Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII.: 1813—17. Æt. 65—69. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER XVIII.: 1813—17. Æt. 65—69. - 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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1813—17. Æt. 65—69.
Establishment of New Lanark.—Jovellanos.—Lord Holland.—Codification for Russia.—Ford Abbey.—James Mill.—State of Cambridge University.—Ricardo.—Say.—Abolition of the Slave Trade.—Project of a Chrestomathic School.—Admiral Tchitchagoff.—Jekyll.—Madam Gantier.—Dumont and the Book of Fallacies.—Death of Miranda.—Death of George Wilson.—Mutual Improvement Society.
In the year 1813, Bentham became a partner in the prosperous establishment of New Lanark. It was then directed by Robert Owen and William Allen; the Walkers, and one of the Forsters, joined the concern. On the whole it was a fortunate investment; and his influence was always used to keep up the cheerful character of the manufactory, and to administer, as much as possible, to the felicity of the inhabitants, and especially of the younger portion. It was there the first experiments were made of infant school education—that music and dancing were taught to the children—and that corporal punishment and coercive discipline were wholly excluded. And no one can have witnessed the happy consequences without being convinced of the greater efficiency of kindness and gentleness than of severity and harshness. Bentham was attracted by Owen’s proposals—who had desired to get rid of his partners, inasmuch as they thwarted his plans of improvement. His theory was, that while he made a manufacturing population more virtuous and happy, he could also render them more productive to their employers: and in this respect he certainly fulfilled his engagements; and Bentham had every reason to be satisfied with the pecuniary results of his investments of money in the New Lanark Mills.
For the last twenty years of Bentham’s life, a small bust of Jovellanos stood in his library. Lord Holland had sent it with the following letter, December 3, 1813:—
Lord Holland to Bentham.
I know that you admire, or at least approve, some of the works of my late excellent friend, Don Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos,* and I know also, that he set the highest value on your commendation and good opinion. He would have considered it no small honour to have been admitted into Mr Bentham’s study; and would have solicited that favour, with as much earnestness as you did a passport to Mexico from him. Will you, therefore, allow me to beg your acceptance of a cast from his bust, which bears a strong resemblance, and which I hope you will allow to stand in some part of your library?—I am, dear Sir,” &c.
In return, a copy of “Swear not at all” was forwarded to his lordship, with this epistle:—
Bentham to Lord Holland.
“Q. S. P., 6th Dec., 1813.
Valuable on its own account, as well as that of the worthy original, the bust deserves a yet higher value from the hand it comes from. Your lordship’s commands are already obeyed: Señor Jovellanos has already taken his station. It is, in every sense, an obscure one; but it is the best my narrow and crooked workshop, which is my constant sitting-room, can afford.
“As a small return, made according to the measure of my small faculties, do me the honour to accept of an imperfect sketch just made of a venerable lady, who, by the blessing of God, is as much alive as ever she was, even my own alma mater: whether, speaking to your lordship, I should have been entitled to say ours, is more than I recollect at present. By the inscription, without looking any further, your lordship will see that I am, now in my old age, drawing near to the meeting-house—yea, even to the Quakers. I should be too proud even for a Quaker, could I be permitted to amuse myself with any such imagination as that of having drawn your lordship any part of the way along with me.”
Admiral Tchitchagoff consulted Bentham on the publication of a history of the Russian campaign. From a long letter of Bentham’s on the subject, I copy an extract, which contains valuable suggestions to any writer engaged in similar literary undertakings:—
Bentham to Admiral Tchitchagoff.
“After what you have said, I shall depend upon your ascribing to the true cause, and thence regarding with complacency rather than displeasure, my availing myself to the full of the liberty you give me, and submitting to your consideration a few suggestions in the way of advice. Addressed by a man who is so much in the habit of literary composition, to one who has been so much more honourably and efficiently employed, they will stand clear (I flatter myself) of any such imputation as that of officiousness or impertinence.
“1. Whatsoever papers you have in your possession, of a nature to serve as proofs, or (as we say) as vouchers, for the propositions you advance, relative to matter of fact—be careful to transmit them in company with the narrative: for example, the daily and other periodical military reports, such as you received them from day to day, stating the number of men of all ranks, in and out of condition for service: horses, cannon, carriages, and so forth. If in French, so much the better; though, if there should not be time to get them translated into French, my brother’s children would, (I suppose,) among them, find Russ and French enough for the purpose.
“2. Send, if possible, either in print or manuscript, a map of the route pursued by the armies, as particular as may be, accompanied with references from the narrative. If stated as being original, such map, besides explaining the narrative, will help the sale of it.
“3. Remember, on every occasion, to render as well the narrative of military movements, as the description of fixed objects and states of things—as particular as possible. Trust as little as possible, to any such expectation as that assertions, conceived in general terms, unsupported by particular proofs, will make the wished for impression on the bulk of readers. Consider that your own knowledge, or interior persuasion, of the truth of the several assertions, cannot of itself operate as evidence on the minds of strangers; and that, in default of particular vouchers, for judging of the truth of any such assertions, what an impartial reader will look to, will be their consistency with such facts, as either are established by especial evidences, or are in their own nature sufficiently notorious.”
