. It would have been more consistent with that delicacy, of which, on so many other occasions, I have witnessed and experienced such striking and abundant marks, and not inconsistent either with the occasion, with former declarations to myself, or even, if I apprehend it right, with the usual style of civility on such occasions, if the idea of money had been masked under that of a regret of not having sought an opportunity of giving the public the advantage of whatever services the talents of the person in question might have enabled him to render.
“Parliament was then not mentioned, or even hinted at, unless in as far as it might be supposed to be glanced at under the name of politics, which it was supposed, and by no means without grounds, that I should not be very eager to take a part in: but that a place at one of the Boards was what you had in view. Supposing that I should not like it, seemed a civil way of saying that it was not designed for me—that I was not the sort of person to whom it would be offered. I took it for what it was, and was not so weak, with all my simplicity, as to grasp with eagerness at a shadow, which was shown me, only to tell me that I must not grasp at it.
“Having heard thus much, I was in hopes that I had heard it once for all, and that I should hear no more of it. A second surprise, on the same subject, was still reserved for me. The same story of the conversation with my father, was afterwards repeated publicly at dinner, in presence of, I believe, several strangers, and, at any rate, the usual complement of servants. I consoled myself more under the effect by the consideration of the cause: though the cause might, or might not continue, and the effect was permanent. Little ambitious of the fruits of dependence, I was, of course, still less ambitious of the badge. It seemed to me, that, as the one had not been put into my hand, the other ought not, without my consent, to have been forcibly and publicly clapped upon my back. But though mortified, I was not angry. I have never known what it was to be angry with you for a moment; God knows, you have never given me reason for it until now. In my eyes, it was a humiliation, but, in yours, it seemed an elevation. My name was entered in form upon the Preferment-Roll: this was to serve as a sort of public testimony of the degree of favour to which I had risen: this, you thought, and, I suppose, thought truly, would raise me in the eyes of the surrounding audience. Raise me or not in their eyes, it did not raise me in my own. Once more, I flattered myself that there was an end of such honours: could I have foreseen when they would have been repeated, I would have taken sufficient care to have kept out of the way of them. Still, I thanked you for it in my heart: for, once more, it is not in my nature, any more than I believe it to be in yours, to take any otherwise than as a kindness what seemed meant as such.
“One more of these honours, though not quite so heavy a one, was yet in store for me. It was at Bowood, amongst others, Barré and Blankett present, as well as the ladies, and, once more, I believe, servants. Three persons were mentioned as the number of your friends, whom you had done nothing for; and I was pointed to as one. How could I help myself? complaint would have seemed at once ungrateful and ridiculous. This was what I did not like; what I did like, I need not particularize—everything else you ever said to me, or did by me. Thus it was, that without my seeking, and without my liking, your livery was forced upon my back: but a livery, my dear lord, should have wages, at least where they have been promised. The promised wages, the only ones then in hand, and the only ones, were there ever so many in hand, that would suit me, are now refused, as well in present as in future. The Duke of Somerset, upon meeting with I don’t know what disappointment from George II., carted his liveries with great parade to the palace, and shot them down in the court-yard. My livery will not be shot down in the court-yard: it will be laid down silently in the drawer, with a God-bless-him to the master who once chose that I should wear it.
“Once more, it is a great comfort to me to think that in our recollections relative to the matters of fact, there did not seem to be the smallest difference between us. You agreed with me perfectly as to the offer: your only plea was a sort of presumption of non-acceptance, confirmed by a supposition relative to my wishes, entertained on the part of an unnamed common friend, and my subsequent silence.—Collect my wishes from construction,—from implication,—from suppositions formed by a third person?—the wishes of a man who was living with you like one of your family?—of a man whom you had taken under your own roof? By what logic did you arrive at the conclusion of forbearing to ask the only one person in the world who could know anything about the matter? In either of two suppositions, what could be more simple than to put the question to me? If I accepted, you crowned my wishes, while you gratified what, at one time, surely were your own. If I declined, you gave me, at no expense, one of the highest, as well as most substantial demonstrations of affection and esteem one man can give another. Instead of that, you said nothing; turned aside from me, and looked to other people, as if acting forgetfulness could make me forget in reality a thing so impossible to be forgotten, and which you certainly would neither have expected at the time, nor wished to see forgotten, as far as concerned the gratitude that, in a mind not wholly insensible, must have been the certain fruits of it.
“But I had been silent. True it is I had so. To have been otherwise, I must have thrown off two parts of my character. One is, not to beg; another is, not to pry into secrets, and least of all into the secrets of my nearest and dearest friends. Is there anything wrong in either? Is there anything in them for which I deserve to suffer? Lucrative things I never begged of you,—because it has never happened to me to be distressed,—because it is not in my nature to beg, not being distressed,—because it has never happened to me to covet anything of that sort; nor do I know of anything of that sort that I should think it worth while to purchase at that price. The only thing I ever did covet was the opportunity of trying whether I could be of any use to the country and to mankind in the track of legislation, or, not to frighten you with a word which you may suppose to be in my vocabulary, synonymous to wild projects of regeneration, parliamentary business: nor even that could I be said to covet, till you made me; for there is no coveting where there has never been any hope. To what purpose should I have begged? To have reminded you? Such things are not so soon forgotten. What would have been the effect of begging? To have lessened the value of the gift, both to the giver and receiver. Should I have increased my chance by it? I thought more highly of you than to suppose so. If I was mistaken in you,—if I did you more than justice,—if you part with nothing but to purchase homage and supplication, it is fair to tell you, if the experience you have had of me has not sufficiently told you already, I am not your man. Your whole behaviour to me, unless the instances just mentioned be exceptions, has been a perfect model of honour and true dignity, and sincere friendship and generous attention. What reason had I to presume exceptions, and how was I to divine them? One simple course have I always taken to divine what you would do, which was—to consider what would be the noblest and most worthy of you.
“Another reason against mentioning it to you was, my aversion to the idea of prying into your secrets. Accustomed to view things in the great, this virtue, if it be one, costs me less, perhaps, than most people. I do not so much as know the state of my own father’s affairs: he has given it me before now upon paper, and I have returned the paper unopened. Many times has he desired me to hear it, and as often have I stopped his mouth; because at other times I have observed him solicitous to keep this or that part from me. I have my mother’s marriage settlement in my keeping, as executor to her brother; my father, I suppose, thinks I have it by heart, and I have never looked at it. What communications you have made me at different times relative to the state of your affairs, I have as often received with the greatest pleasure. Why?—because it was a gratification to me to know the facts? no: but because they were so many proofs of your friendship and confidence. Whatever you have not told me, I have concluded it was your wish I should not know. So far from asking you, I have forborne, for the same reason, asking anybody else. When anybody asks me for my opinion, I question them directly, and without scruple, with regard to all facts which I want, in order to make up my opinion, so I question them, and there I stop: directly nor indirectly, with regard to any other.
