Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X.: 1791—1792. Æt. 43—44. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER X.: 1791—1792. Æt. 43—44. - 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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1791—1792. Æt. 43—44.
The Panopticon Project.—Reveley the Architect.—Correspondence: Pole Carew, Sir Samuel Bentham, Dr Anderson, Vaughan, Lord Lansdowne, and the Bowood Ladies.—Correspondence with Garran, Brissot, and the National Assembly, on Projects of Reform.—Death of Bentham’s Father.
In the correspondence contained in this and the following chapter, the Panopticon Penitentiary House will be found to hold a prominent place. It occupied Bentham’s attention during many years of his life; and I possess many volumes of correspondence which refer to it alone. His hopes were raised to the highest pitch when the project was adopted by parliament; but the veto of King George the Third overthrew the scheme, and a large sum was paid to Bentham as compensation for time and labour, and expenses incurred. He could not speak of the subject without pain. “I do not like,” he would say, “to look among Panopticon papers. It is like opening a drawer where devils are locked up—it is breaking into a haunted house.” “The architectural part of the Panopticon,” to use Bentham’s words, “was invented by my brother for the Mujiks, or peasantry of Russia. I thought it applicable to prisons, and adopted it. The inspection is universal, perpetual, all-comprehensive. Everything was going on most prosperously, when, on the 17th August, came a terrible frost, and destroyed all his gardens, and fruits and flowers. The Panopticon was not built—it was merely traced out.”
“In 1792, I put it into George Rose’s hands, and Rose told Angerstein he had never met with a more taking proposal in the course of his life; and at the same time Lord St Helens put it into the hands of Sir Evan Nepean; and Sir Charles Bunbury made a speech about it in the House of Commons.
“But George Rose had unfortunately got a trick of making me say, whether intentionally or not, what I never said, and then attacking it. A well-bred man, in George Rose’s place, might have made the communications to me which he had to make, very bearable: but that was not in his nature. The ground bought of the Marquis of Salisbury for the Panopticon was very cheap, and no job. It cost £12,000, or £14,000. The quantity must have been eighty acres.
“The discussions respecting Panopticon were spread over a space of twenty years, in parliament and out of parliament.
“During the Penitentiary discussions they made use of the evidence of a fool, and of a rascal, in order to use them against me. Holford was the chairman of the Committee of Inquiry. There was a good deal of hypocrisy mixed in the affair.
“Lord Sidmouth behaved shabbily in the business. He had taken a public part in the House during the discussions on the subject; and when he supplanted Pitt and came into power, he denied that he had ever concerned himself in the matter.
“Charles Butler did me the good service of drawing the bill for Panopticon, and he would take nothing for his pains. I drew a bill, short, compact, and, as I thought, complete. But the bill so drawn was rejected with ignominy.
“In order to advance Panopticon after I returned to England, I consulted Reveley. He had an admirable pair of hands; his wife was a clever woman; but Reveley would never talk on the subject on which he was wanted to talk.”
Bentham had met Mr Reveley in the course of his journey. He had been taking views in Greece,* in the employ of Sir R. W., described in p. 156, and Bentham engaged him to assist him in the architecture of the Panopticon. He had married a lady abroad, who had been an acquaintance of Bentham; and in her society Bentham enjoyed much pleasure. I received from that lady a memorandum, which I give in her own words:—
“Mr Bentham had applied to Mr Reveley to assist him in the architectural development of his plan for a Panopticon. At first he paid us short visits, merely furnishing Mr Reveley, from time to time, with the necessary instructions for making out his plans,—but the ingenuity of the latter enabling him to raise objections, and to suggest various improvements in the details, Mr Bentham gradually found it necessary to devote more and more time to the affair, so that at length he frequently passed the entire morning at our house, and, not to lose time, he brought his papers with him, and occupied himself in writing. It was on this occasion, that, observing how much time he lost, through the confusion resulting from a want of order in the management of his papers, I offered my services, in classing and numbering them, which he willingly accepted, and I had thereby the pleasure of supplying him with any part of his writings at a moment’s notice. Judging from the manner in which he appreciated my assistance, I am inclined to think that this kind of facilitation had never before been afforded him. I then proposed to him that, in order to gain still more time for the despatch of his business, he should take his breakfast with us. He readily consented to my proposal; but, upon the condition, that I would allow him a separate teapot, that he might prepare his tea, he said, in his own way. He chose such a teapot as would contain all the water that was necessary, which was poured in upon the tea at once. He said, that he could not endure the usual mode of proceeding, which produced the first cup of tea strong, and the others gradually decreasing in strength, till the last cup became little better than hot water. Tea-making, like many other things (particularly the dimensions of the cups) is, perhaps, greatly improved since that time. I was, even then, so well convinced of the advantage of his method, that I have pursued it ever since, more or less modified according to circumstances.
“During this intercourse, Mr Reveley once received a note from Mr Bentham, written in an angry tone—this was owing to the former having used some incautious, and, perhaps, improper expression, in writing to some one concerned in the affair of the Panopticon. It might have been the engraver—though I can scarcely admit the probability of that surmise.
“Mr Reveley knew himself to be perfectly innocent of any intentional rudeness or impropriety,—he therefore felt himself much hurt at the severity of Mr Bentham’s reproof. I can recollect but these very few words of Mr Bentham’s note:—‘I suppose you have left your orders too with Mr’ . . . . . (naming a lawyer or barrister employed by Mr Bentham, who was residing in Red Lion Square.) In fact, Mr Reveley, though a young man of superior talent, was, at that time, little accustomed to writing; he was also perhaps not sufficiently attentive to the established forms of society. It is, therefore, by no means improbable that he might have committted some mistake in the use of language.
“It occurs to me also, that there might have been previously some slight degree of dormant displeasure in the mind of Mr Bentham against Mr Reveley, excited, perhaps, by an habitual, though very innocent levity on the part of the latter, who was too apt to make jokes, in order to excite a laugh, even on subjects which demanded serious attention. When we were alone, Mr Bentham’s Panopticon did not altogether escape; and I can easily imagine that his penetrating glance may have caught a glimpse of this misplaced mirth. But of this, if it was so, he never took the slightest notice. I think that this little misunderstanding took place when the business between them was nearly brought to a conclusion; and it is most pleasing to observe, that it did not prevent Mr Bentham from doing justice to Mr Reveley’s ability in his printed report, or description of his ‘Panopticon.’ I can also recollect, that the sum which the latter received, as a remuneration for his trouble, was ten pounds—Mr Reveley’s first professional emolument.
“After this event, I never saw Mr Bentham again, till my interview with him in April last, (1831.) His views with regard to the ‘Panopticon’ were baffled, and he had no longer occasion for architectural assistance.
“My situation was also changed—I was no longer in the enjoyment of that state of ease and quiet in which he had known me in former days, when he first visited my father’s house.
“Still under twenty years of age, I was already the mother of two children, and was called upon to bear my part in a very severe struggle. Our income was but £140 per annum; and the increase brought in by Mr Reveley’s business was, for several years, very slender and uncertain. With these inadequate resources, from the necessity of maintaining, if possible, our useful connexions, we had to make a genteel appearance: this we effected, not without considerable difficulty, and by means of constant exertion. A person in such a situation must make great sacrifices, and submit to much self-denial. My mind was concentrated in the continual efforts which my new situation required.
“I lost sight of the inestimable Bentham—at least, I lost sight of him personally,—but still the sentiment—that strong perception of his superior worth, which I had imbibed in my first acquaintance with him, was continually strengthened by my own spontaneous reflections, and by the accounts which were given to me, from time to time, of his steady and heroic devotion to the great cause of truth, humanity, and justice. It was delightful to me to hear his praises from the mouths of all those whom I most looked up to as philanthropists and philosophers.”
In connexion with the same subject, Sir R. P. Carew writes as follows:—
Sir Reginald Polr Carew to Bentham.
“9th May, 1791.
I have not been unmindful of your wishes, though I have not been able to forward their accomplishment. Mr Steele has more than once spoken to Mr Pitt upon the subject of your proposal, and the minister has promised to consider of it; but, amidst the multiplicity of business now crowding upon him, I do not wonder if he has not yet been able to give it that consideration which it deserves.
“In the meantime, I accidentally fell in with Mr Adam, the architect, a few days ago, who has been turning his thoughts to the building of a Penitentiary House at Edinburgh, which is in contemplation. The subject is new to him; and I having mentioned that an ingenious friend of mine had invented a building which promised to unite in it many singular advantages for such a purpose, he is very desirous of seeing the plan, and would be very ready, I doubt not, to communicate any observations that might occur to him upon seeing it, and be much obliged for the lights which he would derive from it.
“As his is to be erected in another country, it will not interfere with yours; and as I conceive you to be more interested in the success of a good thing, as an object of public utility, than of any private benefit, I presume you will have no objection to communicate with Mr Adam upon the subject. But I have been so prudent hitherto as not to mention your name to him, that you might use your own discretion in that respect. Adam lives in Albemarle Street.
“I will not forget to seize any opportunity that shall appear to be favourable for promoting your wishes with the minister; but I am afraid that, during this session, there is little hope.”
The three letters which follow, addressed to Sir Samuel Bentham, are amusing:—
Bentham to his Brother.
“Hendon,Middlesex, “Monday, 9th May, 1791.
“You are a noodle. Nobody will think of stirring from town these two months; the parliament, at least, will not break up till that time. I stated the doubt to Lord Lansdowne, and possibly he may answer it.
“I send him your letter, (i.e. the first sheet,) as I have done all the letters. At this house you will find ladies prepared to like you, and who do not dislike me; but proud, and virgins, and the most terrible of prudes.
“Ask your philosophical friends about the discovery, or pretended discovery, of a Mr Trouvelle, who undertakes to empty the sea and carry the water up to the clouds, and is patronised, and the thing ordered to be done, by the National Assembly. This is scarcely exaggeration. Yes, your kind letter came to me at once. You have, indeed, no need to call at Browne’s, unless you choose it, provided you can find a place for your baggage ad interim; but that as you please. The person I spoke of is still much at your service.”
“London, 12th May, 1791.
“No!—it is I that was the noodle; the town always empties immediately after the birth-day, viz., June the 4th,—so says Lord L.: he thinks of going the 1st of June; therefore, now you have received this, order horses. As to your staying there, it would not be any money in my pocket, which is all I care about; but I thought it was a pity that, being on the spot, you should leave any amusement behind you. But, hark ye! Mr Sir! you must not think of coming to me first—you must alight first upon the land where form is substance. . . As to my looking out for such lodgings for you as will be most convenient for myself, that’s your Gallo-Russian palavering: how can I tell when you will come? and how can I tell what friend of yours you would like to live nearest to? There now, away with you to Q. S. P. Have a letter ready for me in your pocket to inform me of your arrival; if it is at the general penny post-office, in the Haymarket, before 9, or at least before 7, I shall have it the next day between 12 and 1, if I happen to walk to the office,—if not, between 1 and 2. If you arrive in town early—for example, about 12 or so—then you may come to breakfast with me the next morning; if not till latish, then you must sleep there, not only that night, but the next. The safest way is, to settle with yourself to stay with them two nights, at all events; that will be sure to satisfy them, and by that time I can have received a letter which will tell me when to expect you. Name your hour, and I will meet you at Highgate church, which is a pleasanter road than Hampstead. If I am not there at the time, come on to the White Lion: inquire your way for Finchley church, and when you are there, for Dallis’s. In the great northern road, about a mile or mile and half beyond Highgate, in the way to Barnet, you will come to a nursery-ground in the road. At the top of the hill, on the left hand, is a public-house, called the Bald-faced Stag: at the bottom, before you come to the Bald-faced Stag, is another,—the sign the White Lion, I believe. Close to this White Lion is the stile that goes to Finchley church, which is about a mile distant. You might write to me from Dover, if the post sets out before you do. The place has been lately under repair; everything is dirt and confusion, which you will not mind.”