Mr Mulford, who has been often referred to in Bentham’s correspondence, died in 1814. “His kindness,” said Bentham, “made him a sort of father to me;” and for more than fifty years an intimate correspondence had been carried on between the “Dear Doctor,” and the “Dear Councillor;” for, as I have already remarked, such were the terms in which they invariably addressed one another.
Bentham’s hopes of being allowed to codify for Russia, were at this time strongly excited. His name and writings were very popular in that country. He had himself some—his brother, who had been so long in the Russian service, many—influential friends at the Court of the Tzar. Dumont had lived long at Petersburg, and his reputation and his labours were so associated with those of his master, that strong expectations were indulged, that authority to prepare a Code would be communicated to him. The Emperor Alexander, who was fond of being considered the patron and protector of literary and learned men, sent to Bentham a diamond ring, which Bentham returned to the Imperial donor, with the seal of the box that contained it unbroken. His conduct has been deemed ungracious—but without reason. He cared nothing about diamond rings; but he desired to legislate for the good of the Russian people. The emperor would have had him communicate his observations—or rather reply to the questionings of a Commission appointed to revise the Russian Codes. But Bentham knew that Commission to be wholly incompetent to the work; and its President, upon whom everything depended, was peculiarly unfitted for his task, so that Bentham refused to take any share in a drama of feebleness and insincerity.*
In the year 1814, Bentham became the occupant of Ford Abbey.† He had never seen it. He was satisfied with seeing a picture of it. He found that £800 a year was asked for it,—and offered half that amount, with a promise to quit it at any time at a month’s notice. “In it,” said he, “I was like the lady in the lobster. There were special stipulations as to the care of the tapestry in the halls, and the gardens, the deer in the park. I rejoiced in this.—Old tapestry, with all other relics, were always my delight,—and so was gardening; and as to the deer,—not having mouths to eat them, and being fond of all creatures, vulgo dict. dumb creatures, I was much more disposed to caress, than to kill them.”
On another occasion, Bentham thus described Ford Abbey:—
“Ford Abbey was a monkish and magnificent house. I enjoyed it prodigiously. I lived there en grand seigneur, with half a dozen people, or more. Everything there was for next to nothing.
“For £100 the improvements I made were astonishing. The walls were stone,—there was abundance of fruit, two or three graperies,—hot-house plants,—a noble green house,—a cloister thirty feet long, with gothic windows. The hall was sixty feet long, and thirty feet high, studded with golden stars; it led from the room where we commonly sat. There was a great dining-parlour, through which we went to the drawing-room, which was lined with tapestry. The dining-room was wainscoted, the windows were modern. One of these days, some thirty or forty years hence, you shall go there on a pilgrimage,—you, and your children, and Mrs B., and I will come back into existence. It is about three miles from Chard. It is just in Devon. A piece of land belonging to it is in Somerset, which was joined to Devon by a log-of-wood bridge. There was plenty of water,—ponds running one into another, forming a little cascade,—two contiguous, and another beside. There was a noble walk, considerably above a quarter of a mile, lined with horse-chestnuts, twenty-five or thirty feet wide. On one side were the ponds, on the other the park. My walk was of three-quarters of an hour before breakfast, round the park. There were beautiful views, mounts, wildernesses, and a grove. It had all the features of beauty imaginable. Antiquities of various ages. The monks had known how to choose. The monks’ cells had fine carvings in stone,—and there were eloquent echoes, and rooms locked up which were full of ghosts. A convent is always the best guide to beautiful scenery. The monks lived there in great splendour, and were worshipped. I left behind me a great reputation; for I had succeeded a brute, and acted with common kindness. A country gentleman lived at the priory, a mile off, who was not a brute, but was a man of low habits. There was a Mr Bragge, who had a good estate, and had been a gentleman-commoner at Oxford. He was a great gossip. We were on good terms. When I went there I migrated into a state of affluence. I had been before in one of penury, and scarcely felt as if what I had were my own.
“Ford Abbey would excite all your sensibilities. O what a quantity of felicity there was in the room where the cartoons were! They were beautifully executed in tapestry. One of the ceilings was moulded in plaster, representing historical subjects. In that room was an organ. About half of the room was lined with settees of a kind of stuff, with tufts of the date of the Commonwealth. They had originally been of a bright green, but the light had made them brown. In that saloon we used to sit and work—Mill in one place—I in another. This was in the summer. In the cold weather we adjourned to the drawing-room, where the tapestry was, and we had means of warmth. We sat at the upper end—the travellers at the lower end. I never excluded anybody. Visiters crowded to the place. Anne must have feathered her nest. She was sometimes a little crusty to them. They used to bring provisions and feed in the gardens. I accommodated everybody to the utmost. The present possessor is a hateful fellow. I had a sad plague to keep out of a lawsuit. He was litigious, and looked upon himself the poorer for anything that anybody got by his means. I was there nearly five years. I was in treaty with the owner to keep it for my life. It was put an end to by my losing £8000 or £10,000 through —. But when I got so much correspondence, it became more and more valuable to me. The loss of time in going and coming became serious. It was the loss of a week in every year, which I could ill afford. I took three servants from hence. There were then two old women taken in. A footman was also there, who worked in the garden. There was a regular gardener, and a gardener under him, and a labourer always there, and two or three other labourers and women occasionally in the garden.”