“This was a subject, of all others, on which it was impossible for me to think of putting questions, or entering into it a jot further than where you thought fit of your own accord to lead me. It was your breach with Col. B. that presented the only probability of a vacancy, I could observe. It was upon his going out, that my coming in seemed, according to my hypothesis, to depend. Asking you to put me in, would have been urging you to turn him out. I saw reasons upon reasons, for not choosing to do anything that might stand the smallest chance of rendering me accessary to any such step. Whether he deserved it at your hands was more than I could possibly be assured, having heard so very little of the particulars, and that only on one side. The breach might not be irreparable. I could not tell what danger there might be to yourself in carrying it to such a height, after so long and confidential a connexion. What little I knew of the man, I had never liked,—another reason for not combating him in an oblique way. It was a subject that, for some time, could not but give you pain, as often as it was brought to your recollection; and which, therefore, unless when you yourself introduced it, I am pretty sure of having never mentioned to you.
“So much for the sort of justice which my unfortunate expectations had been built upon for their support. It certainly did not amount to either Westminster Hall or Smithfield justice. No action could have been brought upon it. No valuable consideration, no quid pro quo, in the case, most certainly.
“God knows, it has never fallen in my way to render you the smallest particle of service; the nature of our respective situations scarce admits of it.
“But what was the sort of justice that was opposed to me? The whole extent of it I cannot pretend to fathom. Two of its rules, however, were sufficiently announced. Two classes of men have an indefeasible right to seats from you: every man who has ever given you a vote, and every man of your acquaintance who has ever tried to get in elsewhere. This is the justice that is to drive ‘principles’ out of doors, and with them, not me only, but all that you love or esteem. Justice is an imposing word: and the sound of it, added to the singularity of the explanations that followed it, left me no other choice than that of attention. I listened, therefore, while the explanations ran their length, picking up facts as far as they were to be picked up by listening; thinking it better to leave them in the obscurity that surrounded them, than to attempt clearing it up by questioning where the right was wanting, and choosing rather to submit to embarrassment, than to cause it to no purpose. The one thing material, the want of the disposition, I had been unfortunate enough to depend upon, was sufficiently legible: the weaker the reasons alleged for refusal, the stronger the determination they served to indicate. Having got thus much, I had got enough to meditate upon, as much as I had any right to ask, and as much as it concerned me to obtain. All my regret is, that these laws of justice, such as they are, were not promulgated at the time that parliament was so distinctly mentioned to me. I should not then have had to complain of a departure from a sort of justice, according to my apprehension, rather more simple and intelligible. It would then have passed as a compliment; and as such, I should have been flattered with it. Willingly as I would have been excused the honour of being pointed at in public as a fit object of charity, which happily I have no occasion for—neither in public nor in private should I have had any objection to have been mentioned as often as you had pleased, as a fit object of choice for parliament.
“Here, then, if it were in my power to thoroughly comprehend your decided inclination, and reconcile it with itself, I should take my leave of you: inclination, if I saw it clearly and definitively against me, would leave no room for reasoning: arguing is apt enough to stifle inclination, but it is very ill calculated to produce intention where there is none.
“But what perplexes me, is, that to this phantom of justice not only my expectations have been sacrificed, and our common principles, but other persons, for whom it was impossible for me to doubt of your affection, whatever may be the case as towards myself.
“You bring to view two sets of persons for your three spare seats—the set now sitting, and another of which I am one. The latter united in principles and affections with you and with each other; all of these honoured by your esteem, and more or less of your regard: two in particular, affectionate in their nature, and having every reason to be so in a more particular manner towards you, distinguished by such marks of your affection and intimacy as do not appear to be possessed by anybody else. The other set composed of three men, who, amongst them all, neither possess, nor pretend to possess, a grain either of affection or of what we mean by principle: men who neither live so much with you, nor, to appearance, in a style of equal intimacy, and whose principles, if they had any, would be as opposite to your own, as any you could meet with. Such, in brief, is the description of your two sets: what is to be their fate? The men after your own heart are to have heaven’s gates everlastingly shut against them. The men you care nothing about, are the men to enter for ever into the joy of their Lord. All this you tell me in the plainest terms: and to explain a conduct otherwise so inexplicable, you give me the sound of the word justice.
“To come to something that shall be intelligible at least, give me leave to dispose of the word justice, and translate it into ambition, which is what it means, if it means anything. In the name of God, my lord, what are these shadows for which you are sacrificing everything and everybody? What in the scale of politics can be the weight of a parliamentary interest, as far as mere members are concerned, of which the sole constituent elements are as many votes, neither more nor less, as three seats can purchase: for Lord Wycombe’s is not yet at market; he is not yet called up nor chosen for a county? But let all possibilities of every kind, and even impossibilities, be taken for realities, and you have four seats. Four seats are four votes: and let the prospect of these four seats give you four votes more to retreat to in case of a repulse from others; though, as often as a repulse actually happens to take place, for instance Mr Baring’s, the number is diminished, as the same seat will not hold two men at the same time. Call them eight: if you please, multiply them by ten, and call them eighty: what, upon the face of God’s earth, are you to do with these eighty votes? What one single point can you hope to gain by it? Is it in the power of eight or of eighty votes to make you minister, or to keep you minister, when the gods have made you so; or so much as keep your head from the block, were they to give their own instead of it? There are, I take it, two plans for carrying things in parliament; per capita and per stirpes—doing it by numbers, or doing it by weight. The plan per capita, though rather a difficult one, has been said, I think, to have once been pursued by I forget which minister, to keep himself in; but for a man who is not minister to get himself in by pursuing the plan per capita, and that upon the strength of four actual votes, and as many possible ones, is what, I must confess, I should not have thought of. Two things, and two things only, can either put or keep you in: king’s favour, and weight of reputation. For the king’s favour, if it depend upon such conditions, you have full license from me to make every sacrifice. I require of flesh and blood no more than flesh and blood are equal to. Lay all your principles at his feet. Send both sets of us packing, the ins and the outs, with Lord Wycombe into the bargain. Surrender your boroughs to Lord Hawkesbury. But will the king’s favour be governed in any shape by your four or your eight votes; or rather by the difference between your four votes, which you are sure of, and your eight, which is the utmost your four can give? Are your four or your eight votes, then, any better security for the requisite quantum of reputation? As to mere personal reputation, that is equally out of the question in any case. The plan for weight of reputation in parliament is the plan per stirpes. This was the plan you appeared formerly to pursue: and personal inclination and politics went at that time hand in hand. Dunning, I think I have understood from you, you had an affection for: Townshend at any rate; and I suppose Barré at one time. Dunning, though a narrow-minded man, and a mere lawyer, was a most able advocate; and, I daresay, drew a considerable stirps after him. Townshend was of use to you in the city. I believe at one time he governed it. Barré, though he knew nothing, was a good party bull-dog, barked well, and with great imposition and effect, where nothing was necessary to be known. This was acting per stripes; and having a party, and having a piece at least of a great state engine, though, if you had got a whole one, there was not a man of them all that had any idea of any use it was to be put to, or of any good that was to be done with it. To the herd of statesmen power is its own end: by the dignified few it is regarded only as a means to an end. There have been times when I have had the pleasure of seeing your lordship ranking yourself among those few: I wish I could say always. You had then at that time of day a Shelburne party, and which, whatever were the subjects, was the more honourable to the head of it, as he reigned alone. A party which, by mere weight of reputation, told in the balance against the great aristocracy of the country. It was then, as they say at cricket, Shelburne against all England. In comparison, upon the present plan, or rather no plan, what is the party come to now? In the House of Commons there is not a grain of reputation belonging to any one member of it below the head. It is the old story of the Colossus, with the head of gold and legs of clay. It is all head and no body: the figure we see at the puppet show; below the head, there is not a grain of reputation to be found; what the Rump Parliament was in comparison with the Long Parliament in its glory. I beg pardon of the Rump; at that time of day, wherever it was not admired, it had at least the honour of being hated to a degree which it could not have been if it had not been feared. Here it is pure derision and contempt. I speak feelingly—I have a right to do so; its humiliation is mine—is still worse humiliation to me.
