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Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) [1843]

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Jeremy Bentham, 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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About this Title:

An 11 volume collection of the works of Jeremy Bentham edited by the philosophic radical and political reformer John Bowring. Vol. 10 contains Memoirs Of Jeremy Bentham (Chaps I-XXII).

For a complete list of the titles in The Works of Jeremy Bentham see this page.

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Table of Contents:

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the WORKS of JEREMY BENTHAM, published under the superintendence of his executor,
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  • (IN VOL. X.)
    • CHAPTER I. Infancy and Boyhood. 1748—59.

      Birth.—Connexions and Ancestry: Jacobitism: Father and Mother.—Localities.—Reminiscences of Infancy: Browning Hill.—Musical Taste.—Physical Weakness.—Instruction in French.—Passion for Reading: Fiction: History: Telemachus.—Early Companions.—Observation of Nature.—Susceptibility of Temperament.—Sir Thomas Sewell and Bentham, senior.—Recollections of Early Incidents.—Humanity to Animals.—Visits to Barking.—Anecdotes.—Liability to Horrible Impressions.—Influence of Early Reading.—Family Reminiscences.—Early Tastes: Flowers.—Death of his Mother. - Page 1

    • CHAPTER II. School and College. 1754—63. Æt. 6—15.

      Reminiscences of Westminster School: Dr Markham.—Cotton.—Schoolboys’ Stories, and their Influence on Bentham’s Mind.—Visit to Duke of Leeds.—Acquirements in French.—The Fagging System.—Mitford.—Bentham senior and the Scrivener’s Company.—Progress in Greek and Latin.—Autobiography of Constantia Philips.—Entrance at Oxford.—The Oaths: Love of Truth.—Jefferson his Tutor.—Dr Bentham.—Dr Burton.—Competition for a Presentation.—Hell-fire Club.—Concerts.—Reminiscences of his Habits and Companions at Oxford: Poore: Harris: Horseley.—Ode on the Accession of George III.: Dr Johnson’s Commendation.—Reminiscences and Anecdotes of his Feelings as to Loyalty.—A College Declamation.—College Anecdotes.—Macaroni Verses.—Degree of Bachelor of Arts. - - - 26

    • CHAPTER III. 1763—1770. Æt. 15—25.

      Enters as Student in Court of King’s Bench.—Lincoln’s Inn.—Blackstone’s Lectures.—Wilkes’ Trial: Lord Mansfield.—A Tour in the North of England.—Visits France.—Mrs Cibber.—Sir Joshua Reynolds.—Father’s marriage with Mrs Abbot.—Master’s Degree.—Anecdotes of the Mackreth Family.—Propensity to involuntary Laughter.—Leaves Oxford.—Bias of his Mind.—Reminiscences of Places and Persons: Sir John Hawkins: Hawkesworth: Sir W. Jones: White: Lowndes: Chamberlain Clark.—Authentication of a Portrait of Milton.—Pierre Vrillon.—Excursions.—Account of Lind and Nathaniel Forster, with Notices of Camden, Rosslyn, Franklin, Parr, and Prince Czartoriski.—Wilkes and George III.—Duelling.—Residence in Paris.—John Forster.—Wortley Montague. - 45

    • CHAPTER IV. 1770—1780. Æt. 22—32.

      Earliest Printed Composition: Defence of Lord Mansfield.—Extracts from Commonplace Book.—Preparation of Critical Elements of Jurisprudence.—Publication of Fragment on Government.—Studies, and Habit of Life at the Bar.—Autobiography of Constantia Philips.—Retrospect of the Growth of Opinions.—View of the Hard Labour Bill.—Correspondence with Public Men in France: D’Alembert.—Notices of Eminent Men: Mansfield, Camden, Barrington, Speaker Abbot.—Further Extracts from Commonplace Book. - - 67

    • CHAPTER V. 1781. Æt. 33.

      Visits to Lord Shelburne.—Letters from Bowood: The Bowood Ladies: Lord Pembroke: Court Scandal: Necker: Louis XVI.: Lord Bristol.—American War: Captain Blankett: Elliot: Siege of St Lucie: Lord Dartry: Lord Chatham and William Pitt: Dunning: Relation of an Overture by Lord North to the Rockinghams: Lord and Lady Tracton: American Intelligence: Camden: Sir William Draper’s Letter to Lord Shelburne. - 88

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    • CHAPTER VI. 1781—1785. Æt. 33—37.

      Reminiscences of the Visits to Bowood.—Lord Lansdowne: the Waldegraves: the Bowood Ladies.—Camden and Mansfield: the Pembrokes: Sir James Long: Townsend the Traveller.—Notice of Goldsmith.—Lord Dunmore.—Correspondence with Anderson, Stewart, Villion, Trail, Wilson, Swediaur, Symonds, and Townsend.—Extracts from Commonplace Book. - - 115

    • CHAPTER VII. 1785—1787. Æt. 37—39.

      Preparations for Tour in Russia.—Prince Potemkin.—Departure.—Paris.—Journey by Genos, Leghorn, and Florence.—Smyrna.—Mitylene.—Scio.—Constantinople.—Personal Anecdotes.—Letter to Lord Lansdowne.—Journey through Bulgaria and Wallachia.—Ovidiopol.—Kremenschuk.—Russian Army.—Illustrations of Society.—Sir Samuel Bentham.—The Establishment at Crichoff.—Correspondence with Chamberlain Clark and Wilson.—Abbot’s Marriage.—Paley.—The Panopticon Scheme.—Sir S. Bentham’s Inventions.—Defence of Usury. - - - 147

    • CHAPTER VIII. 1787—1789. Æt. 39—41.

      Return from Crichoff.—Journey through Poland, Germany, and Holland.—Klaproth the Chemist.—Pursuits on his Return.—Notices of the Fordyces, Hoole, Lord St Helens, Fitzherbert, Stone.—Intercourse with Romilly and Dumont.—Hastings’ Trial.—Sir Eardley Wilmot.—Opinion of Lord Lansdowne.—Correspondence with France.—Brissot.—Work on Penal Law.—Tactics of Political Assemblies.—The Abbé Morellet.—Letters of Anti-Machiavel: Controversy with George III. - - 179

    • CHAPTER IX. 1789—1791. Æt. 41—43.

      Correspondence on French Affairs.—Memoranda of Lord Lansdowne’s Ministerial Projects.—Lord Wycombe.—Memoir of a Portrait of Bentham.—His Wish to enter Parliament, and Correspondence with Lord Lansdowne.—Correspondence with Sir Samuel Bentham, Dr Price, Benjamin Vaughan, &c. - - - 212

    • CHAPTER X. 1791—1792. Æt. 43—44.

      The Panopticon Project.—Reveley the Architect.—Correspondence: Pole Carew, Sir Samuel Bentham, Dr Anderson, Vaughan, Lord Lansdowne, and the Bowood Ladies.—Correspondence with Garran, Brissot, and the National Assembly, on Projects of Reform.—Death of Bentham’s Father. 250

    • CHAPTER XI. 1792—1795. Æt. 44—47.

      Correspondence with Lord Lansdowne.—Made a Citizen of France.—Correspondence with Roland, Chauvelin, Delessert, &c.—Opinion of Speaker Abbot.—Notices of Contemporaries: Dr Lawrence, Bryant, Beckford, Baron Regenfeld, Bishop Barnard, Salisbury, Wickham, Young.—Death of the Duke de la Rochefoucauld.—Correspondence with Dumont, Sir G. Stannton, Law, Romilly, Anderson, Dundas.—The State of Europe.—Financial Projects.—William Pitt. - - - 279

    • CHAPTER XII. 1795—1799. Æt. 47—51.

      Dumont.—Lord Wycombe.—Duke de Liancourt.—Wilberforce.—Lord St Helens.—Letter on the Treason Bill.—Plan for an Index of Advertisements.—Pole Carew’s Financial Projects.—Dr Colquhoun.—Plans for Improving the Metropolitan Police, and the Westminster Magistracy.—Correspondence with Sir Francis Baring on Banks and Paper Currency. - - - 308

    • CHAPTER XIII. 1800—1801. Æt. 51—53.

      Correspondence: Dr Roget, Addington, Abbot, Morton Pitt.—Project of a Frigidarium.—Letter on the Population Bill.—Prevention of Forgery.—Lind’s Widow.—Annuity-Note, and Banking Projects.—Correspondence with Rose, Pye, Vansittart, Dumont, and Young. - - - - 342

    • CHAPTER XIV. 1801—2. Æt. 53—4.

      Correspondence continued: Robert Watts on Prices; Dumont, with Notices of Talleyrand and French Politics.—Sir William Pulteney and Wilberforce on the Panopticon.—Wilson.—Sir T. M. Eden.—Bentham’s Visit to Paris, Fontanes, Duke de Brancas, Garnier.—Correspondence with Romilly, Trowbridge, and Collins. - - - 377

    • CHAPTER XV. 1803—7. Æt. 54—59.

      Intercourse and Correspondence with Dr Parr.—Horne Tooke.—Dumont in Russia, and the Progress of Bentham’s Opinions there.—Mr Mulford.—Pole Carew.—George III. and Bishop Hurd.—Death of Lord Lansdowne.—Proffer of Marriage by Bentham.—Romilly in Scotland.—William Hutton.—Reform of the Scottish Courts.—Residence at Barrow Green. - - - 403

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    • CHAPTER XVI. 1807—1810. Æt. 59—62.

      Correspondence: Dumont, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord St Helens.—Mr Whishaw.—Romilly.—Anecdotes of Colonel Burr.—Projects for Reforming the Spanish Cortes.—Colonel Burr’s Letters.—Correspondence with Lord Holland, and Project of settling in Mexico.—Mulford.—Francis Horner.—Notices of Mill.—Cobbett, Romilly, and Libel Law.—Dumont on Translation.—Mill, Brougham, Jeffrey, and the Edinburgh Review. - - - 427

    • CHAPTER XVII. 1810—1813. Æt. 62—65.

      Correspondence with Blanco White on the Affairs of Spain.—Project of Settling in Venezuela.—Cobbett.—Droits of the Admiralty.—Dumont’s English.—R. B. Nickolls.—Brougham on Codification in America and Naval Reform.—Sir F. Burdett.—Major Cartwright.—Colonel Burr.—Madame de Staël and Benjamin Constant.—Jury Trial in India.—Miranda.—Proposal to Lord Sidmouth to prepare a Penal Code.—Blaquiere.—Mackintosh. - - - 456

    • CHAPTER XVIII. 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 Gautier.—Dumont and the Book of Fallacies.—Death of Miranda.—Death of George Wilson.—Mutual Improvement Society. - - 476

    • CHAPTER XIX. 1817—1819. Æt. 69—71.

      Reform Catechism.—Dumont and Law Reform in Geneva.—Burdett, and Parliamentary Reform.—The Ballot.—Bickersteth.—Anarchical Fallacies.—Ricardo.—T. W. Gilmer and Codification for the United States.—Vote of Thanks from the Householders of Westminster.—Say on French Politics.—Cambronero.—Improvement of Irish Labourers in New York.—Death of Romilly.—Major Cartwright.—Extracts from Note-Book. - - - - 489

    • CHAPTER XX. 1820—23. Æt. 72—75.

      Libel Law in the United States.—Mr Rush.—Rivadavia.—Blaquiere.—Spanish Politics.—Dr Bowring’s Introduction to Bentham.—Townsend the Traveller.—Extracts from Note-Book.—Table of Fallacies.—Cartwright.—Hobhouse.—Dumont on the Penal Code for Geneva.—J. B. Say.—Miss Frances Wright.—La Fayette.—Carlisle.—Reeligibility of Representatives.—Note-Book.—Brougham.—Dr Bowring’s Imprisonment in France.—The Greek Revolution, and Dr Parr. - - - - - 512

    • CHAPTER XXI. 1823—27. Æt. 75—79.

      Establishment of the Westminster Review.—Lord Eldon.—Burdett.—Catholic Association.—Extracts from Note-Book.—Rationale of Reward.—Independence of the Judges.—Humanity to Animals.—Bolivar, and Bentham’s Works.—Visit to Paris.—Death of Parr.—President Adams.—Governor Plumer.—Reminiscences.—Del Valle.—American Law.—Sydney Smith.—Conversation, and Notices of Grote, Burke, Junius, North, Fox, Wedderburn, Erskine, Talleyrand, Lansdowne, Dunning, Barré, &c. - - - - - 540

    • CHAPTER XXII. 1827—28. Æt. 79—80.

      Opinions on Style, Collocation, and Accent.—Opinions on Contemporaries: Peel, Cobbett, Owen, Rammohun Roy, G. Dyer, Priestley, Napoleon, Eldon, &c.—His Secretaries.—Correspondence.—Neal.—Brougham.—Colonel Young and Lord W. Bentinck on East India Affairs.—Letter to the King of Bavaria.—Memoranda of Conversation on Miscellaneous Subjects.—Brougham’s Law Reforms.—Letter to Rammohun Roy.—Catholics and Dissenters.—Mina.—O’Connell, and Law and Parliamentary Reform.—Felix Bodin.—Chamberlain Clark. - - - 568

  • (IN VOL XI.)
    • CHAPTER XXIII. 1828—29. Æt. 80—81.

      La Fayette.—Colonel Stanhope.—J. B. Say.—O’Connell, Hunt, and the Radical Reformers.—Rammohun Roy, Lord W. Bentinck, Colonel Young, and the State of India.—Letters to the Duke of Wellington.—Law Reform.—General Miller.—Del Valle, and Spanish Politics.—Livingston.—Death of Dumont.—Remonstrance with O’Connell. - - - - -

    • CHAPTER XXIV. 1829—30. Æt. 81—82.

      Law Reform Association.—Apprehension of Blindness.—Sale of Offices.—O’Connell.— Edition: current; Page: [iv] Mordvinoff.—Jabez Henry.—Livingston.—Codification.—Brougham.—Peel.—O’Connell.—J. Smith, M.P.—Letter to President Jackson.—Reform in America, and French Politics.—Humann of Geneva.—Rev. Humphrey Price. - - - - 30

    • CHAPTER XXV. 1830—31. Æt. 82—83.

      Del Valle.—Jeux d’Esprit.—Burdett.—Sir James Graham.—Livingston.—Santander.—Due de Broglie.—French Revolution of 1830.—Letter to the French People.—Introduction of Rammohun Roy.—La Fayette.—Brougham.—O’Connell and Libel Law.—Irish Coercion.—Parliamentary Candidates’ Society.—Notices of Bentham in American Periodicals.—William Tait.—Cobbett.—Prosecution of Archibald Prentice. - - - - - - - 48

    • CHAPTER XXVI. 1831. Æt. 83.

      Declining Health.—Memoranda and Conversations.—Burdett.—Interview with Talleyrand.—Bentham’s Death.—His Character, the Structure of his Mind, and his domestic, social, and literary Habits.—Dr Southwood Smith’s Estimate of his Philosophy and Personal Character. - - - - 71

  • APPENDIX:— Selections from Bentham’s Narrative regarding the Panopticon Penitentiary Project, and from the Correspondence on the Subject. - - - - - 96
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Birth.—Connexions and Ancestry: Jacobitism: Father and Mother.—Localities.—Reminiscences of Infancy: Browning Hill.—Musical Taste.—Physical Weakness.—Instruction in French.—Passion for Reading: Fiction: History: Telemachus.—Early Companions.—Observation of Nature.—Susceptibility of Temperament.—Sir Thomas Sewell and Bentham, senior.—Recollections of Early Incidents.—Humanity to Animals.—Visits to Barking.—Anecdotes.—Liability to Horrible Impressions.—Influence of Early Reading.—Family Reminiscences.—Early Tastes: Flowers.—Death of his Mother.

Jeremy Bentham was born in Red Lion Street, Houndsditch, on the 4th-15th February, 1747-8.*

His great-grandfather, Brian Bentham, was a prosperous pawnbroker in the city of London, and a relation of that Sir Jeremy Snow who was one of the bankers cheated by Charles II. when he closed the Exchequer. In those days the profession of a pawnbroker was far more elevated than now. Brian Bentham had connexion with the founder of the Aldgate Charity, Sir John Cass, and with many other distinguished people. He died possessed of some thousands of pounds. His son, Jeremy Bentham’s grandfather, was a Jacobite lawyer; “neither better nor worse,” as his distinguished descendant used to say of him, “than the average rate of attorneys.” His name was Jeremiah, and he had a partner, one Mr Avis, whose brother shocked the prejudices of the times by marrying a rich Jewess. The Avises were people of no small importance in the city. In their family was a literary lady, an unmarried maiden—Miss Barbara Avis—who was even a Latin scholar. One of the most awful events of Jeremy Bentham’s life, was his introduction to the erudite Miss Barbara. He was then not seven years old, and his father compelled him to learn by rote one of Horace’s satires, that he might repeat it when the lady arrived to pay the family a visit. Such visits were talked of long before they came, and long after they were over: they were events in the family history. This learned lady seems to have been less terrible than the trembling timid boy anticipated: and he got through his “Qui fit Mecænas” with due honour.

Bentham’s father, whose name was also Jeremiah, was born on the 2d of December, 1712, in the parish of St Botolph’s, Aldgate.

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His grandfather, who, though no Papist, was a great devotee of the Stuarts, had the habit of hoarding and hiding large quantities of money in various parts of the house. Considerable sums, concealed from the knowledge of his family, were found, at his death and at subsequent periods, in foreign and domestic gold coin; and when Jeremy was a boy of about ten years old, twenty or thirty guineas fell out of a place which he had been using as a receptacle for his toys. Strong aversion to the reigning family—doubts of the stability of the funds—apprehensions of danger—and the desire of having some immediate tangible resources—induced many Jacobites to do what Jeremiah Bentham did. It was said that Pope or his father came into possession of a hidden treasure of £20,000 in gold, which was kept in a closet, and drawn upon according to need—the interest being sacrificed. But, withal, the old lawyer managed to invest in land a large amount of money, the result of his savings, and added to the fortune his father had bequeathed.

Of late years, some light has been thrown upon the extent of Jacobitism which pervaded the higher classes, where it was deeply rooted and widely spread; and among the people of the metropolis, at least, it was far more prevalent a century ago than is generally supposed. Bentham has assured me, not only that multitudes of the citizens of London were friendly to the Stuarts, but that even in the corporation there were aldermen waiting to bring about the restoration of the exiled family, whenever a fit occasion could be found. In the year 1745, the addresses of the Pretender had a wide circulation; and many papers, showing the zeal and interest which his forefathers felt in the success of the Stuarts, fell into Bentham’s hands. Bentham’s grandfather had struggled hard for the clerkship of the Cordwainers’ Company. He attributed his failure to his political sincerity—to his devotion to the legitimate race.

“My grandfather on my father’s side,” writes Bentham, “being a Jacobite, my father, comme de raison, was bred up in the same principles. My father subsequently, without much cost in conveyancing, transferred his adherence from the Stuarts to the Gnelphs. A circumstance that gave no small facility to it was a matrimonial alliance that had been contracted by a relation of my mother’s with a valet de chambre of George the Second’s. Ribbons—in material silk, in colour purest white, in dimensions narrow—closed in those days the occasional solution of continuity in the shirt collar of his Most Sacred Majesty. Its term accomplished—nor in such a situation was much time expended in the accomplishment—one of these royal trappings passed from the hand of my fair cousin to the neck of the author of these pages. Ribbon, of itself sufficed—ribbon, without garter or even star—to turn the little head. Kings upon kings, ever since my fourth year was accomplished, I had been reading of, in an odd volume of Rapin’s History. Crowns upon crowns I had beholden upon their heads. Imagine, who can, how I strutted, thus adorned and glorified!”

Some of the Bentham family made their way under the auspices of the dominant authorities. The chief clerk of the Navy Board was the first cousin of Bentham’s father. He lived a life of jollity on Tower Hill—was a member of the Beef-Steak Club—a warm-hearted man, who was disposed to show all sorts of kindness to his young kinsman. Bentham thus spoke of him:—“I longed for a more intimate acquaintance with him; but a coldness existed between him and my father; and, I am bound to say, my father was not the injured party. Now and then I did obtain the privilege of visiting him. My visits were mostly confined to those nights of beatitude on which the annual fireworks were displayed on Tower Hill, and which I looked at, in a state of ecstasy, from his windows.”

Bentham often talked pleasantly and playfully of what he called his Patronymics. “A son of a first cousin of my father was Captain Cook’s purser when he went his first voyage to the Sandwich Islands. I wanted him to talk to me of his travels; but I never got one fact out of him except this, that on one occasion, at the Sandwich Islands, they were Edition: current; Page: [3] greatly disturbed by the terrible noise with which the king made love to one of his lieges. Another second cousin was a banker at Sheerness; and another was a gentleman farmer.”*

Of his female ancestors—of the relations on his mother’s side, and of his mother especially, Bentham always spoke with the most affectionate tenderness. His grandmother, on his father’s side, was named Tabor, believed to be the same family as the Doctor Tabor who was made a Knight of the Bath in the time of Charles II. in consequence of his successful treatment of various royal and noble persons, by the use of the medicine then called Jesuits’ (but now Peruvian) bark. One member of his grandmother’s family, Mr Ray, a relation of the botanist, had educated Bentham’s father, and was an object to him of so much respect and affection, that he sought him, on the death of his first wife, (whom he fondly loved,) hoping to find from him solace in his affliction. This Mr Ray had several brothers: one, a traveller, though he died when Bentham was only six years old, was to him an object of extreme interest and admiration. “Well do I remember,” said Bentham, in his old age, “his good-natured, playful humour—his kindness during his visits to my grandmother—his letters which were sent by his father to mine. Deep was the affliction which I felt at his death; and, when the news came, there was nobody to keep up my spirits but my grandmother. When he was gone, his letters made him present. They interested me so much, that I should know his signature now, after three-fourths of a century, though it was a sad scrawl. I recollect his writing about the Polygars; so the scene of his adventures must have been Southern India, somewhat near Travancore. He used to sing me songs whose music even now vibrates in my ears. Among them was ‘My Highland Laddie:’

  • ‘May heaven still guard, and love reward,
  • My Highland Laddie!’ ”

The maiden name of Bentham’s mother was Alicia Grove. Her father was the younger son of a younger son; and, though belonging to a family of some consequence, his condition was not higher than that of a shopkeeper at Andover. His early life was one of marked vicissitudes. His later years were progressively prosperous. On his death the business was disposed of, and the family withdrew to Browning Hill, near Reading; a spot, the recollection of which was to Bentham, throughout the whole of his existence, like a thought of paradise. One great-uncle had been a publisher—(a brother of Bentham’s grandmother)—his name was Woodward. He brought out Tindal’s “Christianity as Old as the Creation.” He Edition: current; Page: [4] used to talk to Bentham of books and booksellers—of “Honest Tom Payne,” whose shop was then contiguous to the Mewsgate, and was a sort of gathering-place for the lettered aristocracy of the times. Woodward retired from business—was crippled and rich. Such part of his stock as was unsold and unsaleable, formed a large portion of the library at Browning Hill, and served for young Bentham’s intellectual pabulum.

Three sisters—Bentham’s grandmother Grove, a widow Mulford, an unmarried great-aunt Deborah, and, occasionally, Bentham’s mother—habitually lived at Browning Hill. They were all kind to, as they were all fond of, the studious boy. “But my aunt Deborah was too prone to talk of the people of quality whom she knew; for she knew the Ridleys and Colbornes, and divers other great families. I cared nothing about such topics. I wished she would talk of Vortigern and the Anglo-Saxons; but I wished in vain.”

Bentham made, throughout his life, open war upon the maxim, De mortuis nil nisi bonum; and as he frequently spoke of his father in terms of disapprobation, he was in the habit of justifying the course he pursued, by something like the following reasoning:—“Why should a Latin or an English* proverb screen the character of our ancestors from investigation? The suppression of truth may be as baneful as the utterance of untruth. By one as well as by the other, and often equally by either, may wrong obtain a triumph, or right be visited by defeat. In the abstract and intrinsic nature of the dogma, there is mendacity: in its application inevitable mischief. Take the case of flattery bestowed upon dead tyrants. What does it serve but to encourage a continuance or a repetition of tyrannical acts? The other day a journalist, who wrote in terms of deserved reprobation on the character of a deceased monarch, was severely punished. Had he uttered any quantity of laudatory lying, reward would probably have been his lot;—a small portion of criminatory truth subjected him to heavy inflictions. And thus is veracity polluted and persecuted!” “While my father lived, from my birth to his death, I never gave him any ground to complain of me. Often and often have I heard from him spontaneous and heartfelt assurances of the contrary. My conduct may indeed have sometimes been a cause of regret and dissatisfaction to him; but on what ground? My ‘weakness and imprudence’ in keeping wrapt up in a napkin the talents which it had pleased God to confer on me—in rendering useless, as he averred, my powers of raising myself to the pinnacle of prosperity. The seals were mine, would I but muster up confidence and resolution enough to seize them. He was continually telling me that everything was to be done by ‘pushing;’ but all his arguments failed to prevail on me to assume the requisite energy. ‘Pushing,’ would he repeat—‘pushing’ was the one thing needful; but ‘pushing’ was not congenial to my character. . . . How often, down to the last hours of our intercourse, when we were sitting on contiguous chairs, has my father taken up my hand and kissed it!”

Bentham’s father had, like his illustrious son, a phraseology of his own. If a person neglected to visit him, he would call the absence “self-sequestration.” If a client left him, he shook his head and said—“Ah! he has taken himself into his own hands.” He had two ways of accounting for all conduct which was opposed to his standard of propriety. If the party were of such rank as that, without presumption, he might sit in judgment, he called the deed he disapproved of “infatuation,” but when he was afraid to attribute anything like blame, he always said it was a “mystery.” And these two words—“infatuation” and “mystery”—were the talismans with which he explained whatever was otherwise unexplainable, and dealt out a sort of oracular decision to his hearers.

He adopted for the family motto—Tam bene quam benignè; and, when Bentham was very young, he was called on to translate the phrase, the application of which his father considered a most lucky hit, for it was meant to convey Edition: current; Page: [5] a recondite meaning—Tam bene, read backwards, was to designate Bentham. The lad neither valued the wit nor preserved the motto, though he once observed to me—“My father’s reasons were as good as those which justify nine-tenths of the mottoes in use.”

Bentham’s father had, in truth, not the slightest comprehension of the delicacy and diffidence of his son’s nature. He whose maturer and later life flowed in one stream of continued happiness—the most gay and joyous of men—had the recollection of his boyhood associated with many thoughts of a painful and gloomy character. But his observation was acute, and his memory wonderfully accurate, even of the minutest events. “I was filled with marvel,” he said, “when I found the power I had over the ground in the church-yard near my father’s house in Aldgate. I used to walk into the church-yard, particularly when there were burials, and I remember, that as I looked I found that the surface of the ground changed—it was sometimes uniform, sometimes in waves,—which I could vary at will by altering the position of my eye.”

Red Lion Street, Houndsditch, in which Bentham was born, is a cul-de-sac close to the church, and his father’s house was the last on the left-hand side. It is still existing, pretty much in the same outward condition as it exhibited a hundred years ago; though, in these modern days, a substantial city attorney would rarely dream of dwelling in such a street, or such a neighbourhood; both having become occupied by people less and less opulent, as the more wealthy and higher stationed gradually withdrew. He had the name of Jeremy given to him, because Jeremiah, as his father said, was a family name; and there was an advantage in curtailing a syllable, and in showing a preference towards the names of the New Testament over those of the old. Accident brought his father and his mother together at a place of entertainment on or near Epping Forest, called Buckholt Acres. His father fell desperately in love, returned home, and vowed that, if any, the woman he had seen should be his wife. It was a terrible shock to the ambitious purposes of his family, which had already decided that a certain young lady, with a jointure of £10,000, should be united to him. Bentham used to relate, with great glee, how his grandmother made him her confidant, and poured out into his young bosom the expression of her vexation that his father had made so great a mistake. But if ever an amiable woman existed, the mother of Bentham was one.

Bentham’s father kept a journal of expenses, written in a strange jargon of bad French, Latin, and English. Under the date of 1744, September 30, is the following entry:—“Pro licentia nuptiale, 19s. 6d. Dat. clerico, 2s. 6d.=£1 : 2s.; and, in the year 1747-8, February 4, appears—“Fils né, apres nommé Jeremy; a quatre heures et demi, mon fils se nait.”

On the 15th June, I find—“J. B. jun.—Paid Mr J. Mulford, for a coral, 14s.”

Several letters are before me written by Mrs Bentham, which exhibit many of those gentle and beautiful traits of feminine character which I have often heard Bentham attribute to his mother. In one, dated Andover, August 6, 1749, addressed to her husband, she mentions that she had left the stage-coach during her journey, and, on coming back, she found her place, which was with the face towards the horses, occupied by a lady, and says—“I was chagrined by this unlucky accident, knowing I could not sit backwards without inconvenience; therefore, addressing myself to the lady, I hoped it would suit her to sit on the other side; but she assured me it would not. I was obliged to take the middle place: but this did not put me out of temper. She was afterwards extremely obliging, and offered me a bed at her brother’s house.” I do not know whether this incident was recollected by Bentham, but I remember to have heard him say that a stagecoach was a place where the virtues of prudence and benevolence have often occasion eminently to exhibit themselves, and where lessons of wisdom are sometimes admirably taught. In the same letter, she speaks of her anxiety about “her sweet boy,” (Bentham,) and of “an uneasy dream” she had had respecting Edition: current; Page: [6] him. In another letter, of the following week, she writes of the “longing expectation” with which she had waited for her husband’s letter, of “the joy of hearing from a beloved absent one;” and implores a frequent repetition of such “absent interviews.” She says, “I try to divest myself of all uneasy cares, and think of nothing at home but the joys I left behind—my sweet little boy, and his still dearer papa; though there are little anxious fears about death and fever, and too great a hurry and perhaps vexations in business, which may perhaps overpower the spirits, and I not present to bear my part, and soothe those cares; which, I flatter myself, would be in my power, were it only from my desire of doing it. Shall you see the dear little creature again? I dreamed he had been like to have been choked with a plum-stone. Surely nurse will not trust him with damsons. God preserve him from all evil accidents!” It would appear from this letter that Mr Bentham had some aspirations after a knighthood; for she says—“I am vastly angry with the title of ladyship. I have taken so great a disgust to it that I hope you will not get yourself knighted in haste, for I don’t believe I shall ever be reconciled to it. It has robbed me, I fear, of some sweet epithets, and exchanged what I value above all the world for an ‘humble servant.’ However, it shall not deprive me of a title I value above all others that could ever be conferred on me: even that of your faithful and affectionate wife,

“A. B.”

At the time of Bentham’s birth, his father’s mother was an inmate of the family; living, however, principally at Barking, where they occupied a house, which was her jointure, and in which the whole family ordinarily passed, as a weekly holiday, a portion of Saturday and Monday, and the whole of Sunday. Bentham’s father said to him, when he was very young, that, by the blessing of heaven on his exertions in making a combination between his wife and his mother, he was enabled to keep a country-house and a carriage. The paternal grandmother was proud and scornful; the maternal one humble and gentle. The pride of grandmother Bentham was built on an independence of one hundred pounds a year; and the humility of grandmother Grove was outpoured into the bosom of young Jeremy; to whom, without any asperity, but with a good-humoured pleasantry, she sometimes expressed her wonderment that the rival for the boy’s affections should “hold her haughty head so high.” But from the country-house and the carriage, that rival could well look down on those who had neither; and, besides, in early life she had passed some time in the company of ladies of quality, with the daughters of the Earl of Fermanagh, in Ireland, whose dwelling was not far from that of her reverend father. That earl, or a preceding one, figures in the Memoirs of Count Grammont; and Bentham’s grandmother had partaken of the accomplishments, such as they were, which formed part of the education of high-born dames; and had learned to play successfully (so she told her grandson) on the bass viol. Whatever she had learned, however, was all forgotten before Bentham could derive any benefit from it, as he found she could not even teach him the musical notes. Plain in her youth, she had grown graceful and dignified in age; and Bentham, who was early sensible of her weaknesses, found her far from unpleasing to him. When the leaves fell, she migrated from Barking to London; and when the leaves appeared again, she appeared in the country with them.

I have heard Bentham mention, more than once, his remembrance of a circumstance that occurred before he was able to walk alone, and which made, he has often told me, the strongest impression on his memory. He had been remarking how much suffering the acuteness of his sensibilities had on many occasions caused him, and that his earliest recollection was the pain of sympathy. “It was at my father’s country-house at Barking,” he said: “the place and persons present are even now vividly impressed on my memory. My grandfather was then the constant occupant of the house; and my father and mother, with Edition: current; Page: [7] occasional company, came down every Saturday, and returned to town the following Monday. There had been some unusual feasting in the house, and I had been supplied by my nurse, no doubt, to satiety. Soon after, my grandfather came, and I ate something that he offered me. Thereupon came my mother, smiling—she came with her natural claims upon my affections—but it was out of my power to accept her intended kindness; and I burst into tears, seeing the chagrin and disappointment which it cost her. I was then not two years old.” And the fact of his age he established by a comparison of dates, persons, and places, sufficient to authenticate his statement.

Of the precocity of his powers, I have gathered up many remarkable examples. He knew his letters before he was able to speak. His father was accustomed to mention, and, as he said, “to brag,” of his early feats, and he reminded him a thousand times of his infantine literary powers. “He was always talking to me and to others of my powers,” said Bentham; but the stimulants applied did not act in the direction which parental pride was constantly pointing out.

Another instance of precocious mental activity I will give in Bentham’s words:—“What I am about to tell you, I have often heard from my grandfather: it occurred before I was breeched, and I was breeched at three years and a quarter old:—One day, after dinner, I was taken to walk with my father and mother, and some of their acquaintance. They were talking, as usual, about matters—I cannot say above my comprehension—but rather distant from, or on one side of my comprehension—matters of complete indifference to me—about Mr Thompson, Mr Jackson, Miss Smith, and old Mr Clark. Not being interested, I soon got wearied and annoyed, so that, unperceived, I escaped from the company, took to my heels, and scampered home. The house was tolerably far off, though in view; and I reached it a considerable time before the arrival of the pedestrians. When they came in they found me seated at table—a reading desk upon the table, and a huge folio on that reading desk—a lighted candle on each side, (for it had become dark,) and myself absorbed in my studies. The book was Rapin’s History of England. I have it still. The tale was often told in my presence, of the boy in petticoats, who had come in and rung the bell, and given orders to the footman to mount the desk upon the table, and place the folio upon the desk, and to provide candles without delay. All this was repeated again and again, and I received the impressions from others. But what I did not receive from others, was, the knowledge of the satisfaction with which I read the folio historian. The day remembered by others was not the first in which I had been delighted. There is nothing sentimental in Rapin, but the facts simply narrated were most interesting to me; those facts I read over and over again; and they excited my sympathies strongly, particularly those which occurred in the Saxon period—Redwald and Edwy; and Rosamond’s story above all.” In the year 1751, Bentham being then in his fourth year, there is in his father’s book of accounts, an entry for “Ward’s Grammar, 1s. 6d.; Fani Colloquendi Formulæ, 6d.; and Nomenclator Classicus Trilinguis, 8d., being 2s. 8d. for Jeremy, junior,” showing at what an early age his classical studies began; and in the year 1753, a nicely written scrap of Latin is preserved among his father’s memoranda, with this notice:—“Mem. The line pasted hereon was written by my son, Jeremy Bentham, the 4th of December, 1753, at the age of five years nine months and nineteen days;” and a few days after is the following entry:—“Paid Mr Robert Hartley for double allepine for Jerry’s coat and breeches, to his pink waistcoat, £0 12 3.”

Long before Bentham was five years old, his father had resumed his own studies in Latin and Greek, in order to officiate as instructor to his boy. I find different fragments written by young Jeremy at the age of four; and I remember he mentioned to me that he learned the Latin Grammar and the Greek alphabet on his father’s knee. Mr Bentham confessed that, in teaching Edition: current; Page: [8] his son, he had taught himself more than he had been ever taught before. Lily’s Grammar and the Greek Testament were the two principal instruments of instruction.

Bentham’s recollection of the scenes of his boyhood was most accurate; and never did he appear more delighted than when speaking of the two spots, Browning Hill and Barking, the country abodes, in which his two grandmothers dwelt. He had, through life, the keenest sense of the beauties of nature; and, whenever he could be induced to quit his studies, his enjoyment of fields and flowers was as acute and vivid as that of a happy child. To Browning Hill, especially, he was exceedingly attached. “It was my heaven,” he used to say; “Westminster School my hell; Aldgate was earth, and Barking was paradise to me.” When Browning Hill was sold, Bentham wrote the advertisement, in which he has often told me his affections led him to paint it in a romantic way. It had always to him the interest of a novel, in which the principal characters were women, and those women preëminently excellent ones. “How well do I recollect,” he said to me, not long before his death, “the happy community at Browning Hill! My uncle, to whom it belonged, visited it every two or three weeks, to inspect his little concerns, which were superintended by a bailiff named Maberly, who did all domestic services except waiting at table, and who directed matters so prudently and economically, that the three ladies—my grandmother, my great-aunt Mulford, and my little aunt Deborah—lived comfortably upon the estate; and the bailiff himself, without any imputation on his character, was able to occupy a good house, with a considerable shop belonging to it, and, by gradually extending his trade, he became a timber-merchant. He married another servant of the family, and amassed many thousand pounds. Prosperous and fortunate, though in a less degree, was his successor Thomas West, who also married a female servant of my grandmother’s; and I heard that they had made themselves a little fortune of £800 by economy and industry. No shadow of reproach was ever cast on the characters of those good people. The history of their management, in all its details, would have been, if recorded, a most instructive one. We had, at Browning Hill, a garden and an orchard, bountifully productive; a large extent of stabling and outhouses; venerable elms, scattered here and there, offered ornament and shade; the access to the estate was over a pleasant green, studded with cottages, in one of which lived a little farmer, of whom I recollect the boast, that he had made his children roll in gold. His successful industry had but accumulated petty gains. We were within hearing of the bells of Boghurst church, though it was not in the parish in which the house is situated. Dear to me beyond expression, when first it greeted my ears, was the sound of those three bells; one a little cracked, another much cracked, and the third so cracked as to be almost mute.

“At Browning Hill everybody and everything had a charm; even the old rusty sword in the granary, which we used to brandish against the rats, was an historical, a sacred sword; for one of my ancestors had used it for the defence of Oxford against the Parliamentary forces.”

Bentham thus gives the particulars of his earliest education:—“I do not exactly recollect how soon I began to write; but I began to scrawl when I began to read. My father had always kept a clerk; never more than one, for his practice was small; and among that clerk’s amusements or duties was my instruction. He taught me the rudiments of writing and music. His name was Thomas Mendham. Painful was it, both to hearer and preceptor, to study the application of the musical art to the violin; for the business of instruction had not then been simplified as it has been since. I was bewildered in a labyrinth, entangled in a maze, in which the unintelligible words, la, mi, re, fa, si, fa, ut, sol, re, ut, assailed my ears and eyes. I at last got through, and found myself in possession of a fiddle in miniature, and able to scrape Foote’s minuet. At about six years old, I had a regular music-master, whose name was Jones; he was to improve my practice on the Edition: current; Page: [9] fiddle, and my father gave him a guinea for eight lessons. I continued to receive lessons from him until I went to Westminster School. Then I lost sight of him altogether for many years. About fifty years since, I saw him again—a venerable man, above eighty, with the look of a gentleman of the old school; and he still managed, although almost blind, to get a subsistence by accompanying ladies on the harpsichord. I visited him in a house where he had handsome apartments, in Scotland Yard. It was a house built by Sir John and belonging to Lady Vanburgh. Jones had expressed a wish to see me. He was sliding fast into the grave. There was a servant above the ordinary condition of domestics, who was serving him with the greatest reverence and affection. He took a fiddle, and made me take a fiddle also; but his musical faculties were almost gone. This was in 1775. It was my last visit.”

Now and then the musical acquaintances of his father were invited to tea, and Bentham gathered much instruction from practice at these little family concerts. But he could not get books: he was “starved,” to use his own expressions, for want of books.

Bentham was, at this time of his life, so weakly, that he could not mount the stairs without bringing up one leg to the other at every step. In size he was almost a dwarf. He was the smallest boy of his age while at school.

At the age of six, Bentham was taken by his father to visit one of the king’s valets, who lived in Stable Yard. The conversation was about nothing, and wearied the poor boy; so he escaped, and hid himself in a closet, where he found a copy of Pope’s Homer, which he read with extreme satisfaction and avidity, while they were gossiping. Bentham remembered the dinner to the day of his death. He said “the minced veal was shockingly salt,” and he wondered that king’s valets did not fare more sumptuously than less distinguished persons. Bentham called himself a gourmand, which he never was; though no man enjoyed his meals more, and few men were so attentive to others when at table. About the same period of his life he went to the theatre, for the first time—“I thought myself in heaven,” he said, “I was in such an ecstasy. In the play were little cherubims coming down from the sky. Miracles were wrought in my sight. I could not form any idea of heaven beyond what my eyes there saw, and my ears heard.”

“I was about six or seven years old, when a Frenchman was introduced into the family, to teach me the language of his country. His name was La Combe—a common name; so having a desire to distinguish himself, and being somewhat of a literary man, he called himself La Combe d’Avignon. His errand to England then, was what is a frequent errand of his countrymen now, to learn English, and to teach French, and to make one labour afford payment for the other. The terms of payment became, however, a matter of after dispute. My father found him his board, for some time less than twelve and more than six months: but a sister of my mother’s being, during part of the time, an inmate of the house, La Combe considered that to give her the benefit of his instructions was no part of the bargain, though he had benefited by hers. With me there was no quarrel. I was exceedingly fond of him—drowned in tears of sorrow when he left, in tears of joy when he afterwards became an incidental visiter. One sad misunderstanding once took place between us. He had been engaged in writing an English Grammar for the use of Frenchmen. One day, he produced a sheet of it, in which he spoke of the eye of a person of the female sex. According to the usage of his own language, the word œil being masculine, he had rendered son œil—his eye. ‘This will not do, as you are speaking of a woman,’ said I; ‘I beg your pardon, sir, but son œil must be translated her eye.’ He was grievously offended. In vain I assured him it was the English idiom. He was a man and a scholar; I was not only a child, but an ignorant and impertinent child. His ill-humour increased, and I left him in a state of exasperation—exasperated against me, and against himself, on account of the ill success of Edition: current; Page: [10] those learned labours, of which I had been the object. This, however, was sometime after he had quitted my father’s house. His residence in it had been useful and pleasing to me. All the recollections of the toils of learning the grammar were obliterated or absorbed in the delight experienced among the stores of amusement which the language opened to me. My mother—it was a point of principle with her—refused me access to every book by which amusement in any shape might be administered: but the first book that was put into my hands by La Combe was a small collection of fairy tales. It opened with the history of Le Petit Poucet, and the Ogre Family: then there was Raquette à la Houpe, Cinderella, and the Belle du Bois Dormante; and the one of which Fenette was the heroine—Fenette and her naughty sisters, Nonchalante and the other; and the Chat botté. How did I joy over the administration of poetic justice in its most admirable shape, when Nonchalant, the wicked would-be seducer, having popped himself into the barrel full of razors and serpents which he had prepared for his intended victim, was himself rolled down the mountain in her place!”

Bentham narrated this to me, as if he were still the impassioned boy. “Don’t you remember this?” he said. “Don’t you know the story?—you ought to know it. A man,” added he, with the most amusing gravity—“a man must be extremely ignorant, not to know that such was the fact.” After a hearty laugh from me, which was responded to by his benevolent smile, he resumed—

“Here was great delight; but there awaited me delight much greater; and something more than delight. The fairy tales had not affected the moral part of my mind. Another book of far higher character was put into my hands. It was Telemachus. In my own imagination, and at the age of six or seven, I identified my own personality with that of the hero, who seemed to me a model of perfect virtue; and, in my walk of life, whatever it may come to be, why, said I to myself, every now and then, why should I not be a Telemachus? In my sleep I was present at the scenes between him on the one part, and Calypso and Eucharis on the other. To Eucharis I was more particularly attached. I awoke, and found by my side, not Eucharis, but my grandmother! What was the special source of attraction in that bewitching island had not, at that time, been unveiled to me: I had no notion of any distinction between the sexes. I had indeed been struck with the fondness and kindness of women. I saw the exhibition of strong affection; and strong affection, whatever might have been its cause, (which then, indeed, was beyond my ken,) was as rapidly imbibed by me as water by a sponge. That romance may be regarded as the foundation-stone of my whole character; the starting-post from whence my career of life commenced. The first dawning in my mind of the principles of utility, may, I think, be traced to it. In the course of one of his adventures, Telemachus finds himself in the Isle of Crete, at the time when the form of government being a monarchy, and the throne vacant, election was to be employed for filling it. A course of trial was to be gone through by the candidates, and various were the subjects of contention; one of them being to give answers to questions on constitutional law; and, in particular, the inquiry is mooted as to the best form of government, and the proper objects of government. Different candidates prescribe different answers to the same questions, which, accordingly, are entered on the protocol. One of them seemed to me at the time—though not altogether so precise as it might have been at this time of day—it seemed, I say, to border, at least, on the principles of utility; or, in other words, the greatest-happiness principle. This, however, was not sentimental enough, and the candidate came off at last no better than second best. The prize was adjudged, of course, to Telemachus, whose notions seemed to me a short but still too long a tissue of vague generalities, by which no clear impression was presented to my mind. It was too much of a piece with Lord Bacon’s notion of a good government, and his Edition: current; Page: [11] principles of legislation, ending with, “to generate virtue in subjects”—generare virtutem in subditis. I was disappointed, and the recollection of my disappointment still dwells in my mind. On every other occasion he was all perfection in my eyes: but on this occasion, I knew not well what to make of him. Great was my distress when Mentor takes Telemachus to the rock, and plunges him into the sea. I thought there was an end of my hero. Great was my joy when Telemachus gets on board the ship; but I could not forgive Mentor for the unprovoked outrage. If, in after life, I have felt a certain portion of contempt for classical antiquity, the impressions I received from reading Telemachus were not without their influence. The description of classical hell has been considered authoritative. Had I doubted, my doubts would have been dissipated by the ample and particular assurance which I received in after studies, and from the highest authorities: Sisyphus with his stone, Ixion on his wheel, the Danaides with their sieves. I was between eleven and twelve years old when Homer’s description of hell (a miserable succedaneum!) fell into my hands. My heart sank with disgust and disappointment. Virgil’s was not so bad as Homer’s, but still at an immense distance from Telemachus’. How little did it enter into my thoughts that this history, or this romance, was, for the most part, a well-grounded satire; and that, amongst other things, Idomenes was Louis XIV.” The impression made on Bentham’s mind, by reading Telemachus, was a permanent one. I have heard him, again and again, speak of the interest with which he followed the Cretan political controversy, and his vexation and disappointment at the poor display made by his favourite, who might, he thought, so much more honourably have won the palm. The goddess of Wisdom, wrapt up, as she was, in the greatcoat of an old man, was much lowered, in his estimation, for not distinguishing and recompensing the wisest of the competitors; but Bentham dared not openly to express his preference. He fancied he could have mended the best of the answers. A short time before his death, Bentham said to me—“I should like to contrast the impressions which Telemachus would make upon me now, with those it made nearly fourscore years ago. I should like to compare my recollections of the book with the book itself, to see whether they approached the truth. I still remember the flowery tirade, manufactured as a sort of pattern for the competitors for the prize; the vagueness of Telemachus’ speechification, and the sound but incomplete doctrine of one of the candidates.

“La Combe induced my father to give me the ‘Lettres Juives,’ which filled my mind with vain terrors. I could not understand the book, but I was frightened by the accounts of the vampires in it. He recommended some other works, of the propriety of reading which my father doubted. La Combe was, as I afterwards discovered, a freethinker. Voltaire’s ‘Life of Charles XII.,’ his ‘General History,’ and his ‘Candide,’ were, in process of time, read by me, on his recommendation. This ‘History’ was beyond me. It was filled with allusions to facts of which I knew nothing. It is an essence of history. Many years after, I learnt to value and admire it. It is one of the few books that give a just view of things. My father and family differed now and then with La Combe, on religious questions probably: but the good-will and harmony of our home were not disturbed by the debates. My mother and her sister, though pious themselves, had been inured to toleration by family sympathy; for, while the females of my mother’s race were believers, and devoutly believers, the males were, for the most part, unbelievers. That was the case with my great-uncle Woodward, my uncle Grove, and my cousin Mulford.”

Bentham’s father united with his mother in keeping out of his way, as far as he was able, all amusing books. He fancied that there was a concealed contagion in them, and therefore he established a prohibition upon them; and, knowing Bentham’s love, or rather passion for reading, he imagined that it would naturally lead him to get hold of whatever books might be most accessible. Edition: current; Page: [12] The list of these is rather curious, particularly as connected with the impressions they made on Bentham’s young mind. “There was first,” said he, “ ‘Burnett’s Theory of the Earth,’ in folio, by which I was informed of the prospect I had of being burned alive; ‘Cave’s Lives of the Apostles,’ in a thin quarto, with cuts, in which the said Apostles were represented playing, each of them, (as a child with a doll,) with that particular instrument of torture by which he was predestined to be consigned to martyrdom. Another quarto was an old edition of Stow’s [Chronicle,] in black letter. This Chronicle had stories in it which acted upon me with a fascination similar to that which certain animals are said to be subjected to by the serpent, to which they become, in consequence, a prey. Several pages there were, by every one of which I was filled with horror as soon as ever I ventured to risk a glance at them. Yet never could I venture into the little closet, in which almost the only sources of my amusement were contained, without opening the book at one, or two, or more, of the terrific pages, and receiving the accustomed shock. The book concluded with a description of a variety of monstrous births. I thought the world was coming to an end. My sensibility to all sources of sentiment was extreme, and to sources of terror more particularly so; and these volumes teemed with them. There was also a ‘History of England,’ in question and answer, by a Mr Lockman, with a quantity of cuts: but my father’s caution had not gone so far as to divest the book of its embellishments, though better it would have been for my peace of mind if it had; for there it was that I saw the blessed martyr, Charles, with his head on the accursed block—there it was I saw the holy bishops burning as fuel at Smithfield—there it was I saw the Danish Coldbrand, with a Saxon’s sword, in the act of finding its way into his body. Not long after, to this ‘History of England,’ was added a ‘History of Rome,’ in like form and demeanour, by the same author. Lockman was secretary to some associated company, into which my father had contrived to introduce himself; which incident was perhaps the cause of the instruction I was destined to derive from these two sources. Lockman was of the number of my father’s protegés. He may have given these books to my father. My father had some books: I knew it well; for they sometimes escaped from the receptacle in which he destined them to be buried; the being allowed access to which would have been indeed a pleasure and a privilege to me. Such was ‘Churchill’s Voyages,’ in several volumes folio. I saw them once or twice by accident, but never knew whence they came nor whither they went. In these I should have found instruction, and most useful instruction: but then the instruction would have had amusement to sweeten it; and that idea was not to be endured. My father gave me once ‘Phædrus’ Fables;’ but fables, inasmuch as they are stories in which inferior animals are represented as talking together like men and women, never had any charm for me. One of my tribulations at this time was the learning Church collects: they used to give me the cholic; but my father insisted on my getting them by heart. When living at Aldgate, a volume of Swift’s works was left about. There was the poisoning of Curl. I did not know what to make of it, whether it was true or false, serious or jocular. It excited my sympathy, however; a sort of provisional sympathy.

“ ‘Rapin’s History of England,’ which I often read, whatever benefit it might have been of in other respects, was of little advantage in a moral point of view. Rapin was a soldier by trade, and his history is a history of throat-cutting on the largest scale, for the sake of plunder; and such throat-cuttings and plunderings he places at the summit of virtue. Edward the Third’s claim to the throne of France was, in my view, an indisputable one. I followed his conquests in their progress with eager sympathy. My delight grew with the number of provinces given up to him against the will of their inhabitants, and with the number of Frenchmen left dead in the field of battle. Yet do I remember how great was my mortification when, after Edition: current; Page: [13] so many victories gained, he had, at the head of one hundred thousand men, advanced to the gates of Paris, which I thereupon expected to find given up to him without a struggle, and all France following its example; instead of that, the termination of his career—of this part of it, at any rate—was the same as that of a certain King of France of whom it is narrated, that he,

  • ‘With forty thousand men,
  • Marched up the hill, and then
  • Marched down again.’

On Calais, too, I could not help thinking that he had bestowed more time than it was worth. Our conquerors, I observed, had, according to the account given of them by the historian, two main instruments by which their conquests were effected: One of these instruments was the sword,—a brilliant instrument, never beheld by me without delight, as it glittered in my eyes; the other instrument was negotiation,—a word which met my eyes too often, and never without annoyance. Having consigned the sword for a time to the scabbard, Edward betook himself to negotiation; and how it was that so much was to be got by negotiation, and so little, in comparison, by the sword, I could by no means explain to myself, nor find explained. At the sight of the word negotiation, my spirits began to droop; at the sight of the sword, when once more drawn from the sheath, they revived again. In a victorious king, merit was in the direct ratio of the number of armed men slaughtered by him, and in the inverse ratio of those employed in slaughtering them. With this impure alloy, during a great part of my boyhood, was mixed up the pure virtue which the moral part of my frame had imbibed from reading ‘Telemachus.’ Such were the contents of my library; a library that was no otherwise my own than by the door being left unlocked of the small room in which the books were deposited; a room on the first floor at the head of the principal staircase, situated over the principal door into the house. At this house, in which my father scarcely ever made a longer stay than from Saturday evening to Monday morning, he had no library of his own. My mother was too much occupied by her children, and other family concerns, to have a moment’s time for books.

“As to my grandmother, she had her own library. It was composed, besides the Bible, of two or three books of devotion, so much in use as nearly to have fallen in pieces. These books, not containing any of them the poison of amusement, there could be no objection to my studying them as much as I pleased. One of them was the book of sacred poetry, by Bishop Ken. It began—

  • ‘Awake my soul! and with the sun,
  • Thy daily course of duty run;’

the first lines of the first hymn; and to render them the more intelligible, the sun was represented in a vignette as beginning his daily course, and making himself a pattern for me. I feel even now the sort of melancholy which the sight of it used to infuse into me. Another book which was imported for my use, did not contribute to lessen my melancholy: it was ‘Dodsley’s Preceptor,’ with the Vision of Phedors, and the Hermit of Teneriffe, found in his cell; the production of the gloomy moralist, Samuel Johnson—of one of the last of whose clubs I became, in process of time, a member. Like Godwin, this man infused a tinge of melancholy, though of a different hue, into every book he touched. There was the poor ideal traveller, toiling up the hill, with Reason and Religion for his guides, and an unfathomable abyss at each side, ready, at the first faux pas, to receive his lacerated corpse; as it actually did those of the greatest part of the travelling population whom I saw toiling towards that summit which so few of them were destined to reach. Every now and then. after reading a page in this history, or another page in that system of cosmogony, which taught me to look out for that too probable day in which I should be burnt alive, it occurred to me that I had better not have been born: but, as the misfortune had actually happened to me, all I could do was, of a bad bargain, to make the best, and leave the rest to chance or Providence. Had I had children of my own age to associate with, these gloomy ideas would not have filled Edition: current; Page: [14] so large a portion as they did of my time. Except once or twice, no such solace was I destined to experience.

“I could, even now, if it were worth while, number up, to a certainty, all the visiters of an age approaching to my own, whom, down to the age of fourteen, I was ever allowed to receive at my father’s house. There was Thomas Skinner, one of three or four sons of a clergyman who was a member of my father’s clerical club: he was of Merchant Tailors’ school; he was two or three years older than I, and twice or thrice he came to Barking. Another was Thomas Lysen, of the same age, the son of a neighbouring bricklayer, with whom my father had occasional dealings; he came to play with me at minnit, or cricket, once or twice every summer. Toulon Flood once spent two or three days with me; and Edward Reeve, one day: these two were my schoolfellows at Westminster, and Flood, for a considerable time, my bedfellow. Reeve’s day was a heavenly one; how I longed for another such! A boy called Shuttleworth came once—but he came in chains—his visit was of no avail: he brought with him his morose tutor—that tutor was our every day usher. These were the only intruders on the solitude and insipidity of my existence. The list of adult visiters to my father is scarcely more diversified: Two old ladies, contemporaries of my grandmother, used to pay one visit a-year. A Mrs White, with two nieces, one in the state of singleness, the other a Mrs Waldo, a widow bewitched, called once every summer. A small house in the neighbourhood, built in antique style, was occupied by Mrs Hutchinson, whose son, a little older than I, used to accompany the family to Barking church, and to perch himself in a pew near to ours: his name was Julius, and he edited, not many years ago, Mrs Hutchinson’s interesting autobiography. I was taught, however, to regard him with contempt: I was told he was more my inferior in learning than my superior in age. There was a Mrs Geddes, the widow of a divine of that name, who had been removed, years before, to another, and, let us hope, a better world: I believe he had been the author of a ponderous volume of divinity, which I never read. Of Mrs White, I only remember that she was distinguished for the strength of her jaws; and, when considerably above seventy years old, no stone of peach, apricot, or nectarine, could resist them. Mrs White excited my astonishment, while she removed a smaller mote from my eye by the introduction of a larger one; it was a round black seed, which she called Oculus Christi; and whether its operation was natural or miraculous, the reader must judge. I can aver that, after its application, the annoyance ceased to trouble me. There was one visiter—rather an unwelcome one—a great-aunt, of the name of Powell, who was received on the footing of a poor relation; she was a sister of my grandmother Bentham, and came across the water from Woolwich. She had made a disparaging match with an operative in the neighbourhood of the dockyard, and was therefore in disgrace. Of her existence, no traces remain in my memory.

“Scarcely as often as once in a season, my grandmother, accoutred in sable muff and tippet, used to make a visit of ceremony, in her carriage. About as often was a visit paid by a relation and cotemporary of the same sex, who came from Woodford, and to whom a dinner of ceremony was given. This was a Mrs Archer, to whom I was taught to pay homage, under the appellation of Aunt Archer; the auntship consisting in that her husband had had for a first wife a sister of my grandmother. She was in some way or other my grandmother’s cousin. She had a maiden sister who sometimes dwelt with her, and sometimes in a small tenement adjoining; at whose death I received an old gold watch and a trifling legacy. Once or twice in the year I used to accompany my father to Woodford, and saw Mr Archer, who had retired upon a fortune of £15,000, made by the sale of ivory. They spent little, kept no carriage, no town-house, exhibited no marks of hospitality, had not even to offer us a spare bed, to my no small mortification. Yet the visits interested me: their garden was larger than ours, and had two ponds at different levels. The change Edition: current; Page: [15] broke the permanent monotony of my father’s house, and diversity was to me a treasure of the greatest rarity. I recollect one visiter, whose presence was singularly agreeable: it was a Mr John Bonnet, of a French refugee family, a working jeweller by trade, and of my father’s age. There were two Bonnets among our acquaintances—the other’s name was Benjamin; but I know not if they were allied. Benjamin, in comparison with John, was a magnificent personage: he was no less than a notarypublic. He wore a wig of fashion—at any rate of city fashion,—while poor John wore nothing better than a wig of business. In those days, whatever was his profession or rank in life, a man might be distinguished by his wig with little less certainty than a peer by his coronet, or a monarch by his crown. We had Mr John Bonnet’s company for a day or two, and took an excursion as far as the Thames, Barking being at the head of a creek which runs up a couple of miles. At the outset of our walk, and as evidence of what I had learned in French, my father proposed that, during the whole excursion, a halfpenny should be paid, as a fine, for every word of English spoken. The joke was, that Mr Bonnet, though a Frenchman born, or, at any rate, educated by a Frenchman born, made the most numerous mistakes; at all events, my pockets were replenished with halfpence.”

When a very little child, having been escorted by his grandmother from Browning Hill to Andover, Bentham was left in an upper story, and saw, for the first time in his life, that the water in the hand-basin had been converted into a cake of ice. It was the winter season, and ice was everywhere abundant, so that he thought he might indulge the fancy of seeing what would happen if he threw the ice-cake out of the window. He flung it out. It broke, of course, into a thousand pieces. The little boy’s heart throbbed with joy; but the joy was soon overclouded with the thought that mischief had been done. The association between the ice and the hand-basin was so strong in his mind, that he could not fancy himself blameless; and he was long tormented by the fear of discovery and its consequences. Throughout life, the apprehension of blame was strong in Bentham’s mind. An expression of displeasure from those with whom he associated would at any time have sorely distressed him. His dread of punishment was extreme; and he was never visited by corporeal punishment from any hand whatsoever. I remember once putting the question—“Were you ever chastised at school?” and he answered with great earnestness—“Oh, never! never! never!—never punished by master—never engaged in any the slightest skirmish with any boy, except once, when at Westminster School. They surrounded a lad named William Sewell and myself, and forced us upon a sort of hostile encounter. He was the son of Sir Thomas Sewell, then or afterwards Master of the Rolls, and whom his father appointed to one of the six clerkships in Chancery.”

This Sir Thomas Sewell had been, at one time, the intimate friend of Bentham’s father; and of that intimacy old Bentham frequently boasted to his son. He had, for his town residence, one of the tall houses in Lincoln’s Inn Square; and, for his country abode, an estate he had purchased at Ottershaw, in Surrey. At Ottershaw, Bentham once dined, being conducted thither, not by his father, but by Chamberlain Clark, and introduced to Sir Thomas as “the son of his old friend.” This was the first time of his seeing a gentleman of whom his father had been constantly speaking for fifteen or sixteen years, as one with whom he was closely allied. They had, as he stated, marked out their course together by mutual understanding, and for mutual help: Sewell to become a barrister—Bentham (senior) to be an attorney. Sewell’s circumstances were very narrow: he had about £70 a-year; and, when he entered into his chambers, they were papered by the hands of the two young men in order to save expense. Sewell was a scholar. He wrote an essay on speech and grammar. It had some merit, but not of a transcendent character. It, however, served as Edition: current; Page: [16] an introduction to a gentleman, whose daughter he afterwards married, and who brought him a fortune of £15,000. He had previously reached some eminence in his profession. Among the presents he received from the hands of his future bride, was a silver cork-screw, wholly inefficient for its intended use, but which he constantly introduced for the sake of telling his guests from whom he received it, its inaptitude for cork-drawing giving him daily occasion to dilate upon it. He never visited Mr Bentham, senior, nor Mr Bentham him; and the “tam propè, tam propinque” was a matter of great mystery and embarrassment to Bentham, junior. It never entered his mind, he said, to think of blaming his father. Such a thought he would have ignominiously expelled as a thought of sin and guilt: but when turning over, in after life, his own prospects for futurity, “the intimate friend of his father, the Master of the Rolls,” often occurred to him as one from whom he might have looked for a helping hand.

Thomas Sewell, the son of Sir Thomas, married a lady of quality of the family of the Earl of Louth, in Ireland. She had more rank than money, and her husband soon got into the King’s Bench. A second son was a midshipman, who was none of the brightest. When he was examined for his grade, he was asked what he could do in a certain case of naval manœuvre? He was silent. The examiner then inquired—“Would you use a messenger?” (A messenger is a nautical term for some sort of rope.) “No!” said he, “I would send my own servant.” One son (William) was alive in 1827, and holding one of the Six Clerkships in the Court of Chancery, given to him by his father. Sir Thomas, like most of the lawyers of his time, was a man of narrow mind, and of rough, vaunting, and imperious manners. He took the occasion of Bentham’s visit with Chamberlain Clarke, to give him a sort of rhetorical pedagogical lecture in the shape of instructions as to what he ought to read; which instructions were the subject matter of many a subsequent joke between Clarke and his companion. “Read Xenophon, the greatest general, the greatest philosopher, the greatest historian; read such a one;” and then followed a pompous and inappropriate description of the author. Some time after, Bentham met Sir Thomas at a Manor Court. He (Bentham) carried with him a little volume of Epictetus, in the original tongue; and he produced it in Sir Thomas’s presence, with the design of ingratiating himself with the great man, and of showing that his suggestions, as to classical reading, had not been thrown away: but the scheme failed—he took no notice—he gave Bentham no invitation.