He engaged for the residence at Ford Abbey with only a portion of the estate for £315 a-year; and when he got settled there, his attachment to it was greatly strengthened, and he was very unwilling to think of being forced to leave it. In one of his letters he says:—“A visiter is expected from London, who has some notion of taking the holy place. Should the rascal—any such rascal—come, I am determined to do one of two things—either to murder him, or to treat him well. The latter course would have the advantage of smoothing the path to a number of little negotiations for which there may be a demand. How to murder the fellow I don’t understand—never having seen or read the German play which gives instructions, it is said, on that subject.”
Battledore and shuttlecock were among the amusements of Ford Abbey, in which Bentham participated. On one occasion a supply was sent for to London: gay, instead of useful ones, were forwarded. “No shuttlecocks,” writes Mr B. (9th Nov.) “but these tawdry ones; all glitter, no worth; just like the age, and a startling exemplification, and conclusive proof of the degeneracy. Pointed epigrams, yes; but pointed shuttlecocks never were, nor ever will be, good for anything. These, indeed, have not yet been tried; but trial is not necessary to condemnation in the case of such a set of shuttlecocks. The balls, by the eye of faith, I perceive, are orthodox,—the primitive firmness is perceptible to the touch, and Horace’s totus teres atque rotundus may, with truth, be predicated of them.”
Many of his letters contain references to the enjoyments which surrounded him at Ford Abbey.
“Ford Abbey, 24th Nov. 1814.
“Much good may it do you with your bad weather,—we have none such here, though, to be sure, one night did procure us frost all over the ponds, perhaps one-fourth of an inch thick. The worst was, it punished the poor dear plants, that were looking so beautiful in the front, two tier on each side, in as high perfection as in the middle of summer—I hope not to death. The others are still in high perfection, facing the sun in the great hall. The cloistere are now the orangery, with room for vibrating, an operation performed regularly every day after dinner. Everybody is in high health.”
In another letter:—
“Nobody that could stay here would go from hence. Nobody is so well anywhere else as everybody is here.
“Fogs—he asks—fogs? What is the meaning of the word Fog? No such word is to be found in the vocabulary of Ford Abbey. Rains and sunshine à la bonne heure. April weather, except that it is warmer than April is with you: about 56°, I think it was, out of doors.” (Dec. 13, 1814.)
In the course of Bentham’s intercourse with Mill, little misunderstandings sometimes took place; and as the infirmities even of great minds may be instructive to mankind at large, I will introduce a passage or two from a letter of Mill, on an occasion when, after some years of intimate intercourse, they agreed that a temporary separation would be for the happiness of both.
James Mill to Bentham.
“September 19, 1814.
“My dear Sir,—
I think it is necessary we should come to some little explanation, and that, according to your most excellent rule, not with a view to the past but the future, that we may agree about what is best to be hereafter done.
“I see that you have extracted umbrage from some part of my behaviour; and have expressed it by deportment so strongly, that I have seriously debated with myself whether propriety permitted that I should remain any longer in your house. I considered, however, that I could not suddenly depart, without proclaiming to the world, that there was a quarrel between us; and this, I think, for the sake of both of us, and more especially the cause which has been the great bond of connexion between us, we should carefully endeavour to avoid. The number of those is not small who wait for our halting. The infirmities in the temper of philosophers have always been a handle to deny their principles; and the infirmities we have will be represented as by no means small, if, in the relation in which we stand, we do not avoid showing to the world we cannot agree. Where two people disagree, each person tells his own story, as much to his own advantage, as much to the disadvantage of the other, at least as he conceives the circumstances to be, that is, in general, as much as the circumstances will permit. The rule of the world, I observe, on these occasions is, to believe much of the evil which each says of the other, and very little of the good which each says of himself. Both therefore suffer.
“In reflecting upon the restraint which the duty which we owe to our principles,—to that system of important truths of which you have the immortal honour to be the author, but of which I am a most faithful and fervent disciple—and hitherto, I have fancied, my master’s favourite disciple; in reflecting, I say, upon the restraint which regard for the interest of our system should lay upon the conduct of both of us, I have considered that there was nobody at all so likely to be your real successor as myself. Of talents it would be easy to find many superior. But, in the first place, I hardly know of anybody who has so completely taken up the principles, and is so thoroughly of the same way of thinking with yourself. In the next place, there are very few who have so much of the necessary previous discipline, my antecedent years having been wholly occupied in acquiring it. And in the last place, I am pretty sure you cannot think of any other person whose whole life will be devoted to the propagation of the system. It so rarely happens, or can happen, in the present state of society, that a man qualified for the propagation should not have some occupation, some call or another, to prevent his employing for that purpose much of his time, that without any over-weening conceit of myself, I have often reflected upon it as a very fortunate coincidence, that any man with views and propensities of such rare occurrence as mine, should happen to come in toward the close of your career to carry on the work without any intermission. No one is more aware than yourself of the obstacles which retard the propagation of your principles. And the occurrence of an interval, without any successor whose labours might press them on the public attention after you are gone, and permit no period of oblivion, might add, no one can foresee how much, to the causes of retardation. It is this relation, then, in which we stand to the grand cause—to your own cause,—which makes it one of the strongest wishes of my heart that nothing should occur which may make other people believe there is any interruption to our friendship.