“12th May, 1791.
“Spite of parliament, the town will be empty the instant after the birthday—viz., 4th June: so says Lord L., who himself leaves on the 1st. But you will have heard this already from Lord G.: therefore order the horses, and away with you. You will find at the postoffice at Dover, a letter in the same strain, in which I have written fuller.
“The letter to Dover contains projects for our meeting,—but not of importance enough to make it by any means worth your while to take that route in preference, should there be anything to attract you towards either the Rouen road, or that by Lille. Taking the latter route, you might see something of the state of affairs in the towns where there has been aristocracy and commotions.”
From a long letter of Dr Anderson, the editor of the Bee, dated 15th May, 1791, what follows seems worth preserving:—
Dr Anderson to Bentham.
“Of Sir J. S.*
you entertain, with justice, a high opinion, respecting his industry and application. In these respects, perhaps, I know no man who is his equal,—and I believe his dispositions at bottom are very good. But as to the stretch of his parts, these are very moderate,—you must not, therefore, expect that he can ever be pleased with (read forgive) the man who exposes his errors in public. His foible is vanity. I do not, therefore, think he is at all an object for you to fight with; and the public will give you credit for overlooking him. Blackstone, Smith, and some others, you ought to take notice of. Even, perhaps, Hume, who is among the most superficial political reasoners, may get a set down as you go by, because of his name,—but a serious answer to Sir J. S. would be absurd. This I speak between ourselves, merely for a clue to direct you. For as to hurting Sir J.,—he is among the last persons I would wish to prejudice the public against,—for I think he has a serious desire to do good, and he has the art of picking up ideas from one and another, and then bringing them out in some measure as his own. He may thus be the means of doing much good,—and I am happy in being able to say that he has, in this way, been already of much use, and may be of more. His Statistical Account of Scotland will. I really believe, be the best that ever was published,—and the pains he has been at to bring that forward, to my certain knowledge, have been such as scarce any other man could have submitted to. I think myself capable of some exertion; but I do not believe I could have done the half of what he has done. Besides these causes I have for respecting him, I lie under such obligations to him for his ready assistance to me in helping my correspondence, that could I be capable of doing anything to hurt him, I should be a wretch who should be detested.”
On the subject of a proposal of Bentham, that Dr Anderson should make Panopticon tenders to the government, he says:—
“As to the idea of contracts, which your friendship makes you think of for me, I have it not at present in contemplation. The great point, at present, should be to bring the general plan to bear,—and I see nothing so against that as its superior excellence. I have no expectation of your succeeding with Pitt,—unless you have made your application through the medium of some party connexion. Were your plan demonstrably capable of saving some millions of lives each year,—and, what is of more consequence to him, some millions of money,—I would not give one penny for your chance of success, unless your application was through a proper channel,—and if it be through that proper channel, were it as expensive as the Botany Bay establishment, I would not despair of seeing it adopted.
“As to Pitt, he is a very Jew,—he will say, at this moment, the very reverse of what he intends to do, if he think it can effect any little object. I would as soon believe that the wind which now blows in at my window, told me in what point it was to be a month hence, as I would trust to a word that he says. This need not, however, prevent you from making use of him, if you find it can be done. I would trust to him as a tool of mine, however, and not put myself in his power as a tool of his.
“You know that I would rather walk a dozen of miles than write a letter at any time, and I always put it off till the last hour. This letter should have been written four days ago; but this is the last day I prescribed for detaining it. I must now, of course, write, though I feel myself in one of those testy humours when a person would send half the world to Botany Bay, if he thought they were to meet with half their deserts. Even in that humour, however, the thoughts of a friend produce a kind of a suavity of disposition that nothing else could effect. I am most anxiously interested in the success of your plan, though the gloomy bile that possesses me makes me fear that, on account of the bad properties of your assistant, and other little arts that you are not calculated to countervail, your work may be pilfered from you, and you get nothing but vexation for your pains. I will expect to hear from you as soon as possible; and it will give me very particular satisfaction if I find I can be of any use to you about it.”
“I have got a great acquisition to my Bee last day, the remarks made by an old, shrewd, sagacious, witty judge on the Scotch bench,—Lord Gardenstone, on a tour he lately made through Italy, &c. It is the same person who writes the remarks on the plays in the Bee. You will, by that specimen, see he thinks for himself, and says what he thinks.
“I have a character of your great favourite, Lord North, ready for insertion. But I get so many communications from others, that I must make my own give way. It was intended to have followed in the second number after Mr Fox, and has not yet got a place. It will be followed by that of my favourite, Lord Chatham; but when, the Lord knows.”
Benjamin Vaughan writes to Bentham, (May, 1791):—
“I have taken much pains with the Bishop of Autun, through a common friend, respecting weights and measures. I will, some time or other, tell you what I urged. The consequence was, that the Bishop of Autun was stated as saying, in the N[ational] A[ssembly] that the English approved of what the French were doing: the very reverse of the fact. The last report makes the matter worse than ever, for the reason you mention. I have stated this also; and my friend writes, that he shall speak to Condorcet; but it is all in vain. If the French have a right direction, they are ingenious and laborious; but here they miss the mark, from being unacquainted with good instruments, and their use, which, if used, would prove that even the best fall short of the necessary perfection in the case in question.
“I shall be glad to see your warming scheme for your Panopticon. They have been doing something with the House of Commons within this fortnight. The airing or cooling part of the scheme, if I remember, made no subject of our conversation.
“I see English newspapers at free cost, morning and evening. I take in the Journal des Debats, and des Decrets, (and the Proces Verbaux, by volumes only;) but I think I can find you a partner in your Moniteur, or Gazette Nationale, and send it you with the Leyden Gazette.
“Return me the enclosed. Burke has lost and Fox gained by the discussion; and the court (whose tool B. is, or appears to wish to be) can be pleased by the issue in no shape.”
On the 27th May,—
“Payne is writing a book against Kingship. Assignats at 14 per cent. discount, but Paris tranquil; and the whole owing to non-payment of taxes, for nothing from foreign powers warrants the fall.
“Some of our ministry have been for an alliance with France. Russia holds firm, as also Denmark. I lent your book at Lansdowne House, and consequently can say nothing about it. What am I to say for keeping one of these papers a day? Diem perdidi! Will you let the punishment of conscience be the whole?”
In answer to Dr Anderson’s letter on the subject of contracting for Panopticon, Bentham, in a communication of 28th May, goes into the details of the matter thus:—
Begging your pardon, I should think the offer of contracting, if it suited you in other respects, might be made without solicitation; nor need it wait for the complete architectural representation of the building. Your offer would be very simple. ‘Prisoners cost you at present so much a-head; give me such a building as this, the rent of which will amount to so much a-head, I will keep your prisoners for so much a-head more.’ The strength of your cause will lie in the cheapness of your terms; if your terms are rejected, you have kissed nobody’s —, and you are but where you were.
“With regard to economy, I will unbosom myself to you without reserve. Part of my expedients you will find in print. I was afraid of giving the whole of them, or placing them in the clearest point of view of which they were susceptible, for fear of being beat down, or seeing others reap the fruit of my labours. A man who begins with saving 50 per cent. to the nation, may be allowed to think a little for himself.
“Potatoes.—I have been afraid to show how immense the saving may be, by the exclusive adoption of this article. You value the price at 1d. for 4 lb. But even at your price, the saving would be very great. I speak still at random; I have other data, but have not yet had time to sift the matter to the bottom. Along with the house you would get some land. The current penitentiary notions represent this as necessary, though it is not necessary to keep off other buildings, &c. Wandsworth, which would be my place, has as much land as cost £5000.
“Stockings unnecessary—unless on Sundays, upon the open chapel plan, which would well pay for them.
“Shoes—Wooden, instead of leather; slippers perhaps for Sundays.
“Coat, &c.—I have patterns of very good cloth, linsey woolsey, which cost but 1s. per yard (yard wide,) retail, dyeing included; consequently, wholesale less. Dyeing costs something, and is best omitted, as without it, cloth washes the better. Sleeves, one shorter than the other, for the reason above-mentioned in my book. If washing were rejected as superfluous, might not the cloth be of the natural brown, or black wool?
“Shirts—rejected as unnecessary—this saves one-fourth perhaps of the cloth of the coat.
“Skirts—long enough—but all unnecessary fullness, as for plaits, &c.—worked wristbands, and worked collars rejected.
“Hats and Caps—unnecessary.
“On Sundays, when they have no work to keep themselves warm, and spend a good deal of time out of doors in the open school, those who choose it, to be at liberty to wear their week day waistcoats and breeches under their Sunday ones.
“Bedding—Hammocks, if cheaper than bedsteads. Bed, straw frequently changed, put in a sack. Instead of a pair of sheets, another sack, (though finer,) with a short flap to turn down under the chin. In sheets on the common plan, there is a deal of unnecessary amplitude, for the mere purpose of tucking in.
“Blanketing—The coat, waistcoat, and breeches, will go in part of it, especially if in a hammock, and in a building kept to the same temperature in winter, every part of it, by constant fires: never under temperate, viz. 55°. In clothes and bedding, no one article that will not wash.
“Working-hours.—You will see in my book, how, by mixture of employment, sedentary with laborious, and the preference given to sedentary, making even airing times as profitable as any other, I get sixteen and a half profitable hours; very near twice as many as our Penitentiary systems allow.
“Potatoes—dressing.—You will have seen in the section on warming, how frugal the mode of dressing will be. I make each man’s allowance more than any man can eat; what is left, with the skins, &c., goes to feed hogs or other cattle. In proportion as a man gets better food out of the share I allow him of his earnings, he will eat so much the less of potatoes: here will be another great saving.
“Each man’s mess separate, in a separate tin pan—the pans square, of the same size and shape. In these same pans they are dressed, (by steam,) and when dressed, pan and all are put together into trays, so many in a tray, and thus twisted up by the crane to the several galleries, and from thence distributed in a trice among the cells. Or, the trays being made of tin, or of wood lined with tin, they might be dressed in the tray, and so tray and all be twisted up without the trouble of shifting.
“Billingsley (see the Bath Memoirs for ’78, or Annual Register, 1786) got 30,800lbs. on an acre; rate of expense such that 10⅔lbs. cost him one penny. This he seems to look upon as a good crop; but the sort not being mentioned, seems to have been taken without choice. Young (Ireland, i. 21) says, a good English acre should produce at least 480 bushels of the cluster potato. He reckons 70lbs. to the bushel; this makes 33,600lbs. Expenses supposed not greater than Billingsley’s, this gives about 12lbs. for one penny. He makes eightpence a bushel (70lbs.) the average prime cost in Ireland, where husbandry is so bad, and labour not cheaper than here, considering how little is done for money; that is, 8¾lbs. for one penny. Young, everybody says, is inaccurate; therefore, this is only matter for inquiry. Six hundred was the number of bushels, Howard, who was a very accurate man, told me he got of his potato, from but indifferent land. I took a memorandum of this, a pretty full one, from his own mouth; but God knows what is become of it: 200 only he got, at the same time, from a piece not worse of the same field, of some other sort of potato. So far I remember with certainty.