“In Lincoln’s Inn Fields, stand, or stood, contiguous to one another, two houses with balls on them. They were among the fruits of the genius of Taylor the architect, (father of Michael Angelo Taylor,) who had, from these and other buildings, acquired the sobriquet of Ball Taylor. One of these houses was built for Sir Thomas Sewell. It either fell or was burned down, and was then rebuilt in its present form. Many were the changes in the occupiers of these houses; and Mr Burton, an eminent solicitor, succeeded Sir Thomas Sewell. Lord Kenyon followed Mr Burton. Abbott’s (Lord Colchester’s) elder brother. when he bought his great office and married, occupied the other, and died there in 1792. Lincoln’s Inn Fields was then the abode of high life.”

Bentham took no walk into the country as a boy, of which he did not retain a recollection as a man. In reading to him some of the memoranda of his father’s diary, he at once recalled the most minute circumstances. One day I remarked to him a note—“Went with Jerry to the Creek.” “Well,” said he “do I remember it. It was a voyage par terre et par mer. I passed through great perils. It was a memorable day, indeed, whose history I related to the boys at Westminster, when I got back. In crossing the swamp of a meadow, we were attacked by a bull. We had incurred the indignation of his bullship, and my father took me in his arms and threw me over a gate. The bull vented his indignation against the gate; but it passed Edition: current; Page: [17] harmless by me. Such was the land adventure; the water adventure was this:—Our boat passed under the rope by which a vessel was moored, and I should have been thrown overboard and drowned if I had not dipped my head. Two awful perils in one day.”

I do not deem it necessary to apologize for the insertion of many circumstances, in themselves trivial, but which had their influence on the colour and character of Bentham’s mind. It were well if anecdotes of childhood were more diligently collected; and if the seemingly unimportant events of early life were more thoughtfully watched and studied, both by parents and observers. And in the case of Bentham, I scruple the less: as, on the one hand, the accuracy of his recollection was wonderful; and, on the other, his sagacity enabled him to trace the influence of passing, however remote, circumstances upon the whole fabric of his thoughts and feelings. His humanity to animals was among his prominent virtues. Their susceptibilities to pain and pleasure he studied, and made the constant subject of his care. He knew very well that legislation could not put a stop to many of the sufferings to which they are condemned: but he always insisted on the necessity of applying the powers of legislation, as far as possible, to the diminution of the miseries of the brute creation. One anecdote I will give in his own words:—

“We had a servant, whose name was Martha: a woman of kindness and gentleness; and the kindness of her temper ameliorated mine. One day, while I was a little boy, I went into the kitchen. Some earwigs were running about. I laid hold of them, and put them into the candle. Martha gave me a sharp rebuke, and asked me, how I should like to be so used myself? The rebuke was not thrown away. About this time, a neighbouring decayed gentleman, of the name of Vernon, came to pay a morning visit to my grandmother. By way of recommending himself to my favour, he brought with him, in his pocket, a toy of his own manufacture. It was a cage for the reception of flies, formed by two horizontal slices of cork connected together by uprights composed of pins. All but one were fixed—that one was moveable—and the amusement consisted in catching the miserable animals and cramming them into the cage, till it would hold no more. Sometimes they got in with all their limbs; sometimes with one or all, or any number between one and all, torn off. When I had amused myself with the instrument for some minutes, a train of reflection came across me; the result was an abhorrence of the invention, coupled with a feeling not far short of abhorrence for the inventor and donor.”

Bentham mentioned another circumstance, connected with his feelings towards animals, in the following manner:—

“My uncle’s house, in Hampshire, was the scene of a very useful lesson. A personage, of no small importance in the family, was a dog named Busy. He was a model of the conjunction of fidelity and surliness. A very slight cause sufficed to elicit from him a loud and long-continued growl. No beggar durst approach the house. I myself stood in no inconsiderable awe of him. One day I thought to find amusement in fomenting a quarrel between him and another dog. While I was thus employed up came my uncle, and reprimanded me for my cruelty. I felt it bitterly; for it was the only token of displeasure I ever experienced from him, from the day of my earliest recollection to the day of his death, which took place in 1784. He was one of the gentlest of all human beings, though a lawyer by profession.

“During my visits to Barking, I used to be my grandmother’s bedfellow. The dinner hour being as early as two o’clock, she had a regular supper, which was served up in her own sleeping room, and, immediately after finishing it, she went to bed. Of her supper, I was not permitted to partake, nor was the privation a matter of much regret. I had what I preferred—a portion of gooseberry pie; hers was a scrag of mutton, boiled with parsley and butter. I do not remember any variety.

“My amusements consisted in building houses with old cards, and sometimes playing at ‘Beat the knave out of doors,’ with my grandmother. My time of Edition: current; Page: [18] going to bed was perhaps an hour before hers: but, by way of preparation, I never failed to receive her blessing. Previous to the ceremony, I underwent a catechetical course of examination, of which one of the questions was—‘Who were the children that were saved in the fiery furnace?’—Answer—‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego;’ but as the examination frequently got no farther, the word Abednego got associated in my mind with very agreeable ideas, and it ran through my ears, like Shadrach, Meshach, and To-bed-we-go, in a sort of pleasant confusion, which is not yet removed. As I grew in years, I became a fit receptacle for some of my grandmother’s communications, among which the state of her family, and the days of her youth, were most prominent. There hung on the wall, perpetually in view, a sampler, the produce of the industry and ingenuity of her mother or her grandmother, of which the subject matter was the most important of all theologico-human incidents, the fall of man in paradise. There was Adam—there was Eve—and there was the serpent. In these there was much to interest and amuse me. One thing alone puzzled me; it was the forbidden fruit. The size was enormous. It was larger than that species of the genus Orangeum which goes by the name of the forbidden fruit in some of our West India settlements. Its size was not less than that of the outer shell of a cocoa nut. All the rest of the objects were, as usual, in plano; this was in alto, indeed in altissimo relievo. What to make of it, at a time when my mind was unable to distinguish fictions from realities, I knew not. The recollection is strong in me of the mystery which it seemed to be. My grandmother promised me the sampler after her death as a legacy; and the promise was no small gratification: but the promise, with many other promises of jewels and gold coins, was productive of nothing but disappointment. Her death took place when I was at Oxford. My father went down; and, without consulting me, or giving the slightest intimation of his intention, let the house, and sold to the tenant almost everything that was in it. It was doing as he was wont to do, notwithstanding his undoubted affection for me. In the same way, he sold the estate which he had given to me as a provision on the occasion of his second marriage. In the mass went some music-books which I had borrowed of Mrs Browne. Not long after, she desired them to be returned. I stood before her like a defenceless culprit, conscious of my inability to make restitution; and, at the same time, such was my state of mental weakness, that I knew not what to say for apology or defence.

“My grandmother’s mother was a matron, I was told, of high respectability and corresponding piety; well-informed and strong-minded. She was distinguished, however; for, while other matrons of her age and quality had seen many a ghost, she had seen but one. She was, in this particular, on a level with the learned lecturer, afterwards judge, the commentator Blackstone. But she was heretical, and her belief bordered on Unitarianism. And, by the way, this subject of ghosts has been among the torments of my life. Even now, when sixty or seventy years have passed over my head since my boyhood received the impression which my grandmother gave it, though my judgment is wholly free, my imagination is not wholly so. My infirmity was not unknown to the servants. It was a permanent source of amusement to ply me with horrible phantoms in all imaginable shapes. Under the Pagan dispensation, every object a man could set his eyes on had been the seat of some pleasant adventure. At Barking, in the almost solitude of which so large a portion of my life was passed, every spot that could be made by any means to answer the purpose was the abode of some spectre or group of spectres. The establishment contained two houses of office: one about ten yards from the kitchen, for the use of ‘the lower orders,’ another at the farther end of the little garden, for the use of ‘the higher,’ who thus had three or four times the space to travel, on these indispensable occasions, more than that which sufficed for the servile grade: but these shrines of necessary pilgrimage were, by the Edition: current; Page: [19] cruel genius of my tormentors, richly stocked with phantasms. One had for its autocrat no less a personage than Tom Dark; the other was the dwelling-place of Rawhead and Bloody Bones. I suffered dreadfully in consequence of my fears. I kept away for weeks from the spots I have mentioned; and, when suffering was intolerable, I fled to the fields. So dexterous was the invention of those who worked upon my apprehensions, that they managed to transform a real into a fictitious being. His name was Palethorp; and Palethorp, in my vocabulary, was synonymous with hobgoblin. The origin of these horrors was this;—My father’s house was a short half-mile distant from the principal part of the town, from that part where was situated the mansion of the lord of the manor, Sir Crisp Gascoigne. One morning, the coachman and the footman took a conjunct walk to a public house kept by a man of the name (Palethorp); they took me with them: it was before I was breeched. They called for a pot of beer; took each of them a sip, and handed the pot to me. On their requisition, I took another; and, when about to depart, the amount was called for. The two servants paid their quota, and I was called on for mine. Nemo dat quod non habet—this maxim, to my no small vexation, I was compelled to exemplify. Mr Palethorp, the landlord, had a visage harsh and ill-favoured, and he insisted on my discharging my debt. At this very early age, without having put in for my share of the gifts of fortune, I found myself in the state of an insolvent debtor. The demand harassed me so mercilessly, that I could hold out no longer: the door being open, I took to my heels; and, as the way was too plain to be missed, I ran home as fast as they could carry me. The scene of the terrors of Mr Palethorp’s name and visitation, in pursuit of me, was the country-house at Barking: but neither was the townhouse free from them; for, in those terrors, the servants possessed an instrument by which it was in their power, at any time, to get rid of my presence. Level with the kitchen—level with the landing-place in which the staircase took its commencement—were the usual offices. When my company became troublesome, a sure and continually repeated means of exonerating themselves from it, was for the footman to repair to the adjoining subterraneous apartments, invest his shoulders with some strange covering, and, concealing his countenance, stalk in, with a hollow, menacing, and inarticular tone. Lest that should not be sufficient, the servants had, stuck by the fireplace, the portraiture of a hobgoblin, to which they had given the name of Palethorp. For some years, I was in the condition of poor Dr Priestley, on whose bodily frame another name, too awful to be mentioned, used to produce a sensation more than mental.”

Shall I seek excuses for introducing these autobiographical sketches? I think not. They are faithful as pictures; they are interesting as philosophical studies.

“Another instance of the influence of horror in me:—I recollect, when I was about nine or ten years old, I went to see a puppet-show: there were Punch and Joan—the devil, whom I had seen before; but I saw, for the first time, the devil’s imp. The devil was black, as he should be; but the devil’s imp was white, and I was much more alarmed at his presence than at that of his principal. I was haunted by him. I went to bed; I wanted to sleep. The devil appeared to me in a dream: the imp in his company. I had—which is not uncommon in dreams, at least with me—a sort of consciousness that it was a dream; with a hope that, with a little exertion, I might spring out of it: I fancied that I did so. Imagine my horror, when I still perceived devil and imp standing before me. It was out of the rain into the river. I made another desperate effort. I tried to be doubly awake; I succeeded. I was in a transport of delight when the illusion altogether vanished: but it was only a temporary relief; for the devil and the imp dwelt in my waking thoughts for many a year afterwards. On the same occasion, I believe it was, that I saw ‘Solomon in all his glory,’ and the story of Esther: there was King Ahasuerus; there was Queen Esther; there was Mordecai the Jew; there was Haman Edition: current; Page: [20] the courtier. One emphatic phrase from Ahasuerus to Esther, I well remember:—

“ ‘Ask what thou wilt, and I will give it thee.’

“The acting of the wooden tragedian amused me not a little. It dwelt long in my memory; and on my return to school, I amused with it my bed and chamber fellows, imitating the motions of the wooden imitators, whose arms and legs were moved by a wire—thus:”

And most amusingly, even at the age of eighty, did Bentham represent the stiffness, gravity, and dignity of the fantoccino of his boyhood.

“Bursts of laughter followed my exhibition; and my own low stature, something midway between that of the wooden actors and my school-fellows, added to the effect.

“I not unfrequently obtained the applause of my companions, by thus contributing to their pleasures. One of my modes was to start up out of my bed at night, and to begin ranting, in a sort of medium state between waking and dreaming. I heard it called light-headedness. The first commencement of it may have been unbidden: but, finding that it attracted attention and afforded amusement, art came and assisted nature. I recollect, on one occasion, I was over-powered with terror. I had been reading ‘Plutarch’s Lives,’ the old translation, ‘by diverse hands;’ Dryden, I believe, among the rest. To every life there was a cut. Sylla, after his abdication, was represented in his civic costume, with a long flowing head of white hair. In several of the pictures the unskilfulness of the artist had produced a ghastly effect; and, in the portait of Sylla this was so much the case, that it wrought upon my morbidly susceptible frame. One night I awoke in horror, with the image of Sylla before me: for many years thereafter did that same image continue its visitations. That night I continued raving for a considerable length of time. In other days, and in a similar state of things, the ravings might have passed for inspiration; and I might have been a prophet, or something more than a prophet—the founder of a new sect. When I was promoted to the companionship of boys of a higher age, and about to leave the school for the university, the enfantillage evaporated. I was tranquil and happy while in Mrs Morell’s boarding-house; for I had a bedfellow, in whose presence, as was natural, ghosts never ventured to make their appearance: but, during the holidays, when I was removed to Barking, and after I had become too old to be my grandmother’s bedfellow. I became sole occupant of a large unfurnished bedroom—a fit place for the visitation of nocturnal visiters; and then and there it was that the devil and his imp appeared to me.

“I was a favourite, a timid child, who gave offence to nobody; and one more dutiful could not exist. Two or three instances of early aberrations I distinctly remember. One of these was a subject of long-continuing affliction. On a dresser, not far from the fireplace in the kitchen, was, as I mentioned, a portrait of Palethorp, sketched with a fork on the wainscot, constantly before my eyes. I got chattering with the footman, and, whether in play or in anger, I forget which, as I forget the immediate cause, I took up a pair of scissors which were within reach, and threw them at him. (At this time I was not breeched.) I took aim but too well: they hit him in the eye. Whatever was his pain of body, my pain of mind was greater. Sad was the disgrace into which I found myself plunged. My father, though in all his life he never struck me, yet, being fond of power, and of everything that could afford ground or pretence for the exercise of it, exercised on me, on this occasion, this talent of his with little mercy. I was sentenced to banishment. It happened to be migration time; my grandmother was gone to Barking already. Instead of being conducted to my father and mother, at the time of the usual weekly visit, I was sent off, in the middle of the week, with all my infamy on my head. I remembered this for many years after; and, as for any use that this severity had on me, none can I find. The accident had not its origin in my ill temper; and there was nothing from which the punishment would preserve me. The man was under the care of a Edition: current; Page: [21] surgeon for days, if not weeks. He recovered; and his sight continued uninjured: but in this, or other ways, my mind was seldom without something gnawing upon it.”

Bentham’s father amassed a considerable fortune, principally by successful purchases of lands and leases. His vanity was flattered by the distinctions which Bentham obtained from his earliest years; and he fancied his son would become the stepping-stone to his own elevation. But Bentham’s mind responded to no call of vulgar ambition; and he had to bear perpetual reproaches for not stretching out his hand to gather the fruits of worldly fame, which he was perpetually reminded had ripened for his own fruition. But the enjoyments of Bentham were of a far different and a far higher order; and, while his father sighed over his “bashful folly,” he was laying up for himself the richest intellectual treasures.

The impression made on Bentham’s mind by the books he read in his childhood, was lasting. With the most amusing naiveté he would recall, in old age, what he thought, in his youth, of the books that were either placed in his hands, or which he was enabled to reach, in spite of a theory, both of his father and mother, that books of amusement were unfit for children.

“When I got hold of a novel, I identified myself with all the personages, and thought more of their affairs than of any affairs of my own. I have wept for hours over Richardson’s ‘Clarissa;’ in ‘Gil Blas,’ when very young, I took an intense interest: I was happy in the happiness, uneasy in the uneasiness of everybody in it. I admired ‘Gulliver’s Travels;’ I would have vouched them to be all true: no romance, no rhodomontade, but everything painted exactly as it happened. The circumstance of his being condemned to death for saving the capital, was excellent. I was very anxious in his behalf, particularly when chained down by the pigmies. I was sad when I saw the Laputans in such a condition; and I did not like to see my own species painted as Yahoos. ‘Robinson Crusoe’ frightened me with the story of the Goat of the Cave; it was a moot point with me whether it was a goat or the devil. I was indeed comforted to find it was a goat. ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ frightened me still more; I could not read it entirely through. At Westminster School, we used to go to a particular room to wash our feet; there I first saw an imperfect copy of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’: the devil was everywhere in it, and in me too. I always was afraid of the devil; I had seen him sowing tares, in a picture at Boghurst: how should I know it was not a copy from the life? I had seen the devil too, in a puppet-show; I dreamt about him frequently: he had pinched me several times, and waked me. I had frequent dreams of a desire to go east; but I found interminable lugubrious buildings between me and the Strand, and melancholy creatures walking about. How much less unhappy I should have been, could I have acknowledged my superstitious fears! but I was so ashamed! Now that I know the distinction between the imagination and the judgment, I can own how these things plagued me, without any impeachment of my intellect.

“I read Timothy Peascod’s history; he was hanged, and I did not like this, because it put an end to him; and I was not fond of hanging. Camden’s Britannia was a serious book, so I was allowed to read it; besides, it was too big to be put away on the shelf, and was therefore left about. My father used to talk about ‘Tristram Shandy,’ and ‘the black page in Tristram Shandy.’ I often took it up, but could not find the black page. It seemed to me strange stuff; there was no coherence. I often saw the ladies giggling over it. Once my father took it out of my hand. Moliere’s plays were among the books at Barking. I did not like the allegorical parts or the ballets: they confused me; they were insipid;—I wanted facts. ‘Theron and Aspasia’ pleased me; it was full of slang, and slang was amusing. I read the ‘Paradise Lost,’ and it frightened me. There was the pandæmonium with all its flames. The book looked like something between true and false, and I did not know how much might be true. ‘Paradise Regained’ Edition: current; Page: [22] was very dull. I read Johnson’s ‘Account of the Hermit in his Cell,’ and it was a sad drawback on my happiness. His mind was essentially ascetic, and he brought nothing new to me—no facts, no chemistry, no electricity—all was gloomy and tasteless. ‘Thomson’s Seasons’ I also read, with a sort of fancy that they might be very fine to some people, though they brought no pleasure to me. ‘Gay’s Fables’ I also read; they did not interest or instruct me. I knew that his stories of cocks and bulls were not true.”

Of his studies, Bentham, on another occasion, gave this account:—

“At Browning Hill, was the refuse of the stock of my great-uncle Woodward. There was ‘Locke on the Understanding,’ ‘Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion,’ ‘Burnet’s History of His Own Times,’ all Richardson’s novels, ‘Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees,’ ‘Clarke on the Trimity,’ ‘Tindall’s Christianity as old as the Creation,’ ‘Atalantis,’ a collection of novels. There was ‘Kämpfer’s History of Japan,’ a very curious book. The author was physician to a Dutch embassy, and went up to the capital of that island. He was a good botanist, and an intelligent man. Taken altogether, there was a pretty good supply for the three months of each year which I was there. I used to climb a lofty elm, and read in its branches. I was the more fond of this while the labourers were thrashing corn in the neighbourhood, as I was delighted to be in society with which I was not compelled to mix. No situation brought with it more felicity than to hide myself in the tree, and, having read for some time, to descend to gather up wheat for the peasants to thrash, and then to mount again to my leafy throne. In the summer-house, too, a few books were scattered. There were a few numbers of the ‘Mercurius Rusticus,’ a periodical of 1660. There were the ‘Memoirs of the Marquis de Langallerie,’ a French adventurer; he entered into a treaty with the Grand Seignior, who, at that time, used to be crowned with the sun and moon. There were ‘Harris’ Voyages,’ two volumes in folio. So that there was abundance of occupation for me. ‘Pamela’ was written, a good part of it, in the summer-house at Browning Hill, so that the interest became extreme. ‘Clarissa’ kept me day after day incessantly bathed in tears. Tindall’s book filled me with such astonishment that I could not believe my eyes, and I went frequently to the originals, to verify his quotations. I was puzzled by Locke’s fictitious entities—such as power. But I was pleased with the advantage he had over Bishop Stillingfleet, a grandson of whom (a proud, pompous fellow) was afterwards one of my companions at College. He had the manners of a dogmatical parson, while yet an under-graduate. I do not know what became of him. I had heard ‘Locke’s Essay’ spoken of in the highest terms; so I read it as a duty. I read Clarendon with great interest, but could not understand the difference between his narrations and Burnet’s, who was by far the honester man of the two. He was short sentenced and clear; the other rolling and inflated. Burnet was one of the best of bishops—a kind, straightforward man. Pepys speaks of the bribes that Clarendon used to take.

“The parsonage-house of Boghurst was contiguous to the church. There was an entrance from the church-yard to the garden, which, with the parsonage-house, was in the occupancy of my cousin Mulford, son to my great-aunt; the minister of the parish living elsewhere. My uncle Grove, a kind and good creature withal, was a man of small mind; but nothing could be more devoid of amusement than his society was, to an ardent, acutely sensitive, and inquisitive boy; so, on every possible occasion, I broke away from Browning Hill, to quarter myself on my cousin Mulford, from whom I always experienced the kindest reception. His was a very whimsical character. At an early age, between thirty-five and forty, he abandoned a prosperous business to live a single life at the Browning Hill parsonage. His mind was full of knicknackery and conceit; he was familiar with the practice of various handicraft arts: he was a blacksmith, a whitesmith, turner, carpenter, and joiner; he did, in fact, everything that could be done by hand; Edition: current; Page: [23] he was, at the same time, an amateur surgeon, and practised gratuitously, to a considerable extent, for the benefit of his poor neighbours. He had lived in a low and irregular way; was a sort of rake: but his rakery had been considerably subdued by this his country retreat, where his attentions were confined to one woman—a widow, or a widow bewitched, of a lieutenant in the navy. Never shall I forget how I was appalled when a Quaker farmer, who was in company with my uncle and cousin Mulford, jeered them, in my presence, on the irregularity of their amours. No suspicion of such irregularity had ever before crossed my mind, and a sad tribulation it must have been to their respective mothers. I remember a daughter of my cousin’s calling on me, borne down by poverty and premature old age. My cousin was a member of a perpetual drinking club, of which the rule was—that the drinking-room should never for a moment, in the whole year, be empty, so that, by resorting to it, society, such as it was, was always to be found. Drunkenness did not necessarily form a part of the attributes of this club; for, during the sixty years and more that I knew this cousin of mine, I never saw him intoxicated, nor did I ever hear of his being so. His opinions were extraordinary: he had a notion that whatever was in print was a lie. I asked him whether, if a fact had taken place, the putting it in print would cause it not to have taken place?

“I remember once, in his wisdom, he quoted, as evidence of the disposition of the Chinese to cheat, that a friend of his, in buying seeds in China, had got just such seeds as he could have got in England; as if the Chinese were the better for his friend’s disappointment, or were bound to know what seeds grew here. He thought it a marvellous fine thing to cheat, and I did not fail to observe that the man who had the wit to cheat another, rose immediately in his opinion.

“When I was about twelve years old, he left the parsonage-house, to my great grief, and took a small abode on the banks of the Thames. I could not divine his motive; for the parsonage gave him all the enjoyments he desired: abundance of game, which he shot without any qualification; he had an aviary stocked with partridges, which he caught with his setting dogs. He was a man, though not of large stature, of remarkable strength: but he once spontaneously told me he had been outmastered by the woman with whom he lived. I suspect this connexion was the primary cause of his migrating from the personage. My grandmother Grove sometimes visited the widow, and, on one occasion, she took me with her; but told me, on the way, how very reluctant her visits were to a person whose conduct, if closely inquired into, could not bear the test of scrutiny. To me the visit was very charming. I was treated with rare sweetmeats, and got possession of a delightful book, a novel in four volumes, called ‘The Invisible Spy’—the heroine of which had, by the favour of an old magician or wonder-maker, acquired the secret of making herself occasionally invisible. Mr Mulford was fond of gardening; and in his library there was, in 3 vols. 8vo, one of the earliest editions of ‘Miller’s Gardeners’ Dictionary,’ which I read over and over till I had got all the names by heart. There was also a publication, entitled, ‘Pills to Purge Melancholy,’ in seven or eight volumes, with notes.* ‘Bulwer’s Artificial Changeling,’ was a source of great amusement to me, from the quaint titles of the chapters or sections; but my cousin took the book out of my hands. There were also some medico-chirurgical books, but not of the most modern or most improved choice. He shut up the books in a cupboard. He used to leave the key in: but there was a particular art in managing the lock, so that a stranger could not open it. I used to play with him at backgammon. His mornings were spent in gathering mushrooms, or gathering nuts. He was a sprightly man. He had a little smattering of Latin, and a little smattering of French, but was a perfect roué.

“My righteous cousin—for such was Edition: current; Page: [24] the name he bore—had a crony of the name of Mayo, a clerk in the bank. His form was globular.

“My cousin’s habits were frugal. He saw little company; and the pittance with which he withdrew from business, had accumulated, when he died, to £20,000 or £30,000. I imagined it was to be mine; and my disappointment was great at finding it disposed of—much more properly—among a multitude of relations; none indeed so near as I was, but, for the most part, poor; and elevated, by the dispersion of this property, into a state of competence. My brother and I, however, were left by him about £3,000, and a similar sum, the proceeds of an estate, which to my cousin’s mortification and unassuageable wrath, was entailed, after his death, upon my uncle Grove, and from him to me. My visits to my cousin were frequent, and generally of two or three weeks at a time; and I became acquainted with such of his neighbours as he was on terms with. Among these was a Quaker of the name of Harris, an extensive gentleman farmer, inhabiting a nice house, who introduced me to his two sons and two daughters. The eldest of his sons (John) married one of the many daughters of a Mr. Plowden, a neighbouring country gentleman, descended from an ancient family, ranking in it the founder of All-Soul’s College, Oxford; to education in which, his children were in consequence entitled. The great author of ‘The Commentaries’ was also, I believe, one of his ancestors. He was the hero of a crim. con. case, which made much noise at the time, where the seducer was a reverend divine of a noble family, the rector of a neighbouring parish. I remember dining with the said divine on a Sunday, after he had officiated; and his dress was a white coat, faced with black velvet; a white waistcoat; and black velvet small clothes; and in his shoes stone buckles to imitate diamonds.”

I have often heard Mr Bentham speak of the state of society at that period, and in that district—the elopements of women—the irregularities of men—and the vicissitudes which, in his experience, had followed the greater portion of the families with whom he was acquainted in his boyhood, and whose adventures he had followed in after years. Some of the details of penury are so distressing, some of the facts of profligacy so disgusting, that I think it best to suppress them. Connexions, relatives, or descendants of these families, no doubt, exist; and I should feel that I was giving pain, with no sufficient balance of good, were I to individualize those cases, which, however they might illustrate the manners of the time, would shock the susceptibility of some, and scandalize the feelings of others. Sure I am that, in the course of three-quarters of a century, the morality of the country gentry and the more opulent race of farmers and traders has undergone a most marked and obvious improvement; that society would not, at the present time, tolerate habits and usages which were almost universal seventy or eighty years ago; that temperance and chastity, veracity and good faith, are much more rarely violated now than then: in a word, that the former times “were not” “better” nor wiser, but, on the contrary, far less virtuous, and far less instructed “than these.”

Of some of his early tastes Bentham, only a short time before he died, gave the following description:—

“I was passionately fond of flowers, from my youth, and the passion has never left me. My aunt Grove was fond of flowers, and had a few geraniums, which she called gerrnums. I loved to gossip with a very fine old man, the gardener at Boghurst. He had a strange style of conversation, and would often ask me, ‘What would the king say to this?’ And then I asked him, what, in his opinion, the king would say? I was at that time reading ‘Rapin’s History of England,’ full of kings and queens, and it was delightful to hear from him what he thought the king would say. It appeared to me that the gardener treated the beautiful flowers very roughly. So long as I retained my smell, a wall-flower was a memento of Barking, and brought youth to my mind; for the wall-flowers covered the walls, with their roots between the bricks. It I were a draughtsman I could Edition: current; Page: [25] give the site of every tree; and, without being a draughtsman, I can describe every particular about the house. On the borders of the garden were honey-suckles trained to standards, tulips in the beds: a noble pear-tree, which covered the whole house; I can remember all. When I was at Oxford, I found there was a botanical garden. A gardener was there, who was very civil to me. His name was Foreman; and he was foreman of the garden, and had been so for fifty years. He allowed me to take seeds. A little before then, I laughed at botany students. I remember being much delighted at hearing there were Bee Orchises near Oxford, and more delighted still when I discovered one. When I read ‘Miller’s Dictionary,’ and learned that the Man Orchis was to be found near Reading, I started for the place, but found not the flower. It is not much like a man after all. When I last went to Oxford, and visited the physic-garden, I found it much degenerated. Many of the things I used to see were gone. I loved botany for the sake of its beauties. Of a wilderness at Ford Abbey—a perfect wilderness—I made a beautiful spot. I paid £400 to £500 a-year, and was in treaty for having it for my life. I have been reading about a former possessor of it—Prideaux, Attorney-general during the Civil Wars—an extortioner. In the course of five years I was there, I did not lay out more than £100 on the house and gardens, though I built walls, planted trees, repaired old walks, cut new ones; found a desert, and left a flower-garden. The works I wrote at Ford Abbey were, ‘Not Paul,’ ‘Papers on Logic,’ and ‘Church of Englandism.’ ”

Bentham frequently drew little sketches of the persons he recollected in his childhood.

“My great-aunt died at above the age of eighty. She dispossessed herself of the greatest part of her property to give to her son, who behaved to her badly and coarsely. Whenever I saw her, she gave me a guines, even after I grew to man’s estate, and then apologised, and hoped I should not be offended, saying, ‘It is a habit, you know.’ She was, like all the females of my family, amiable, kind-hearted, generous. Her time was passed in knitting stockings for the poor. She always wore the same simple garb of gray stuff, perhaps with some small mixture of silk. When once I asked her for a token of her remembrance, she knit me a pair of garters, so thick and coarse that they swelled out my small-clothes most inconveniently. The death of my mother almost broke her heart. Her son was an unbeliever; he knew not why. Then he became a Methodist; and, last of all, a member of the New Jerusalem church, and with about equal reason.

“There were my two uncles, the Rays; both of them persons; one of them learned, the other unlearned; one never looked into a book, the other was fond of books, but less so than of horses, (of which he kept many,) and of syllabubs, of which his wife was an admirable creator. He trusted his horses to me, and I sometimes went on one of them to visit an honest attorney, one Tom Martin, who was so fond of spending his money on antiquities, that he was always pulling the devil by the tail. I was a welcome visiter. He had, among other things, a book of songs, which had belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. Finding him distressed for cash, I put him in the hands of another honest Tom—Payne the bookseller—who was delighted to buy some of his literary treasures.”

On the whole, Bentham’s boyhood was far from an unhappy one. His mind resisted that bent which his father and his father’s family sought to give it. He had little relish for those objects which were pointed out to him as specially deserving his care, and met with no individual in early life whom he could at the same time love for generous affections, and honour for mental superiority. Yet he gathered up many enjoyments from the many sources of enjoyment which opened upon his susceptible mind; and, in spite of every drawback, the tenor of his existence, from first to last, was in the broad way of felicity. It was, however, principally in the latter portion of his life that his felicity was almost untroubled. The many discomforts of the early half of his existence were often contrasted by him with the quiet and habitual Edition: current; Page: [26] pleasures of his later years. Even after he had become known as an author, a sense of his own insignificance pursued him. “I have done nothing,” he often said; “but I could do something—I am of some value—there are materials in me, if anybody would but find it out. As it is, I am ashamed of an unrecognised existence. I feel like a cat or a dog that is used to be beaten by everybody it meets.”

He was accustomed, from his earliest years, to be talked of and to as a prodigy; and if this estimate of him had been wisely used to awaken his ambition, and excite his powers, it might have produced no undesirable result on his timid and retiring spirit. But he was taught scorn and contempt for other boys. He was perpetually placed in a sort of estrangement, by hearing his companions treated as dunces; and thus his vanity and pride received constant fuel.

Bentham had a strong affection for his mother: she died in 1759, and everything exhibits her in the character of a kind and amiable woman. Bentham was used to say that his family was distinguished by virtues on the female side. His father was exceedingly attached to his wife, and was so affected by her death, that it seemed likely to cause his own. I find the following entry in his memorandum book:—“1759, January 6.—This day died my most dearly beloved wife, and one of the best of women, Alicia Bentham, with whom I had lived in a constant and uninterrupted state of nuptial happiness thirteen years, three months, and three days, except the grief and affliction which her last illness occasioned to me.” Bentham himself had a most gloomy recollection of the event. His father them lived in a large and darksome house in Crutched Friars; and its solitary and deserted look accorded with the impressions left by his mother’s absence. He fancied his father would die too; but change of air, and of scene, and the kindness of friends whom he went to visit in the country, restored him to health.

CHAPTER II.: SCHOOL AND COLLEGE, 1754—1763. Æt. 6—15.

Reminiscences of Westminster School: Dr Markham.—Cotton.—Schoolboys’ Stories, and their Influence on Bentham’s Mind.—Visit to Duke of Leeds.—Acquirements in French.—The Fagging System.—Mitford.—Bentham senior and the Scriveners’ Company.—Progress in Greek and Latin.—Autobiography of Constantia Philips.—Entrance at Oxford.—The Oaths: Love of Truth.—Jefferson his Tutor.—Dr Bentham.—Dr Burton.—Competition for a Presentation.—Hell-fire Club.—Concerts.—Reminiscences of his Habits and Companions at Oxford: Poore: Harris: Horsley.—Ode on the Accession of George III.: Dr Johnson’s Commendation.—Reminiscences and Anecdotes of his Feelings as to Loyalty.—A College Declamation.—College Anecdotes.—Macaroni Verses.—Degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Bentham’s father had thoughts of entering him at Merchant Tailors’ School, and with that view had taught him Lily’s Grammar. The manner in which he was to be educated was frequently discussed, and his father often embarrassed him by attempts to make an exhibition of the boy’s talents. On one occasion, when dining at Dr Markham’s house, there was a conversation as to what “genius” meant. It was vague enough, as such discussions generally are; but Bentham was called upon, by his father and the rest of the company, to tell them his notions of genius. “A pretty question to ask a poor, raw, timid boy!” said Bentham to me, when he told the story; “a boy who knew no more about it than he knew of the inside of a man. I looked foolish and humbled, and said nothing; but Dr Markham was a shallow fellow, and Mr Cox, who was there, was a shallow fellow;—they were satisfied with Latin and Greek.” It was, however, the intimacy existing between his father, Dr Markham, and Mr Cox, that decided Bentham’s going to Westminster School in 1755. Mr Cox was father of the Master in Chancery. Edition: current; Page: [27] He then lived in a large house in Chancery Lane, having an entrance also from Southampton Buildings. There it was that Bentham’s first conference with Dr Markham took place. “It was,” he said, “an awful meeting—with three reverend doctors of divinity at once, in a large room, to whom a trembling lad was introduced, who had been talked of as a prodigy.”*

The discussion about “genius” sadly puzzled Bentham. He was then between six and seven years old. He heard his father give a definition of “genius,” after long fumbling in his mind, and the definition left the subject darker than before. Bentham has more than once told me, that on this, as on many other occasions, his father’s attempts to show him off led to extreme embarrassment and inward distress. He had no fancy to have his “uncommon promise” thus drawn upon; and felt, naturally enough, like a scholar who, on some momentous occasion, when all eyes are fixed upon him, is discovered not to have learned his lesson, and is, in consequence, delivered over to disgrace. The question, “What is genius?” haunted young Bentham for many years. No distinct conception could be attached to it; but, at the age of twenty, Helvetius’ book, De l’Esprit, having fallen into his hands, it occurred to him that Genius was a noun-conjugate, derived from the verb gigno, of which the perfect tense was genui, and the sense became sufficiently indicated. Horace’s line, “Scit genius, natale comes qui temperat astrum,” did not bring any solution of the difficulty. But, to discover that genius meant invention or production, was no small matter; and the discovery acted powerfully on Bentham’s mind. “Have I a genius for anything? What can I produce?” That was the first inquiry he made of himself. Then came another: “What of all earthly pursuits is the most important?” Legislation, was the answer Helvetins gave. “Have I a genius for legislation?” Again and again was the question put to himself. He turned it over in his thoughts: he sought every symptom he could discover in his natural disposition or acquired habits. “And have I indeed a genius for legislation? I gave myself the answer, fearfully and tremblingly—Yes!”

I have noted this circumstance down almost in Bentham’s words, as illustrating the fact, that the pursuits of a life may be influenced by a word dropped carelessly from another person. Many, no doubt, there are who can trace, as I am able to trace, to a single phrase or suggestion, the shifting of the whole mental tendencies. A solitary maxim has sometimes given a different colouring to a long train of thoughts, feelings, and actions.

“A circumstance,” to use Bentham’s words, in 1827, “which had much to do with the formation of my character was this. I had been a short time, being then about eight years old, at Westminster School, boarding with Mrs Morell. The house contained quite as many boarders as it could conveniently hold. It was a large rumbling edifice, such as I have never seen elsewhere. There was a sort of irregular central spot, with processes, in the anatomical sense, issuing from it in various directions. Some of the rooms were occupied singly by boys belonging to aristocratical families; who, of course, paid in proportion. One was the son of the then Duke of Portland, named Edward, who occupied as many as two, if not three, rooms. In the room in which I lodged there were three beds. One of these I shared with different bedfellows; who, in the course of a dozen months, were changed perhaps half as many times. This bed was Edition: current; Page: [28] on the one side of two windows, between which was stationed a bureau, belonging to one of us; and on the other side of the farthest window was another bed, occupied by two boys, who were from two to four years older than I. One of them was named Mitford, and may, for aught I know, be still living (1827.) Not long ago, I remember meeting him in St James’ Park; I on foot, as usual; he on horseback. He was the son of an opulent country gentleman; I believe of Suffolk: but having lived rather too fast, both for pocket and constitution, he was glad to accept an office as one of the four chief clerks of the Treasury; in which capacity I often saw him; and he was of considerable use to me in my Panopticon discussions. His bedfellow was a boy of the name of Cotton; one of the Cottons of Cheshire. Not many years since, I heard of his being alive, in the character of a reverend divine, clothed in one of the rich sinecures to which his lineage gave him so incontestable a title. I had not been long at school, stationed in that same chamber, when, having stood out for the foundation, and obtained admission to it, he became an occasional visiter, sometimes for days together, at the boarding-house, where he had formerly lived, and resumed his former situation of bedfellow to Mitford. While I was lying in bed, I heard from his mouth, stories which excited the liveliest interest in my mind; stories of his own invention; but in which the heroes and heroines were models of kindness and beneficence. They exhibited the quality to which I afterwards gave the name of effective benevolence; and I became enamoured of that virtue. I remember forming solemn resolutions, that if ever I possessed the means, I would be an example of that excellence, which appeared so attractive to me. I lost sight of my unconscious instructor in after life: but in my controversies with government on the Panopticon project, I was thrown into contact with a brother of that Cotton; and Mitford was stationed in the very next seat to him. Thus I found two very important and influential friends; to whom afterwards was added a third, Mr Ramus, whose father had occupied some office about the king’s person—the Billy Ramus, I believe, of ‘Peter Pindar’—he himself one of the heroes of the autobiography of Mrs Baddeley. When I was doomed to continual solicitations at the foot of Mr Long, then Master of the Ceremonies at the Treasury Chambers, I bethought myself one day of drawing up, as a last expedient, a letter on the subject of my petition. I showed it to Mr Ramus, asking him to advise whether I might venture to present such an instrument, and whether the letter I had written would answer the purpose. It was not twenty lines, and the request was simple enough: but I used in the letter a phrase I had met with, ‘for the information of their Lordships.’ He expressed himself ‘enraptured’ with the formula. He mentioned it to other parties at the Treasury, as evidence of transcendent talent and aptitude for business. I never have been so lauded for great things as for this very little thing; and, in truth, it has often been my lot, when my mind has been stretched to accomplish the most important objects on the most important occasions, to have had less encouragement and praise than for some trifling or almost useless performance. I recollect once, when a question was referred to me, which found me in a state of the most alarming ignorance, I contrived, by a mixture of industry and good fortune, to obtain the reputation of extraordinary learning and knowledge: but a great reputation may be reared on a very narrow foundation.”

I give, in Bentham’s words, some more of his Westminster School reminiscences:—“The Mr Cox who has been mentioned, was deemed a sort of a wit. Dr Markham was preceptor to the king; became Bishop of Chester; and afterwards Archbishop of York. He was concerned with Cox, and with a man of the name of Salter, a master of the Charter-house, in the erection of the square in Dean’s Yard, which was intended for the parents of those children who wished to send their sons to Westminster School. But they found no tenants, except one woman, who was an aunt of Gibbon the Edition: current; Page: [29] historian. There was considerable opposition to the building of this square, especially on the part of Prebendary Wilson, who was a sort of popular preacher. He took to ‘Wilkes and Liberty,’ and delivered anti-loyal sermons. My father was a member of the Antiquarian Society; and I, for a pun, was accustomed to call Mr Wilson the Anti-squarian. The anti-squarians were right—the scheme failed; and, when half-a-dozen houses were built, no new funds were forthcoming, and the houses were either pulled down or were left to decay. The consequence was, that most of the loss fell upon Cox, who himself lived in considerable state. Somehow or other, he was in debt to my father, and my father pressed hard upon him, and he complained of my father’s harshness; a harshness caused perhaps by his not receiving the money on application. But my father would say to me that Cox was a generous man, and that it was strange he did not make the accustomed present when he was selected as godfather to my brother Sam. Alas! I was perhaps the cause of my father’s severity; an innocent embezzlement of mine might have given occasion to it. I was probably the source of much suffering to this poor Cox; and very, very wretched was I from the thought. If I was involuntarily the instrument of pain to him, how much of anxiety and distress did he unintentionally inflict upon me! It lasted for years; and the memory of it, with all its circumstances, is still vivid in my mind. It was in the year 1757, when I had been about a year and a half at Westminster School, that the circumstance happened. It was at my brother’s baptism; and Mr Cox dined with my father. I was standing on the other side of the staircase, when he put a piece of paper into my hand with five guineas in it, saying—‘Give this to your mother; she will know what to do with it.’ At Westminster School, I had often heard of the money possessed and spent by the boys. Such money was called ‘a tip;’ and many a tip had they, but never a tip had I. My father had once given me 4s. 6d., of which I had spent a shilling, and another boy extorted the rest from me. It came to my father’s knowledge. ‘It was no use,’ said he, coldly, ‘to give me money.’ He might have safely given me a weekly allowance. I was made very uncomfortable, and thought the five guineas were a ‘tip’ for me. I put them into my pocket, and went on spending them, still frightened at what I was doing. I thought there would never be an end of my five guineas; so, as I was fond of chocolate, I ordered a large mess of it; and, having no room to myself, sought a retired place to enjoy it; and the place I fixed on was a staircase leading to a solitary apartment. I was dreadfully afraid inquiries would be made about my chocolate. I was seen by a head boy, a sort of patron of mine, who asked me ‘if I had got a tip?’ I was exceedingly anxious not to utter a falsehood, and I said, ‘five—five.’ He thought it was five shillings; and I had a momentary satisfaction in having avoided splitting upon that rock. I gave some money to a servant. How was I haunted with the dread of being discovered; for, had my father found me out, I should have died with shame and vexation; it being like the sword of Damocles over me, in the shape of terror and remorse. My mind was full of thoughtful struggles, partly with a sense of guilt, partly a conviction of innocence. The money was clearly meant for me; and what did I see in the school? The utmost prosperity on the part of the boys; the utmost destitution on mine. Then came the dread and distress at being the cause of my father’s resentment towards one who had been so generous to me. Time did not remove the pain; I could not, even after I grew up to manhood, have confessed it to my father, so fond was he of invective; and very long did my disquiet remain unsubdued.”

This incident is a striking illustration of the almost morbid sensibility of Bentham’s temperament. Often have I heard him speak of this event. It was a case in which he could not obtain the acquittal of his conscience; and once he said to me—“The recollection of that money was like ‘the worm that never dieth,’ within me.”

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Bentham remembered, with extraordinary accuracy, almost every boy and every event connected with Westminster School. It would be too much to give all the details which I have heard from his lips, but I will give an example or two.

“Westminister School was a wretched place for instruction. I remember a boy of the name of Moysey; he was a great scholar, and famous in the school; every eye was turned upon him; yet he turned out good for nothing. A great reputation at Westminster was quite compatible with worthlessness. There was one dull boy, Hammond, who became a member of the College of Cursitors. There was a son of the Stevens who wrote about Shakespeare; and one Selby, a marvellously stupid chap, who talked of nothing but hounds and horses; he was very like one of the devils calling out for water, in a picture of the Last Judgment. All his conversation was to utter yoix, yoix. I was the least boy in the school but one, who was, I believe, a descendant of the Dearings, of the Civil Wars; and the bigger lads took a pleasure in pitting us one against another.

“There was one boy (Hindman) remarkable for strength: he could hold a heavy kitchen poker at arm’s length for half an hour; he became afterwards a tenant at Browning Hill, but was so thoughtless and extravagant, that he could not pay his rent. He left the farm, and returned to it once as a beggar.

“Our great glory was Dr Markham; he was a tall, portly man, and ‘high he held his head.’ He married a Dutch woman, who brought him a considerable fortune. He had a large quantity of classical knowledge. His business was rather in courting the great than in attending to the school. Any excuse served his purpose for deserting his post. He had a great deal of pomp, especially when he lifted his hand, waved it, and repeated Latin verses. If the boys performed their tasks well, it was well; if ill, it was not the less well. We stood prodigiously in awe of him; indeed, he was an object of adoration. He published a flaming Tory sermon, which was much animadverted on in its day. Though Dr Markham never took cognizance of the lower school, yet my father was in the habit of settling the accounts with him, for the purpose of obtaining what he called his ‘auspices.’*

“The higher school was divided from the lower by a bar, and it was one of our pastimes to get the cook to throw a pancake over it.”

Bentham was entered in the upper second form; beneath him were the under first, the upper first, and the petty. It was then the rule to place the newcomer under another boy, to whose fortunes he was attached; and they were called substance and shadow. Bentham’s substance was a lad of the name of Fakenham, of the family of the Longfords, in Ireland. When he left, Bentham became substance, and had for his shadow, Shipley, who afterwards took orders, and became Dean and Bishop of St Asaph’s.

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“Two sons of the Duke of Leeds—namely, the Marquis of Carmarthen, and Lord Francis Osborn, were among the Westminster scholars. The duke came once or twice to see them: the duchess came more frequently. She was the sister of the Duchess of Newcastle, whose husband was that foolish and ignorant duke who was the Minister, and who spent a large fortune in gross eating and drinking, and said he did so for the good of his country, and in the service of his majesty. One day, as the Duchess of Leeds was traversing the play-ground where I was amusing myself with other boys—one little boy amongst many great ones—the duchess called me to her, and said—“Little Bentham! you know who I am.” I had no notion she was a great lady, and answered—“No, madam, no! I have not that honour.” I found that some strange tale had been told of my precocity, and my answer was thought very felicitous; and, not long afterwards, I was invited to go home with her sons to the duke’s. I was full of ambition; accustomed to hear myself puffed and praised; and my father was always dinning into my ears the necessity of pushing myself forward—so he hailed this visit as the making of my fortune. A short time before dinner, I was summoned up stairs to the duke’s apartment, where was a physician, to whom he said:—

“ ‘This is Bentham—a little philosopher.’

“ ‘A philosopher!’ said the doctor; ‘Can you screw your head off and on?’

“ ‘No, sir!’ said I.

“ ‘Oh, then, you are no philosopher.’

“Earl Godolphin, I remember, came in. I believe he had been in office in Queen Anne’s time. He was a thin, spindle-shanked man; very old. At dinner, my attention was excited by a Mr Trimmer, an humble dependant of the family, who sat at the bottom of the table, and wore gold lace like the rest; for everybody wore gold lace then: but narrow was the gold lace worn by Mr Trimmer. At parting, he put a guinea into my hand. I was to tell the story when I went home. I told the story of the guinea; and the guinea was taken from me for my pains. Many times I dined there afterwards, and always got my guinea; and always told the story; and always lost my guinea on getting home. I was not indulged with the spending of any of my guineas, though I was indulged with a sight of them, and with being allowed to count them, which my father thought was a better thing; but I thought that what was mine was mine; and once I stole a guinea. They counted those that were left; the theft was discovered; I was in prodigious disgrace and ready to sink into the earth. My cousin Mulford interceded for me; and, in process of time, my iniquity was forgotten.”

Bentham’s father had a great desire that his son should excel in accomplishments. At seven years old, he was taught to dance, which was a serious punishment to him; for he was so weak that he could not support himself on tiptoes. Attempt upon attempt was made by his father to force the feeble boy to go through the dancing exercise; but the ligaments which join the patella were so weak, that they could scarcely sustain the body. In later years, the ossification of age overgrew the infirmity. I have often heard Bentham say he was the feeblest of feeble boys; but, sensible of his defects, he supplied them by thought and care, and no one was more alert or active than he. His adroitness served for strength: and physical infirmity was counteracted by intellectual activity. He played at marbles with his thumbnail instead of his knuckle; and was a very tolerable fiddler, by the dexterity of his arm, though he wielded the bow with difficulty. It was yet more difficult for him to manage a small gun, with which he was supplied by his father, in order to learn the military exercise. The gun was called little and light; but Bentham found it large and heavy. There was a corporal in the Guards, whose name was Maclean, and who was Bentham’s preceptor.

Bentham’s father found him one day ornamenting capital letters; so he insisted he should learn drawing. He had no taste for it; and his father provided him with a most incompetent master, Edition: current; Page: [32] who knew nothing of the rationale of the art. Practice had enabled him to make tolerable trees; but Bentham found his master’s trees intolerable—not like trees at all; and his master could find no words to explain the laws of perspective, or the powers of light and shade. Bentham told his father that he should not break the commandment, which prohibited the making “the likeness of anything in the heavens above or the earth beneath.” When he sought to learn the laws of optics, his master was wholly unable to explain them. He was a boy inquiring into the reason of everything; and his master could give him no reasons at all. He wrote remarkably well, and was accustomed to hear himself quoted as a specimen of what a boy might do, in “running hand,” “text,” “round text,” and so forth; but his merits in this particular were, he thought, considerably embellished.

Of music he was always fond. It was associated with his early recollections and enjoyments. He played Corelli’s sonatas when he was very young; and, to the end of his days, the music of Handel was delightful to him. Indeed, of harmony he had an exquisite sense. “I hate the coarse unfeeling style of music. In playing I was afraid of a keyed instrument: If I touched a false note by accident, I was forced to play the true one. I composed a solo for the fiddle. I never had patience to study thorough base—its technicalities are so repulsive, like the a’s and y’s in algebra.”

At Westminster School Bentham obtained considerable reputation for Latin and Greek verses. He often prepared them for his aristocratic companions.* But he was much oppressed by the other boys. There was, however, one boy at Westminister, who played the part of protector to Bentham, and of whom Edition: current; Page: [33] Bentham always spoke with much affection. He was of a high family, and talked to Bentham of his descent. Bentham and he had conceived a sort of aversion to each other, which lasted for some time; one day, they mutually confessed their dislike, and each finding the other blameless, they became intimate, and wondered at their former alienation. They used to play at battledore together, and Bentham told me they had once kept up the shuttlecock 2730 times. So accurate was his memory of the most trifling occurrences of his boyhood.

“I recollect the very spot now,” he said to me, not long before he died. “I was then in my dwarfish state; but most of the scenes of my joys and sorrows have been swept away.”

Of other early amusements he thus spoke—

“Fishing is an abominable sport: waste of time associated with cruelty. Yet I fished; I wanted new ideas, and new associations and excitements.

“I was member of a cricket club, of which Historian Mitford was the hero. I was a dwarf, and too weak to enjoy it. When sixteen, I grew a head.”

In youth, Bentham accustomed himself Edition: current; Page: [34] to write in French, and he wrote with greater facility than in English. He was not embarrassed by the choice of words. His want of a thorough acquaintance with the language he felt to be an advantage, as no difficulties presented themselves in the phraseology. He wrote boldly on; while in English, he was stopping to weigh the value of words, and thus soon got embarrassed. The scrupulousness of his phraseology will in future times be one of the great recommendations of his style.

The fagging system was in full operation when Bentham was at Westminster School. He often spoke of its tyranny and cruelty, of its caprices and its injustice, with strongly excited feelings. “It was,” he said, “a horrid despotism.” The little boys of the schools were subjected to all sorts of intolerant treatment; they were sent to great distances whether with messages or not. In different departments of the school, the fagging system was different; in some it was more, in some it was less, oppressive; but oppression was everywhere.

Of the instruction, discipline, and usages of Westminster School, Bentham always spoke with reprobation. They were taught few useful and many useless things. The teachers were distinguished by their aptitude for some one or other trifle which was valueless. One man, the son of a tapster, and thence called Tappy Lloyd, was wholly occupied in teaching prosody; “a miserable invention,” said Bentham, “for consuming time.” Then Archbishop Williams’ Comments on the Catechism was another school-book which they were called on to study, and learn by heart. When there was a jingle of verses, Bentham got on very well, but he dreaded the sight and abhorred the labour of committing to memory what he thought was dull and stupid prose; but he learned it to avoid shame or punishment. “I never,” he one day repeated to me, “felt the touch of the rod at school—never—never. What the pain of being punished was, I never knew. My brothers and sisters were sometimes chastised by my grandmother; but I had no such experience.”

There were, in Westminster School, masters who were perfect sinecurists. They were paid fees for doing nothing; and Bentham’s impression generally was, that the higher their rank, the less their efficiency. Bentham’s father sometimes rewarded his attention to his studies by escorting him to the inns and coffee-houses which he was in the habit of visiting. Many such little episodes in Bentham’s history he was fond of narrating; as, for example:—

“When I was at Westminster, my father took me with him to the Rainbow Coffee-house. There it was that the quality of the Scriveners’ Company mustered. The place was kept by one Jerry Hargreaves, and many were the jokes about him and the other Jerrys. In one corner of the coffee-room sat a Mr Wilcock, a prodigious favourite of mine, for he used to sing, to my ecstatic delight, ‘Four and Twenty Fiddlers all in a Row.’ He was a shrewd Scotsman withal, and in the Court of Assistants of the Scriveners’ Company. He never failed to be present at all feasts and festivals, and especially at the dinner of the 29th July, to which I was sometimes invited. There I saw my father work the miracle of whisking away three bottles of indifferent and watery port, and replacing them by costly hock, which he did not allow to circulate beyond the three persons who, with himself, sat at the end of the table. I heard the fifth man grumble; but the aristocracy cared not for his grumbling. It was one of my father’s master-strokes of generalship. Under the plea of catering for the many at the great dinner, the privileged few, among whom my father was, always managed to get for themselves an initiatory—a little dinner; and the Scriveners’ Company paid for both. I remember when they got to turtle dinners; and the next step was to send home turtle to their wives.”

One of the visits which his father and he paid to White Conduit House in 1758, Bentham thus described:—“It was a delightful visit. There was a circular part, with little boxes around it, where we used to drink tea, eat hot rolls, and sometimes went so far as to order a syllabub Edition: current; Page: [35] fresh from the cow. In those times there was an organ: but the unpaid put down the organ and suppressed the music. There was also a large tea-room, somewhat on the Panopticon plan. This was an eye-sore to the unpaid, and they shut it up. It became afterwards a Methodist meeting-house, and scenes of mourning and terror superseded the scenes of merriment and comfort.”

In 1758, Bentham had made such progress in Greek and Latin, that he was able to write a letter in both languages to Dr Bentham, the Subdean of Christ Church; and I find the following inscription, copied in his father’s handwriting, which probably accompanied a copy of Bossuet’s “Oraisons Funebres.”

Λογοι επιταφεοι


Optimæ Spei Puero decenni

Ob eximios ingenij et industriæ fructus

In certamine literario Westmonaster

Cal. Maij 1758 exhibitos


Ædis Xti Oxon. Sub Dec.

Munusculum hoc

L. M. D.

Bentham preferred Greek to Latin; as the Greek expletives always came to his aid when he was writing verses. In attempting English verse, he said he could only find two expletives to help him out of any metrical scrape, and they were O! and Sir!

To a circumstance occurring at this period, I find the following reference among Bentham’s papers:—

“Chance threw into my hand, in the year of our Lord 1759, a precious autobiography. Author, in form Paul Whitehead, poet-laureate of that day—in substance and name the then celebrated courtezan, Teresa Constantia Philips. It was dated—one of the several editions—From the hermitage in which I have been so long hidden.

“Strong as was the first draught, which I had taken from the sweet fountain of Telemachus, still stronger was the second: taken as it was from the fountain, such as it was, which I found playing from the pen of my fair predecessor. In her sad history, for a sad one it was, a period of gallantry was closed by marriage. The husband—a Dutch merchant, Muilman by name—was beset by meddling relations and friends. Broken were the barriers of his conscience. This was before the Marriage Act. Suborned by his learned assistants, a hireling swore to a prior marriage.

“Dingdong went the tocain of the law. Tossed from pillar to post was the fair penitent—from Courts Temporal to Courts Spiritual, by Blackstone called Courts Christian: and be it as it may with Christianity in its original form, in this griping, in this screwing, in this eviscerating form—that Christianity (as the saying is) is part and parcel of the law of the land is but too true. Lengthy of course was the vibration. Particulars of it are not remembered: nor matters it that they should be. What is remembered is—that while reading and musing, the Dæmon of Chicane appeared to me in all his hideousness. What followed? I abjured his empire. I vowed war against him. My vow has been accomplished. With what effect will be acknowledged when I am no more. Gratitude to him who deserved well of mankind is never wanting, when to profit by the fruits of it is impossible.”

Some months before Bentham was entered as a student at Oxford, his father took him there to witness Lord Westmoreland’s installation. I have heard him say that his respect for a place was measured by its distance from London, so that the proposal to visit Oxford was a most welcome one. They had for a companion a clergyman, whose father had a post in the king’s kitchen; and he supplied them with royal gingerbread for the journey, a viaticum which the young traveller then tasted for the first time. Dr Herbert Mayo had recommended that Bentham should be sent to St John’s, as being celebrated for logic; but some other influence decided for Queen’s.

On the 27th June, 1760, Bentham’s father set out with his son to settle him in Oxford; and this is the entry in his Diary:—“June 27-28. Aujourd’hui à midi, set out with my friend, Mr William Brown, and my son Jeremy, from Edition: current; Page: [36] London for Oxford. Lay at Orkney’s Arms, by Maidenhead bridge. Got to Oxford at dinner, après midi. Entered my son a commoner at Queen’s College; and he subscribed the statutes of the University in the apartment of Dr Browne, the Provost of Queen’s, he being the present vice-chancellor;* and, by his recommendation, I placed my son under the care of Mr Jacob Jefferson, as his tutor—paying Mr Jefferson for caution-money, £8; entrance to Butler, &c. 10s.; matriculation, 17s. 6d.; table fees, 10s. The age of my dear son, upon his being admitted of the University this day, is twelve years, three months, and thirteen days. On the 29th, matin à l’eglise of St Mary; après midi dined with the vice-chancellor at his own apartments at Queen’s. 30th, Dined in commons at Queen’s College with Mr Jefferson and the rest of the fellows and gownsmen of the house. Paid for a commoner’s gown for my son, £1:12:6. Paid for a cap and tassel, 7s. Expenses of journey to Oxford, £7:5:3.”

Thus Bentham was a collegian at Oxford when only twelve years and a quarter old—an extraordinary age, or youth rather, for University education; but the precocity of Bentham’s talents was the cause. He was not only very young, but very short—quite a dwarf—so that he was stared at in the streets wherever he went.

Bentham, on account of his tenderage, was not required to take the oaths; and it relieved his mind from a state of very painful doubt. Even then, the objections he felt against needless swearing were strong; and the germs of his future writings on the subject of useless oaths were present to his thoughts. His scruples of conscience were not always understood by those to whom he confessed them. Once his father led him to a place, such as he had been unused to, where he heard a person preach in an unwonted style:—

“What place is this?” inquired he.

“It is a Dissenting meeting-house,” answered his father.

“What! may we go there?” was the boy’s query.

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“We may just put our heads in,” replied his father.

But the answer shocked Bentham. If it was right just to put in the head, it was right, he thought, to put in the whole body; and, if not right to put in the whole body, it was not right just to put in the head. Bentham could not understand such inconsistency, such indifferent logic. In the latest years of his life he once said to me:—

“I never told a lie. I never, in my remembrance, did what I knew to be a dishonest thing.”

The distress of mind which he experienced, when called on to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, he thus forcibly describes:

“Understanding that of such a signature the effect and sole object was the declaring, after reflection, with solemnity and upon record, that the propositions therein contained were, in my opinion, every one of them true; what seemed to me a matter of duty was, to examine them in that view, in order to see whether that were really the case. The examination was unfortunate. In some of them no meaning at all could I find; in others no meaning but one which, in my eyes, was but too plainly irreconcileable either to reason or to scripture. Communicating my distress to some of my fellow-collegiates, I found them sharers in it. Upon inquiry it was found, that among the fellows of the college there was one, to whose office it belonged, among other things, to remove all such scruples. We repaired to him with fear and trembling. His answer was cold; and the substance of it was—that it was not for uninformed youths, such as we, to presume to set up our private judgments against a public one, formed by some of the holiest as well as best and wisest men that ever lived. . . . . I signed: but by the view I found myself forced to take of the whole business, such an impression was made, as will never depart from me but with life.”

Jacob Jefferson, who was appointed to be Bentham’s tutor, was a morose and gloomy personage, sour and repulsive—a sort of Protestant monk. His only anxiety about his pupil was, to prevent his having any amusement. A very harmless battledore and shuttlecock, were one of the enjoyments of Bentham; but Jefferson made it a point to interrupt him, not for the purpose of calling him away to his studies, but solely to stop any pleasurable excitement. He forced him to read “Tully’s Orations,” all of which he knew by heart; or the Greek Testament, which he had mastered years before; so that the tasks were alike an annoyance and humiliation. Jefferson felt pleasure in mortifying others; and Bentham thought that his time was wasted without instruction. Jefferson gave or professed to give, what he called lectures on geography. This was one of his lectures—“Where is Constantinople?” and then he touched the part of the map, where Constantinople is, with a wand. Queen’s College had, at this time, considerable reputation for its logic; and Bentham owned that Jefferson gave him, out of Sanderson’s Logic, some materials for correct reasoning. The English logic taught was Watts’, which Bentham always called “Old woman’s logic.” But his tutor took no trouble to ascertain what his pupils knew or knew not. He cared not whether they advanced or retrograded. The philosophy they learned was from Rowning; and they were amused by such paradoxes as that “water is as solid as a diamond.” Bentham took to the study of mathematics of his own accord, and without the assistance or even the knowledge of his tutor, who was always more ready to reprove than to encourage. He graduated his animadversions thus:—“Fie for shame!” that was for the slightest misdemeanour: then followed—“Fie, fie for shame!” and then, for some higher offence—“Fie, fie, fie for shame!” increasing in solemnity of utterance. The tutor had a morose and melancholy look—very unlike another instructor of Bentham’s, Dr Fothergill, who had a jolly rubicund complexion, though a very bashful man. Fothergill’s conversation was pithless and insipid. In his old age he took to himself a wife; and it was the general wonderment that he had found courage to ask anybody to marry him. As Jefferson took pupils for Edition: current; Page: [38] six guineas, and his rival, Dr Fothergill, required eight, the cheaper was selected by Bentham’s father. It mattered little—the difference was only between Bævius and Mævius. The professors generally spent all their mornings in useless routine, and all their evenings in playing cards.

