Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Admiral Tchitchagoff. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Admiral Tchitchagoff. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 10.
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Bentham to 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.
[* ] 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.”