“As to the present rump of the ci-devant Shelburne party, the curious thing is, that there is nothing I could say to you of their insignificance in which you have not gone before me. It is not my opinion of them I am giving you, but your own opinion, repeatedly and most explicitly declared, and that to me. In the ordinary course of things, it is a satisfaction to a man where he finds his own judgment of men or things confirmed by the public voice. This satisfaction, if such it were in your case, nobody need wish to possess in a higher degree than you do. It is singular enough, but no less singular than strictly true, that from the time your choice was known, to the present, I have not been in a single company, your own particular friends excepted, (for none of us confer even with one another about such matters, or sit in judgment together over you) not a single person have I seen, who has not obtruded upon me his wonder at your choice. A few, whose degree of familiarity admitted of such discourse, went so far as to express their wonder at not finding me in the number; but whether I, who am out, was alluded to or no, there was but one voice with regard to those who are in. ‘How came Jarvis to be pitched upon, of all people in the world? a very good man on board of ship; but what is he to do, or what did he ever do, in Parliament?’ ‘What? of all men in the world, could he find nobody but Jekyll? How could he think of such a man as that for Parliament!’ ‘Put Jekyll into Parliament! it is quite a burlesque upon Parliament the very idea of it,’ said another man, in so many words, with abundance of details to the same effect. With others, the last choice was matter of particular surprise; for I found he was understood to be a dull man, and that even by dull men,—by men who neither had, nor ever pretended to have, an opinion of their own; and only spoke, as they could only speak, from his general character in the profession. Nor, in all, was there anything of party or personal dislike; among people of all sorts and characters and parties, I found but one and the same language. Such has been the gauntlet I have had to run. What could I say? I who, as being supposed to be in the secret, was examined, as it were, upon interrogatories? I put on airs of significance, and said what little I could, as shortly as I could: of one, an old connexion; of another, a legacy; of another, he was in before. I suffered in all manners of ways: I suffered for you; I suffered for myself;—for if these men are so low, whereabouts am I who have been put under their feet? All this I have had fermenting within me, without vent; for since you first began to open to me, and since I have learned to fancy myself entitled to call you friend, in no one instance have I ever thought of putting any creature breathing between you and me.
“Insignificant as they are, it would be something if they were yours: obsequiousness might make some amends for ignorance and inefficiency: but another curious thing is, that they are no more yours than they are the king’s, or Pitt’s, or Fox’s. Your men? Could you find three men in the House that were less so, or less solicitous to appear so? They your men? You are their man, if you please: but in what sense any one of them is your man, except by vouchsafing to sit now and then in the seat you have given him, I should be curious to know. So much as to principles. Whether they are yours or no, for the purpose of being let out to private jobs, such as the Duchess of Rutland’s, for instance, I cannot pretend to say. But if they are, what is that worth to you? What satisfaction or advantage did you get, for example, in that very instance?
“The use of a practising lawyer is the having a man who, besides whatever knowledge he may have in his profession, has studied speaking,—a man who, having no opinion of his own, is ready to say, upon all occasions, whatever is put into his mouth. His business should be to catch your opinions, and argue from them, in and out of the House, as he would from his brief. The seat you give him is his retaining fee; if he is not your âme damnée, he is a rebel and a traitor. A man who is ready to prove black white for anybody for a guinea,—is it for a man like that to have a will or an opinion of his own, against that of a man who gives him what is worth £4000?
“In the House, members are supposed to speak the sentiments of their electors: everywhere else they are supposed to speak the sentiments of the boroughmaster who puts them in. Your members, if ever they open their mouths, whose are the sentiments they will speak? Yours?—no more than they will those of the people of Calne or Wycombe. They speak your sentiments? They neither would be able if they wished it, nor would if they were able. They speak your sentiments? You will scarce venture to speak your own sentiments when these men are by. When the beginnings of the French revolution were on the carpet at Bowood, you scarce durst own your good wishes on its behalf; while Jekyll, who has, in general, so many good jokes, was exhausting himself in bad ones to endeavour to make it look ridiculous.
“What would be the D. de la Rochefoucauld’s thoughts, were he to know of this affair? Could he have imagined that the man whom you were so eager to get him to make a legislator for France, was the very man whom, having it in your power to make a Member of Parliament in England, you had resolved not to put into that station, even after having given him so much reason to expect it? Would it have been his conclusion, that a man who would not have shrunk from the task of muttering his broken French in a French assembly, was determined, through mere sense of inability, not to attempt talking his own language in an English one?
“What a pity (if Lord Lansdowne had happened to be at the same time in his thoughts)—what a pity he might naturally have thought that such a man has not been able to get an introduction to such a man, for example, as Lord Lansdowne—a man whose passion for merit in all its shapes, not only fills up his own great and liberal mind in private life, but breaks all bounds when he is Minister, and overflows into the King’s speech.
“ ‘The Newton of legislation,’ was the epithet given by Fitzherbert to the author of a certain unreadable quarto volume in the presence of Charles Abbot, in a circle of foreign ambassadors at the Hague; by which it should seem that Lord Lansdowne is perhaps not the only man who looks upon the same obscure person as ‘understanding the subject a hundred times beyond any man in England.’
“Reserving to yourself whatever lies within the province of judgment, might not a use be found now and then, if it were only in the way of saving trouble, for an invention, fertile in expedients of all sorts, and capable of presenting in all manner of shapes, not only what is best to be done, but all possible contrivances for bringing about whatever is determined to be done?
“A man does not choose his children, he must take them such as God gives them to him, with such opinions as they have. But members for his boroughs surely he might choose, and with them the sentiments by which his are to be represented. There are two ways of providing for the exactness of such a representation.
“To answer my purpose, if that were all, one remove at the next General Election would be sufficient, and the demands of what I look upon as justice, at least all that I know of them, would be satisfied. But to answer your Lordship’s purpose, the purpose of your consistency, your own better judgment and your own fame, nothing would completely serve short of a general clearance, a complete triumph of your better judgment over your worse. Worse off you cannot be; and what chance can you give yourself for being better off without trial? You will then be represented as much as you choose to be so; you will have the commencement of a little party, whose spirit will be willing, howsoever their flesh may be weak. ‘New principles will, they must—in time—prevail.’ How often have you said so to me for my consolation? When will you say so? How is it they are to prevail if nobody is to begin to preach them? Is it by your means you could wish to see them prevail, or in spite of you?
“Whether one only went out, or whether they all went out, what would you lose, or what reason would any one of them have to complain?