“I told you before I had not yet had time to set my shoulders to these calculations. I throw out these hints, undigested as they are, thus early, for your consideration, in hopes of your picking out something that may be of use to you in the event of your making any such offer. But having thus unbosomed myself to you, I rely on your honour, not to make the offer till you have communicated it to me, and till you hear from me that the terms of it will not prejudice my negotiation. But this need not hinder your saying in general terms, that with such a building, you could undertake the business on such terms as to reduce greatly the expense. I have heard nothing all this while from A[dam], which makes me suspect I shall find him jealous and adverse. No such thing. I have just received a letter of his from my friend, to whom he says, ‘the reason of my troubling you is, to beg, if it is not disagreeable, Mr B. would be so good as to inform me to whom he has sent his book and plans here; as I would communicate with him on that subject, and get his aid to endeavour to influence our magistrates here, who are attached to Mr Blackburne’s ideas, and join with me in showing them the infinite superiority of Mr B.’s inspection principle over his, and everything of the kind hitherto thought of.’ This you see is explicit enough: his absence accounts for his silence. He had been on the hunt for me, and could not find me out. I write to him to let him know about you; but as you had been to inquire after him, I suppose you and he have met before now. As there seems no contrariety of interests, if you feel yourself inclined for the contract scheme, perhaps you would not do amiss to make Mr A. your confidant, speaking of it as a thing I had suggested to you; in short, making what use of my name you choose. You might then, as if from yourself, speak of the great disadvantage to the scheme from my not being there; in short, propose as in my former letter, &c.; taking this along with you, that it is very uncertain whether I should be able, owing to my own affair, and to my brother who is just arrived. It is what I should not have the smallest inclination for, on any other supposition, than that of a probability of its being of service, either to the plan or to you. For travelling is a disagreeable operation to me, and in a carriage that holds four, a perfect punishment. It was not Sir W. F., but G. F., a very different and very superior man. The other is an applewoman.
“28th May, 1791.—I have no time to finish. I enclose two patterns of the cloth above-mentioned. Perhaps you may know of something cheaper and better. I am aware of its not being very lasting; but I think it is better to have it cheap, with frequent change.”
Bentham wrote to Lord Lansdowne, June 1, 1791:—
Bentham to Lord Lansdowne.
“I know of nobody who is in any sort of scrape but myself; who surely, for once at least, am rather more unfortunate than culpable. As for my refusing to meet the ladies at your house, let them but speak the word, and I will go and plant myself there, inside or outside, rain or shine, from this day to that, if that will be any satisfaction to them. As to my celibacy, I don’t know very well how the stigma could be wiped off, at least in time, and if it were, it might be only making bad worse,—since it is a thousand to one, but the female Yahoo would be still more intolerable than even the male one. Such is my ignorance and stupidity, I cannot, for the life of me, beat it into my head, how it is that three ladies should commit themselves more by going to one unmarried man’s house to dinner together, with one, two, or three other persons of their choice, than by going singly to another unmarried man’s house to, and before, and after dinner. If it really stuck there, married ladies, I can’t help thinking, need not be wanting, such as they would have no objection to accompany anywhere, where they wish to go, and who, partly for the frolic, partly in the benevolent view of releasing a proscribed man from a banishment which sits, he need not say how heavy on him, would give them the sanction, and me the honour of their company. I mean always by the help of a word or two, which, I am sure, would not be grudged. Thus much I have said, not in the hope of softening flint, nor for the sake of striking fire with it, but merely to show your Lordship, that it is not with my own goodwill that I submit to the mortifications to which I am doomed.”
A note of Lord Lansdowne, dated from Bowood, June 20, 1791, says:—
“Your letter found us deliberating whether you would like better to come here, with or without your brother; for I take it for granted you do not mean to give up Bowood for the summer. We reserve, till then, telling you all we think about the colonel; but there must be nothing of old kindnesses in little or in great character. Though I do not pretend to rival Mr Pitt, I am enough of a negotiator to know the danger of suffering principles to be lodged. In the meantime, we are much obliged to you for your communication; some part of which, I have no doubt, is true, and certainly is interesting. I have reason to doubt about another part which regards C. Fox, which, indeed, can’t be. Adieu!—with many sincere compliments from the ladies; which I know to be more valuable than old or new kindnesses elsewhere.”
A letter to Lord Lansdowne, dated Saturday, June 25, 1791, has these passages:—
Bentham to Lord Lansdowne.
“The Comparative Estimate is, after all, not Porter’s, but a Dr Ewart’s, a physician, a brother of the diplomatic Ewart. Porter is the ‘commercial friend’ therein spoken of, as having furnished the materials. Porter is a Scotchman. He and the Ewarts were school-fellows. Porter was a schoolmaster, somewhere in Great Britain—then a language-master in Petersburg; then crept by degrees there into a commercial house.
“Nothing can exceed the contempt with which the Russians treat Pitt’s skill in foreign politics. W. told a certain person, P. had been making proposals to the emperor, silly beyond expression, which he would not mention then, but would in six weeks’ time.
“What concerns C. J. Fox, was probably misconceived.
“My brother without me, possibly; I, not without him certainly; with him, possibly, now that I have got a license. I wonder whose idea it was that he and I were like Castor and Pollux; or like Lord and Lady Pembroke; or like the ci-devant Marquis and Marquise de tel ou de tel, de tel lieu, not liking to be at the same place:
“I wonder what ladies there are at Bowood; and whether there be any part of the summer when a man would stand a chance of seeing them all three. I worship but at one altar: but that, as everybody knows, has three sides to it. As to comparisons between that and another sex, whoever makes them, none have ever been made by me. Comparisons, where there is competition, are, according to the proverb, odious: when there is none, incongruous.
“The passage about ‘lodging principles’ is Arabic to me. I have sent it to the decipherer’s.
“While they smile—if, peradventure, they continue to smile—I will console myself as well as I can under other mortifications: not as being indifferent to them, nor conscious of having deserved them, but because I cannot help it. Those who meet with mishap, look around them for consolation, which, wherever they happen to meet with it, ought not to be grudged. I hope this will not be mistaken.
“Having said thus much, should I ever find myself again in a place where, to confess the truth but plainly with myself, I have no great business, I shall obey injunctions, and neither say, nor look, nor think anything about old kindnesses: while on one part, they cannot be too thoroughly forgotten; on the other, what is past is past, and not to be recalled.”
“Poor Louis! he has done himself up at a fine rate! To get upon a perch, and cackle out, ‘I have been, not only a coward, but a hypocrite, for these two years! and that before he was out of the cage! Rare sport for the Paynes and the Robespierres. I wonder how Mr Burke’s little flirtation with Antoinette stands at present. As to the proclamation, it was not by her, but by one of her necessary women. But the loss of Mirabeau is sadly felt in the insipid, undignified, ill-reasoned answer.”
Sir R. P. Carew writes from Antony House, near Plymouth Dock, June 14, 1791:—
Pole Carew to Bentham.
“Oh! that I had legs like my friend Bentham, said I, when strolling about this evening, then would I never be at rest; but as I am but a poor mortal, to whom some repose is necessary, after fourteen hours’ fatigue, how can I better employ it than in doing myself the honour of addressing his high and mighty indefatigableness, to express my humble hopes that he and his illustrious brother would condescend to step a little this way.
“Seriously speaking, if I and my chateau survive this day, we shall be very happy to receive you and your brother, the colonel: I should perhaps have been afraid to have trusted myself and property with you alone on this day, but, in company with your brother, I think I might have ventured, as he has felt some of the advantages arising from the existence of hewers of wood and drawers of water.
“I have just now established a new ferry from Plymouth Dock to Torpoint, which is about a mile and a half from this house; and, I trust, you will not be able to give a good reason why you should not cross it a few days hence. Indeed, you did give me some reason and hopes that I might see you both here soon. By telling me by return of post that you are setting out, you will convey a very substantial pleasure to yours, very sincerely,
“R. Pole Carew.
“P.S.—I know not where to write to the colonel, but trust that the contents of this letter will find him.”
The next letter is from Benjamin Vaughan:—
“I beg your mercy—I left a Moniteur in a hackney-coach, but I send a journal instead. Pray return the Moniteurs.
“Send for an essay on ‘Landed Property,’ printed at Walters’: it is in your own way.
“The French at Paris are perfectly quiet, but emissaries are endeavouring to excite the inactive citizens to claim votes. A modest attempt of aristocracy.
“We have no just accounts of the French refugees, nor do I hear more of the Prince of Condé’s manifesto.
“Your Irish book is much wanted at Paris to keep up my reputation. I have only the postscript.
“June 24, 1791.”
The discovery of his brother, to which reference is made in the correspondence from Zadobras, Bentham was induced to bring to the notice of George the Third; but I cannot find that any answer was given to the letter, which I have found among Bentham’s papers, even if it was forwarded to the king.
Bentham to George III.
“May it please your Majesty,—
The enclosed account of an amphibious vehicle for the conveyance of armies, with their appendages, is an extract of a letter from my younger brother, Samuel Bentham, a colonel in the Russian service. The regiment of which it speaks was given him for his services in the defeat of the Captain Bashaw, off Oczakoff, in October, 1789, together with the order of St George, which he has your Majesty’s gracious permission for wearing in his own country.
“The invention struck me at first glance as that sort of one which a subject of your Majesty’s ought not to make public, without first using his humble endeavours to know your Majesty’s pleasure. Bridges rendered needless: rivers, the broadest and most rapid, no obstacles to the largest army,—all by a modification given to the structure of a baggage-wagon! Expense saved too, instead of increased. The contrivance as simple as it has been proved to be effectual. Long, very long may it be, before any demand occurs for an invention of any such nature, in your Majesty’s immediate service! But even now, in the East Indies, perhaps, it might have its use. Had General Howe, or Lord Cornwallis, or General Burgoyne, been thus provided—But I will not any farther obtrude upon wisdom the suggestions of ignorance.
“In its infant state, it appears to have been practised with approbation in the Russian army; but the subsequent improvements which place the importance of it in a very different light, do not appear to have been ever known there. Detesting barbarity, the regiment he has chosen, is in a station many thousand miles distant from the seat of war. As far as depends upon myself, the idea remains a secret even to my father, whom I have accordingly been obliged to leave in ignorance of the whole letter, though full of little personal matters, such as a father would have been glad to see. Unqualified of myself to determine whether publication in such a case, be, or be not, a matter of indifference, I have hitherto abode by the old rule—‘Quod dubitas ne feceris.’ Submitting the determination thus absolutely, and in the first instance, to the first and most competent of all judges, I have fulfilled what appears to me the duty of a good subject. If, within a month from the present date, I receive no commands from your Majesty to the contrary, my doubts will be resolved; and I shall conclude myself in possession of your Majesty’s permission to speak of this invention, as a man might of any other, without reserve.
“Being in the track of presumption, I will presume so much further, as to lay at your Majesty’s feet an invention of a very different nature, of which, though the superstructure be my own, the fundamental idea originated with the same person,—a sort of building, which I call a Panopticon; because to an eye stationed towards the centre, it exhibits everything that passes within it at a view. Your Majesty’s approbation, could the man of science and humanity be consulted at my humble distance from the King, would be one of the first honours it could receive. It has been brought to its present state from the first crude conception, as exhibited in the first of the enclosed plates, at the desire of your Majesty’s servants in Ireland, in the view of its being made use of there. Here, (not to mention the other purposes to which it might be applicable,) one-half, at least, of the present expense of maintaining felons might be saved by it at the first outset; and that without prejudice to the settlement in New South Wales; to which, considered in the light of a colony, every male, exceeding a small overplus above the number of females, is, in point of morals and population, worse than useless.