“For this purpose, I am of opinion, that it will be necessary not to live so much together. I cannot help perceiving, either that you are growing more and more difficult to please, or, that I am losing my power of pleasing; or perhaps there is something in being too much in one another’s company, which often makes people stale to one another, and is often fatal, without any other cause, to the happiness of the most indissoluble connexions.
“I should contemplate, therefore, with great dread, the passing another summer with you, and think that we ought by no means to put our friendship to so severe a test. I am desirous of staying with you this season, as long as you yourself continue in the country, both for the sake of appearance, and because you have had no time to make any other arrangement for society: and I shall remain with so much the deeper an interest, that it is a pleasure not to be renewed. For I can most truly assure you, that at no moment were you ever more an object to me of reverence, and also of affection, than at the present; and nothing on my part shall be left undone while I here remain, to render my presence agreeable to you: perhaps, I ought rather to say, as little disagreeable as possible.”
After some details respecting family and pecuniary arrangements, he concludes:—
“As I propose all this most sincerely, with a view of preserving our friendship—and as the only means, in my opinion, of doing so,—the explanation being thus made, I think we should begin to act towards one another without any allusion whatsoever towards the past; talk together, and walk together, looking forward solely, never back; and as if this arrangement had been the effect of the most amicable consultation, we can talk about our studies, and about everything else, as if no umbrage had ever existed: and thus we shall not only add to the comfort of each other during the limited time we shall be together, we shall also avoid the unpleasant observations which will be made upon us by other people. For my part, I have been at pains to conceal even from my wife that there is any coldness between us. I am strongly in hopes that the idea of the limitation will give an additional interest to our society, and overbalance the effects of a too long and uninterrupted intimacy, which I believe to be the great cause—for there is such a disparity between the apparent cause, my riding out a few times in the morning with Mr Hume, to take advantage of his horses in seeing a little of the country, instead of walking with you, and the great umbrage which you have extracted,—that the disposition must have been prepared by other causes, and only happened first to manifest itself on that occasion.
“I remain, with an esteem which can hardly be added to, and which, I am sure, will never be diminished, my dear Friend and Master, most affectionately yours.”
This letter admirably exhibits the character of Mill’s mind, not amiable, but most sagacious—impatient of contradiction or of check, but penetrating and philosophical. No man ever reasoned with stronger logical powers—no man had ever a more accurate perception of truth, or a more condensed form of expression. No man was ever more efficient as a controversialist, or more felicitous in the exposure of a fallacy or a flaw. His weaknesses were those of temper. When listened to, he was admirable; it was only when the tide of his feelings, and the peculiarities of his nature met with resistance, that he appeared in an unattractive light. Of his intellectual capacity, Bentham thought most highly: but the scholar had none of the gentleness—none of the tenderness for the feelings of others, which distinguished the teacher. “Heargues against oppression,” said Bentham—“less because he loves the oppressed many, than because he hates the oppressing few. He fights for the people—not that he cares for the suffering people, but that he cannot tolerate the suffering-creating rulers.” While Bentham lived at Ford Abbey, “Mill,” said Bentham, “his wife and family, and a servant, were there the whole of the time; and so it was at Barrow Green—only one summer was I there without Mill. Mill came in the train of Sir John Stuart, a man of good estate, married to a lady of quality. Mill’s father had been his tenant. Sir John finding Mill something different from other men, sent him to Edinburgh for education—there he became bearleader to a Marquis,* who gave him an annuity. Through Sir John, Mill got the faculty of attending Parliament. He was writing his British India, while I was writing all manner of things. He was also writing for the Edinburgh Review. His work got him the situation he holds. Mill thought it was through Canning’s suggestion, that they applied to him. I brought him and his family hither from Pentonville. I put them into Milton’s house, where his family were all at ease. Afterwards I gave him the lease of the house he holds, and put it into repairs for him. He and his family lived with me a half of every year, from 1808 to 1817 inclusive. When I took up Mill he was in great distress, and on the point of migrating to Caen. Our scheme, which we talked of for years, was to go to Caracas, which, if Miranda had prospered, we should have undoubtedly done.”†
A letter from one of Bentham’s young friends, gives rather an unfavourable description of Cambridge University a quarter of a century ago:—
“The influx of fresh men,” he says, “has sent those last entered into the town. My tutor, (Mr Barnes,) to whom I introduced myself, when I had provided myself with a cap and gown, is a fat, jolly, athletic man, about 50, looking good humour, full of jokes, but with a stock of bitter jibes and taunts for those who come to his lectures unprepared. His subordinate is a tall, grave personage, of solemn demeanour, exceedingly devout, but withal rather pleasant, unless he suspects that meet reverence is not paid him. Bows and prostrations are therefore much in demand, though latitudinarian irreverences has somewhat curtailed them. It is a heinous offence to laugh at his lectures; and an eminent virtue to admire his lamp, on whose construction he greatly prides himself. When proctor, he exhibited most exemplary diligence in recovering the frail ones of both sexes, and particularly in sending certain damsels to the spinning-house, and of sending under-graduates to rural meditations. Men rejoice here in visiting the chapel nine times in seven days: at 7 o’clock in the morning,—stay half-an-hour: mathematics at 8,—out at 9: classes at 10,—out at 11 o’clock: dine at 3: sup at 9. W. don’t care for classics. At Trinity they are honoured,—at St John’s respected,—at the smaller Colleges despised. Reading men occupy themselves with mathematics exclusively: these alone can bring them with honour through the senate house. The claim of a wrangler to the substantial honours of a fellowship is seldom rejected. So classics are for the most part voted a bore. Others are scarcely ever mentioned,—a little of Locke and Paley, but little indeed. Some even read hard,—one man reads thirteen hours a day,—but seven or eight hours are the golden mean. Study and success then, bring, through a four-years’ vista, the prospect of £250 per annum.”