Having been introduced at Oxford, Bentham returned to Westminster school—but went finally to Oxford, as already mentioned, the following October.

The narrow allowance which Bentham got from his father, did not enable him to live without incurring debt at Oxford; and miserable he was when obliged to confess the fact to his father. Dr Bentham, who was the Regius Professor of Divinity, and Canon of Christ Church, was the channel through whom the communication was made; and a remittance of ten pounds was sent to relieve the student from his embarrassments. Bentham had been a candidate at Westminster School for one of the nine vacancies to the University presentation; and Dr Bentham was one of the reverend examiners. Bentham stood out the last, and the least of the boys, and succeeded in obtaining the right of admission to King’s College; but he was dwarfish, and so weak, that ill-usage was apprehended; and he did not go after all. The successful candidates were clad in a solemn suit of black, and looked like old men. Bentham’s appearance was most singular, and attracted great attention. He was only between nine and ten years old; as diminutive in figure as precocious in intellect; and wearing short breeches, skirted coat, and the rest of the costume of mature age. The procession passed before the dignitaries, who were seated in the hall of the school, with great formality. Among them was Dr Burton, the Jaccus Etonensis, who was supposed to be an admirable Latin scholar, and whose reputation for ancient learning made him an object of special awe. He was scarcely less distinguished as a bon vivant, and for a habit of mixing quidlibet cum quolibet on the same plate. Bentham’s father applied to Dr Bentham for a studentship; but got for an answer that his patronage was engaged. Afterwards, he spontaneously offered one to Bentham; who was so humbled by neglect and annoyance, and so desponding, that, after consulting his morose tutor, Mr Jefferson, he declined the favour which the Doctor proffered.*

A memorandum of his father, at about this period is curious:—“August 18, 1760.—Paid given son Jerry more than received back from him of the guinea I gave him to play a pool at quadrille.”

“Oh, I remember this”—on my calling the memorandum to Bentham’s attention—“This was at some aristocrat’s house. I never got any money but to play at cards; and only when I won money was I allowed to keep it; so that a passion for play was likely to be excited in me. But I was cured at Oxford, where they always forced me to pay when I lost; but I never could get the money when I won: so I gave up the habit.”

Among the persons to whom Bentham was introduced at Oxford, was Oldfield Edition: current; Page: [39] Bowles, a gentleman commoner of Queen’s College; a proud man, who received Bentham somewhat disdainfully. He was the patron of a place where the Hell-Fire Club was held; a club somewhat characteristic of the then state of Oxford. It was a club of Unbelievers, Atheists, and Deists, who professed that, as they had a knowledge of their future destiny, it became them to prepare for it; and they used, it was said, to strip naked, and turn themselves round before a huge fire. Infidelity was certainly very rife at Oxford, and exhibited itself in forms the most offensive. The hypocrisy of the place disgusted Bentham, and he spoke of that University with asperity to the end of his days.

His father forced him to take a part in many matters which were annoying to him. He subscribed for him to the concerts, and required him to attend. “I attended,” he said, “in a most melancholy state. I sat still while the music played: not a living soul had I to speak to. Unhappy while I was there, I was not less unhappy when I came away.” On one occasion his father got into a long and angry dispute with a paper-hanger at Oxford, about papering Bentham’s room; and it ended in his sending paper down from town. This brought upon Bentham the ill-will of the Oxford paper-hanger; who found many ways of saying and doing, and causing others to say and do, unfriendly things. The chamber which was the origin of the misunderstanding, was a very gloomy one. It looked into the churchyard, and was covered with lugubrious hangings. Bentham’s fear of ghosts, and of the visitations of spiritual beings, was strong upon him; and the darkness of the chamber and its neighbourhood added to his alarms. But he was enabled to effect a change with another student, and got two guineas in addition, for his thirdings, on account of his better furniture. Once, at Oxford, going round to see the sights, his father took him into the hall at Christ Church, where the students were all assembled at dinner. He compelled the timid boy to go from the bottom to the top of the hall, to walk round the tables, and to report whether he recognised any school-fellow. Bentham was ready to faint—to sink into the earth with agony. “O, would he but change places with me!” said the poor lad to himself; but he dared not give utterance to any such thoughts. His father thought it excellent strategy to force him into notice; and among other arrangements for that purpose, he sent him a silk gown to wear, while the other students wore gowns of stuff.

A grievous annoyance to Bentham, at Oxford, was the formal dressing of the hair. “Mine,” he said, “was turned up in the shape of a kidney: a quince or a club was against the statutes; a kidney was in accordance with the statutes. I had a fellow-student whose passion it was to dress hair, and he used to employ a part of his mornings in shaping my kidney properly.”

Generally speaking, the tutors and professors at Oxford offered nothing to win the affections of Bentham. Some of them were profligate; and he was shocked with their profligacy: others were morose; and their moroseness alienated him: but the greatest part of them were insipid; and he had no taste for insipidity.

Among the few persons whom he remembered with pleasure, in talking of this period of his life, was a Mr Darling, who was a curate near Andover, and whom he visited with his father. He noticed Bentham with great kindness; and Bentham, in return, applied to him one of Martial’s epigrams; and, instead of the poet’s hero, inserted the good clergyman’s name. For this he got no little praise; and the visit was a succession of enjoyments. He showed to Bentham, among other things, a solar microscope. “That man was rooted deep,” he said, “in everybody’s affections; and everybody lamented that no preferment was given to so excellent a person. At last, preferment came, in the shape of the living of Wargrave, in Berkshire; and everybody felt as happy as if some individual good fortune had been conferred on them.”

If the teachings of the University were not very instructive, so neither were its amusements very interesting. Edition: current; Page: [40] Fishing was one of them. Bentham sometimes went to fish, as a relief from the weary monotony of existence. It brought some new ideas, and new occupations. At that time, a bubble on the water’s surface was a variety, and had a charm; and, to catch a minnow, was an interruption to the dulness of the day. But even the fishing sports partook of the system of neglect with which all education was conducted. Generally a poacher was hired to go with a casting-net. He caught the fish; and the youths went and got it dressed at a neighbouring inn. A few practised fly-fishing, who had skill and strength. Bentham had neither the one nor the other. No living being could be thrown into a situation less congenial than his was. Once or twice he was asked to hunt and to shoot. Others killed partridges—he only killed time. He fired as often as the rest; but the flash of the gunpowder hurt his eyes. Too timid to confess his dislike to sports that were so popular, he generally found or made an excuse for refusing to join them. In his later days, he applied his utilitarian philosophy to the subject, and made the whole animal creation objects of his benevolent suggestions; insisting that their claims to be spared the unnecessary infliction of pain stands upon the same basis as the claims of man himself.

All sorts of oppressions were exercised by the older on the younger students. One day a gentleman commoner asked Bentham to sup with him; and, after a magnificent supper, waylaid him on his return home, in a narrow lane, and seriously cut his eye, walking abruptly away. For such affrays, there was neither interference nor redress.

At Oxford, there was scarcely a companion in whose society Bentham could discover any pleasure. He found the college a stupid one, and the people in it as stupid. Mitford was a gentleman commoner there—Bentham only a commoner. They were members of the same breakfast club. Bentham thought his conversation commonplace, and never expected he would become an author. He was distinguished by his good looks, and his personal strength. “I took,” said he, “to Edward Cranmer, a descendant of Bishop Cranmer, in default of better company. But he was a noodle; and there was another noodle of the name of Archer, who, with his brother, bought a commission in the Guards, which he afterwards quitted, and became a parson. There was one Poore. At fourteen he had a strong black beard. He had obtained one of the gold medals at Winchester, for a copy of verses; and this intoxicated him. He was quite jealous if I spoke to anybody but him; when, all of a sudden, he took to another youth, and discarded me entirely. The boy’s name was Bower, whose elder brother or cousin became distinguished at the Chancery bar. There was a staid, sober fellow, of the name of Burleigh. His father was a parson; and he became a parson in turn. There was Stillingfleet—a proud priest, holding his head aloft in the air. There was a man of the name of Skip, who had some cleverness and some knowledge; and, after taking a bachelor’s degree, he went to Edinburgh—learnt more—returned to Oxford, and became M.A. At Edinburgh he picked up a little unbelief, which he retailed at Oxford on his return. We had Nicholls of Barbadoes, who afterwards got a rural deanery. He was a great dandy, but an ugly little fellow, who had reached man’s estate. He led me, now and then, into his chambers; and there, for the first time, I saw Hume’s History, which was a great treat to me. There was a gentleman commoner, who took to me a little—De Sellis, a Swiss. His chambers were underneath mine. He took in the Annual Register, which had then just appeared. I was a child; he a man; so we had few ideas in common: but the Annual Register delighted me. There was a little party that moved round Dr Smith, who knew something of chemistry, and read lectures on chemistry to a small class. I would have given one of my ears to have attended him: but that was out of the question. This little party were proud of their distinction. One of them was Wynn of Wales; and another, Bishop Bathurst, a distinguished character.

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“It was at Poore’s chambers that I met Horseley. Poore was excessively vain. He was a protegé of Harris, the author of Hermes. Harris’ son, the first Earl of Malmesbury, was then at Oxford: much too great a man to speak to me; but Poore had access to him. Poore talked a great deal about music, and was admitted to Harris’ concerts. Horseley was a man of free conversation; he was proud and insolent. Poore was a professed, nay, an ostentatious unbeliever. Horseley’s discourse was such as none but an unbeliever could use. Wilberforce knew his character; he had a perfect abhorrence of Horseley, and I have heard him call him ‘a dirty rascal,’ and ‘a dirty scoundrel.’ Poore used to boast to me, that he had made Franklin a Platonist; and he boasted loudly of the feat. I told him he had turned a wise man away from useful pursuits, to pursuits that were of no use at all. I dare say Franklin heard him very quietly, and was not moved in the least. There were two St Johns there. Goodyear St John, if he had ever learned anything, had forgotten it all. His life was one of gaming, drinking, and strumpeting. He used to take me by the heels and hold me, my head downwards; and I remember losing half-a-guinea in consequence, which fell out of my pocket. He became a parson, as there were livings in the family; so did another drunken fellow of the name of Popham. There was a young wag called Crop, who was also a debauché. I do not know what became of him, but I remember he got a lecture from the Monk Jefferson, who told him he would bring his father’s gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. ‘No! I sha’n’t,’ said he, ‘my father wears a wig.’ There was another sot, Lechmere, who used to drink till his eyes became purple, like Sheridan’s. He came into parliament. They were all either stupid or dissipated. I learnt nothing. I played at tennis once or twice. I took to reading Greek of my own fancy; but there was no encouragement: we just went to the foolish lectures of our tutors, to be taught something of logical jargon.”

When Bentham was thirteen, he wrote this Latin Ode on the death of George II., and the advent of George III.:—

  • In Obitum Serenissimi Regis Georgii 2di, et Georgii 3ii Inaugurationem.

    • Eheu Georgi! jamne Britannica
    • Gestare tædet sceptra piâ manu
    • Linguisque perculsum Senatum
    • Et populum Patre destitutum?
    • Te triste Fatum sustulit invidens
    • Tantum Britannis et decus et bonum;
    • Sed tu beatos inter, altè
    • Sceptra tenes potiore regno.
    • Quamvis ad instar fulminis, horrido
    • Gallûm phalanges diruit impetu,
    • Semperque nobis à cruento
    • Præsidium fuit hoste tutum.
    • Illumque Regem rudis Americus
    • Agnovit armis, indomitus prius;
    • Et Georgii longè remotus
    • Arma videns trepidavit Afer.
    • Ne spem Britanni ponite; protinus
    • En surgit alter Georgius; ille avi
    • Virtutibus, famâ, et coronâ
    • Angliacâ, potietur hæres.
    • Et si favebit prospera moribus
    • Fortuna prorsus labe carentibus,
    • Et rara Virtus Sanctitasque
    • Par pretium meritis habebunt,
    • Nil Georgii non perficient manus;
    • Redditque fessis Marte diutino
    • Pacem Britannis; atque clemens
    • Jure reget populum volentem.*

These verses made some noise, as being the composition of so young a person; and were given, by Chamberlain Clarke, to Sir John Hawkins, in order that he might obtain Dr Johnson’s opinion of them. That opinion was sent to Oxford, that Bentham might benefit by his corrections. Bentham himself said of his Ode—“It was a mediocre performance, on a trumpery subject, written by a miserable child. It was, perhaps, as good as those which were accepted.”

I have, however, in Dr Johnson’s handwriting, his observations on the Ode. He suggests some alterations; but concludes by saying—

“When these objections are removed, the copy will, I believe, be received; for it is a very pretty performance of a young man.”

Bentham gave this account of his poetical attempt:—“Thirteen years had not been numbered by me when the second of the Guelphs was gathered to his fathers. Waste of time had been Edition: current; Page: [42] commenced by me at Queen’s College, Oxford. Tears were demanded by the occasion, and tears were actually paid accordingly. Meantime, according to custom, at that source and choice seat of learning, loyalty, and piety, a fasciculus of poetry—appropriate poetry—was called for, at the hands of the ingenious youths, or such of them whose pens were rich enough to be guided by private tutors. My quill, with the others, went to work; though, alas! without learned or reverend hand to guide it. In process of time, by dint of hard labour, out of Ainsworth’s Dictionary and the Gradus ad Parnassum, were manufactured stanzas of Latin Alcaics, beginning Eheu Georgi! certifying and proclaiming the experienced attributes of the dead god and the surely-expected ditto of the living one, with grief in proper form at the beginning, and consolation, in no less proper form, at the end.”

One of Bentham’s jokes, dated Crutched Friars, January 29, 1761, I find in his father’s hand-writing, in English and Latin. It is not amiss for a boy yet under fourteen, though not very complimentary to his friend:—

  • I’m asked to see his ape, by neighbour Blanckley:
  • I’ll go—but, fear a truth, I’ll tell you frankly,
  • Lest he should strip the creature of his rug,
  • And in his skin impose himself for pug;
  • For had he but the skin, there needs no more:
  • In genius, manners, phiz—he’s pug all o’er.

In amicum meum, Stanyfordum Blanckley, et Simiam ejus:

  • Visere Blanckleianum accersor Cercopithecum;
  • Ibo; sed hoc metuo (non etenim absimile est)
  • Ne forte illudat vestitus pelle ferinâ
  • Ipsumque ostendat se mihi—pro Simiâ:
  • Pelle sit indutus; præsto sunt cætera ouncta;
  • Ingeniumque, et mos est Simialis et Os.

“In those days,” said Bentham, “came the coronation. My father was indulgent. I was sent for from College to take a gape at the raree-show. Passing along the Park, as the young sovereign was traversing it likewise, some how or other I caught a glimpse of him. In rushed upon my mind the exclamation in the Æneid—O Deus certè. Nothing but the apprehension of a false concord could have prevented the ecstatic utterance of it. At any rate, to the being an angel of light nothing was wanting in him but wings.”

It was amusing to hear Bentham talk of the early impressions of his life respecting great people. For kings, and especially the kings of England, he had felt unbounded reverence. “Loyalty and virtue,” I have heard him say, “were then synonymous terms.” When a little boy—and, as I have mentioned, he was singularly little—he made a great effort to get a peep at George the Second, and succeeded to his ineffable delight in seeing the top of his wig—the king was then in company with the Duke of Cumberland. He was present at the coronation of George the Third, and remembered that he described the young monarch as “a most beautiful man.” In after life far different sentiments filled his mind. His opinion of George the Third was as low, as mean, as one human being could well have of another. He called him treacherous, selfish, deceitful, tyrannical, vehemently attached to all abuses—violently opposed to all reforms—a hypocrite and a liar.

I do not believe he ever conversed with George the Third. He only saw him once when he (Bentham) was travelling with Lord Lansdowne, and Lord Lansdowne got out of the carriage and went to talk to the king, leaving Bentham alone; but Lord L. did not mention when he returned what had passed between them.

Illustrative of Bentham’s situation at Oxford, is the following, addressed by him (ætat. 13) to his father, on

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
30th June, 1761
Dear Papa,

I have sent you a declamation I spoke last Saturday, with the approbation of all my acquaintances, who liked the thing itself very well, but still better my manner of speaking it. Even a bachelor of my acquaintance went so far as to say that he never heard but one speak a declamation better all the time he has been in College; which, indeed, is not much to say, as, perhaps, you imagine, for sure nobody can speak worse than we do here; for, in short, ’tis like repeating just so many lines out of a Propria quæ Maribus. I have disputed, too, in the Hall once, and am going in again to-morrow. There also I came off with honour, having fairly Edition: current; Page: [43] beat off, not only my proper antagonist, but the moderator himself; for he was forced to supply my antagonist with arguments, the invalidity of which I clearly demonstrated. I should have disputed much oftener, but for the holidays or eves, that happen on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and, besides, we went three times into the Hall before we disputed ourselves, that we might see the method. Indeed, I am very sorry it did not come to my turn to dispute every disputation day; for, for my own part, I desire no better sport. I wish you would let me come home very soon, for my clothes are dropping off my back; and if I don’t go home very soon, to get new ones, I must not go down stairs, they are so bad; for as soon as one hole is mended, another breaks out again; and, as almost all the commoners either are gone for the vacation, or will go in a day or two’s time, very little business will be going forward. Pray, give me an answer very soon, that I may know whether I am to wear clothes or go in rags. Pray, give my duty to grandmamma, and love to dear Sammy, and represent the woful condition of one who is, nevertheless, your dutiful and affectionate son,

“J. Bentham.

“I should be glad to know yours and Mr Skinner’s opinion of Higgenbroccius.

“Pray, see if you can make out this thing, which is strictly true here:—Nostra parva ursa non solum est rus, vel, sed etiam oportet ego.

“Pray, excuse my not writing over my declamation.

From Queen’s College, Oxford.

The following amusing Oxford story I find in Bentham’s MSS. of this period:—

“Among the curiosities in the museum at Oxford, a certain cicerone, who was entertaining some strangers with the inspection of the contents of that repository, came at last to an old sword, deeply enriched with the precious rust of antiquity.

“ ‘This sword,’ says he—‘ay, let me see—yes, this sword is the very sword that Balaam slew the ass with.’

“ ‘I beg pardon, sir,’ observed one of the company, ‘for interrupting you; but my notion had all along been that the ass had found a friend to intercede for him, and that, as to all but a sound drubbing, poor dapple came off with a whole skin. I am speaking of the common accounts we have of that celebrated transaction; but, perhaps, these valuable archives may have furnished you with some more authentic evidence, to show that the intercession of the ass’s friend was attended with like consequences to those of Don Quixote’s interposition in favour of the young ploughboy that was receiving discipline from his father.’

“ ‘Indeed, sir,’ replied the cicerone. ‘I know no more of the business than every gentleman present knows. It was my mistake. What you say is right: the ass was not slain. This sword, therefore, is the sword he would have slain the ass with, if he could have got one.’ ”*

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In 1763, being then about sixteen—a rare honour for so young a lad—Bentham took his degree of Bachelor of Arts. He had, for some time, been in possession of a small exhibition, amounting to about £20 a-year.

It would seem to have been a usage at Oxford, for students to wear borrowed plumes in order to obtain degrees. In Bentham’s hand-writing I find this memorandum:—

“The following three epigrams were made by Jeremy Bentham, Commoner of Queen’s College, Oxon., for a friend of his, and were spoken by his friend in the public schools, for his exercise as a determining bachelor, on Ash-Wednesday, in Lent Term, 1763:—


    • ‘Unde fit ut totâ digitis signatus in urbe
    • Corniger à populo prætereunte vocer?
    • Unde fit ut nostras celebrent nova cantica laudes,
    • Attentoque foco garrula narrat anus?
    • (Urbanus senior questus sic fundit amico:)
    • Horum scire velim quis mihi causa fuit?’
    • ‘Quis tu causa, rogas? non ille nec illa, sed ipeum
    • Suspicor uxori Jura negasse tuæ? idem affr.
    • Quis tu causa rogas? uxorem consule, noster,
    • Auctores semper res habet ista duos.’

    • Cum lassa in notâ posuisset membra Cathedrâ,
    • En reducem ex Aulâ me, hei mihi, civis ait,
    • Unus erat, nutum flectens se cujus ad omnem
    • Increbuit circa spissa caterva virûm.
    • Regi a consiliis hic est, mihi proximus inquit,
    • Hic est imperii quem penes omnis honos,
    • Porrigit huc manum; in hunc placidos convertit ocellos:
    • Affatur comes hunc, quomodo amice vales
    • Quisquis blanditias quicquam, aut promîssa valere
    • Credit, judicio fallitur ille meo.
    • Sint nummi in manibus mihi, quivis cætera sumat
    • His audire juvet, sed mihi tacta placent.

    • Quodam erat in vico, bene qui præstigia nôrat
    • Versarique levi pollice quemque dolum.
    • Prodent hic quivis, atque hæc, quam cernitis, illum
    • Semotè à nobis charta sequetur, ait,
    • Dixit, et in mediis puer astat; at ipsa secuta est,
    • Atque leve à tergo charta pependit onus.
    • Respiciens stupet ipse puer; stupet inscia turba,
    • Et magica hic certe est arte peritus ait.
    • Callidior donec chartam puer arripit, et mox
    • Ostendit sociis tenuia fila suis.

When Bentham came to town from Oxford, his father insisted upon his attention to the dancing-master; and, though he hinted at his repugnance, it was in vain.

“I never can make out this figure of eight,” he said, “which the dancing-master will have me to learn. If the other dancers will stand still—if they will consent to be statues for a little while—I will make the figure of eight around or about them; but, as they are always moving, I know not where to find them.”

With all his love and admiration of his son, it is strange how Mr Bentham should have so completely failed in obtaining his confidence. Never were too natures more unlike. The consequence Edition: current; Page: [45] was that Bentham never opened his heart to his father. He could not even communicate to him his sorrows. Bentham was more than once penniless. All his money was stolen from him at Oxford by the person who made his bed. He never breathed a word of the calamity. I find the latest letters to his father commence with the words—“Honoured Sir.”

CHAPTER III.: 1763—1770. Æt. 15—25.

Enters as Student in Court of King’s Bench.—Lincoln’s Inn.—Blackstone’s Lectures.—Wilkes’ Trial: Lord Mansfield.—A Tour in the North of England.—Visits France.—Mrs Cibber.—Sir Joshua Reynolds.—Father’s Marriage with Mrs Abbott.—Master’s Degree.—Anecdotes of the Mackreth Family.—Propensity to involuntary Laughter.—Leaves Oxford.—Bias of his Mind.—Reminiscences of Places and Persons: Sir John Hawkins: Hawkesworth: Sir W. Jones: White: Lowndes: Chamberlain Clarke.—Authentication of a Portrait of Milton.—Pierre Vrillon.—Excursions.—Account of Lind and Nathaniel Forster, with Notices of Camden, Rosslyn, Franklin, Parr, and Prince Czartoriski.—Wilkes and George III.—Duelling.—Residence in Paris.—John Forster.—Wortley Montague.

In 1763, Bentham took his place as a student in the Court of King’s Bench, Westminster Hall; and his father gave Mr Perkins, the crier of the court, seven shillings and sixpence to secure a particular seat during the term. This seat was immediately below the officers, under the judges. There were four such seats. There was, in those days, room for two students on each side of the judge on the bench; but Lord Kenyon put an end to the usage. The crier was generally fee’d in order to obtain the seat. Bentham began to eat his commons in Lincoln’s Inn in November, 1763; but returned to Oxford the beginning of the following December. He then attended Blackstone’s lectures; and the impressions made upon him he thus describes:—

“I attended with two collegiates of my acquaintance. One was Samuel Parker Coke, a descendant of Lord Coke, a gentleman commoner, who afterwards sat in Parliament: the other was Dr Downes. They both took notes; which I attempted to do, but could not continue it, as my thoughts were occupied in reflecting on what I heard. I immediately detected his fallacy respecting natural rights; I thought his notions very frivolous and illogical about the gravitating downwards of hæreditas; and his reasons altogether futile, why it must descend and could not ascend—an idea, indeed, borrowed from Lord Coke. Blackstone was a formal, precise, and affected lecturer—just what you would expect from the character of his writings: cold, reserved, and wary—exhibiting a frigid pride. But his lectures were popular, though the subject did not then excite a wide-spreading interest, and his attendants were not more than from thirty to fifty. Blackstone was succeeded by Dr Beavor, who read lectures on Roman law, which were laughed at, and failed in drawing such audiences as Blackstone drew.

“February 21.—Aujourd’hui, fils Jeremy attended Wilkes’ trial, in Court of King’s Bench,” is in his father’s memorandum book. The trial was for publishing the North Briton. After his outlawry, when Wilkes came into court to surrender, Sir Fletcher Norton, who had been doing all he could to ruin him, advanced towards him, and shook him most cordially by the hand. Bentham heard the outlawry reversed; and has often mentioned that he was perfectly bewitched by Lord Mansfield’s grimgibber. He leaned back in his chair, and made the speech which won for him, at the time, so much applause and admiration. It is in Burrow’s Edition: current; Page: [46] Reports, from a copy which Lord Mansfield furnished. His manners were full of grace. He was a short, squat man, with a most eloquent physiognomy, and fascinating voice. Bentham kept, as a great treasure, a picture of him, given by Martin, his protegé, and frequently went to Caen Wood, as a lover to the shrine of his mistress, in the hope that chance might throw him in his way, and that he might get the honour of a word or a look from him. Bentham began a eulogistic poem to him, of which the first stanza was:—

“Hail, noble Mansfield! chief among the just, The bad man’s terror, and the good man’s trust!”

But there he stuck; the muse abandoned him, and he could not accomplish a second satisfactory rhyme. Bentham heard much about him, however, from his friend, Lind, who was sometimes invited to dinner by the noble judge. His conversation was always better than the cheer, according to Lind’s account of both.

In the year 1764, Bentham accompanied his father to the north of England. I will give some of his recollections, in his own words:—

“I did not like Althorp—it was a gloomy place. The trees hung down on the ground, heavily and sadly. We stayed some days at Matlock wells, at one of the lodging-houses. Everything was cheap there. We paid a shilling for a handsome dinner. The scenery is beautifully picturesque. There were then no fine buildings at Matlock. The rooms had for their ornaments festoons of moss; and the pictures of the surrounding landscapes hung on the walls. The rocks were grand and novel, and the streams ran down them delightfully. I remember no interesting events. If there were any, their memory has evaporated, and left no trace behind. But I got ennuyé at Buxton, where the party lingered about the baths; and I got a horse and went in quest of adventures, but found none. We went to Stockport, Liverpool, Chester, Macclesfield, and the Wiches, where the salt is made. Warrington was then classic ground. Priestley lived there. What would I not have given to have found courage to visit him? He had already written several philosophical works; and in the tail of one of his pamphlets I had seen that admirable phrase, ‘greatest happiness of greatest number,’ which had such an influence on the succeeding part (which some erroneously call the afterpart) of my life. Chester is a curious place; built of red stone; and you go upon a platform between the shops, where there is a sort of veranda, which resembles the shops at Bucharest. Great numbers of people were always walking there. At Ross, we were introduced to Dr Roberts, a naturalist, who received us hospitably, quoted Tacitus to us, and recommended us to a Mr Jordan, who had large copper works. Him we found not; but we found two young ladies, who gave us dinner, and escorted us to the Abbey; a pleasant trip to a pretty ruin. At Monmouth (within a mile) is a place called Hadnock Hall, where Lord Admiral Griffin resided, who is mentioned in the history of the East India Company, as he commanded a squadron on the coast of Coromandel. Here he lived in retirement; but welcomed us kindly. His eldest son was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, with legs as large as an ordinary man’s body; his second son, an attorney; his third, a parson, with whom I had done sundry exercises at Queen’s College. On the estate, was a perfect castle—noble, lofty, and picturesque. Though built in King John’s time, it was little dilapidated. We crossed the Severn and got to Bristol, where we had many friends. I was pleased to be in the birthplace of Coulston, whose picture, with four verses from Claudian at its foot, I had been taught to venerate in my childhood. One of our acquaintances at Bristol was Mrs Vernon. We called her the Lady Unaccountable: she told such stories, made such reflections, pointed such sarcasms, that we were highly amused. Two of her daughters had made stolen matches. She saw them; but her husband would not. We went through Bath to Browning Hill.

“I was at this time about sixteen; but still a dwarf—a perfect dwarf. I had no calfs to my legs; and one Mr Edition: current; Page: [47] Harris, a Quaker, offended me not a little by asking me whither my calves were gone a-grazing. But, after this period, I shot up.

“We also visited Sir John Hawkins, and Mrs Southgate, of whose husband Constantia Philips had been a paramour. He is mentioned by her in her Memoirs under the name of Tartuffe. He was a Roman Catholic, and affected great devotion.”

In this year (1764) Bentham accompanied his father and a party of friends to France. He was delighted with a visit they paid to the chateau of the Prince of Condé at Chantilly. The carp in the fish-ponds were so tame, that they took the sticks of the visiters into their mouths.

“I did envy the Prince,” said Bentham, “his beautiful palace. I exclaimed, What a bliss to be a Prince! I was not much wiser than the ploughboy, who said his bliss would be to swing all day upon a gate, eating beef and carrots; or than a Justice of the Peace, who told me that his summum bonum was to grab for eels in the mud; and whom I once found tearing up ‘Sanderson’s Logic’ to ram into his fowlingpiece.”

At Paris, they went the accustomed round of sight-seeing. The question of daily debate was where they should dine. “Anywhere,” was the old gentleman’s constant answer to the inquiry; but he had always some objection to the “where” suggested. He took his son to see the tomb of James the Second at the Carmelite Convent; but although born and bred a Jacobite, most of his monarchical prejudices had oozed out before Bentham’s birth.

France, as a country, left an unfavourable impression on young Bentham. The imitations of England appeared wretched; its gardens stiff and formal. But of the French, as a nation, he was always fond: their vivacity, courtesy, and aptitude for enjoyment, responded to all the tendencies of his own character. At Versailles, the beauty of the dauphiness charmed him. Most of the favourable impressions he received were from the people; but the backwardness of their agriculture, and of their domestic civilisation, seemed strangely contrasted with the advances even then made by England.

He wished to bring from Paris, as a present to his aunt, the stamp by which the pots of butter were impressed, representing on one side the king of England, and on the other the king of France; but the cost (fifteen livres) was too great, and he was forced to content himself with presenting a bottle of oil of jessamine. On many occasions, Bentham’s poverty interfered with his engagements and his studies. He was passionately fond of chemistry, and indeed of all experimental philosophy; but was denied the means of obtaining the necessary apparatus for pursuing his investigations. On one occasion, he bargained with a chemist to have the sweepings of his shop in phials, &c., for half-a-crown. Had he met with more encouragement, his mind would probably have been principally or wholly directed to the physical sciences. They have happily found other successful explorers; and it can be no subject of regret, that less attractive but more important questions soon absorbed the whole attention of Bentham.

In his father’s memoranda, I find:—“1765, Dec. 31.—Lent Jerry sixpence to pay for his losses at cards;” and I read this note to him. “Most true,” said he; “and that sixpence which I owed my father has never been paid: the statute of limitation saves me in part, my being his executor wholly.”

At this time of Bentham’s life, he got some counsels from a friend, (whose name I shall conceal, because he was the practical exemplification of the sagacity of his doctrines,) to this effect:—

“If you mean to rise, catch hold of the skirts of those who are above you, and care nothing for those beneath you.”

His friend caught hold of the skirts of an archbishop, and got to be a judge. Bentham listened coldly to the advice; was coldly regarded, ever after, by the aspirant; and died, not a judge, but a philosopher.

One or two memoranda of Bentham, of the year 1765, are worth preserving.

“I went to see Mrs Cibber at Covent Edition: current; Page: [48] Garden: she was beautiful at sixty. Another woman, beautiful at sixty, was Mrs Yates, whom I saw in Ophelia.”

“I remember going to Twickenham church with my father and Mr Reynolds, afterwards Sir Joshua. His conversation left no impression on me: his countenance was not pleasing. There was great talk about painting, and about his painting; but I knew nothing about painting, and cared nothing about him. His Una I remember sitting in a queer posture, and without a chair.”

“Fine colours were the order of the day. I had a pea-green coat and green silk breeches, which were first exhibited on a walk, with Chamberlain Clarke, from Oxford to Farrington. The breeches were bitterly tight; and I was frightfully tired.”

“When Lind came to my father, it wasin his flowered dress, with purple and gold, and I know not what; for he had a prodigious quantity of fine clothes, cut velvet embroidery, silver, gold, and all sorts of trappings.”

“Fortescue’s treatise on the difference between absolute and limited monarchy was, at this time, put into my hands by my father. Its recommendation was, that it eulogized our institutions. Fortescue was one of the many whose families owe their large fortunes to the law—fortunes accumulated by the denial of justice; for its costliness is denial to all who cannot pay.”

In this year, Bentham’s father married Mrs Abbott. She was the widow of Dr John Abbott, and the mother of Charles Abbott, who was afterwards Speaker of the House of Commons, and became Lord Colchester. The marriage caused Bentham much vexation; and he always spoke of his step-mother with dislike. In his father’s memoranda, I find:—“Dr Samuel Smith, the head master of Westminster School, married us on the 14th October; and he very kindly refused to accept a compliment of five guineas, which I offered him on the occasion.”

In 1766, Bentham took his Master’s degree at Oxford. His father gave him £20 on the occasion. He said he felt no small degree of pride to be so distinguished. The Bachelors having no particular costume—“I strutted,” he said, “like a crow in a gutter.” When the election for Members of Parliament took place, a curious question was mooted as to whether Bentham’s vote could be received, he being under age; but the man for whom he voted having beaten his opponent by a large majority, there was no scrutiny.

Among the new acquaintances Bentham had at this period, were the Mackreths, of whom he gave me this account:—“The name brings back both interesting and painful recollections. You have heard me mention the Plowden family, and a place called Yewhurst—a parish within itself, which took its name from an avenue of lofty yew trees. The proprietor, as you heard, was a roué, who took orders in the latter period of his life, that he might have the tithes in addition to the property. He paid a petty curate. He had a beautiful daughter, who married Mr Wheeler, who became, in process of time, one of the council of Bengal. Yewhurst was sold, about this time (1766), to a Mr Mackreth, with whom, I believe, my father had some acquaintance, as he was also acquainted with a Mr Harding, who kept a small coffee-house near Temple Bar, where he had amassed some fortune, and left business. My father, who had known the coffee-house keeper, was, of course, intimate with the retired gentleman, who lived in James’ Street. Mackreth had been a publican too, having kept the great house called White’s, near Arthur’s. He had been a waiter there, and found favour in the sight of Arthur’s daughter, whom he married. He must have been above forty, though he did not appear more than twenty-six or twenty-seven. He died, not long ago, at the age of ninety-four. I had met him, a few days before his death, looking like a man of sixty, with no signs of decrepitude. Mrs Mackreth was a woman whose face was beautiful, but her body deformed: elegant in manners, as if her father had been a duke. And her husband was a clever, well-informed man. He bought Yewhurst, and came to live there, as it had a very good house. He introduced many improvements, Edition: current; Page: [49] such as picturesque gardens, fish-ponds, &c. In the year of my father’s marriage, I went from Browning Hill to visit the Mackreths, who received me most kindly. There were present a Mr Robins, who had been or was a great confectioner, with whom Mr Arthur had probably dealt; and a Mr Chauvel, whom they called Colonel Chauvel, but who had been in trade. Mackreth kept his town as well as his country house, and was proud of the hospitality he displayed at Yewhurst, where he had his billiard-table, bowling-green, and other amusements; and he gathered about him many interesting characters: so I was in Elysium there; and he kept me in Elysium from day to day. My visit lingered far longer than I had thought; and I sent and got changes of linen at Browning Hill, and wandered about to all the attractions of the neighbourhood. Among others, I remember Freemantle Park, where there was a well 400 feet deep. I was happy as a king; occupied a sumptuous bedroom, fitted up in the highest style of taste and elegance. Mackreth’s great ambition was to be considered a gentleman, and to be admitted among the quality: but he often was disappointed; for those who knew he had been a waiter at Arthur’s, could not bear the thought of recognising his equality. He did not neglect his own interest, and made much money by buying and selling estates. He was full of prejudices; and I remember his answering an eulogium of mine upon Hume by saying—‘But he is a Scotsman.’ I found, afterwards, that one reason of his great attention to me, was the wish of being instructed by me. Among other contrivances, he arranged to lose money at cards, so that it might get into my pocket. The scene was one of prosperity and felicity. But I had a weakness, of which you have heard me speak: I could not always restrain my laughter, even when there was no motive for laughter. It was as much a disease as the diabetes. He had asked two stupid fellows to dine with him. There was a great entertainment, and the usual profusion. I saw a dish that was unknown to me, and asked him what it was? Chouxfleurs à la—something, I forget what, he said, but without any impropriety in the pronunciation. A fit of laughing came over me. I asked him to repeat it. Another fit more violent came on. He supposed I meant to insult him. I had not the presence of mind to say that it was an infirmity, and that my thoughts were altogether passive. I had given great offence. Everybody looked blank; and when I left the house there was an obvious change of feeling towards me. Once, afterwards, I dined there with my uncle. His mind was too poor to find interesting matter for anybody; and, in truth, nobody was present but uninteresting people. After dinner, a bed was offered to everbody but to me. The fact was, I had destroyed his purpose of ingratiating himself with the two booby country gentlemen, who supposed I had detected in him some gross vulgarism. I had another calamity there; going out in their carriage, the glass was so transparent that I perceived no glass at all. I spat; and covered with false shame, wiped it away with my handkerchief. This was my final condemnation. I never got another invitation. He used to take me to parties in the neighbourhood; but it was all over now. I not only lost the wonted pleasures, but I was haunted with dread lest my father should question me respecting Mr and Mrs Mackreth. Happily he never asked any questions about it. Mackreth afterwards got into parliament for Oxford; but there were so many behind whose chairs he had officiated at dinner, that it would not do. He was excluded from their company. He became a knight, too, for some office he held in Westminster. Fourteen years afterwards, I had to sell the little property at Browning Hill; and I wrote to him that I was not insensible of the civilities with which he had honoured my earlier youth. I asked for an interview to offer the estate to him. He received me, not rudely, but with coldness and indifference. He said he was going to dine with some country gentlemen, in a tone which conveyed to me his wish that I should observe he had country gentlemen to invite him notwithstanding Edition: current; Page: [50] my misdoings. It was Mr Limbey he was about to visit, a country gentleman who passed his life like an oyster, doing nothing, hearing nothing, reading nothing. I never saw Mackreth afterwards. My laugh had rankled in his mind. His ardent ambition could not forget it. I lost much enjoyment and much instruction in losing his friendship; for he was well acquainted with the world, and his conversation would have been eminently useful to me. Even now I cannot forgive my own weakness. You may well imagine the value of those histories with which he was acquainted. His situation was one of comfort and luxury: mine of solitude, abandonment, penury, and wretchedness.

“Twice I remember the perils to which this propensity to involuntary laughter exposed me. I was at George’s Coffee-house, sitting by the fire; and Mr Little Hales was opposite me. A fit came on. He thought he was the object, and he used words importing a challenge. This made matters worse than before; and I laughed myself into a state of corporeal suffering. At Oxford, a passage of ‘Chrononhotonthologes’ set me laughing till a quantity of a liquid I was drinking was forced on the lungs. I fell down on my knees in agony. The study of anatomy enabled me to vanquish an infirmity which had caused me so much misery.”

Bentham left Oxford, in 1767, little benefited, as he thought, by the instructions he had received in that university. The primary object of his father, in sending him there, had failed; for he had not used the opportunities, which a college life afforded, of making his way among the great, and forming acquaintances to which he might look for distinction and preferment in coming days. His father had imagined that he would have been launched from Oxford into splendid reputation at the bar. Little, indeed, did the views of the son respond to the ambition of his sire. What Bentham saw of the arts of rising in the world did not much encourage him to become a practitioner in them. At the present hour, the patronage of the great is not the sole instrument of honourable distinction; but, at that time, the two sections of the aristocracy held, at their exclusive disposal, every avenue to place and power; and the man of humble birth, who determined to be a follower of neither, was necessarily excluded from the influential walks of life. The science of government was the science of corruption; and prostrate servility was generally the first step in the career of elevation.

Connected with this period of Bentham’s history, I shall introduce some of his conversations, in which the names of many persons known to fame will figure, and which enable me to give a more autobiographical character to my narration.

“When first I became acquainted with Hogarth, which was when first I became acquainted with life, I did not know he had illustrated Hudibras. I should have been glad to have had ‘The Rake’s Progress:’ but my father made over all the Barking pictures and all the family relics to a Mrs Nurse. I should have been rejoiced to have had them: the pretium affectionis which they had in my eyes, gave them no such value in other eyes.

“It is a great mortification to me, that so many houses to which I was attached in my childhood, have ceased to exist. For the house in Cratched Friars my father paid. There was the large garden, in which were a few fig-trees whose fruit never attempted to ripen; and a sick mulberry-tree, which indeed did produce fruit, but it was worth but little. When I came from Oxford to visit my friends the Browns, in Cursitor Street, great was my delight to see the garden there. One of Brown’s daughters married a man called Mansell, who afterwards became Sheriff of Northampton. The other daughter died. I liked to go to Sir John Hawkins’: he used to talk to me of his quarrels, and he was always quarrelling. He had a fierce dispute with Doctor Hawkesworth, who wrote the ‘Adventurer,’ and managed the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ which he called his Dragon. He had a woman in his house with red hair; and this circumstance, of which Hawkins availed Edition: current; Page: [51] himself, gave him much advantage in the controversy. Hawkins was always tormenting me with his disputatious correspondence; always wondering how there could be so much depravity in human nature; yet he was himself a good-for-nothing fellow, haughty and ignorant, picking up little anecdotes and little bits of knowledge. He was a man of sapient look. ‘All is not gold that glistens.’ Another sapient-looking man was White, the Solicitor to the Treasury, a trumpery creature: he was remarkably staid. I saw him walking arm-in-arm with Lord Eldon, happily suited. There was Lowndes, too, ill-tempered to the last degree. He was Pitt’s doer for the Treasury acts, and was made Chairman of the Board of Taxes. When Morton Pitt invited Minister Pitt and others to meet me, Lowndes was there. He was insolent and stupid beyond all conception. I had occasion to see how miserably all public business is conducted. Lady Hawkins told me, that on one occasion she had made twenty-seven cups of tea for Dr Johnson.”

“While at the university, I wrote some verses on the taking of the Havannah; they were given to Dr Johnson, who made, what I thought, some unfounded criticisms on them. The verses, with the criticism, I gave to Miss V—, who wanted to possess Dr Johnson’s antograph.”

“I never saw Sir William Jones but once. He was an industrious man with no sort of genius, who made a great rout about small matters, and went spinning cobwebs out of his own brain, and winding them round common law.”

Chamberlain Clarke was an old and intimate acquaintance of the Bentham family. He married the daughter of one of the trustees of Sir John Cass’s Charity, with a fortune of £12,000.

Bentham sketched Clarke’s character thus:—

“He ridiculed Panopticon; he had admiration for all that is ancient; dislike for all that is modern: he had a theory that law should descend from generation to generation, because law is weighty, and ought, therefore, naturally to descend: he put me on the wrong scent in my studies; prevented my getting forward by always driving me back, back. He set me to read indifferent accounts of law as it was; he so filled my mind with notions of the merit of looking backwards, that I took to Anglo-Saxon inquiries, studied their language, and set myself to learning laws that had passed away.

“I remember joining him to deplore the loss of Lord Mansfield’s MSS. by the mob; I should now think such a loss a gain.

“Clarke was an amiable and inoffensive man. When, about 1792, an act passed for making paid police magistrates—a bill drawn up by the late Lord Colchester, then Mr Abbot—Clarke applied for, and obtained one of the appointments. He had been formerly clerk to Sir John Hawkins.”

The first brief Bentham ever got, was from Mr Clarke; it was a suit in equity, on which £50 depended; and the counsel he gave was, that the suit had better be put an end to, and the money that would be wasted in the contest saved.

“He used to show me a book he had, which belonged to John Locke. The writing was a common hand; stiff and stately, like that of King William’s days.”

There was a sort of rivalry between Chamberlain Clarke, who had bought Cowley’s house, and Mr Bentham, senior, who had bought Milton’s: it was this circumstance that induced him to wish to obtain Milton’s picture. In his Diary is this memorandum:—

“1776, January 26.—Called at Mr Joseph Bolton’s, who told me that Mr Hall had directed him to send me the picture of John Milton,* by way of present.”

Memorandum on the back of the picture:—

“The original of this picture is in the hands of the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons,* Edition: current; Page: [52] and was procured for him by me, from the executors of Milton’s widow, soon after her death, which happened in Cheshire about 1728. He gave twenty guineas for it. This copy was done by Mr Philip Gresha, for me.

“12th January, 1737-8.

William Cowper.

“Cl. dom. dom.”

In another page of the same Diary is the following mem.:—

“The following is a copy of an inscription, under the handwriting of Arthur Onslow, Esq., late Speaker of the House of Commons, at the back of a picture of Milton, at Ember Court, Surrey:—

“ ‘This original picture of Milton I bought in the year 1729 or 30, and paid twenty guineas for it, of Mr Cumberbatch, a gentleman of very good consideration in Chester, who was a relation and executor of the will of Milton’s last wife, who died a little while before that time. He told me it hung up in her chamber till her death, and that she used to say her husband gave it her, to show her what he was in his youth, being drawn when he was about twenty-one years of age.

“ ‘Ar. Onslow.

“ ‘Mr Hawkins Browne, (author of the poem De Animi Immortalitate,) told me (8th October, 1753) that he knew this Mrs Milton; visited her often, and well remembered this picture hanging in her chamber, and which, she said, was of her husband.

“ ‘A. O.’

“Compare this picture with that of Milton in his old age, or with the print of it by White. Mem. The above picture, upon a view of it, (at the Right Hon. George Onslow’s, lately made Lord Cranley,) on the 2d June, 1776, by me Jeremiah Bentham, appeared to me to be twenty-two inches long, by eighteen inches wide, within the frame.”

Jeremiah Bentham collected in his memoranda books many particulars of the poet. Some of these appear worth preserving. They were extracted probably from the periodicals of his day, as for example:

“Mr Jonathan Hartop, now living at the village of Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, has attained the amazing age of 137 years, having been born in 1653. His father and mother both died of the plague at their house in the Minories, 1666, and he perfectly remembered the great fire of London. He is short in stature, has been married eight times, and has now alive 7 children, 26 grandchildren, 74 great-grandchildren, and 40 great-great-grandchildren. He can read without spectacles, and plays at cribbage with perfect recollection. Last Christmas day, he walked nine miles to dine with one of his great-grandchildren. He remembers Charles the Second perfectly well, and once travelled to London with the facetious Killigrew. He eats but little, and drinks nothing but milk. He enjoys an uninterrupted flow of spirits. The third wife of this very extraordinary old man, was an illegitimate daughter of Oliver Cromwell, who gave with her a portion of five hundred pounds. He has in his possession a fine portrait of the usurper by Cooper, for which the late Mr Hollis offered him three hundred pounds.

“Mr Hartop lent the great Milton fifty pounds soon after the Restoration, which the bard returned to him with honour, although not without much difficulty, as his circumstances were very low. Mr Hartop would have declined receiving it again, but the pride of the poet was equal to his genius, and he sent the money with an angry letter, which is extant among the curious possessions of this venerable man.”

The following is a copy of a letter from Mr George Vertue to Mr Charles Christian:—

George Vertue
Vertue, George
Charles Christian
Christian, Charles
“Mr Christian,

Pray inform my Lord Harley that I have, on Thursday last, seen the daughter of Milton the poet. I carried with me two or three different prints of Milton’s picture, which she immediately knew as like her father; and told me her mother-in-law, living in Cheshire, had two portraits of him—one when he was a school-boy, and the Edition: current; Page: [53] other when he was about twenty. She knows of no other picture of him, because she was several years in Ireland both before and after his death. She was the youngest of Milton’s daughters by his first wife, and was taught to read to her father several languages.

“Mr Addison was desirous of seeing her once, and desired she would bring with her testimonials of being Milton’s daughter; but as soon as she came into the room, he told her she needed none, her face having much of the likeness of the picture he had seen of him.

“For my part, I find the features of her face very much like the prints; I showed her the painting I have to engrave, which she believes not to be her father’s picture, it being of a brown complexion, and black hair and curled locks. On the contrary, he was of a fair complexion, a little red in the cheeks, and light-brown lank hair.

(Signed) “George Vertue.

“At this period, 1768-70,” continued Bentham, “I used to visit a foreign merchant of the name of Pierre Vrillon, who lived in St Martin’s Lane, Canon Street, and managed to have a pretty garden at the top of his house. His dress was always very mean; his garments coarse; and he wore coarse woollen stockings at a time when everybody contrived to spend as much as they could upon dress. His talk of foreign countries, of which I knew nothing, and of which he knew much, was fascinating to me. He used to go sponging from house to house, by way of saving what he could; but once, when his brother, with whom he lived, was absent, he took the opportunity of giving us a handsome dinner. There I first saw, to my amazement, cucumbers stuffed with meat,—vegetables whose bellies were full of animal food; it was a contrast to all I had seen before—a sort of a reversal of natural order. On that day, I made the acquaintance of Mr Peter Nouailles, a refugee of French extraction. He had a handsome house in town, which I visited. What a charming wife he had, and what a sweet daughter of thirteen, who played exquisitely on the harpsichord! Mr Nouailles had invented a cheap covering for houses; a mixture of tar and sand. I do not know whether it ever occurred to him to introduce water between it and the roof, as an additional security.

“Vrillon told me it was the constant practice in Italy to preserve ripe fruit in wax. Why should not experiments be made for a purpose so useful? Would fruits so preserved be allowed to be imported here? or would there be, as usual, some absurdity, that if they were entered as fruit, they would be called wax; if wax, they would be called fruit. There is a strange prejudice against myrtle wax; why should it not be used? It would look well to have two green candles and two white. Why not use it for the Virgin Mary and the Saints, who are very fond of candles?

“I made an equestrian tour with my uncle and aunt, in 1768. He always kept two horses, one for himself, and one for his man; but our cavalcade was four: he on horseback, she on horseback, your humble servant on horseback, and our humble servant on horseback. We went to see a Mr Osborne, who had a good estate called Turville Court. (General Dumouriez died there.) He had retired from business, and lived in a handsome house at the top of a hill, with the ground prettily tumbled about in its neighbourhood. He had a wife and an only son; had been an adjutant in the militia, which brought him into contact with the colonel, Lord Le Despenser, one of Wilkes’ set—anti-religious. His lordship had been annoyed with a church which stood in the way of his prospect; so he threw it down and built another on the summit of the hill, and sadly scandalized divers old ladies thereby. His lordship, who had been Postmaster-general, got Osborne’s son a place in the Post-office; but he misconducted himself and fell into indigence. Among my uncle’s acquaintances, were the stewards to Lord Fitzwilliam and Lord Spencer; we visited the stewards, and heard much of the losses and injury which Lord S. had sustained from election riots. His fortune was considerably damaged, and he was obliged to maintain the rioters Edition: current; Page: [54] in prison. But the steward had acquired, from nothing, enough to buy a handsome estate. In the neigbourhood of Stratford-on-Avon, we spent two or three days at a house in the midst of islands divided by little streams. At Leicester, we went to see a tesselated pavement with stones of the size of dice. At Althorp we were the guests of the steward, and dined with the upper servants. In the steward’s room were various documents and parchments, among which was the account of the prosecution of a woman for selling her small beer too small.

“The year 1769 was to me a most interesting year. I was, I remember, reading Montesquieu, when the Archbishop of York called on me, to solicit my vote for Jenkinson and Hay. Prodigiously courteous was his grace; though I was only half dressed, and was busy, too, on chemistry, evaporating urine in order to obtain phosphorus. The ignorant mother of Chamberlain Clarke laughed at me, but laughed in vain. I was beginning to get gleams of practical philosophy. Montesquieu, Barrington, Beccaria, and Helvetius, but most of all Helvetius, set me on the principle of utility. When I had sketched a few vague notions on the subject, I looked delighted at my work. I remember asking myself—Would I take £500 for that sheet of paper? Poor as I was, I answered myself—No! that I would not.”

With Chamberlain Clarke, Bentham undertook a pedestrian expedition in 1770. He wore leather breeches, and was sadly pinched. They “went first to Oxford; afterwards to Farringdon, the seat of Mr Pye, who had been the M.P. for Berkshire. He afterwards broke down, became Poet Laureat, and one of the magistrates of Queen Square. He wrote travels in the aristocratical style; was intimate with Mitford: but his acquaintance was not worth making. He was a poet, præterea nihil. He asked leave for his daughter to walk in my garden; I told him my time was too much occupied to show her any attention. We walked up Birdlip Hill—on whose top was a little public-house—whence you look down on an avenue, at the end of which, and at a distance of six or seven miles, the city of Gloucester opens upon the view.

“At Oxford, David Coke introduced me to all the courts, and to Judge Blackstone in his robes. I told him Clarke was an attorney; he was astonished, and said, his appearance was far superior to that of a grimgibber. The attorneys of those days were little thought of.

“A talkative lady at Oxford wanted me to marry her daughter; and, on one occasion, I was obliged to escape out of the window. Her husband (Dr Bentham) was a little, insignificant, industrious man, who had got some reputation for his spontaneous divinity lectures, but was at the same time sorely quizzed; yet he was an excellent tutor, of quiet and gentle demeanour; and he threw out from the press, every now and then, a bit of Greek criticism, of which I got a copy—λογοι επιταφιοι—it was always commonplace, as he was commonplace; and I was never fond of commonplaces.

“In this journey with Chamberlain Clarke, we went to Pursfield, belonging to Valentine Morris, who actually ruined himself by his liberal entertainment of visiters. It was a beautiful place; everybody went there; got letters from friends, or friends’ friends; so he thought he could do no other than exhibit hospitality: he gave them free dinners, and ran himself out.

“One day, when we were hungry, we found we were on the estate of a Mr Clutterbuck; we made up a theory that he must be a relation of a Mr Clutterbuck we knew; and our theory obtained for us some cheese and ale from a John Bull peasant who lived on the property.”

In the visits which Bentham paid to the country with his father and stepmother, and which were frequent at this period, he usually walked behind them, alone, reading; and his favourite book was “Helvetius de l’Esprit.”

One of Bentham’s most intimate acquaintances was Lind. He was known in political circles as the correspondent of the King of Poland. “I wrote the design,” he said, “to Lind’s book on the Colonies; he would have set his Edition: current; Page: [55] signature blindfold to anything I had written. Lind, in consequence of his book, got an order to draw up a declaration against the revolted colonies. There were two such declarations. Gibbon drew up the other. Lind had various sorts of style. He got £1000 for writing the addresses of Lord Pigot. For his Manifesto, he got £50 a-year for each of his sisters. The Manifesto was not well done. Lind was of North’s (Bishop of Winchester’s) gambling parties; he wanted to get into parliament, and to be chairman of ways and means. I remember his speaking of a relation, one Dr Lind, who was an author, and who valued himself most highly on being an author: he had written a book on the diseases peculiar to hot climates. Lind was an industrious author; his manners were easy, gentlemanly, and fashionable. Lind had two sisters at Rochford, where I had a little estate, which I let to a butcher of the name of Boosey; and Boosey was a Dissenter. We went one day and dined with him. After dinner, he took us to his meeting. I went with him a short way up the gallery; and the minister was making his prayer, and saying, as it appeared to me, ‘O Lord! that alterest all events.’ ‘O,’ said I, ‘that is ultra-omnipotence;’ and I broke out into a most violent but irresistible burst of laughter. I was near the door, and I made my escape without disturbing the congregation. It was a paroxysm; but it disturbed me greatly. At that time, Boosey was overseer of the poor; who lived in clover. He told me there had been a meeting among them, because he gave them sheep’s heads, which they called offal. Not long after, dining with Adam, (the father of all the Adams who had got places,) there was a sheep’s head (Scotticè) with the hair singed. I thought it a strange coincidence that the poor of a parish should rise in rebellion against a dish which was the favourite dish at the table of an aristocrat.”

The following letter, addressed to me by Bentham, towards the close of his life, gives a graphic account of Lind and others, with whom Bentham came in contact in early life. It was written for the purpose of supplying information to Mr Barker, who was then preparing materials for his Parriana, in the second volume of which it is printed at length:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
30th January, 1827
John Bowring
Bowring, John

To John Bowring, Esq.

My Dear Sir,

Your friend, Mr Barker’s commands, have been noted by me, and what follows is the fruit of my obedience.

“John Lind and [Nathaniel] Forster: yes, both of them, were friends of my youth, though Forster’s christian name is not now remembered by me,—Lind a most intimate one.

“As to Lind, the origin of my acquaintance with him was this:—His father was by parentage, if not by birth, a Scotchman; he was a clergyman, and had a living in Colchester; he was a spendthrift. By I know not what accident, my father became acquainted with him. By my father’s advice, a female relation of his bought an annuity of the reverend divine, and, in process of time, his property and income found its way into the hands of a set of creditors, of whom that same relation of my father’s was one. Lind, the son, was a commoner, at Baliol College, Oxford. When he had taken his B.A. degree, he took orders. Soon after, a Mr Murray (I forget of what family, but I believe of some one of the noble families of that name) set out on his embassy for Constantinople. Lind, by what means I either never knew or have forgotten, became known to him, and went with him in the capacity of chaplain. I was at that time living in chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, where, a little before his departure, I received a short visit from him. His father’s income being at that time in my father’s hands, as trustee for his creditors, my father advanced to the son the sum of £30, to contribute to his equipment. We heard no more from him, or of him, for I forget how many years. Mr Barker knows, I suppose, which is more than I do, (for I question whether I have now a copy of the work,) in what year those same Edition: current; Page: [56] letters he mentions on the partition of Poland came out. In that same year, (1773,) as will appear in the title-page of the book, he returned to England with the title of Privy-councillor to his Polish Majesty, governor of an institution founded by the virtuous and unhappy monarch for the education of four hundred cadets, and the office, or rather the private trust, of governor to his nephew, Prince Stanislaus Poniatowski, in whose suite he came. On his arrival, after paying his devoirs and debt to my father, he called upon me at Lincoln’s Inn, and we soon became intimate. The reverend divine, with the black garb and clerical wig, was now transformed into the man of fashion, with his velvet satinlined coat, embroidered waistcoat, ruffles of rich lace, and hair dressed à la mode. When he quitted Constantinople, it was not without a set of powerful and useful recommendations to different places, through which he had to pass in his return by land to England.

“About this time, a Prince Czartoriski, uncle to the king, became desirous of having some Englishman, of good character, to read English to him. The recommendations Lind brought with him procured him a welcome reception from the prince. The regular part of his employment consisted in the reading, as it came, of the St James’s Chronicle. In those days, that newspaper found its way, and, for aught I know, it may still, into various and distant parts of Europe. In the year 1788, I found a copy at Bucharest,* to which place it came at the joint expense of a Greek, whose name I do not remember, and Mr Weber, a German, whose occupation there consisted, in part or in the whole, in teaching English. In the Greek, I found, to my equal surprise and satisfaction, an intelligent young man, who spoke French perfectly, and read Helvetius. In the imperial agent of that place, I had the still greater satisfaction of finding a very intelligent man, who had a very good English library, and, amongst other books, ‘Smith’s Wealth of Nations.’ But this is a digression and old man’s tattle. I correct myself, and return to Lind. Upon his arrival in London, in the character just mentioned, his book passed with rapidity through the press, and brought his reputation immediately into full bloom. He was well received by the then minister, Lord North. The King of Poland, in the course of a visit of a year or more he had paid to England, before his election to the throne, had become acquainted with Lord Mansfield, then in all his glory, and Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. Lind brought letters with him from the king to Lord Mansfield, and was well received by the noble and learned lord. He had not been long in London when, for the purpose of being near me, he took lodgings, I do not remember exactly where; and, not long after, took and furnished a house in Red Lion Street (or East Street may, for aught I know, be the name of it) near Lamb’s, Conduit Street, where he continued till his death. Much about this time, he entered at Lincoln’s Inn, for the purpose of being called to the bar, which calling he received in due season. All this while, he was living in the high world, and in particular in ministerial circles. More than once, when I have been at his house, I have seen him come in with his purse sometimes replenished, too often drained, at the card-parties of Mrs North, lady of the then Bishop of Winchester, brother to the minister. At the breaking out of the American war, he was employed in penning a sort of manifesto, published in justification of it. Not long before or after, another paper, written on I forget what different occasion, for the same purpose, bespoken by the same official customer, was penned by historian Gibbon. A notion has found its way to Mr Barker that Lind had written and published a treatise on grammar. I think I can direct him to the origin of this notion. No such treatise did my ex-reverend friend ever publish or write. He had neither relish nor literary assets for any such literary enterprise. His views had a busier and higher direction. But he thought he had made one grammatical Edition: current; Page: [57] discovery, and he was ambitious to distinguish himself by it, and plant reformation in the language. Where anybody else would say himself, he took upon himself to say hisself. This innovation found its way into his diplomatic paper: it attracted notice, but gave to it an air of singularity, of pedantry, of affectation, which certainly did not contribute to the success of it. I threw what cold water I could upon an ambition so unworthy of him, but did not succeed in quenching it.

“The reception given to his Polish Letters encouraged him to take a new and adventurous course in the world of politics. The result was, a work which bore for its title, “A Review of the Acts of the Thirteenth Parliament,” &c., but it went no further than the acts passed on the occasion of the contest with America, and closed with the act called the Quebec Act, by which a constitution, in the true Tory style, and under the auspices, if not by the pen, of Lord Mansfield, was given to Canada. In that work I had some small share. I have preserved a copy, and shall say more of it by and by. He wrote with rapidity and carelessness, without looking at it: he would have signed with eagerness anything that I wrote: his style was rather loose and negligent—it was not equal to what it was at the writing of the Polish Letters: though naturally cheerful, he was not quite in such good spirits at this time as in that: in respect of pecuniary circumstances, he was not quite so much at his ease. I touched it up a little in several places; but before it was brought to the length of the Quebec Act, I lost sight of it. He was in haste to get it out, and circumstances, either on his part or on mine, or on both, admitted not of its passing at that time through my hands. Though writing on the government side, in support of that war which, from its want of success, has now become so universally disapproved, his mind was by no means destitute of the spirit of independence. On the occasion in question, without dictation or instruction, he wrote as he thought, which was as I thought. For by the badness of the arguments used on behalf of the Americans, on that side of the water as well as on this, my judgment, unwarped by connexion or hope, (for connexion I had none—hope proportionable,) was ranked on the government side. The whole of the case was founded on the assumption of natural rights, claimed without the slightest evidence for their existence, and supported by vague and declamatory generalities. If government be only the representative of rights, for which there is no standard, and about which there will be an infinite variety of opinions, the right to which the mother country laid claim would seem to stand on an older and a firmer foundation than the rights pretended by the colonies.