“Morris, I think, had two merits. He had tried at Bath, and he was to help settle Calne. Yes: try at Bath he did, and you see what came of it. Three votes out of—what was the number—forty, fifty, or sixty? This was his proof of importance. In Westminster Hall, in his own profession,—that sordid and narrow-minded profession, which you would be glad to despise, and which I, your humble dependant, despise, give me leave to say so, a little more at my ease,—he is nobody. In the country, as something between the country gentleman and the country lawyer, he was supposed to be somebody; and you see what it amounts to. He has done conveyancing business for you as for others: Did you not pay him for it as others have done, and at least as well as others have done? Is a seat in Parliament to be given as a fee to a conveyancer, and as a make-weight too, after another fee, which certainly was not an insufficient one? This parliamentary fee, however, since such has been your pleasure, he has actually had: is he to have another, and another too, to the end of his life? But he had been spending his money, I think you said, or something like it, in Bath. He spend money? How? What did he spend it in? in buying votes? What! Those votes! would any man in his senses go to give one farthing for three out of forty votes? And for whom would he have been spending his money if he had spent any? for you? for anybody that belonged to you? If he had got into Bath, would this have made Bath your borough? would it have made Bath your borough any more than mine? not but that it would have been as much your borough as Calne is, if it is to be filled by people who neither think with you, nor live with you, nor care for you, nor are, in any sense, related to you, except by sitting there. But he was to settle Calne; and his settling Calne was to be an advantage to Lord Wycombe. Morris settle Calne? Let him settle Bath first, where he has connexions, viz.: three votes; it will then be time enough for him to think of settling Calne where he has none. And if he had had Bath to settle, what would have become of Calne? Calne wants settling? how long has that been? How long is it since you told me it was in such good order, that even the feasts, which were so necessary when I first knew the place, had been given up? But suppose it to want settling, and that he were capable of settling it, and had settled it: who would he have settled it for but himself? So long as he was in it, it remained settled. When he was gone, who was to settle it then? Is a borough thus circumstanced, your borough? No: so long as Mr Morris is in it, it is Mr Morris’s borough; as soon as he is out of it, it is anybody’s or nobody’s. However, he has had his fee for settling it,—a seven year’s seat in it. Is not this fee sufficient? Is the seat to be his for life? Were it to be intimated to him in civil terms, that sitting in it seven years was fee sufficient for settling it during that time, would he think himself underfee’d or ill used? Would he turn upon you, and endeavour to unsettle it, by way of payment for his seat? Was it not you that gave him his silk gown? and what has he ever done for his silk gown, either for the public or for you? Was not his silk gown a sufficient fee for doing nothing, and for the credit you have derived from the countenance this great man has vouchsafed to show you? As for living with you much, I do not find that this has ever been the case. Why should he have lived with you? What one idea have you and he in common? Now then, my Lord, to speak explicitly as between me and Mr Morris. What is past was previous to explanation,—it is past: but as to the future, now that you know pretty distinctly that parliament is not indifferent to me, if I am to understand that for such a place as parliament, such a man as Mr Morris is stands above me, my doom is sealed. It is for you to take which of us you please: take him, and I make my bow.
Mr Jekyll’s merits stand upon very different grounds. Weight of any kind he is not so much as supposed to have anywhere,—in parliament or anywhere else. Nor have his claims the support even of the new-invented laws of justice. But they have a much stronger. These laws are of the same cobweb texture as so many other laws. They stop small flies like me: great hornets like Mr Jekyll laugh at them. His post in the household is that of tale-bearer, and in that station he has been pronounced absolutely necessary; I am sure I do not mistake,—in that quality he has been repeatedly mentioned to me, and never in any other. Nothing can be more explicit: nothing can be more of a piece with that frankness which in simple truth, and without anything of sarcasm, has so often charmed me. Frankness like this on one part, calls for equal frankness on the other. You may propese to me a place in your household, below that of tale-bearer: below that of scullion, if you please: when I accept of it, I shall deserve it. Things were not then explained; now they are. What is past is past: but as to the future, if a tale-bearer is to be preferred to me for parliament, the same household does not hold the tale-bearer and me. The character I should have given him, without pretending to much affection for him, were anybody to ask me for his character, would have been such an one as he would probably have been less unwilling to own: a very pretty poet; a man without an equal, perhaps, for small-talk, and ready wit, and repartee, and powers of entertainment adapted to the taste of fashionable circles,—a man qualified to shine, in short, in almost all sorts of circles; that commanding one excepted, in which the public spirited Lord Lansdowne, in compliment to the company, and to show his sense of the importance of the trust, has thought good to place him, or any other in which there may occasionally be a demand for serious knowledge. But such has never been the character in which he has been mentioned, pronounced necessary, and as such preferred to me. I, for my part, know neither of that nor any other quality in myself that can render me anything like necessary to anybody: especially to one to whom a tale-bearer is also necessary. Upon this ground, therefore, once more, there remains nothing for me but to make my bow.
“But admitting the tale-bearer to be necessary to a great minister, is a seat in parliament, and that from your Lordship, and that a perpetual one, equally necessary to the tale-bearer? Three or four years in parliament he has had already: seven years more he will have at any rate. Is not a ten years spent in parliament a fee considerable enough for ten or even twenty years spent in tale-bearing? That is, for the value of three weeks or four every year so employed, at the outside. Would the tale-bearer, if given to understand that his interest in the borough was not a freehold, turn tail upon his patron, and turn his tales into lampoons? Would he so much as cease his tales for want of a perpetual succession of refreshers to the first retaining fee, and sing the song of ‘No Pay, no Swiss?’ I should not presume so badly either of his gratitude or his discretion. Is a seat in parliament the only sort of fee which a practising lawyer, and he not very rich, nor as yet much abounding in fees of the more substantial kind, will vouchsafe to take? Is your lordship’s countenance, and business, and recommendation in his profession, a matter of indifference to a man so circumstanced? Will nothing pay him but a seat in a place where he is nobody—where he does nothing, nor has any notion of anything that is to be done? Would visions of Welch judgeships and solicitor-generalships, and silk gowns to be put on at the second coming of our Lord, be of no value in his eyes? Or are such contingencies baits for none but simple men like me? If nothing but serving in parliament will serve him, would not seven years warning be time enough for him to look out for another service? Could he be at a loss to meet with one, now that your lordship has given him a lift, and put him in the track? Or is it really the case, that, of all his numerous acquaintance, Lord Lansdowne is the only proprietor of a borough that would not be ashamed to make this use of it? Would not those qualities which have rendered him so necessary to a great statesman and a veteran minister, be expected to render him at least equally so to many and many a patron of more ordinary mould? Many are the strings he cannot but have to his bow: I have,—or, by this time, perhaps, I may say I had—but one string to my bow, and that (must I now add?) a rotten one.
“One Swiss there was you might have had, that would have lived and died with you, and have been as domestic and as faithful to you as your porter, if his evil genius had not whispered to you, that Swisses do not serve without pay, and therefore you must be talking to him about pay. Pay, you accordingly held up to him, the only sort of pay he cared about: he caught at it—you drew it back—and now, he too, like other Swisses, cries—No Swiss, if there is to be no pay.