“The original letters, descriptive of the sort of building, and of its principal uses, refer only to the original rude sketch. The enclosed copy, printed at Dublin, is in the imperfect state (without introduction or advertisement) in which, by mistake, it has been sent to me. I am reprinting it here, together with a postscript, of which the first part gives a detailed account of the invention in its present less imperfect state, including some improvements that have occurred since the engraving of the plates; and the other, of a plan of management, such as the construction had in view. The reimpression of the letters is nearly finished. The first part of the postscript now accompanies the plates, and the second is in considerable advance. A copy of the whole, when completed, will be sent to your Majesty’s library. The sheets now sent may serve till then for the explanation of the plates.
“Your Majesty needs not be told to what a disadvantage a building of this nature must be represented on a flat surface. I have thoughts of getting a model made; and, could I flatter myself so far as to hope that your Majesty would condescend to honour it with a glance, I should not hesitate.
“I am, with all humble respect, may it please your Majesty, your Majesty’s dutiful subject,
“Dollis’s, near Hendon,Middlesex,May 11, 1791.”
Lord Lansdowne writes to Bentham from Bowood on the 3d July, 1791:—
Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.
“We go into South Wales on Wednesday, but will certainly be returned before the end of the month, so that, if you have any devotion in you, you may acquit yourself of it either in August, September, or October, as you feel disposed towards the three Deities, who have chosen a month a-piece in their natural order; and if your brother is not too much captivated with Lady M—to endure the simplicity of your religion, he will be very welcome.
“Affairs in the north look very gloomy, and I don’t see how either England or Russia can extricate themselves without falling into another extreme. As to France, I am astonished to see what wisdom a nation, which has always been accounted a foolish one, can show.”
The letter to Lord St Helens, which follows, dated 8th July, 1791, though written in the name of Colonel Bentham, is the joint production of himself and his brother:—
“I have just heard that a servant of yours is on the point of setting off to return to you; and having been in this country for about six weeks on an indefinite furlough, I would not let slip the opportunity of recalling myself to your remembrance.
“Since I saw you, I have been just equipping flotillas, and fighting on board them, and view them visiting my everbeloved Siberia: in short, the inquiry, how utility is to come of it, is what must forever occupy me: it makes but little difference to me what be the country. I have at present the command of a regiment of two battalions: one of them on the Irtish, the other near Kiaktha: 2800 miles one from the other. Projects of discovery and improvement, some executed, others, I hope, executing, and many more to execute, occupy me, and these battalions are subservient to these projects.
“After having come from the distant battalions, coasting all along the frontiers, I arrived at Bender and Jassy, where I spent four or five months with Prince Potemkin, and in February last set out for England, passing through Trieste, Venice, Leghorn, Geneva, and France. I arrived here about a month ago: I have not yet fixed the time of departure, but believe it will be in the course of the summer.
“To help load your servant, I send you a parcel of things of my brother’s—none of which are published. That on the Judicial Establishment, you may perceive, is not finished, and heaven knows when it will be. When he began it, his opinion of the French National Assembly was much better than it is at present. They had not at that time laid violent hands on private property with so flagrant, and so unnecessary a disregard to the feelings of individuals. The ‘Panopticon’ invention, of which the fundamental idea was mine, is taken up by the Administration in Ireland, by whose order, the letters that form the body of the work were printed. The postscript he prints here, to be reprinted there. If you look at any part, do not let it be at Part I. and the postscript—it contains nothing but dry details, relative to the mode of construction. Postscript, Part II., which is the last, you will perceive is not quite finished; but as it does not want much of being so, I thought I might as well send it, trusting to chance for an opportunity of sending the remainder. How much pleasanter it would have been for him if you had been still in Ireland, or, where the newspapers have been placing you, in England! As to any use that the Judicial Establishment has been of in France, much boast is not to be made. The D. de la Rochefoucauld, La Fayette, &c., when I came through Paris, took notice, that some few of the ideas had been adopted, and pretended very much to regret that more were not in the same case, but that it was in English, (Mirabean was to have taken it up, but I know not what accident prevented him,) time was wanting for giving it the consideration it deserved, and the leading men were wedded to systems of their own, &c.
“The ‘Panopticon’ plan, as far as we have had opportunities of observing, is approved by everybody, architects themselves not excepted, some of the most eminent of whom are adopting it in preference to their own ideas.”
On the 21st July, Lord Lansdowne says:—
“As to foreign politics, I cannot help looking upon the emperor as the arbiter of Europe; and I believe him to be full as ambitious as his brother, only with more art, more prudence, and suite. The French nation seem to be the favourites of Providence; but it appears that Mons. de Calonne will never rest till he gets some of his friends hanged.”
An invitation to Devonshire, from Sir R. Pole Carew, was thus conveyed:—
“As I am come a great way, so would I stay a great while to receive you here. What say you to four weeks longer,—tell me that it will enable you to give me your company, and your chemistry, for three weeks, and you will make me happy. But I am frightened at the name of Chateau-Antoine, when I reflect that mine is a strongly-built castle, and that the Bastile was in the Faubourg St Antoine. But if these reflections neither prevent your coming nor excite in you, when here, the spirit of demolition, I shall leave it to its fate when you are gone. In the meantime, I take the opportunity while I can, of sending you this lettre de cachet, enjoining you and your brother to render yourselves here instantaneously, upon pain of incurring our high displeasure; et sur ce je prie Dieu de vous avoir dans sa digne et sainte garde.—A vous,
“R. Pole Carew.
“Antony, 22d July, 1791.”
This invitation was accepted by the colonel, but not by Bentham. A few extracts from Bentham’s letter to his brother, during his visit, are amusing; the technicalities in them refer to Sir Samuel’s mechanical inventions:—
Bentham to his Brother.
I knew how it would be: I knew there would be some pretence or other for idling and outstaying the time. There is no harm done. Dumont is ‘one hundred miles off,’—I suppose at Bowood; Romilly not yet returned from the circuit; Wilson only will be with me, cheated by assurances (made before I received your letter) of your return in time. He sets out for Paris on Friday. I shall load him with copies, (if I can,) three or four to be in readiness for the Daudelon and the Coigny. The letters must go afterwards. I hope, by that time, to load him with copies of the Table likewise: I have it before me, but not in a sendable state. I hardly expect it will be in such a state by to-morrow’s post—it must, I think, by Thursday’s; therefore, at any rate, stay thou for it till it comes.
“A letter from Parson Williams—very reverential: that matter is as it should be.
“Mr Buggins, a fine man—lives in a fine house, and is never up before eleven. I have not seen him yet; but am told there is no talk of his going into the country soon. For sight-worthy persons at Plymouth, More mentioned Mudge, whom you know of old; and a man whose name begins with a T, and has two syllables in it—Turner or Teacher, it may be, for aught I know; he has, I think, a place in the yard—it may be Clerk of the Check, for aught I know; not that he knows anything—but he knows everybody. I have begun economizing—but this Table, while it lasts, is an interruption and a plague.
“Flush-Pump—is pretty well settled with regard to all the capital points. Out of fun, I won’t tell you anything about it till I see you; but do you settle it with yourself in the meantime, that we may compare notes. This will increase the chance of settling it well.
“Your business at church on Sunday, I take for granted, was to return thanks for Tree Nail Engine: next Sunday, if you go, pray for the softening of Mr Pitt’s heart.
“Don’t omit to consult with Carew about the advisability of preserving the anti-colonizing, and any other obnoxious passages.
“Alas, that I am not with you! but the Lord’s will be done! Cast about with Carew all sorts of measures that appear to hold out a chance of bringing Panopticon to bear here;—the bribery plans, for example, in the event of its not getting a hearing otherwise. This as from yourself: anything of that sort will come better from an intriguing Russian like you, than from a reformer like your betters. The completion of the book, and the production of the Table, will be a fresh incident, which will warrant his giving them a fresh fillip.
“A fly is a thing that can be put on at any time—Dieu merci. But Dieu has set his face against poor Plaining-Engine, and sent a bit of a fever to the head man who was to have set about it. Mr Cooper, whom I visited this morning, could not pretend to show me anything of it, but said that it had been begun upon, but that it was a new business, and required a good deal of thought. The fever is not to last longer than to-morrow or next; but there is a great disette of hands—many works of art at a stand on that account—and, in short, the colonel could not do better than send his chest of tools there, and lend a hand himself. So now you find there is employment for you, I hope you will come and take it, and not stay lounging there any longer. I have offered my services at 6d. a-day, acknowledging that 3d. would be a great deal more than they would be worth. The complaint of want of hands general, as More told you; out of 150 that he wants, he can get but 80; he gives 25s. or 26s. a-week, to some of them at least, if not to all. Well—Plany, when once born, will, I hope, do something towards remedying the grievance. You see we must try somebody else for Tree Nail Engine.
“You must not go to Bowood without me. I wish to go there, and am determined to go there,—that is, if you go, and not otherwise. It will be necessary to go there if we go on our mechanical excursion, for the sake of getting letters, &c. I have proposed to Townsend, that if he goes with us, that shall be our starting-post. I have been writing a letter to Mr Daudelon, in your name, for you to see.
“From Basingstoke we will go to Whitchurch, which is 12 miles on the way towards Bowood. There we shall see our cousin and ward—transact a little business I have to do there, and be at the house of a friend, who has often given me invitations, and will unquestionably be glad to see us. From thence is but 22 or 23 miles to Townsend’s living of Pewsey, where he probably is, and from whence he will take us to Bowood, which is 14 miles on foot or horseback, though, at least, 20 in a carriage.
“I charge you, on your allegiance, do not go now to Bowood with or without Lord Wycombe, but come back to London, as we agreed, for a variety of reasons.
“Louis should go before to Bowood to meet us—there are several there who talk French.
“In writing to Segur, &c., about Panopticon, it should be considered, that it would be worth while trying to have the contract there; for that purpose, the first thing to be done is to learn the expense per head of the present establishment for the confining of prisoners,—Bicêtre for example. The Comité de Mendicité either knows this, or could know it. It is a principle recognised lately by the National Assembly, that inventors ought to have the profits of their inventions: their Law on Patents is grounded on it.
“Your Frenchwomen might be written to confidentially to get an architect to join us in fighting up Panopticon—his profit being on the building—ours on the management. I think of sending them my letter and proposal to Pitt, which, with or without alteration, may serve for France. Vaughan is again pressing for the books for the Comité de Mendicité.”
Bentham’s father had, in consequence of his decaying health, been residing at Bath. Lord Lansdowne writes to Bentham that his father’s health was obviously declining, and indeed he died in the following year 1792. It was intended that Romilly and Bentham should visit Bowood together; Romilly was, however, compelled to abandon the project, thus excusing himself:—
Romilly to Bentham.
“8th October, 1791.
I am prevented from going to Bowood by some business which makes it necessary for me to be in town for a fortnight longer, and then it will be too near term for one to venture out of town. It is not law-business which I mention, that I may not increase your ill-humour against our profession. I believe you understood from me before, what from excessive caution I repeat, that if you think my part of the Tactics worth printing, it is to be without my name; but indeed I think it cannot be worth printing. If you do print it, I would advise you to prefix as a motto, which will show d’avance that we are not disappointed at its want of success.