“A compliment I remember Lind reported to me as paid him by Lord Mansfield, was much more favourable to him than I had expected. It was to some such effect as this: where you have justified, you have justified convincingly; where you have censured, you have censured freely. The act was indeed widely open to censure: the censure, to judge now from the impression I remember it made on me, had more of strength and freedom than of correctness or discernment in it. Considering the quarter from whence the above judgment came, my surprise at finding it so favourable was not inconsiderable. But by the timid and crafty lawyer, the revenge, if any such was taken, was concealed by prudence: certain it is that, during the remainder of their joint lives, Lind being all the time at the bar, a letter of intercession which the King of Poland wrote to Lord Mansfield, for the purpose of obtaining for the Anglo-Polish privy-counsellor the benefit of the noble and learned lord’s patronage, was not productive of any effect. ‘His majesty knows very little of me,’ said the Chief Justice to the Barrister, ‘if he thinks that anything that he or any body else could say to me, could add anything to my desire to give to the public the benefit of your services.’ His labours, however, though the reward came from another quarter, did not go unrewarded. On his return to England, he found his two maiden sisters, Mary and Lætitia, both a little younger than himself, keeping at Colchester a boarding-school for young Edition: current; Page: [58] ladies. It was not without some difficulty that they contrived to keep up in that situation a respectable appearance. I do not remember exactly what time it was, but it was during Lord North’s administration, and a considerable number of years after the publication of that work of his, that a pension of £50 a-year for life was granted to each of these two sisters. You will have been expecting to hear something of the young Telemachus, to whom, on the occasion of his visit to this island, my ex-reverend friend came officiating in the character of Mentor: how it happened, I do not exactly remember, but so it was, that notwithstanding my intimacy with the Mentor, I never saw the Telemachus. The case must have been, that Mentor must have been a considerable time in England before he deigned to visit my humble roof, if a garret in Lincoln’s Inn may be so termed. The giddiness produced by the exalted vortex in which on his arrival he found himself whirled, kept out of his remembrance, I believe for some months, the little debt he owed to my father: and till matters were thus settled with the father, it was not natural he should feel disposed to pay a visit to the son, who at that time was all but unknown to him. The stay of the prince must, I think, have been but short. By whatsoever cause this shortness was produced, no dissatisfaction towards the Mentor in the breast either of the prince or of his royal uncle, could have had any part in it. A letter I remember seeing from the king to him, shortly after the return of the prince to Warsaw, concluded with these words—‘Et dans tout ce que je vois en lui, je reconnois votre ouvrage.’

“In addition to the two situations above-mentioned, one of which, by his departure from Warsaw, the other by the departure of the prince from England, were become sinecures, one which I have not yet mentioned was far indeed from being so. From the day of his arrival in London to I believe the day of his death, which took place before that of the virtuous and unhappy king, scarce a post-day arrived in which he did not write a letter to the king; in short, he was in fact the minister, and more than the plenipotentiary, of the king, to this court, in trust and effect, though not in name. In name he would have been, but it was a maxim with George the Third—and being so natural a one, I know not that in his instance it was a new one—not to receive as a diplomatic agent for doing business with him, and in this way on a footing savouring of equality, any subject of his own: the same maxim prevented, I remember, another old friend of mine from being received in form as agent from the free city of Hamburgh. As an expedient for producing the substance without the form, a Pole of the name of Burkarti was sent by the king, with the concurrence of the Senate, if that was necessary, in the character of resident to reside in this court, in which character he continued to reside for a considerable number of years, and I believe as long as he lived. I knew something of him. I used every now and then to see him. I remember dining with him on a summer’s day, at a comfortable and pleasant apartment he had in a spacious mansion, occupied as a boarding-school by Johnson’s friend, Elphinston, who published a book in such English as you see employed in French grammars, for the purpose of teaching Frenchmen how to pronounce English, written for the purpose of demonstrating, that it is an Englishman’s bounden duty to write English exactly as he speaks it. But Elphinston was not Burkarti, nor in intellect would he have gained much by being so; not that he was at all the worse for this, but the better. It was for the express purpose of officiating in the character of a cipher that he was sent to this country and retained in it. In everything but bulk, in which he reminded one of a fat ox, he was a puppet, and Lind it was that moved the wires. Every now and then I used to see a letter from the king to his faithful, intelligent, and zealous agent. Once, I remember, at my friend’s desire, in consequence of a sudden and imperative call to other occupations, I held the pen in his stead: the function was a flattering one to my young ambition. A pun I remember letting off gives some indication as to the time. The cabinet Edition: current; Page: [59] squabbles, produced by the collision of two such hard and rough characters as Minister Pitt and Chancellor Thurlow, were matter of notoriety, and formed part and parcel of the history of the day. The account I gave of them was expressed by three words—“Le chancelier chancele,” and the truth of the intelligence was not long after demonstrated by the event. At the above-mentioned residence, economical as was necessarily the style of it, Lind was occasionally visited by foreign ministers and other persons of distinction. The only ones that I now recollect were the late Baron Masares, the public-spirited constitutionalist, and one of the most honest lawyers England ever saw; and Lord Chancellor Rosslyn, at that time Solicitor-general, both at the same time on the same evening. The deep bass voice and cold gravity of the crown lawyer, still dwell on my ear and memory. Some little conversation with him fell to my share. Not to any such honour as that of being present at his table: according to what I used to hear from those who had, my loss was not very considerable. The deportment of the master of the house used to be, according to those reports, more suitable to a funeral than a dinner: ice waited not for the desert: it encompassed every course: favour me with a little salt, said somebody on one of these occasions to his neighbour; or, as Mr Godwin would have informed us, might have said: as for the Attic, it will enter, let us hope, with the bottles.

“This preëminent lawyer happened to furnish, within my observation, two exhibitions as strongly contrasted, perhaps, as ever were furnished by the same person in so short a space of time. The first time I saw him he was in black, with the sword stuck by his side, holding up the train of the then chancellor; but this is not one of the two I mean. Not long after this, attending in the Court of King’s Bench as a student, I saw him with a silk gown on his back making a motion with far more hesitation and distress than I ever witnessed on the part of the youngest and most obscure tyro. This was the first time of my seeing him in the character of a lawyer: the last time was at the council-board. It must, I think, have been by Lind’s means that I enjoyed a privilege in which I had so few to share with me. I speak only from present inference; for I do not recollect that he himself was there. At that board, Franklin stood as the silent and necessarily defenceless butt of his eloquent invectives. No hesitation then: self and language were, in equal perfection, subjects of command. Fortunate was I beyond all probability in being present at so memorable a scene. Members of the board, nearer a dozen, I believe, than a score, sitting on the opposite sides of a long table. At the upper end, the Duke of Portland as president. Auditors, I question whether there were more than a dozen besides myself. Of the president’s chair, the back parallel to and not far distant from the fire: the chimney-piece projecting a foot or two from that side of the apartment formed a recess on each side. Alone in the recess, on the left hand of the president, stood Benjamin Franklin, in such position as not to be visible from the situation of the president, remaining the whole time like a rock in the same posture, his head resting on his left hand; and in that attitude abiding the pelting of the pitiless storm. If necessary, at the call of a subpœna, I could give some tolerable account of the materials, colour, and buttons of that coat which, I am ashamed to think, retarded, for such a length of time, not much less, I fear, than a week,—if not the cessation of hostilities, at any rate the conclusion of peace between so many mighty contending powers and their subject millions. Before the incident ever found its way into the public prints, I had it from a noble friend, who was present at the last exhibition of the important vestment as I was at the first. To return to Wedderburn. I was not more astonished at the brilliancy of his lightning, than astounded by the thunder that accompanied it. As he stood, the cushion lay on the council-table before him: his station was between the seats of two of the members on the side of the right hand of the Lord President. So narrow were the dimensions of this important justice-chamber; they were those of a private Edition: current; Page: [60] drawing-room. I would not, for double the greatest fee the orator could on that occasion have received, been in the place of that cushion: the ear was stunned at every blow: he had been reading, perhaps, in that book in which the prince of Roman orators and rhetoric professors instructs his pupils how to make impression. To the instrument recommended, I think by Cicero, the floor being hard, and the cushion soft, he substituted the hand. Our late friend [Dr Parr]—considering whom I am now addressing, [Mr Barker,] I run no small risk in venturing the observation—seemed to have studied in the same school. Lest for making the desired impression psychological power should not suffice, he rather too often helped it out with physical, and the table groaned under the assault. The striking contrast between the early and the later exhibitions of the accomplished orator may afford an encouraging lesson to young men. I remember a similar, though not an equal, contrast in Lord Kenyon. I remember a similar and equal contrast in the fortification-loving Duke of Richmond, from whom, when occupying the place now occupied by Wellington, at the house from which I write, I had once the honour of a visit, which, according to a custom scarce ever infringed in my whole life, I left unreturned.

“When Lord Pigot’s conduct, in his capacity of Governor of Madras, became the subject of inquiry and accusation, as is shown in the history of the day, Lind, in his capacity of barrister, was applied to, to defend him; and accordingly did so in a quarto volume, for which he received, if I misrecollect not, the sum of £1000. This, I think, was the sum received by Lord Thurlow, when counsel, for the part he took, I do not exactly recollect which, in the great Douglas cause. This being a matter of a comparatively private nature, and for which such a rapidity was requisite as could not admit of any time for revision by a friend, I took no part in it, unless it were in the way of incidental conversation. His marriage took place at St Andrew’s, Holborn: name of the officiating clergyman, I believe, Eton; present, his eldest sister May, and your humble servant, who, in the character of father for the occasion, gave the bride away. This, you will see, is tolerably good evidence, that there be nothing about me to render me, either in law incompetent, or in probability incredible. As to the time, the Register will show it: not so much as the year is at present in my remembrance. I question whether, since the time of my first seeing the lady, a twelve-month had elapsed. Genealogical importance the ceremony had none; of political, it was not altogether destitute: no sooner had the event taken place, than the bridegroom sent advice of it to his royal master: the answer was, the grant of a life annuity of five hundred ducats, (the half of his,) in the event of her surviving him; and this annuity, as I had occasion to know, for I had some trouble with it, was paid for a number of years. The injured king’s finances being in a state less and less flourishing, I had every now and then to turn secretary in her name. Sometimes, I believe, it was to him that the letter was addressed: sometimes to his above-mentioned nephew, who, if I do not forget, had a few debentures in our Irish tontines, in which case it must have been in the first class, bearing date the year 1773. When the king died, the arrear was considerable. Letters, one or more, from the king to her on the occasion of the news of her husband’s death, I recollect seeing: they, or one of them, were written in English, in a style which could scarcely have been distinguished from an Englishman’s. In one of them, speaking of the pension, ‘I have fixed a pension upon you,’ was the expression, instead of settled a pension upon you, or granted a pension to you. During the marriage, she had a sufficient stock of acquaintance of visiters of her own sex to render her situation comfortable: some of them even belonging to persons of distinction. After his death, she took lodgings in Pall Mall: they followed her there, and the assortment was rather augmented than diminished. At length, resources failing, she quitted that situation, and retired to a creditable boarding-house. But in the meantime she Edition: current; Page: [61] had received an assured, though smaller, provision from an annuity left her by a reverend divine, name forgotten, whom I never saw; my communication with her having suffered frequent interruptions by my own travels and other incidents. On her death, her small pecuniary remains fell, I forget how, into the hands of a gentleman of the name of Combe, whom till then I had never seen. He was, I believe, a man of some fashion. I think I remember hearing him called by the name,—a nick-name, of Count Combe. If so the circumstance is singular enough; for some years before, another man whom I knew, used, I am certain, to be distinguished by that nick-name,—a man who published a sort of romance, entitled the ‘Devil upon Two Sticks, in London,’ in imitation of the well-known French novel of that name. In her husband’s lifetime, and during her widowhood, a portrait of the above-mentioned prince had constantly hung over the drawing-room chimney-piece: some persons saw in it a resemblance to my brother, men of the same age. Mr Combe pressed it upon me, and it has since figured over one of my own chimney-pieces. Amongst her relics of better times, was a portrait of the King of Poland on the lid of a gold snuff-box, given by him to her husband. At that time, Prince Adam Czartoriski, a near relation of the king, son, I believe, or grandson of the Prince Czartoriski herein above-mentioned, happened to be in England. He was universally regarded as being about to have the management of the affairs of the newly truncated kingdom of Poland under the Emperor Alexander. He called upon me for the purpose of requesting my assistance in the business of codification for that country. I took the opportunity of getting the snuff-box, showing it him, and asking him whether he knew of anybody who would be disposed to give for it anything more than the value of the gold. After keeping it a few days, he returned it to me, saying, that there was nothing very particular either in the likeness or in the workmanship, and that resemblances, in different forms, of the unfortunate king were by no means scarce. I returned it to Mr Combe, and what became either of the snuff-box, or the gentleman, I have never since heard.

“Now as to Mr Forster. The first time of my seeing him was in the year 1762, or thereabouts. I had at that time been living and keeping terms at Queen’s College, Oxford, of which college, while yet at Westminster School, I was entered, I believe, as early as the summer of 1759. I was removed thither early, I think it was in the year 1760; for paternal authority compelled me to hammer out and send in, as a candidate for admission into the customary academical collection of half lamentational, half congratulational, rhythmical commonplaces, the subject of which was the loss of one king and the acquisition of another, a copy in sapphics, the first stanza of which figures in a whole-length portrait of me, in my academical dress, which, by an odd series of accidents, has fallen into your possession. The chambers I then occupied (for I changed my local situation in the college not long afterwards) were upon the two-pair-of-stairs’ floor, on the further corner of the inner quadrangle, on the right hand as you enter into it from the outer door. I was dressing to go down to dinner in the hall, at half an hour after twelve,—in those days the hour in that and most of the other colleges, though in some it was as early as eleven; when I heard a rap at my door,—went to it, opened it, and, to my no small confusion, (for my dress was scarcely adjusted, and my discarded shirt lay sprawling upon the floor,) when in came a grave and important-looking personage, in a Master-of-Arts gown, ushering in a smart and sprightly lady. The lady, who had never as yet seen my father, became afterwards his second wife. She was the widow of a Rev. Mr Abbot, who, having been a Fellow of Baliol College, Oxford, had, in the spiritual routine of preferment, migrated from a fellowship in that college, to a college living at Colchester. She was then his window.

“The above was the first time of my seeing Mr Forster. The second time was in the company and at the house of Mr Lind. We visited and were visited. Edition: current; Page: [62] Forster was at that time rector of a Baliol-college living, at Colchester. He had another and very different occupation—that of manufacturer of an Index to several volumes of the House-of-Commons’ Journals, for which service his remuneration, if I do not misrecollect, amounted to £3000. His acquaintance with Lind was produced by an obvious cause—residence in the same society in the season of youth; his intimacy by conformity of opinion on the most important subjects. Forster was a man of a strong will, strong intellect, bold temperament, and excellent moral character, in every walk of private life; happy in wife and children, and, by his own behaviour towards them, well deserving so to be. At this time, the topic of subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles being upon the carpet in parliament and elsewhere, he had written and published a pamphlet in support of that institution. This advocate for orthodoxy was at the same time a much too open professor of Atheism. This was the only failing I ever saw in him. It could not but have operated as a bar to that advancement which, otherwise, his talents might have ensured. I had not many times seen him at Mr Lind’s, when, in compliance with an invitation from him, I visited Colchester, and passed a week or two at his house. Of what passed at that visit, nothing determinate dwells on my recollection, except the circumstance, that this was the first time of my ever seeing Dr Parr. His situation at that time was that of master or usher to a school in that town. Mr Forster took me with him one day to pay him a short visit, place not recollected, except that no boys were visible at it. It served as the foundation of the acquaintance which afterwards took place between us; and this is all that I remember about it, except it be that one day we were conversing upon terms of intimacy and freedom, he brought it to my inemory saying that, at that time, he little expected to find in me the sort of person he now beheld in me; for that, in my dress, there was something which bespoke a young man who would have been glad to be a fop, had he been able. I do not think I ever saw him at Lind’s. I must have seen him, I think, more than once at Romilly’s, and thence afterwards at my own house. He was anxious to introduce me to the late Mr Fox, but, as I did not hear that Mr Fox had anything in particular to say to me, and I knew I had nothing in particular to say to Mr Fox, this state of things was with me, in that instance, as at all times it has been in every other, a sufficient reason for declining it. It was in the summer of, I think, the year 1804, that, in pursuance of a kind invitation from him, I went upon a little excursion, and passed a very agreeable week or thereabouts at his parsonage. Mr Koe, at present an eminent barrister at the Chancery Bar, then living with me as an amanuensis, accompanied me. We there found the Doctor, his first wife, and a very agreeable and intelligent young lady, his daughter, then unmarried; the other was not there, having for some time been married to Mr Wynne.

“During my stay at Hatton, we made several little excursions; one was to Guy’s Cliff, the mansion of Mr Greathead, who, at that time, was among the personages placed at Verdun in a state of detention by Buonaparte; another was, I believe, to Warwick: of the castle, circumstances limited our view to what was visible from the road.

“As to Lind, that work of his which brought him into favour with Lord North and Lord Mansfield, has been already mentioned. When I began this letter, I had not received it back from a friend, to whom I had lent it. It bears date 1775. His design had originally embraced the whole of the acts of the parliament of that year, and eventually those of succeeding years. But the interest produced by those acts which laid the foundation of the American war absorbed all other interests. The plan of the argument he had from me. Upon his mentioning the American part of his design, his plan not being as yet formed, I told him I had written two or three pages on the subject, which, such as they were, he was welcome to do what he pleased with,—they were my own private thoughts, Edition: current; Page: [63] without any view to publication. When he had made some little advance, my surprise was not small at finding that this page or two of scattered thoughts had been set in front of his work, and constituted the plan on which he was operating. They form pages 15 and 16 in the printed book.* Different parts of it fell incidentally under my revisal, and received additions and alterations, of which all memory has long been lost. One thing there is, and no more, of which I have something like a specific recollection, which is the section that commences at page 128, and has for title, “Abstract of the Charters of Connecticut and Rhode Island.” This I remember had more or less of mine in it: for aught I know, the whole; but neither time nor eyes allow of my attempting to draw a line anywhere.

“He would gladly have let me write on as long as I chose: he had a sort of epicurean nonchalance about him, the result of so many years he had been living in the grand monds. My opinions were at that time opposite to the American side. The turn they took was the result of the bad arguments by which I observed that side supported, no use being made of the only good one, viz. the impossibility of good government at such a distance, and the advantage of separation to the interest and happiness of both parties. The Declaration of Rights presented itself to my conception from the first, as what it has always continued to be, a hodge-podge of confusion and absurdity, in which the thing to be proved is all along taken for granted. Some hints to this effect were, I believe, given towards the close, in a note of my introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.* I know not whether it was at that time, or some years after, that I made a dissection of it. The paper, I believe, was translated by M. Dumont, and made use of by him, in his edition of my work on Political Tactics, in the second volume, at the end of the list of Fallacies. I speak of that paper now with the less reserve, the author of it (Jefferson) who took it for the main foundation of his glory, being now no more: a man whom, on other accounts, I hold in very high estimation, were it only on account of his having, by his patience and forbearance under a long continuance of the most galling attacks, established upon a sure basis the liberty of the press. Absurdity, if I do not misrecollect, went so far on that side as to Edition: current; Page: [64] pretend that, in point of fact, they had all along been in a state of independence of the British Parliament, the contrary of which was proved so plainly by such a number of acts of parliament, which were produced.

“English lawyers who, being in the opposition, took, as a matter of course, their side,—took, if possible, a more palpably absurd course. Lord Camden, who saw that it would never do to pretend, in the teeth of the acts themselves, that parliament had never taken upon itself to exercise the power of legislation over the colonies, took a distinction between legislation and taxation. Legislation, he said, is one thing, taxation another: to legislate is to command: to tax is not to command; it is only to give money. For proof, he brought forward the words give and grant, which he had picked up in some act or acts of parliament, and, for aught I know at this moment, (for it is not worth looking for,) in all taxing acts, as if giving and granting other people’s money by sovereign authority, sword in hand, were not taxing them. And even, supposing these words employed in all acts in which the money was given in large sums by general words, thereupon, after and in consequence of them, came out acts in volumes for prescribing the mode of collection, and imposing penalties on nonpayment, and so forth: acts, in none of which most assuredly were any such words as give and grant to be found. Little did I think at that time that I was destined to write, within fifteen or sixteen years thereafter, an address to the French Commonwealth, for the express purpose of engaging them, by arguments that applied to all mother countries, to emancipate their colonies.

“Biographers are not disinclined to receive and insert digressions: no, nor digression upon digression to any number of removes, any more than at the age of garrulity old men to furnish them. At this moment I am dictating, while disrobing for bed. In 1814, Mr Mill and I, (Mill, the historian of British India,) passed through Oxford in our way to Bath. I showed him the chambers in which I had been resident for two or three years, after descending to them from the above-mentioned and abovesituated. These second ones were on the ground-floor, on the right hand of the staircase, next on the left hand, as you go from the outer quadrangle to the staircase that leads to the former ones. Three motives concurred in producing this transition: a sum of two guineas, my aversion to solitude, and my fear of ghosts. This migration, in consideration of the two guineas that accompanied it, I kept from my father with as much solicitude as some persons would have felt for the concealment of a crime. Though a very affectionate father, he was, by a variety of infirmities, a very troublesome one. My fear of ghosts had been implanted in my mind from earliest infancy, by the too customary cultivators of that most noxious weed, domestic servants.

“Amongst Lind’s acquaintances was Governor Johnstone. Johnstone, he told me, was to such a degree delighted with the Fragment on Government, that he used to go about with it in his pocket, boring people with it. This was not long before his departure for the revolted colonies, as one of the three commissioners for sparing the lives of between two and three millions of human beings on condition of universal penitence. Hearing of this, and having an ardent desire for seeing a little of the world, and more particularly of the political world, it seemed to me a good opportunity for taking my chance of doing so in the capacity of that commissioner’s secretary. Lind, at my desire, mentioned this to Johnstone. The answer was, much regret at not having heard of it sooner, he being engaged to Ferguson,* the Scotch professor, anthor of Roman history, and some book on morals; I forget the title of it. The examples of Greece and Rome had not been lost upon Ferguson. During the voyage, he was urgent with the commissioners, as I learnt afterwards from good government authority, to put to death man, woman, and child, as many as they could catch, as an inducement Edition: current; Page: [65] to the rest to take the benefit of the proffered grace.

Jeremy Bentham.

2d February, 1827.

Inserendum in Memoirs of Lind and Forster:—

“As Lord Mansfield had sentenced Peter Ance to a year’s hard labour, for an anti-christian publication, and his patronage of Bishop Warburton, who had the reputation of being an atheist, was well known, I had a curiosity to know the state of the Chief-Justice’s opinions on that subject. I accordingly desired Lind to inform me. The answer was, unbelief. I put the same question to David Martin; his answer was the same. David Martin was a man who was admitted to familiarity, being the painter who painted the portrait from whence the first of the engravings of his lordship was taken, and who had been sent by him to engage an engraver for that purpose to Paris, where engravers’ work, by a capital artist, scarcely cost the employer a fourth part of what it did in England. The engraver he had engaged failing him before the work was half done, he completed it himself. Martin and I lived together in Paris about six weeks. Our acquaintance commenced in the packet-boat between Dover and Calais.”

I resume the thread of Bentham’s conversations:—

“Lind’s style did not satisfy me. There was a want of accuracy. I used to correct for him, and he assented to all my corrections. Nothing that anybody else wrote ever satisfied me; nothing that I ever wrote at first satisfied me: but I never made an alteration without having a reason for it.

“Burkarti, who was here as the nominal representative of Poland, had no head, or an ox’s head; so that Lind did all the business. There was a momentary hope of inducing the British Government to interfere against the partition of Poland; but George III. had a great contempt for the people, and enjoyed the triumph of despotism.

“He was despotic from the beginning, yet the opposition to him in the early part of his reign originated solely from the disappointment of displaced men—thence the North Briton. When Wilkes accused the king’s speech of having lies in it, it made a great sensation. Wilkes was an object of perfect abhorrence to me, and I abhorred him for his opposition to the king. The North Briton excited a prodigious sensation; forty-five was written on all the walls; forty-five had obscured every other member of the numeration table. For years it was the principal topic of conversation. Then came the prosecution; then Lord Sandwich turning against him. Gross things respecting women were picked out to find matter for impeachment. Lord Sandwich got the name of Jerry Twitcher, from the ‘Beggar’s Opera,’ for his impeacher. Then Wilkes was outlawed, and when he appeared in court, Lord Mansfield, the grave and the wise, said he could not consider him in court, because he was not in custody. No! the lawyer could not believe that to be a fact which he himself saw with his own eyes.

“John Wilkes was the bête noire of the king. The situation, not to speak of the power of mind, of Henry the Second, was that of George the Third; that which Thomas-à-Becket was to Henry the Second, John Wilkes, bating the difference between the saint and the sinner, was to George the Third. ‘Target Martin’ obtained his illustrious title by his willingness to be shot at for the love of his sovereign. So valorous was his loyalty, that he was willing to act in the tragedy in which George the Third should be the Old Man of the Mountain; and he (Martin) the missionary who might have the honour of sacrificing the redoubtable John Wilkes.

“Of those days, not to speak of the present, the moral sense existed in that form which sanctioned the destruction of the life of man—not only without the depression, but even with the exaltation of the reputation of the destroyer. Destroy with premeditation the life of a single man—the name of an assassin and the infamy attached to that name, over and above the corporal punishment, awaits you. Destroy two lives, one of them being your own, and consent obtained for the Edition: current; Page: [66] performance of the operation on the other, that consent being obtained by fear of ignominy, you are either acquitted, or, if found guilty, you acquire, in the shape of the perpetual reputation of courage, an indemnity for a temporary loss of liberty in one of the many senses in which that fascinating appellative is employed. A target was set up: pistols were procured, a regular course was taken of that species of gymnastic exercise, the material of which is composed of the implements just mentioned: when proficiency was regarded as complete, an invitation in appropriate form was transmitted from the intended sacrificer to the intended victim to join in the experiment desired to be made of the degree at which the proficiency had arrived: what followed I do not at this moment recollect.

“In idleness-time, I engaged myself in classifying duels and duellists. Duelling may be checked without any alteration of the system of procedure—it can only be put down by the introduction of a natural system of procedure.

“Duelling should be prevented by legislation. The challenge is the inchoate offence—the battle the completed one. Duelling does a vast deal more mischief than people are aware of. It is the instrument of secret tyranny to a prodigious amount.

“When death ensues, compensation should at all events be made to the relatives of the deceased. The law of England shuts out this redress, so that the wrong-doer may inflict any portion of injury upon the victim of the wrong. If there be no family to be compensated the fine should go to a fund for the use of helpless litigants. In this country there is a strange tenderness in fining—and the fines are sometimes so small as to leave a positive premium for offence. In costs, judges care nothing about pecuniary inflictions—but pecuniary inflictions, as an appropriate instrument of punishment, are little thought of.

“But to return to John Wilkes.

“I never saw him but once. I was a determined aristocrat in his time—a prodigious admirer of Lord Mansfield, and of the king. There was a horrible outcry against Wilkes for turning the king’s ministers out of office; and I said, Why should the king not discharge his servants at will, like any other person? When there was a clamour against Scotchmen, I asked why Scotchmen were worse than other people? I remember being much struck with the locution, which was new to the English language, being imitated from the French, “Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.’ It was a great saving of words.

“I was, however, a great reformist; but never suspected that the people in power were against reform. I supposed they only wanted to know what was good in order to embrace it.”

Bentham visited Paris in 1770. He had scarcely an acquaintance there. Dr Fordyce introduced him to some chemist in France who was nobody, and who paid little attention to the recommendation. He found there Martin the painter,—who was getting the portrait of Lord Mansfield, already alluded to, executed,—to whom he lent about 1000 francs to assist him in his difficulties. Martin introduced him to a man called Rose, who had been secretary to the Pretender, who had given him a pension on which he lived in tolerable comfort, and was enabled to entertain his friends.

Bentham had even then a sort of reputation; and a Mr Godefroy gave him several books, because he had heard that he was a “philosopher,” a title which greeted him then for the first time. There was then an old man, with a long beard, who went about Paris, under the name of “Le bon Dieu,” making a trade of his blasphemy. Martin painted him, and offered to paint Bentham, who refused the attention proffered, as he could not afford to pay the import duty into England. Bentham’s dining-place was a guinguette, where, for a shilling, there was an abundant and varied supply of food. It was in the Rue Tournon. After dinner, the party walked in the gardens of the Luxembourg. The guinguette has shared the ordinary fate of mortality. Bentham went to look for his old haunt when he revisited Paris a few years before his death: not a trace remained of it.

Edition: current; Page: [67]

“Of travelled men, I afterwards made acquaintance with Mr Forster, who had been chaplain to the ambassador at Petersburg. He was a sort of atheist parson, and conversed on all subjects with great levity. Russian manners suited the indolence of his nature. It was an incident in my life, to talk with a man who had lived in diplomatic circles, and had travelled so far. He introduced me to many Russians, among whom were two brothers (Tateschevs,) whose fondness for each other was perfectly infantine, and whose disputes about the merits of Montesquieu were very amusing. The discussions turned upon fundamental principles, which were fundamental nonsense: it was a perpetual trifling about words to which they could give no definite, and each attached a different, meaning; such as, ‘honour,’ ‘virtue,’ ‘fear’: ‘honour’ being a love of reputation, or of as much power as a man could get; and ‘virtue’ being admiration of a republican government.”

A memorandum, dated November 24th, 177-, is as follows:—

Fils Jeremy dinoit chex nous; après diner, we opened the portmanteau belonging to the late Mr John Forster, deceased, in which there was nothing more than a clergyman’s gown in a cloth, some old printed books, of little or no value, some MS. sermons, and a bundle in a brown paper, sealed, upon which was a piece of white paper, endorsed with his own hand as follows:—

“ ‘Reflections on the rise and fall of the ancient Republics, and 2 other manuscripts, all composed by me, but printed in the name of Edward Wortley Montague, Esq.

“ ‘Jno. Forster.

“And, after the above examination, I locked up the portmanteau again with the contents thereof as before.”

CHAPTER IV.: 1770—1780. Æt. 22—32.

Earliest Printed Composition: Defence of Lord Mansfield.—Extracts from Commonplace Book.—Preparation of Critical Elements of Jurisprudence.—Publication of Fragment on Government.—Studies, and Habit of Life at the Bar.—Autobiography of Constantia Phillips.—Retrospect of the Growth of Opinions.—View of the Hard Labour Bill.—Correspondence with Public Men in France: D’Alembert.—Notices of Eminent Men: Mansfield, Camden, Barrington, Speaker Abbot.—Further Extracts from Commonplace Book.

The first compositions of Bentham that ever appeared in print, were two letters in the Gazetteer, written when he was about twenty-three years old, and signed Irenæus, from Irene, (Peace.) Of one of these letters he said, “It was a portrait of my character and my love of fairness. Lord Mansfield had been attacked. I was deluded by his eloquence, and fascinated by his courtesy of character. There was an ignorant story of the hanging of forty judges in Alfred’s time, taken from one of the most trumpery books that ever was written, namely the ‘Mirror of Justices;’ and it had been suggested that Lord Mansfield might very properly be made the forty-first. I showed there was no evidence for the story. The letter was answered; but I had the last word, and it was a good-humoured word. Some will say it was better written than anything I write now. I had not then invented any part of my new lingo. I was at that time about twenty-one years old.”

Talking of these letters to Bentham, not long before his death, he expressed a desire to see these his first attempts; “but who knows where to find them?” said he. “In the museum they are not. Are they in the king’s library? Possibly—there is always a possibility—they may be at the Home-office. Newspapers ought to be there from the beginning of time. I should like to ask myself now, if they were well written; for, in those days, composition was inconceivably difficult. I often commenced Edition: current; Page: [68] a sentence which I could not complete. I began to write fragments on blotting paper, and left them to be filled thereafter, in happier vein. By hard labour, I subjugated difficulties; and my example will show what hard labour will accomplish. I should be glad to see my earliest placed side by side with the latest composition of my life. I used to put scraps into drawers, so that I could tumble them over and over; to marginalize and make notes on cards, which I could shuffle about: but, at last, I took to arranging my thoughts. I had been in the habit of shifting my papers from shelf to shelf; and well remember, when at Bowood, where I stayed two or three months at a time, that Lord Shelburne took Minister Pitt to see the strange way in which I worked, and arranged the many details of a complicated subject.”

I have found many of these disjecta membra among his papers, and they show the extraordinary attention and care which he gave to his early writings: thoughts expressed imperfectly and confusedly, are often worked out into sentences of great simplicity and beauty. Whatever opinion may be formed of the later compositions of Bentham, it has never been denied that the style of his first productions is most remarkable for its terseness, appropriateness, and polish. In after life, he sacrificed everything to precision: he thought the first duty of a writer was to leave no doubt of his meaning: he invented words, many of them admirable ones, whenever he found none existing in the language which exactly represented the idea he wished to convey; such as, maximize, minimize, international, forthcomingness, codification, and others, upon which he would hardly have ventured in his less experienced days. His last composition, (the Constitutional Code), is certainly a remarkable contrast to the Fragment on Government, in every characteristic (except intellectual power) by which one production can be distinguished from another. Many of Bentham’s youthful compositions are headed Crit. Jer. Crim. meaning Jeremy’s Criticisms on the Criminal Laws; and they consist, principally, of severe remarks on the various contradictory and absurd decisions respecting felony and other offences. These papers were generally placed in a drawer, turned over, criticized, corrected, altered, and amended, from time to time; then marginalized, and afterwards set in order.

His early notes frequently contain the germs of the opinions he afterwards elaborated in his greater works. Thus, in 1774, I find this sentence, which, in fact, forms the groundwork of his Theory of Morals and Legislation:—

“There is no man that doth a wrong for the wrong’s sake, but thereby to purchase himself profit or pleasure.” This grand truth was not hidden from Lord Bacon. His was a mind to be struck with the beauty of truth wherever it met him, but his was not an age when to pursue it to the utmost was either practicable or safe. “Cum vitia prosint, peccat qui recte facit: if vices were upon the whole matter profitable, the virtuous man would be the sinner.”

His usage was to keep every separate branch of a topic on a separate paper, which he could thus conveniently dispose of in its fit place.”

His rules for composition he afterwards condensed in the following verses: Nomography; 1828, February 3d.

Fadem Natura, eadem Nomenclatura.


“For thoughts the same, the same the words should be;

Where differ thoughts, words different let us see.”


“Sameness of thought, sameness of words attests;

. . . . . . . .

Take that half verse, then add who will what rests.”

I find, scattered over fragments of blotting paper, sentences almost illegible, but which record the thought of the moment in some emphatic form. I will give a few examples:—

“When will men cease beholding in Almighty Benevolence a cruel tyrant, who (to no assignable end) commands them to be wretched?”

“Why should the names of Religion and Morality be employed for purposes by which, if accomplished, Religion and Morality must suffer?”

“Men ought to be cautious ere they Edition: current; Page: [69] represent Religion to be that noxious thing which magistrates should proscribe.”

“The grand catastrophe of our sacred history is itself an act of the most illustrious suicide.”

Sundry Memoranda of Bentham, made in 1773-4:—

Prejugés in favour of Antiquity.

“It is singular that the persons who are most loud in magnifying the pretended advantage in point of wisdom of ancient over modern times, are the very same who are the most loud in proclaiming the superiority in the same respect of old men above young ones. What has governed them in both cases seems to have been the prejudice of names: it is certain that if there be some reasons why the old should have advantage over the young, there are at least the same reasons for times that are called modern having it over times that are called ancient. There are more: for decrepitude as applied to persons is real: as applied to times it is imaginary. Men, as they acquire experience, lose the faculties that might enable them to turn it to account: it is not so with times: the stock of wisdom acquired by ages is a stock transmitted through a vast number of generations, from men in the perfection of their faculties to others also in the perfection of their faculties: the stock of knowledge transmitted from one period of a man’s life to another period of the same man’s life is a stock from which, after a certain period, large defalcations are every minute making by the scythe of Time.”

Vulgar Errors—Political.

1. “To make consummate characters, either in depravity or in virtue.

2. “To attribute every motion of public men to political motives; to attribute every action to ends and purposes which belong to them as politicians, and none to those which belong to them as men.

3. “To attribute every instance of supposed misconduct in public men to the depravity of the heart; and none to the imbecility of the head.

4. “To suppose everything illegal which appears to them inexpedient.

Punishment.—Origin of the Vindictive Principle.

“Men, private men, punish because they hate. They think they see (for their own parts) just cause for themselves to punish, where they think they see just cause to hate. Lawgivers, like themselves, are men. They think they see just cause for lawgivers to punish, where they think they see just cause for lawgivers to hate. The law, they imagine, does so too. The more they hate, the more they wish to punish. Crimes, they are told, they ought to hate. Crimes it is made a matter of merit to them to hate. Crimes it is a matter of merit, of more than merit—of necessity, to punish. They are to hate them—they are to punish them. ’Tis their hating makes them wish to punish. How then should they punish but as they hate? They do so. The more they are disposed to hate, the more they are disposed to punish. What wonder? To ordinary apprehensions no mischief from this is visible. Yet more: no mischief in many cases exists, since in many cases it is true that the cause of hatred and the demand for punishment increase together. The cause which makes hatred rise is the reason which makes punishment expedient. If of punishment for any act there be more than is needful, it is either because there is too much of it where the act wants some; or there is some of it where the act wants none—‘What harm in a man’s suffering who does an act I hate? What harm in the man’s suffering whom I hate? When a man suffers whom I hate, where confessedly he ought to suffer, what matter whether it be a little less or a little more?’ Such is the reasoning of the multitude of men.

“How should they punish but as they hate? What other standard than their hatred should they assume? ’Tis the clearest standard, at least at any given time, when it is applied: though at different Edition: current; Page: [70] times its decisions are so apt to vary. What standard clearer? To know whether they hate in common—to know which of two crimes it is they hate most—what have they but to consult their feelings? What standard should they take? Even this or none. For to this hour, except here and there a disjointed sentence, no other has been laid down. If here and there others have indeed been set up, these have not themselves been rectified by the standard of utility—they clash. Nobody has yet attempted to mark out to each its limits, and mould them into one harmonious body.”


“There is no pestilence in a state like a zeal for religion, independent of (as contradistinguished from) morality.”

“As to people at large, I want little of their company, and much of their esteem.”

“Morality may well say of religion—Wherever it is not for me, it is against me.”

“No man appears to himself so bad as he is. No man acts against conscience in all that he acts amiss.”

“Prejudice and imposture always seek obscurity.”

“What is called legal style is the most execrable way of putting words together that ever was devised.”

“Ladies, like birds of paradise, have no legs; it is all feet with them.”

“Invention is learning digested: quotation is learning vomited up raw.”

“The constitutions of the Society of Arts, and of many other societies, are penned with conciseness and perspicuity. How happens this? Either there are no lawyers concerned, or their right-hand forgets her cunning. They forget that they are lawyers, and, seduced by example, become gentlemen, scholars, and philosophers.”

Conciseness is an apter term than brevity for a desirable property of style—conciseness is relative brevity.”

“A monarch is a sort of a creature that unites the properties of the Grand Lama and the Pope of Rome, not to mention an odd attribute or two that remain unclaimed by any other created being. Like the first of these, he is immortal: like the last infallible: as if this were not enough, he is omnipresent: no perfection that is imaginable is wanting to this god of our idolatry. Look at him well; turn him round and round; about and about; examine him limb by limb: a more accomplished deity at all points never trod upon dry ground.

“The plain truth of the matter would have made a poor figure in comparison of this description. It has pretensions to wit, and it might hope for the profits of servility. No king of the ordinary stuff that kings are made of could help being enchanted at the person pictured in this flattering mirror. An unpopular king might find a consolation for the contempt of his personal character in the adulation attached to his political character, which is that of his office. A wise king would turn with loathing from the incense: but a weak one might reward it.

“Greedy of incense without caring to deserve it: fond of any principle of awe that could serve to screen his person against attack—regardless whether it rooted there, glad to behold it planted by however ignoble hands; content to draw upon his office for a perpetual tribute of respect, without ever thinking of deserving it. Such is the condition of a king!”

Digest of the Law premature before Locke and Helvetius.

“A digest of the Laws is a work that could not have been executed with advantage before Locke and Helvetius had written: the first establishing a test of perspicuity for ideas; the latter establishing a standard of rectitude for actions. The idea annexed to a word is a perspicuous one, when the simple ideas included under it are assignable. This is what we owe to Locke. A sort of action is a right one, when the tendency of it is to augment the mass of happiness in the community. This is what we are indebted for to Helvetius.

“The matter of the Law is to be Edition: current; Page: [71] governed by Helvetius. For the form and expression of it we must resort to Locke.

“From Locke it must receive the ruling principles of its form—from Helvetius of its matter.

“By the principles laid down by Locke it must be governed, inasmuch as it is a discourse; by those of Helvetius, inasmuch as it is a discourse from authority, predicting punishment for some modes of conduct, and reward for others.”

Principles of Education.

“Education is a series of conduct directed to an end: before any directions can properly be given for the education of any person, the end of his education must be settled.

“The common end of every person’s education is Happiness.

“Happiness depends—1st, In the possession of the instruments; 2ndly, In the right method of applying them. The Happiness that can be proposed for a subject of education is either, 1stly, That stock that is obtainable from the stock of instruments man in appearance is born to the possession of: or that further stock that is to be hoped for from the acquisition of more.

“This divides education into—1stly, Defensive; 2dly, Active. The instruments productive of happiness are either—1st, Inherent; or, 2dly, External.

“Inherent, again, are either—1st, Of the body; 2dly, Of the mind. The most generally useful education is the defensive: the active never can be the education of the many. The active leads to preëminence: every man cannot be preëminent over every other.

“The only active plan of education the state ought to encourage, is that which tends no otherwise to increase the happiness of the individual than by increasing, at the same time, the happiness of the community.

“This is done by improving the arts and sciences which produce the instruments of happiness, or directing them in their application.

“This, too, is the only plan of active education the preceptor ought to promote by his instructions. The arts of supplanting and competition (where the advancement of one man is the depression of another) ought to be noticed in no other view than that of pointing out the means of frustrating them: they are of that sort of pernicious or unprofitable secrets, which it is right to teach only to make them inefficacious.

“A state rendered less happy, made up of individuals rendered more happy by the same circumstances, is a curious contradiction. This, however, is a notion advanced by Dr Johnson, in his Tour to Scotland, where he speaks of emigration.”

Vicinage of a Jury.

“If Vicinage is at all a matter to be regarded in a Jury, it should be vicinage to the witnesses, not to the parties. Vicinage to the witnesses whose character for veracity is at stake; upon whose veracity depends the truth of the relation: not vicinage to the parties upon whose veracity nothing depends, since nothing is taken from their relation.”

I find, in the handwriting of Bentham’s father, (dated 1773,) “Verses by a young gentleman of Oxford, on the report of a design to make barracks for recruits of the building in St James’s Park, adjoining to the garden of Jeremiah Bentham, Esq., in which is erected a temple to the memory of Milton, whose house it was, and where he lived when he wrote his immortal poem of Paradise Lost.”

  • “Peace to these shades! where once our Milton trod—
  • Where yet his spirit reigns, a guardian god!
  • Far off let Mars his crimson standard rear—
  • Divine poetic peace inhabits here.
  • Where hireling troops, with wanton license stray,
  • Milton’s free spirit would disdain to stay.
  • Hence then, stern god! and other mansions choose:
  • Be these reserved for Milton and the Muse!”

No doubt Bentham was the author of these lines. The adjoining of the barracks to his hermitage troubled him to the end of his days. His studies were sometimes interrupted by the cries of the soldiers who were flogged in the barrack-yard; and I have often heard Edition: current; Page: [72] him speak with the utmost indignation and horror of that most unnecessary penalty, whose infliction was so frequently called to his mind by the sufferings of its victims.

From Bentham’s Commonplace Book for 1774-5, I copy the passages that follow:—

“Oh, Britain! Oh, my country! the object of my waking and my sleeping thoughts! whose love is my first labour and greatest joy—passing the love of woman, thou shalt bear me witness against these misruling men.

“I cannot buy, nor ever will I sell my countrymen. My pretensions to their favour are founded not on promises, but on past endeavours,—not on the having defended the popular side of a question for fat fees, but on the sacrifice of years of the prime of life—from the first dawnings of reflection to the present hour—to the neglect of the graces which adorn a private station; deaf to the calls of present interest, and to all the temptations of a lucrative profession.”

Bolingbroke’s Idea of a Patriot King.

“I opened it with eagerness,—I shut it with disappointment.

“I expected to have found something worthy of a great name: I found nothing but general maxims for the distribution of favours, and for exercising the functions of his executive character.

“Lord Bolingbroke’s patriot king was a king that would take Lord Bolingbroke into favour, and discard his successful rival, whom he hated.

“Barristers are so called (a man of spleen might say) à Barrando, from barring against reformation the entrances of the law. It would be as good an etymology as many a one of Lord Coke’s, and I believe entirely in his taste.”

Public Virtue in the Body of the People.

“The great body of the people can have no other virtue but zeal, no other corruption but indifference. It is impossible they can be zealous against their own political interests; but they may be so immersed in their private interests as to neglect them.

“The zeal of the people, which is the virtue of the people, does not depend upon the wisdom with which it chooses its objects: a people may be virtuous, that is, clamorous for very detrimental measures, so as it does but think them right. A people may be virtuous, though warmly attached to one who is nothing less than a friend to his country, so as they do but think him so. If two people present themselves, both alike destitute of pretensions in other respects, but one a favourer, the other an opposer of the court, (so that no particular event have happened to indispose them against the line of conduct pursued by an opposition;) mind which they choose: if they choose the latter, it cannot be said that they want virtue.”

Emblem for the System of Codes—Subject for a Medallion.

“A king crowned advancing from his throne, standing upon a platform raised above the level, upon steps; in his left hand a large bushy plant, the branches entangled and almost withered; in his right hand a twig, plucked off from the plant, which he is presenting to the foremost person of a mixed crowd, distinguished by the instrument of their several occupations, bending one knee as he is receiving it.

“The motto, ‘Discreta revirescerint.’ ”

Abuse and Use.—Both equally effects.

“The abuse of the thing is as much the effect of it as the use is. When a thing has various effects, some good and some bad, it is not by calling the bad by the name of abuses that will make them the less its effects than they were before. An abuse is a bad effect: now a bad effect is a thing as much its effect as a good one: the one has as much claim to consideration as the other. Whatever the subject be, the balance of the one should never be struck till after the deduction of the other; whatever the subject be, the business is to bring both bad and good effects equally into account; nor Edition: current; Page: [73] are there any better founded claims to merit for blinking one any more than the other. The true merit of the speculator consists in blinking neither; but, if he makes any difference, in taking most pains to place those in a clear light that are most in danger to be overlooked.

“An institution is not to be judged of from its abuses—understand this of its abuses singly; but these, as well as its benefits have an equal claim to be taken into account; for if these are more numerous and incontestible than those, it is from these rather than from those that its character ought to be reported.”

King Henry V. committed by Chief-Justice Gascoigne—A Subject for a Picture.

“Has it ever been proposed by the Society of Arts to offer a premium for the best historical painting upon the subject of the committment of Henry the Fifth, when Prince of Wales, by the Lord Chief-Justice, for striking him; the prize-picture to be presented to the Court of King’s Bench?

“Your Lordship, let it say, wants no memento, but it may serve to remind your successors, that the disclaimer of all respect of person, and an intrepid integrity, is at once the best road to the reverence of the people, and to the favour of an enlightened Prince.

“The scene should be just after the blow has been given. The Chief-Justice should be seen in the attitude of giving directions to the officers who have just laid hold on the Prince at the instant he is about to repeat the stroke.”

Dic aliquid et quod tuum.

“There are two classes of writers to whom the public is very little obliged: those who pretend to say something, and in effect say nothing; and those who say something, but say not what they think.

“He who thinks, and thinks for himself, will always have a claim to thanks; it is no matter whether it be right or wrong, so as it be explicit. If it is right, it will serve as a guide to direct: if wrong, as a beacon to warn.

“The needle directs as well to the South Pole, from whence it flies, as to the North which it pursues.

“The paradoxes of Hobbes and Mandeville (at which divines affect to be so much scandalized) were of service: they contained many original and bold truths, mixed with an alloy of falsehood, which succeeding writers, profiting by that share of light which these had cast upon the subject, have been enabled to separate.”

Conduct of the Understanding in Composing.

“Having found some word, however improper, to fix the idea, (upon the paper,) you may then turn it about and play round it at your leisure. Like a block of wood, which, when you have fixed in a vice, you may plane and polish at your leisure; but if you think to keep it in your hands all the time, it may slip through your fingers.”


“The people is my Cæsar: I appeal from the present Cæsar to Cæsar better informed.”

“Would you appear acutated by generous passion? be so.—You need then but show yourself as you are.”

“I would have the dearest friend I have to know, that his interests, if they come in competition with that of the public, are as nothing to me. Thus I will serve my friends—thus would I be served by them.”

“Has a man talents? he owes them to his country in every way in which they can be serviceable.”

“Independency is not in the fortune, but the mind.”

“The very mitre upon Warburton’s head might have reminded that right reverend person, that Civil Society does afford rewards. Let us not therefore say, that a mitre is no reward, but let us wish that it may never be worse bestowed.”


“The charity of some lawyers is boundless. If they can find no reason for a law, they presume that it had once a good one; and because it had once a good one, that it has so still.

“Thus far no great harm is done; but they are apt sometimes to go further, Edition: current; Page: [74] ‘therefore,’ say they, ‘ought it to be retained.’ It would be strange if they stopped at the conclusion which is the most specious and the least exceptionable.”


“The manner in which the composition of laws is in this respect performed, is such as would seem to indicate it to have been performed, either in derision or insult of the mind’s weakness, or in the infinite presumption of its strength.

“Yet prolixity, any more than redundancy, whatever certain persons may find it convenient to suppose, is no more the necessary attribute of the science of jurisprudence, than that of any other science.

“If there had been anything more to be gotten in physic and divinity by writing nonsense in long sentences—long sentences would, without doubt, have been written by doctors and divines.”

“Prolixity may be where redundancy is not. Prolixity may arise not only from the multifarious insertion of unnecessary articles, but from the conservation of too many necessary ones in a sentence; as a workman may be overladen not only with rubbish, which is of no use for him to carry, but with materials the most useful and necessary, when heaped up in loads too heavy for him at once. The point is therefore to distribute the materials of the several divisions of the fabric into parcels that may be portable without fatigue.

“There is a limit to the lifting powers of each man, beyond which all attempts only charge him with a burthen to him immoveable.

“There is in the like manner a limit to the grasping power of man’s apprehension, beyond which if you add article to article; the whole shrinks from under his utmost efforts. In no science is this limit more necessary to be consulted, in none has it been so utterly unattended to.”


“In England the clergy are scorpions which sting us. On the continent they are dragons which devour us.”

“To trace errors to their source is to refute them.”

“It is rare to meet with a man disinterested upon reflection.”

“’Tis here in matters of the law as it is in Roman Catholic countries in matters of religion: to keep clear of mistakes, you must be warned at every turn not to believe your own eyes.”

“Voluminousness is of itself a poison to perspicuity.”

“Falsehood is the high-road to (self) contradiction.”

“The effect of praise is to dispose to imitation.”

“All the industry of lawyers has been hitherto employed to prevent the grounds of law being canvassed, almost as anxiously as that of divines to prevent the grounds of religion from being examined.”

“In respect of notoriety, what is wanted is, that people may know the legal consequences of a point of conduct, before, not after, they have pursued it.”

“It is one thing for the law to be notorious to one looking from the station of a judge: and another to one looking from that of a common man.”

“It is as impossible for a lawyer to wish men out of litigation, as for a physician to wish them in health. No man (that is of the ordinary race of men) wishes others to be at their ease that he may starve.”

“There is no way in which the state can be prejudiced unless some individual suffer.”

“The use of words is not less to fix ideas for a man himself, than to communicate them to others. A man scarce knows he has the idea till he has the word.”

“Happy the people of whom one hears but little.”

Fictions of Law.

“Fictions are mighty pretty things. Locke admires them; the author of the Commentaries adores them; most lawyers are, even yet, well pleased with them: with what reason let us see.

“What is a fiction? A falsehood; but in this there is nothing to distinguish the peculiarity of its nature.—By Edition: current; Page: [75] whom invented? By judges.—On what occasion? On the occasion of their pronouncing a judicial decision.—For what purpose? One may conceive two—either that of doing in a roundabout way what they might do in a direct way, or that of doing in a roundabout way what they had no right to do in any way at all.

“The natural effect of praising a thing which has been done once, is, that it shall be done again; that those in whose way it lies to do it, shall do it; that those in whose way it lies to see it done, shall wish to see it; at least that they shall be content to see it done.

Arrest for debt in the first instance is lawful; certainly at this time of day, it is useful. I believe it. For all this the first judge who had the effrontery to remand a debtor brought before him on pretence of a criminal charge, whereas there was no criminal charge, should have gone to gaol himself, and not the debtor.

“Fictions are mighty pretty things, and like other pretty things, not the less esteemed, I suppose, because the manufactory of them is broken up. The manufactory of them is certainly broken up; and its greatest admirers would look, I trust, once and again before they attempted to revive it.

“Perhaps if pressed they might be brought to acknowledge that nothing in the shape of fiction would deserve, any more than it would meet, with approbation at this time of day: ’tis a pity but they had said as much of them of their own accord.”

Terms familiar falsely supposed to be understood.

“What we are continually talking of, merely from our having been continually talking of it, we imagine we understand; so close a union has habit connected between words and things, that we take one for the other; when we have words in our ears we imagine we have ideas in our minds. When an unusual word presents itself, we challenge it; we examine it ourselves to see whether we have a clear idea to annex to it; but when a word that we are familiar with comes across us, we let it pass under favour of old acquaintance.

“The long acquaintance we have had with it makes us take for granted we have searched it already; we deal by it, in consequence, as the custom-house officers in certain countries, who, having once set their seal upon a packet, so long as they see, or think they see that seal upon it, reasonably enough suppose themselves dispensed with from visiting it anew.”

Terræ Filius.

“The idea of patriotism, too liable to be worshipped in the nation at large, and which some unhappy conjunctures have of late years so effectually conspired to obscure, is nowhere devoted to more open contempt than at Oxford. The genius of the place is a compound of orthodoxy and corruption: corruption, to give it force in the world; and orthodoxy, to cover its advances from the eyes of the people, and from the scrutiny of the party’s conscience.

“Be silent, secret, discreet, accommodating; crush silent innovations, join yourself with alacrity to those who would stop up the inlet at which light may enter: save them the fatigue of examining projects which distress, gall, and stimulate their indolence, and the vexation of being obliged to adopt measures which oppose a bar to their cupidity. Insult not weakness, and ignorance, and mediocrity, with the demonstrations of wisdom; and lest you should be tempted, bar its entrance into your minds. For six days let the mammon of unrighteousness, of intrigue, of avidity of fraud, of insincerity, be in your hearts; and on the seventh the gospel of righteousness, or what is given you instead of righteousness, in your ears.

“Men there are who live in the habitual practice of what themselves call perjury, and in the flagitious tyranny of forcing it upon others; who rise to broken vows as to their breakfast, and sleep on them as their pillow.”


“Suppose the topic were, the obligation which day labourers are under to Edition: current; Page: [76] work upon the roads, from the improvement of which, having neither horses nor carriages, it is said they reap no benefit.

“A company are discoursing on this law; and they all agree in censuring it:—

“ ‘It is hard,’ says one.

“ ‘It is unequal,’ says another.

“ ‘It is inequitable,’ says a third.

“ ‘It is most hard and unjust,’ says a fourth.

“ ‘It is oppressive,’ says a fifth.

“ ‘It is tyrannical,’ says a sixth.

“ ‘It is infamous,’ says a seventh.

“ ‘It is fiagitious,’ says an eighth.

“ ‘The man who framed it is a tyrant,’ says a ninth.

“ ‘Some unfeeling landlord—a blood-sucker of the poor,’ says a tenth.

“ ‘The case is not very different with the majority who passed it,’ says an eleventh.

“ ‘When you are about it, you may go a little higher,’ says a twelfth.

“ ‘These are your Right Reverend Fathers in God,’ says a thirteenth.

“No, indeed; as to them, you are mistaken, since it is a miracle if they ever trouble their heads, of their own accord, about anything, good or bad, except when it is to stand up for the violation of the rights of conscience.

“ ‘This is your pious king,’ says a fourteenth.

“ ‘We might as well send for one from Morocco,’ says a fifteenth.”

“Scandal is to the Moral Sanction, what Perjury is to the Political.”

“France may have philosophers. The world is witness if she have not philosophers. But it is England only that can have patriots, for a patriot is a philosopher in action.”

“If there was a language peculiar to innocence, it could be so only for one moment, for the next it would be usurped by guilt.”

“Nothing can be more flattering to the indolent, the disingenuous, the domineering spirit which lurks more or less in all men, than a practice for uniting in one’s own person the character of advocate and judge. Socrates had his Dæmon.”

“Let us profit from the most irrational and detestable of all systems, nor spurn a pearl though we find it in a dunghill.”

Subjects for Premiums.

1. “Essay on the Measures to be kept in Legislation, in all cases between Private and Public Interest.”

2. “Essay on the best method of reducing the burthen upon the Nation from sinecures and unnecessary offices, consistently with a due attention to the rights of the present patrons and possessors; with a due examination of the question how far, and whether to bad or good effect, the balance of power would be affected by such a scheme. None but a good minister will have the courage to endure such a discussion as this.”

3. “The best collection of examples of virtue adapted to the different classes of mankind.”

4. “The best Moral Catechism for the use of Schools.”

5. “The best Legal Catechism for the use of Schools.”

6. “History of Criminal Law in this Country, divided according to the several crimes. A compilation, or rather, as the degrees of merit in the execution of it could not be very various, and the compilation would be too voluminous to engage a number of writers upon hazard,—An Essay delineating the plan, and indicating the sources from whence the materials are to be obtained.”

7. “A new Treatise on a new species of Brachygraphy, or a System of Rules for the Conversion of Long Sentences into Short Ones, for the Legislatorial Style.”

Title for a Book.

“The Homage of Foreigners to the British Constitution.”


1. Moral Department.—“Inspire a hatred for conquerors, and a contempt for their admirers. Show the difference between conquest by an individual, and conquest by a nation. Conquest by an Edition: current; Page: [77] individual, especially made in the ancient or modern Eastern manner, is robbery in the gross.”

2. Scientific.—“Elements of all sciences upon playing cards. The contents to be made the subject of conversation.”

3. Moral.—“Inspire a general habit of applauding or condemning actions according to their general utility. Professional affections to be exploded. Natural affections to be encouraged, keeping clear of inhospitality. Family affections to be stationed in their proper place, viz. subordinate to natural ones.”

4. “Inspite a contempt for ancient philosophy, or philosophy of words.”

“The question between Christians and those who are not so, is a question of evidence. It is as unreasonable to make a difference of opinion on this question, one way or another, a matter of reproach, as the question, whether such a will was or was not made.”

The following letter from Bentham to his father, indicates the nature of his occupations, and of his literary projects, in 1776.

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
1st Oct. 1776


Honoured Sir,

I am now at work upon my capital work, I mean, ‘The Critical Elements of Jurisprudence.’* I am not now, as heretofore, barely collecting materials, but putting it into the form in which I propose that it should stand. I am working upon a plan which will enable me to detach a part and publish it separate from the rest. The part that I am now upon is the law of Personal Injuries: from thence I shall proceed to the law relative to such acts as are Injuries to property and reputation. This will include the whole of the Criminal Law relative to such offences as have determinate Individuals for their object. This part may be characterized by the name of the Law relative to Private Wrongs. The remainder, in that case, will come under the Law relative to Public Wrongs; but a much clearer and more natural line will be drawn between the offences that respectively come under those divisions, than the technical mode of considering the subject would admit of Blackstone’s drawing. Previous to these details will come that part of the work which contains the general principles by which the execution of those details is governed. Of this preliminary part the plan is pretty well settled, and the materials in good part collected.

“By what I have seen and learned concerning Sam’s work, I doubt not his doing great things in geometry. The rogue is pressing me so, I must be done; I have sent him upon the mare, thinking this would be a good opportunity of his having a couple of rides.

“I am, Dear Sir, yours most dutifully and affectionately,

(Signed) “Jerry Bentham.

When Bentham published the “Fragment on Government,” in 1776, it was his earnest desire not to be known as the author: he gives [1822] the following account of his father’s making the fact known:—

“The secret which well-grounded diffidence, in conjunction with personal ambition, might for I know not what length of time have kept inviolate, received from paternal weakness, a premature disclosure. I had been designed by him for the situation now occupied by the Lord of Doubts, (Lord Eldon.) To afford me a prospect of it, and a relish for it, upon the publication of Lord Clarendon’s Memoirs of his own Life, he lost no time in putting the work into my hands.” But the influence of Clarendon was superseded in Bentham’s mind by that of Teresa Constantia Philips, whose Memoirs had just made their appearance, and to which references have Edition: current; Page: [78] already been made. “They were,” he said, “originally delivered out through a wicket in the door of a residence which, some years afterwards, became my father’s, and is now mine.* It was the first, and not the least effective, in the train of causes in which the works by which my name is most known had their origin.

“For some years before the publication of the Fragment, I had been regarded in the light of a lost child: despair had succeeded to the fond hopes which something of prematurity in my progress had inspired. On my being called to the bar, I found a cause or two at nurse for me: my first thought was how to put them to death; and the endeavours were not, I believe, altogether without success. Not long after, a case was brought to me for my opinion. I ransacked all the codes. My opinion was right, according to the codes; but it was wrong, according to a manuscript unseen by me, and inaccessible to me; a MS. containing the report of I know not what opinion, said to have been delivered before I was born, and locked up, as usual, for the purpose of being kept back or produced according as occasion served. This incident, the forerunner of so many others, added its fuel to the flame which Constantia had lighted up. I went to the bar as the bear to the stake; I went astray this way and that way. The region of chemistry, amongst other foreign fields, was one in which I wandered. I incurred the anathema which, without my knowledge, had been pronounced against me, and against all who dared presume to accompany me or follow me in my wayward course. I walked erect in all those regions in which prostration of understanding and will, had, with such successful suit, and such illustriously consecrated authority, been prescribed.

“My optics were to such a degree distorted, that, to my eyes, the imperfections of the phantom rule of action seemed only errors calling for an easy remedy. I had not learned how far they served as sources of wealth, power, and factitious dignity. I had contracted—oh, horrible! that unnatural, and, at that time, almost unexampled appetite—the love of innovation.

“In my anxiety to soothe the paternal sufferings, ere yet the ‘Fragment on Government’ had issued from the press, I could not conceal the little attempt I had made to raise myself out of that obscurity which, while on myself it sat lightly, was to him so unendurable. He would thereby see that my mind had not been totally abstracted from the country so rich in gold mines, though so unknown in the golden age. I saw the use of secrecy: I solicited at his hands, not without earnestness, a correspondent promise, and obtained it. My father, it may well be imagined, was not among the last to whom the sensation produced by it was perceptible. One day, as I was at my chambers, a neighbour and friend of his, whom I had never before seen, called to offer me his congratulations. Struck all of a heap with the unexpected charge, penetrated with that abhorrence for falsehood which I had imbibed from earliest infancy, I sought refuge in the arms of evasion and found none. I remember it as if it had been yesterday. My countenance could not but have betrayed the strongest symptoms of the confusion under which I laboured: the countenance of a guilty criminal charged on the sudden with the blackest crime could not have betrayed more. Blushing in the female sex is not so liable to be misconstrued. Blushing in the male sex is too frequently and constantly regarded as a proof of guiltiness: it is a proof of sensibility and fear of disrepute, by whatever incident called forth; but, except in so far as fear of being thought guilty is proof of guilt, it affords no proof of the existence of the object, by the idea of which the apprehension is excited.