I find this letter from Rome, without a signature. I suspect the writer to have been Lord Holland:—
“Rome, December, 1814.
“For those who require a good climate, Rome is not a place to spend the winter in. The houses are falling into decay, and the streets are filled with wretchedness and filth; but the antiquities are more easy of access than formerly; and, in spite of all that has been removed, the monuments of architecture, painting, and sculpture, are more numerous than in any country in Europe. The society is chiefly that of strangers; and a large, not unpleasant, English colony. One has, too, an opportunity in contemplating fallen grandeur in men, with the ruins of the greatest empire in the world; for here are nearly as many dethroned monarchs as crumbling palaces: Charles IV., the Queen of Etruria, King of Holland; and Joseph and Jerome, it is said, have expressed a wish to swell this number, but both have been refused. Lucien is a man of sense, and very much attached to his wife and family: ambitious of the character of a man of letters, and pleased with any allusion to his poem, which he seems to think has, by this time, made its appearance in England. He is a Romish prince, but has, I suspect, accepted that title more as a mark of protection, and a sort of earnest for the security of his person, than from any value he attaches to so empty a title. He lives on good terms with his brother Louis and Cardinal Fesch. I do not know whether he has any communication with Napoleon. Several English have lately visited the latter at Elba, and he talked to them in the most open, cheerful, and intelligent manner, chiefly on past events, with great clearness, for two or three hours; and spoke with a calmness, amounting to insensibility, of many past transactions, as if he had seen them from an eminence, but as if they reflected neither credit nor discredit upon himself. He was only animated in relating battles, especially those of Egypt; and was highly diverted at hearing one of the Pacha’s secretaries had assumed his name—Ainsi il s’apelle Buonaparte. and then laughed excessively. They would find great difficulty, he said, in settling affairs at the Congress, ‘mais cela ne me regarde pas; mon rôle est fini; Je me regarde comme mort.’ He was, he added, at Elba, because he wished to be too powerful. England was now at her height, and must soon begin to decline; he did not know how, or when, but decline she must. [Does this not look like fatalism?] He spoke good humouredly of Madame de Staël: said she was always in opposition, but always disinterested.”
Bentham to Mr Koe.
“Ford Abbey, 15th December, 1814.
“Thanks for your about-nothing-at-all letter.
“Ricardo and Say came here yesterday to dinner unexpected; whether they go, however, or no, to-morrow, as was originally intended, I know not. Both very intelligent and pleasant men, and both seem highly pleased. There are two or three long letters to friend Allen, from Clarkson, giving an account of his negotiation at Paris for the abolition of the Slave Trade, in September and October last, extremely curious, and not a little hope-inspiring. By Wellington he was received with the utmost appearance of frankness and cordiality: Louis XVIII. not only consenting, but zealous, acknowledging himself terrified into what was done, but determined that the trade shall not outlast the five years. He gave an account of interviews with a multitude of the negotiating people at Vienna, and of the measures taken by Clarkson, with the assistance of Louis and several of his Ministers, for disseminating truth to inform and govern the public mind in France.”
“Ford Abbey, 20th December, 1814.
“I have been consuming two or three days in indexing ‘Bell’s Elements of Tuition.’ But I am all admiration at the genius and talent displayed in the work, (when I came into the marrow of it, which was mismatched by the quantity of introductory quisquilious matter,) and at the inestimable utility of it.”*
The Code of Judicature for the Territories of the Hudson’s Bay Company was, at Dumont’s suggestion, sent, by Lord Selkirk, to Bentham, for correction and approval, (1815;) but I cannot discover whether he undertook the task.
Some difficulties with the owner of Ford Abbey, set Bentham rambling for some other country residence. He went to see a place in Devonshire, called Monachorum, but found it would not do. “It had no tolerable garden, nor physical possibility of making one.” He spent one day with his friends, the Northmores, at Cleeve, and says in one of his letters—“Don’t tell anybody of it, for I should never hear the last of it. I am in love with Mrs N. She is a most accomplished creature, bearing her faculties most meekly, at least to your humble servant. M. says (but it is jealousy) that she is not handsome enough for me.”
Bentham to Mr Koe.
“Ford Abbey, 6th July, 1815.
“I see the Ministry have got the lawyers to quash the D. of C.’s [Clarence’s] marriage. Oh, rare lawyers! If the public money had been got for it, it would have been good enough; nobody would have meddled with it. This affair must, I think, make a fine sensation where you are.
