Front Page Titles (by Subject) Mr Price to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
Return to Title Page for The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Mr Price to Bentham. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 11.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Mr Price to Bentham.
“County Prison, Stafford,
I was born at Kidderminster, where my father was a poor weaver, and my mother a poor schoolmistress. At an early age, the toil of supporting myself and an only brother (who, happily perhaps for himself, though agonizingly for me, died when four years old, a wonder of a child in those days) devolved upon our dear mother, who could work all day in her school, and sit up all night with sick poor neighbours for forty years together. This dear woman was saving all that a most diffusive benevolence would allow her to save from others, for me and my children. But happily, thank God, I compelled her at last to let me purchase a small annuity for herself, with the money she was saving for us; so that now she is secured from want, provided her government security hold. This excellent mother has never quitted her native town of Kidderminster; and she being well acquainted with rich and poor therein, and in full possession of her faculties, and also considerable activity both of body and mind, though now at an advanced age, and taking deep interest in the state of the poor, I learnt from her all particulars of the turn out of the poor weavers, in about a month after its commencement. But if I am to notice my education, as well as birth and parentage, I must go back to observe, that, at Kidderminster, there is a free grammar-school, where, providentially for me, a young man came to be under-master, whose prospects depended upon attention to his duties. Under the instruction of that young man, (though in a school which, before his day, had been for many years grievously neglected,) I gained, in two or three years, a style of penmanship, (you may shut your eyes, or lift them up in surprise, when I now talk of style of penmanship,) and a quantum of arithmetic, to enable me, at an early age, (say 15) to migrate to a neighbouring town, (Bewdley,) to teach writing and accounts in a grammar-school there, for sixpence per week each boy; and to aid an infirm clergyman in hearing the lower classes Latin, for the reward of receiving from him, in private, higher instructions in Latin and Greek. Increasing infirmities prevented him from affording me much aid. In little more than a year, by means of working day and night, I was enabled to take the principal labour of my old friend’s school upon myself; which I did take, most willingly on my part, and with much warm, I may say grateful, feeling on his. About that time, two offers were made me, the one of two hundred guineas a-year, my maintenance, and, at the expiration of four years, a fourth-part share in the trade, by an old schoolfellow at Kidderminster; and the other offer, by a clergyman five miles from Bewdley, of twenty pounds a-year, to labour in a large common country school, at from sixty to ninety boarders and day-scholars, but with the cure of a title for orders, when I should be old enough, and qualified enough, to present myself before the Bishop of Hereford, who (luckily for me) was compelled to accept young men of very spare attainments, and without University education, in order to provide for churches so contiguous to the principality of Wales.
“Without one moment’s hesitation, I accepted the latter offer; accepted it, not, I fear, from a truly religious principle, but because I hated trade, and loved something like learning, and had always an inclination to become a clergyman, &c., &c. In the above school, with from sixty to ninety scholars, I laboured hard and willingly for my term of two years, sitting up almost every night, winter and summer, till two o’clock in the morning, and getting up again at six. Having thus secured my title to orders, I returned to my former and far more agreeable situation at Bewdley, where I kept on working all day, and making it a point, for one year, to sit up one whole night in every week, without taking off my clothes, or lying on the bed. I had now obtained the age of 22½, or nearly, and ventured to apply for orders, though scarcely conceiving it possible to be admitted into the very serious and important office of instructing my fellow-creatures in religion. I had, however, discovered that most of my fellow-creatures with whom I had met, whether laic or clerical, were very ignorant of religion, and very lax in the observance of it,—and this discovery emboldened me. So I applied;—passed muster, (even with encomiums!) and obtained, not that curacy of only £7, the title to which, for orders, I had laboured for the two years to obtain, but another curacy of £40 per annum, which had been offered me while I was undergoing my two years’ servitude. This curacy (near Savage) was eight miles from Bewdley, and to it, every Sunday morning, winter and summer, I used to walk, through little-frequented and very difficult roads, performed the morning and afternoon service, and returned to a late and plain, but welcome dinner at Bewdley. In about two years after my ordination, a clergyman at Bewdley, of the name of Wigan—a gentleman of the most correct morals, finished manners, liberal sentiments, and superior classical attainments I had ever at that day met with,—one whom I loved most devotedly, and who, I think, loved me, (for he gave me a larger share than he gave any one else of his society, which all of the superior order in that neighbourhood greatly coveted);—that gentleman said to me one evening, (we generally passed our evenings together when he could get released from company)—‘Mr Price, I have often heard you say, if there was one person more than another to whom you should wish to be introduced, that person was Mr Gisborne. Now, I have in my hand a letter from a friend in Mr Gisborne’s neighbourhood, stating that Mr Gisborne is, at this very time, in want of clerical assistance, as his curate is ill, and he himself is wishing to go with his family to Bath, for a fortnight or three weeks; if, therefore, you are in the same mind you were in lately, here is a fine opportunity for you to indulge yourself with a trip to a delightful part of Staffordshire, and to be introduced to one whose writings you so much admire. I will write by the present post, if you wish it.’ I did wish it; and, in a few days after, found myself in a very different sort of society to any (with the exception of dear Mr Wigan himself, ‘Manibus, Pax et Honos’) I had at all anticipated or witnessed. There were the old and first Lord and Lady Harrowby, a daughter, and a son—the present Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry.