“I remember the time when my almost infant face used to burn when, in the carriage with my father and mother, I passed a wall on which were any of Edition: current; Page: [79] those scrawls which, in those days, were so frequent, and in these more polished days so rare—scrawls of which it was surely no fault of mine that the import was unknown to me. The only instance in which I recollect a degree of inflammation comparable to that experienced by me when taxed with having given birth to the literary foundling, was one in which I not only had not done any such scandalous act as the joke imputed to me, but could not for a moment have entertained any serious belief that I either then was or could have been suspected of it. Finding that my cheeks had been regarded as affording conclusive evidence of what my tongue had endeavoured to conceal; understanding, at the same time, from the tormentor, that direct evidence of the affirmative had been received by him from a quarter superior to all suspicion—a quarter that was suspicion-proof—I ceased kicking against the pricks, and received, as composedly as I could, the unwelcome compliment. The eagerness to obtain some little alleviation under so long a course of suffering, had, in an unguarded moment, it was but too plain, shut the door of my father’s memory against the plighted promise.

“Of repentance for this weakness, there was soon but too much cause: no sooner had the images of the illustrious reported father vanished—no sooner was it known that the bantling was the offspring of somebody known to nobody, than the rate of sale underwent a sensible diminution. More than a few months, or perhaps weeks, had, indeed, not elapsed, when I understood from the bookseller that no copies of the work were in his warehouse; somehow or other, however, no direct application for a fresh edition was at the same time made; and afterwards I heard, though still by accident, that a parcel, which, by accident, had been mislaid, had been found. Besides the obscurity of the author, one cause, perhaps, of the non-desire, may be found in the reimpression which the work had received in Dubliu. Reimpression is a circumstance which, having in those days been stamped with the name of piracy, has, since the union of the two kingdoms, been at an end.

“It seems not easy to say in what degree the currency received by the Letters of Junius may have been indebted to that secrecy, which, after such multiplied and still renewed endeavours to penetrate into it, has still remained impenetrable. That, under equal concealment, the Fragment should have received a degree of currency comparable to that of the Letters of Junius, is not to be thought of; but it might have received a currency, not a quarter, not perhaps a tenth, so great as Junius’ Letters, and still have received one much more extensive than it has actually experienced.”

What follows was written in 1822, and exhibits the strange contrast between the state of mind of the young enthusiast communicating to the world his great discovery, and that of the experienced old man who had discovered that the causes of evil lie deeply rooted in our social organisation.

“The reader cannot have gone through the first sentence in the Fragment without having seen the passion that gave rise to it—the passion for improvement: I mean in those shapes in particular in which the lot of mankind is meliorated by it—a passion which has been rekindled by recent incidents, and is not likely to be extinguished but with life: a passion for improvement in every line; but more particularly in the most important of all lines, the line of government. At an age a few months before or after seven years, the first embers of it were kindled by Telemachus. By an early pamphlet of Priestley’s, the date of which has fled from my recollection, light was added to the warmth. In the phrase, ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number,’ I then saw delineated, for the first time, a plain as well as a true standard for whatever is right or wrong, useful, useless, or mischievous in human conduct, whether in the field of morals or of politics. It was, I think, in my twenty-second year, that I saw in it the foundation of what seemed to me the Edition: current; Page: [80] only correct and instructive encyclopædical arrangement—a map or chart of the field of thought and action: it is the same map which stands in the work intituled ‘Chrestomathia.’ I felt the sensation of Archimedes when I committed the first rough and imperfect outline to one side of a half-sheet of paper; which, not entirely useless, served, I hope, to help to kindle a more substantial flame.

“No sooner had my farthing candle been taken out of the bushel, than I looked for the descent of torches to it from the highest regions: my imagination presented to my view torches descending in crowds to borrow its fire. Of disposition, in the midst of such excellence, with which, as all pens and all voices concurred in assuring me, I was so abundantly eucompassed, I could not suspect any deficiency; for, clearing away the imperfections which still remained in Government, all that was wanting was a few of those lights which, I could not tell how, had happened to take my mind for their first visiting-place.

“Nothing could be more opposite to the truth. Instead of the universal sympathy, of which I had expected to see these graspings after improvement productive in those higher regions, universal antipathy—antipathy on the part of all parties—was the result: proofs of the fact came in upon me one after another; but sixty years had rolled over my head before I had attained to anything like a clear perception of the cause. On the other hand, while everything of mine, which I had ever set any value on myself, remained an object of antipathy, I found myself in those same elevated regions, though not so early as I had expected, an object of sympathy. All this while, fruits so opposite in their nature—the bitter and the sweet—had in my talents, such as they were, the common cause: the antipathy in the direction I had hitherto given to the exercise of them: the sympathy in the direction I was supposed capable of giving to them, and upon the application of appropriate and not often-failing inducements, disposed, like other men, to give to them.

“Now, for some years past, all inconsistencies, all surprises, have vanished: everything that has served to make the field of politics a labyrinth, has vanished. A clue to the interior of the labyrinth has been found: it is the principle of self-preference. Man, from the very constitution of his nature, prefers his own happiness to that of all other sensitive beings put together: but for this self-preference, the species could not have had existence. Place the chief care of each man in any other breast or breasts than his own, (the case of infancy and other cases of intrinsic helplessness excepted,) a few years, not to say a few months or weeks, would suffice to sweep the whole species from the earth. By this position, neither the tenderest sympathy, nor anything that commonly goes by the name of disinterestedness, improper and deceptive as the appellation is, is denied. Peregrinus Proteus, the man whom Lucian saw burning himself alive, though not altogether without reluctance, in the eyes of an admiring multitude, and without any anticipation of a hereafter, was no exception to it. It was interest, self-regarding interest, that set fire to this so extraordinary a funeral pile. Yes; and interest there is in every human breast for every motive, for every desire, for every pain and pleasure. Be it ever so feeble, no pain or pleasure but, under favourable circumstances, as Aaron’s serpent swallowed up all other serpents, is capable of swallowing up all other pains and pleasures,—the interest belonging to all other interests: no pain, no pleasure so weak, but, under favourable circumstances, may have magnitude enough in the mind to eclipse all other pains, as well as all other pleasures; strength enough to close the eyelids of the mind against all other pains, as well as all other pleasures.

“The pleasure of reputation had, for some time, obtained exclusive possession of the mind of Proteus: it had shut the doors, not only against all future contingent pleasures, but against the pain of burning; or, to speak more properly, of suffocation. The self-devoting burial Edition: current; Page: [81] sacrifices of Hindostan belong not to this head: they are the effects of much more complicated causes, in the composition of which, as in that of most human evils, what is called religion, occupies a principal place.

“If self-preference has place in every human breast, then, if rulers are men, so must it have in every ruling breast. Government has, accordingly, under every form comprehending laws and institutions, had for its object the greatest happiness, not of those over whom, but of those by whom, it has been exercised; the interest not of the many, but of the few, or even of the one, has been the prevalent interest; and to that interest all others have been, at all times, sacrificed. To these few, or this one, depredation has everywhere been the grand object, oppression a subsidiary one: where, to the purpose of depredation, oppression has sufficed; oppression, as being the cheaper instrument, has been employed alone: where the aid of corruption has been necessary, the aid of it, notwithstanding the expense of it, has been called in; and what has been lost in quantity has thus been gained in stability.

“In a government in which a representation of the People, or a shadow of one, has place; of the matter of good, in all its shapes—money, power, factitious dignity—that portion which is at the disposal of the monarch operates upon the whole of that body, in the character of matter of corruptive influence. It operates of itself; and, without need of so much as a single act that can be called an act of corruption, suffices to the production of the effect. It operates upon all parties, and with influence which never has been, and never can be, resisted. All parties are, in fact, at all times, resolvable into two: that which is in possession, and that which is in expectancy, of the sweets of government. Between the two, there is always the semblance of a difference; for the party which, being out of office, acts against office with its abuses, cannot act against it without acting to an extent more or less considerable for the People. There is, therefore, always the semblance of a difference; but with regard to the People’s interests, there is never anything more than a semblance.

“This state of things is of the essence of mixed monarchy.

“By reform is meant, or at least in it is included, abolition of corruptive influence. All those who see, in the matter and fruit of corruptive influence, the object of their desires, are, therefore, whether in possession or expectancy, alike enemies to reform in every shape. Improvement, in so far as applied to political power, to the quantity of it, or the distribution of it, is but another word for reform; is but reform under another name: they are, therefore, alike enemies to improvement—to improvement in every such shape. But when, in any shape, improvement is brought to view and advocated, it is naturally advocated upon right and proper principles. The all-comprehensive and all-directing principle, the greatest-happiness principle, is, in some shape or other, in some point of view or other, brought forward. But of this fountain of all political as well as of all moral good, the water is an object of horror, to all who are engaged in the war of politics; the sound or the sight of it is to them that which the touch of the salted holy water is to the unclean spirits; to the unclean spirits on both sides: and at the bottom, no less than at the top of the world of politics, all spirits that move in it are unclean. From this field of universal depravity issues, at all times, a loud and indefatigable cry of excellence. The world of politics is, by the acknowledgment of both parties, divided into two opposite regions; the world of major, and the world of minor purity. Between the two hypotheses, the only difference is, that where the one party places the major, the other places the minor excellence. At the summit of both, high in the region of the clouds, in the portrait drawn by both, sits royal excellence; underneath both, in the regions of depravity, lie, or grovel, the lower orders: these, by an all-benevolent, all-just, and all-wise God, (blessed be his name!) having been made for the use of the higher, have this, and no other title to their regard.

Edition: current; Page: [82]

“Such being the fashionable picture, the British-constitution picture of the field of politics, what is the true one?

“What there is of purity in the mixture, is to be found, if not absolutely at the bottom, much nearer to it than at the top; what there is of corruption rises to the top: if the lower orders have been called the dregs of the population, the higher may, by a much clearer title, be termed the scum of it.

“The world that is, and the world that is to come, are painted by the same hands on the same plan, and for the same purposes. God—archangels, and angels—devils. God and the king have sitten for each other; members of Right Honourable House for Archangels; members of Honourable House for Angels; Devils, all without doors, who, to the rest of hierarchy so constituted, are matter of contempt. An Angel, is he anything but a messenger? Members of the Honourable House, are they not the People’s messengers, sent by the People; or, what is better, by God or Archangels to represent them? And can anything be more in course than that Angels should ripen into Archangels? A Devil, is he anything but an accuser? A Prophet, was he anything but a man who, on occasion, could speak out?

Tutto il mondo è fatto come nostra famiglia’—was it not the discovery made by Harlequin?”

The “Fragment on Government” was seen by nobody before it was published. Five hundred copies of it were printed. It was ascribed to many of the great men of the day: to Lord Mansfield, Lord Camden, and Lord Ashburton. It was the means of introducing Bentham to Lord Shelburne; but it brought no profit, whatever it may have brought of fame. It was not, however, the only attack upon Blackstone written by Bentham. He wrote “Castrations to the Comment on the Commentaries; being the Third Chapter of the Second Book of that work published, as it might have been;” but, apprehensive of prosecution, the work was never printed. The latter work is a bitter animadversion on Blackstone, principally on account of his defence of the Jewish law. Bentham introduces the volume with a declaration that he will never answer any inquiries as to the authorship. He justifies Burke for refusing, though sorely pressed, to declare whether or not he wrote the Letters of Junius. He lays it down as a rule, that there are only two cases where the public has a right to call upon an anonymous author to produce himself. First, where he is accused of being the magnifier of his own works; and, second, where he depreciates the reputation of another by the allegation of specific facts:—in the first case, from a regard to his own honour; in the second, out of regard to the justice due to others. He denies, in all other cases, the right of any man to inquire of any othre man whether he be responsible for an anonymous book, and especially while our libel laws exist as they are. He asserts that an author is entitled to presuppose malevolence on the part of such an inquirer, and to answer the inquirer thus:—“Do you think if I were such a villain (as you would call me) to write this book, that I would be such a fool as to tell you so, in order to give you, and those who think with you, the pleasure of seeing me punished?”

The “Fragment on Government” appears to have called down upon Bentham not a few anathemas. His opinions, religious as well as political, were violently attacked, and much of the ribaldry of the day was attributed to the unknown author of the Fragment. Among other books, “The White Bull” was laid at his door: speaking of which, on one occasion, he said to me, “Come, now, I’ll make to you a confession as long as my arm; so accommodate your phiz to gravity. Know you Voltaire’s squibs called L’Evangile du Jour? If you do not, it is better you had known them. There was one called Le Taureau blanc. I proposed the translation to Lind. Lind was so lazy that I undertook it merely for the pleasure of translating it. There was a coarseness, a want of refinement, of tact, in Lind’s style that displeased me. The tale is a sort of romance, the scene of which lies in Egypt. I fancy I have a copy of the book; and if you can get a dispensation you shall have it. Edition: current; Page: [83] The White Bull is brought into contact with Apis. The Witch of Endor, the Serpent who was the devil, are among the dramatis personæ. For weeks it filled me with ecstasy. They meet with my namesake the prophet Jeremy, after which they were turned into Magpies, and went on talking as if nothing had happened to them: a miracle for no purpose in the world. It used to convulse me with laughter. It is an admirable thing. There was Mambres, with his long beard, toujours faisant his reflections. I drew it out as a piece of original history of great value for correcting erroneous chronology. Jonah’s whale was also an important personage. The Critical Review noticed it, and said it had all the wit and pungency of Voltaire. I had not courage to send Voltaire a copy. He would have invited me to Ferney had I done so. It was the goodness of the style of this book that induced Hinsley to offer me work as a translator: but the book did not sell. A man of the name of Franklin, who was translating Voltaire, took the book off the booksellers’ hands.”

It appears, at one time, to have been Bentham’s intention to publish an answer to those who had accused him of being the author of the White Bull. But he abandoned that intention. As his views, however, on the complicated question of the rights and duties of anonymous authorship are ingeniously put forward, I deem them worthy of being preserved.

“I have given too much offence to many well-disposed persons, not to expect to be charged with offences. The industry ordinary upon these occasions, hasraked up an accusation against me. It is now about—years ago, as I observe by the title-page, that an obscure jeu d’esprit made its appearance, under the title of ‘The White Bull,’ attributed to Mr Voltaire; a translation,* with a preface by the translator. I shall not wonder to find myself charged, by the zeal of these—persons, with every book, published within a certain time, that happens to be obnoxious and to have no owner. With respect to this publication in particular, I am happy enough to be able to plead not guilty, and to say, with truth, that I am not the author. I have read it, however, not altogether without amusement; but mixed, here and there, with sentiments of which my accusers would not fail, I suppose, to make an earnest, pompous, and pathetic display. I might here launch out into a grief of griefs: nothing were more easy. But what sentiments of piety I feel, I choose rather to demonstrate by less equivocal marks than a strain of declamation, which can tend only to bring into notice an obscure piece of Grub Street manufacture, which, hitherto, neither has had, nor, if the author will excuse my saying so, deserves to have, any regard. My humble, but assiduous, labours, which I hope will not cease but with my life, I desire to be engaged in the service of my country. This is the piety of which it is important to mankind to find proofs in their neighbours. The other sort is between God and me; of which it were idle and useless for any man to demand a public account of me, or for me to give it. For my opinions, I refer to such writings as are mine; for the effects and tendency of these opinions, to my life and actions. If these gentlemen have aught to object to either the one or the other, let them produce it to the public, if they think it decent to trouble the public about a person so little worth its notice. So that it be to the public, that I may know and answer it; far from complaining, I shall thank them, and will wave every advantage the law would give me.

“As to publications, all I shall say I have said already. They may compliment me with all the produce of Paternoster Row, ere I shall take any further notice: there is neither end to it nor use.”

Of the uncomfortable state of his mind while living in Lincoln’s Inn, Bentham gives the following account:—

“I never pleaded in public. I have just opened a bill two or three times, saying a few words for form. When I had obtained my father’s leave to give pleading Edition: current; Page: [84] up, I heard that the bills were admired. My father was always out of spirits for my want of success.

“I was, indeed, grossly ignorant. Instead of pursuing any sound studies, or reading any modern books of law, I was set to read old trash of the seventeenth century; and I looked up to the huge mountain of law in despair. I can now look down upon it from the heights of utility.

“Chemistry somewhat consoled me. I spent half-a-guinea on a quantity of phials, and hid them in a closet, in which I surreptitiously made a hole to let in a little light. But mine was truly a miserable life. I had been taken notice of by the great, when a little boy at Westminster School; for I was an object of praise from the earliest time of which I have any recollection. That filled me with ambition. But I met with all sorts of rebukes and disappointments till I was asked to Bowood.”

In his Commonplace Book, for 1776, I find many passages worthy of preservation:—

Revenus Prosecutions.

“Prosecutions for offences against laws relating to the Customs and Excise are often, it seems, carried on in the Crown-office.

“They are very frequent: at the same time, what might appear extraordinary till accounted for, scarce one or two in the course of a year are brought to trial.

“A certain connexion that there is in this case, between interest and power, will sufficiently account for this as for all other phenomena that are observable relating to the execution of the laws.

“It is the interest of those who happen to have a power correspondent to that interest, that prosecutions should be commenced: accordingly they are commenced in numbers; but it is the interest of the same persons that such prosecutions should not be pushed on to punishment, but he compounded: accordingly they are compounded.

“It is a very small proportion that the number of the offences that are detected, bears to the number of those that escape unpunished; and it is not every detection, perhaps, that is accompanied with proof sufficient to support a prosecution. When, however, by good fortune a prosecution is commenced, the first thing the defendant always does, is to petition the commissioners to be permitted to compound. The petition is almost always granted; so far granted at least, as that the defendant is referred to the solicitor of the office. The solicitor is always compassionate, and the deliquent cannot but be grateful. A ‘bill of costs’ is made out by the solicitor. The ordinary fees taken by solicitors in penal prosecutions, are just double those taken by attorneys in civil actions. The defendant has too much magnanimity to enter into a minute and invidious inquiry; whether every little charge is warranted by the rigid rule of custom, is an inquiry the defendant’s magnanimity seems unwilling to enter into; and his generosity indicates the propriety of a proper present.

“By this happy arrangement, all parties (that is, all private parties) are satisfied. The delinquent receives a silent squeeze from a palm his gratitude has softened, instead of being crushed by the rough hand of open justice. His official friend enjoys that purest of satisfactions which results from the godlike function of forgiving injuries: a satisfaction the freer from all alloy, in that the said injuries are not his own.

“All this is admirable; but how fares it with the public all this while? and what becomes of the benefit of example? and of what use is this sum of secret torture to those who are under temptation to offend, but whom the spectacle of punishment might deter?

“Thus happy then is the harmony in this branch of law between public and private interest.

“The interest of the public is, that punishment be known to be inflicted; and, therefore, that when there is occasion it be inflicted, in order that delinquencies may be few. The interest of those who act in this matter for the public, is, that delinquencies may be many; and lest they should not be many, that the punishment that happens to be incurred for them, should, upon certain Edition: current; Page: [85] conditions, be as little as may be, and that little not be known.

“To this interest, as things stand at present, is joined the power. Of this power, I know not whather this man or that man makes an undue profit; but I know, as a child of this world, he is unwise in his generation if he does not.

“The matters of fact taken from J. F. Abbot, at 2, Q. S. P., Wednesday, May, 1775.

Employment for Pauper Manufacturers.

“The great evil manufacturers are liable to, is that of a temporary stagnation of trade, which leaves vast numbers at a time without employment, and without subsistence. For a remedy, I propose public works to be set on foot in the neighbourhood of manufacturing towns: to be carried on by none but manufacturers out of employment. For example, digging of canals, deepening of harbours, making of roads, building of fortifications.

“The kind of work must be such as requires no skill, because the workmen will be set to it without preparation.

“The pay must be less than what they can earn by their manufacture, or else they would quit their manufacture. None should be employed about it, but manufacturers out of employment; because it is for their relief that it is designed. When applying to be employed in it, they should therefore be required to produce a certificate of their being manufacturers of such a manufacture, having been so for such a time. When thus confined to them, their pay may be something higher than that of common labourers, as their earnings at their manufactures are generally much greater than those of common labourers. The national or the county fund might make good the difference.

“The parishes where the manufactures are, might well contribute a certain proportion of the charge, as such an establishment would be a great relief to the Poor-rates.

Law—an affair of pain and pleasure.

“If law did not concern pains and pleasures, it would be a very idle business—a business in no way superior in dignity, and much inferior in amusement, to dominoes or push-pin.

“It does, however, concern pain and pleasure. Pain and pleasure await each motion of its will. This, however, lawyers are wonderfully disposed to forget: it never seems to have entered into the heads of some, and it is this inattention that is the source of all their absurdities. Hence their quaint reasoning and ridiculous conundrums.

Truth—in books.

“Of the merits of a work of which truth is the object, one cannot have an adequate idea, or a perfect relish, without some acquaintance with the errors against which it is levelled, and which it is calculated to displace. With respect to others, the apparent merit of such a work will be apt to be in an inverse proportion to the real. The better it answers its purpose, of making an abstruse subject plain, the more apt it will be to appear to have nothing in it that is extraordinary.

“An observation that seems to contain nothing more than what every one knew already, shall turn volumes of specious and formidable sophistry into wastepaper. The same book may succeed ill with different sets of people for opposite reasons; by the ignorant, who have no opinions about the matter, it may be thought lightly of, as containing nothing that is extraordinary; by the false learned, who have prejudices they cannot bear to have questioned, it may be condemned as paradoxical, for not squaring with these prejudices.”

“In 1777 I translated the first of two volumes of the last of Marmontel’s novels, dull and insipid, and it fell and was forgotten. It was put into my hands by Elmsley of the Strand. I said I was proud as well as poor. He offered three guineas a sheet. I engaged for it. I grew tired long before. I had done; but forty guineas was to me a most important sum, though I was exceedingly capricious about my style. The second volume of Marmontel was translated by a parson—a Edition: current; Page: [86] Presbyterian parson of the name of Nixby. He was, as I said, no better than a Scotsman: and I confess, I think my volume the best of the two.”

At this time, Bentham was frequently visited by his father, to encourage him in his literary pursuits. In turning over the pages of his father’s diary, I read to him the following memoranda, and have added to them the observations to which they gave rise:—

“December 7th, 1777.—Au matin, at son Jeremy’s chambers, perusing his new work proposed to be entitled ‘The Policy of Punishment.’ Paid him his expenses for standing godfather to Mr Wise’s eldest daughter.”

—“This was part of the ‘Rationale of Punishment,’ published by Dumont.”

“1778, January 23.—Called chez fils J., when he showed me the heads or division of his work.”

—“Poor fils Jeremy! how I was tormented! I went on very slowly in my father’s conception; but it was the result of dejection of spirits. I was feeling and picking my way—getting the better of prejudice and nonsense—making a little bit of discovery here—another there—and endeavouring to put the little bits together.”

Bentham’s View of the Hard Labour Bill, alluded to in the extracts which follow, was published in 1778: it brought him into correspondence with Mr Eden, the author of the bill, who was also the author of the preface which Bentham said he admired beyond anything he ever read on the subject of legal polity. Mr Eden defends himself in his letters to Bentham for employing the phrase, “not disposed to propose or promote novelties,” (which Bentham attacked as “the wisdom-of-ancestors fallacy,”) by saying, “he merely meant to disavow that busy interference with established systems, which, except on occasions of necessity, like the present, is oftener productive of confusion than benefit,”—an unsatisfactory defence, since every one, who profits by an abuse, denies that his own case is the “occasion of necessity.” Justice Blackstone, in acknowledging the receipt of a copy of the work, calls it “ingenious;” adding, that “some of the observations in the ‘View’ had already occurred to the patrons of the intended bill, and many more are well deserving their attention.”

“March 15.—Fils Jerry about putting to press his ‘Observations on Mr Eden’s Bill.’ ”

“26th.—Au matin, went to fils Jeremy’s chambers, settling the preface to his ‘Observations on the Hard Labour Bill.’ ”

—“This was my constant ebstruction, depriving me of free agency.”

“28th.—Fils Jeremy dinoit chez nous, and showed me Mr W. Eden’s answer to his letter about the preface to the Hard Labour Bill proposed to be published by him.”

—“Eden and Judge Blackstone were together the authors of this bill. I worked them to a jelly. I thought what was so interesting to me was interesting to all the world; but nobody cared at all about it.

“Eden’s letter was very cold and civil. He was a commissioner to make peace with the Americans, or rather to forgive them; but they would not be forgiven.”

“April 5th.—Chez fils Jeremy, when he gave me six copies of his book to send to some of the judges by Thomas.”

—“In these matters I had no option. It was pushing, pushing, pushing; none of them took any notice of the book.”

“November 19.—Chez fils Jeremy L. F., when he told me he had gone halfway towards composing his ‘Code of Laws.’ ”

—“A misconception. He had not understood my answers.”

In 1779, I observe an entry:—“April 19th. Called on son Jeremy, and gave him, towards paying his amanuensis, £5, 5s.”

—“Pinched as I was at this time for money, I had a strange aversion to accounts, coupled with perfect economy. I never kept money accounts: I was always thinking of legislation and chemistry. It is not common for non-account-keepers to be as I was, rigid economists. Two of the happiest dinners I ever made in my life were with my brother on five pennyworth of mutton at Lincoln’s Inn. I used to distil Edition: current; Page: [87] my water for experiments on the hob. The tea-kettle was always the third person in our conversation. We talked of all sorts of schemes. One was to send some sort of present to the House of Representatives which was to explode. I thought the Americans used sadly stupid arguments, and that there was no better reason for their breaking out than for the breaking out of any other part of the country.”

Bentham employed a poor fellow, half for use, half for charity, something between servant and clerk, to copy his MSS.

The following curious and characteristic entry appears in the diary of Bentham’s father, dated November 8, 1778; nor are Bentham’s observations, when I read to him the passage, less characteristic:—“Mr William Barrett dinoit chez nous; après diner Mr Drake chez nous, when me and son Abbott (Charles) went to Justice Robert Elliott’s public office, Cambridge Street, to answer the complaint of Sarah Wheeler against me for wearing unlawful buttons on my clothes, when she swore she saw Mr Bentham have a silk waistcoat with the same on the 13th November, but that she did not see him in the room. At the same time she was heard to a complaint against Mr Whittel for wearing a brown silk waistcoat with buttons of the same stuff; but, on her swearing to a wrong person, she was charged with being guilty of wilful and corrupt perjury; and, a warrant being made out against her, she was committed accordingly, at the instance of Mr Nokes of New Inn, attorney for Mr Whittel. Après midi, drank tea with Sir John and Lady Hawkins—rude, despotic, and reproachful, for not prosecuting S. W. as well as Mr Whittel.”

—“And they were unlawful buttons,” exclaimed Bentham, “worn by the person whom she supposed to be my father. Poor woman! she accepted the reward offered by the State. I never think of the rage against informers without myself being in a rage against it—calling out for laws, and then visiting with shame those who assist in their execution; determining that a thing shall be done, and shall not be done, in preventing its being done through the only means by which it can be done. Sir John was a most insolent, worthless, fellow. He wrote five volumes on the history of music, but knew nothing of the subject in theory or practice.”

An active correspondence was carried on between Bentham and some of the public men of France, who were now obtaining celebrity in that great agitation which preceded the Revolution, or which was rather the earliest symptom of the Revolution. In a letter of D’Alembert to Bentham, dated 26th June, 1778, he says:—“It is indeed high time that the human race should be freed from all the absurdities, or rather, all the atrocities of our criminal jurisprudence; and if we may not speedily hope to see this great change, it is a happiness for which philosophers like you are preparing the way by your writings—useful as they are to society, and honourable to yourself.” The Abbé Morellet, in a letter of the 8th May, 1778, announcing that the government had, by an arbitrary order, suppressed Mirabeau’s periodical, which, only having reached its second number, had 7000 subscribers, says:—“the suppression has caused a terrible noise, and excited loud complainings.” He laments the violent passions which were then beginning to show themselves, both in the provincial and national assemblies; the want of order in the discussions, and of authority in the presidents; the vagueness of the debates, and the preponderance of the lawyers; and especially the follies of his own “reverend order,” which, he says, “would induce him speedily to hurry into retirement, that he might not be compromised by their extravagances.”

The Chevalier de Castellux writes to Bentham:—“In these days laws must be discussed, and, if they deserve it, censured; and courtly legists must bend under the weight of mental criticism.” He says of Necker, that “his purposes are good and benevolent, but possessing only an executive authority, not grounded on popular representation or popular support, his real influence must be weak.”

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Bentham told me that he had never personal intercourse with Franklin. “There was a Doctor Swediaur,* who amassed a little fortune at Paris, though he was pulling the devil by the tail here. He was a pleasing man, of a great deal of knowledge in his way. He took a 4to copy of my Essay on Morals, &c., which he gave to Franklin; but he never expended any observations upon it, which was then a matter of considerable regret and disappointment to me.”

CHAPTER V.: 1781.—Æt. 33.

Visits to Lord Shelburne.—Letters from Bowood: The Bowood Ladies: Lord Pembroke: Court Scandal: Necker: Louis XVI.: Lord Bristol.—American War: Captain Blankett: Elliot: Siege of St Lucie: Lord Dartry: Lord Chatham and William Pitt: Dunning: Relation of an Overture by Lord North to the Rockinghams: Lord and Lady Tracton: American Intelligence: Camden: Sir William Draper’s Letter to Lord Shelburne.

Bentham’s connexion with Lord Shelburne (afterwards Marquis of Lansdowne) began in 1781, when his lordship called on him at his chambers in Lincoln’s Inn. The intimacy became very great, and Bentham spent much of his time at Bowood.

Lady Shelburne died in 1789. During her last illness, Benjamin Vaughan and Bentham were the only persons of the male sex whose presence she could endure; and, on her death, he was the only male person who was constantly near Lord Shelburne, of that little party to which he looked for consolation.

When a rupture took place with Col. Barré, Bentham held the place of confidence which Barré had occupied. He was consulted on all occasions, at a time when a debt of £300,000 encumbered the rent-roll.

Bentham used his influence in order to prevent the present marquis from being sent to Oxford; a place, he said, where perjury was daily practised.

Lord Shelburne avoided talking on religious subjects, for fear, he hinted, of getting into a scrape; but he avowed to Bentham that his opinions were what is called sceptical.

The following letter is a specimen of Lord Shelburne’s style, and conveys his opinion on some subjects of interest:—

Lord Shelburne
Shelburne, Lord
26th July, 1781
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Lord Shelburne to Bentham.

Dear Sir,

I am very much obliged by your letter of the 18th, and consider your attention as a mark of your friendship, of which I am ambitious. I remember reading some of Mr Anderson’s papers, and that they contained more useful matter, though not such fine language as is commonly to be met with among Scotch writers. I entirely agree with him about the Poor Laws; they not only appear to me productive of all the inconveniences commonly apprehended and felt, but likewise are daily destroying all natural subordination and affection. The master manufacturer, uninterested in the fate of the hands whom he employs, becomes a mere Negro driver; while the man of property loses that political influence which it has been a fundamental principle of all constitutions to suppose attendant on property, by the poor being taught, on all occasions, to look up to the king’s justices for relief; and I shall not be surprised to see the poor make as separate an interest in the State as the clergy do.

“I brought the ‘Fragment’ here, meaning to read it again, which has been the means of discovering to me that I am here in company with a friend of yours—Captain Blankett. He returns with me to Bowood at the end of next week, Edition: current; Page: [89] from whence he accompanies me here, and I should be very happy if it might prove an inducement to you to meet us there.

“You say nothing of your brother. I hope he has not embarked himself in a service (the Russian) which, among others, he has given me the worst opinion of. It is ridiculous to say in this idle place that I am obliged to conclude my letter for want of time, but I was impatient to acknowledge yours; and an early dinner does not leave me more time than is necessary to add the truth and regard with which I have the honour to be, dear sir, your faithful, humble servant,

(Signed) “Shelburne.

Bentham’s visits to Bowood were all felicity. A few of his amusing letters, full as they are of agreeable tittle-tattle, will best show how many pleasures were crowded into those happy days; which, in writing to the present Lord Lansdowne, Bentham called the “happiest of his life.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
George Wilson
Wilson, George

Bentham to George Wilson.*

“It is true Lady S—is a sister of Lord Ossory’s; my Lord was mentioning it just now in a parenthesis; then Miss V—must have been a half-sister by another father; and so part, at least, of the mystery is cleared up. The Countess of Warwick is also a sister of Lady S—, whether half or whole I cannot pretend to say. What is it now you want of me? Table talk? Get Selden’s; there you have a whole volume of it. Politics? I know nothing about the matter. Does he come in? That I know nothing about, any more than you. He went some little time ago to town, for a couple of days only: that came out accidentally in conversation yesterday, when there was company. ‘People fancied that I was gone upon politics.’ I have been told at different times, in the way of parenthesis, that I should see Lord Camden here and Colonel Barré; at present, there is not a soul but Blankett. To-morrow, my Lord, and I, and Blankett, (I beg his pardon, Blankett and I,) go to Lord Pembroke’s to see Wilton; we are to stay there all night; it is about thirty miles off. On what account we go, I can’t pretend to say; it was proposed as if it were only on mine. On Thursday, we go to Calne, to a corporation dinner. Hamilton of Bath has been mentioned as another person whom I shall see, and that in a few days; ’tis he who was the creator of Payne’s Hill. He is the oracle for the gardening works that are carried on here, and has been employed in undoing what capability-Brown had done. To-day we had no company to dinner; yesterday we had a Mr Bayntun (a son of Sir Edward Bayntun, an old courtier, whose name you will find in your Bible) and his wife; and who should this wife be, but a Lady Maria, a daughter of Lord Conventry, by Miss Gunning, and who, notwithstanding her ancestry, is as dowdy as a country girl, and as ugly as a horse, and yet, they say, she had on her best looks. Her husband is a plain young country squire in dress, with something of Croft’s manner in his address, yet better spoken and without his affectation; he is cultivated pour cause de vicinage, being the nearest neighbour there is—and yet, three miles off, neighbours being eloigned by the extensiveness of the demesnes.

“All this while, I have said nothing of the manner of my coming here; I began in the middle like an epic poem. I travelled very snug in my coach as far as Marlborough, with a set of people not worth recounting. At Marlborough, where we dined, our coach joined issue with another: the company, Alexander Popham, and a certain female. He appeared to know who I was, and we made a sort of bande à part. I determined to pursue your plan with regard to the quitting the hackney vehicle at Marlborough, but, alas! what availeth human, nay, Scottish, nay, even Wilsonian, prudence! Heaven’s great amusement is to make mock of it. Necessity obliged me to make inquiries before these people which led them to conclude I was going to Lord Shelburne’s; ed io anch’io, ‘and I, too, said the chambermaid,’ (for some such personage was she,) ‘am going to Lord Edition: current; Page: [90] Shelburne’s.’ Thank your stars you were not in my shoes; if you had been, not all the hartshorn in Godfrey’s shop would have recovered you. Je tins bon, but the chambermaid’s back being turned, I unbosomed myself, Gallicé, in pathetic strains, to Alexander Popham. Qu’y faire de cette femme ci? Quoique ce soit une femme, il n’y a pas moyen de la mener avec moi, cependant c’est precisement à cette maison là que je vais; voilà ce qui j’appelle une rencontre. It was some consolation, however to me, that the turpitude of my situation was shared with Alexander, who, upon first meeting, took care to enlarge upon the preeminence of stage-coaches to post-chaises,—of the former being the more expeditious vehicle,—of his being urged to have recourse to it by a disinterested innkeeper at Newbery, and of being determined by so pure a motive as the hope of company; had it not been for this, I should rather have attributed it to the expenses of a lost election. At parting, ‘to let you into a secret,’ says he, ‘I ought not, by right, to go so near, without paying my respects at the house you are going to; and I would not wish you to mention your having seen me. But how long do you think of staying?’—‘Indeed, I can’t tell; a month or thereabouts, it is not impossible.’—‘Ah, then,’ says he, ‘I hope we shall meet.’—‘Well, but why not now? Come, get into the post-chaise with me.’ The fact was, I should not have been sorry to have had him, supposing him upon such a footing, as a sort of instrument to break the ice with. However, he would not go. When I arrived here, the family were not at home; they were gone, at least the gentlemen were, to dine with Sir James Long, the nephew and hœres designatus of Lord Tilney. When my lord came in, he ran up to me, and touched one of my cheeks with his, and then the other. I was even satisfied with it, since he meant it kindly, and since such, I suppose, is the fashion; but I should have been still better satisfied if he had made either of the ladies his proxy.”

Sunday, 12 o’Clock.

“Where shall I begin?—let me see—the first place, by common right, to the ladies. The ideas I brought with me respecting the female part of this family are turned quite topsy-turvy, and unfortunately they are not yet cleared up. I had expected to find in Lady Shelburne, a Lady Louisa Fitzpatrick, sister of an Earl of Ossory, whom I remember at school: instead of her, I find a lady who has for her sister a Miss Caroline V—: is not this the maid of honour, the sister to Lady G.? the lady who was fond of Lord C., and of whom he was fond? and whom he quitted for an heiress and a pair of horns? Be they who they may, the one is loveliest of matrons, the other of virgins: they have both of them more than I could wish of reserve; but it is a reserve of modesty rather than of pride. The quadrupeds, whom you know I love next, consist of a child of a year old, a tiger, a spaniel formerly attached to Lady Shelburne—at present to my Lord—besides four plebeian cats, who are taken no notice of, horses, &c., and a wild boar, who is sent off on a matrimonial expedition to the farm. The four first I have commenced a friendship with, especially the first of all, to whom I am body-coachman extraordinary en tire d’office: Henry (for that is his name,”—[the present Lord Lansdowne]—“for such an animal, has the most thinking countenance I ever saw; being very clean, I can keep him without disgust and even with pleasure, especially after having been rewarded, as I have just now, for my attention to him, by a pair of the sweetest smiles imaginable from his mamma and aunt. As Providence hath ordered it, they both play on the harpsichord, and at chess. I am flattered with the hopes of engaging with them, before long, either in war or harmony—not to-day—because, whether you know it or not, it is Sunday: I know it, having been paying my devotions—our church, the hall—our minister, a sleek young parson, the curate of the parish—our saints, a naked Mercury, an Apollo in the same dress, and a Venus de Medicis—our congregation, the two ladies, Captain Blankett, and your humble servant, upon the carpet by the minister—below, the domestics, superioris et inferioris ordinis. Among the former I Edition: current; Page: [91] was concerned to see poor Mathews the librarian, who, I could not help thinking, had as good a title to be upon the carpet as myself.

“Of Lord Fitzmaurice I know nothing, but from his bust and letters: the first bespeaks him a handsome youth, the latter an ingenious one. He is not sixteen, and already he writes better than his father. He is under the care of a Mr Jervis, a dissenting minister, who has had charge of him since he was six years old. He has never been at any public school of education. He has now for a considerable time been travelling about the kingdom, that he may know something of his own country before he goes to others, and be out of the way of adulation.

“I am interrupted—adieu! le reste à l’ordinaire prochain.”

Friday Evening, August 25th, or thereabouts.

“On Monday we went to Wilton, as proposed—Lord S., Blankett, and I, in my Lord’s coach with hacks. It was not as I had at first apprehended. My Lord was almost as much a stranger at Wilton as myself: he had been there but once before, and then without acquaintance. Lord Pembroke’s defection from the court, had begun an intercourse in London, and this visit was the first fruit of it in the country. We set out at six: got there to breakfast, (it is about twenty-six or twenty-seven miles off,) and stayed to breakfast the next morning. It was seeing the place to some advantage, having the master and the mistress of the house for cicerones. A very pretty part of the gardens, planned and just finished by Lady P—, is not shown to strangers. At dinner, the only company besides ourselves were, an officer who was quartered at Salisbury, (a Major North of the 4th Dragoons,) and young Beckford of Fonthill, who, on the 28th of this month, comes of age, and gives a grand fête to all the world. The family consist only of Lord and Lady P—, Lord Herbert who is with his regiment, and Lady Charlotte, a little girl of nine or ten years old, who is at home. It is odd enough, that though he and she are by no means on good terms, they should neither of them have a creature with them. Lord P— is one of the best bred, most intelligent, pleasant fellows, I ever met with in my life; they say he is mad, but, if his madness never shows itself in any other shapes than it did then, I wish to God I could be mad too. He talked with infinite vivacity and légèreté, saying many good things and no foolish ones.

“I got a most exquisite lesson in the art of small talk from the breakfast conversation of Lord S. and Lady P., (Lord P. being absent for near an hour.) They had been old cronies twenty or twenty-five years ago, and had never come across one another since: you may imagine what stories they had to ohop and notes to compare. In those days Lord S. used to frequent Marlborough House. You know the genealogy. Lady P. and Lady Di. Beauclerk, sisters to the present Duke of Marlborough. It was pleasing enough to contemplate, at leisure, the remains of a beauty which was one of the first that I remember to have heard celebrated, au sortir de l’enfance. Lady P. and Lady Egremont—whom also I shall probably have the opportunity of being acquainted with—were the two heroines of a copy of verses, which I remember made some noise at Tunbridge, when I was there with my father about twenty years ago.* She is grown fat, and, by that means, a little out of shape; but she has still a fine face, and very fine light brown hair, which she wears neatly done up without powder, to serve as evidence of youth. To apologize for the attention with which I surveyed her, and to make up for the little I could have to say upon such topics, I threw into my looks as well as I could, an air of respect mixed up with a small dash of tenderness. She is at that time of life at which a woman thinks herself obliged to any man who will give her to understand that he thinks her still desirable. It was by this manœuvre, I suppose, that I escaped contempt: for it did not appear to me, that I was looked upon as others who had so much more to say for themselves. They (I Edition: current; Page: [92] mean Lord and Lady P.) are to be here in the course of the summer, but separately; it being so contrived, thinking it would be the more agreeable to them.

“The Duchess of Bedford is also to be here; she is, you know, related (I don’t know yet precisely in what manner) to Lady Shelburne; so also, I believe, is a personage of a nature very disparate to the former—I mean Dunning; I mean that he is expected here. You have in the newspapers of a day or two ago, a mighty pretty paragraph, about the duchess being all summer long in town; the fact is, she is at Woburn. Yesterday, we had at breakfast old Sir Edward Bayntum; to-morrow, we have at dinner Sir James Long, nephew and hæres designatus to Lord Tilney. This morning, went away honest Jo. Townsend, a parson, brother to the alderman;* we found him here on our return from Wilton, on Tuesday. He seems a very worthy creature, has been a good deal abroad, and has a great deal of knowledge; his studies have lain a great deal in the same track with mine; he is a utilitarian, a naturalist, a chemist, a physician; was once what I had liked to have been, a methodist, and what I should have been still had I not been what I am; as Alexander, if he had not been Alexander, (I am wrong in the story, but never mind,) would have been Diogenes. In short, we have become great friends, and he has given me the carte du pays. There is a mixture of simplicity, candour, and a composed earnestness, tempered with good breeding, that has won upon me mightily; and upon the terms of my indulging him in his patriotism, and antipathy to your countrymen, (some of whom, however, he has a great respect for,) I am apt to think we shall be fast friends. He is to come here again ere long, that I may cast an eye over a work of his, part of which is printed; and he, in return, is to assist me in the revisal of mine, which he enters into the spirit of most perfectly. He has made me promise to go over and see him at his living, which is about fourteen miles from hence. Lord S. and Barré, when he comes, are to go and dine there: I shall then go with them, and stay behind them for a few days. Blankett is to go on Monday. I am glad of it; he seems to be an honest sort of man enough, but has one of the most confused heads I ever met with, and he embroils every topic that is started.

“The master of the house, to judge from everything I have seen yet, is one of the pleasantest men to live with that ever God put breath into: his whole study seems to be to make everybody about him happy—servants not excepted; and in their countenances one may read the effects of his endeavours. In his presence they are as cheerful as they are respectful and attentive; and when they are alone, you may see them merry, but, at all times, as quiet as so many mice. I have no need to rue the rencontre mentioned in a former sheet; for, to such a poor devil as I, they are as respectful and attentive as if I were a lord. The mistress has more reserve and less conversation, but as much mildness as the master. The only instances of fire I have seen him exhibit, have been when he has been declaiming about politics; yet, though I frequently oppose him, and scarce ever join with him, he takes it all in the best part imaginable. I will tell you how the matter stands between the P— of W— and Perdita. The common story is that she has got letters of his, in which he speaks disrespectfully of the king; and that she is making use of them to extort money from him. This is not the case; but the fact is, that she has a direct promissory letter for £20,000, written, I think it was, before possession. This is what Lord P— told us on Monday. Before he left town, he called on Lord Southampton to pump him about it. Lord S. could not immediately see him. Meantime came in Lord Malden, who was come as plenipo for the lady, for the express purpose of negotiating the matter with Lord S. Lord P— descried his errand, as he says, and, by pretending to know more than he did, picked the story out of him.

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“As to myself, I have hitherto been completely idle, and that partly from inclination, partly upon principle. Strangers are lodged in a part of the house quite separate from that which is inhabited by the family. Adjoining to my bed-chamber I have a dressing-room, and should have a servant’s room if I had one to put into it. They are plain but neat, spacious, and convenient. The dressing-room I make my study. People here do just what they please—eat their meals either with the family or in their own apartments. The only gêne I feel is, that which conscience imposes of dressing twice a-day—that, you know, eats time.

“We learnt at Wilton that Lord Porchester comes off with little loss; the witnesses against him discredited themselves.”

Saturday afternoon.

“Lord Bristol is here—a most excellent companion—pleasant, intelligent, well read, and well bred—liberal-minded to the last degree. He has been everywhere, and knows everything. Sir J. Long is a little stiff-rumped fellow, and knows nothing—except persons, and so forth, in the Q. S. Pian style. Lord B. has with him one of his sons—a fine boy of twelve years old—who is just going to sea.”

Bowood, Saturday, 26th August, 1781.

“The revenue of the Bishoprick of Derry is, at present, £7,200, and, in a few years, will be £9,000; the patronage, £14,300; none of the livings less than £250; some £8, £10, £12, up to £1500. Of all the advowsons in his diocese, he has forty; some lay-lord, five; and another, I forget who, two or three. This, from the honest bishop, who, at the same time, declares it to be a wonder and a shame that the clergy should be suffered to remain in possession of so much wealth. Of the above parsons, scarce one resides. They pay a curate £50 a-year, which, he observes, according to their own estimation, is what the service that is done is worth.

“Lord B. says, he is well assured and persuaded that Necker acted corruptly—that, as minister, he borrowed of his own house at seven per cent., when the farmers would have lent at five per cent. Necker and Turgot (who, you know, died about eight months ago) were bitter enemies—this makes it the more generous for N. to speak of T. in the handsome way he has done in his pamphlet. What turned out Turgot, was a jealousy of Maurepas. When the Prince of Condé, who found himself affected by some of Turgot’s arrangements, raised the insurrection at Paris, Turgot went to the king, and got an order upon the Marechal de Biron, governor of Paris, for as many men as he chose to have: purposely, or through inadvertence, he failed to communicate this to Maurepas. M.’s jealousy took fire; and in two days Turgot was dismissed. Madame Blondel, who was closely liée with Turgot, took upon herself the blame; but all would not save him. Necker owed his dismission to the Parliaments—whose assumed negative in legislation his project of provincial assemblies went to supersede.

“The K. of F., who is timidity itself, is apprehensive of a quarrel with the men of the long robe. Caron de Beaumarchais, one of the busiest and most successful of intriguants, has realized (Lord S. says) to the tune of £30,000 or £40,000 a-year. He was sent over to get (I forget what) papers of consequence from De Morande; but that story you remember. He was even employed once in making up a quarrel between the K. and Q. of France, which had gone to such a length, that the empress queen was impliquée in it. At present, his interest is equal to almost anything. He is at the head of the project for publishing three magnificent editions of Voltaire’s works, at fifteen (twenty-five, I think it is) and forty guineas, with Baskerville’s types. He has sent Lord S. a number of proposals. Lord B. said, he had met with French officers, and seen letters from others, (Fayette was one who was mentioned on the occasion,) who all joined in giving the Americans the worst of characters: they had all the vices of the Athenians, said somebody, without any of their virtues. Franklin, it was agreed by both their lordships, had his situation to the last degree uncomfortable, despised and neglected Edition: current; Page: [94] by the French Ministry, thwarted and persecuted by Arthur Lee’s party, of whom he has been heard to say, ‘he could not have thought there had been so much malevolence in human nature.’

“Elliot has brought down a strange story of the Chancellor [Thurlow]—that he had promised a man a living—that afterwards he came to learn that the man (who was a Yorkshireman) had concurred in some of the opposition measures of that county, and that, therefore, he had revoked his promise. By way of contrast, the care was mentioned that Lord Northington took to make an equal distribution of church preferments to all parties. A strange circumstance in the story is, that Lord Loughborough went to the Chancellor, and forced him into it. The reality of the promise is mentioned as being so clear, that it was to have been confirmed by I know not what overt acts.

“Lord S. pretends to have heard from very high authority at New York, that Lord Cornwallis, being sick of his situation, had begged of Clinton to come in person, and gather the laurels that were ready for him; but that Cl. begged to be excused. Reported of Lord Mulgrave, when in Opposition, being introduced to the Queen of Sardinia: ‘On dit,’ said her majesty, ‘que Milord n’est pas bien à la cour.’ ‘Madame c’est la cour qui n’est pas bien chez moi.’ This was by Lord Bristol, who is uncle to Lord M.

“Lord B. assumed to me, (unless I much mistook him,) a principal share in the merit of carrying the Toleration Act through the Irish House of Lords. He was, in his own mind at least, for going further, and admitting them to all offices, that of Member of Parliament not excepted. Of a little more than three millions—of which, he says, the population of Ireland consists—upwards of two millions are Catholics, about 600,000 Presbyterians, and only about 400,000 Church-of-England men. He has made an exact enumeration of all the people in his diocese, distinguishing them according to their religions, occupations, sex, ages, and the like.

“Elliot says that Admiral Parker is loud in his complaints against Lord Sandwich for not giving him force enough. The royal visit was a contrivance of Lord S.’s to stop his mouth; but that it won’t.

“Elliot and Lord S. agreed that Lord Chesterfield is broken up, and gone to live altogether in the country. He says of himself that he is much obliged to the P. of W.; that he had not thought of his owing above £30,000 or £40,000; but that, in consequence of that affair, he had the advantage of knowing that it amounted to £90,000; that the notion of his being a short life, had brought all his creditors about him; that now he knows how his affairs stood; and seven or eight years, spent in the country, would set them right again; otherwise, going on in the notion of owing but £30,000 or £40,000, he should have ruined himself past redemption. Lord S. says that, on the breaking out of that affair, the king was exasperated to the highest degree, with Lord Ch.; that he had appointed a day for visiting him; but that upon that he broke the appointment, without sending any word.

“Lord B. told me that Lord Shannon used to send twenty-two or twenty-three Members to the Irish Parliament; but that, since the act, that influence was diminished.

“I write you everything higgledy-piggledy, just as it happens to come in my head. There is no end of the anecdotes, of all kinds, I hear about the politics, as well of France as of this country: about one in fifty I shall remember; the others will be lost to me.

“I wish I could get your great carcass, and squeeze it through a keyhole, like a fairy’s, that you might get by heart the things I hear, and give them back to me as I wanted them.

“Lord S. says that Lord Chatham, who governed everybody else with a high hand, was himself governed, in a manner, by the King of Prussia; who gave him information, and suggested ideas to him, even for his maritime operations. This appears from a suite of letters from the king to Lord C., of which Lord S. has either the originals or copies, and which I, I believe, may see.

“I mistook. Lord Porchester, upon Lord Pembroke’s account, lost about Edition: current; Page: [95] £3,500. Supposing that he should be ruined, he sent over an agent to the continent to look out for a retreat.”

Monday, 27th August, 8 in the Evening.

“Last night came in, Elliot of Port-Elliot, St Paul’s friend. This morning, Lord Bristol and Blankett went away: Lord Bristol, I believe, to Oxford; Blankett to London, taking Hackwood (the Duke of Bolton’s) in his way. One of the most wrong-headed blockheads I think I ever met with; putting in his oar on every occasion, talking à tort and à travers, and spoiling every discussion that is started. Yet he is connected with many of the first people in Opposition, and, in particular, has the ear of the mâitre de la maison, to a degree I am sorry to observe. His great merit is the having been a lieutenant to Keppel, whose âme damnée he is, and has written paragraphs and pamphlets on his side. Before he went, he took me into confidence, and consulted me about a nonsensical project of his for discovering polished and commercial nations where Cook has been, and found none: the most absurd idea, supported by the most absurd arguments, in the most confused method, and in the most slovenly and awkward style. He it is who brought home the Rippon from the East Indies. He is personally acquainted with Rumbold and defends him without argument and without shame. Sed de hoc plus satis.

“Talking with Lord B. yesterday (nobody else in the room) about the riots, he took notice, that in the Scotch Assembly (National Ecclesiastical Assembly—what d’ye call it?) there were but two voices against the toleration. O yes, says I. I understood it was not with the clergy that it originated, but with a parcel of low-lived fellows of laymen in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. No, no, says he—not with them. With whom, then? With people here. These last words were pronounced with an air of mystery, and with a push of the voice. Who he meant, I cannot pretend to say. It cannot be the Ministry; for besides that, nothing could be more against their interests. If he had meant them, he would have spoken out. It could not, I think, be the Rockinghamites; it could not have been Lord G. G., for nobody could have thought of making a mystery of his name. I leave you to form your own conclusions.

Lord S. says that when he was in town, (about a week ago,) a Mr Oswald, who is a strong royalist, and much connected with Lord Mansfield, told him that it was a certain fact that the French had at last seen the necessity of supplying the Americans with money; that they had accordingly sent £600,000, and that if it reached them, there must be an end of all our hopes.”

Tuesday, 28th August, 8 o’Clock in the Evening.

“ ‘An Historical Account of the Settlement and Possession of Bombay, and of the Rise and Progress of the War with the Mahratta Nation. Printed for Robson, New Bond Street, 1781.’ It is not yet published. Lord S. says it is by Master Pechell. It contains information which there is no other means of coming at: in that respect, it is valuable; but, for composition, it is, I think, the vilest stuff I ever met with. I have just read it. This is one of the pleasant incidents attendant upon great houses—meeting with unedited books, or books of the day, before they are to be had elsewhere.

“This morning came a packet to Lord S., from France. It contained two newspapers—the one a journal of the operations of De Grasse, from his sailing from France, to the day of the troops abandoning St Lucie; the other, a letter of Count Dillon, from that period to the taking of Tobago. The first man says:—‘The fort of St Lucie is so strong (what do they call it? Morne Fortune?) that it might bid defiance to 20,000 men; that it has cisterns, and I do not know how many other things, bomb-proof, and that part of it is undermined; but then he adds some other circumstances that are plain lies, viz. that there were 2,500 regulars in it, and as many sailors. It appears plainly, if not wholly, as a feint to draw our attention from Tobago. At this latter place, it looks as if we had made but a scurvy figure. The island Edition: current; Page: [96] was surrendered, without so much as firing a gun; though we had one post, Dillon says, extremely strong, and a defence of twenty-four hours might, as they had reason to expect, have given time to the fleet to arrive to their relief. On the other hand, their fleet appears, from the first paper, to have cut as scurvy a figure in the engagement with Admiral Hood. It talks of a fatalité, and then, again, of another fatalité; and so, I believe, to the tune of three fatalities, that prevented them from gaining the advantages they might have done; and yet this was written by an apologist of De Grasse.

“I believe I shall pack this off to-night. To-morrow, Elliot leaves this place—a modest, civil, good kind of man; sensible enough; but without those pretensions which one would expect to find in a man whose station in his country is so commanding, and political influence so great. He is modest enough in his conversation about politics, but desponding. He says he scarce ever looks into a paper, nor dares he, for fear of ill news.

“I have just been playing at billiards with Lady S. Miss V. looked on, but would not play, saying she never had played before. There is an event for you. By and by I shall come to telling you every time I buckle my shoe. I almost despair of getting them to the harpsichord. To-morrow, however, the house, I hope, will be clear; and then, perhaps, I may have some chance. The chess and the billiards were her own proposal; the harpsichord I must beg and pray for.

“The sheet is not filled, and you will grumble if I leave any of it blank. There seems no want of money here: grounds laying out, and plantations making, upon a large scale—a gate going to be made, with a pyramid on each side of it, for an approach to the house at six miles distance:—the pyramids to be at least 100 feet high. At this place, a road, which is to be made from the house, is to join the road from London to Devizes. This new road will leave Calne (through which the present road runs) on the right, and save a mile or two. I call it Egypt.

“In the way, you have deep valleys, with meadows and a water-mill at the bottom of them; and, on the sides, craggy rocks, with water gushing out of them, just for all the world as if Moses had been there.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
August 31, 1781

Bentham to his Father.

Honoured Sir,

A day or two ago, I received your letter, dated Brackley, August 25. I write this in expectation of its meeting you at Bath: as soon as I hear of your arrival there, I will see about fixing a day for paying my duty to you in person: as that will, I hope, be a speedy one, there will be the less occasion for my entering into any epistolary details; characters, therefore, and descriptions, and conversations, you will not now expect from me; I shall content myself with giving you a very short account of my motions, and the company we either have seen or expect to see. Yesterday se’ennight, (Thursday, August 16,) at four o’clock in the morning, I got into one of the Bath post-coaches: diligences there are none. At Marlborough, where we dined, I quitted the coach, took a post-chaise, and got here about light. The family consists at present only of Lord and Lady Shelburne; a little boy of theirs, who is no more than a year old; and Miss Caroline V., a half-sister of Lady Shelburne’s by the mother’s side. Lord Fitzmaurice,—the only child Lord S. has left by his first lady,—a youth not quite sixteen, is travelling over England, with a Mr Jervis, a dissenting minister, who has had the care of him ever since he was six years old. He is not to come to Bowood before the family leave it for the summer. Visiters there were none, except Captain Blankett, whom you know of: he left us on Monday last, but is expected again in October. On the Saturday, there dined here a Mr Bayntun, and Lady Mary his wife, daughter of Lord Coventry by the celebrated Lady Coventry, whom we used to hear so much of. She has nothing of her mother’s beauty. Mr Bayntun is the youngest son, but heir-apparent, of Edition: current; Page: [97] Sir Edward Bayntun, an old courtier, who has an estate in this neighbourhood. On Sunday, there was nobody. On the Monday, Lord Shelburne, Captain Blankett, and I, went in my lord’s coach to Lord Pembroke’s at Wilton. We got there to breakfast, and staid to breakfast the next morning: Wilton is about twenty-seven miles from Bowood. At breakfast, there was not a creature but Lord and Lady Pembroke; but at dinner came a Colonel North, who happened to be quartered at Salisbury, and young Beckford of Fonthill, who was to give a grand fête upon his coming of age, the 28th. This was the first visit Lord S. had ever paid at Wilton upon the footing of an acquaintance. Sunday, September 2d. On Tuesday, (August 21st,) on our return from Wilton, we found a Mr Townsend, a clergyman, a brother of the alderman’s. He has a living about fourteen miles off, and is upon a familiar footing here. He staid till the Thursday or Friday after. What I have seen of him, I like much; his thoughts have run pretty much in the channels that mine have run in. He was to go for three weeks into North-amptonshire; but he made me promise, that, on his return, I would go over and spend a few days with him. On Wednesday the 22d, or Thursday the 23d, I forget which, Sir Edward Bayntun breakfasted here. On Saturday, to dinner, came a singular sort of personage, who, not in Falstaff’s sense, but in another sense, may be termed a double man: I mean the Earl of Bristol, alias Bishop of Derry. He brought with him a fine boy of his, about twelve years old, whom he is just going to enter in the navy. On Sunday evening came Elliot of Port-Elliot; he who is knight of the shire, and puts in seven borough members for Cornwall. Lord Bristol went away on Monday, (the 27th,) as likewise did Blankett. Elliot staid till Tuesday after breakfast. On the Sunday, (the 26th,) Sir James Long, the nephew and hæres designatus to Lord Tilney, dined here. Since the Tuesday, I think we have had nobody, except yesterday, when we had to dinner a Mr Bull, who lives at Calne, and a Captain Onslow, late of the Blues, who is upon a visit to him. Oh, yes: on Friday we had a Mr Dickinson, a rich old Quaker in the neighbourhood, who called here and drank tea. Several whom I hear spoken of as being expected here, are Lord Dartry, Lord Camden, Dunning, Colonel Barré, Hamilton, late of Payne’s Hill, William Pitt the orator, Lady Warwick—Lady Shelburne’s sister, and the Duchess of Bedford. It was not till t’other day that I understood from Lord S., as we were sitting tête-à-tête after dinner, that there was a probability of her bringing the duke with her, which, he said, he hoped might be the case, ‘That the duke might have the advantage of making my acquaintance.’ Lord Dartry has been expected for this day or two. He is an Irish lord made out of a banker,—his name was Dawson: Lord S. speaks of him as one ‘with whom he is much connected.’ As to the other people, I have been successively told at different times when they have happened to be mentioned, that I should see them here; Lord Camden in particular, with a view to his looking over my book. This throws my departure to an indefinite distance. Indeed, I have no need to wish to be in a hurry to go away, as I am as much at my ease as I ever was in any house in my life; one point excepted, the being obliged by bienséance to dress twice a-day. I do what I please, and have what I please. I ride and read with my lord, walk with the dog, stroke the leopard, draw little Henry out in his coach, and play at chess and billiards with the ladies. My lord’s custom is to read to them after tea, when they are at work; and now nothing will serve him but, in spite of everything I can say, he will make them hear my driest of all dry metaphysics. He takes the advantage of my being here to read it in my presence, that I may explain things. This has gone on for several evenings. I must cut short; for while I am writing this in my dressing-room above stairs, they are waiting for me half-a-mile off in the library below stairs. You will, I dare say, excuse me; succinct as my letter has necessarily been, it is already not Edition: current; Page: [98] a short one. My best respects wait upon my mother. How fares it with our friends at Oxford?

“I am, Hon. Sir, your dutiful and affectionate Son,

Jeremy Bentham.

“I forgot to mention that Lord and Lady Pembroke are also expected here. It is contrived that they shall come separate.

Sunday, Sept. 2d, 1781.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
September 5th, 1781
George Wilson
Wilson, George

Bentham to George Wilson.

“The ladies being retired, Lord S. and I are left alone in the dining-room. He is writing to his son; and I, having no son to write to, to keep my hands from mischief, will write to you.

“This morning, he had a letter from Blankett, telling me that there was certainly a foundation for the report of the insurrection in Peru, and asking him if he had not, or rather taking for granted that he had, received a copy of the Manifesto of the Insurgents from Sir John Hart—at Lisbon, is it, or Oporto? Blankett appears to have had it from Pinto the Portuguese Minister, with whom he is well acquainted. Pinto was at one time expected here; but, I believe, is not now.

Q. S. P.’s* are got to Bath at last. As to your fears about my conversion, they are altogether vain. This is all I can say about the matter at present—faute de tempe; for, when my Lord has done, I have done, as the packet is then closed.

“Yesterday, was it, or the day before? I forget which, we had a turtle, and, therefore, company to eat it—a Mr Methuen, and his son, and his son’s wife. The father was Member for some place, but has given up to his son: you will see him in the Bible. The son is married to a sister of your friend G—, that had the w— of a wife. With them came also young Bouverie, youngest son of Lord Radnor. Methuen, the father, has £16,000 a-year. Bouverie, when he comes of age, which will be in a few months, has £20,000, I am told. Among them all, they have not the tenth part of an idea. Young Methuen is the very model of my lord in the ‘Princesse de Babylone,’ except that, instead of my Lord’s crustiness, he seems to have good nature.