“Mill and I are mourning the death of all hopes of a free government in France. The name of a man who has cut so many French throats as have been cut by Wellington, will serve as an essential cover for the most flagrant violation of any the most sacred and universally beneficial engagements. In pursuance of the proclamation of Louis, Carnot, with a multitude of et ceteras, all who could have operated most effectually in the character of checks, will lose their heads. Carnot had better have left poor Louis XVI.’s on its shoulders. Brougham will lament his friend; but, perhaps, he was not of the number of conspirators. All that has been done since Louis XVIII.’s Hegira, will be as void as the Cumberland marriage.”
In 1815, Bentham was much occupied in his plan for establishing a Chrestomathic school. Brougham, Place, Ricardo, W. Allen, Sir James Mackintosh, and several other persons less known had offered pecuniary and personal aid. There were to have been seven conductors, and the engagement on their part was to keep the school open for three years at least. The money was intended to be raised in £10 shares, and Bentham was willing to have given a part of his garden for the erection of the school. But the project was never effected.*
Admiral Tchitchagoff, in announcing his intention of going to the continent, says:—
Admiral Tchitchagoff to Bentham.
“London, 13th July, 1815.
“I must confidentially tell you, that in the present state of things, when the continent is going to be open to all those who have sufficiently admired and enjoyed English liberty, with the alien act; her riches without guineas, and an immense debt; her ruinous dearness, and the abundance in getting the minimum of things for the maximum of money; those, I say, who have sufficiently tried all these luxuries and delights, may live, by way of a change, to see the countries where a shilling will do as much as six; and, after having satisfied their sublime mental desires, live a little for the satisfaction of their bodies. What I tell you is a secret, for nobody knows it here, nor thinks so, and, therefore, you must not compromise me. Now, the fact is, that in a few weeks I am going to leave this country.”
Jean Baptiste Say to Bentham.
“Paris, 2d August, 1815.
“I have received, honoured master, your Chrestomathic Tables. I am studying them, but could not delay telling you how much I am honoured by your remembrance and your gift. You will labour to your last day for the improvement of the human race; and the human race will not know the extent of its obligations to you, till it has learned your lessons—that is, till we are gone. Our fate is to die at our labour—but our labour will not be lost.
“I have just published a little Catechism of Political Economy, for the better circulation of a few important truths. It is short—it is clear—it is in dialogues; and the principal difficulties are solved in a manner accessible to all minds and all fortunes. If little books like this were circulated in all countries, these ideas would gradually make their way; and it would be soon seen whether governments are really such a necessary part of society; and if they will then be able to make nations pay so dearly for benefits which they do not confer.
“They are trying to build up here a rotten throne. It cannot stand. Your ministers are throwing dust in vulgar eyes; but in the eyes of the thoughtful they are playing a miserable game. Out of this frightful chaos freedom will spring. Meanwhile what sufferings and sins! I write to you in the midst of tears. There is no satisfaction anywhere but in the newspapers, which are written by the police of the Bourbons, and dictated by the Allied Powers.”
Joseph Jekyll to Bentham.
My Cæstus and Arms on the Western Circuit are laid aside, as I was appointed, in June last, a Master in Chancery. This will account for the disappointment I must bear in not accepting your kind and hospitable invitation to Ford Abbey, where I should have felt sincere pleasure in taking so old and so valuable a friend by the hand.
“This summer, I too am to play the part of the London Hermit, as it is the lot of the newly-appointed Master to reside in town during his first long vacation. To so inveterate a metropolitan as myself this is no grievance; but I have two Westminster boys who ‘babble of green fields,’ and desire a suburban villa for their holidays. Miss V— and Miss F— have aided my inquiry, but it has hitherto been fruitless, and I adopt other resources among friends resident in the vicinity of London.
“With the aforesaid most excellent and amiable persons I sat under a great tree in the gardens of little Holland House last Sunday, and discoursed of happy times in former days at Bowood.
“Dumont, I trust, will not take root in Switzerland, notwithstanding his public functions. Your infant Grecian I should like to have seen; and I wish you would use your pen to convince mankind it is not wise to consume the whole period between infancy and manhood, at a public school, in acquiring two dead languages and nothing else.
“Good Father Abbot, give me your benison; and if a Master in Chancery should be desirous at any time of taking sanctuary in the west, I rest well assured Ford Abbey would grant it.—Believe me, dear Bentham, most truly yours.
Madame Gautier to Bentham.
“Our position is dreadful. The question is nothing less than ‘To be or not to be.’ Passions are excited even to the height of despair, and reason is no longer heard. The Allied Monarchs are, I fancy, much embarrassed. We hardly know what to decide on. The oppressions of the foreign troops are terrible; but this is not the worst—for our internal dissensions are far more afflictive.”
Admiral Tchitchagoff to Bentham.
“London, 31st August, 1815.
