Front Page Titles (by Subject) Mr Plumer to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Mr Plumer 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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Mr Plumer to Bentham.
“Epping,N. H., Sept. 15, 1826.
“My dear Sir,—
Since I wrote you last, the great subject of the improvement of our laws, and the reform of our judicial establishments, has excited an unusual degree of attention in this country; has elicited much talent in its discussion; and led to the admission, in theory, at least, of many useful truths, some of which have been already reduced to practice, and more may be expected soon to follow. In many of these inquiries, your labours have been noticed, your principles, to a certain extent, adopted; and a disposition manifested to do that justice to your extraordinary merits, to the benevolence of your designs, and the sagacity of your views, which, first or last, must universally prevail. So far as I have borne any part, inconsiderable, indeed, in these transactions, it is hardly necessary for me to assure you, that my object has been to prepare the public mind for the more favourable reception of those great truths which you have so long taught, and will, through your works at least, never cease to teach. They rest for their support upon the deep and broad foundation of public utility; their end is the happiness of mankind; and their importance, as connected with that end, becomes daily more apparent. The clear light of genius, long and steadily thrown upon them, has gone far towards dispelling the darkness with which they were before surrounded: the reformation of our legal system is called for with a voice which cannot long be resisted; and there is little reason to apprehend that the great reformer will, in the triumph of his principles, be himself unhonoured and forgotten. I am glad to learn that you are not unacquainted with the labours of Mr Livingston of New Orleans in the field of legislation.* He is a man of real talents, of great industry and perseverance, and of high standing and influence in his country. He has often spoken of you to me in terms of the highest veneration and respect, and informed me, more than once, that his attempts at Codification grew out of what he learnt of your views in the works published by Dumont. He considers you as his master in the service: and you could hardly desire a more zealous or more enlightened disciple. If his Codes, (a part of which have already been adopted,) should be found to succeed in Louisiana, other States will be encouraged to take up the subject with still more enlightened views, and under even more favourable circumstances; and we may yet hope to see systems of jurisprudence receiving as great improvements in this country, as, we flatter ourselves, systems of government have already received; or rather, looking further into futurity, we may, perhaps, see both reaching a point of excellence never yet attained, and which the philanthropists of former days dared hardly conceive. In anticipation of these happy times, let us all labour, each in his own department, to accelerate their approach, confident that their advent, though slow, is sure; and that the final prevalence of truth is not the less certain, because not at first well received. I remain, Sir, your friend and humble servant.”
The inquiry has been often made—“Did Bentham pass through life without being in love—without thoughts or plans of marriage?” The reader will have found an answer in an earlier part of the work. I had put the question to him more than once, and he always fenced it off. One day he put a paper into my hand, and required me to sign it. It was as follows:—
“23d April, 1827.
“I, J. Bo: promise never, during his lifetime, to give anybody to understand that I have heard from him anything relative to matters between him and — —, nor without his leave to put questions relative thereto.”
The lady who engaged his affections is still alive, and it becomes me to suppress her name. He met her at Bowood, when she was very young, and he thirty-four. He was struck with that voluntary playfulness which formed so pleasing a contrast to the aristocratical reserve of most of the females whom he met. Bentham was a favourite of Lady Shelburne. The mark of favour by which she distinguished a very few among her many visiters was, admission to her dressing-room. One day when Bentham was sitting playing at the spinette, (the only musical instrument in the house,) a light screen near the instrument was turned over upon him, and a young lady glided away upon feet of feathers. The ladies of the house, in general, were cold and prudish in the extreme. “Lady Shelburne and her sister,” said Bentham, “were beauties; but Lady S. had still more dignity than beauty. Dignity was the feminine tone of the family. Lord Shelburne kept a sort of open house, and was frequently intruded on by persons who were unwelcome visiters. One day a family, (the S—’s,) opulent, but coarse-minded country gentry, being there with some others on a visit, and assembled with the household in the drawing-room, Lord Camden, his daughter Elizabeth, Colonel Barré, (Lord Shelburne’s right hand man in the House of Commons—No! no! his left hand man, for Dunning was his right hand man,) and Lady Shelburne’s sisters, adjourned to Lady S.’s dressing-room, no doubt for the purpose of getting rid of disagreeable company. The dressing-room, as well as her ladyship’s bed-room, was on the ground-floor, as indeed were all the drawing-rooms, or quasi-drawing-rooms of the house. Lady Ashburton was there. She played extremely well on the harpsichord, (for harpsichords were then in fashion;) and Miss Pratt, afterwards Lady Elizabeth, sang. I was of the party; and here another act of playfulness occurred. In came Miss—with a heavy bunch of keys: she slipped them into my pocket. This gave me a right to retaliate; so I made my way towards her pocket. Barré called out, and cracked his jokes about our meddling with one another’s pockets. Of three principal ladies present, two at least were arguses. If I was froward on them, there was no offence; for I had occasion to know, a little before Lady Shelburne’s death, with what friendship and favour she regarded me.” How strong the feeling, or the memory of the feeling, with which Bentham thought of the object of his affections, may be gathered from the letter which I shall insert. After the date of that letter, he very often spoke to me on the subject—spoke as if he liked to expatiate on it, and added one day:—“I have grown very garrulous about this to you. One idea suggests another—that a third, and so they go in geometrical progression.”
“Q. S. P., April, 1827.
“I am alive: more than two months advanced in my 80th year—more lively than when you presented me, in ceremony, with the flower in the green lane. Since that day, not a single one has passed, (not to speak of nights,) in which you have not engrossed more of my thoughts than I could have wished. Yet, take me for all in all, I am more lively now than then—walking, though only for a few minutes, and for health sake, more briskly than most young men whom you see—not unfrequently running.
“In the enclosed scrap there are a few lines, which I think you will read with pleasure.
“I have still the pianoforte harpsichord, on which you played at Bowood: as an instrument, though no longer useful, it is still curious; as an article of furniture, not unhandsome; as a legacy, will you accept it?
“I have a ring, with some of my snowwhite hair in it, and my profile, which everybody says is like. At my death, you will have such another: should you come to want, it will be worth a good sovereign to you.
“You will not, I hope, be ashamed of me.
“The last letter I received from Spanish America, (it was in the present year,) I was styled Legislador del Mundo, and petitioned for a Code of Laws. It was from the man to whom that charge was committed by the legislature of his country—Guatemala.
“Every minute of my life has been long counted: and now I am plagued with remorse at the minutes which I have suffered you to steal from me. In proportion as I am a friend to mankind, (if such I am, as I endeavour to be,) you, if within my reach, would be an enemy.
“I have, for some years past, had a plan for building a harem in my garden, upon the Panopticon principle. The Premiership waits your acceptance; a few years hence, when I am a little more at leisure than at present, will be the time for executing it.
“For these many years I have been invisible to all men, (not to speak of women,) but for special reason. I have lost absolutely all smell; as much as possible all taste, and swarm with petty infirmities. But it seems as if they ensured me against serious ones. I am, still am I gay, eminently so, and ‘the cause of gaiety in other men.’
“To read the counterpart of this in your hand, would make a most mischievous addition to my daily dose of bitter sweets—the above-mentioned mixture of pain and pleasure. Oh, what an old fool am I, after all, not to leave off, since I can, till the paper will hold no more. This you have done at sixty, and at half six miles distance. What would you have done present, and at sixteen? Embrace — —: though it is for me, as it is by you, she will not be severe, nor refuse her lips, as to me she did her hand, at a time, perhaps, not yet forgotten by her, any more than by me.”
[* ] Project of a New Penal Code for the State of Louisiana.