“When I tell you, that I should never have said anything about pay to you, or hinted to you, directly or indirectly, a syllable about pay of any kind—not even a seat in parliament, if you had not to me, I expect to be believed. Even parliament, you might have talked to me about it as long as you pleased—talked to me about other men, or even asked me whom you should put there, without your so much as hearing of my existence. So long as I was out of the question, and no direct comparisons made, you might have talked of your valet-de-chambre to me, or your butler, without my proposing myself in preference.
“Of my own chance of turning out capable of doing anything in parliament I shall say little here though I could have a good deal to say on that chapter, had I any right to suppose it would be worth your hearing. Faculties depend upon spirits: spirits depend upon situation. They do so in most men: they do so particularly in me. The spirits which you see now are but the dregs of those you might have given me. Neither you nor I can ever know what I might have been, if you had pleased. Thus much only will I add, that were I to be a discredit to you, most certainly you would not be half so anxions to see me out as I should be in haste to go out; and I should consider myself as a discredit to you, if, like your present set, I sat like a chip in porridge, and took no part in business, or none that was to any purpose.
“If it were known that I could speak what I write, and as I write, I am apt to think I should not be held quite so cheap as I now seem to be. Speaking and writing are two very different things. But because a man has been thought to write tolerably, does it follow that he can never be able to speak at all, and that he ought to be set down? Does not writing as well as speaking presuppose thinking, and is a man, merely for the misfortune of being thought to write well, to be pronounced incapable of speaking at all, and to be put below those who can neither speak nor write? Is it not true, that before a man can speak good things, he must have them in his head? Can a man speak good things without having them in his head; or is it to be concluded that he has not them in his head because he writes them?
“Or is it that a man that studies his parliamentary or other business is a pedant, and a pedant is not fit to sit among fine gentlemen; and therefore the fitter a man is for the business of parliament, the less fit it is for you to put him there? This I suspect to be the logic that has overpowered the united force of affection, principles, and justice.
“I set out with acknowledging, my lord, that as no fixed time was mentioned in what you were pleased to say to me [about parliament,] though you have forgot and slighted me, I cannot as yet charge you with having deceived me. What you will now do, if your notions about justice should fortunately correspond to mine, is to give me an absolute and unconditional promise that I shall sit in the next parliament, whosoever does or does not sit there: for as to the possibilities upon possibilities with which you condescended to entertain me, they returned forthwith to the clouds from whence they came. Upon these terms, my heart, if it be worth your acceptance, is still yours. In any other event, I have nothing left but to beg of you and the ladies to forget me, which will take you half an hour; and to study to forget you, which will be the hard task of the remainder of my life.
“One thought hangs particularly heavy upon me: When I was last with you, you wanted me to stay. You pressed me with a degree of earnestness I had never observed before. You were ill: the gout was in your head: and in such a state, such a trifle as even my restiveness might make you worse. It hurt me cruelly to break from you: but it was necessary. I could not look as I felt without being guilty of disrespect to the ladies, drawing attention and spoiling company. I could not attempt to look otherwise without a sort of falsehood I feared I should not be able to support. You and they know I have no liking to last times: and an interview which, besides being a first time, was so likely to be the last of all last times, was more than I had force to venture upon.
“It was my hope to have lived and died with you. There was not a place upon earth to which I would not have followed you: but that must take its chance.
“All this while I have never dared face my father. I have not been able to master up resolution to stand the parallel that, by this time, has so often been drawn between the conduct of a noble duke towards one side of the family, and that of a noble marquis towards the other; nor the strictures that have been made on the difference between apparent and real friendship, between profession and performance. I have not seen him, nor will I see him, until I have it in my power to tell him distinctly, either that the Lord Lansdowne—of whose affection and esteem for me, and passion for serving me, he has heard so much from that same Lord Lansdowne—has stood to his word and bound me to him for ever, or started from it and set me free.”
Lord Lansdowne’s reply does him much honour, and leaves no doubt that Bentham had mistaken his intention:—
Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.
“Bowood Park, 27th August, 1790.
Allow me to answer your very long letter of yesterday in, I hope, a short one of to-day, not to save myself trouble, but to avoid digressions, and, above all, personalities.
“I am impatient to set you right about your Foundation Fact, upon which we are very far from agreed; as I do solemnly assure you, upon my word and honour, that I never made you any such offer as you suppose. I might, with great propriety, stop here; but from motives both of esteem and regard, I will go farther with regard to what has past and what is to come.
“While the public has been my first object through life, my temper has insensibly and involuntarily led me to advance everybody about me to the utmost of my power: my worst political enemies have told me that I carried this disposition to a failing, and experience has proved them to be in the right: but I have always lived within a very small circle, and I have been particularly fortunate in this respect; for I believe no person has served more people, especially considering the short intervals which I have been in power, nor with more real, nor upon more disinterested principles. In 1782, I left none who had political claims upon me unprovided for, and very few who had any of friendship or habits. It was natural for me to regret that you were among the last; but, in fact, no opportunity occurred of serving you in the line which I thought would have been most agreeable to you. As I have known many opportunities lost for want of knowing men’s wishes beforehand, it was equally natural for me to sound yours, in case I should return into Ministry. Finding, to my surprise, that your wishes were not of the nature I had supposed, different things were mooted, and among others parliament, under a prepossession that it was not your object, for this plain reason, that the same reasons which made you decline the practice of your profession applied in great measure to parliament, which prepossession was confirmed by what passed, and would be by your words, even as you now state them. It was the incident of this conversation upon which we were both agreed in town. It was I who referred first to it, not you—not as an offer, but as an incidental conversation; nor was the word offer ever brought forward in that conversation. As to what included Lord Lonsdale’s name, which you only say you think was conpled with it, I can only say, it is a commonplace which I have, properly or improperly, I am sure, mentioned to fifty people. But allow me to add, that I was much more confirmed by repeated conversations regarding yourself, in which you stated your happiness to depend on your perfect independence, and every view you had to be centred in your particular pursuits, and that you looked, where you addressed yourself, only for society—in terms of such disinterestedness and kindness as does not become me to repeat, especially in an argumentative way. The moment you mentioned parliament to me in town, you were witness to my astonishment, and it fully explains the forgetfulness you mention, which you attribute to affectation, certainly not one of my failings; and you then appeared to me to blame yourself so far for the past.
“As to what is to come, now that I know your wishes, I assure you that it will give me great pleasure if I can contribute to the completion of them; and that I will spare no pains for the purpose, so far as consists with the engagements I have express or implied, which have taken place when I was totally ignorant of your inclinations, which I do not think requisite to state, feeling the discussion of them unbecoming towards myself and others, from the same motives of delicacy which would influence me in your case, mutatis mutandis. But I must annex two conditions—one, that it must not be considered as the consequence of any past engagement, which I am now disclaiming; another, that it shall not be understood to be with any political view, for you quite mistake my plans. I wish well to what I call the new principles, and will promote them as far as a free declaration of my own sentiments in public or private will go; but politics have given long since too much way to philosophy, [for me] to give myself further trouble about them. I would as soon take England upon my back, as take the trouble of fighting up a second time the game to which you allude. If I plant any more, I have long determined that it shall be like the birds: the trees must depend on the nature of the soil—I will bestow no pains on fencing, much less manuring and dunging them.