“No Lord Dartry yet; and Hamilton does not come this month. What think you of Lord G.G. opposing Clarke? Lord S. knows nothing of the latter: thinks it would be the best thing for him that could happen, dividing the Opposition party. Send me any election news you pick up, as, likewise, anything you can get from St Paul’s—ministerial news he may be more in the way of picking up than me. It will be shortest to direct to Shelburne House. Lord S. has just written to Dunning to ask him here.”

Bowood, 10th September, 1781. Monday Morning, Nine o’Clock.

“I have just received yours of Friday the 7th. This is expeditions. I tremble at the threatened acquaintance with the Bennets—even Parson Bridges I would have gladly spared. If things go on thus, the post at Thorpe will be no longer tenable.

“I am distracted at the thoughts of losing Miss V—. She leaves us in a day or two; I fear, on Thursday. I had taken for granted her home was here; but Lord S. says it is at the Duchess’. She is gone to Lady Warwick’s, ‘because’ Lady W. is, some time or other, to lay in. Lay in, is it, or lie in? However, one of these days, it will come to our turn to lay in, and then we shall have Miss V— back again. She is not very conversible indeed, as I have already told you ten times over; but, then, she is very sensible, has great good nature in her, and is, altogether, one of the sweetest pictures to look at you ever saw. We shall be muzzy enough, I doubt, when she is gone. I can’t help pitying poor Lady S., who will not have a creature of her own sex to speak to. This will not, however, last long. There is another Miss V—, younger than this, whose name is Elizabeth. She is not so beautiful, I understand, as this, but a little upon the squat, as I learned from her similitude to a tree that I was commending. Edition: current; Page: [99] Lady Holland was another sister of Lady Shelburne. She, I believe, was by the same father, the Earl of Ossory. She, I understand, is dead, to the great grief of Lady Shelburne. So far so good; but, if my memory does not much deceive me, Lord S. told me yesterday that the Duchess of Marlborough again is another sister. Yes, he certainly did; but with the Marlborough family I see not the least sign of any communication. Perhaps, however, the Duchess of M. is only a cousin; being the niece of the Duchess of B. by another sister, as the Duchess of Grafton and Baroness Kurtzleben are. Be this as it may, sure I am that the Duchess of M. was spoken of by Lord S. as one of the ladies of whom the Duchess of B. had the breeding up. Lady Shelburne was with old Gertrude for nine years. What an exquisite brood that old hen has sat upon!

“Lord Dartry, I believe, is not now expected here; at least not yet awhile. Lady Dartry, I understand, is much in favour with the queen. Lord Camden is expected here on the 15th, Dunning on the 25th; Mrs Dunning comes a week before, to be here while her husband is at Bristol. I am kept here for the professed purpose of Lord Camden and Dunning looking over my book; hence it appears that I shall not, at any rate, leave this place till the month is out. As soon, however, as there is no particular reason assigned for my staying here, I intend to go: so that, by the first week in next month, it is probable we shall meet. This, however, cannot be, if Douglas and Trail are both with you at that time, since the house would not hold us all: tell me how that matter stands. When the Duchess of B. comes seems not to be yet fixed: there is some expectation that she will bring the duke with her. Lord S. said to me t’other day, as we were sitting tête-à-tête after dinner, that he hoped she would, ‘that the Duke might have the advantage of making my acquaintance.’ This, I have a great notion, I told you in my last; if I did, you must excuse me.

“So Lady Warwick, you see, is not to be here, as I once thought she was; it was not here that she and Miss V— were to meet, but at Warwick castle. Did you ever hear of this same Warwick castle as a place worth looking at? Lord S. has mentioned it to me as one of the most beautiful spots in England. I may possibly, one day or other, be able to tell you more about the matter; he has told me two or three times that he should be glad to show it me. This I should like well enough, I must confess, if it were only for the sake of seeing the fair owner. Lord W., he says, is a pleasant, good-natured, little man, and that I shall like him very well. Upon my asking about his political ideas, he spoke of him with some little regret as being a courtier; and of Greville, who is in the Admiralty, (I think—is it not?) as ‘a rank one.’ Is not all this very handsome? It would please you to see how attentive he is upon all these occasions to keep out of sight every idea of protection—everything that could give me to understand that he looked upon it as a favour done me to introduce me to these great people.”

September, 13th, Thursday.

“Yesterday, came here, in the evening, a Mr Ernest—a heavy-looking, good-humoured sort of a German, intimately connected, somehow or other, (I can’t yet tell how,) with Count Bruhl, through whose means he became known to Lord S. In the chaise with him came his servant, also a German, who, before bedtime, got drunk, and deposited his carcass in the housekeeper’s room instead of his own. Going down stairs to a certain place after I had been up to bed, I met the housekeeper in the staircase, who, being a neighbour, opened her hard case to me. Finding remonstrances ineffectual, we got a couple of the men, who hauled him away, and left Mrs Housekeeper to her repose.

“Yesterday, also, came Parson Townsend. I have not yet had any private communication with him. Illness in his family prevented his intended journey into Northamptonshire. The same illness may, perhaps, prevent my visit to him.

Edition: current; Page: [100]

“To-day came a letter announcing an intended visit from a certain Lord and Lady Tracton. This Lord Tracton is Lord Ch. Baron in Ireland. His father was an attorney, and did Lord S.’s business there.”

Saturday Night, September 15th, (half after 10,) 1781.

‘Arrived here a little before, Lord Chatham, his brother, Will. Pitt, and Pratt, Lord Camden’s son, Member for Bath. I find they had none of them ever been here before. Do you know Lord Chatham? In his appearance, upon the whole, he puts me in mind of Dan Parker Coke; but he has his father’s Roman nose, and, if events should concur to make him have a good opinion of himself, will soon, I dare say, acquire his commanding manner: at present, one sees little more than a kind of reserve, tempered with mildness, but clouded with a little dash of bashfulness. Will. Pitt you know for certain; in his conversation there is nothing of the orator—nothing of that hauteur and suffisance one would expect; on the contrary, he seems very good-natured, and a little raw. I was monstrously frightened at him, but, when I came to talk with him, he seemed frightened at me; so that, if anything should happen to jumble us together, we may, perhaps, be good pax; which, however, is not very likely: for I don’t know very well what ideas we are likely to have in common. After beating Miss V—, I have just been beating him, at chess; an inglorious conquest, as he is scarce so much in my hands as I am in yours. Ernest and the rest of the people have been playing at crown whist. Supper being announced, I stole up here. Ernest, it seems, is the Saxon minister—an honest, good-humoured kind of man. I find it necessary to rise before six, and for that purpose go to bed by eleven. I lie on straw. Pratt has more distance and more suffisance than either of the others; yet there is a sort of giggishness about him too; he puts me in mind of a young Jew-broker in the city. About an hour after dinner passes now quite happily; as I have established a habit of accompanying Lady S. on the harpsichord, and she is pleased with it. She has nothing at present here but a shabby little spinnet, that I should be ashamed to use myself; but I have set her agog after a variety of new-fashioned harpsichords, and she vows to have some of them. There being nothing here in the fiddle way that is tolerable, she has made me send for mine to town.”

Sunday Morning.

“I mistook about the time of Dunning’s visit: his wife does not come till the 24th, and he not till a week afterwards. He, therefore, will not be here till the 1st of October; allowing a week for his stay. I shall not leave this place till the 27th, when I am to pay a visit to Parson Townsend, from whom I shall hardly get away under a week. I shall then come to you en droiture, without going to town, provided always that your spare room is not occupied. On se dechaine ici most violently against Governor Cunningham; indeed his conduct at Barbadoes seems to warrant it. A brother of his, also in the army, used to be looked upon as a mignon of Lord G. G., in Germany, when Lord S. was serving there: Cunningham was very nice about his hair, which used to make Lord S. take a pleasure in discomposing it. Besides his connexion with Lord G. G., he is a toad-eater at Marlborough House, where he has entrée at any time, notwithstanding the reserve so remarkable in that family: the first time of his being there, he was invited for a week; he stayed six, in spite of repeated hints that he had stayed long enough.

“A story of Lord Bristol. Some time ago, coming from Paris directly to London, he carried a verbal message, as he pretended, from Franklin to—whom would you think of all men in the world?—Lord Spencer, telling him that, if he would come to Paris immediately, they two would be able to settle a Peace. Lord Spencer was very much distressed; could scarce credit the information; but willing to do what he thought right, thought he could not justify himself the taking no notice of it. He accordingly set out, and actually got as far as Calais; but the wind proving contrary, or some Edition: current; Page: [101] other obstruction arising, he fancied it impossible to get to Paris time enough, and so went back again. This, Lord S. says, he has from an authority which he is not at liberty to mention, but which he can absolutely depend upon. He has told it twice in my hearing; the last time, yesterday, to Lord Chatham. He accounts for it by the flightiness of Lord B., who, he says, is equally known for his spirit of intrigue and his habit of drawing the long bow. Indeed there does seem to be something of that in him; besides that, they say there is something of a crack in the brain runs through the family.”

Sunday Morning, September 16.

“The hints thrown out by Lord S. in one of our tête-à-têtes in London, about offers made to entrap him, and which I was then disposed to look upon as a way of speaking, have, in some of our country tête-à-têtes, been particularized. To break the connexion between him and Lord Chatham, propositions were first made to the latter to come in with Lord S., afterwards to Lord S. to come in without Lord C. One day, when Lord S. was dining at Lord Beauchamp’s, Eden having been to Shelburne House, and not finding him at home, he followed him thither; calling him out, he said he came by order of the king; and made him three propositions: the first, to come in and act with Lord North and Lord Suffolk; another, to act with either of them without the other; and a third, to come in without either of them. This latter he would have accepted, had not his friends, some or all of them, been excluded. I know not whether Lord Chatham was living at that time, but I believe he was. Barré, he says, has been repeatedly and constantly refusing £3,000 a-year, which would have been given to him if he would have deserted Lord S. He values himself much on his friends, and on their mutual fidelity. With Alderman Townsend, he says, he has been connected twenty-two years; with Lord Camden, about twenty-one; with Dunning, eighteen; and with Elliot, I think, he added sixteen. Elliot brought in seven Members, he says, the last time. Gibbon he brought in for private friendship; though, as it turned out, much to his regret. Elliot offered, he says, to take his recommendation for some of them; but, at that time, he neglected the offer through despondency. At his outset, I myself, he says, could scarcely be barer of connexions than he was: his father had scarcely any others than with Lord Holland. At a former time, when he was laughing with Blankett and me about his being called Jesuit, I asked him who was his godfather on that occasion. This would be an occasion, if he thought proper to lay hold of it, for telling his own story about the rupture between him and Lord Holland, and so it proved. He said that Lord Holland, previous to his resignation, (the history of the day will show when that was,) of his own accord, for some reason or other, not specified, I think, by Lord S., mentioned his tedium of public business, and his wishes to resign; that, for some reason or other, it was convenient he should resign; and so Lord S. took him at his word. Having thus overreached himself, he was enraged, and inveighed against Lord S., as if it were he that overreached him. Lord S., I think, mentioned somebody as having been a witness, and as justifying him, but I forget whom.

“Yesterday morning, Lord S. spoke of a letter which he had received from an officer high in rank in the West Indies. He said that De Grasse, with twenty-four or twenty-five ships of the line, (he had had a reinforcement of six or seven,) sailed, on the 31st July, for New York. That Hood, with seven or eight, was only then on the point of setting sail. This looks bad, and was mentioned with great triumph. If you mention it, you must not say how you came by it; for the officer, whoever he be, would get a d—rap of the knuckles if he was known to correspond with us.”

Monday Morning, September 17.

“Now, from other advices, we have altered Hood’s number from seven or eight to fifteen. At eight o’clock this morning, I received yours of Friday the 15th. You are a good fellow enough for the news you send me; but an ungrateful Edition: current; Page: [102] bear for pretending to complain of the shortness of my letters; while I, to the utter neglect of my whole business, spend whole mornings in cramming your insatiable maw with politics. It takes me, indeed, a monstrous long while to write a letter to you; for I have so many things I might write, that more time is spent in determining which of them I shall write than in writing. I have a hundred and fifty subjects at this moment which are ready to pull me to pieces for the preference. My notions of the characters of the people here; conversations about Sam and about myself; what sort of connexion I hope or wish to form or to preserve; these are topics I find myself continually solicited to touch upon, yet I think it better not to do it at all than to do it imperfectly. They will keep; and political stories that I chance to hear, if they were not set down instantly, would be forgotten. Your queries about my visit at Thorpe I have answered by anticipation, in a letter which will go with this. Send to Davies everything except what is mentioned as secret between us two, or marked with the initials of your name: but wait for franks from me unless you can get others.”

Bowood, Monday, 17th September, 1781.

“Relation of an overture made by Lord North to the Rockingham party for a coalition, in the summer of 1780, as given by Lord Shelburne to Mr W. Pitt, on Sunday, September 16th, 1781, after dinner—present, Lord Chatham, Mr Pratt, and J. B.

“It was introduced with some little preparation, as if in compliance with a request made on some former occasion. Lord North, meeting his cousin Montague upon the steps of the House of Commons, went up to him and said, he was glad to understand there was a disposition among his friends to coalesce; that, if that disposition were real, he would authorize him to propose such terms as the Court meant on their part to insist upon. That, however indelicate it might sound in his mouth, yet it was necessary he should say, that, at all events, he must be continued where he was: that the case was the same with respect to Lord Sandwich. Or, if it should happen that the king could be prevailed with to give up Lord S., which he could not vouch for, he was sure it could not be done upon any other terms than that of a very honourable provision being made for him. That, in this case, whoever should come into the Admiralty, it must not be Admiral Keppel: that Charles Fox could not be received, at least immediately, into any of the high and confidential offices, such as that of Secretary of State; but that, as to any lucrative office out of the great line of business, such as that of Treasurer of the Navy, there would perhaps be no objection; that after the length he had gone, and the offences he had given, it could not be expected that his majesty should be immediately reconciled to the idea of a confidential communication with him; but that such a place as was suggested might serve him as a place of probation, and that it would give him opportunities of smoothing the way to a more perfect reconcilement.

“Thus far I am perfectly clear, not only as to the facts, but as to the colouring. This being reported to Lord Rockingham, he returned an answer of himself, without consulting with the party; my recollection is not clear as to the stipulations contained in it, but I think he stood out for Keppel, and insisted that the Duke of Richmond and Charles Fox should be secretaries of state. In all this, it does not appear that anything was said about Lord Shelburne. Upon Lord Rockingham’s communicating the offer and the answer to the Duke of Richmond, the duke blamed him for including him in such a proposition; whether as meaning that he would not serve the king on any terms, or not on those terms, I did not understand. The duke intimated, at the same time, that there ‘were other persons’ (meaning, as I understood, Lord Shelburne himself) with whom, considering such and such things, it would have been but decent to consult. It seemed to me that the information of this negotiation had come to Lord S., first from the Duke of Richmond; though it Edition: current; Page: [103] seems as if the matter had afterwards been the subject of discussion between the former and Lord Rockingham. The interpretation put upon Lord R.’s answer, whatever it was, is a matter of contestation between him and Lord S. Lord R. calls it an absolute rejection of the offer, and a virtual refusal to treat: Lord S. considers it as an acceptance of the treaty, and thereby as a sort of treachery, or, according to the footing they were then upon together, at least a violation of amity towards himself. Pitt or Pratt asking Lord S. what it was that in all this business Lord R. was expecting for himself, the answer was, Nothing that he ever heard of; clearly nothing, unless, perhaps, it might be that he had Ireland in view, on account of the advantage it might give him in thwarting the Absentee Tax; but this was not pretended to be anything but surmise. Was not this very creditable to Lord R.? From what I have heard of him, since I have been here, I am disposed to entertain a good opinion of him: I have heard a good deal against him in the way of general disapprobation; but as to any grounds for it, I have heard of none, but what appeared to me to be either inconsistent, nugatory, or unintelligible. Being asked what was to have been done for Burke, he answered that he was not clear; that certainly he was not to have been neglected, but that there was something of an inferior negotiation, in which he was more particularly concerned. The terms were so ambiguous, that I could not distinguish who were the parties, with whom he was meant to be represented as having been negotiating; whether the ministry, or the people of his own party; or even so much as whether he was himself a party to this under or interior negotiation, in which, in point of interest, he was represented as being concerned. There is a prodigious deal of ambiguity in the general tenor of Lord S.’s language on party subjects; whether genuine or affected I cannot be certain: I rather believe it genuine; because I find it the same on subjects in which party has nothing to do. As to the negotiation above-mentioned, it is scarcely necessary to add that the demands on Lord Rockingham’s side being such, no reply was given.

“In Burke’s pamphlet on the affairs of Ireland, at least in one of his late pamphlets, if I do not mistake, he tells us that Lord Rockingham had not apprised anybody of his determination to apply for the audience he had about Ireland with the king. Lord S.’s account of that matter is, that about one o’clock on that day, Lord R. came to him, to take his advice about it, mentioned his determination to demand the audience, but that he wished for Lord S.’s advice about what he should say; and to know, in general, whether he approved or disapproved of it. Lord S. observed to him, that it was too short a warning by much, for taking a step of so much importance; for, considering what it was then o’clock, they should not have more than half-an-hour to deliberate upon it. I am not certain whether it was not that Lord R. wished Lord Shelburne to go with him: whichever was the case, he confessed to us that, from reasons regarding his own reputation, he declined taking a part either way, on a sudden. Considering the importance that it might appear to be of to the nation, that the king should hear what information Lord R. had to give him, he, Lord S., did not care to have it said that he had put his negative upon it; and, on the other hand, there might, for aught he could satisfy himself about on a sudden, be other reasons, which he did not state, especially why it might not be advisable to him to be known to have concurred in it.”

Bowood, Monday Evening, (half after 10 o’Clock, Sept. 17, 1781.)

“The whist-table is just broke up, supper is announced, the game at chess between Lord Chatham and Miss V—is drawing near to a conclusion, and, while the rest of the people are hovering round them, waiting for the event, I have taken French leave of them all, and stolen up here, that I may be a good boy to-morrow, and rise betimes. This Lord and Lady Tracton are the queerest jigs you ever saw: my lord wears his bobwig, black coat, and coloured worsted Edition: current; Page: [104] stockings, and looks like a plain, stout, thickset country parson. My lady is a little shrivelled figure, of about sixty—with a hook nose, and ferret eyes, a long white beard, and a parohment mahogany-coloured skin—in a gray riding-habit, with a black hat and feather. Nobody speaks to her, nor she to anybody; she has been sticking close to her husband’s side while he has been playing at whist, but would not play herself.”

Tuesday Evening, September 18th.

“We have, just now, a monstrous heap of people. Departed before breakfast, Pratt and the Pitts. Remain, Lord and Lady Tracton. Arrived before dinner, Lord Dartry and Colonel Barré, seemingly in company. Arrived before tea, Lord Camden, Miss Pratt his daughter, and a Mr Smith, now or formerly a captain in the East India service. The carriages came in together; but whether Smith belongs to Lord Camden and his daughter I cannot tell; no signs of converse between them have I seen. Lord Dartry is a chatty sort of man, and seems to know everybody; does not seem to trouble his head about party, but mixes with the Government as well as Opposition men. His wife is a good deal in favour with the queen, and often with her. She is of the family of the Penns. Miss Pratt is very fat; not handsome nor very young: but well-bred, conversable, sensible, and, as far as one can judge, good-natured. Lord and Lady S., Lord Tracton, Lord Dartry, and Colonel Barré, have been at the whist table; the rest of us round the book table, à l’ordinaire, except that, for the last half-hour, Lord Camden has been walking in a passage-room with Barré. With Lord Camden I have had, as yet, scarce any communication; but, while the women have been at their work, I, with my book before me, have been joining in conversation occasionally with his daughter; and Lords C. and S., I observed, were in close conversation for some time, with looks that seemed to indicate that they were talking about me.”

Wednesday Afternoon, 8 o’Clock.

“This morning, before breakfast, Lord and Lady Tracton took themselves off. Joy go with them; they were a pair of c—d sangliers, the latter more particularly to my dear Lady Shelburne, whose footsteps I adore. Miss V—, alas! leaves us the day after to-morrow, without redemption. I forgot to tell you of a dinner visiter we had the day before yesterday, a Mr Talbot, a name he had taken from an estate, instead of Davenport. He is a young man, but lately come of age. He has been to Christ Church in Oxford, and has now thoughts of going into the army. His family house is in the neighbourhood—at or near Cosham, where Methuen lives; it is an old monastery—one of the most perfect, they say, in England; it is a vast place; and the estate, though a nominal £2,000 a-year, is so reduced by encumbrances, as to bring him in, it is said, scarce £500; so that a profession is absolutely necessary to him. The man whom he has his estate from, was obliged to fly the country for Italian eccentricities. In the young man himself there is nothing that seems remarkable.

“Barré loves to sit over his claret, pushes it about pretty briskly, and abounds in stories that are well told, and very entertaining. He really seems to have a great command of language; he states clearly and forcibly; and, upon all points, his words are fluent and well-chosen. Lord Dartry is also intelligent and entertaining. They were talking over Irish affairs this afternoon; their conversation was instructive: when they differed, as they did now and then, about matters of fact as well as opinion, it was with great firmness and urbanity. I put a word in now and then to keep the ball up, and to avoid appearing a perfect ninny: but it was pain and grief to me. My health is, somehow or other, in wretched order. I scarce know how to get up early enough; even six o’clock is too late.

“Hyde Parker, it is said, (this is Barré’s story,) is not to have anything Edition: current; Page: [105] at all. Being offered the command of a fleet against the Dutch, he demanded a reinforcement, but was denied. Afterwards a reinforcement was ordered: then he declared himself willing to serve, but then they would not let him. This, Col. Barré said, he had from an officer who is intimate with Parker, ‘Ah, Johnny,’ (said the old man to his friend,) ‘it was a rare bout; ’twould ha’ done thy heart good to have seen it; there was not a shot that did not take effect on either side.’ ”

September 24th, Monday Evening, half after 10 o’Clock.

“This morning, at eight, I received yours of the 20th; but let that pass. I will go on at present with my Journal. Thursday, nothing happened that I can recollect worth mentioning. No fresh visiters.

“On Friday, the prediction given of Miss V—’s departure in the last page was but too well verified. There was a little incident—no, I won’t go on with the sentence—a little piece of attention she showed me the night before, which, while it flattered my vanity, made me feel the loss of her the more sensibly.

“On the Sunday before, she and I had been playing at chess. Pitt, who did not play at the whist-table, and Lord Chatham, who cut in and out, had been occasionally looking on. After she had lost two games to me, which was as many as she ever had been used to play, she gave it up; whereupon Pitt proposed we should play, which we did, and I beat him.

“Finding he had no chance with me, he complained of its hurting his head, and gave it up immediately. Towards the close of the evening, Lord Chatham gave me a challenge. I accepted it. From something that Pitt had said, I expected to have found him an easy conquest, especially as there was something seemingly irregular in the opening of his game; but it was a confounded bite; for I soon found his hand as heavy over me as I ever have felt yours: in short, he beat me shamefully, and the outcries I made on that occasion were such as would naturally convey to other people a formidable idea of his prowess. Now, what is all this to Miss V—? Why, the next evening, Tuesday, Pitt first proposed a game to her; they played, and I don’t know which beat, but, after playing one game, she declined playing any more. The words were scarce out of her mouth, when Lord Shelburne, from the whist-table, by way of saying something, called to me, as if pitying me for not being able to get a game. Upon that day, each of them proposed I should play with the other. After some pour parlers, as Miss V— had before declined playing any more with Pitt, I thought it would be civiler to both of them for me not to make any proposal to her; so I asked Pitt, but he declined it, saying, as he did before, that his head would not bear more than a game at a sitting. Accordingly the chess board was laid aside, and we took to our books à l’ordinaire. About an hour, or an hour and a half afterwards, Lord Chatham, having cut out at the whist-table, came to the library-table and proposed to Miss V—to play a game with him. She consented, and they had just time to play a game before supper. He beat her, of course, though not with so high a hand as one would have expected. Tuesday morning, as I told you, Lord Chatham went away; and, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, as Miss Pratt was there, and not playing at whist, I thought it not proper to say anything about chess to Miss V—. Well, now comes the mighty favour. On Thursday, towards the close of the evening, she called me to her, and asked me (which was what she had never done before) whether I would play a game at chess with her, observing that she had used me excessively ill in refusing me, and then playing with Lord Chatham. Mighty thankful I was, as you may imagine. We sat down immediately, and we were mighty sociable and merry; more so than I had ever observed her on any occasion before, insomuch that Lord Shelburne, from the whist-table, took notice of it, adding, that whatever was the reason, he never saw her laugh with anybody so much as with me. When I talked to her about going, and asked Edition: current; Page: [106] her what time it was to be in the morning, she said that I should not see her, for that it would be before I was up. Well!—and what of all this?—you will say; a fine long-winded story this is, à la mode de Bentham, to cook up about nothing at all. Why, to be sure it is; and if this had happened to some women, I should never have made any reflection on it, even in my own mind, much less have thought of boring you with it; but were you but acquainted with the girl, and à portée (as Clinton would say) to observe the extreme dignity, and coolness, and silence, and reserve, as much as is consistent with great good nature, (which it would be injustice to deny her,) you would then, and not otherwise, be able to estimate the value of any such little expression of complacency as I have been mentioning. Oh! and I have not told you either that it was by her means that I got upon the footing that I am upon of playing upon the harpsichord, (I mean upon the fiddle with the harpsichord,) every afternoon with Lady Shelburne; but that story I shall spare you: nor of the air of cordiality and attention with which she received the whisper in which I took my leave of her at night: in short, she actually took the sort of notice which no well-bred woman could have avoided taking of any man who was paying her a compliment of that sort. In the morning, you will have concluded, I made a point of being in the way to hand her to her carriage; but I did not, thinking it might be deemed an act of impertinence, and might give occasion to her maid, or people who did not know the great gulfs of a hundred and fifty kinds that are fixed between us, to prate.

“You can’t imagine what a reserve there is in the manners of this house, and how little there has been of gallantry towards her in the behaviour of all the men that have been here, young and old, as far as I have had occasion to observe.

“Lord Shelburne’s carriage took us but one stage; there it waited (it was at Malmesbury) for Miss F—, who is sent here from Warwick castle, (you will excuse me, but it really is the Earl of Warwick’s castle at Warwick, and not Captain Donellan’s in exchange.) Miss F— is a little girl, between thirteen and fourteen; a sister, and the only one, of the present Lord H—, who is about nine, consequently niece to C— F— and to Lady Shelburne, and great-niece to the Duchess of Bedford. The Duke of Bedford is now at this same Warwick castle; we shall hardly see him here, at least, I shan’t. She is very prettily made, and has already a very womanly sort of bosom, I assure you; as much so as a certain friend of ours at Brompton, notwithstanding the difference of age. By the by, I have a letter from that same friend at Brompton, who is a saucy slut, and tells me of her being just going to write to you, and that she likes you as well, ay, better, than she does me. Lord Shelburne introduced me to Miss F— in a more particular manner than he did anybody else, as a favourite of Miss V—’s. We are very good friends: she, too, plays at chess; she is very fond of it. We played yesterday; and, I suppose, shall be playing every evening. She seems a good-natured, pleasant kind of girl; but has not much to say for herself, as yet, as you may imagine. Her face—I had like to have forgot her face—is far from an unpleasing one; but the form of it, which is rather too long; a mouth, which is the F— mouth; and a set of teeth, which, though white, are rather too large, save her from being a beauty.

“On Friday, at dinner, we had again Mr Bull and Captain Onslow; and now, for the first time, a Mr Brooke, who was upon a visit to Mr Bull. Brooke is, or has been, something in the law; probably at the bar. I have a notion of having seen him taking notes in the King’s Bench—a little, dapper man, with a sharp face. Captain Onslow told me that Brooke had lately met the Q.S.P.’s at Bath, drinking tea at Mr Poole’s; a man who is a son of Sergeant Poole, had a good fortune, but was once at the Crown-office with Abbot. Brooke has a house somewhere in this country.

“On Saturday there dined with us, a Mrs Johns. Mrs Johns was a sort of Edition: current; Page: [107] dependant of Lord S.’s first wife; lives gratis in a little house of my lord’s close by; is a Methodist; comes a-begging to great people for money to give in charity; is a conversable woman, who has seen the world, and has court connexions. She has distributed money for the queen; and, though she has the dress and appearance of an upper servant, has had correspondence with all manner of great people, and could be made use of occasionally to put news about. This is the account Lord S. was giving me of her.

“On Sunday, nothing happened that I recollect.

“On Monday, Lord Dartry left us: it was he that pushed the bottle about, and not Colonel Barré. I beg the colonel’s pardon. He is a valetudinarian; finds it necessary to have a bottle a-day in his guts; is fond of religion, and of cards; does not know very well what to do with himself; hunts out oddities and knick-knacks, and frequents auctions.

“On Tuesday, in the morning, Captain Smith took his departure. He was once an East India director; he has a house in Bloomsbury Square, and another at Ashted, near Epsom. He found out that I was profoundly conversant with E. India affairs, (you know how profoundly,) offered me access to unedited maps and MSS. of various kinds, and gave me pressing and repeated invitations to both his houses; mentioning connexions that he had with people who were philosophical men, and would be glad to be acquainted with me. Shall I go? I can’t tell; we’ll talk about it. He wrote a pamphlet once on India affairs, which Lord S. had taken notice of as one he approved of mightily, and never knew Smith to be the author till Monday night. It is entitled—‘Observations on the Present Posture of Affairs in India,’ 8vo.

“The same morning, Lord Camden and Miss Pratt went off to Beckford’s at Fonthill; but they return to-morrow, or next day. Beckford, I told you before, was to have a grand fête on the 27th or 28th, upon his coming of age. Lord Camden went yesterday, in order to be before the fête; I suppose on account of Miss Pratt’s not being prepared for it in the article of clothes. Lord Shelburne goes on Friday and returns the next day. Lord Camden likes all these bustles; Lord S. not. Nor would he go, I believe, but in view of fixing or drawing young Beckford into his party. Between him and old Beckford the alderman, you know, I suppose, that there was an intimate connexion.

“This was the day that Lord S. was to give the second and last treat to his corporation people; the first had been given since I have been here. Having missed that opportunity, I was very glad of this occasion of being witness to such a scene. I accordingly went and dined at Calne with my lord and Colonel Barré. We drank tea at Mr Bull’s, and, coming home, found Mrs Dunning. She had left her husband at Bristol, and he is expected on Friday or Saturday. She plays on the harpsichord most divinely. I have just been accompanying her.

“Well, but I must go down—Miss F— is waiting for me. Parson Townsend came to-day to dinner; and now we shall probably settle a day for Lord S. and Barré to go and dine with them; and that will probably fix the date of my departure from this place. What do you think I heard from Barré yesterday in the coach? that Mrs Armestead had taken, or bought, Lady Tankerville’s, on St Anne’s Hill; so that you will have her for a neighbour. Who pays for it, whether Lord Derby or the prince, I have not learnt. Send these two sheets to Davies, as soon as you get a frank, together with all the others which are not exclusively to yourself. The copying machine does not do.”

Bowood, 28th September, 1781.

“One of Lord Shelburne’s channels of American intelligence, is through General Grey, with whom he appears to be on a footing of some intimacy. Grey is, at present, at Plymouth, and from thence sends him letters which he (Grey) has received from America. Lord Camden was giving instances that have come very lately within his knowledge of the freedom used at the Post-office with letters that come from thence. In one letter, which he seemed to have seen, Edition: current; Page: [108] a part was actually cut out; but it was managed so clumsily, that what remained announced the contents of what was taken away. Lord S. was telling me, upon a former occasion, that there was a whole department in the office on purpose for that business.

“The same accounts still continue that we have heard before, of Clinton’s eccentricities: that he shuts himself up for three or four days together, and is seen by nobody. It seems to be true that he has recalled Lord Cornwallis, either through jealousy or necessity. A paper received by Lord S. makes Washington upwards of 11,000 strong, including 4000, and, I think, two hundred French, but exclusive of militia: pieces of cannon, eighty-six. I saw the particulars in his hand; but I must not think of copying. There was a talk of 7000 or 8000 militia. Clinton was said to have about 9000 men that he could spare from posts and garrisons. Washington’s vicinity straitened him, it is said, for provisions; and that was mentioned as the chief reason for his recalling Cornwallis.

“When Lord Bristol came here, it was, as he said, to thank Lord Shelburne for favours; I mean the share he had in getting him the bishoprick. When the late Lord Bristol was Lord-lieutenant, the bishoprick being vacant, he got a promise of it from the king. Meantime, Lord Townsend succeeded; and he, regardless of his predecessor’s promise, made interest for somebody else. Lord Shelburne, when Secretary of State, reminded the king of his promise, and obtained the necessary document, which he sent over without delay. After this, Lord S. thought himself well entitled, upon the present occasion, to ask Lord B. for an Irish living, which he wants just now to satisfy the cravings of a man of Calne, who has a son a parson, and whose political chastity is assailed by Robinson of the Treasury. Lord Bristol changed the discourse, and would not hear him. This is exact: having heard Lord S. repeat it two or three times, Barré says, and says it seriously, that now he has some chance; but that, had Lord B. promised, he would have none. Everybody seems to be agreed about two things: that he is touched in his noddle, and that he draws a long bow.

“Lord Dartry says, the Irish exports, by the last accounts, were four millions a-year. Barré doubts, but Lord Dartry insists. Barré says he will write over to know.

“Some time after Lord Hertford had been Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, umbrage had been taken by the House of Lords there at something relative to one of their clerks. Being closely interrogated, he confessed at length, with much agitation, that the profits of his place were not what they might seem to be; for that, on being appointed to it, he had been forced to undertake for paying so much to Lord Beauchamp, whether a gross sum or an annuity, I forget. The House, therefore, transmitted a state of the case, with a complaint, to be laid before his majesty. It came, as in course, to Lord Shelburne; he being then Secretary of State. Lord S., from a notion of decency, thought proper, before he presented it, to give notice to Lord Hertford. He, accordingly, wrote a note to Lord H., saying that he had some particular business which he wished to talk to him about, and that he would be glad either to wait on him or to receive his visit. Lord H., little thinking how nearly it concerned him, gave rather a cavalier answer, appointing Lord S. to wait on him. What passed afterwards was slurred over in an obscure way, as usual; but so it was, that the complaint was stifled (as Lord S. says he must acknowledge to his shame,) and never reached the king. This is odd enough; for how came the Lords, when they saw it stick, not to follow it up? This was told after dinner to-day, in presence of all the company, except the ladies. Lord Beauchamp, it was also said, rides an Irish bishop. This the bishop bolted out one day, out of patience with hearing himself accused of stinginess for not living up to the apparent value of his income.

“Lord Dartry says, Penn, the proprietor, is living in Philadelphia in a state of the utmost indigence. After Edition: current; Page: [109] paying rent-charges created in favour of younger children, &c., or what encumbrances there are, he does not receive so much as £200 a-year. This is what Lord Dartry is in a way to know; Lady Dartry being a great-granddaughter of the first Penn’s.”

Saturday, September 29.

“On Thursday, (27th,) pretty early in the morning, came from Bath a Mr Hodgson: he was kept to dinner; and Lord Shelburne, not to be bored with him, consigned him to my hands. He is going on a secret expedition, the destination of which appears clearly, from circumstances, to be some place in the narrow part of the Spanish main. He is to have the conduct of it, together with the command of a regiment, and is to embark in about a week from Falmouth. His business at Bath was to settle some matters relative to it with Knox, Lord G. G.’s secretary. Dealing in generals, he says it will be but a small affair at first, but he hopes it will swell to something greater: doubtless by the accession of Indian, or other malcontents, as you will see. From circumstances which it would take up too much time to enumerate, he was led to place a confidence in me; and even, however odd it may seem, to look up to me as a sort of protector; and, in consequence, he gave me, for me to give to Lord S., two papers open, of which the following are extracts.

“One is a copy of a letter to Lord Hillsborough, dated September 10, 1781, in which he speaks of his having been informed that he is again to be sent on service, and therefore desires Lord H. would witness for him to Mr Knox of the truth of the following particulars:—

“ ‘1st, That the first matter which brought him to his lordship’s notice was a survey he took,’ (when employed as an engineer,) ‘of all the Spanish coast, from Honduras to Puerto Bello, together with a geographical account of it; which,’ says he, ‘were put into your lordship’s hands, and I never made any other use of them.

“ ‘The next was the manner in which I ventured, against every local opposition, to execute the 17th article of the peace, by which I gained the time for your lordship’s interposition in favour of the Mosquito shore to have its effect—that of saving it to the crown.’

“He then speaks of ‘the manner in which he afterwards undertook the superintendency of that country; that he was asked to go; that some time after, when he had again come into his lordship’s hands, he made no hesitation, at his lordship’s instance, at leaving his military commission behind him, and going out in a manner which his lordship thought better for the public service.’ The case was, I suppose, that the treaty did not allow his going out in a military character, and so he was to hug the Indians underhand. He talked to me about the opon house he used to keep for the Indians.

“That after his accepting his ‘letter of instructions,’ his lordship presented his memorial to the king, for military rank.

“Lastly, that he was turned out of his superintendency in the manner stated in a letter to Mr Knox, which he encloses. I should have said, he began with observing, that what Knox himself could know of him was little more than that, as far as his conduct had relation to the late sad Nicaragua expedition, it had been satisfactory. (In talking, after dinner, he computed the loss in men to be 4000, including what were lost with Walsingham; and in money £500,000.)

“In the other letters to Knox, dated July 28, 1781, he refuses having any concern in the expedition in question, with one Lawrie, who appears to be the present superintendent. He says, that Lawrie is ignorant and incapable; that he has been labouring under a proclamation, under the great seal of Jamaica, for forgetting his allegiance, and erecting a new government; and was also officially accused by ‘him (Hodgson) to the Secretary of State, of rebellion.’ That Lawrie got Hodgson turned out of that place, and himself put into his room, by alleging that he was absent from his duty, and so the country left without a superintendent; when, in truth, not only was he there all the time alleged, both Edition: current; Page: [110] before and after, but another person was sent by the king to be his ‘locum tenens,’ in case of his ‘coming home to give informations;’ and that Lawrie had imposed upon the Board of Trade, (on that or some other occasion,) ‘as an answer from Hodgson to his memorial, a paper written a year before that memorial.’

“H. is to write Lord S. an ‘account of his expedition,’ and there is a chance of his letters being addressed (enclosed at least) to me.

“Hodgson told me he was first of all taken up by Lord Shelburne, but what appointment he got from him at first does not appear. Afterwards, he says, he was to have been the man with whom, in connexion with Macleane, the business was to have been managed with the Marquis d’Aubarede; but, upon examination it was found that d’Aubarede had undertaken far too much, and that he had not the credit with the people he pretended to have.”

October 3d.

“Upon mentioning this to Lord S., a day or two ago, as what Hodgson had told me, he did not directly confirm it; but he denied it in such a manner as made me rather conclude it to be true. Speaking of him in company, Lord S. said, he had given him a little place, but did not mention what. He must have meant, I think, the superintendency Hodgson mentioned in his letters. Lord S. says, he is a little maddish; it may be so, but I see nothing but what appears to me full as sober and consistent as anything about his lordship. His writing, indeed, is bad, but his discourse is better. His knowledge seems to be pretty extensive, and his observations just—his constitution is of iron; which is a capital point in the service he is to go upon. He went once to Omoa with a flag of truce: thirteen men whom he had with him all died. Another time, of three who went out hither, not one came back. I asked Lord S. whether there was anything against him; he said no. Yet, although he has constantly corresponded, which is all that a man in that situation could do, he seems not to be in favour.

“1781, September 29.—Miss Pratt, Bowood, to J. B., ibid. Challenge given in drollery, under the name of Brookes:—

Miss Pratt
Miss Pratt
1781, September 29
J. Brookes
Brookes, J.
“ ‘Sir,

Your ungentlemanlike behaviour, the last time I dined at his lordship’s, did not pass unnoticed. I am, sir, a man of honour, though, I believe, you did not think so. Sir, behind the lodge is a convenient place, where I shall expect you to give me satisfaction for winks and nods, and, in short, sir, behaviour that I don’t understand, and won’t take tamely. Swords or pistols, choose your weapons, as they are equal to your humble and offended servant,

“ ‘J. Brookes.

“ ‘By seven o’clock to-morrow I shall be at the place appointed. No seconds.’ ”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
30th September, 1781

Bentham to his Father.

Honoured Sir,

To-day, at dinner, I had the favour of yours of the 29th, as to my not seconding my last letter sooner. My own reproaches anticipated yours; but the fact is, it is with the utmost difficulty I have been able to find time for even this short tribute of duty, whatever it may prove. All the time I can get in the morning before breakfast, I find it absolutely necessary for my health to devote to exercise. Nor is even that always enough; for between breakfast and dinner, even although there should be no party made for anything, I sometimes find it necessary to get on horseback and shake myself. It is but now and then that I have been able to get a morning to bestow upon any book, or on a few letters which, for one purpose or another, I have had occasion to write. After dinner, while the gentlemen are still at their bottle, I steal away to the library, where I meet Lady Shelburne, and wait on her to her dressing-room: there we have music of some kind or other, unless there happen to be ladies in the house who are not musically disposed. When the gentlemen leave the dinning-room, or, if the weather permit of it, have done walking, we meet Edition: current; Page: [111] them again in the library to drink coffee; after which, unless Lady Shelburne wants me to make one at whist, it is absolutely necessary I should be in readiness to play at chess with Miss F., whose Cavaliere Servente I have been ever since she came here from Warwick castle in exchange for Miss V—. Our company consists, at this present writing, of the persons following:—Lord Camden, Miss Pratt, and Mr Pratt, (his Lordship’s son and daughter,) Mr William Pitt, (Lord Chatham’s brother: there are such a heap of Pitts, it is necessary to distinguish,) Mr Banks, (your Banks,) Colonel Barré, Mr and Mrs Dunning, Mr and Mrs, and two Miss Sturts, (Sturt, member for Dorsetshire,) Miss F—, (the daughter of Stephen, the late Lord H—,) I have already mentioned. All these, Miss F—excepted, are actually at supper. Mrs Dunning came on Tuesday; she is just ready to fall to pieces. Mr Dunning to-day after dinner, very much fatigued with the hard work which you have seen and heard of. Mrs Dunning is a perfect mistress of the harpsichord, and a very agreeable woman, though not very young nor handsome; but that’s Mr D.’s concern, not mine. Miss Pratt sings extremely well, and plays on various instruments; she is lively, sensible, good-natured, and has every accomplishment but beauty, in which, however, she is not remarkably deficient. Miss F—is a sprightly good-natured little girl, not fourteen, but forward for her age; she too plays on the harpsichord.

Monday, half after ten at night.

“By to-morrow a whole posse of people will be gone, some of them to my very great regret, among them Mrs Dunning and Miss Pratt. Mr and Mrs Dunning went off in a violent hurry this morning, under the apprehension of Mrs D.’s being brought to bed. If it had not been for this accident they would have staid some time. I had not an opportunity of exchanging ten words with him, so that I had not time to make an acquaintance with him, which was what, for Mrs D.’s sake much more than for his, I greatly coveted. Miss Pratt, while she was here, drew Miss F—’s picture, and has just been making me a present of it. Before coffee was over, they made me leave the company, and come with them into Lady Shelburne’s dressing-room, where we very frankly avowed to one another our regrets at parting. There we had been about an hour, when Lady S. stole away from the company, and staid with us almost another hour, leaving the Sturts to take care of themselves! She took the precaution, however, to cut them out employment, some at cards, some at chess, that they might not come and interrupt us. They are but odd sort of people: Miss Sturt has been suffered to fancy she plays in a superior manner upon the harpsichord, without having the least notion of it. Would you have thought of my being in such favour with the ladies? yet so it is; and, to crown all, it was under favour of a good word which was put in for me by Miss V—, notwithstanding all her reserve, that I first got the entrées of this same dressing-room, which I am so fond of.”

Tuesday morning.

“This morning departed Lord Camden and Miss Pratt, the Sturts, Will. Pitt, and Banks; it was the first time of Banks being here. Mr Pratt stayed after the rest, but goes away to-morrow. Mr Hamilton is expected here in a day or two. It was at Fonthill t’other day, I believe, that Lord Shelburne first met with Banks; and it was from seeing him with Pratt and Pitt, who were come with him from Kingston Hall, (Banks’ house,) that he took occasion to invite him here. There he likewise saw Count Cernichef, and had some conversation with him, but did not invite him hither, though, as he says, he ought to have done it. It was rather odd he did not, considering the notice he takes of foreigners in general. The reason he mentioned was, the awkwardness of his having his Polish tutor with him. Some little time ago, I had the pleasure of hearing of you from a Mr Brookes. You know, I suppose, that I must be at Oxford before the 17th, and on what account. I wrote to Poore, as he Edition: current; Page: [112] desired me. How I shall be disposed of in the mean time, I do not exactly know; but my paper is at an end. Pray send me back Wilson’s letter.—Yours, &c.

Jeremy Bentham.
Jeremiah Bentham, Esq. at Bath.”
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
October 2d, 1781
George Wilson
Wilson, George

Bentham to Geo. Wilson.

“It was a cursed foolish thing of me to set myself such a task as that of sending you a diary of everything that passes here; and, now, I do not recollect where I left off. Oh, I think it was on Saturday that I despatched my letter, and I think I told you of Banks coming in from Fonthill, with Pratt and William Pitt.

“Sunday, September 30th.—Came in to dinner a whole heap of Sturts, likewise from Fonthill: Mr and Mrs Sturt, Miss Sturt, a girl of seventeen or eighteen, and Miss Eliza Sturt, about eleven. Banks, it appeared, is intimate in that family. After dinner came in Dunning, piping hot from Bristol.

“Monday, yesterday, 1st October—a party of us went to Methuen’s, at Cosham, about five miles from this place, to see his pictures. It is a famous collection, made by Sir Paul Methuen. The family were not at home: they are at Lord Boston’s, who married a daughter of Methuen’s; I should have said Methuen’s daughter, as he has but one. The party consisted of Lady Shelburne, Lord Camden, Miss Pratt, and Miss F—, in Lord S.’s coach; Pratt, Pitt, Banks, and your humble servant, on horseback. On our return, to my great mortification, we found Mr and Mrs Dunning were set off for London. It was absolutely necessary. Mrs Dunning and her maid were expecting every hour to fall to pieces.

“Tuesday, October 2.—In the morning, before breakfast, Lord Camden and Miss Pratt went off for Herefordshire; Banks and Pitt for Kingston Hall, Banks’ house in Dorsetshire; the Sturts to their house, which is four miles from Kingston Hall.

“Wednesday, Oct. 3.—This morning, before breakfast, Pratt went off for Bath, where he is gone to cultivate his belly: so that there is nobody left but Barré and I. Sir E. Bayntun has been breakfasting here. One would think he came here as a spy of the court; for he always comes at breakfast; the time that people are collected together. This is, at least, the sixth time of his breakfasting with us since I have been here.

“I see, by the Dutch papers that are come to-day, that the Dutch despair of saving their Prince William. This will be a great loss to them, as she is one of the most capital ships they have, or can have; a seventy-four.

“Affairs seem to wear a very unfavourable aspect in Minorca. Barré’s character of Murray is, that he is obstinate and wrongheaded, but brave to desperation. He has seen a letter from Draper to a person here, who is a government man. Draper says that the effective men in garrison are but 1500 regulars; consisting, upon Barré’s computation, of two battalions English; three of Hanoverians: upon paper, 2400. The Spanish account speaks of 400 of the latter deserting. God forbid this should be true! Draper writes that, with infinite perseverance, he has succeeded in putting and keeping himself upon good terms with the general; but that he is the only man in the island who is so, reckoning as well the army as the inhabitants. Barré, who has been in the island, speaks of Fort St Philip as being excessively strong; the garrison covered everywhere in a surprising manner: that the fault of it, if it has any, is that of being overworked; the souterrains so intricate, that a man must have a better head than the governor to understand them.

“This morning (Wednesday) I received yours of Saturday, September 29. As to all that concerns my adventures in the family, and the footing I am upon, I must be as concise as possible; there would be no end in giving the details; and, as these are things there is no danger of my forgetting, there is no occasion for it. What I fill my letters with, in preference, are anecdotes concerning persons, places, number, weight, and measure—which, relating to persons I have no personal acquaintance with, Edition: current; Page: [113] and therefore making but a faint impression, might be lost, if they were not quickly consigned to paper; temporary ones more especially, as, for example, the foregoing. The greater part, however, are inevitably lost, either on account of their being but imperfectly heard, (for my hearing is, in reality, very dull,) or but imperfectly related; the relaters having their reasons for not being perfectly explicit, or, in short, but imperfectly remembered. A disadvantage I labour under is, the want of power to cross-examine. A thousand considerations intervene to limit the exercise of this power, which, however, I do exercise, at least as much as is agreeable to the deponents: the fear of being troublesome; the fear of galling them, by obliging them either to give an answer, apparently evasive, or to betray anything which would subject them either to disrepute, or some other inconvenience.

“Suffice it that I tell you, in very general terms, that with Dunning I could have no communication; there was no time for it, except a joke or two, which the devil tempted me to crack upon him, immediately upon his coming in. With Lord Camden I had but little, for reasons I will tell you at large; with Miss Pratt, who is a charming girl in every respect but beauty, pretty much. She has given me a sketch of Miss F— in crayons, which she was two days about; it is not ill done, considering, and has some resemblance. With Mrs Sturt, who is a good, fine woman, at the age of forty-two, after bearing eighteen children, fourteen of whom are alive, I had a little flirtation, but left her after seeing a little more of the ton of the family, which I did not like. With Sturt I had some general conversation; but saw nothing about him that made him very interesting to me. With Barré, although we have few ideas in common, I am upon terms of some familiarity, owing to the good nature and companionableness of the man. Dunning’s health seemed not so much amiss, notwithstanding the fatigue he underwent at Bristol; he had got up a good deal before that happened to throw him back; and, the morning he went away, he told me he had already recovered himself to a considerable degree. All these are heads for you to examine me upon: as such, I set them down without further particularity.

“As to my health, it is still but so-so; but I promise myself something from the ease and comfort of Thorpe, and something more from the winter, which seems to agree best with me. For a long time I had no notion of riding out, because my lord did not ask me; but at last I found out that his reason for not asking people to ride out with him was, that all he rides out for is to superintend his workmen, which takes up all his attention for the time, and is rather sitting on horseback than riding; since that, I have taken heart of grace, and ride out almost every day, before breakfast, independently of casual excursions in company. As to the Duke of Bedford’s being an Opposition-man, I understand as much from Lord Shelburne.

“I desire no reflections upon Miss Mercer; it is the greatest satisfaction to me imaginable to hear of handsome girls falling in love with ugly fellows. Alas! poor Clarke! commend me to them and the St Pauls, with whom I please myself with the thoughts of spending a comfortable day or two ere the month is out.”

Bowood, October 7, 1781.

“Yours of the 29th September, I think, I acknowledged in my last, which I believe was dated Wednesday, the 3d instant; since then, nothing very particular has occurred in this place. That same day, I think it was, came Hamilton (of Payne’s Hill) and his wife, from Bath. Lord Shelburne sent his carriage for them, and sent them back yesterday. Hamilton has been giving his assistance in laying out the grounds here. He is an old man of seventy-five or seventy-six, and is, besides, very much afflicted at times with the stone; but this time he was very cheerful and alert. There came, at the same time, a Mr Tonge or Tongue, who has no connexion with them, but, as it happened, came and went on the same day with them: an insipid, insignificant man, who lives at Bristol. I could perceive no other bond of connexion Edition: current; Page: [114] than the circumstance of his once having rented a house about a mile from Lord Shelburne’s, which his lordship has just pulled down.

“On Thursday, came General Johnson, a neighbour of Lord Shelburne’s: he is equerry to the king, and has been in waiting. He is an old man; is deaf at times; and has got the nickname (so I learned by accident) of ‘Old Sulky;’ he travels in a leathern conveniency of the same name. The account he gives of Governor Murray, quadrates very exactly with that which Barré was giving, and, being a government man, may the better be depended upon. He has a son there, to whom, he acknowledges, Murray has been very kind; so that there does not appear to be anything of passion to corrupt his judgment.

“Since my last, I have received a letter from Q. S. P., at Bath, in which (blessed be God therefor) he tells me there will be no occasion for me to go to Oxford; for that C. Abbot has no competitor, and looks upon himself as sure. I had asked him about the price of woollen cloth, which, I had heard from Barré, was as cheap there as broadcloth in London, viz. 18s. Q. S. P., upon inquiry, confirmed that idea, and offered me a coat of it as a Bath present; so away go I on cock-horse to-morrow morning, to be measured for it. I shall return in the afternoon.

“A day or two ago I received a letter from Sam,* dated Catherineburgh, and Nigriaghill: the bad news it contains is—that he has lost a portable barometer, and gold to the value of £13 or £14, by the breaking of a phial of quicksilver by the overturning of a trunk; the good news—that the model of his plane-engine is finished, and succeeds to the satisfaction of everybody; the engine itself would have been finished, but for a vacation of six weeks, which the workmen have on account of the harvest; the time for which, in that country, being very short, requires as many hands as can be mustered. I wait only for Parson Townsend, to quit this place. I cannot think what has become of the man; he leaves me in an awkward predicament. He was to have been here on Wednesday. There is now nobody but Miss F— and Colonel Barré. Adieu. I send you a frank for Davies.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
October 18, 1781
Lord Shelburne
Shelburne, Lord

Bentham to Lord Shelburne.

“Since my arrival at my ‘villa,’ (a subject on which the public prints have been scandalously silent,) I have been honoured with two testimonies of your lordship’s kind attention. In the first I am told that ‘all Bowood desire to be remembered by me:’ as if any part of Bowood could ever cease to be remembered by me, while gratitude, or any quality I could ever value myself on, remained in me. In the latter, I am informed that my ‘Bowood friends are impatient to know how my hand does.’ These reproaches, as they might seem if literally taken, for not writing, may, I think, upon the fairest and least flattering interpretation, be construed into a permission to write. In this light I avail myself of them: for without some especial warrant, my lord, I should hardly have ventured to have given you any trouble with my pen, in addition to the unconscionable bond which particular circumstances, and the kind injunctions on your lordship’s part, which they gave birth to, were the means of my laying on ‘all Bowood’ by my company. I had indeed, as I have still, a pretence for writing in store, which I treasure up accordingly: I mean the commission I was honoured with to Colonel Skene; but it may be some time yet before I may have anything to say to your lordship on that subject. The time of doing it, I take for granted, is not very material, so as it be in the course of three weeks or a month; that is, till your lordship comes to town at the meeting of parliament. I shall, therefore, look upon myself as being at liberty, as things stand at present, to defer going thither myself for a week or ten days, by which time I hope to have put off the guise of an invalid. At present, though I make with some difficulty such use of my hand Edition: current; Page: [115] as your lordship sees, it is still so tender that I am obliged to attend to every motion I make. If, however, any reason should occur to your lordship, for wishing me to see the colonel sooner, any intimation to that effect shall be obeyed the instant I am apprized of it. In the meantime, I have written to Mr Hodgson to inquire where Colonel Skene is to be met with. Having no answer, I suppose he had left London before my letter got there. I am concerned for the poor captain: henceforward, should he ever feel bold enough to mount again, your lordship, in order to act the more completely the part of the good Samaritan, would do well, I think, to ‘set him upon your own beast,’ meaning either Lord Abingdon’s or Mr Miller’s: upon either of these he would be comparatively safe; for, granting that he might stand a chance of stumbling every other step, yet I have too good an opinion of their prudence to suppose that either of them could ever be prevailed upon to rise to a pace sufficient to make a tumble serious.

“As to the fiery courser which stands at present dignified by his name, I would humbly propose that he be new christened; and that some man of skill and spirit—myself, for example—be pitched upon for his godfather; in which case, I would further move, that an act of oblivion be passed at Bowood, forbidding, under the severest penalties, everything that could tend to revive the memory of the Corsham expedition.

“I beg my most respectful compliments to Lady S. and Miss F.; it would be a most flattering circumstance to me, if I could persuade myself that they, or either of them, were actually, as well as virtually, included under ‘all Bowood;’ and that they or either of them—I speak as a lawyer—took any distinct and individual part in the kind remembrances that were sent me. I am particularly anxious to know whether Miss F. has found anybody to give check to since the only man she could depend upon in that way has had the misfortune to quit her service; whether, for example, the gallant colonel, after the rebuff I was witness to, has ever mustered up courage to face her during any of the truces of the cribbage table. If I have entertained anything like a wish on the affirmative side, it must be acknowledged to be an effort of the highest generosity, the colonel being too formidable a rival not to destroy any chance I might otherwise have of procuring an odd corner in her memory. Missing the chess-board, it is possible that, for a week or so, she might be led to bestow a straggling thought upon the once happy man who used to sit on the other side of it.”

CHAPTER VI.: 1781—1785. Æt. 33—37.

Reminiscences of the Visits to Bowood.—Lord Lansdowne: the Waldegraves: the Bowood Ladies.—Camden and Mansfield: the Pembrokes: Sir James Long: Townsend the Traveller.—Notice of Goldsmith.—Lord Dunmore.—Correspondence with Anderson, Stewart, Villion, Trail, Wilson, Swediaur, Symonds, and Townsend.—Extracts from Commonplace Book.

The attachment of Bentham to Lord Shelburne was very strong. “He raised me,” I have heard him say, “from the bottomless pit of humiliation—he made me feel I was something.” Of Lady Shelburne, (the present Lord Lansdowne’s mother,) Bentham said—“She had the best, highest aristocratical education possible. She was as gentle as a lamb; she talked French, and understood Latin extremely well. She was often with that lady who was a sort of queen among the aristocracy, Gertrude the Duchess of Bedford. Lady S. was quite a personage in those days, a governing personage. So wide was their Edition: current; Page: [116] circle, that cards from no less than nine hundred visiters were left in a season.”

Often did Bentham speak of the friends, the acquaintances, the guests of Bowood. I know not how I can better introduce them than in that sketchy and conversational way in which he was in the habit of conveying his recollections. When any name was mentioned, it served as a sort of text from which he preached; and it was my usage to record his talk, sometimes in shorthand in his presence; at other times, immediately after I had left him.

“Lord Shelburne introduced Blackstone to the king—it was the best thing he could do under the circumstances; his book was then ‘The Truth.’ When the Fragment appeared, Lord Shelburne patronized the Fragment, which seemed better Truth. He was a favourite of the king, who promised to make him a duke. I do not know how he was originally brought into contact with the king, but I think it was through Lord Chatham, and he considered himself as always having a hold on the king’s affections.

“Now I’ll tell you the persons by whose means he was informed of everything that passed. They were the two Lady Waldegraves, the daughters of the Duchess of Gloucester. You know Lord Waldegrave’s Memoirs, how interesting they are. Well! these ladies lived at Court—ladies of honour, or some such thing. In the year 1789, I made a bit of a tour with Lord Lansdowne. We went to Warwick, where we stayed a week: these ladies were there also on a visit. The party were, Lord Lansdowne and myself (men,)—the ladies, Miss V. and Miss F. There was another lady, living with the queen, a Lady Dartry, the wife of a banker at Dublin. When I knew her it was at Bowood with her husband, whose name, I think, was Dawson; he was afterwards raised a peg on the peerage, called Viscount Cremorne; and as Lord Lansdowne was indebted no less than £300,000, a great deal of it came from this banking lord, and from Sir Francis Baring. Well! and you see these Ladies Waldegrave used to write to the Miss V—s, and report what passed at court. Lord Lansdowne did not tell me on the occasion, but he told me, on after occasions, that he knew all that passed, through this channel.

“Blankett* was a retainer of Lord Shelburne, one of the numerous hangerson who were tale-bearers to my lord, and was familiar with the Whigs. He was an ignorant, confident, amusing fellow, an object of great aversion to the Bowood ladies from his coarse manners. But he was employed by Lord Shelburne to repeat to him what passed among the Whigs, and especially to report the conversations at the Admiralty. I was once playing a duet with Lord Shelburne’s upper servant, when this Captain Blankett pushed against me. I lounged at him with my bow, and broke my bow. He was always talking about a vast continent in the Pacific. We had a dispute about the relative size of Sicily and Ireland. He would have it that Sicily was the biggest. But though ill-read and assuming, and addicted to falsehood, rather from temerity than mendacity, he was a necessary instrument to Lord Shelburne; and Jekyll, whose wit obtained him a welcome everywhere, was another instrument. They were to watch in the quarters of the enemy.

“Lord Shelburne used frequently to say, ‘Tell me what is right and proper—tell me what a man of virtue would do in this matter.’ I told him that Balak, the son of Zippoi, wanted Balaam to prophesy, who answered, ‘that which the Lord puts into my mouth will I prophesy;’ and that was the answer I made. He caught hold of the most imperfect scrap of an idea, and filled it up in his own mind—sometimes correctly—sometimes erroneously. His manner was very imposing, very dignified, and he talked his vague generalities in the House of Lords in a very emphatic way, as if something grand were at the bottom, when, in fact, there was nothing at all. He asked me what he could do for me—I told him, ‘nothing;’ and he found this so different to the universal spirit of those about him, as to endear Edition: current; Page: [117] me to him. He was afraid of me, so there was not much intimate communication. I was occupied in writing and reading between breakfast and dinner, while he took walks with the eldest Miss V—(now Mrs B—S—.) I seldom saw him except at dinner, when there was mostly company. Supper I never took, but betook myself to my room. I was of more importance, however, to him, than I could bring myself to believe. I was cowed by my past humiliation.—I felt like an outcast in the world.—I had known a few tolerable people, one at a time, but no extensive acquaintance. That a man should be born in the great place called ‘abroad,’ was a sufficient recommendation.

“Lord Shelburne had a wildness about him, and conceived groundless suspicions about nothing at all. I remember going to ride out with one of his servants, and being accosted by some man, whom I spoke to out of pure civility; and, on mentioning it to Lord Shelburne, he seemed to think I was deserving of suspicion. About the last time I was at his house, I mentioned something about Count Woronzof, and he fancied I had been sent by Woronzof to communicate it. Yet there was about him a good deal of sympathy, of intelligent sympathy: a curious mixture too of what was natural and what was factitious. He had a sort of systematic plan for gaining people. I was quite surprised to find the interest he had shown towards me. The particulars did not immediately occur to my thoughts, nor did I immediately gather up the threads of them till long afterwards. He had many projects for marrying me to ladies of his acquaintance.

“It was a fine thing for my father when Lord Shelburne, being minister, sent for me. Nobody was there but Barré. Lady Shelburne talked in a strange way. When speaking of a palsy which had visited somebody on the continent, she said—‘It had left nothing but an imperceptible haziness on the tongue.’ The green official boxes were brought in, and their contents were subjects of conversation that was delightful to me.

“Lady Shelburne’s dressing-room was next door to her bedroom. To follow her thither was a prodigious privilege. She was extremely reserved; there was nothing in her of active insolence; she was mildness and ice: but of extraordinary altitude. Her sister was more icy even than she. Acquaintance, however, somewhat melted both, and we had our innocent gambols. In earlier life, Lord Shelburne had been rather promiscuous in his attentions to females; he had, to use his own expression, a place full of women: but he was now exclusive in his attention to his lady.

“The ladies at Bowood were all taciturn, reflective, and prudent. The youngest had somewhat more of frankness and less of beauty than the rest. Miss—resembled a statue of Minerva, somewhat larger than life—so we called her Minerva, and she took to the sobriquet very well.