“You think, as well as some Poles do, that something good has been done for them; I see nothing but the extreme weakness on the side of those who did it, and an extra degradation on those whom it has been done for. All is a complete failure in the general plan: instead of restoration, partition upon partition—instead of liberty, the greater and more shameful slavery for the future. Then abuses and misapplications of the most sacred words and sentiments—a kingdom cut out of a Duchy—submission to the most arbitrary power, tyrannical by nature, imbecile by circumstances—a nationality dispersed over countries the most inimical to that sentiment, and put under their fatal yoke. I may as well say that the nationality of the Jews is in existence. They enjoy free commerce everywhere, borrow a variety of light and civilisation, and preserve the patriotic feeling in their hearts, with the seal of their nationality in their breeches, indelibly impressed by the circumcision.”
Bentham had suggested to Tchitchagoff, that he should write his own memoirs, as connected with Russian politics. He answers, that the details would be too disgusting for instruction, even were it possible to find a public opinion in Russia; but that there is none. That he should have little pleasure in unveiling ignorance and arrogance,—blunders, barbarity, and weakness worse than all. Moreover, that he could not bring to slavery and despotism English feelings in English phraseology: still, to please Bentham, and for Bentham, he would write his own biography; but the project was probably unexecuted,—in such a state of mind the task must have been most uninviting.
At this time I find him saying of Ford Abbey:—
“It is the theatre of great felicity to a number of people, and that not a very inconsiderable. Not an angry word is ever heard in it. Mrs S. (the housekeeper) governs like an angel. Neighbours all highly cordial, even though not visited. Music and dancing, though I hate dancing. Gentle and simple mix. Crowds come and dance, and Mrs S. at the head of them.”
Dumont to Bentham.
“Geneva, 23d March, 1816.
“Mad. de Staël has been reading in society the Book of Fallacies, and with great success. The division into Ins and Outs, and Eithersides, does not suit the continent, at least so thought Sismondi, and so I changed it. We are diligently labouring at the organization of our judiciary establishment. But we have all to do, and few fitting doers. You would not believe—I could not believe till I had experience of it, how these fifteen years of French vassalage and continued war have turned men away from study, and lowered the tone of the public mind. We were rapidly hastening to be nothing but a degraded provincial town. In another twenty years, and our ancient Geneva would not have been to be recognised. Only four or five distinguished men had the French régime left. All besides was idleness, mediocrity, and military passion. It is fearful to think how easily mankind may descend from an enlightened civilisation to a position where the culture of the intellect is no longer a necessity. We may hope to rise, if not so high as we were, yet higher than we are. Our constitution has not the stimulants of our old republic,—but our distinction was dearly purchased by dissensions,—and we gain something if we lose much. Besides, after long agitation, men seek intellectual and physical repose. I am not popular here,—I am considered the man of opposition: not that the accusation is true, but that I insist on the need of inquiry, and inquiry displeases the ruling people. But this is a general law, influencing us here,—as it influences everybody elsewhere.”
At this period occurred George Wilson’s death. Commissioner Adam thus speaks of it in a letter to Bentham, 12th April, 1828:—
“Fifty years ago, you and I dined on sheep’s head, and discussed ‘Hume’s Philosophy.’ George Wilson was in good spirits, and tolerable health for the three first years of my sojournment in this country. At 10 o’clock in the evening of [Monday, the 10th June,] 1816, he came with me to the door of his house, after a most agreeable evening’s conversation. He was in cheerful spirits, and a most collected state of mind, considering the malady which had attacked him when he left England. On the following morning, at breakfast-time, I received information of his death, which had been so composed that the bed-clothes were not moved. I have not been able to supply his place, as you may well conceive.”
On the 14th July, 1816, Bentham’s friend, General Miranda, also died, at Cadiz, after having been imprisoned four years, in violation of a capitulation. His death was thus announced:—
“14th July, 1816.
“* This day, at five minutes past one in the morning, my beloved master, Don Francis de Miranda, resigned his spirit to the Creator; the curates and monks would not allow me to give him any funeral rites, therefore, in the same state in which he expired, with mattress, sheets, and other bed-clothes, they seized hold of him and carried him away for interment; they immediately afterwards came and took away his clothes, and everything belonging to him, to burn them.”
The Mutual Improvement Society, which was established by a number of young men, for the purpose of furthering the object announced in their title, by debates on subjects of popular interest, applied to Bentham to become their president. He answered them thus:—
“Ford Abbey, nearChard,July 31, 1817.
Your letter, dated the 23d of this month, put into my hands the next day, or the day after, found me in the hurry of a removal, or it would sooner have received from me that answer, to which the importance of it gives it so just a title.
“Yes:—since a patron you would have, the choice you have thus made of one,—I say it without scruple,—does you real honour:—the declaration made of it, is a declaration of independence. Yes;—in the choice thus made, this (if I do not misconceive you) was your main, if not your only, object; and, for the accomplishment of this object, a more effectual expedient could not have been devised. Dignified, yet unassuming, ‘No patron,’ it makes you say, ‘do we need: no patron will we have: to keep out of our chair every sort of person, by the weight of whose influence we might be oppressed, we will have nothing in it but a name.’ As to what concerns the person of the individual, so completely is it unknown,—the sort of homage paid to the name, will of course, like that paid to a worthy of ancient times, have been the work, not of observation, but of imagination: the object to which it is paid is not an individual, but a species; a species of character, the idea of which has, in the minds in question, come, somehow or other, to attach itself to that name.