“Not that I coveted, or sought after such company; though, without any farther seeking, I have always had the company of the great and good quite as much as I pleased, I might have had far more of it, in all probability, if I desired it.
“Suffice it to say, that I, who went forty miles, merely to know Mr Gisborne, and serve his church for about a fortnight, never afterwards left him for eleven years; but was his curate at Baston-under-Needwood, a retired village within three miles of Mr Gisborne’s seat of Toxall Lodge, where I married, and had four children; and when Mr Gisborne built the church to which I referred, no doubt, in my former letter, and which is situate within a mile of his own residence, he made me the altogether unsolicited offer of it; and there I have remained ever since, until the wisdom of the four Judges of the Court of King’s Bench (whom, for the life of me, having never even seen a Judge before, I could not help deeming to be four old women) decided that I should be shut up in a prison for twelve months, and thus cut off from the active duties of public and social life.
“Previously to my law trial, I anticipated, and made every preparation in my power, for the worst that might happen. I called in all my bills, and settled everything, as though I were going to die. Mr Gisborne would have taken every law charge upon himself, and there were other friends that would have done the same for the sake of myself and family. But they one and all disapproved of what I had done; and on that account I was determined the blow should fall on me and mine alone. First, then, I sold my pictures, to enable me to meet the expenses of the first trial; and when the Jury decided against me, my two dear daughters left home for the first time, and have found a good, honest, and reputable livelihood in their no ordinary accomplishments of music and painting, &c.
“My eldest son is doing comfortably, my youngest is struggling at Cambridge. My wife has a small annuity, which I purchased for her about the time of my mother’s. All are scattered. The parsonage house (a lovely spot) is desolate. All my furniture was sold. And here I am, hardened in my political sins, and far more likely to die for them, than to repent of them. Here let me say, as I am a stranger to you, that I have refused, and will refuse, all pecuniary aid. Through God’s mercy, I shall have enough to pay all prison expenses. Debts I have none, and when I get out of prison, though I most certainly shall not be able to rally and collect my family again, nor even at first send for my wife, yet I shall have in my little living of £130 a-year, together with my house and thirty acres of land, enough for my immediate support, and for procuring, by degrees, one and another and another needful article of household furniture.
“The poor weavers of Kidderminster, sent me £100 to begin the trial with; but I would not touch it. I told them it would be like drinking their blood. At my appearance in the King’s Bench to receive judgment, (I think they call it,) my adversaries put in an affidavit that a weaver was then in London, authorized to furnish me with all and everything I might want. I believe that this affidavit was according to truth, and that it did what it was perhaps designed to effect;—but I certainly have never touched the poor, dear weavers’ money, except in one instance, when, in going last through Kidderminster, I called upon a very poor relation, (almost the only relative I know,) and left him and his wife my watch, &c., as the only thing I had to part with, and insisted upon their parting with it instantly for their support, which, with great reluctance, they did. This affair the poor weavers somehow or other heard of, discovered where the chain and seals had been sold, and where the watch, with great solicitude collected them again, and in about a month afterwards I was surprised and much concerned to receive, per coach, a little strong box, with my watch, &c., carefully wrapped in it, and a note declaring that they could not bear to hear of anybody having my watch but myself, and that if I sent them the money for it, they would return such money, though sent them a thousand times. This is the only money I had from them, poor, dear creatures; and welcome, most welcome, have they been to my all. How horrible law expenses are! I have heard that the prosecution cost my prosecutors (though I gave them no trouble from the very first) from seventeen hundred to two thousand pounds.
“But this may not have been the case. Me it (so to speak) has ruined; though my attorney would insist upon having nothing for his professional aid, to which, of course, I did not, and will not accede. I cannot conceive why I might not have been tried, and condemned, if need were, as I have been, at the expense, even as times go, of one or two hundred pounds in all! I never knew anything of law before,—never even having been in a court of justice before this late affair of my own. I had always had a very high opinion of the uncorruptness, and perfect impartiality of our judges, &c.; but my opinion of our law courts and judges, &c., is most seriously changed. Judges, I see, are evidently as much the creatures of political prejudice, as most (perhaps more than most) other men! This has astonished me. Perhaps I am wrong, and biassed by the untowardness of my own case; but if I am wrong it is much against my will; for I used inwardly to exult in the supposed character of our judges, and I was never altogether without the hope that, blundering as I might be in what I did for myself in the matter, the judges would find out that I was an honest man, in spite of all my adversaries could say or do.”