In answer to an inquiry of Bentham’s, as to the constitution of the American Convention, Benjamin Vaughan gives this explanation:—
Benjamin Vaughan to Bentham.
“I presume the progress of conventions to have been natural at least, if not wise, in America.
“That country was without a government when it revolted from England. The several parts of it chose deputies to frame the respective governments of those parts; and the governments so framed differing from the simple form of the constitutive assembly, and being experiments, but designed to be experiments rigorously pursued, the public kept the power of modification in its own hands, by reserving to itself the right of deciding changes; either making a tacit or express provision for that purpose. Principles of a constitutional nature are so different from the common objects of government, that I cannot wonder that they were thought to admit of being referred to different bodies, or at least of being discussed under different regulations. A complex government is naturally farther removed from the people than an assembly composed of deputies only; to say nothing of the advantage of making the discussion more solemn, and having the people partaking in it, by keeping distinct from legislation what respects a constitution.
“As the people had nothing but charters, &c., in America before the revolution, histories of the revolution, like those of Ramsay and Gordon, (joined to the provisions of the constitutions themselves on this subject,) must be supposed likely to give the requisite information on this head, and Stockdale will furnish the above.”
Bentham went to Bowood at the end of 1791. Amusing enough are some of the exhibitions of his playfulness. He wrote to Lady E—G—the letters which follow:—
May it please your ladyship! I am the young man who was taken from behind the screen by my good Lady Warwick, in the room where the pianoforte is in Warwick castle, to wait upon your sweet person, and had the honour and happiness of accompanying you with the violin in one of Signor Bach’s sonatas. I hope your ladyship’s condescending goodness will excuse my freedom in addressing you, as I hereby make bold to do, wishing for the felicity of serving your ladyship in the capacity of musical instructor, or anything else I should be found capable of, being turned adrift upon the wide world, and out of place at this time. I served the Hon. Miss F—, whom belike your ladyship knows,—she being, as I am informed, your ladyship’s cousingerman,—for ten long years, and hoped to have served her ’till death, had I not been, with grief be it spoken, forced to quit her service by hard usage. She was a dear lady, and a kind compassionate good lady,—as I have heard everybody say, and to be sure so it must be, as everybody says so,—to everybody but poor me. To be sure it must have been my own unworthiness, therefore it would be very unreasonable for me to complain. I am sober and honest, willing to turn my hand to anything, and not at all given to company-keeping, as I am sure my said late honoured lady, notwithstanding what has happened, will be ready to say for me. Dr Ingenhousz, who is my lady’s head philosopher, being somewhat stricken in years, I was in hopes of being promoted to his place, when Providence should please to call him away, considering that we are all mortal; but my evil star has ordered it otherwise. The times being hard, I am willing to serve for small wages, having had nothing given me to subsist upon, in all the ten years, except the direction of a letter, and a message or two, and they were given me by other people. As to playing on the pianoforte myself, I thought it better not to trouble myself with any such thing, for fear of spoiling my teaching; by reason I have known your fine, tasty, fashionable, flourishing masters, who, instead of attending to their pupils, chose rather to keep playing themselves, for the sake of showing a fine finger. I am used to travelling, and am willing to attend your ladyship all the world over, as likewise to any part of England or Scotland; particularly the latter, which is the most delightful country upon earth.
“I hope your ladyship will pardon my making so bold; but I have a brother, a colonel by trade, who has a good mistress, who has given him leave to go about for awhile and see whether he can do anything to mend himself. As it has become the fashion for ladies to practise shooting, I think that he may find employment by teaching them that, or anything else in the art of war—think him qualified, as there would be no objection to his teaching,—although I can’t say I ever knew him draw a long bow,—to turn philosopher, as he has made greater bounces in his time than Philosopher Ingenhousr. Having learned metaphysics of the celebrated Miss V., would be qualified as usher to a metaphysical academy, but would prefer private service. These few lines conclude with humble duty from,
“Your ladyship’s most obedient,
“Humble servant to command.
“P.S.—O dear! O dear! well, what a lucky thing it was I happened to mention Scotland; it has brought the charmingest thought into my head that over was. Did your ladyship ever hear of a place called Gretna Green? They have a way of playing duets there, and such duets, it beats all the concerts in the world; Signor Bach’s music is nothing to it. There is no such thing as learning them at home: one must absolutely go there first to see the manner of it. There is a gentleman always, and a lady; and then a blacksmith in a black gown plays with his hammer dub-a-dubdub, and yet it is but a duet after all. Well, now, as your ladyship, I have heard, likes travelling, and Scotland is the delightfulest country in the world, how comical it would be if your ladyship were to take a trip next Saturday to Gretna Green, and I were to attend your ladyship, as, to be sure, you could never think of going such a journey alone, and I would come slyly, just as it was dusk, and meet you just behind the Green-house, and nobody should know anything about the matter, and I would have a chaise-and-four ready, and off we would go with a smack, smack, smack! to Gretna Green! And then Lady W. would cry—Where is Lady E.? and Lord W. would cry—Where is Lady E.? and nobody would know. And then all the servants would be called up, and there would be such doings, and all the while we should be playing duets at Gretna Green! and then we should come home again; and then there would be such a laugh; and then Lady W. would cry—How comical Mr Bentham is!—I do vow and declare there is never a man shall play duets with my E. but Mr B.
“P.S.—Pray dear, sweet, good my lady—there’s a dear lady—don’t say a word to any living creature about this, as it would quite spoil the joke.”
“Dover Street, 29th November, 1791.
This makes bold to inform you that my lady and I have made it up, and she has given me what is my due, and more too, and a dear, sweet, good lady she is; wherefore I have altered my mind, hoping no offence, and as I stay in my place, have no call to go with anybody to Gretna Green, unless it be with my lady. As everybody is willing to do the best they can for themselves, hope your ladyship won’t be angry, as a rolling stone gathers no moss, as the saying is; and it cannot be expected a person should leave a good place, unless it were to better himself. Should anything amiss happen another time, should be very proud to serve your ladyship, or anybody. My brother being still disengaged, if agreeable, could venture to recommend him—and am,
“Your ladyship’s very humble
“Servant to command.”
To Miss F—, Bentham writes:—
“Lord Lansdowne has trumped up a story about certain songs having been asked for by Miss F. Five times was the number mentioned, which consequently requires five letters. Being taxed with fiction, he unloaded his pockets before me of their contents, including about fifty letters, among which were to have been the five, or some of them; but is unable to find one. It is an old manœuvre, and will not pass upon anybody, not even upon me. The notice, however, having been given in form, with threats of disgrace in case of neglect, I must act as if it were true. Well, here it is—the same song—it has cost me hours after hours—pieces of days, as many as there are days in a week at least; and what will anybody be the better for it? When you ordered it, you did not want it; and now you have got it, you won’t make use of it. I am recommenced wild beast, and growl as every wild beast will do when you touch his chain. Not a syllable did I get from you before, nor shall I now,—not so much as the direction of a letter; and the notice, supposing it genuine, was to come in circumbendibus through two different channels. Here is the song, extracted from me, in the most dexterous manner; and not only that, but paper enough to singe a goose with, without anybody committing himself. I don’t like such sort of dealings, not I. I have read Cocker’s Arithmetic,—I like to see a debtor and creditor side fairly balanced,—needs must when — drives. Peace and quietness are my aim; but Lord L., who knows the necessities of an election, and who will never let me alone, insisted upon having, not only song, but letter; so you have him to thank for it. The old story—providence in plenty; but all of it on one side. The ice becomes the colder, I think, when the three Dianas get together: they are like snow, saltpetre, and sal-ammoniac: there is something Greenlandish, too, in the air of that old castle. Hear me, madam! If I don’t get something better, by return of post, than a note in solemn form, and that from one hand only, the whole correspondence goes, the next day, to, I need not say where—I leave to imagination to conclude the sentence. I thought we had got our quietus when the metaphysical disputations were adjourned to Lansdowne House; but fate would have it otherwise. My brother, who is too good to you, talks of sending you a Russo-French song, music composed, and given him by a Countess Golofkin, or Go-lovekin, as you may be pleased to call her,—which said song Miss F. will neither have the industry to learn, nor the punctuality to acknowledge the receipt of. I send it rather as a literary curiosity than for its excellence; but though his Visho-blagorodinship gives a toss of his head, and observes that such accomplishments there exhibited are common among the ladies of that country, found something original in it, and not unpleasing; and, at any rate, it is easy, which is no bad recommendation in this idle world—curiosity I call it, speaking as an Englishman. But it must be copied out first, which will give occasion to the said Miss F., after consultation with Miss V., and consent given by beg of Lady W., to Miss E. in her next epistle to Lord Henry, to desire him to tell Mr Favre to intimate her wishes to Lord Lansdowne, that his lordship would have the goodness to send somebody to Mr Bentham that he may remind his brother of it.”
I extract a passage from another letter:—
“Burke was one of our party,—saving aristocracy. ‘We are all aristocrats,’ says he, ‘I take for granted,’ looking round him. I answered, as Miss F. would have done, with a smile. Where my notions happened to coincide with his, which was in one instance, perhaps, out of a quarter or half-a-dozen, I chimed in with him; where we differed, I held my peace: why should I have let it go, and broken that of the company, by running a tilt against a man who was strewing flowers on my head, not to mention the good he seemed disposed to do to the cause. Be that as it may, I kept my tongue in order; but to little purpose, for democracy sniggered in his countenance.”
Of Burke, Bentham had begun to entertain a very mean opinion. He was engaged at this time in writing, for the Annual Register, articles on the war, and on general politics. Bentham thought him insincere and shallow, and wholly devoid of any concern for the happiness of the people.
Bentham sent to the Bowood ladies, with a copy of Panopticon, the letter which follows:—
“I send you a roasted lord for breakfast, or for after breakfast, as you please,—a courtly lord,—a deserter from your uncle. I roast him, however, not for being a lord, nor a courtier, nor a deserter, but for being a rival of mine, and because it will not be of so much prejudice to him, as it may be of use to me. I have sent a double portion, that you may give a slice, if you please, to another uncle, (I mean the cold one;) but upon the condition that, at any time, you should happen to be witness to his dropping of his own motion anything, or any word, that by any construction can be deemed a kind one, with reference to me; anything that could afford a willing interpreter a pretence for supposing that the dish could be at all relished for the cook’s sake. Should no such sign ever make its appearance, my instructions and humble petitions are, that you would keep the share designed for him till you see me metaphorically, or if you would permit it, literally at your feet.”
It appears that Dumont suggested to Bentham the desirableness of his addressing the National Assembly of France on the subject of Law Reform. I find, in Dumont’s handwriting, the translation of a letter which he drew up, in order that Bentham might address it to Garran, member of the National Assembly of France:—
“Cocceius, seeking help for the Prussian code, thought he had done much in looking over the whole extent of Germany. But your views, Sir, have embraced the whole world. Fifty ducats, extorted from the purse of the royal miser, was the price at which a Prussian chancellor valued that code of legislation which was entitled to the preference—such was the honour he did to the political knowledge of the whole empire. It remained for a Frenchman to conceive, that genius was not exclusively confined to certain geographical division, and that the most appropriate reward for services of this order was the certainty of obtaining the attention of the representatives of a great and free nation.
