Front Page Titles (by Subject) James Mill to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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James Mill to Bentham. - 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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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.”
[* ] The Marquis of Tweeddale.
[† ] See above, p. 457.