“I am now only afraid that you will be angry that your sixty-one pages have not on the one hand had the effect of subduing or terrifying me; or, on the other, made me angry; and that you apprehend them to be thrown away. They have not occasioned to me one moment’s irritation—but they are not thrown away. I select, with satisfaction, the seeds of esteem and regard which I perceive interspersed. It’s no small pleasure to me to reflect that, open and unguarded as I am well known to be, in such intimate habits as I have indulged with you, I have exposed myself so little. I see the merit of the advice which is mixed, which, if I was as perseveringly ambitious as you suppose, is as good as any Lord Bacon could have given to the Duke of Buckingham; and though the rest is at the expense of myself, and of friends whom I highly respect and esteem, concerning whom you appear to have fallen into strange mistakes, I cannot help admiring the ingenuity with which you attach expressions to meanings, and meanings to expressions, to advance your argument; besides a great deal more I could say, if I was not afraid of your suspecting what I might say in the best faith, to partake of any sort of persiflage. But I consider the whole as an ebullition, excited by fine feelings, and by the pique you mention, arising from your brother Abbott’s being brought in for the disputed borough in Cornwall; which I am sure I enter into as well as all which regards your father’s house, and wish to God I could remedy it. But as to ebullitions, I am myself subject to them; and though they are more momentary, they are not half so ingenious, and, therefore, not half so pardonable: you may, therefore, depend, whatever you say or do, upon my remembering nothing, but how truly I am your affectionate, humble servant,
“P.S.—Saturday, 28th,—My hand could not hold out to finish my letter yesterday; but, as there is no post to-day, I send it by a packet. I have not wrote half so much to anybody with my own hand since my illness.”
Bentham thus answered Lord Lansdowne:—
Bentham to Lord Lansdowne.
“My dear, dear Lord,—
Since you will neither be subdued nor terrified, will you be embraced? Those same seeds you were speaking of have taken such root, the ground is overrun with them; and there would be no getting them out were a man to tug and tug his heart out. So parliament may go to the devil, and I will take your Birmingham halfpence, and make a low bow, and put them gravely into my pocket, though they are worse than I threw away before: there can be no condition necessary for that, so you need not be at the expense of making any.—Quere, How much pains would it cost a man to say Yes or No; and how much time to discover his past engagements expressed or implied? What I understand by this is, that, notwithstanding ebullitions, you would not be sorry to see me; and what I am sure of is, that I should be overjoyed to see you again, not forgetting your appurtenances, if you and they would let me.
“Offer?—why no, to be sure it was not—why didn’t I tell you I only called it so for shortness? More shame for you that you never made me any. My model was a Scotchman I know, whom I set up in the world, and who, while he was pocketing what I had got for him by hard labour, was threatening to bring an action against me for not having made him the offers that somebody had made to somebody else.
“Now, could I, after having been counsel for J. B., and made nothing of it, be counsel for Lord L., and show how much blacker than one’s hat was the behaviour of the wretch you had to deal with? and then, in the character of my Lord Judge,—how easy it was to the parties to see the matter in the different lights, and yet be both of them good sort of men in their way; but this would take sixty-one pages more, and sixty-one to that, and you seem to think the first sixty-one enough, and I am sure I do; and as they would be of no use to anybody, I think they may as well sleep on in the pericranium where they lie.
“My father,—believe me when I assure you upon my honour, I have never had the smallest communication with him on the subject, directly or indirectly, any more than with the Pope of Rome; and have,—for that very reason, that I might not, and no other, avoided seeing him, until now that I could talk with him about it without betraying anything.
“It was using me very ill, that it was, to get upon stilts as you did, and resolve not to be angry with me, after all the pains I had taken to make you so. You have been angry, let me tell you, with people as little worth it before now: and your being so niggardly of it in my instance, may be added to the account of your injustice. I see you go upon the old christian principle of heaping coals of fire upon people’s heads, which is the highest refinement upon vengeance. I see, moreover, that, according to your system of cosmogony, the difference is but accidental between the race of kings and that of the first Baron of Lixmore: that ex-lawyers come like other men from Adam, and ex-ministers from somebody who started up out of the ground before him, in some more elevated part of the country.
“To lower these pretensions, it would be serving you right, if I were to tell you that I was not half so angry as I appeared to be; that, therefore, according to the countryman’s rule, you have not so much the advantage over me as you may think you have: that the real object of what anger I really felt, was rather the situation in which I found myself than you or anybody; but that, as none but a madman would go to quarrel with a non-entity called a situation, it was necessary for me to look out for somebody who, somehow or other, was connected with it.
“You a philosopher by trade? Alack-a-day! Well, I’ll set up against you, and learn to desire nothing, aim at nothing, and care for nothing any more. Then we shall see which makes the best hand of it,—a broken minister, or a man who has served a treble apprenticeship to it in colleges, chambers, and cottages. One island, after all, is enough for one man, unless he is a great genius like Lord Buckingham. So I’ll go to Ireland, and govern like an angel, and double the value of your acres every year; and then you will come over, by and by, with some attorney in your hand, or some conveyancer, or somebody that knows everybody, and has no singularities, and is exactly like every other creature breathing, and down go I and my projects under the table.
“Being a sort of mongrel philosopher, for my part, something betwixt the epicurean and cynic, you must allow me to snarl at you a little, now and then, while I kiss the beautiful hands you set to stroke me,—if ever I am to kiss them; in regard to which, fresh difficulties seem to have arisen, I can’t tell how, God help me!—for, somehow or other, I have got into another scrape which is to me darkness unfathomable, though you, I suppose, know all about it.
“When will your door be open to me? provided always that no fair hands have been barred against me. This thought makes me droop again—I cannot keep it. I had just mustered up spirits enough to write this, and must now go to moping again, and so good-by to you.”
But, whatever momentary coolness may have been excited, soon passed away. In a letter of 17th Oct. 1790, Lord Lansdowne thus expresses himself:—
“Well or unwell, I could not let the post go without assuring you that no one knows better the difference between honest open passion which bursts, no matter how, and gives fair warning,—and concealed malice, which seeks to avenge a wounded vanity it dares not own, and to gratify a cowardly spirit of envy and ingratitude. I know the qualities which belong to both, and I have knowledge enough of mankind to worship one in its moment of violence,—among other reasons, on account of its affinity to my own temper, while, if I was to die for it, I could never forget or forgive the other. I leave it to you to make the application. If you make it rightly, you will make it unnecessary for me to keep the ladies waiting dinner longer, in order to assure you how affectionately and unalterably I must be always yours,
In Bentham’s papers are several sketches of addresses to electors; from one or two I extract passages which seem worth preserving:—
“I am sensible how I should commit myself by correspondence had I anything to commit. Nothing can be more vulgar than, in a character not anonymous, thus to address the people. What great man condescends to address the people on the business of the people? What great man degrades himself from his dignity by addressing them in his own name? Periodical seasons of condescension there are, indeed, in which a great man does vouchsafe to defile himself with this sort of correspondence. But it is on business of far other importance than the business of the people—it is on the great man’s own great and particular business.
“But for me, I am steeped in vulgarity; it is in me an incurable disease. I am a low man. I feel as a low man: low men are the men for whom I think—they are—they ever have been—they ever will be—the chief objects of my care.