“I was far from home, Sir, when I learned by chance, in reading one of the Logographs, the distinction as flattering as unexpected, for which I am indebted to your eloquence. Little surprised that an English work had not awakened the attention of the Committee of the preceding Assembly, I abandoned, on reflection, that which, in zeal, I had undertaken, and from that moment thought no more of labouring for France. I feel that I should labour with redoubled energy if I could anticipate the chance of being useful by seconding the labours of so many enlightened men.
“I take the liberty to request, Sir, you will accept a copy of such of my works as have been printed. Two are incomplete for the same reason—one on Judicial Establishments, the other on Parliamentary Tactics; and, though printed, have never been sold. If your leisure should allow you to glance over any part of them, I should wish it were the preface to the Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation—where the outlines of the character of my writings will enable you to judge how far they can usefully be applied to France.
“In the event of my being honoured by a commission on the part of the Assembly, to communicate to them my ideas upon the subjects in question, would it be unreasonable on my part to hope for a copy, by their order, of the documents it is necessary I should be furnished with for that purpose? I mean the Procès-Verbal of the late Assembly, the decrees of that Assembly in their systematical order, and the acts of the present Assembly as they came out: to which may be added the Logograph, as containing the fullest and exactest account of the debates—that is, of the reasons for and against every measure, without which, the bare acts would be but a very imperfect guide. The Procès-Verbal I took in, together with a number of other periodical accounts of the proceedings of the Assembly; but my copy, owing to various accidents, is too imperfect to answer the purpose. There are none of these documents, it is true, but what I could procure through the ordinary channels; but the truth is, that besides so great a part of my time, the French Revolution, since the commencement of it, has cost me, in one way or other, purchase of books and other printed documents,—printing of books never offered for sale, paying of copyists, &c. &c., considerably more than the amount of what, during the same interval, I have spent upon myself. I neither meant to ask, nor ever would accept, though it were offered me, any pecuniary reward, nor any other indemnification for any expenses I have been at, or may be at in future; but as far as concerns a copy of such documents as are at the immediate disposal of the Assembly, the idea of receiving them from the bounty of the Assembly, will, I hope, not appear to you an unreasonable one. This expectation, however, on which I do not by any means lay any stress, I beg leave to submit, without reserve to your better judgment and friendly determination. You will easily perceive, that, under such circumstances, the distinction is much more my object than a pecuniary saving to so inconsiderable an amount.”
On the 25th November, 1791, Bentham wrote to Garran a letter, of which the following is a translation:—
Bentham to J. P. Garran.
“By the next diligence, I shall take the liberty, Sir, of sending you an English book, entitled The Panopticon, as promised in my last letter; and I forward herewith an extract in French from the same work, which has been made by a friend. I desire to present it to the Assembly, in order that it may be read, if you think it worthy of your attention. I trust it to your experience, and I shall gratefully obey any instructions you may give me. With respect to the project itself, my most intimate conviction, supported by the unanimous opinion of those who are acquainted with it, has induced me to take every step to obtain its adoption. France is the country, above all others, in which any new idea—provided it be a useful one—is most readily forgiven. France, towards which every eye is turned, and from which models are exported for the various branches of administration, is the country in which the project I send you, has the best chance. Would you know how strong my conviction is of the importance of this plan of reform, and the great success which may be anticipated from it? Allow me to construct a prison on this model—I will be the gaoler. You will see by the memoir that the gaoler will have no salary—will cost nothing to the nation. The more I reflect, the more it appears to me that the execution of the project should be in the hands of the inventor. If the opinion of your country is the same as my own, perhaps there will be no repugnance in falling in with my fancy. But be this as it may, my book contains the necessary instructions for whomsoever may be charged with the work; and like the prince’s governor of whom Fontenelle speaks, I have done my best to make myself useless.”
To this communication M. Garran replies:—
J. P. Garran to Bentham.
“22d December, 1791.
“I have long owed you thanks, Sir, for the missive you had the goodness to forward me, and for the letter which accompanies it; and I have too much respect for your opinion, not to give you the reasons for the delay which has occurred. I had all along hoped that the Committee of Legislation would have made its Report on that work of yours, which was submitted to it for examination by the National Assembly. Unfortunately this Committee has been always occupied with pressing details, which have absorbed all its time. Against my opinion it is composed of sixty-eight persons—certainly not the way of making progress; and though I have had the honour of presiding, I have never been able to obtain a moment for the necessary attention to the subject.
“You have more than shown us, Sir, that you wanted no thanks of ours—though these must not be refused to you, to induce you to offer to freedom and humanity some proofs of your zeal and your instruction. The National Assembly has welcomed your tribute as it deserved. It saw in you, according to the expression of one of your great poets, worthy to sing the praise of liberty:—
“On public virtue, every virtue joined.”
I have the honour of sending you an extract of the Procèc-Verbal of the Assembly. You will see the order for printing the extract, to enable the deputies to consider the subject before the time for discussing it. I will send you some copies as soon as it appears. One of our citizens was desired to translate the work; and I have delivered to him one of the two copies which you addressed to me, and which I had deposited with the Committees of Legislation, and of Public Help, (secours public.)
“As to myself, Sir, I shall transport to Orleans all the works you have deigned to send me—whither I am going as Grand Procurator of the Nation, before the High National Court. I anticipate that I shall have some days unoccupied before the meeting of the Grand Juries; and I shall employ them in studying your writings, which are not meant for a hasty glance alone. I shall then avail myself of the privilege you have kindly conceded, of discussing them with you. I have hitherto only read your ‘Fragment on Government,’ which shows me, that before our Revolution, you had well understood the principles upon which it was based—and from which it were well had our constitution never deviated.
“Receive, Sir, the assurance of all my respect,
“J. Ph. Garran.
“I have given to Condorcet and Brissot, the packets intended for them.”
Extract from the Procès-Verbal of Tuesday, 13th December, 1791:—
“National Assembly.—The Law and the King.
“A member read a letter, addressed to M. Garran, by M. Jeremy Bentham, breathing the most ardent love of humanity. This generous Englishman offers a work on the reform of prisons, houses of correction, and poor asylums. M. Bentham proposes to come himself to France, in order to establish a prison on his plan, and to become, gratuitously, the gaoler thereof.
“The Assembly has decreed honourable mention of this offer in the Procès-Verbal,—charges the Committee of Legislation with the examination of the work,—and orders the printing of the extract sent by M. Bentham, for the instruction of the Assembly.
“Compared with the original by us, the secretaries of the National Assembly,
(L. S.) “Thuriot.”
An incorrect account of what passed in the National Assembly appeared in the Morning Chronicle. I find in the handwriting of Bentham a statement of what occurred. M. Garran reported to the National Assembly that he had received a communication from Bentham, and proposed that it should be read at the Tribune—on which an amendment was moved by M. Liancourt, that, instead of being simply read it should be printed, distributed among the members, and referred to the Committee of Legislation and Succour, which was adopted with applause.
Bentham to Miss V—.
“Lord Lansdowne gives me pain. A friend of mine, who is intimate with Madame Helvetius, having put into my hands a couple of remarkable letters of her husband’s, in which he condemns his friend, Montesquieu, for his aristocratical principles, predicts the immediate success of the Esprit des Loix, and its subsequent downfal, as well as the prevalence of democratical principles, I communicated them, as a literary curiosity, to Lord Lansdowne. They interested him, and, as a proof of it, they ought to be translated into English, and published with a commentary, says he,—suppose now you were to do it. There are friends of ours, my lord, who could do it better—they are more in the habit of doing such things. What, Mr V—! the same? Ay! see what comes of my proposing it: if anybody else had proposed it to you, or nobody, it might have been done. What, I suppose, if your orders were to come from Warwick, then perhaps it would be done! O yes!—to be sure—that or anything else. What! then you are serious?—Quite so,—that is, first the petition goes from hence to Warwick, then orders from thence to Ampthill, then other orders from thence to Dover Street, and then the business is done in a trice. But the orders must be particular, and tell me what it is I am to do, otherwise, how am I to know whether I do right.—Oh, no, you know what to do well enough. Indeed! not I—then a look of dissatisfaction. Well, as you will, you know I have no interest in it—not I. My dear lord, my wish is to comply with yours; but then I must know what it is distinctly; else, what can I do? I have no interest in it. This was the very language on a former occasion, when my intractableness brought me into a disgrace, from out of which I am not yet perfectly recovered.
“Now, my dearest and most respected friends, suffer me to call you by that name—help me, pray do, to satisfy him, which you can, if you please; and which you will, if you believe me, that I regard him with the same tenderness as ever. Suffer him not to fancy himself that I am of the number of these, who, upon the first rebuff that any wish of theirs happens to meet with, think themselves licensed to forget past kindnesses, and to fly off from their best and kindest friends and benefactors.”
The letter which follows, in which a little disappointment and annoyance is obviously united with the pleasantry and irony of its style, was addressed to the ladies of the Bowood family, on occasion of their having denied themselves to Bentham when he called:—
“Dover Street,February 2, 1792.
“I am glad to find you have begun to feel something like remorse; it is a virtuous sentiment,—do not struggle to suppress it. It has, however, a little more work to do yet, or it has worked to little purpose. If it be still true that you have no possibility of seeing me anywhere but at Lansdowne House, it remains as true as ever, that I have no possibility of seeing you any more. Excuse me; but the footing on which your compassion would replace me, is not now a tenable one. My mind was made up, and everything arranged; such work is not to be done only to do over again, nor to be done for nothing—No! indeed it is not. If the unintentional offence is to have its intended effect, and my exclusion from your house is to remain in force, I remain excluded from every house which has your eyes for guards to it. What desperation suggested, reflection has confirmed. To what purpose depart from my resolution? What is it I have to lose? If it would not be any pleasure to you to see me, what pleasure can I have in seeing you? If it would, is it possible you can persist in excluding me from the only place to which you can give me a right to come?—At Lansdowne House. Yes, surely, whenever it so happens, with, I mean always, the greatest pleasure; so long as yours were likewise open to me; but if it should not so happen? I am at Lansdowne House—if you will have the goodness to recollect, not when I please, nor even when you please, but when the owner of it pleases. In the course of last winter, for example, two or three times; one of the times I saw Miss V.—how? through a telescope, amidst a cluster of ladies whose faces were scarce known to me. What charms do you suppose an intercourse like that can have for a man of my habits and turn of mind? What should I lose by losing it? What is it you supposed me to have looked for in the company from which you have banished me? I will tell you as if you did not know. A society of two or three, since one is too much to hope for, whose prudence and intelligence authorized me, while their kindness invited me to unbosom myself to them without reserve; who would listen, not with derision, but with satisfaction, to my notions and my projects, my hopes and my apprehensions, my disappointments and my successes; by whose judgment I might be enlightened, and by whose sympathy I might be soothed; to whom, should any occasion happen, I might even look for marks of reciprocal confidence, without fearing the imputation of impertinence. This, or something which seemed not altogether incapable of being improved into it, I have now and then enjoyed, by short snatches, at Bowood and elsewhere. This, if such had been your pleasure, I might have enjoyed without disturbance in Albemarle Street; but what room could I have hoped to have found for it, in the promiscuous bustle of an accidental dinner, two or three times a-year, at Lansdowne House? You who know in such perfection everything that women ought to know, may please to recollect that houses too have their sex: that there are some at which a man may beg to be let in without being ashamed; others at which no man deserves to be let in, who will be content to beg for it.