“Among the ladies was the Lady Carr; who was the celebrated beauty of the day. She had been, I believe, a Miss Gunning, and her sister set her cap at the Marquis of Lorn, eldest son of the Duke of Argyle. A song circulated about her, of which the burthen was, ‘This is the Maiden all for-Lorn.’ She wrote novels; but did not get hold of the marquis.*

“There was a Lady Betty Clayton to whom Lord Lansdowne used to go for advice. She was his oracle—his familiar oracle. His oracle for law was Sir John Eardley Wilmot, the ex-Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. At Hastings’ trial, Lord Lansdowne made me give my opinion on some of the evidence. It was unfavourable to his views. He did not much care about Hastings; but knowing the part the king took, and having all the king’s conversations reported to him, he professed to take Hastings’ Edition: current; Page: [118] part. The borough of Calne was held by a tottering hold, and the Treasury once or twice endeavoured to shake him in it.

“The Miss C—s were daughters of an Irish baronet, and were at Bath lodging together. Lord Shelburne mentioned them to me as relatives of his. One of them was afterwards invited to Bowood, and came to Bowood. Lord Shelburne had been trumpeting me up, in order to make her think highly of me. I remember their singing a duet (Alley Croker) in a tragical sort of way. I like cheerful singing. Lord Shelburne asked me my opinion of the singing; and when he saw I was no admirer of the style, he gave up the scheme he had contemplated.”

There was a small menagerie at Bowood, to which Bentham added a white fox, which his brother had sent from Archangel.—“Lord Shelburne was fond of collecting anything that was rather out of the way. The white fox gave occasion to some pleasantries in those days—when we called some of the Bowood ladies ‘The White Foxes.’ ”

To the end of his days Bentham spoke of Bowood and its inhabitants with intense affection. I have often seen tears roll down his cheeks when reverting to some of the loved inhabitants of that mansion. The truth is, even his tenderest affections had been engaged by one of the fair ladies of Bowood. It was only a short time before his death that he sent a playful “love epistle” to that lady—speaking of the gray hairs of age, and the bliss of youth. I was with Bentham when the answer came to this letter—that answer was cold and distant—it contained no reference to the state of former affections; and he was indescribably hurt and disappointed by it. I talked to him, however, of “auld langsyne,” and reminded him of Burns’ song, and his beautiful reference to the times gone by. When I repeated, “We twa ha’e pu’ed the gowans fine,” he was cheered a little; the past recollection was brighter than the present thought—but he was for a long time silent, and greatly moved. At last he said, “Take me forward, I entreat you, to the future—do not let me go back to the past—talk of something—find out something to remove my thoughts from the time of my youth.”

“One day, when calling on Miss —, at Little Holland House, on a Sunday, I found her and Miss — on their way to church, We were joined by S. S—, and when near the church, I said to him, from Horace—

‘Parcus Deorum cultor et infrequens;’

and he answered, ‘I go because it is my trade.’

“I went to Streatham at this time (1783.) Lord Shelburne was then minister. There was the house which belonged to Mr Thrale, which was hired by the minister to retire to. I remember there were pictures of all the wits of the age. Lord Fitzmaurice had a little turn of malignity—a sort of child in intellect. He told me of the amours of the Duchess of —, who was a sort of Messelina. There was, in the Shelburne family, a kind of division into factions—that of the child by the first bed, and the child by the second. Lord Shelburne was a good-looking, on the whole a handsome man, with a coarse skin. He had a little disposition to be rather knock-kneed.

“Lord Fitzmaurice once attempted to speak in the House of Commons: he was put down by Pitt. He married a widow who had a large family of children. He was a poor creature. He spent much money at Southampton on a castle without any ground to it. In 1783, though of man’s stature, he did not dine with the family. He used to put me in a cart, a large child’s cart, and drag me about.”

Yet even Bowood could have its annoyances. On one occasion, Lord Chatham, William Pitt, Lord Camden, and Banks, determined to make Bentham the subject of their joke. It was after dinner, and they were all taking coffee. He said something, upon which one burst into a loud laugh, and was followed by the three others. He asked what it meant; and, instead of answering, they all laughed again; and they repeated this every time he spoke. No doubt, some trick had been practised upon him of which he was not aware. The whole Edition: current; Page: [119] matter was then, and ever after, incomprehensible to him; for the laughing took place in the midst of serious conversation, in which nothing ridiculous was said by himself or others. But Bentham was sorely mortified, and probably exhibited his vexation; for, soon after, he overheard a conversation between Lord Lansdowne and Mr Banks to this effect:—Mr B., “Has he then taken offence?”—“No! he is too good-natured a man for that, and will think nothing of it.” The parties had become conscious of their ill behaviour.

Bentham’s susceptibilities were always most acute; and he was touched to the quick by what he considered a confederation of important personages to practice on these susceptibilities.

—“Lord Camden,” he said, “was a hobbledy-hoy, and had no polish of manners. Pitt was cold; showed little curiosity about, or complacency for other men; and, on ordinary occasions was incapable of rudeness. His manners had little grace or kindness. Once, when riding out with Bentham, who entreated him to slacken his pace, as he (Bentham) was mounted on a dangerous horse; he did so, but with an unchanged countenance, and without dropping a word of interest or kindness. Of Banks, Bentham formed a low estimate.

In the preface to the second edition of “The Fragment,” Bentham has recorded his opinions of Lords Camden and Mansfield. I give these opinions here, in a more elaborate shape, from another MS.:—

“Lord Camden. One incident occurred at Bowood that afforded me more particular insight into his mind than could have been naturally afforded in a mixed and numerous company of both sexes. One day happened to be particularly thin of visiters. When the ladies were retired, nobody was left in the vast dining-room but the ex-Chancellor, the ex-Secretary of State, and the obscure and visionary ex-lawyer. The conversation turned upon Lord Mansfield. To the two noble friends, he was the object of conjunct and undisguised antipathy. How he fared between them may be imagined: nor yet do I suspect them of injustice. Lord Mansfield, much as he has been talked of, has perhaps nowhere been more fully or more impressively described than in Lord Orford’s, say rather Horace Walpole’s, Memoirs. Lord Shelburne was, ever and anon, at some pains in the endeavour to impress upon my mind a conception of the beauty of the mind of his noble friend. One occasion, I remember, on which the result did not decidedly correspond to his expectations. ‘Observe,’ said he, ‘the difference between such a man as Lord Mansfield and such a man as Lord Camden. It was a habit, real or pretended, of Mansfield,’ said Lord Camden to me one day, ‘to be particularly cautious never to hear out of court so much as a syllable from anybody about a cause that was to come before him. He was afraid, or pretended to be afraid, of being influenced by it. How different it is with me! I care not what I hear, nor how much I hear; be it what it may, I never can be influenced by it.’ ” (Here ends the self-eulogium.)

“If, in this particular, Lord Camden was his superior, the beauty of his mind will, it must be admitted, be incontestable.

“When,” continued Lord Camden, “I attended at the great Douglas cause, in which I myself had no more interest than if the subject of it had taken place in the moon; it seemed to me as if, somehow or other, they had both been on the same side, and that a side on which it was matter of astonishment to me that a man who had not an interest in it should be found.

“The course taken by the great judge to produce a conviction of his inexorable impartiality, seemed to be rather too much of a piece with the course sometimes taken by the knight and his princess, to prevent too near an approach, while stretched on the same couch. In those days, a naked sword sufficed; in the present, the sort of security that kept Pyramus and Thisbe separate would be rather more satisfactory. It was, I think, in my hearing, that the noble and learned Lord heard a certain prayer once, in which ‘Lead us not into temptation’ is one clause. The persons, for whose use Edition: current; Page: [120] the prayer was framed, were certainly not, in the eyes of its author, altogether temptation-proof.

“Between the two great rivals in regard to constitutional dispositions and affections—for it would be too much to say of principles—there seems to have been this difference:—The chief of the Whigs was well content with the system in the state in which he found it—force, intimidation, corruption, delusion, depredation, and oppression in their several actually existing proportions—and was determined not to suffer them to be lessened, but wished not they should be augmented, nor would suffer them, if he could help it, to be augmented by any rival hand. The system pursued by his great Tory rival, or rather by his senior, of whom he was become the rival, (for Mansfield was his superior in age and standing, as well as in original rank,) this system, howsoever restrained by his notorious and so much-talked-of mental cowardice, had something of activity in it: his desires were bent, and with them, as much of his endeavours as he could venture to bring into action, to the rendering it, with the greatest velocity possible, as much worse as possible; to the rendering the fate of suitors as completely dependent as possible upon his own caprices, secret interests, and passions; while the pretended representatives of the People should be kept as blind and indifferent as usual; and nothing more could be wanting, or easily conceived as wanting, to the depredation and oppression exercised by the powers of judicature, and the power of arbitrary legislation exercised by the connivance of the legislation on the pretence of judicature.

“In fluency and aptitude of diction, Pratt was, in my eyes, equal to Murray—in argument, perhaps superior; not so in grace and dignity; in which two qualities, neither recollection presents to view, nor is imagination equal to paint, anything superior to Mansfield. As to Camden, whether towards individuals in general there was anything of peevishness of deportment in private life, I had no adequate means of judging. On the bench, there was a sort of petulance, which had something of the appearance of it; when in the exercise of the highest dignity, his language and manner had, every now and then, more of the advocate in it than of the judge; he seemed as if conscious of having a superior, to whom, in imagination, he was addressing himself. Mansfield spoke and looked as if assured of having none. One example I will mention:—He was sitting on the bench in Lincoln’s Inn Hall—he was sitting as if, in a more especial manner, the representative of the king, in his quality of visiter of Christ Church College, Oxford. It was a cause in which my feelings were, in no slight degree, interested, and interested on the side in favour of which his decision was pronounced.

“The still surviving Dean of St Asaph, who had been my contemporary at Westminster School, and stood, in regard to me, soon after our admission, in the relation, styled in the language of Westminster, of that of a shadow to a substance, had been accused of some little irregularity, and been expelled. From the sentence of expulsion, he had made his appeal to the king, in his quality of visiter of the college. Being at the head of the Whigs, Lord Camden was Low Church, and nothing more. Notwithstanding my still remaining admiration for Lord Mansfield, I was Low Church also; and, in politics at least, had, at that time, scarce a conception of anything beyond or better. Shipley, the appellant, was not present. Barrington—one of the canons of Christ Church—one of the constituted authorities by whom the sentence of expulsion had been pronounced—was standing by me, behind the bar and in front of the bench. The censorial lash was visited upon the backs of the reverend dignitaries, and with a smartness which seemed to come from the heart. One expression—I took a note of what was said—one expression I remember: it was that by which, in regard to a certain point—and that, I believe, a principal one—the appellant, it was declared, ‘had been condemned unheard.’ In this there was nothing that offended dignity; but other two expressions there were which, to my eyes, presented the image of the advocate, in Edition: current; Page: [121] place of the judge. These were—“I am bold to affirm;” and “I am free to confess.” No such affected boldness, no such boast of freedom, ever issued from the lips of Mansfield. My prepossessions were, at that time, altogether in favour of Lord Camden. If Lord Mansfield was one of the gods of my idolatry, Lord Camden was another. Every lash which fell upon the Christ-Church dignitaries, delighted me as it fell. Yet the conception now expressed on the subject of Lord Camden’s eloquence is, without any variation, the conception which, at that time, I entertained of it.”

Lord Mansfield was a rank and intolerant Tory. He was in habits of intimacy with Lind, Bentham’s intimate friend; and, through Lind, Bentham learnt his opinion on many topics. He lauded the “Fragment on Government,” not because he understood or admired the philosophy, but because it wounded Blackstone, with whom he had had a quarrel. He praised the work, but he paid little attention to the author; though on one occasion Bentham was employed to draw up the contract for the engraving of Lord Mansfield’s portrait, and the wording of the contract was spoken of by his lordship in the most flattering terms. His conversation had little in it that was intellectual. He was a sensualist, and accustomed to drink his champagne in solitude. On one or two occasions, when he met Bentham at table, he never addressed a word to him, though a word from him would have been most delightful. One of the times when they were in company was at the Mansion House, during the mayoralty of Sir Barlow Trevethick, who married a sister of Sir William Meredith—a privy-councillor, and an earnest friend of the People.

“Of the undisguised contempt,” said Bentham, “entertained by this favourite of fortune, in relation to the great majority of those whose interests constitute the universal interest, and out of whose pockets the matter of his vast wealth had been extracted, one testimony I remember, which is not, to my knowledge, in any printed publication. Upon the occasion of one of the trials of the then celebrated John Wilkes for libels, printed reports of former trials for libels had, by some friend or friends of justice, been sent to the several persons who had been expected to serve as jurymen. The information thus endeavoured to be conveyed to the minds in question, from the most authentic and unquestionable sources, was stigmatized by him as if it had been an attempt at corruption.”*

Of Daines Barrington, Bentham said—“He was a very indifferent judge; a quiet, good sort of a man; not proud but liberal; and vastly superior to Blackstone in his disposition to improvement: more impartial in his judgment of men and things,—less sycophancy, and a higher intellect. He was an English polyglot lawyer. He sits in judgment on kings and others; exhibits their arbitrary tricks, not in the spirit of those who pour out all land upon that king, who, in cutting men’s throats, manages to cut more throats of some other king’s people than of his own people. His book was a great treasure; and when I saw the placid little man in the Strand, I used to look at him with prodigious veneration. He had a particular way of holding his hands before him and twisting his thumbs. He never got higher than to be a Welch judge. He was not, intentionally, a bad judge, though he was often a bad one. He took merit to himself for cancelling a hundred pages of his book. I do not know the cause: the book is everything, apropos of everything. I wrote volumes upon his volume.”

Of Charles Abbott, afterwards Speaker of the House of Commons, Bentham thought highly. “He (Lord Colchester) has more talent,” said he “than all the Tories put together. His finance reports are the first of their kind; their order and method are admirable; yet it is well he is not in office; he would do nothing but mischief. He has no relish for physical science; for nothing but grimgibber. He supported Panopticon because my brother and he were play-fellows.”

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At Bowood, all the statesmen he met seemed wanting in the great elements of statesmanship; always engaged in discussion about what was, and seldom or never about what ought to be.

“I have sent,” he said, “to the present Lord Lansdowne, a history of my intercourse with his father and his family. He will have shown it to those who remain of that generation. He was in his nurse’s arms when Miss V—was about twenty or twenty-one. She had the reputation of a great beauty, which I could never discover. The Earl of P—courted, and was refused, because he had the scurvy; and Lord E—, the son of the Duke of G—, was not allowed to marry her by his father, because she was not rich enough. She was a piece of aristocratical ice. The unmarried Miss V—was a good, sociable kind of person, very good tempered. I went with Moore, Secretary to the Society of Arts, to Warwick castle with B— S—. Miss V—blushed; but there had been no flirtation between her and me. Miss E. V—was not more than seven or eight years older than Miss F—.

“Though Lord Lansdowne has neither the wish nor the power to do much good, yet the other lords are as much below him, as he is below what he ought to be. He said to me, the lords were a wall against improvement. Only conceive his father, with a bad education, taking up ‘Judicial Establishment’* with the highest glee. There was much criticism that was amusing to him. He was ‘awestruck,’ he said, with the ‘Essay on Morals and Legislation,’ which he read through.

“I am so much an animal mei generis, that people must bear from me what they would not bear from others. I shall tell Lord Lansdowne that aristocracy is on the wane, and that things would have been borne in his father’s time, which would not be borne now.”

Among the beauties of the day were Lady Pembroke, and her sister Lady Diana Beanclerc (alluded to above, p. 91.) They were daughters of the Duke of Marlborough. Lady Pembroke was somewhat short, but had still a handsome countenance, on which Bentham often looked with delight, charmed with being in the presence of one he had often heard called a goddess. He found that she was on bad terms with her lord; and no wonder: for Lord Pembroke was a roué, and openly unfaithful. There was some management at Bowood, so to invite Lord and Lady Pembroke that they might not meet. Bentham visited Lord Pembroke, who showed him many curiosities: he was a great horse-breeder; and, on exhibiting a fine Arabian steed, took some trouble to explain how the genuine race might be distinguished from the mixed or spurious. The thickness of the neck was the only point that Bentham brought away from the lesson. Lord P.’s house was like a statuary’s shop—crowded with antiquities. He told many anecdotes; among which was one of a serious dispute between two French naturalists, who had long vehemently discussed the existence or non-existence of an animal between a horse and a mule, called a Jumard. One of them, Maupertuis, (the other was Beaugerard,) cried out, on his deathbed, “Laissez moi mourir dans la douce persuasion qu’il n’y a point de Jumard.” Lady Diana Beauclerc was renowned for her limning productions, and was considered a most accomplished person. Her husband, though but a commoner, had ducal and royal blood in his veins. He studied chemistry, and to much purpose, under the instructions of Dr Fordyce, at a time when scarcely anybody but professional men condescended to pay attention to the subject. “One of the visiters at Lord Pembroke’s was Fonthill Beckford, who, as soon as he entered, sat down at the harpsichord, and played delightfully. The Bishop of Derry was another guest. He, with Flood, my old bed-fellow’s brother, had afterwards well-nigh republicanized Ireland; but they were put down by Lord Charlemont. The bishop was a pleasant and a clever man. He did not believe in revealed religion: he was very tolerant in his judgment of others; and, in political opinions, most liberal.

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“There were, Sir James Long; Mr Bull, who managed, I think, the borough of Calne; Lord Dartry, who loved the bottle so well, that Lord S. used to complain of his passing it too briskly; but Lord S. owed him no small number of pecuniary favours; there were Mr Banks, Mr Pratt, and Mr Dunning, who shocked me by narrating one of his exploits at Bristol. He had been hanging two poor wretches there, and he talked of it with consummate glee. There was then an odd sort of animal in the House of Lords, whom we sometimes saw,—one Lord Harborough, who was not a bishop, but only a parson!”

Bentham once met at Bowood Edward P., whom I have mentioned among his fellow-students at Oxford. Edward was a very remarkable character. He was of a considerable family in Wiltshire, one of whom had been a Welsh judge. He was two years older than Bentham, and joined him at Oxford, having got a five-guinea prize at Winchester. He was very precocious, but withal a conceited, chattering coxcomb, and remarkably ugly. But his head was full of ideas, as was Bentham’s, and so they became intimate friends. The friendship did not last. Poore came into possession of a large estate—went to Italy—fell into profligate habits—came home, and went to Italy again. He was a barrister on the Western Circuit. His language was pompous and affected. On one occasion, in a case about rubbish, he called the rubbish in his opening, quisquillious matter; and Jekyll, on his cross-examination of the first witness, asked, “Did you ever see any quisquillious matter deposited?” “No, not I indeed,” was the reply. Harris, who had patronised Poore, was compelled to drop him. He fell into all sorts of misfortunes, and became the object of public indignation. Once, while Poore was in his opulent state, and during their greatest intimacy, Bentham had been robbed of all his money, and asked of Poore the loan of a guinea. He refused.—“Strange creature!” was Bentham’s ejaculation when speaking of him.

“Lord L—, the son of the great Lord L—, was a tall, pale-faced lord, whose countenance indicated a bad disposition; but for that unfortunate expression of visage, he might have been deemed handsome.

“Linguet wrote a book in defence of despotism. He was the violent enemy of the democrats, and was the most celebrated orator of his time. He was clapped into the Bastille. He was the remarkable man of his day for the eloquence with which he justified despotism. He used to dress himself out very finely with sword and satin in all its glory. Lord Shelburne introduced him to my acquaintance. He was obliged to expatriate himself. His plaidoyers are extant, and I made use of them.* He speaks of the enormous expenses of the decrees of the judge.

“When Sir Benjamin Hobhouse visited Bowood, in 1781, he was put into my hands, to show him the lions.

“Townsend, the Spanish traveller, was a favourite at Bowood. He married a person who was a Lady Clark: she was the widow of a navy captain; plain enough; but she was a good cook, and Townsend liked good eating. She had something of a jointure too. When I visited them, the table was distinguished for many delicacies and much variety. There were all sorts of meat-powders, such as of hung beef, to spread upon bread and butter. Something was wrong with the lady’s mouth; I know not what; but I know she wore what were called plumpers, or pieces of cork in her mouth. There was always a piece of work to manage the plumpers so that the defects might not appear. I used to be amused with the droll effect of her anxiety about her plumpers. She spent the whole morning at her toilette, plumping and painting, and never appeared till three o’clock in the afternoon.”

At Bowood Bentham was engaged in writing his “Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.” It made progress by no means satisfactory to him. “I had got into a mizmaze,” he said; “I could not see my way clearly,—it was a dark forest,—for the Edition: current; Page: [124] vast field of law was around me with all its labyrinths. Little by little great principles threw their light upon the field, and the path became clear. At this period of my life I was not proof against dogmatism. I was more willing to listen to the man who spoke of what ought to be, than to him who described what was. Experience has given a different value to conversation.”

Bentham sent, in 1782, at the request of Lord Shelburne, to Lord Ashburton, this as yet unpublished work. Lord Shelburne had read the volume in MS., and recommended it to Lord Ashburton; but I find from a memorandum, that the proof-sheets were neither acknowledged nor returned.

The following are farther memoranda, collected from Bentham’s conversation, in relation to this period of his life:—

“I was one day in an eating-house in Clement’s Churchyard, with Clarke; and just as we had done dinner, in came Goldsmith. He and Clarke talked together; I was too young and too insignificant to be talked to. I supped at the Mitre Tavern once, when they exhibited a complete service of plate. We came to hear Johnson’s good things. There was Bickerstaff,—there was Ellis, the last scrivener of the city of London, who died at the age of ninety-four, a pleasant, old fellow,—there was Hoole,—there was White, a clerk of Ellis’,—and there was Goldsmith. But I was angry with Goldsmith for writing the ‘Deserted Village.’ I liked nothing gloomy; besides, it was not true, for there were no such villages. Bickerstaff was obliged to march out of England some time after.

“Lord Dunmore* used to call on me. He was a sort of a liberal; and we used to stimulate one another by talking of the despotism which had been exhibited by the expulsion of the six Methodists at Oxford. He told me his notion was, there had been several revelations,—Jesus’ one, Mahomet’s another, at which I was very much scandalized. We made trifling chemical experiments together, it was just then the airs (gases) were invented.

“He had a tutor of the name of Watkins, who went to Virginia, where he had a living, and where, I believe, he died. For a Church-of-England man, Dunmore was free of prejudices, and we had many common sympathies. Watkins went to the unhealthy parts of Essex, where the curacies are doubly as large as the ordinary healthful curacies. He was there cheated by a Parson Griffinhoof. I took up the pen for him, and made Parson Griffinhoof pay what was due. Parson Griffinhoof (as I was afterwards told) said, ‘I do not know who Mr Bentham is, but he must be some old experienced man.’ ”

In 1782, Bentham took a journey to the north of England. At Buxton he was much struck with the beauty of a Miss Meynell,—a sweet girl, he said. He met her twenty years after her marriage with Sir George Cornwall, at Sir John Coghill’s. She had many daughters, and Bentham was urged by Lord Lansdowne to attach himself to one of them.

Strangely varied were the subjects which occupied Bentham’s thoughts. At this time I find him engaged in writing for some favoured Melpomene “Instructions for the Harpsichord,” some of which are very characteristic.

After remarking that facility of playing depends on the choice of fingers—and its accuracy on the verticality of the fingers over the keys to be struck—that expression is the result of the smartness of the stroke, and of the evenness—and the staccato in their appropriate places—he points how the “timidity inseparable to early practice is the cause of error” in the non-verticality of the fingers.

“As every time of shifting the whole hand to a new position endangers a miscarriage, the beginner covets to execute as many notes together as he can without shifting it. When at last a note comes at such a distance from that preceding it, that shifting can no longer be forborne; one finger is sent out before the rest, like the dove out of the Ark, by way of trial to be followed by the whole hand if it succeeds.

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“For a long time before the learner can form a comprehensive idea of the relation of the respective distances between that numerous assemblage of keys that are necessary to the instrument, and for want of having the idea of the distance of each key from that which is to succeed it ready in his mind, he is forced to measure it, as it were, at the time of striking. In consequence, he is obliged to keep his finger over the first key while he is feeling for the second. If he moves his whole hand at once, he knows not how far to carry it.

“As confidence increases by habitual exercitation, the danger is gradually obviated. The practitioner becomes less afraid of trusting his whole hand to move at once. In time, practice of itself will effect a cure. But the cure may be accelerated by its being known on what circumstances it depends. The practitioner, when he sees clearly what these circumstances are, will better understand how to conduct himself so as to favour their operation. He will understand, for example, that his business is to repress his solicitude for success, not to mind at first if he does stumble on a wrong key, but to move his hand freely so as all along to give his fingers the requisite vertical direction.

“Habit—blind habit—will of itself do much: but it will do much more, it will do the same thing in much less time, when enlightened by observation.

“To Melpomene the following hints will be matter rather of curiosity than of use:—

“The momentary and casual evanescent instructions that are given vivâ voce by a master, may be rendered much more efficacious by being registered in writing, and worked up into general standing rules; since the design of them is only to assist other young practitioners in their progress towards that perfection which she has attained already. But if there is a kind of melancholy pleasure, as the poet says,

‘Suave mari,’ &c.,

in seeing others struggling under the difficulties we have ourselves surmounted, we may reap a pleasure of a purer and less exceptionable kind in contemplating the causes of those difficulties, and such expedients by which others may be assisted in removing them. If there is a pleasure in the recollection of vanquished difficulties, that pleasure will, in a generous mind, be improved by a view of such expedients as are calculated to enable others to surmount the like.”

It is amusing and instructive to follow Bentham in his studies of the art of composition. Many of his MSS. are curious evidences of the way in which he exercised himself in order to train his style to precision. One specimen will serve to exhibit what he calls the “Forms Direct and Indirect of Legislation”—as where stealing is forbidden, and the punishment of death attached to it.

“1. Steal not: if thou do, thou shalt be hanged.

“2. Thou shalt not steal: if thou do, thou shalt be hanged.

“3. He that stealeth shall be hanged.

“4. Whoso stealeth shall be hanged.

“5. If any one steal, he shall be hanged.

“6. All persons that steal shall be hanged.

“7. Every person that stealeth shall be hanged.

“8. For him that stealeth, the punishment shall be hanging.

“9. For any one that stealeth, the punishment shall be hanging.

“10. For all persons that steal, the punishment shall be hanging.

“11. For every person that stealeth, the punishment shall be hanging.

“12. Let no one steal: if he do, he shall be hanged.

“13. If thou steal, thou shalt be hanged.

“14. Stealing, or theft, shall be punished by hanging.

“15. For stealing, the punishment shall be hanging.”

When the Treaty of Peace was negotiated in 1783, M. Rayneval assisted the Count Choiseul in the negotiations. The count found rank—the plebeian, brains. Rayneval, though somewhat clever, was both dull and proud. He and the young Viscount de Vergennes, son of the prince, then Prime Minister Edition: current; Page: [126] of France, were handed over by Lord Shelburne to Bentham, for the purpose of being escorted to the sights of London. Bentham was struck with the extraordinary ignorance of the viscount, who, though only from twenty to twenty-three years old, was married, and carried about his wife’s picture in his fob with his watch. His visit lasted some weeks. Lord Shelburne’s eldest son was generally of the company. Sharp’s Iron Works, Boydell’s Print Shop, and Longman’s Musical Instrument Manufactory were, at that time, among the most interesting of the trading establishments of the metropolis. At one of the dinners at Lord Shelburne’s, Gibraltar was the topic, and Rayneval was very desirous it should be given up by the English. There were among the guests those who thought Gibraltar was not worth keeping. One instance of Vergennes’s incredible want of knowledge, was this:—He said to Bentham, “Are there any such people in England as authors?” “Yes, truly,” was the answer; “there are—perhaps not so numerous, nor so good, as at Paris, but the race is not wholly unknown.” “Indeed!” said he, “are there really?” He was a very child in information, yet was he the man sent to make peace between two great nations. His ignorance offended less than Rayneval’s morgue; he covered it over with no veil, however thin. I have heard Bentham mention his fright at having overturned a screen upon Rayneval, who, however, did not resent the misfortune. It was compensated by a breakfast which Bentham gave him in Lincoln’s Inn, and by some lessons in the pronunciation of the English language.

The following Letter of Bentham to Lord Shelburne, refers to a rare book, which, Lord Shelburne says in his answer, he had lent to Mr Pitt, who had not returned it:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
February, 5, 1783
Lincoln’s Inn
Lord Shelburne
Shelburne, Lord

Bentham to Lord Shelburne.

My Lord,

Upon my happening at Streatham to mention the Code lately promulgated by the French king for the government of Corsica, your lordship had the goodness to offer to procure me a copy of it. If no measures should yet have been taken for that purpose, I would not wish to take up any portion, however small, of a time so precious as your lordship’s, about a matter that might be effected by ordinary means.

“But, my Lord, there is a work which less than your lordship’s influence could hardly be sufficient to obtain, and which your lordship, if not already apprized of it, will, I hope, not be displeased to hear of. The title of it is, ‘Mémoires concernant les Droits et Impositions en Europe.’ It is said in Smith’s Wealth of Nations, b. v. ch. 1, to have been compiled by order of the French Court ‘for the use of a Commission employed for some years then past in considering the proper means for reforming the Finances of France.’

“I have been told that there were but 100 copies printed of it, and that it has been never sold. Mr Anstruther, lately elected Member for —, happening to be at Paris just as it was printed, obtained a copy. I have asked him for a sight of it by means of a common friend; but he had given it to Lord Loughborough, whom nobody, that I am acquainted with, cares to ask. The case is the same with regard to Lord Stormont, who I thought might possibly have another.

“M. de Rayneval, I should think must know of it, if he thinks proper to acknowledge. Should there be one copy of it procurable, and but one, I would humbly beg the use of it for a few weeks: should there be two, I should even hope your lordship might think proper, as a matter of grace, to grant me the informer’s share.

“To save your lordship the trouble of getting the title transcribed, I have repeated it on the other leaf.

“I have the honour to be, with all possible respect,

“Your Lordship’s much obliged, and
Most obedient humble Servant,
J. B.

“Mémoires, &c., en plusieurs volumes en 4to, composés & imprimés il y a quelques ans par ordre de la Cour de France, mais jamais publiés.”

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Dr Anderson* had written a pamphlet on the Value of the Western Fishery. Like most authors, exaggerating the importance of the matter on which he was engaged, and anticipating most improbable results from the remedies he was suggesting for the redress of national grievances; he was exceedingly desirous of obtaining Bentham’s approval of his plans, and his concurrence in the desirableness of their being communicated to the public. I find in his letters the expression of a strong desire that, when dead, he may be thought of, as having written something which the world would not willingly let die. In answer, Bentham sent him the following admirable letter:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
May 28th, 1783
Dr Anderson
Dr Anderson

Bentham to Dr Anderson.

Dear Sir,

I am sincerely sorry you do not seem to acquiesce in Mr Wilson’s opinion, which is entirely mine. I will own myself anxious that this pamphlet may never see the light, and that much more on account of your reputation than your purse. There is really a combination among your friends—who are indeed very much your friends, or they would never undertake so invidious a task—to strangle this unhappy bantling in its cradle. Without pretending to assign all their reasons, to which I might not be able to do justice, I will take the liberty of giving you a few of mine. I say a few, for you will not expect that I should write a pamphlet, in order to prove that you ought not to publish another pamphlet. Why it is you should be so much attached to it, I cannot conceive; for I really do not see a syllable in it that is new. Whether the observations relative to the difficulty of collecting a revenue in thinly-peopled countries, are originally yours or not, I will not pretend to say, though I confess I suspect the negative; but sure I am they are yours already: witness your last pamphlet. Those relative to the inefficacy of bounties, and the injudicious, or supposed injudicious, conditions annexed to them, I thought ingenious when I read them, and well worth more attention than it suited me to bestow; but they, too, are yours already: witness your Observations on National Industry, in which this very subject is treated more satisfactorily, as far as I can speak upon recollection, than in the very pamphlet which professes to treat of nothing else. What you say of the difficulties attending infant manufactures, is there also anticipated. What is there in all this that you should be so anxious to “discover” and to “preserve?” Look back to your own works, and you will find it discovered and preserved already, as far as printing and publishing can discover and preserve it. Is it the idea of getting towns built on the spot in question? This has been suggested, and, you will excuse me for saying, suggested, I think, in a more instructive manner, almost these twenty years, by Sir J. Stewart, in the concluding passage of book ii. chap. 30, which I have before me; and, I am told, over and over again, in Campbell’s Political Survey, which I have not seen. Is it the idea of engaging people at large to build, by grants of land? America, a country in much better repute, justly or unjustly, than the Scottish Isles, gives land without stint, without such conditions, and with timber on it that cries, “come cut me,” as plain as ever a herring cried “come catch me.” Is it the idea of giving the son of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, a place to rest his head on? America is large enough for him, and as open to him as to any disciple of Christ. I question whether you are aware that Jews, native Jews, are already, and have been for hundreds of years, upon just as good a footing, as to the acquiring of land, as native Christians; and that the object of the act (are you aware of that act?) which was so soon repealed, in consequence of a temporary and party clamour, was only to hold out naturalisation to foreign Jews. I speak from Blackstone, and from the act itself. Is it the idea of getting Parliament to venture the sum required, because that sum would not exceed, as you suppose without any calculation, the amount of one Edition: current; Page: [128] month’s expense of the war, as you have written it in huge letters? My dear sir, do you consider that one month’s expense of the war is about a million of money, more or less?—that a work not of supererogation, but of pressing necessity, long ago begun, and far advanced in the building,—I mean a penitentiary house for the home circuit,—stands still for the want of a tenth or a twentieth of that sum?—that a house somewhat upon that plan is wanted for Edinburgh, that £6000 would do the business, and that this trifle, as it may seem to you, is more than Mr Stewart, late Provost of Edinburgh, the patron of the scheme, a most intelligent and public-spirited man, has any hopes of getting?—so he told me himself within these three weeks.

Catching fish in the Western Isles might be made a very beneficial business,—a business much more beneficial than it is,—a business more beneficial than any other that could be carried on with an equal capital; but not unless conducted by people, and they in considerable numbers, having fixed habitations in those isles. All this may be true; but what reason have you offered further than your own averment (repeated, and enforced in abundance of declamatory language) for thinking it so? What data have these twenty years’ reflection and experience of yours (experience of what?) furnished, upon which any, even a most superficial judgment of the matter, can be grounded? What are the trades and manufactures, the association of which would be necessary for carrying on this branch of industry? Net-makers, hook-makers, and so forth. This might be known by surveying and analyzing the furniture of a fishing ship, &c., and considering whence it came. What would be the capital necessary for the stocking of those trades and manufactures? How is that capital to be supplied? If too great for one private undertaker, would it be too great for a partnership? If too great for a partnership, would it for an incorporated company? If too great for an incorporated company, who would be working for their own profit, is there any chance of its being carried on by agents appointed by the crown, working for the benefit of I don’t know who? What do the Dutch lose by the disadvantages of distance? Is that disadvantage more than equal to the habitual and inveterate difference between British and Dutch economy? Supposing a greater profit might be made by a given capital employed in this way, than by the same capital employed in any other, (a point necessary to be made out, with at least some general show of probability,) why am I, who am carrying on a flourishing manufacture at Manchester, to be taxed, to have money taken out of my pocket, to be given to you to catch fish with in the isles of Scotland? Certainly I ought not, unless with that money you could bring to market a great many more pounds’ worth of fish than I could of cloth. When you have given something of an answer to these questions, I may perhaps be able to supply you with as many more; and when you have answered those, then perhaps your pamphlet may have some claim to the title it assumes: supposing all the while that I, who am a mere novice in political economy, can, in the course of a most hasty and superficial glance, have gone any part of the way towards exhausting the considerations necessary for founding a judgment upon this complicated question. When you have collected the matter above alluded to, you may then the better afford to leave out all general disquisitions about human nature, especially if they should have nothing either very new in the matter, or pointed in the manner: all histories of the European transactions in the East Indies: all controversies founded on loose expressions of Mr Howlett, or Mr anybody else, relative to abstract propositions on the subject of population: all caveats against Dr Tucker, or Dr anybody else, about the property of supposed new ideas: all invectives against ministers, in or out of place, on the score of measures which have no other connexion with that in question, than in so far as they relate to money: all declamations founded on the supposition that the ruin of a country, which is to be starved this Edition: current; Page: [129] summer, is no otherwise to be prevented than by raising piles of brick and mortar, which may come to be lived in two or three years hence; but of all things, all passages tending to insinuate, in terms more or less explicit, that all political men, if not all men whatever, are equally blind and profligate, and that the whole stock of intelligence, as well as probity in the world, happens, by some odd accident, to centre in a single person, whose censure, without the weight of proof, is to stamp indelible infamy on every head it lights on. It is now past one—I began at past eleven; and these representations, I see but too plainly, are coloured by the impatience which late hours, and multiplied avocations, give to a sensible temperament and feeble constitution: but if you make the requisite abatements, you may profit: and as you know the motive, (for what motive but one could have induced me to give us both this plaguing-bout,) you will forgive.”

He proceeds on a second sheet:—

“In the other sheet you have my opinion on your pamphlet; if, notwithstanding, you persist in printing it, all I have to say to you further is, that your orders will be obeyed. And yet, why in London?—in Edinburgh, printing is not only cheaper, but better done. But that you must doubtless have made up your mind about.”

The answer to this letter is characteristic enough. It occupies nine closely written pages, and is intended to show to Bentham, that if he had studied the subject as thoroughly as the author, he would have formed a higher estimate of the value of his labours. Reputation is less his end than usefulness—glory than truth; yet he had read Bentham’s letter three times over, on three several days, coolly and calmly, but still finds the knowledge it exhibits “extremely crude and undigested, and the tone of the epistle peevish, petulant, sarcastic, fretful:” “exhibiting qualities which self-knowledge would have taught him to avoid exhibiting,” and suggesting that Bentham might “profit by” Anderson’s “lessons.” He calls Bentham’s letter a “humiliating inadvertency,”—“degrading him to an inferior level,” and so forth—yet expresses high admiration for his talents and his virtues. It is to the credit of both, that these sharp discussions did not interfere with friendly intercourse,—but it must not be forgotten, that the criticisms of Bentham were invited—those of Anderson intruded.

To this correspondence Bentham made allusion when he had passed his eightieth year. “I remember a correspondence with Dr Anderson. He was grievously offended with one of my letters. I did not, when young, show that attention to the feelings of others which I have learnt since; and I believe he had some reason for being offended.”

A letter to Mr Stewart of Edinburgh, exhibits the character of Bentham’s inquiries with reference to the effects of Scottish education upon the public morals. It would be interesting to follow the inquiry here reverted to, through the various states of Europe. Compare the cost of religious instruction in different countries, and then compare the state of crime. Let it be seen what effect money, as a means of procuring the discharge of ecclesiastical functions has upon the morals of a community;—whether a richly endowed church is productive of the riches of good works—whether the cheaper Presbyterianism of the north is more or less prolific of Christian excellence than the richer Episcopacy of the south; in a word, whether the money disposed of by our opulent Establishment is well or ill spent, with a view to the end proposed, namely, the increase of virtue and the diminution of crime.

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
June 27th, 1783
Mr Stewart
Mr Stewart

Bentham to Mr Stewart.*


I take advantage of your very obliging permission, to trouble you with a memorandum of the documents I wish for, relative to the criminal law of your part of the island.

“By way of a clue, give me leave to mention the purpose. Upon the supposition that the influence of religious Edition: current; Page: [130] instruction is beneficial, upon the whole, to the temporal interests of society, and that the labours of the clergy do a certain degree of service by what they contribute towards turning this influence to account; I know of no observable standard more exact for estimating the value of that service, than the comparative paucity of such mischievous acts, as the law has stigmatized under the denomination of crimes. England, which, containing such a number of people, and such a quantity of wealth, pays to its clergy such a sum, (which is distributed among them in such a manner,) has, in a given period, such a number of criminals: Scotland, which, containing such a number of people, and such a quantity of wealth, pays to its clergy, so much less in proportion, and that distributed in a different manner—has, in the same period, such or such another number of criminals. I am apt to think it would turn out that this latter number, instead of being greater than that in England, in proportion as the pay of the clergy in Scotland is less, is in fact less; and that therefore, in Scotland, the clerical work is not only done for less money than in England, but better done. This is the inference I am disposed to draw from the Table of Convictions in Scotland, already published by our excellent friend Mr Howard. But, as that table extends to no other than capital crimes, the information it affords can be, as you must perceive, but very unsatisfactory with a view to my purpose. It is the more so, inasmuch as the same crimes which are capital in England, are not so, in every instance, in Scotland, and vice versâ. To be sure, in both countries the denominations of crimes, &c., are, in but too many instances, determined not so much by the real nature of the mischief, as by extraneousand accidental circumstances, such as the punishment or mode of prosecution—but this is an imperfection I cannot help. I must take the information, and be glad to get it too, as it stands. What I wish for is, therefore, a table of the crimes, that within a certain period (suppose from the beginning of the century) have, been known to be committed in Scotland,—the more extensive as to the sorts of crimes, and the more minute the distinctions, so much the better. As to the distinctions, those given in Mr Howard’s table are, as far as that goes, sufficiently particular: the head of murder excepted, inasmuch as it makes no distinction between homicide in prosecution of robbery, and the murder of a defenceless person through particular enmity, fair duelling, and I don’t know how many other species I could point out, but which are as different from one another as guilt from innocence.

“I say, have been known to be committed; and, therefore, a table of the trials would be much more satisfactory than a table of the bare convictions,—and still more so, an account, which I suppose it is impossible to obtain, of informations lodged before a magistrate. You have a method, I have heard, of transporting suspected persons, with their consent, without a trial; of these, some, I presume, would, were it not for such provision, have gone into the class of those informed against, but discharged for want of sufficient evidence—others into the class of convicts.

“I dare say it is but a small part of all this information that is attainable; but any part that it should be in your way to obtain for me, without too much trouble, I should think myself infinitely obliged to you for.

“To a man of Mr Stewart’s turn of mind, the various public uses which at any rate such a sort of document might be put to, and the credit which (if my conjecture be well-gronnded) the result would reflect upon his friend, must, if fame says true, hold out inducements infinitely more favourable than any that could be presented by the acknowledgments of so insignificant an individual as myself. And that the information may receive a much greater degree of circulation than I could expect to give it, we will make Howard insert it in his next publication. He will, I dare say, be very glad of it, for he seemed to acquiesce in my remarks on the incompleteness of that printed in his own appendix. Be there more or less of it, the copying of it must necessarily be attended with some expense.—You will Edition: current; Page: [131] be kind enough to direct the copyist to make a memorandum of it, that I may pay the amount of it to your house in London.

“I took the liberty, as you may perhaps remember, of claiming kin to you and Mr Howard as a kind of brother of the trade, which I certainly am, as far as endeavours go at least, however inferior in point of means. The only proof I can as yet produce to you, in support of such a pretension, is contained in a little pamphlet,* a copy of which herewith sent, I hope you will do me the honour to accept.—I am, with great truth and regard, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

“J. B.

“The expense and trouble it cost me, were not wholly thrown away, as the Bill, which was the subject of it, underwent a number of alterations, several of which, I understood by a note from Sir W. Blackstone, were the consequence of my remarks.”

In a letter of George Wilson to Bentham, dated 3d Nov., 1783, is the following passage:—

“Wallace is gone down to Tinmouth (Teignmouth) in Devonshire; they say it is the place where Dunning died, and in all probability Wallace goes on the same errand. Everybody says that Erskine will be Solicitor-general—and if he is, or indeed whether he is or not, he will have had the most rapid rise that has been known at the bar: it is four years and a half since he was called, and in that time he has cleared £8,000 or £9,000, besides paying his debts, got a silk gown, and business of at least £3,000 a-year—a seat in parliament,—and over and above, has made his brother Lord Advocate. For my part, I have great doubts whether his coming into parliament was a wise thing; he sacrificed his House of Commons’ business, which was very profitable; and besides, his success seems to me very doubtful. He has several of Burke’s defects, and is not unlikely to have his fate; and the expectation from him will be too great to be satisfied. We expect a match between him and Pitt, and another between Fox and Flood.

“The apprehensions about Ireland are not quite so great since the Leinster meeting, where there was not the same appearance of unanimity as at Dungnnon. We have not yet heard of any meeting of the other two provinees; and their parliament has been adjourned for some time. The Bishop of Derry goes to the House of Peers, attended by a troop of horse, who remain on duty during his stay there. He quite eclipses the Lord Lieutenant. What a pity he is not captain of a man of war, and his son a bishop!”

I mentioned among Bentham’s acquaintance a mercantile man named Villion, a Genoese, “who helped,” said Bentham, “to cheer my Lincoln’s Inn solitude. He was very fond of my company, and was generally welcome to me. But once he annoyed me by coming at dinner-time; for I had but a scanty fare, and he grubbed up half of it. His dress was very shabby, and he wore a shirt as coarse as a hopsack. Everything about him was mean; and as I attributed it to his poverty, I only pitied him. But I soon learned he had lost no less than £4000 by the failure of his brother—this alone was equal to £200 a-year—so he sank in my estimation. I could have excused his poverty, but not his being so rich and living so meanly. I was passionately fond of chemistry then, and he studied chemistry for the love he bore me. In his brother’s absence, he once gave me a dinner at his brother’s expense. I remember a garden-like paradise on the top of the house. He used to borrow books of me. He was received into many good families, among others that of Peter Noailles, who had extensive silk-works at Seven Oaks. Noailles had a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter; and, being introduced by Villion, I dined there once or twice. There was a renowned wine-merchant of the name of Chaillet, who afterwards Edition: current; Page: [132] migrated to Bedford Square. He had two daughters, one of whom married a secretary of the first Lord Melville. When I was a suitor on the subject of ‘Panopticon,’ the secretary did me some friendly service; and I once met his father-in-law at his office, and he said to me, ‘Mr Bentham, was it you that wrote the Defence of Usury?’—‘Yes.’—‘Then you shall dine with me.’ I went, and was surprised to find his wife a vulgar, purse-proud woman. There were a dozen people present, and we had some music. I remember observing something white on the middle of the table, and I asked what it was: ‘You will see,’ she said; ‘that is not to be eaten yet: it will be eaten by and by.’ Once when in the carriage with her, she asked me to make some verses to entertain them. I make verses!—I indeed!!”

Villion seems to have been much attached to Bentham. One of his letters, written in answer to a communication of Bentham, which was the resumption of intercourse long dropped, has the following passage:—

Francis Villion
Villion, Francis
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Francis Villion to Bentham.

Dear Sir,

Upon my returning to town to-day, on account of the election of E. India Directors, I have been—shall I say agreeably, or disagreeably?—surprised at finding at home your obliging letter of the 8th instant. It hath recalled to my mind a friendly connexion, which, as long as it lasted, was at once the pride and the delight of my life. But this connexion not being supported equally on both sides, it necessarily grew, by slow degrees, weaker and weaker, till it broke at last.

“This event, although long foreseen, and, according to the common course of nature, which seldom, very seldom indeed, admits the continuation of an intimacy between unequals, hath however affected me so much, that I do assure you time hath hardly afforded me any relief: even Time itself, whose everworking hand hath almost obliterated out the very deep impressions made upon me by the heavy strokes of repeated misfortunes; misfortunes which the generality of people would agree in looking upon as the most severe ones. I have endeavoured to reconcile myself to that event, by the consideration, that when we leave nothing at all behind us to regret, we are prepared to meet death with fortitude and indifference.”

Bentham answered this epistle in the language of kindness, welcoming the reëstablishment of kindly relations: to which Villion replies—

Francis Villion
Villion, Francis
19th April, 1784
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Francis Villion to Bentham.

My Dear Sir,

An engagement for yesterday brought me to town very late on Saturday evening. I had been pressed in an obliging manner to stay all the next morning, but I congratulated myself for having luckily withstood the civil importunities of my friends, as I anticipated by some hours the inexpressible satisfaction and comfort which your letter of the 14th inst. gave me. So kind, so friendly, so moving, so artless a letter, dictated by the heart,—coming from you to me,—makes more than ample amends for full ten years’ trouble and uneasiness of mind. I am sure in the course of a very long life, I should never forget a single word of it.

“I look upon it as a pledge that promises to me the continuation of what will soften the unavoidable misfortunes of this world,—will increase greatly the enjoyments it may afford; and, what I value more, will add dignity to me, not only in my own estimation, but in that of others.

“Had it been a more early hour,—had I not been afraid to disturb you,—had I been sure you could give me a bed,—I should have flyed directly to your chambers. I called there yesterday: to my very great disappointment I did not find you at home; and I left a note which I scribbled at the coffee-house in a hurry, and under the first impression of my chagrin at seeing my hopes frustrated.

“It is very unlucky for me that I cannot absolutely see you, nor to-day, nor to-morrow. If you be disengaged next Wednesday evening, I shall call upon you. Should not that day suit you, Edition: current; Page: [133] choose any other you please, and be assured that I shall make you a sacrifice of any engagement of mine, let it be of duty, business, or pleasure; for I can have none greater than that of assuring you, in person, how affectionately and truly I am, my dear Bentham,

“Your humble Servant, And sincere Friend,
Francis Villion.

George Wilson and James Trail were, of all Bentham’s acquaintance at that time, those with whom he was most intimate. It was to Wilson that most of the Bowood letters were addressed.

“George Wilson,” said he, “was my bosom friend. We had both of us been friendless. He had lived at Aberdeen, where his father had been collector of the customs. He had been at Edinburgh university. He was related by marriage to Dr Fordyce. I made acquaintance, before I was of age, with Dr Fordyce, in consequence of his lectures on chemistry; and I once gave him and (Chamberlain) Clarke a dinner in Lincoln’s Inn. Dr F. was, I think, at that time, the only chemical lecturer, and was very poorly attended. Wilson was first cousin to a Lord Forbes; and Fordyce invited Wilson to dinner to meet me. He had no legal acquaintance, except Sir Archibald Macdonald, who was an aristocrat and a puppy, and took no notice of Wilson; so that Wilson really knew nobody but Dr Fordyce, who was a queer creature, without conversation. Wilson and I there met. He was not a forward—no, he was rather a reserved, even bashful man; but he was six feet one inch in height. Not long after it happened, I was not so poor but I could go and live apart from my father; so I went to a little eating or chop-house, called the Three Tuns, where I used to dine for 13d., including 1d. to the waiter. While sitting at one table, he was at another. I recognised him, and asked him to take tea with me. I found he was fond of chess. I was passionately fond of it. This was long after our meeting at Fordyce’s, who was in the habit of bringing people together, giving no one any account of the others, so that they were constantly in awkward plights. He thus introduced me to Solander’s Club, where nobody knew me, and I knew nobody, and had nothing to say to anybody, nor anybody to me. At this time I was writing the Fragment. I showed him (Wilson) parts of it. He seemed struck with them, but uttered no praise, for he was afraid of being thought a flatterer. There was a constant correspondence between him and his sister, who was living with her father at Aberdeen. He used to show me her letters, by which I perceived the impression which the Fragment had made on his mind. Our intimacy strengthened, and at last we lived together constantly. While living in that habit of intimacy, came Lord Glenbervie and Silvester Douglas, who had been bear-leader to the Douglas whose legitimacy had been questioned. That Douglas a ward of Lord Mansfield; but he had, notwithstanding, so lived as to outrun the constable. The great Douglas had his opera-girl, and the little Douglas had his; so he was recalled in disgrace. Douglas, who was a pert, supercilious fellow, but had talents,—very considerable talents,—came and entered himself at Lincoln’s Inn. He and Wilson knew one another, and he used frequently to come and call Wilson to the other side of the room, and leave me in solitude, which annoyed me not a little. Douglas had seen much of the grand monde; Wilson nothing; so he would not lose any opportunity of hearing about it. Wilson was a most determined Whig, and a slave to the fashion. Very plain, but not the less anxious to be in the fashion. The aristocratical section of the Public-Opinion Tribunal had prodigious influence on him. In his study of the laws of property, he got hold of some of my phraseology, which was of great use to him. He admired Fearne* prodigiously—I held him in contempt. For many successive years we used to go, in the long vacation, to the country together. How I found means I know not, but that I had two or three trifling legacies. My father, on his second marriage, Edition: current; Page: [134] made a little settlement on me of a farm in Essex, worth £60, on which there was an excessive land-tax, reducing it to less than £50. Then there was a malt-house at Barking, which, when it was tenanted, gave £40; but it was not always tenanted: and for these allowances, I was to appear as a gentleman, with lace and embroidery on occasion. I had four guineas to pay my laundress, four guineas to my barber, and two to my shoeblack.

“Wilson became a silk-gownsman, and was at the head of the Norfolk circuit. He was cold in his manners, and rather touchy in his temper. I never but once had anything like a quarrel with him, and then we were meeting at Dr Fordyce’s, and he said he wanted to consult me on some point of law. I laughed at him. He was a lawyer of eminence—I had quitted the law. He took it in dedgeon, even after I had explained it, though the explanation was simple enough. He was out of humour; but ultimately I quieted him. I had been sadly plagued with these chambers of mine. I had divers tenants, more bad than good,—insolvent and solvent. Among the insolvent was F—, from whom I could never get rent, nor drive him from the chambers. They told me I had no redress. I could not eject him but through the benchers;—but the benchers denied me relief. Wilson was a bencher, but he refused me all assistance. This shocked me so much that I could not afterwards see him with pleasure. I thought the rascality was characteristic. The lawyer! the Scotch friend! They gave, as a reason, that F—was not a member of the society. I knew nothing of the existence of such a law; but I knew that if it existed, it was frequently violated, for there were many holders of chambers who were not members of the Inn.”

On another occasion he said of Wilson:—“He was a follower of mine; but he always put himself at the door of some aristocrat or other. He had a great deal of mauvaise honte, and fear of ridicule. His ideas were clarified by my phraseology. I was blind in 1781 for two or three months, and he was reading Coke upon Lyttleton. I wanted ideas, and asked him to read aloud, for their ideas were better than none. I made many observations, showing him that their ideas were to be amended: he did not want them to be amended, but only to learn how he could make money out of them. He once saved my life. We went to bathe at Leyton. I could not swim—not a single stroke. The tide was rapid. I walked on up to my neck. I thought of turning back. I turned round, but could not resist the tide. I floundered about, my head sometimes above, sometimes under the water. He was scampering about in the meadows. I cried out. He saw me, now up, now down: he plunged in and saved me. I was then thinking of my death, and the effect my death would have on others. George Wilson told me to be perfectly passive. I felt that I was a-going, a-going; but he rescued me, and dragged me to the shore.”

Bentham’s other friend, James Trail, had held a situation in one of the colonies; and in the course of his life had been deputy-usher at court, dramatic sublicenser, tutor to the Duke of Sussex, barrister, and M.P. for Oxford, which he owed to the Earl of Hertford, to whom Bentham represented him and his family as retainers. To his connexion with the Hertfords, Bentham attributed the severity with which he always judged the Shelburnes; for a feud existed between the two noble families, and Trail was in the habit of speaking of Lord Shelburne in terms of extreme abhorrence. So far was this pushed, that on the occasion when, in the solitary king’s speech prepared by Lord Shelburne, the words were introduced, that “Accounts cannot be too public,”—an admirable maxim, and whose recognition, on such an occasion, was a highly important conquest to reform, Trail set upon this phrase, as Bentham declared, “like a mastiff upon the throat of an assailant of his master, and called it ‘innovation,’ ‘hodge-podge,’ ‘miss-meddling,’ and ‘farrago.’ ”—So blinding are the effects of party-prejudice!*

Edition: current; Page: [135]

In reference to the debates of the day, Trail writes, on the 22d January, 1784, from London:—

James Trail
Trail, James
22d January, 1784
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

James Trail to Bentham.

“On Monday, we expect a motion from Fox, or some of his friends, relative to the conduct of the High-Bailiff of Westminster. Most people agree that his conduct is irregular in not making a return of the two candidates who were highest on the poll; but the great difficulty is, what the House of Commons ought to do to remedy this irregularity; whether they can call the High-Bailiff to the bar, and order him to make a return; or if they ought to refer it to a Committee, under Grenville’s Act, to determine what he ought to have done, and what he ought now to do. Some think that, as his power expired on the day the writ was returnable, and no return being then made, the House can only declare the election void, and order a new writ to be issued. Whatever turn it may take, it is expected to be a popular topic for Opposition; and I suppose we shall hear of it as often as they possibly can introduce it.

“It is expected that Pitt means to repeal Mr Burke’s Act, or at least some part of it, in order to restore the Board of Trade. Sir James Lowther has been exceedingly offended that Lord Abergavenny was made an earl before him, because the daughter of John Robinson, formerly his steward, may eventually take rank before his wife. It is said, that he is now pacified, but on what terms I have not heard: according to some, he remains a commoner, and will, notwithstanding, continue to support the administration. Others say, he takes his six titles, and has obtained, besides, the promise of a blue riband.

“We hear that Pitt has prepared an India bill, nearly the same with Fox’s: the trade to be left in the hands of the directors; the government to be vested in Commissioners for a term of years, but named by the Crown.

“Probably his plan, establishing the succession to offices in rotation, will make a part of his bill, and in that case it will be nearly the same with what Fox proposed after his first bill was rejected by the House of Lords. The only changes talked of are Lord Carmarthen to be Privy-seal, Lord Sidney to be Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Dundas to be Secretary for the Home Department.”

George Wilson writes also, on matters of public interest, 19th June:—

George Wilson
Wilson, George
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

George Wilson to Bentham.

“The Westminster scrutiny goes on rapidly. In the first week, two votes of Mr Fox’s have been decided upon, and both confirmed. A third has been heard, and the decision adjourned till Monday. The mode agreed on is, that Sir Cecil shall first go through all his objections in the parish of Soho; and then Fox go through his: after which, they go to another parish. But many people think they will never get out of Soho.

“We understand, Sir R. Hotham is to come in for the borough. Lord North made a great speech, and Pitt a miserable one, on the reform. On that subject, and the receipt tax, people may now judge of the ministers’ sentiments. Adam has got another son, and, what is better, he is getting a deal of money by Scotch Appeals. Trail is drawing like Edition: current; Page: [136] a wagon-horse, from morning to night, and from Monday to Saturday. I am, as usual, attending the King’s Bench, and idling away the afternoon.”

Dr Swediaur writes from Edinburgh, on the 15th July:—

Dr Swediaur
Dr Swediaur
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Dr Swediaur to Bentham.

“Dr Smith, with whom I am intimately acquainted, is quite our man; he is busy about a new edition of his ‘Wealth of Nations.’ We have a club here which consists of nothing but philosophers. Dr Adam Smith, Cullen, Black, Mr M‘Gowan, &c., belong to it; and I am also a member of it. Thus I spend once a-week, in the most enlightened and agreeable, cheerful and social company.”

Several of the letters of this period, relate to the publication of Voltaire’s Memoirs; as to which, Dr Swediaur, in a postscript to the above, says:—

“Have you read Voltaire’s Memoirs of his Life, written by himself? I just got a copy of it from Paris; it is excellent; and great many anecdotes, especially those about the King of Prussia, I know to be true. The old scoundrel will not be much pleased to have his character so much exposed during his life-time.”

And Trail on the 9th August writes:—

James Trail
Trail, James
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

James Trail to Bentham.

“I have read Memoires de Voltaire. They are entertaining, and if not genuine, are at least a tolerable imitation of his manner. If I had been persuaded that they were authentic, I am not sure but my expectations would have been disappointed in the perusal. There is nothing interesting, and little of any thing except what relates to the King of Prussia.

“I admit that Smith’s book is in the press, and that it has considerable additions. It will appear in 4 vols. octavo. I cannot learn to what particular points the additions relate. It will not be published in less than two months.

“I hear of no public news but from the papers; I need not repeat what you see there. If the General Advertiser is to be had at Whitchurch, you will be entertained, perhaps, with the account given in that paper of last Saturday of Fox’s speech the night before. I am told by those who heard it, that it was equal to any he has ever made, and with the uncommon advantage of being a reply to Pitt, who has now given up the only remaining measure he had struggled for some time to maintain. The people in the city, I hear, are beginning to talk very freely of the inexperience and incapacity of their late favourite minister, and Fox has given them great satisfaction by his temperate and discriminating opposition to such measures only as they have disapproved of. If Pitt should have as much to do next session, I own I should not be surprised to see such a current against him as might affect his power; but he has got through all his taxes, having provided for the interest even of that part of the debt which will not be regularly funded till next session. I cannot foresee that he will have any thing to do next session but to mend the high roads and enclose commons, and make a parading speech about the produce of the Sinking Fund, and the application of the surplus.”

One of Trail’s letters of 16th September, gives a detailed account of Lunardi’s balloon ascent the day before.

James Trail
Trail, James
16th September, 1784
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

James Trail to Bentham.

Dear Bentham,

Wilson has so far relented that he has permitted me to write you some account of Lunardi’s excursion with his air balloon. Fordyce undertook to fill it with inflammable air, and executed his part of the business with great coolness and success. He intended to have begun his operations on Tuesday evening about six o’clock, but was prevented by various accidents till five next morning, so that he was obliged to make ten gallons of air in a second, which exposed the balloon to be set on fire from the great heat produced by this rapid process. The ingredients Edition: current; Page: [137] were oil of vitriol and zinc, with a great quantity of water; and, according to his calculations, he was, from £150 worth of each, to collect a sufficient quantity of air, and, at the same time, to make as much white vitriol as would sell for £400, at the rate of £10 less per ton than the market price. By this good management £100 will be gained by the process. About one o’clock, the time fixed for the balloon to go off, Lunardi became very impatient, and was afraid the mob would have broke in; so that Fordyce was obliged to humour him, although he had not been able, notwithstanding all his exertions, to collect the quantity of air he wished. Upon trial, it was found that there was not enough to raise the two travellers with twenty-five pounds of ballast, which obliged Biggins to get out; and Lunardi set out by himself, with about thirty pounds of ballast, part of which he threw out almost immediately after he rose from the ground, to enable him to clear a row of houses adjoining the Artillery Ground. We saw everything so distinctly, and were so much satisfied with the safety of the attempt, that it was by no means that awful or solemn scene that I expected—everybody greatly interested, but cheerful and gay; and in about ten minutes he was at such a distance that we could scarcely discover the gallery fixed to the balloon. It went at first north-west, and afterwards nearly due north; and in about three quarters of an hour, was out of sight of every person, I believe, in London.

“No certain accounts were received in town, of the conclusion of this voyage, till this afternoon, when two letters—one to Dr Fordyce, and the other to Biggins—came from Lunardi, written from Baker’s house in Hertfordshire. In these letters he says, that, after having been up some time, he descended by means of one of his oars, (the other he dropped by accident,) till he came very near the earth; and by throwing out a small grappling-iron, he brought himself to an anchor in a large field where some men were at work. To these people he called with his speaking-trumpet, and got some information, which he does not specify. After leaving his cat with them, he threw out the remainder of his ballast, and ascended to a much greater height than he had been before. In his first voyage, the thermometer did not sink below 35°; but in the second trip it fell down to 29°. Some vapour had got into the balloon, and, being condensed, fell down now and then upon him in drops; but, when at his greatest height, these drops were frozen. He does not mention what brought him down a second time. It is thought, notwithstanding his account, the cause of his coming down both times was the waste of the inflammable air through the seams, and perhaps the body, of the silk. The oar was too small to have such an effect as he imputes to it. By his own conjecture, he rose the second time to the height of four miles; but as he had no barometer, (which was in Biggins’ pocket, and forgot in the hurry,) we cannot depend upon the accuracy of his judgment.

“He was up, altogether, two hours and twenty minutes; and landed three miles beyond Ware, in Hertfordshire, where he was soon joined by General Smith, and some other gentlemen who had followed him out of town on horseback, with whom he dined, and went afterwards to Mr Baker’s house. In his letter to Biggins, he expresses his regret that he had not his company, which, he says, prevented him from enjoying his voyage—but assures him he shall accompany him on the next; that the balloon shall be filled quite full, and if then it will not carry two, he, Biggins, shall go up alone. The balloon came safe to town this evening, in Baker’s caravan, and was lodged, amidst the acclamations of a great mob, at Biggins’ house, in Essex Street.