“I have other means of influence. I have had the honour of making acquaintance with a gentleman who had a considerable interest with the first cousin of the favourite mistress of the valet-de-chambre of a gentleman high in the confidence of a great man—a very great man indeed—who has a pocket large enough to hold several boroughs in one of its corners.
“Shall I tell you why I turned away? Nay!—but I did abandon all expectations from the great—I gave up my ambitious views of mixing with the great—I relapsed into what Nature designed me for—a low man—and one of the people.”
“I cannot promise to adopt and combat for the support of a casual majority among you, without knowing what your opinions are. I cannot engage to give silent votes, or to argue in favour of what are not my opinions, and import into the senate the disingenuity of the bar.
“This only I will say, and I say it truly, that, to find myself in contradiction to the sentiments of a clear and permanent majority among you, would ever be matter to me of the most poignant concern, and the most mortifying disgrace.”
Bentham writes to his brother, Dec. 6th, 1790:—
“ ‘The Defence of Usury’ has met with a translator in France. I am known by the name of Usury B. in Ireland. The bookseller is plaguing me about reprinting it, being continually asked for it. I have been printing in Nos. without publishing, a work on the Judicial Establishment for the French National Assembly, to whom I have sent 100 copies. I find it is beginning to have a certain reputation; but they have made scarce any use of it. It is much admired by the few who have read it here,—young women of the number: and it contributes, with other things, to the slow increase of my school. Charles is put in for a contested borough by Lord Carmarthen, now Duke of Leeds, and is likely to succeed. I quarrelled with Lord L. for not having brought me in. He made apologies; promised to spare no pains to effect it another time, but would not give me a promise to turn out for that purpose any of his present crew, who, he has agreed with me, over and over again, are poor creatures; so I laughed at him, called his promises Birmingham halfpence, and so we made it up again—he styling me all this while to everybody in conversation and on paper, the first of men, diverting himself not the less with my singularities, as you may well suppose. Poor Inspection House is taken up by the Government of Ireland; they have ordered it to be printed, and given me what money I have a mind for, to waste upon it with architects. Lord L. thinks he has persuaded them I am necessary to them, and that they must bring me into parliament there; and he is strenuous with me to go over there upon those terms,—saying, what may perhaps be true, that everything is to be done there and nothing here.”
Dr Price writes to Bentham, from Hackney, on the 4th January, 1791:—
Dr Richard Price to Bentham.
I have this morning received your letter, which, having been directed to Newington instead of Hackney, has been too long in coming to me. In the second volume of my book on Annuities, I have published Tables which give the produce or amount of an annuity of £1, for any term of years, at any rate of compound interest; but this book is out of print, and I am now employed in correcting the press for a new edition of it. They also make a part of Mr Smart’s Tables of Interest; but this book is likewise not easily to be found, and therefore I have taken out of that copy of it which I possess, the two enclosed leaves, which will give you the information you desire, without any farther trouble. When you have done with them, be so good as to return them to me, that I may restore them to the book from which I have taken them. It is probably very needless to tell you that any annuity multiplied by the numbers, even with the years in these leaves, will give the amount of that annuity in those years at the rate of compound interest specified at the head of the columns. Thus £200 per ann. bearing 4 per cent. compound interest, and forborne for 18 years, will produce twenty times 200, but that is £4000. On twenty years it will amount to 200, multiplied by 29.778—that is, £5,955 12s.
“I am glad, dear sir, of this opportunity of assuring you that I am, with great respect and the best wishes, your very obedient, and humble servant.”
To some remarks which Wilson had been making on his style, he thus replies:—
Bentham to George Wilson.
“Hendon, Friday,January, 1791.
“My dear Wilson,—
Nothing can be more judicious than the advice you give me to write readable books: to show my gratitude, suffer me, who am your senior, to treat you with another. Get business. Don’t complain for this time that you have been preaching to the winds; you have been preaching, you see, to an echo: I don’t mean one of your vulgar echoes, but such a one as they have in Ireland, which, when a man says to it, ‘How d’ye do?’ answers, ‘Pretty well, I thank you.’ What! your notion is, then, that I make my books unreadable, for the same reason that asses stand mute—out of pure sulkiness. As to the book in question, there will be another obstacle to its general circulation here, which is, that it won’t go to the booksellers at least for a long time, if ever. Be listened to in France? No, to be sure it won’t. But you seem to have forgotten, that it is the continuation of a work begun before that matter had been ascertained. As to the unpopular form, it was determined by the popular occasion. If I give it up, I am fickle: if I go on with it, I choose a form that is unpopular, and write books that are unreadable. So you have me either way, or to speak more intelligibly, quacunque viâ datâ. If you have got a receipt for making readable books, please send copy thereof per return of post, together with a ditto of your own making for a pattern.
“You have as good a chance for putting the house of our Lady at Loretto into a parcel as my Inspection-house, by sending to Brown’s to-day, or Saturday. Neither angels, nor any other messengers, have brought it yet from Ireland. To make amends, if you will send the enclosed to Spilsbury’s, you may get, in some state or other, but toujours without a title-page, a scrap of my hornbook for infant members, which I am going to publish without the rest—more food for speculation, and another bait to catch good advice. The title-page you may send him by another opportunity. Seriously though, I am greatly obliged to you for the access you have got for me to the Contracts. I shall hardly be at leisure to profit by it these ten days or a fortnight, but that I suppose will make no difference.—Yours ever.
“Remember me affectionately to Trail, when you write. I had the pleasure of seeing his letter at Romilly’s.
“How is Trail’s Irish brother to be directed to? I mean at Dublin. If I knew his correspondent there, I would send him this last No. and the preceding one,—as far as No. 4, I think, he has. I remember something about Stafford Street—was that a temporary lodging, or a friend’s?”
A letter from Benj. Vaughan, dated February 2, 1791, has the following passages:—
“They say wits often jump upon the same thing. I had just been supposing I should incur your displeasure for having detained three Numbers of The Literary Gazette since Wednesday; and it seems you have some fancy about me. Let us barter thoughts, and matters will stand as they ought to do. Let the things, therefore, you have put together ‘be put asunder.’ ”—“I know Mr Christie, who is properly a physician, but he has lately taken to trade. He has had many books from me, at his desire, to assist in his pamphlet. I suppose he wants more of your time than a man who has given it all away can spare.”—“I wish much to have a copy of your pamphlet for the Duke de Liancourt.”
On sending to Bentham a series of questions, forwarded by King Stanislaus of Poland, Lord Lansdowne writes as follows:—
“Does not the book upon Tactics answer the enclosed questions, and many more, which the same line of inquiry may suggest. If so, why should not Mr Bentham, as well as Roussean, give a contribution to Poland? If he will, with this view, answer the enclosed questions, by referring to his book, or otherwise, as he must, at this time, have the subject at his fingers’ ends, Lord Lansdowne will undertake to transmit the answer, and to take no atom of the credit to himself; but in that case, he thinks Mr B. should send the book, and perhaps the French Numbers, with an English letter, (for he understands English,) to the King of Poland. Lord L. will undertake to transmit it, and is sure that it will be received and answered in the handsomest manner imaginable; but he will consider the matter, and do whatever seems best to himself—Lord L. having nothing in view, in either instance, but Mr B.’s honour and glory. I have had another thought about the plans, which I cannot put to paper, but will mention to Mr Vaughan, unless you can make it suit you to come and dine here on Wednesday with Vaughan and Romilly. Adieu, in haste.”
