Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Brissot. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Brissot. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 10.
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Bentham to 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:—
[* ] The Panopticon Penitantiary.
[* ] Mr Revely the architect. See the commencement of Ch. ix.