“Meantime, Sir, how far soever from correct, with reference to the person to whose name it is attached, the picture thus drawn of his character, affords—which is much more material—a most correct conception of the character of the Society, by which it has been drawn. It shows what are your favourite pleasures, your desires, your objects, your pursuits. It proves in your favour a number of honourable negatives. It proves,—and that to a certainty,—by what endowments your preference has not been determined: that among them are,—hereditary opulence, acquired opulence, factitious dignity, hereditary power, political eminence; it shows that, in your scale of worth, there is something else that stands above them all: above all those exterior and accidental appendages, which are so perfectly distinct from good desert, and so far from affording a demonstration, not to say a presumption, of it.
“All this is very good. But the strange thing is this: in your Society, as in others, the degree in which the common objects are attainable,—this degree, and consequently the degree of prosperity, has for its measure the fulness of the common purse; which fulness, again, has for its measure the number of the members, of whose institution the common stock is formed.
“Thus far there is nothing remarkable. But that which to my eyes is not only remarkable, but no less wonderful than it cannot but be gratifying, is, how it should have happened, that, from a name so obscure, any prospect of additional ‘prosperity’,—for prosperity is what you say you look for in the choice,—can have been derived.—This is indeed to me a perfect mystery. But, since such is your opinion,—for if it had not been, it is not in the nature of the case that you should have given it as such,—since such, then, is your opinion, it belongs not to me to controvert it. In the correctness of it you have had an unquestionable interest: by that interest,—at any rate, by the view you yourselves have taken of that interest,—you cannot but have been governed. You have given it your consideration: you have made your inquiries: in this consideration, in these inquiries, months,—not to say years,—have been occupied. Of this consideration, and these inquiries, such, then, (it seems,) has been the result: a result, by which (I cannot but repeat it) I have not been a whit less surprised than gratified. Well then, my worthy friends,—in form my solicitors, in reality and effect my patrons,—take to yourselves this name, of which, somehow or other, you have become enamoured. Much good may it do you: much and long may it serve you; and, how little soever it may serve you while he to whom it belongs is living,—let him confess to you his weakness,—he is not altogether without the hope, that, in one way or other, it may be more or less of use to you after his death; in which case, you cannot have long to wait for it. At that period it is, that, in the imagination of posterity, all that was good in the individual swells out of all proportion: while, except in the case where depravity is itself the source of the distinction, all that was bad in him slides,—if not altogether out of memory, at any rate out of notice.
“Not that, considering who you have to deal with, the matter could have been settled thus easily, were it not that the situation, in which your good opinion has thus placed him, belongs,—as far as he can understand,—belongs, nearly, if not altogether, to the class of sinecures. True it is, that, with one exception, a sinecure is a sort of office, to the existence of which he is known to have insuperable objections; objections to the existence of the sort of office, and, consequently, to any acceptance to be given, on his part, to any office of that sort. One exception, however, there is; and this is, where the sine cure is, at the same time, sine pay; and, in the instance here in question, this exception being actually exemplified, so, therefore, it is, that, in this same instance, principle, he is happy to find, does not stand in the way of preferment.
“Accept my testimony to the honour which the Society has done itself, by the choice of such a Secretary,—a Secretary, in whose mode of giving expression to its sentiments, the utility of the Society is so well exemplified,—accept this, my unfeigned acknowledgment,—and believe me, with the truest respect and affection, Sir, yours and the Society’s ever faithful friend and servant,
“To Mr Thomas Tucker, Secretary to the Society for Mutual Improvement.”
[* ] Jovellanos had been murdered in 1812.
[* ] The correspondence will be found in the Works, vol. iv. p. 514.
[† ] Romilly gives the following lively account of Bentham’s sojourn there, (Life, vol. iii. p. 315):—
“Our last visit was to my old and most valuable friend, Jeremy Bentham, at Ford Abbey, in the neighbourhood of Chard: a house which he rents, and which once bolonged to Prideaux, the Attorney-general of the Commonwealth.
“I was not a little surprised to find in what a palace my friend was lodged.
“The grandeur and stateliness of the buildings, form as strange a contrast to his philosophy, as the number and spaciousness of the apartments, the hall, the chapel, the corridors, and the cloisters, do to the modesty and scantiness of his domestic establishment. We found him passing his time, as he has always been passing it since I have known him, which is now more than thirty years, closely applying himself, for six or eight hours a-day, in writing upon laws and legislation, and in composing his Civil and Criminal Codes: and spending the remaining hours of every day in reading, or taking exercise by way of fitting himself for his labours, or, to use his own strangely invented phraseology, ‘taking his ante-jentacular and post-prandial walks,’ to prepare himself for his task of codification. There is something burlesque enough in this language; but it is impossible to know Bentham, and to have witnessed his benevolence, his disinterestedness, and the zeal with which he has devoted his whole life to the service of his fellow creatures, without admiring and revering him.”
[* ] The Marquis of Tweeddale.
[† ] See above, p. 457.
[* ] See the use made of this work in the Chrestomathis, Works, vol. viii. p. 46 et seq.
[* ] See “Chrestomathis,” at the commencement of vol. viii. of the Works, consisting of a Collection of the Papers prepared by Bentham in reference to this project.
[* ] The day of the month is filled in from the Memoirs of Romilly, vol. iii. p. 252.