Bentham writes to the ladies of Bowood, then removed to Albemarle Street, March 5, 1791:—
“The enclosed is sent to show how much I prefer the possibility of affording your tea-table half an hour’s amusement to that bubble reputation, which I prefer to everything else. You will see how a rebellious disciple of mine libels me, in writing to another Scotch rebel like himself. Unfortunately I am obliged to return the letter, or I should either have cut out the passage, or altered it into a panegyric. The danger is, its falling into the hands of a certain person, who has had an account open for these two or three months, in which everything that tells on that side is viewed through a magnifying glass, and entered in large letters. You saw, I suppose, the two preceding letters from the same hand. Since I saw you all together, and not before, I have read a note written three months ago, in I am not sure whose hand, but I believe Miss V.’s. The affectation of being piqued at my setting myself down at the distance to which I had been thrown, is more flattering to me than a thousand kind speeches, and would go nigh to cure, if it were in the power of words to cure, a mortification which has recurred at least fifty times a-day for above these three months, and every time accompanied with a degree of pain, which, some how or other, has not undergone that abatement by time that I expected it would. Don’t let Miss V. think there is no such thing as prudence anywhere but in Albemarle Street. All the ideas I could muster were not enough to answer the demands that were made upon me for building prisons and castles in the air: had I read the letter at the time in which it was put in my hand, instead of thinking fifty times a-day of what I had better never have thought at all, I should never have been able to find thoughts for anything else.
“March 5, 1791.”
Benjamin Vaughan says, March 17, 1791:—
“The news from France is very good again, notwithstanding M. de Condé may enter France with 1500, (not 15000,) all he has got, pursuant to his engagements. The Jacobins are at least preaching up tranquillity. A Baltic fleet is preparing—but I doubt it’s going. I wait Romilly’s answer before I reply to you. The story of the new metal is recanted in form.
“March 17, 1791.”
Bentham addressed to his brother the following letter to wait his arrival at Paris. The colonel was at this time on his way homeward from Russia:—
“No. 9, Bedford Row,
April 1, 1791.
“I write this from Mr Browne’s, people chattering round me. It is of no use to make long preachments, or give histories. Yours, of February 18th, from Vienna, is before me: it was sent to me the 16th, after having been kept, God knows how long, for Q. S. P. did not tell me when it was received. When you arrive in London, come, the first thing you do, to Mr Browne’s. I don’t know whether you know that I have left Crichoff for years, and live altogether at Zadobras. You will learn at Mr B.’s where Zadobras is. Lest you should not, know that it is eight miles from Crichoff, near a place called Hendon, four miles beyond Hampstead or Highgate, which you please. Hampstead is the road you must take, as the other would be unfindable. It is the first house, or rather hut, you come to, when you are passed the eight mile stone on the way to Mill Hill. At Hampstead you have only to ask the road to Hendon—it is the great one. Q. S. P. will easily excuse your not first calling upon him, upon your telling him you were determined upon calling upon me, if I was living, as you had never heard from me. Let me hear immediately from you as soon as you arrive at Paris, as I dare say you will lounge there long enough to hear from me in answer before you come away. Lord L., who sees all your letters, talked of writing one for you to the Duke de la Rochefoucauld: whether he has, I don’t know—but it will be no matter.
“You have a slave with you, I suppose, of some sort or other. Don’t bring him to me, as he would be a nuisance. Mr Browne will tell you what to do with him, as also with your baggage. You may leave it at his house, if you will, till we have conferred and agreed where you are to be. The fact is, they go to bed at ten o’clock at Q. S. P. and would be frightened at people’s calling, as they would upon you. Besides, your servant, black or white, would put them in a panic. I will explain all this fully when we meet. Come upon your ten toes: you are man enough to walk eight miles. If you fear our being at a loss for conversation, you may put a pack of cards in your pocket. I received yours to me, of I know not what date, telling me how to direct to you; also, the long letter mentioning, inter alia, the amphibious contrivances. I gave in a proposal to our Potemkin two months ago; but the Potemkins never give answers. Happily my proposal is in little danger of being out of date; Pole Carew, with whom I am on terms, and others, protect me. You will stare when you come to see it. I am helping to govern Ireland with an old shoe of yours; but they are a sad crew.”
There is a short but pithy note, from Vaughan, of April 4, 1791:—
“The news from France good, except that Mirabeau remains ill. Dr Price, also, I fear, is dying. People in general reprobate Pitt’s war.”
In a letter to Colonel Bentham, of April 5, 1791, Bentham says:—
“Go to M. Gautier, Rue des Capucines, vis-à-vis l’hôtél de la Mairie. He is a great merchant or banker, or both, of the house of Gran or Grand. He translated the ‘Defence of Usury into French;* but, I believe, does not care to have it known, as he, or somebody belonging to him, had smarted for that crime. Your errand is to ask him, whether he has anything for Mr Romilly. Mr R. expected, before this, to have received something from M. Dumont of Geneva; and if it was not left with M. Gautier, it must have been with some one or other of their common friends. Romilly is at the bar, about Wilson’s standing—an intimate of mine, connected as well through the medium of Wilson and Trail as of Lord Lansdowne. Dumont is also intimate—a zealous disciple, and who half-translated, half-abridged, some papers of mine, relative to French business. By-the-by, he has a mother and sisters, or other near relations, settled at Petersburg, in some line of trade, and was in Russia as bear-leader for many years. On the ‘Judicial Establishment,’ my papers are six numbers, which are not yet finished—perhaps never may be. They, and my ‘Essay on Political Tactics,’ Romilly sent to Gautier not long ago. There, I suppose, you might see them, were it worth while, which it is not. When your name is mentioned to Gautier, he will probably recognise it, and ask you after me; but he has never seen me.”
Three brief notes, from Vaughan, follow:—
1. “Nothing very new. Pitt much chagrined; the war, (if to be, which I doubt, as Prussia must see our support soon die away,)—the war, I say, very unpopular: Pitt exposed abroad and at home; no further use for him in German politics, and then . . . . .
“France à l’ordinaire, except that the separation of the two powers (of state) makes fermentation, and the aristocracy still talk of counter-revolutions.
“April 16, 1791.”
2. “If the king of France provokes the nation once more, he will be called by a new name. The aristocracy should experience one more blow, the new-officering of their army.
“I will write about your philosophy soon; but our people will not concur.
“April 25, 1791.
3. “Stocks here are lower.
“You hear of Fayette’s restoration. There is still fermentation at Paris. Assignates at 7 or 8 per cent. discount. The question about Avignon is on the tapis. Lord Stanhope having just returned me Condorcet’s report, I shall read it, and write to you.
“May 3, 1791.”
[* ] It is pretty clear that the “papers” were, the account of the Rules and Forms of the House of Commons, mentioned in Romilly’s Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 101, 351.
[* ] The Panopticon Penitantiary.
[* ] Mr Revely the architect. See the commencement of Ch. ix.
[* ] Taken from a scroll.
[* ] This, I believe, is an error. The translator of the “Defence of Usury” was M. Delessort.