“One comfort I have left me, that the disgrace I had to swallow was not embittered by the consciousness of anything on my part that could have led me to expect it.
“Two years and more are elapsed, since I received an invitation, which has not been forgot by anybody; had I then understood it time enough, and accepted it, how, then, I wonder, should I have been received?
“With repulsive looks, short answers, and concerted silence? Would the fourth teacup have been kept carefully out of the way, and the time of your breakfast have been fixed to the exact moment, whatever it might prove, when the door had been heard to shut upon me? Had I happened to have found any advice to beg, or paper to put iuto your hands, would the communication have been received with a tone made up of indifference and impatience, and a look of surprise at the presumption that could have dictated so ridiculous a liberty?
“Had my title to consider the sentiments which dictated the invitation, as subsisting, suffered any diminution in all that while? So many marks of sympathy and kindness—so many letters which, estimating them by my wishes, I found cold, and short, and few, but which now are too much otherwise to be trusted in my sight; was I, from all this, to conclude myself thrown back into the condition of a stranger, and that the favour shown me in those early days was become too much for me?
“Is it for any want of Lord Lansdowne’s sanction that you found it necessary to consider the permission as withdrawn? Lord Lansdowne, to whose kind suggestion I so plainly owed it at the time, who has so often rallied me for my non-acceptance of it, and oftener in the presence of those who had given it than otherwise. Was it for want of knowing how to prevent my availing myself of it?—was it for want of expecting me to do so?—was it for want of notice of my intended intrusion, that you were driven to so ingenious an expedient for cutting it short, and punishing it? Would Lord Lansdowne have reminded me of the invitation so lately as he did, if he had received the smallest intimation from you to prevent my executing my threats?
“I have really nothing to accuse myself of, unless it be excess of prudence. Miss V.’s arrival in town not being so early as that of Miss F. and Miss E., I would not venture till she came. I announced myself to the servants as coming with a message from Lord Lansdowne, that it might appear a matter of necessity to receive me, and that I might appear to them to be indebted to my mission, and not to myself, for whatever notice might be taken of me. I do think I enter, at least as well as any other man upon earth could do, into the spirit of all your scruples and your delicacies, and with very little exception, even in the midst of my sufferings from them, admire you but the more. Believe me, you can scarcely be more awake to what may be, or may be thought, propriety on your part, than I am. But unless some recent aversion be at bottom, I really cannot find out what it is your delicacy, three of you as you are, could have had to apprehend from a man like me; still less had I taken upon me to execute my threats in their full extent, and bring with me another person, whom you may recollect by the relation he bears to an old gentleman who had the exclusive honour of being the subject of your inquiries, the situation he is in, being your security against his presuming upon such a mark of notice on the manner a younger son of his might have done. But why do I talk of delicacies? as if your experience were less mature,—your prudence less confirmed, or less superiorto censure, now that you thought fit to punish me for obeying the invitation, than two years ago when you vouchsafed to honour me with it?
“Now will I be generous to you. If you cannot muster up kindness enough to enable you to receive my visits without repugnance, I shall not be the only sufferer: you will, in that case, have the consciousness of having inflicted an unmerited wound, which it was out of your power to cure; and this consciousness, if I know anything of you, will not sit lightly on you. I say kindness; for if the statement be wanting, you know me too well to think the momentary expression of it could either satisfy me, or pass upon me; you owe it to me, as well as to yourselves, not to make any such attempt. Accept in that case my forgiveness; you have need of it. But if without effort, as well as without compliment, you can say to me, ‘your visits would give us pleasure,’ what possible consideration can excuse you from listening to the suggestions of compassion, when backed by the commands of justice? The sufferings I have endured will serve, then, but to heighten the value of the amends you have in store for me. Do you fear my becoming troublesome? correct me, or even discard me at any time. Whatever place I may have enjoyed in your favour, I am, and ever shall be, your debtor for; your grateful and insolvent debtor. The smallest hint from Lord Lansdowne would do it,—this would be the gentlest of a thousand modes. I need not, repeat to you the severest. I could fain find excuses for what is past, and so I could, perhaps, had I any encouragement to look for them. Some of you, I doubt, were not chidden quite so severely, some years ago, as you ought to have been, for tearing flies’ wings off, or holding them in the candle. You saw, in thought, a male creature in your power, and mistaking cruelty for delicacy, you thought to give yourselves a moment’s amusement at his expense. It did not occur to you at the instant, so completely as it ought to have done, who that male creature was, or what you knew of him, and what you had seen of him, nor that the parts of his character which made him such good sport, ought to have saved him from being the object of it. When ready to sink under his distress, he looked into every eye for mercy, and found none; sentence had been passed before he had made his appearance, and no fresh council could be held to give him a reprieve.
“Now, retire each of you to your pillow; and, to-morrow, let the coldest hand among you, write to me:—‘Mr Bentham, we had once a friendship for you; but the humour is past, and you must not see us any more.’
“I have been forced to write this at odd times, when I could escape from my brother’s, as well as every other observing eye. I have had him to comfort all this while, as well as to get rid of; for to this moment he knows nothing of the whole affair, but by the effect he has seen it have on me. You may think this odd—but it is most true; and if you knew our way of dealing with each other, you would easily conceive it.”
The effect of the letter was an immediate invitation.
There are some amusing references to the Panopticon project, in a letter to Miss F.
“Just returned from the post-house, where I ran in my own proper person, with my letter in my hand, as fast as my heels could carry me. There lies your note, and here sit I, eyeing it as the cat did the gold-fish in a pail of water, longing to devour it, and terrified from so much as touching it by the idea of the impression under which it was written. What heroism! Had you been Mrs Bluebeard, the fatal closet would never have been opened, and the world would have remained for ever deprived of so edifying a history. What if, after all, you should be laughing at me? I suspect it terribly; and that your taking me at my word, is a contrivance for turning the tables on me, and punishing my feigned anxiety with a real one. . . . . .
“My ideas just now are a jumble of architecture, and Lord L., and natural philosophy, and two Minervas, and two hundred and fifty felons, and Miss F.: the flower of the creation and the dregs of it, all afloat together. The dregs are all I ought to be thinking of,—but how is it possible?
“The state this same Panopticon book is in, is that in which a copy of it has been taken for the press in Ireland; but as there are things, which, though one addresses to the world in general, one could not address to everybody in particular, especially where one is under continual terrors of giving offence, I may perhaps find a leaf or two which I may see occasion to draw a curtain over, somehow or other, which if anybody thinks fit to undraw, it is no fault of mine. Had Miss E. such a person as an aunt at her elbow, I should make no scruple of addressing the whole to the great aunt as it stands, that she might hand it down from niece to niece with or without reserves, as to her wisdom might seem meet; but as you have no such piece of furniture upon whom I could unload myself of the burthen of responsibility, it concerns me to take care of number one, and not get into any more scrapes, with so terrible a one, which I am not yet clear of, before my eyes. But do not make a handle of this, to send the whole back again unlooked at, for I stake my whole credit with you, upon my leaving nothing in the smallest degree dubious, which it shall be possible for you to set eyes upon, without your own act and deed. Please to observe, that it was not only designed for publication, but addressed originally to my father, besides having since passed through the censor’s office, as above-mentioned. It would be necessary you should have read it, were I to lay the projects upon projects I have built upon it at your feet, which I should beg permission to do, if—Oh heavens! there I am at a cruel stand—if you did not live in an enchanted castle, with a guard of hobgoblins all round it. The magician I have offended leaves me no rest. The day I sent the letter that was returned me, I made a second attempt to see Lord W., and had actually learnt of the porter that he was at home, though not very well, when out rushed a furious dragon, breathing fire and smoke at me. I lost my senses to such a degree that I had not power to make any inquiries how long the monster had been there, how long he was to stay, whether he had flown thither with Miss E. and you upon his back, or whether he had left you with a guard of any and what subdragons at the other castle. I crawled back as well as I was able to Bedford Row, from whence I came; and thus it was that the two letters which have brought me into this scrape, instead of being addressed at once to Bowood, from whence your thunder-striking note that speaks of them is dated, went under cover to the Great Dragon of Berkeley Square. Yesterday I saw Lord W. at last, at Mr Vaughan’s, together with a pretty young prince he brought in his hand, whose name begins with a Cz., and whom I suppose you know; and Dr Blagden, Secretary of the Royal Society; and Mr Vaughan, and Mr Reveley, whom Mr V. had invited out of pure kindness to me, not having ever set eyes on him before. The conversation was all general. I found no more occasion than I had courage to talk to Lord W. about dragons, though we talked a good deal about elephants, as well as about an animal bigger than an elephant, and bloodthirsty into the bargain, and who, instead of exterminating all other animals, has himself been exterminated. It was a pretty little party. Your whole triad loves and protects Mr Vaughan. Methought I heard, every now and then, a sound like that of three humming-birds fluttering about the table. If it was you, I dare believe you were amused. Lord W., at coming in, took Mr Reveley by the hand, with his wonted courtesy. ‘Ah,’ said I, (no, I did not say any such thing, any more than I thought it,) ‘beware of specious men.’ Talking of Abyssinia, and so forth, he (Lord W. I mean) laid me flat on my face, with a volley of Herodotus in the original. ‘How good-natured and well-bred is Lord W.,’ (says Reveley to me, just after he was gone,) ‘he has the air, without anything at all of theairs,of the man of quality.’ Moreover, the Great Dragon had appeared to him in a dream, and said to him, ‘Be of good cheer: thou shalt build the Panopticon: and thy fame shall go forth amongst the nations.’ This is all I know about the dragon, except what there is in the Apocryphs.
Did it ever happen to you, in communing with Miss V., to drop a word about the presumptuous mortal who writes thus to you? Tell her with what devotion I embrace the tip of her left wing. She is helping, I suppose, to train the beautiful little cherubim at the castle. I have not yet forgot the kiss I obtained of the eldest, for worshipping her on the fiddle.”
The following letter to the same lady accompanied a coloured drawing of a fuchsia,—a flower then rare, but now as common as it is beautiful:—
“Do you know the proper name of this flower? and the signification of that name? Fuchsia from Fuchs, a German botanist. Fuchs is German for a certain lady’s name. Did you know as much? You are a philospher: you know the influence of the association of ideas. When last at Bowood, you were pleased to accuse me of indifference to Fuchsia: pretty association, was it not? J. B. indifferent to Fuchsia! This is a wicked world to live in. I half suspect a little malice in the case, and that a little more was understood of German than was acknowledged: it is an old amusement of some people’s to observe what I am fondest of, and charge me with dislike to it. Will you hear what an innocent man has to say for himself? At first sight, Fuchsia’s own proper merits had made an impression on me, and such a one as ought to have saved me from the imputation; what is mere, the charms it derived from relation were, at the time of the charge, not unknown to me. I pleaded, generally, not guilty, protesting innocence, and, as usual in like cases, with little appearance of success. What could I do?—beset as I was, I chose rather to see condemnation passed on me, than bring to light the strength of my cause,—produce my German evidence, and preve guilt to be impossible. The place was infested, as usual, with third persons, painted Frenchwomen and Irish cormorants, hovering, as you may remember, over fuchsias, geraniums, myrtles, and devouring them with their eyes.
“Hoping no offence, I have taken the liberty to resume a small sprig for myself, to set up at home in the part of the room where a good Russian puts his saint. Should I ever become a convert to the Negro religion, it will serve me for a Fetiche; it has more properties than Mynheer Fuchs with all his learning was able to discover. Fuchsia is symbolical, emblematical, typical; but I must stick to generals, for if I attempt to draw parallel lines, I shall make blots, and fall into a scrape. All I shall say is, there are different species of fuchsia. Some, if the truth may be spoken, with all their beauty, not altogether free from formality, and a little affected: others superior to all formality, and pure from all affectation: a man need not be a Linnæus to descry the difference.
“This Birmingham fuchsia, after all, now it is come, does not answer expectation. The one I saw before, and which suggested to me the idea of endeavouring to get another such, seemed, upon recollection, much better done; but, perhaps, the supposed difference may be owing more to the different degrees of interest with which I viewed them, than to any difference in the objects themselves: another subject for your philosophy to exercise itself upon. Upon taking notice of the paleness of the leaves, the lady who got it for me observed, that this was made from no better a model than a coloured print of Curtis’s, whereas the other was made from the plant itself, of which no specimen, she said, is to be had at this time of the year. The red stripes in the leaves, I am positively assured, are according to nature. How that may be, I cannot pretend to say; but at any rate, the green is of such a colour as surely no natural plant of the kind could ever have exhibited, unless, peradventure, at the eve of its dissolution. Why, then, says the indignant fuchsia, pester me with such trumpery? Because, because—now I will answer you honestly—in the first place, because, in order to know whether and how to find it, I was forced to ask Lord L., which I did before I knew that what I had to send was not fit to send; whereby Lord L. and Lord Henry, who was by, learned that I had something to send to Ampthill, and so the intelligence might get to Warwick, and from thence to Ampthill, where expectation, if not prevented, might be raised, and Miss E. and Miss F. might be upon the look-out for a collar of brawn at the holiday time, or a barrel of oysters, or something else that was good and valuable to make them welcome where they are, and the good family wanting something friand for a side dish, (not for the value of it, but to look pretty upon the table,) and being disappointed, might look cool upon them.
“In the next place, you have heard, probably, of the billets de confiance, which they coin at Birmingham for some bank at Paris. They are promises fairly printed in good copper, to deliver French money for a certain number of them on demand: the value of the copper is not equal to that of the money promised; but as it is not greatly inferior, it is preferred to paper.
“This indifferent representation of fuchsia, then, you may consider as a billet de confiance, which, when nature will permit the real Fuchsia to sit for her picture, will be exchanged, if you permit it, for a better.
“So much for counterfeits.”
Again he writes to the same lady:—
“When will the unreadable letter get a reading? Heaven knows. If I was afraid to look at it at first, the two angelic ones that succeeded it have made me more and more so. Come—you shall understand exactly how it is with me. Did it never happen to you to find yourself half awake after a pleasing dream, still wrapped up in it, afraid above all things of losing it, keeping as still as a mouse, and staving off to the last moment the operation of turning on the other side, for fear of putting an end to it. Who would change a pleasing illusion for an unpleasing reality?—I would not, I am sure.
“Do you know why it was Jepthah sacrificed his daughter? Was it that he wanted to get rid of her? No such thing: there was not a better behaved young woman in the whole parish, and she was the only string he had to his bow. Why then? Because he had said he would; and if he had not been as good as his word, he would have been accused of inconsistency, he thought, and want of perseverance, in all the Jerusalem newspapers. He wished his tongue had been cut out a thousand times over, rather than he had said any such thing: and yet you see, poor Miss Jepthah went to pot, notwithstanding. Had there been such a person as a Pope in the neighbourhood, he would have gone to his shop, and bought a dispensation: but Popes were not as yet invented in his days.
“Some historians tell a story of Curtius, that when he was got to the edge of the gulph, and saw how deep and black it looked, his heart misgave him, and he began casting about to find excuses to get out of the way of it. They had given him a wrong horse: if he jumped in with this it would break a set, he would just go to the stable and change him, and come back again; unfortunately some boys that were standing by, began to set up a hiss, so he set spurs to the poor beast, and in they went together.
“When Sir Thomas More was going to have his head chopt off, and bid Jack Ketch not meddle with his beard, as that had not committed any treason, do you think it was a matter of indifference to him whether his head was off or on? I question it. The case was, he had got a trick of talking in that manner: and it was as natural to him as to ask what o’clock it was, or to observe it was fine weather.
“I remember when I was a boy, and had occasion sometimes to pass through a churchyard of a night, I used to set up a singing: Was it from high spirits? The deuce a bit: on the contrary, my heart was going pit-a-pat all the while, and I fancied I saw a ghost perched upon every tombstone.
“When Miss F. takes upon her the part of the accusing angel, how happy would it be for me if my kind good friend Miss E., would take upon her that of the recording angel. I would not willingly put her to the expense of any of her precious tears on purpose; but if she has any that she does not know what to do with, she cannot make a more charitable use of them than by dropping them upon some of the severest of Miss F.’s accusations, as she enters them; but, above all things, let her begin with the words:—‘has succeeded here beyond expression,’* which are more cruel than a thousand accusations. How does my other patroness all this while, and where is she? On duty at the castle, I suppose: this is all the news I ask for.
“I hope there is a letter on the road for me—you need not be at the trouble of looking for any more excuses for delay. The budget is empty, for between us, they are all used.
“What made me write so foolishly? come—I’ll tell you: for I have made my head to screw off and on, and I can set it on my knee, and open it, and see what is in the inside of it. It was a few grains of ill-humour mixed with a great many more of quill-driver’s vanity. It sounded in my ears as if it ran well, and was sharply said: though at bottom it was nothing but a common schoolboy’s sentiment in man’s language. The turn of a sentence has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for aught we know, of many a kingdom. Not that I need load quill-driving with it, for I believe there are few men, and as few women, to whom it has happened at some time or other when a speech has appeared to come pat, to out with it, though half-conscious, at the same time, it were better let alone.”
Another letter has this passage:—
“Tell me, said I, nine days ago, either that I have not offended, or that I am forgiven. Ten days which have elapsed since, have lowered my pretensions. Tell me now, it would be a kindness done to me, that I have offended, and am not to be forgiven. Bid your maid or your man tell me so. Anything would be a favour in comparison of this inexplicable silence. For five minutes together I cannot fix my thoughts to any other subject. My business is retarded, my spirits sunk, and my health hurt by it. The post, if I wait for it, reaches between one and two: if I go to meet it, as I have frequently, at about twelve, the hours that precede that time are wasted in anxiety, those which follow it in disappointment and despondence. There goes two, and there is an end of hope for the remainder of the day. The causes of your silence were not difficult to imagine. I left nothing to imagination. I begged for an immediate answer, in words which surely did not indicate unconcern. Ten days you will believe have hardly lessened it. Surely these were not the sentiments which commenced the correspondence—What, what is it I have done to alter them?
“I have a long letter from my brother, which, if it came from a person not related to me, you would find an interesting one. Your circle contains the only persons with whom I could trust it: no one else so much as knows of its existence. In the condition I am in I can neither send it you, nor, what is worse, answer it, though it requires an answer, and that a speedy one.
“If this is to continue how bitter will be the remembrance of former favour! The kinder your letter was, the less I can bear to look at it.
“If an advocate were needful, I should have hoped to have found one not far from you: but friends and advocates, I think, are all gone.
“My great employment has been hunting for grounds of self-accusation: no very pleasant one, while the bushes are beating, and still less where game has been found. Was it ever yours? I suppose not: may you never have the experience in it that I have!
“If I have offended has not my punishment been sufficient?”
The following letter is so characteristic of the writer, that I introduce it without naming the party to whom it was addressed, or the subject to which it refers:—
“When a man takes upon him to inform another, what were, or were not the feelings of that other, upon such or such an occasion, (a thing not often done, I believe,) and that with certainty, he runs no small risk of finding himself under a mistake. Such happens to have been your case, in yours of the 28th. It is truly painful for me to tell you so; but it is what you have forced me to do, or submit to a sort of dictation, the most extraordinary I have over happened to meet with. Suffer me, then, to inform you, if you will allow me to know anything of my own thoughts,—that whatsoever happen to be my feelings or my opinions, it is my constant wish, and I believe my usual practice, to avoid introducing the expression of them where the subject does not call for them; but that whoever calls for them, and will have them, if he gets them at all, gets them as they are. Without making use of words so vague as ‘exceptionable’ or ‘improper,’ know then, that whatever my opinion was of the expressions in question, at the time of my receiving this last letter of yours, such it was precisely at the respective times of my writing those two notes: such, I do believe, it would equally be fifty years hence, to which time I would much rather have reserved the expression of it.
“When, with so much self-complacency, you express yourself altogether unconscious of anything in your manner of expressing yourself, but what is most unexceptionable, I do not perfectly understand what it is you mean: whether it is that matter of a nature at once invidious and irrelevant, introduced without provocation into the discussion of a law question among friends is noways exceptionable, or improper; or that no such matter has place in any of your letters. If the latter interpretation be the right one, the cause, I hope, is to be found in a want of recollection, to supply which, I will send you as a specimen one of two sheets of which your letter is composed; the whole of which appears to me to come within the meaning of those epithets, and such as consequently might have been saved in the lump, not only without injury to the business, but to very great advantage.
“That I take the liberty of thus giving an explanation, which seems rather forbidden than called for by the expressions of soft complacency above noted, is owing to the unfeigned desire I entertain of seeing the renewal of an intercourse which I little apprehended would have suffered any such interruptions. If upon a review, such a style of address be judged altogether suitable to the person and the occasion, the consequence is, that in the intercourse with that person, the same style of address would be ordinarily observed. The consequence again would be a complete bar to all intercourse with him, but what was barely necessary. Certainly with respect to you, I will not take upon me to assume: but as to myself, I am certain of two things; one is, that I never experienced such a style of address from, the other is, that I never used it to any human being. Generosity would preserve me from using it to any one who was a dependant; the fear of ridicule, to any one who was not so.”
Considerable delay took place in the printing of the Panopticon, as ordered by the National Assembly, in consequence of which Bentham wrote to Brissot, on the 17th of February, 1792.
Benthem to Brissot.
“You have no time for writing letters, my good friend—have you half a minute for reading them? The prayer of this humble petition is, that you would have the goodness to transport yourself to the committee-rooms—you know of what committee—and deposit upon the bureau thereof what is above, to the end that, if by God’s grace your decree of I don’t know how many months ago, for the printing of my long-ago-forgotten paper about the Panopticon, should by miracle get executed, the above supplement may be added to it, and the above corrections made in it. Should the printing be too far advanced for the MS. to be corrected, let the corrections be printed at the end. God prosper you, together with the state, of which you are one of the pillars! You are a pretty set of people! You will neither do anything yourselves, nor let anybody do anything for you. What a pretty account you will have to render to your constituents at the end of your two years, of your Civil Code, your Code of Procedure, &c. You will tear off this English diatribe, unless you have a mind to see it printed as a second supplement.”
Bentham’s father died at Bath, on the evening of Wednesday, March 28, 1792. He was buried in the cathedral there, and a marble slab recorde his name. He had been Clerk to the Scriveners’ Company. His property was equitably and nearly equally divided between his sons.
Bentham, besides the estate of Queen Square Place, in Westminster, came into a freehold and leasehold property of from £500 to £600 a-year; a considerable part of which, consisting of farms in Essex, had descended from his grandfather.
[* ] He edited Stuart’s “Athens.”
[* ] Sir John Sinclair.
[* ] The words used in announcing to Bentham Romilly’s arrival at Bowood, and the impression he had made.—(See p. 187.)