“Fordyce had a very ingenious contrivance to let out the inflammable air, if it had been necessary. He fixed two silk tubes about the middle of the balloon, which hung down, and in that position, although open, the light air could not force its way out; but by means of a rope and a pulley, which went over the top, Lunardi could raise up either of the tubes as high as any part of the balloon, Edition: current; Page: [138] and then the air could have flowed out freely. It does not appear that he made any use of this contrivance. But it is a proof the principle is sound—that the bottom of the balloon was open the whole time. Lunardi was chilled with the cold, although he had on a flannel shirt and drawers. We may expect to see him aloft again in a few days. We are promised, besides, an exhibition of a balloon from Lord Foley’s garden, on Monday next, with which Colonel Gardiner and Mr Sheldon are to ascend. Blanchard, who went up in France, has brought over his balloon, and will no doubt perform some feats, unless Lunardi has anticipated him. He was in the Artillery Ground on Wednesday, and endeavoured to turn everything into ridicule, and at the same time to alarm the people who stood near the balloon, while it was filling, for their safety. He assured them the casks would certainly burst. He was so much attended to, that several persons asked the Prince of Wales, who stood very near, to retire; but he, with great indifference, desired his companion, Tommy Onslow, who was uncommonly anxious to get him away, to retire himself, if he thought there was any danger. Although the concourse of people was immense, yet few in proportion came into the Artillery Ground; and it is said, not more than £400 was received for tickets.—Yours,

James Trail.

I find an advertisement in the Morning Advertiser, announcing M. Lunardi’s intention of ascending from the Artillery Ground, which the Honourable Company had let to him for one hundred guineas, to be presented to the children of Sir Barnard Turner—an arrangement in which, M. Lunardi says, he “feels a pleasure inexpressible.”

The following is an extract from a letter from Dr Symonds, dated Trinity College, Cambridge, April 28, 1785:—

Dr Symonds
Dr Symonds
April 28, 1785
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Dr Symonds to Bentham.

Dear Sir,

I should have answered your letter much sooner, if it had not been for my staying to take an opportunity of one of my friends going to London, that he might carry a dissertation, which I beg your acceptance of. It was written during the American war, and most probably never fell into your hands. In 1761 and 1762, I read, with particular attention, the principal Greek and Latin historians, and had many points in view, among which was colonization: that was not a party question before the Stamp Act passed. When I answered my antagonist, who is a Scotchman, I had nothing more to do than to have recourse to my notes, which soon convinced me that something more than an honest inquiry after truth prompted him to misrepresent the writers of antiquity; and, in fact, he was soon rewarded by the ministry with a pension of £200 a-year, which he is reported to enjoy at this time.*

“I am not a little flattered with the opinion you are so good as to form of my papers in ‘Young’s Annals.’ I intend to give him some upon the moral causes; and afterwards to publish them myself in a distinct volume, with many additions; and shall avail myself of your kindness in offering to do anything for me in Italy. You will be able to inform me of some changes that have taken place since the year 1770, when I left it, and to clear up some things which I did not observe in so explicit a manner as I could wish, though I did not lose much time during the long residence that I made there. Most of my friends are dead who could be of real service to you. I shall certainly remember to give you letters for Cirilli of Naples, and the Abbé Fortis of Venice, whom you will find both instructive and agreeable.

“As to modern publications upon the political economy of Italy, I know of none. When the Italians treat of this subject, they say little about their own country; but load their books with Edition: current; Page: [139] quotations from English and French writers. The best book that I have seen is the “Lezioni del commercio o sia dell oeconomia civile,’ by the Abate Genovesi, whom I knew very well at Naples; but nine-tenths of this book, though useful, are general maxims, and not much is said of the civil or political Oeconomy of Italy. I brought with me from Venice five volumes of the Giornale d’ Italia, a periodical paper, published by Grisselini, which had sometimes tolerably good matter, though even that was too much charged with extracts from writers on this side the Alps. Whether it has been continued of late years, I do not know; for I never could get any information about it from our London booksellers. I do not imagine that Lalande will afford you the assistance you would wish to receive. I recommended him to our young travellers, in preference to the rest of the voyage writers, because he has a few chapters upon the weights and measures, products, and manufactures of the several governments in Italy; but unfortunately these bear not the least proportion to the rest of his book; which is filled with dry and defective accounts of pictures, &c., unmercifully retailed from other writers.”

There is a very amusing epistle of Bentham’s to Mr Townsend, dated May 2d, 1785:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
May 2d, 1785
Joseph Townsend
Townsend, Joseph

Bentham to Joseph Townsend.

Dear Sir,

Here am I still: how much longer I shall be here I do not, as yet, precisely know; nor by what track, nor by what conveyance I shall migrate elsewhere. I am waiting for letters from Petersburg; that is to say, I am in the state and condition of your friend Horace’s countryman, who kept waiting for the river to run itself dry. Thanks to my sins, I have to do with one of the most indolent men of one of the most indolent nations upon the face of God Almighty’s earth. I write him letter after letter about business purely his own. He, I am told, expresses much satisfaction; and how do you think he testifies it? You would suppose, by answering them. No such thing: he orders them to be translated out of my dog-French into Russian, for what purpose, or for whose use, I cannot pretend to guess: not for his own, most certainly; as he makes, at least, as much use of the French as of the Russ. However, he talks of writing soon, and there the matter rests.

“As for you, I will almost venture to prophesy you will not quit Tin island in a hurry. The gnomes of Cornwall have encompassed you with silver chains. I see the would-be Gulliver struggling to get loose, in case a swarm of little Plutuses keep fast hold of him by the heart-strings.

“As to Sir Edward Bayntun, I am much obliged to him for his good intentions: they are, like Prince Potemkin’s, of lasting stuff, not to be put an end to by performance. I should rather have said, for his declarations; which assuredly is full as much as I had any title to expect.

“To come back to milk-maids. You gave me, as your decided opinion, that no such animals would be to be met with born in two counties at once. After great consideration and some inquiry, I am inclined to think you are in the right; indeed, I never could hear of more than one sort of being that is to be found in more than one place at a time, in any period of its existence. I think, therefore, I have done something in finding in the person, a niece of my all-capable Scotchman, an intelligent, well-bred, young gentlewoman, of about twenty-five, who, to the theoretical merit of having imbibed sound chemical principles from her uncle, adds the practical requisite of having been born and bred in a Cheshire dairy. You will say that is doing the business but by halves: true; but it would be more than half done if I could get her regenerated in Wiltshire. Now, how to bring about this good work? Of myself, you know I can do nothing. To the art of regeneration I make no more pretensions than to its simple prototype. But you, my venerable friend, are alike an adept in both: the last your pastime Edition: current; Page: [140] is, the first your trade. Now, then, how shall I contrive to pay you? for every one must live by his trade, and yours is none of those which men are wont to live the worst by. Don’t be wicked, now, and think that I mean to propose to you to pay yourself by intermixing, upon this occasion, your pastime with your trade: that would be curtailing you of a syllable, without making you a jot the richer; besides, that my commission does not extend quite so far: and, sacred as the precedent is, it is possible she might have her scruples about acting the part of Ruth, though you were to be her Boaz. I mean to pay you more liberally in your own coin. Pewsey, I am told, or the near neighbourhood of it, is a second Canaan: don’t be angry, I speak of its produce, not of its inhabitants. The ditches, instead of mud, are filled with milk; and the footpaths, instead of gravel, are cased with cheese. You cannot but know plenty of your ouailles, or of their commères, who, out of christian charity, aided by the moderate application of a more substantial motive, would undertake this pious work. The process need not take up above a week; and any recompense you thought adequate—two or three guineas suppose—would be cheerfully bestowed. But what, you will say, has become of the Livites here, all this while? Have a little patience. I have a piece of malachites (ay, heavenly powers, what a piece!) fit to make a breastplate for the angel Gabriel. Who can say that it may not have served heretofore to that use? Stones, you tell us, have fallen from heaven before now; and why may not this be one of them? Sure anything half so beautiful could never have been dug out of the earth. This jewel, my fair cheesemaker, who, I understand, is a fossilist to boot, shall bring down in her lap, and deposit, with pious gratitude, in the sanctum sanctorum of Pewsey. To this shall be added about fifty or sixty specimens of Siberian ores, sent over by my brother, in days of yore, as an earnest of better things to come. True it is, these were put up in a bundle, with your direction to them, before I had thought of Pewsey in any other light than that of a place in which I had spent some pleasant hours, and might, possibly—at I know not what distant period—spend more. But the handling of so much wealth hath made me mercenary; and I have vowed a vow—a tremendous, irrevocable vow—that your eyes shall never behold a single grain of them, unless wafted to Pewsey by that enviable conveyance.

“When you see Lord Lansdowne, you will hear of a great pie which was cut up at his house, and in which, alas! alas! I full well know my reverend friend would have rejoiced to have had a finger. I cried out with a loud voice, Where is he? They answered me, and said, Three hundred miles off, even in Cornwall, too busy and too wise to leave mountains for a horse-load of chip band-boxes. What could I do? There is an hour for pies as for other things. The hour of this pie was come: it had been kept till it would keep no longer. But what hath kept, keeps still, and will have kept when pies and custards are grown stale, (how does my little custard-ophagus?) is the sincere regard and esteem with which I am, dear Sir, your obliged friend and humble servant,

Jeremy Bentham.

“If at this distance you can assist me, I beg leave to propose the best mode of doing it,—that, in your answer to me, you should enclose a letter, addressed to the discreet matron whom you harbour with you, that I may forward it to her. The lady’s name is Miss Kirkland. At any rate, I beg your immediate answer, that other measures may be taken if this should fail.”

To this Mr Townsend replies:—

Joseph Townsend
Townsend, Joseph
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Joseph Townsend to Bentham.

My Dear Sir,

I crossed myself a thousand times when I saw the breast-plate. Had you never told me whence it came, I should have known that it belonged once to the angel Gabriel. I am happy that it fell to earth, and Edition: current; Page: [141] happier still that it found the way to Pewsey. I never saw anything half so resplendent. With it there came a magnetic cristal of iron, of a most peculiar form, a nondescript, which I value highly. Most of the specimens are numbered, and refer to some catalogue. I wish you had copied out the inventory, as many of the substances are new to me.

I was much disappointed in not finding here my amiable guest; and fear, by the shortness of her stay, that her abode was not agreeable. I hope solitude was her only objection to this mansion, and wish to persuade myself that my housekeeper was not defective in attentions.”

The following passages are extracted from Bentham’s Commonplace Books of this period of his life:—


“His hand was formed to embellish and to corrupt everything it touches. He makes men think they see, in order to prevent their seeing.

“His is the treasury of vulgar errors, where all the vulgar errors that are, are collected and improved.

“He is infected with the foul stench of intolerance, the rankest degree of intolerance that at this day the most depraved organ can endure.

“In him every prejudice has an advocate, and every professional chicanery an accomplice.

“His are crocodile lamentations.

“He carries the disingenuousness of the hireling Advocate into the chair of the Professor. He is the dupe of every prejudice, and the abettor of every abuse. No sound principles can be expected from that writer whose first object is to defend a system.

“His is the “fædum crimen servitutis”—the foulest of all intellectual blots that can deform a character.”

Rotten Boroughs.

“Dilemma to the proprietors—

“If you have no such property, you are not injured by taking it away: If you have, avow it, and make it out.

“For the season of Reformation—

“Watch the time when the principal proprietors are obnoxious to the majority.

“For this purpose, form a Tariff of the several Borough interests.

“For example—Right Hon. T. Townsend, jun., and E. Selwyn, have five seats between them, which upon Selwyn’s decease will be all Townsend’s.”

Principle of Utility.

“If there are instances in which those ends of punishment which are subordinate to that principle, are [without the introducement of a mischief greater than the benefit of their being attained in this manner] more effectually to be obtained by punishment thus applied than otherwise, then your proposition, as a universal one, (and as such you give it,) is not true. If there are not, then it is true: but self-evident it is not.

“It is really true, because it is conformable to the principle of utility. Apparently true, because in those instances of its application which are most obvious, its conformity to the principle of utility being obvious to the eyes of most men, the truth of it findeth reception with, and makes its way to the eyes of most men.

“It is indisputable truth, says another, that no act should be punished criminally without a criminal intention. Is it not so? I don’t know. In the first place I don’t understand you. I suspect you don’t altogether understand yourself. Settle with yourself what you mean by the word “intention;”* and then state your question to the principle of utility. If you get an answer that is fit to satisfy you, it must be from that.

“The opinion of the world (I am speaking of the people in this country) is commonly in favour of the principle of utility: it sometimes is against it. According to most of its judgments, that principle should be just: according to some of them, it should be false.

“Other standards are occasionally set Edition: current; Page: [142] up, which, when examined, appear to be either the same standard under a disguise, or no standard at all, but a man’s own opinion [under a disguise] new dressed out, and brought into court to give testimony for itself.

“What is it that a man means when he asks for a reason why he should do a thing? Some consideration from which it may appear that the doing it will make for his happiness. What is it that a statesman means when he asks for a reason why such a thing should be done? Some consideration whereby it may appear that its being done will make for the happiness of the state.

Utility citius per se quam per Textus.

“Maxims of utility are propositions deduced from the testimony of sense. Now, it is as much safer as it is shorter, to trust to one’s senses, than to one’s interpretation of a book, filled (it is no matter for this purpose from what cause nor from what necessity since the fact is undisputed) with obscurity and apparent contradictions.”

Apostrophica ad Orthodoxos de Principiis.

“O Orthodox! are these principles, which, powerful you set at work, and impotent you disclaim, adverse to the happiness of society? then testify against me. Show me when I am mistaken. Deal fairly with me, and I will kiss the rod of your correction. There is no need of your imprisonments, your disabilities, your ecclesiastical courts, your King’s Bench, since the King’s Bench is yours. Show me where I am mistaken and I will recant.

“There is no need of your ranting at me in your House of Commons, where I am not to defend myself.

“Is there any one of these my pages in which the love of humankind has for a moment been forgotten? Show it me, and this hand shall be the first to tear it out.

“But are they not adverse? are they favourable, (for in principles which are the foundation of practical conclusions, there are no mediums) and do you still condemn them? then what mean your declarations against mistaken philosophers as the pestilence of society?

“O Orthodox! if the principle of utility be the parent of morality, and these its offspring,—if these principles are just, (and you show them not to be otherwise,) you are the pest of society if ye condemn them.

“No vague declamations, no hacknied metaphors, no attempts at wit, which you court when you think you have opportunity, and which you shrink from with horror at, when they are against you; no shiftings, no beggings of the question. Cast off the prejudices that blind you, drive away the phantoms that affright you; take the line and plummet in your hands, and with firm but cautious steps descend with me into the heart of man.”

Elogia—Locke, Priestley, Beccaria, Johnson.

“O Locke! first master of intellectual truth! without whom those who have taught me would have been as nothing! let thy blest spirit, if now it looketh down upon the affairs of men, acknowledge my obedience to the first great lesson of thy life, in the assertion of independence, and make its report in my favour to the Throne, the Judgment-seat above.

“Priestley was the first (unless it was Beccaria*) who taught my lips to pronounce this sacred truth:—That the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.

“Johnson is the pompous vamper of commonplace morality—of phrases often trite without being true.

“Toureil measured out his academic periods in defence of torture.”

Philip and the Athenians are the Ministry and the Legislators.

“Athenians, (said Demosthenes, or something like it,) you are Philip’s under-generals; you march where he Edition: current; Page: [143] appoints, you wait upon his nods. Goes he to [Tenedos,] you follow him to [Tenedos]—meantime he is gone to Corinth—each campaign marks out for you the plan of your operations. He sweeps you after him as the substance does the shadow.—Dare you get before him? Dare you cross his path? Oh! no: it would be high-treason.”


“By the manner in which man has been scored by some political writers and system-makers, one would think they took him for a Polypus. Montesquieu split him into two halves, one of them may be rendered good (by one cause,) while the other is rendered evil by another cause. The laws of perfection derived from religion, have more for their object the goodness of the man who observes them, than that of the society in which they are observed. Civil laws on the contrary have more for their object the moral goodness of men in general, than that of individuals! But what is it that a writer means when he talks of good men making up a community not good, and of a good community made up of men not good?

“Bishop Warburton has [gone farther—he has] made three selves out of a man; and lest they should be surprised at finding what’s done to them—not so, only, says he, but if I find I want more, I make as many more out of you as I please. What! three distinct men out of one man? Yes, three distinct men to be sure—What do you think I am talking about? What do you take me for? A metaphor-monger, a romancer? Know that I am a logician; mind me, now—I am going to prove it as plain as the nose upon your face. Maj.: A distinct will and personality make a distinct man. Do you deny it? Have at you, then.”


“When the truths in a man’s book, though many and important, are fewer than the errors; when his ideas, though the means of producing clear ones in other men are found to be themselves not clear, that book must die: Montesquieu must therefore die: he must die, as his great countryman, Descartes, had died before him: he must wither as the blade withers, when the corn is ripe: he must die, but let tears of gratitude and admiration bedew his grave. O Montesquieu! the British constitution, whose death thou prophesiedst, will live longer than thy work, yet not longer than thy fame. Not even the incense of [the illustrious Catherine] can preserve thee.

“Locke—dry, cold, languid, wearisome, will live for ever. Montesquieu—rapid, brilliant, glorious, enchanting, will not outlive his century.

“I know—I feel—I pity—and blush at the enjoyment of a liberty which the birth-place of that great writer, (great with all his faults,) [forbade him to enjoy.]

“I could make an immense book upon the defects of Montesquieu—I could make not a small one upon his excellencies. It might be worth while to make both, if Montesquieu could live.”


“On the question whether a fact was or was not done, there are three states in which a man’s opinions may be. He may believe that it was done; he may believe that it was not done; or he may find himself unable to believe either one way or the other. The alternative, one sees, is triple. Belief positive on one side; belief positive on the other side: belief negative on both sides, or neutrality. The law, neglecting one branch of it, makes it only double. If, believing the thing was done, a man says he believes it was not done, he says untrue. If not believing it was not done, he says it was not done, he says untrue. If believing it was not done, he says it was done, he says untrue. If not believing it was done, he says it was done, he says untrue. It will often happen that, on a fact proposed, men will find themselves unable to believe either that it was or was not done: they do not believe that it was done; they do not believe that it was not done. These, when upon a Jury, Edition: current; Page: [144] the Law forces to say either that the accused was guilty, viz., that the fact which, having been done by him, makes him guilty, was done by him; or that he was not guilty, viz., that that fact was not done by him. These, therefore, the Law forces to say what is untrue. Is it necessary for the purposes of justice—for the security of the innocent—for the punishment of the malefactor, that men sitting upon their oaths in judgment, shall be forced to say what is untrue? I submit this to the consideration of those whom it concerns.

“How then would you have it attained? Thus the opinions that may be forced are three, let the expressions of these opinions be three. Give to each opinion the liberty of expressing itself. Let those who are satisfied the fact was done, say guilty: those who are satisfied it was not done say, not guilty: those who are not satisfied either that it was, or that it was not done, say “unsatisfied.” It remains to decide the fate of the accused according to the proportion of the number of voices to the respective answers. The conflict lies between those who, on the two opposite sides, have given a positive opinion. The unsatisfied are neuter.

“Caution, that the separate opinion of each be not published. Oath of Secrecy, as to that matter to be taken.

“Make a Table of the possible proportions of the Numbers of Voices to each opinion among twelve people.”

Guilty. Not Guilty. Unsatisfied. Guilty. Not Guilty. Unsatisfied. Guilty. Not Guilty. Unsatisfied. Guilty. Not Guilty. Unsatisfied.
12 0 0 7 4 1 4 1 7 2 0 10
11 0 1 7 5 0 4 2 6 2 1 9
11 1 0 6 0 6 4 3 5 2 2 8
10 0 2 6 1 5 4 4 4 2 3 7
10 1 1 6 2 4 4 5 3 2 4 6
10 2 0 6 3 3 4 6 2 2 5 5
9 0 3 6 4 2 4 7 1 2 6 4
9 1 2 6 5 1 4 8 0 2 7 3
9 2 1 6 6 0 3 0 9 2 8 2
9 3 0 5 0 7 3 1 8 2 9 1
8 0 4 5 1 6 3 2 7 2 10 0
8 1 3 5 2 5 3 3 6 1 0 11
8 2 2 5 3 4 3 4 5 1 1 10
8 3 1 5 4 3 3 5 4 1 2 9
8 4 0 5 5 2 3 6 3 1 3 8
7 0 5 5 6 1 3 7 2 1 4 7
7 1 4 5 7 0 3 8 1 1 5 6
7 2 3 4 0 8 3 9 0 1 6 5

And so to the exhaustion of the opinions of each.

Subscription to Articles of Faith.

“When a man has once got into the way of making Revelation serve him instead of Reason, and the opinions which men in authority hold instead of Revelation, and the opinions which men in authorityavow instead of what they hold, he is prepared for the embracement of every absurd and mischievous error, and for the rejection of every salutary truth.

“His enfeebled mind is a field on which he sees prejudice accumulate upon prejudice without strength to throw them off.

“Agitated by vain terrors, his hypocondriac heart would tremble for a system for which he knew no other support (for in his breast it has no other support) than blind credulity.

“He would resist any project which, by bringing into canvass, might raise up objections to, and augment his difficulties in, the defence of a system which, not because true, but whether true or not he was resolved, against every consideration, to defend.

“His embarrassment he would never place to the account of a possibility of mistakes.”

Edition: current; Page: [145]


“O Logic!—born gatekeeper to the Temple of Science[s], victim of capricious destiny! doomed hitherto to be the drudge of pedants! come to the aid of thy great master, Legislation!”

  • Répands sur mes sens ta force et ta clarté,
  • Que l’oreille des Rois s’accoutument à t’entendre.

Public Spirit.

“When a crisis calls it forth, it blazes above the love of children—above the love of self—at any time may it soar above the love of kindred. This is no romance; it is in human nature. It is in this country. (And if in human nature, where should it be found but in this country?) The records of the State attest it. Sir Jos. Jekyll is an example: childless—master of a plentiful fortune by the favour of the public: I can do no better, said he, than restore it to that public.”

Moral Sanction.

“The greater the communication among men, the greater the efficacy of the moral sanction. [The greater the number is of those persons on whom a man’s happiness may depend, the more is he concerned to aim at general esteem.]

“A Turk shuts himself up in the harem: let him be well spoken of, or ill spoken of, his women will not be less beautiful, nor his slaves less obedient to his will. Without relish for the pleasures of society, he is insensible to that check which consists in the apprehension of being deprived of them. He has but one person to address himself to, for all he wants, or against all he can apprehend: it is his Pasha.

“Montesquieu spoke thus far true, when he said that the support of society in despotic governments was fear, though, in as far as it was said, it was not worth the saying.

“Fear is the support of despotic governments. Fear of what may happen to one, from a certain man.

“Fear is the support of society in republican governments: but it is fear of what may happen to one from any man.

“If it be true, according to the homely proverb, ‘that the eye of the master makes the ox fat,’ it is no less so that the eye of the public makes the statesman virtuous. The multitude of the audience multiplies for disintegrity the chances of detection.”

Apologetica Recapitulatoria.

“If the vanity of broaching new opinions,—(the common motive assigned to the publishing of a new opinion by a person who does not approve of them,) if that vanity, I say, had been ever so strong in me, it could not have created them. To me they appear useful—they may be new. Should I decline publishing what is new? No; but what is not new.

“These differences—it was not I who made them. It is God. I found them—I pointed them out. Why? Because I thought it of importance they should be known—because it is the business of the Legislator to augment the sum of happiness in the community, and because I thought the way for the Legislator to augment the sum of happiness in the community was to know them. To augment the sum of happiness in the community there is but one way—it is to change things evil for things good, and things more evil into things less evil.

“Now, to change things evil into things good, it is necessary to know what are evil and what are good; and to change things more evil into less evil, it is necessary to know what are more evil, and what are less evil.

“Things evil are things that cause mischief: things that cause more mischief are more evil: things that cause less mischief are less evil.

“Mischief is made up of pains and dangers. Things that cause more pains and dangers, cause more mischief: things that cause less pains and dangers, cause less mischief.

“To see how much pains and dangers a thing causes, and whether more than another thing, it is necessary to see how many sorts of pains and dangers it causes; and how many sorts of pains and dangers that other thing causes. This thing, I say, causes such and such sorts of pains, and such and such sorts of dangers—here Edition: current; Page: [146] they are. I have averred a fact. Is it true? Is it not true? Any one is my judge.

“I am mistaken—show me where I am mistaken—does it not cause these? Which does it not cause? Show them. Does it cause more? What more? Show them.

“Is the truth discovered? I am happy.—By me? I am most happy.—Not by me, but by some other? Not altogether, perhaps, so happy; yet happy still: to have been the means of discovering a treasure is always something, though it were by a stumble.

“I never could be happy if, in matters like these of the last importance, in order to conceal my own errors, I had put a veil upon truth to hide it from other eyes.

“If the constitution of things turns out different from what they could wish it, the fault’s not mine? Whatever it be, the business is to make it known; ’tis my greatest glory, and their greatest profit; the success of every enterprise they enter on for the public benefit, depends upon that knowledge.

“How should I have been able to have answered it to myself if, for want of any observations I could suggest, I had suffered them to rest their security upon false foundations?”—Vide De l’Homme, ii. p. 12, Sect. 5, Ch. ii.

Religious Sanction.

“Judging God to be a vain and proud and jealous being, like themselves, some men imagine that flattery and humiliation will give him pleasure.

“Judging him to be a selfish being like themselves, they imagine him to be more pleased by a conduct of that sort, and displeased by the omission of it, than pleased by a conduct promotive of the happiness of men, or displeased by one detrimental to it. Hence the setting up of the class of duties, as they are called, to God, above that of the duties to our fellow-creatures.

“Hence, in a word, the exaltation of so called religion above morality. Of religion, which, with respect to God, the object of it, is universally allowed to be useless, and which, with respect to men, is useful, no otherwise than as promotive of morality above morality itself, by means of which alone it is in the power of religion to be useful.”


“Truth can operate only by supporting evidence: it cannot change sensation; it cannot change the sentiment of truth and falsehood. It is the ignorance of the powers of nature, of the extent of them, and of their limits, that is the cause of the credulity of the common people. Miracles and the secrets of nature to these behove to stand upon the same footing. To remove mountains by a word, may seem as easy as to draw fire from the clouds,—that is, according to vulgar speech, from heaven,—or to make iron swim.

“Offering rewards for faith, and punishments for the want of it, is, therefore, like offering rewards for, and punishing the want of, prejudice and partiality in a judge. To say, believe this proposition rather than its contrary, is to say do all that is in your power to believe it.

“Now, what is in a man’s power to do, in order to believe a proposition, and all that is so, is to keep back and stifle the evidences that are opposed to it. For, when all the evidences are equally present to his observation, and equally attended to, to believe or disbelieve is no longer in his power. It is the necessary result of the preponderance of the evidence on one side over that on the other.”

Temper Popular—Experire.

“A measure is unpopular; but useful, were it not unpopular; should it be put in force? Perhaps it should, perhaps not: one cannot say. Forthwith? By no means.—Should it then be abandoned? Nor that neither.—What then? Thus:—You say it is useful? Yes.—Why is it? For such and such reasons.—But will those reasons be accepted by the people? Who knows?—It may know; it is a matter of experiment; ask them—feel their pulses—publish your plan, and at the same time publish your intention of adopting it, if they approve of it in a certain time. Is Edition: current; Page: [147] there a violent outcry against it? let it drop. Is there but a faint outcry against it, or no notice taken? carry it into execution. What is to be deemed a violent, what a faint outcry? Ask not things impossible. Rules have here no place; your discretion must direct you; with this one rule only to assist it, the measure is still to be put into execution, if the good of it to them promises to be greater than the evil of their dissatisfaction at the thought of it.

“The result is, that the unpopularity of a measure can never conclude under these cautions against its adoption.”

Commonplace Morality.

“The commonplace morality which deals in assertions without proof, and rises in wrath when it should rise in argument, fights with poisoned weapons, and pleads the cause of truth with the tongue of falsehood.”

At this period of Bentham’s life, his favourite aphorisms were:—

“Qui trop embrasse mal etreint.”

“Aliquis in omnibus, nullus in singulis.”

“Dic aliquid atque illud tuum.”

“Rectum, et sui index est et obliqui.”

“Gloria in obsequio.—Apply this not to the king, but to the law.”

“Hinc centum patrimonia causidicorum.” (Juv. Sat: vii.)

“Surgis tu pallidus Ajax

Dicturus dubiâ pro libertate, Bubulco Judice.” (Ibid.)

“Veteres avias tibi de pulmone revello.”—(Pers: Sat. v.)

“State secrets are State iniquities.”

“Labor et ipse voluptas.”

CHAPTER VII.: 1785—1787. Æt. 37—39.

Preparations for Tour in Russia.—Prince Potemkin.—Departure.—Paris.—Journey by Genoa, Leghorn, and Florence.—Smyrna.—Mitylene.—Scio.—Constantinople.—Personal Anecdotes.—Letter to Lord Lansdowne.—Journey through Bulgaria and Wallachia.—Ovidiopol.—Kremenschuk.—Russian Army.—Illustrations of Society.—Sir Samuel Bentham.—The Establishment at Crichoff.—Correspondence with Chamberlain Clark and Wilson.—Abbott’s Marriage.—Paley.—The Panopticon Scheme.—Sir S. Bentham’s Inventions.—Defence of Usury.

Before Bentham made the tour in Russia, of which this chapter will be found to contain some particulars, he collected vast masses of information on agricultural, trading, and manufacturing subjects, for the purpose of introducing improvements of all sorts, under the auspices of Prince Potemkin, in whose service his brother was then engaged. “Engaged,” says Bentham, in one of his letters, “as Jack of all trades—building ships, like Harlequin, of odds and ends—a rope-maker, a sail-maker, a distiller, brewer, maltster, tanner, glassman, glass-grinder, potter, hemp-spinner, smith, and copper-smith.”

I find a communication of Bentham to Prince Potemkin, dated from the Diligence d’Eau, on the Rhone, 27th August, giving an account of his journey, and of the various arrangements he had made in his service. Potemkin’s notion seems to have been, to transplant British civilisation and intelligence en masse to White Russia; as if all soils were equally adapted for the growth and development of capital, knowledge, and industry. He failed; as all have failed who forget that the march of mind, in order to be sure, must be slow; that it must gradually create around it its means and appliances; that the introduction of one, or a hundred enlightened foreigners into a country, is not sufficient to enlighten it; that all premature attempts to cultivate an unprepared soil will bring no productive harvest. Potemkin seems liberally to have scattered about his opulence, and to have exerted his influence; he was even fortunate enough Edition: current; Page: [148] in the instruments to which he looked for success; but success was in the nature of things impossible: so his money was wasted and his power employed in vain.

Of the friendly feelings of Lord Lansdowne towards Bentham at this juncture, the following letter is evidence:—

July, 1785
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.

Dear Mr Bentham,

I had a headache yesterday and the day before, which made it impossible for me to write. I send you all which I have been able to write to-day. I have desired the Abbé Morellet to give you letters for Lyons and Marseilles, as he has very good connexions in both places. I have desired Mons. Rayneval to give you one for the French ambassador at Constantinople. You must take your chance about Dijon, Genoa, and Montpellier; though, I dare say, Mons. Rayneval will give you letters for them if you can find a proper moment to ask him. I will take my chance of to-morrow’s post finding you with three letters,—one for Rouen, another for Mons. Torryel, a celebrated lawyer at Paris,—and another, upon my own account, to the Abbé Morellet.

“I beg to assure you that you go with the affectionate good wishes of all this family. Lady Lansdowne and Miss F— desire me to mention them particularly. My last advice to you is, upon no account to be taken in, to stay among barbarians: they can make you no offer worth your acceptance, except they were to name you ambassador to China—I own that would tempt me. Come back soon, and bring your brother with you, if he does not get a provision, ample enough to live upon here, in a few years, and as well secured as the Bank of England. In the meantime get into no intrigues to serve either English or Russian; no, not even with a handsome lady, if any politics should be mixed with it; for I have said in all the material letters, that I would be answerable for every part of your conduct, public or private.

“The Abbé Morellet may possibly offer to carry you to Mons. Rayneval; but, in your place, I would go alone; but don’t say I advised you to do so.

“I have told Sir H. M— that you would write me an account of his health.

“I will send you a line for Blankett in case you meet with him.

“The post is going; and I must defer the rest till to-morrow.

“I am, very truly, yours,

The same sentiments are repeated in another letter:—


“The bearer, Captain Williamson, appears to me a very intelligent person. He has been last year at Constantinople, and the Greek Islands; and I thought it might be agreeable to you to make his acquaintance, which has made me desire him to call on you.

“I hope my servant told you, as I had not time to write as I intended, that we would have kept the Voyages de la Grèce, to be bound, before we sent them; but, as you will carry them on board ship, I thought it might be agreeable to you to have them half-bound in some fashion of your own, that might make them more portable.

“I hope you will have the goodness to present a sword from me to your brother, which you must pass for your own, to avoid the custom-houses through which you pass. Although a Russian colonel, I hope he will accept an English sword. I do assure you, that we are all (Miss F— included, who is sitting by me) concerned for your going, independent of the loss of your company, which we always have considered as a resource, when the interested and the factious deserted us. We are apprehensive that you will lend yourself to some plan which interested and ignorant people may open to you; and after detaining and robbing you of time—which may be more reputably, at least, if not more usefully to yourself employed—may desert you. This observation applies equally to your brother’s situation. I told Count Woronzow that I meant, if I had continued in administration, to have placed him in some advantageous situation here. Edition: current; Page: [149] Count Woronzow knows him, and wishes to see you. If you please, make use of my name to him.

“I am obliged to write in great haste, because Captain W. and a good deal of company are by, and waiting for it.—Ever yours,


Bentham left England in the beginning of August 1785. He had engaged a passage for Smyrna, on board the Mary Frances, Captain Richard Brine, which was to sail for Smyrna from London, and Topsham, on the 20th June for Nice; where Bentham, who travelled overland through Paris and France, was to meet her.

A remittance of £500 was sent to Bentham from Prince Potemkin, with a request that “a clever man” might be forwarded to the Crimes. A person was found, named Henderson, on the recommendation, I believe, of Mr Playfair, the brother of the late professor; and Bentham determined to accompany him to Crichoff, the spot on which his brother was established. The man’s morals do not appear to have been of the purest, although he was apt at acquiring knowledge, and had botanical information, which was especially wanted. He cohabited with a person who was intended to manage a dairy, which Potemkin proposed to establish on that magnificent style which was then growing into fashion in England. Two routes were discussed: the northern, by the Baltic,—the southern, by Constantinople. The southern was chosen, in order that they might have the advantage of seeing a greater variety of botanical gardens in their way. Potemkin paid the expenses of the parties selected by Bentham,—two women and a man; but Bentham paid his own. The three subordinates were despatched to Paris “to learn what they could,” and then to wait for Bentham, who followed a fortnight after. “This was at the period of the birth of chemistry,” he said; “and the phosphoric matches lately invented, charmed me so much, that I wrote a poem, inquiring how the world could have gone on so long without these admirable light-givers.” Bentham left his affairs at home “rather at sixes and sevens;” and at Paris, being without any useful introductions, seems to have visited only two or three people, whose conduct was more seemingly courteous to him, than generally creditable to themselves. Among them was one whom Bentham mentioned as the prototype of the Quinze Anglais, who were represented as the pillagers of their countrymen. A French lady was very desirous of recommending Bentham to Lady Craven; but he declined the honour. At this period, as throughout his life, a strong curiosity was tempered and controlled by an unusual bashfulness. He had corresponded with D’Alembert; but had not courage enough to visit him.

Among the few persons he made acquaintance with at Paris was R— M—, who had been bred a physician. He was pulling the devil by the tail, and snatching at whatever he could from his rich brother. He accompanied Bentham to Versailles, where the king was then living. Rayneval, who had been receiving kindness from Bentham two years before, was there; and in addition to that claim upon him, Bentham had recommendatory letters from Lord Lansdowne to him, and anticipated a hearty welcome. Instead of welcome, he found coldness: no invitation,—but a letter proffered for Count Choiseul, at Constantinople, was accepted by Bentham,—which letter merely said, that the bearer was held in estimation by Lord Lansdowne. R— M— was a forward man, whose habit was to take everybody under his command, and talk dogmatically, interlarding his conversation with a perpetual “ecoutez—ecoutez.” He contrived to use others for his own glorification; and insisted on going to Versailles with Bentham, ostensibly for the purpose of escorting him; but really for the purpose of introducing himself, though he was meanly clad, and looked like a man in distress.

As to the language, Bentham was perfectly at home in France. He had so accurate a knowledge of French, that he wrote it with great purity and ease. He was not embarrassed for a choice of words, as the language has few synonymes, Edition: current; Page: [150] or quasi-synonymes,—though he felt, as everybody feels, the irregularities and the imperfections of many of their verbs. German he had also studied.

A voiturier conducted the party, partly by land and partly by water, to Lyons, whence they descended the Rhone: its rapid stream delighted Bentham. His attention was naturally interested by the Pont St Esprit, and by the ruins of Nismes, which he visited on his way. “I remembered, too,” he said, “the Journal de Tréveux, the periodical of the Jesuits, as we passed through that town.” At Cette, which he visited, the extraordinary cheapness of living surprised him; and he was much gratified by a party of Frenchmen at a coffee-house, who insisted on the pleasure of treating him, because he was an English stranger. They proceeded to Antibes,—thence, by water in a felucca, to Nice, and thence to Genoa, where they were “land-bound or business-bound” for two or three weeks without any letters. A Genoese, however, of the name of Vignon, treated Bentham with great civility, and took much trouble to make his visit an instructive one. They next came to Leghorn; and Bentham left for Florence, to deliver letters to Sir H— M—, with which he had been furnished by Lord Lansdowne. Sea voyages were not much to Bentham’s liking. “I was not sick;” said he, “but I was in a state of enmity with everybody around me, and thinking whether any enjoyment that was to come would repay me for the annoyance I felt.”

Sir H— was an oddity. Bentham dined at his house every day, and every day eat ortolans; but he never sat at table. He had been a sort of gambling country squire, who had run out considerable property he possessed in Kent, and whose habits easily explained his embarrassments. Bentham was also recommended to Fontana, the writer on poisons, whose reception was cold and supercilious. He was then engaged in teaching chemistry to some of the emperor’s children. Bentham heard somebody inquire, “Che uomo è questo?” (what man is this?) and his answer was, “Eun orso Inglese!” (it is an English bear.) But he gratified Bentham by showing him a beautiful collection of wax anatomical preparations.

From Florence, Bentham returned to the vessel. “In passing through the Straits,” said he, “I looked for Scylla and Charybdis, but saw neither—nor did I hear the barking dogs.” Sicily exhibited the vestiges of an earthquake, with which it had just before been visited.

They passed among the Greek islands, specks rising inexplicably out of the ocean—no! not the ocean—the Mediterranean sea. A new passenger joined the party—a surgeon, who had outrun the constable, and who got on board the vessel to escape the pursuit of his creditors. He was pennyless, and thrown on the wide world. He challenged Bentham to play at billiards with him, when they arrived at Smyrna, and having lost, no money had he to pay. At Smyrna, Bentham remained a month. A Jew, whom he was in the habit of calling “the virtuous Jew,”—pleasant, modest, intelligent, and disinterested,—accompanied him to the interesting sights of Smyrna, and Bentham invited him to England, assuring the Jew that he would exercise all hospitality towards him, but could not persuade him to promise. A Turkish garden was among the curiosities to which the Jew found access for Bentham. It was a sort of orchard of vines and other trees, without order or apparent arrangement. From that garden, Bentham sent specimens of the Sultana raisin to England, which he believed to have been the first of that species which had ever reached this country. In France, they have been of late years extensively cultivated, and bear the name of “Chasselas de Fontainbleau.” From several of the merchants of Smyrna, Bentham experienced many courtesies; and in his memoranda, I find the names of Lee and Morier mentioned—names very familiar to oriental travellers and oriental students.

On leaving Smyrna, the vessel put into a small port in the gulf near Chesme, in ancient Phocia. There was a large stone with a Greek inscription in a sort of public place. While occupied in Edition: current; Page: [151] copying it, a message was sent for him from the principal judge of the place, who, in consequence of his being so occupied, supposed him to be an Effendi; and Bentham was conducted to the Court of Judicature, where the judge received him with marked distinction. A Frenchman, who spoke Italian, acted as interpreter between Bentham and the Turkish judge, who, by way of displaying his learning, brought forth a folio volume on geography in Arabic, of which he displayed a map, and undertook to show from whence the Russian fleet had sailed, which had encountered the Turks in the last war, but he pointed out Archangel instead of Petersburg. “He told me, too, there was a prophecy, that the Turkish power would be upset by a Christian power;—a prophecy likely to bring about its own fulfilment.”

The vessel which conveyed Bentham, was a Turkish vessel, taking her first voyage. He had no servant, but he made acquaintance with a German-Russian who had, and his conversation was very instructive. Henderson was on board with the two young women, one of whom was insipid and innoxious—the other a thorn in Bentham’s side, and a rod of iron over Henderson’s head. They were eight passengers in all. They found on board a singular personage in man’s attire, of whom they knew nothing, and divers hypotheses were mooted respecting him. He was made the interpreter of the party, and they called him the Dragoman. There were many fine young men on board, but the ladies reported them to be covered with vermin—“they being,” said Bentham, “more scrutinizing in that way.” There was a young Mahommedan priest, whose religious chants interested the voyagers. The food was prepared in the Turkish style, and was minced by an instrument consisting of two knives in the shape of half-moons. The cabin, though well suited to the Turks, who were almost always squatted on their haunches, was, from its lowness, wretchedly inconvenient to the Christian infidels, none of whom could stand upright in it. The cabin did not offer much to instruct or amuse Bentham, and he generally abandoned it in the evening when the Turks collected there. He had a small bed at the cabin door; and I have heard him mention, that one night a violent storm arose, and he was summoned to quit his bed in consequence of the danger—“but I thought,” he added, “that nothing I could do would be of any use in saving us, and I went quietly to sleep, having comforted myself with the reflection, that if I were to be drowned, to be drowned asleep was the best way of drowning; and I slept as soundly that night as on any night before or after.” The vessel, however, was badly constructed, heavily laden, and even when there was no storm, the waters often washed the deck. One phenomenon annoyed Bentham greatly. While seated round the table, showers of maggots fell. He could not explain the mystery. It was the raining of the Egyptian plague; and one person was constantly employed in gathering up the nuisances and throwing them away. He at last discovered that a quantity of dates which hung over their head was the cause of the grievance. “The German-Russian sometimes catered and provided new dishes: among other things he gave us fish, preserved in oil and vinegar; and we returned his courtesies by some civilities or other.” They landed at Scio, where the women came round the travellers, calling out “Inglese! Inglese!—buono! buono!” and offered to kiss my hands. “I wanted,” said Bentham, “to kiss theirs; but they were seeking, not kisses, but paras.” The vegetable scenery struck Bentham much—it was of a nature wholly new to him: palm trees, which he saw for the first time,—though he looked in vain for the orange groves. He reached the town by a walk of half a mile; by the side of which were stunted bushes of a succulent, or, to use his own phrase, “quasi-succulent character.” The streets were too narrow for carriages, and served to exclude the rays of the sun. A storm blew them, as it blew the apostle, into Mitylene; a small harbour, in the middle of which was a rock, two or three feet out of the water, which it required no little dexterity to steer by in safety. Bentham landed in a boat, and Edition: current; Page: [152] went into the fields, where abounded the intertwined narrow-leafed myrtles, Oleanders, and Agnus Castus. I remember hearing Bentham say, that in this Mitylene ramble he gathered botanical instruction by perceiving the fondness of the Oleander for marshy ground, which induced him ever after to give abundance of water to the Oleanders in his own garden—a garden, by the way, of which he was exceedingly fond, and in which he walked for an hour or two every day. It was the same garden in which Milton had often walked before, and which was, throughout Bentham’s happy life, a perpetual source of happiness to him. And, by the way, I cannot passover the love of flowers, which, I have already said, distinguished Bentham, without remarking that the distribution through the world of useful and beautiful plants and fruits, was one of his habitual occupations. His correspondence is full of suggestions for the introduction of new vegetable productions. He sent seeds from England to various parts of the globe. He directed the attention of his friends in distant regions to the collection and transmission of seeds from all parts. Where they had no botanical knowledge, he desired them to send all they could gather together; and especially, in lands little known, to reject no seeds because they appear to be in abundance; and he cautioned them against supposing, that because a vegetable grew in large quantities in one country, that it might not be very rare and very acceptable in another. He used to remark, that Botany was one of the most beneficent of sciences, as it lent itself to a boundless diffusion of new enjoyments.

The usual vicissitudes of a sea-life accompanied the voyagers. They passed a Venetian ship, the sails of which were shattered all to pieces. They expected her to founder, but she reached her port in safety. But they sailed close to a vessel that had foundered. The Turks, while the passengers walked backwards and forwards, used to come and eye the English girls, who gave them lumps of white sugar, which gratified them much, as they were in the habit of using sugar as a sweatmeat. The amusement of the passengers generally was to throw a sort of trident or harpoon at the fish they saw, and they thus killed many. Bentham and the English passengers quitted the Turkish vessel on falling in with an English ship, by which they were conveyed to Constantinople. Having reached the sea of Marmora, a tempest drove them back on the Asiatic coast, to a place called Kimid, where they spent a night. On reimbarking, the ship was found surrounded by floating masses, which, on inquiry, turned out to be wine in skins, the cargo of a vessel which had gone to wreck. The storm was violent—the lightning so vivid, and the flashes succeeding one another so rapidly, that the period of light lasted longer than that of darkness. Bentham suffered somewhat from sea-sickness, but not enough to prevent his reading, and he employed himself in the study of the laws of Italy. He had letters to the Imperial Internuncio at Constantinople (whose name was Herbert) from Baron Regesfeld, secretary to the Imperial Legation here, and who had lived a longer time in England than in his own country. He had also a letter from Lord Lansdowne to Sir Robert Ainslie, who had been a wine merchant, and another to Count Choiseul Gouffin, from Rayneval, who had come with the French ambassador to make the peace of 1783. The Count was related to the Duke de Choiseul, and had written a pompous book about Turkey. Bentham was received very kindly by the Internuncio, and dined with him several times. His beautiful little daughter, then nine years old, charmed Bentham much. She was introduced as a universal linguist, and spoke eight or nine languages. Bentham took the child in his arms, upon which she screamed aloud, and her mother took the matter up in mighty dudgeon. At that period, as now, the whole of the diplomatic body inhabited Pera, the other end of Constantinople; but had their country houses at Buyukdere, a high promontory beautifully situated, and overlooking the Black sea. Bentham there fell in with Eton, who had written a book on Turkey. He introduced Bentham to the Russian Minister, Bulgakow, in whom Edition: current; Page: [153] Bentham expected to find nothing better than a Calmuc barbarian, but he was a man of singularly handsome person, not to be distinguished from the best educated of Europeans. At his hôtel, however, though they dined between one and two o’clock, the guests were accustomed, even on occasion of great entertainments, to play at cards long before they sat down to dinner. Bentham remarked a prodigious variety of dishes, and was flattered by the attentions shown him, and the seat of honour that was given him. The minister talked with enthusiasm of his country; and said that the snow and ice of Russia were more brilliant than the snow and ice of other countries. Bentham suffered in the opinion of the minister by not calling on him after the entertainment. The fault was partly in his natural timidity, partly in his ignorance of the manners of the world, which his narrow, and as he always called it, his “miserable education,” had left behind it. The same feelings prevented his delivering his introductions to Count Choiseul. The women who have been before referred to, added not a little to Bentham’s embarrassment, and with good reason. He called them “strange cattle,” and knew not how to get rid of the encumbrance.

At Sir Robert Ainslie’s, there was living Sir R—W—, who had made himself ridiculous and celebrated by exhibiting his wife naked. Who was the Gyges to this English Candaules, I do not recollect to have heard; but his lady played a part very different from that of the Lydian queen,—for she recompensed her husband by making him a cuckold instead of a corpse. Sir R—had little to recommend him. He was, according to Bentham’s notes—haughty, selfish, and mean. Another Englishman of the name of Cadogan, connected with a family of rank, was staying at the British Embassy. Bentham retained a long remembrance of a discourtesy, by which they excluded him from a party which crossed the Bosphorus, to visit the mosque of St Sophia, having obtained the necessary authority; but perhaps his acknowledged backwardness and taciturnity may have been the cause. Ainslie, in conversation, was forcible and eloquent—though violent and pompous. He prided himself vastly on his dignity, and offended people by his braggadocio style. The Dutch ambassador being to be presented for the first time to the Sultan, Bentham was invited to accompany the diplomatic body to the palace, and he mounted on horseback with the rest, in a court dress, accoutred with bag and sword. One man only of all the cortége understood Turkish—a knowledge of the language of the court to which they are accredited, forming no part of diplomatic education, at least for English representatives, whose ignorance of the languages of the countries to which they are accredited is often as notorious as pernicious. In the hall of ceremony were many of the Turkish officers of state—among them was Hassan Pacha, who commanded the navy, and with whom Bentham’s brother (Sir Samuel) had afterwards, while in the Russian service, a sharp warlike encounter. The company dined in the seraglio; but none, except the ambassadors, were admitted to the presence of the sultan. Round tables were set out for the guests—who were thus distributed in small parties, and one officer of dignity was attached to each. The dining place was spacious, somewhat like the old King’s Bench, but larger. In the seraglio trees were growing here and there, and among them a beautiful mimosa. The dishes were in great variety, each one worse than the rest. They were piled one upon another like dumb waiters. A spoon was given to each person, and he fed himself from the common dish. The style was altogether barbarous. Bentham could hardly suppress a laugh, when he thought of the oddity of his own position, and this made him uneasy during the whole of the meal. The different officers attended, bearing bags of piastres, ostentatiously exhibiting their wealth; but had the bags been full of stones, said Bentham, we should have been never the wiser, for not one of them dreamed of exhibiting the contents to our view. Bentham got an indigestion as a recompense for his courtly curiosity; but a more civilised and congenial dinner provided Edition: current; Page: [154] by the Dutch ambassador, set matters to rights. Bentham had brought with him two sliding pencils, which were then a new invention, and he gave one to a diplomatist at table. Afterwards, when on the banks of the Danube, the great man of one of the towns saw the other pencil, which “excited his concupiscence”—and he asked Bentham to give it him; but it was too precious to part with, and all the great man got was a great quantity of regrets. Bentham lived at Constantinople with a merchant of the name of Humphries, and stayed there between five or six weeks. Under the same roof were Henderson and the two women. On mentioning this matter, Bentham said, “God knows what stories they told of me; but Humphries began to look on me coldly. I presented him with a book, but he declined to accept it. I could not understand him then; but some years after, my brother told me he had never seen an example of a hatred so intense as these women bore me.”

There was another family from which Bentham received abundant kindness; but as a sad history of shame and sorrow is connected with it, it will not be desirable to mention names. I was thrown some years ago into the company of a lady of the family, whose tale of distress I had heard from Bentham’s lips, and received from her the following account of the impressions he had made upon her mind at Constantinople, which will serve to throw light upon this part of the narrative.

“I do not remember precisely how long Mr Bentham remained at Constantinople: I think certainly not more than two months. He was a very constant visiter at my father’s house; but he resided, I think, with a Mr Humphries, an English resident merchant. There were no inns, or lodging-houses, in the city at that time. He was particularly fond of music, and used to take great delight in accompanying me on the violin. I well remember that he used to say, that I was the only female he had ever met with who could keep time in playing; and that music, without time, was to him unbearable. We went through together some pieces of Schobert, Schrocter, Sterkel, Eichner, and of other composers who were then most in vogue—all of which he played at sight, and with ease. He seemed to take great pleasure in my society, though I certainly never received from him any particular mark of attention which might not have been equally shown to one of his own sex. Indeed, not the slightest idea of any particular partiality, on his part, ever came across my mind. He was then about thirty-seven years of age, but he did not look so old. I have also impressed on my memory, that I obtained his commendation for my preference of works in prose to those of poetry: the reading of which, he asserted to be a great misapplication of time. I imagine, that at that period he was seldom excited to bring forward, or discuss, any of those subjects to which he afterwards so wholly and so successfully devoted himself. Had any conversations of that nature taken place in my presence, all traces of the purport of them would most assuredly, even at this time, not have been obliterated from my memory.

“I cannot positively assert that he brought a letter of recommendation to my father; but I know that he performed the voyage (from Smyrna, at least) in company with a Mr Henderson, who presented himself to as with a letter from a Mr Lee, an English resident merchant at Smyrna, and a particular friend of my father’s.

“Two young girls, under twenty years of age, accompanied this Mr Henderson, who was a very serious man, and very plausible in his manners. They were introduced as sisters, and his nieces. These ladies, however, were not mentioned in Mr Lee’s letter—a circumstance not noticed at the time.

“The elder had, to a certain degree, the manners of a lady; but those of the younger—and her appearance coincided—were by no means superior to what might be expected from a poor farmer’s daughter. Mr Bentham, as I have before said, was our constant visiter; and at our house he frequently met the Hendersons.

“It was not long before that period that the Turkish sultan, Abdul Hamid, Edition: current; Page: [155] and his inefficient and short-sighted ministers, had been wheedled out of their possession of the Crimea by the ‘finesse’ and eloquence of the able Russian Minister at the Porte, Mons. de Bulgakow. The Empress Catherine, most eager to promote the successful colonization of her newly-acquired territory, had invited a horde of adventurers of all nations, but chiefly Italians, to transfer themselves thither. Among others, Henderson was also enlisted in this service. He had engaged, together with his nieces, to establish a dairy in the English style. It occurs to me now, for the first time, that he might have been brought forward on that occasion under the auspices of Mr Bentham’s brother, who was then, I believe, in the Russian military service. But this is only conjecture. When I last saw Mr Bentham, however, he told me that the undertaking had turned out badly, and that Henderson had behaved very ill.

“When the time arrived for the departure of these people for the Crimea, the vessel in which they were to embark happened to lie at a considerable distance from the spot where they were dwelling, the suburb of Pera. It was determined they should transfer themselves to it by a short land journey, rather than by the more circuitous trip by sea, along the Bosphorus. A carriage was hired, (a most uncouth vehicle, but the only one which the city afforded.) In this they proceeded to the place of embarkation, escorted by my father and myself, with a servant on horseback.

“The wife of the owner of a trading vessel, who had formerly been in my father’s service, had been living for some years under our roof, ostensibly, to supply towards me the care and attention of a mother.

“At the period of Mr Bentham’s presence in Constantinople, the husband of this person, having returned from one of his voyages, was also our inmate.

“On the day of our absence with the Hendersons, Mr Bentham paid his usual visit at our house, and was received by this captain and Mrs Newman. In the course of conversation, Mr Bentham (who considered that the Hendersons had now taken their final departure from Constantinople, and felt himself in consequence no longer bound to keep their secrets) divulged that the elder niece was no other than Henderson’s mistress, and that the younger was an ignorant country girl, merely hired as a servant. Their surprise was naturally very great—much greater, I believe, than mine would have been; for I had already detected a want of concordance in what they separately told me, at different times, which I could not account for, but which I by no means liked.

“We did not return home till late in the evening. We were received at the door by the captain, who could not contain his laughter, and was in a hurry to attack my father about his extraordinary civility, and, as it now appeared, his ludicrous knight-errantry. My father felt ashamed at having been so easily taken in by these ignorant impostors; but he consoled himself with the idea that he had not been their only dupes, since Sir Robert Ainslie, our British ambassador, (following my father’s example, I fear,) had formally invited them to a dinner party. Their awkwardness and want of ease, which they could not modify to this sudden emergency, were sufficiently manifest; but it was attributed to English timidity and bashfulness.

“But the ‘nodo’ of this comic drama is still to be developed. Poor Bentham had made his disclosures most prematurely—our friends were not gone—they had, in fact, returned with us,—some impediment had occurred with regard to the sailing of the vessel, which appeared likely to occasion a long delay; and we had to increase the captain’s mirth by declaring that they were, even at that moment, again safely housed in their former lodging.

“The situation of these people during the remainder of their stay at Constantinople after this little éclaircissement, was, of course, a very mortifying one. My father had to endure his share also, in the laughter of Mr Humphries, and that of his other friends, who would not lose so fair an opportunity of amusing themselves at his expense. We did not see Mr Bentham till the following day, Edition: current; Page: [156] when he seemed rather confounded by the unlucky dénouement of the affair.

“I have said that there were no lodging-houses at Constantinople, but I remember that the Hendersons were put in possession of an empty house, in which a few articles of furniture had been put, just sufficient to serve their immediate necessities.”

Sir R—W—had not initiated himself into Bentham’s good graces at Constantinople. He was one of the last men whom he desired to meet. But Sir R. found his way to Crichoff when Bentham was there. A draughtsman, whom Sir R. had employed in Greece, had added considerably to Bentham’s unfavourable opinion. That artist accused this baronet of ill-usage—that his commands were given in the style of a bashaw—in a word, that his dependants were in the situation of slaves in the presence of a despot; he even menaced them with the rod and the scourge. Bentham was living with his brother at his small country house, about a mile from Crichoff, when one day notice was brought that Sir R. had arrived, and wished to see him. The colonel was for receiving him—the philosopher was for excusing themselves. However, he was received, and staid a week or two with them. Sir R. travelled with a black Abyssinian boy; but he treated the poor boy with barbarous cruelty, and nobody could be more wretched than he was in his master’s presence. Yet Sir R. called him his pet. On one of the tours, the Benthams accompanied Sir R. to General Bander’s in a drosky, and he made the boy sit at a little distance; but on arrival at any stage where they stopped, when Sir R. left them, they used to hear the boy crying out piteously “Signor Aga! Signor Aga!” The lad’s shrieks and agonies often tormented Bentham. Sir R. was accustomed to boast of his influence with Mr Pitt, and his great expectations from that quarter. He published a book on the antiquities of the Isle of Wight. Strange was his manner of life. He went to Petersburg, where he lived some months with a painter, having the benefit of his canvass, and offered no remuneration. When he was at Constantinople, he bid for some Circassian female slaves, but the price was too high.

The following letter to Lord Lansdowne is worth preserving:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
November 14, 1785

Bentham to Lord Lansdowne.

My Lord,

Capt. Richard Brine of the Mary Frances—the ship which brought me from Italy to Smyrna—expects to be in London again by the latter end of March. He has promised me, if possible, which he thinks it will be, to take home for me a he, and two she goats of the Angora breed. Should they arrive safe, I hope Lady Lansdowne will do me the honour to accept of them, and that Bowood, in addition to its manifold luxuries, will in due time afford a stock of comfortable muffs, such as her ladyship, as I understand, has sometimes not disdained to wear. Should the breed prosper, I may perhaps, upon my return to England, become an humble suitor for a part of the progeny, in the view of trying how they may succeed in some northern part of Scotland, where their sequestered situation may the better secure them against admixture, and where the coldness of the climate gives the wool of the country a degree of fineness, which, according to my friend Dr Anderson, is superior to any produced in the southern parts of our island. I wish I could have had a better security than the promise above-mentioned for the arrival of those animals; but there were none to be procured, not even seen at Smyrna; they are to be had, if at all, only by the caravans, which travel but now and then, and take a fortnight’s journey to go from Angora to that part.

“Smyrna affords two sorts of grapes, the one of the raisin, the other of the currant size, which from a property which is common to them, and to the maiden berberines we have in England, have received a similar denomination. I have heard them called by Christians, virgin raisins; virgin currants, by Jews; eunuck currants, eunuchs. If neither appellation should be deemed so conformable Edition: current; Page: [157] as might be wished to the laws of delicacy, the blame must be at the door of the first authors. I can hear of no other epithet to distinguish them by. As the ideal imperfection to which they owe their name is generally looked upon as no small perfection with reference to the use we put them to, I have taken measures for sending to England a few plants of each sort, in hopes of your Lordship’s doing me the honour to give them a place at Wycombe or Bowood, leaving it to your Lordship’s ingenuity to rebaptize them in such manner as may be deemed most proper before they are introduced to the notice of the ladies; and that the learned at your Lordship’s table may be the better enabled to pronounce whether they are worth a place in either garden, I have taken the liberty of addressing to your Lordship, by Captain Brine above-mentioned, a small specimen of each contained in two drums, as they are called, which have been filled under my own inspection, and marked by me V. R. L., the other V. C. L.: each drum contained, as near as could be contrived, 1-4th of a quintal, Turkish, equal to 30½ lbs., English. I should not have thought of troubling your Lordship with such trash, but that I was told at Smyrna that they never found their way to England but in the shape of presents; the stock not being abundant enough to send to market.

“I landed at this port on Monday last, the 21st instant; I found the ambassador full of friendship and politeness, as might be expected from the letter I was honoured with. He would have insisted on my quartering myself in the palace, had not the spare room in it been completely preoccupied by Sir R—W—, his draughtsman Mr Revely, and the Hon. Mr Cadogan. The two former come from Egypt: the latter is going thither; and for the purpose of the expedition, is nourishing a pair of whiskers, which, respectable as they are in an Asiatic point of view, form an odd mixture with a garb in other respects completely English.

“What with the remonstrances of friends, the want of pilots, and the inconveniences or rather dangers of quarantine, the fruits of Russian management, I believe I shall be obliged to finish my tour by land: the return of a Moldavian princess, sister to the reigning prince, promises safety as far as Jassi, and perhaps society. Before I set out on the expedition, if ever I should set out, I shall not fail to turn to a book of instructions given me by a certain noble friend, with as much devotion as Peter, Jack, and Martin did to theirs. Therein shall I find totidem literis, if not totidem syllabis,—‘cut the coat according to thy cloth,’ and, moreover, in the words of the seer, ‘metiri se quemque suo modulo et pede.’ In the meantime, to cut off all occasion of scandal, I think it meet to declare and to protest that the princess, being of fit age and experience to make a prudent choice, hath for some time past committed the charge of her household affairs unto a man, by nation a Greek, of goodly stature, and of a ruddy countenance; and, moreover, that with my knowledge and acquiescence, a certain young English surgeon is soliciting to be intrusted during the course of her journey with the care of the health of her Moldavian Highness.”

Bentham saw the sultan visit the mosque. He was on horseback, as were all his attendants, splendidly dressed, and the horses caparisoned with cloth of gold. He also met at the British ambassador’s, a brother of the Bey of Tunis, who had been in Europe, and strove to imitate our manners,—he sat upon a chair, and it was curious to see how he spread out his legs.

Bentham started from Constantinople by land. In passing through Bulgaria, where manure is precious, he observed they had collected a quantity of dung at the top of a hill, and it was washed away from time to time by the rain,—“This indeed,” exclaimed he, “is barbarism!” but coming back to England, he saw a repetition of the same ill-husbandry; but then his exclamation was, “Let us not be censorious!”

The churches of Bulgaria were ornamented with figures like those in Potter’s Antiquities,—no perspective,—and Edition: current; Page: [158] exhibiting the state of the arts as in Henry the Sixth’s time in England. They reminded Bentham of a picture of London Bridge, in which the man on horseback is twice as tall as the house by which he is passing, and the horse is walking on nothing at all.

Bentham’s servant would make a great noise in entering the villages,—smacking his whip, and insisting on lodgings,—sometimes in vain,—and when his master gave a few paras to the poor, the Janissary would grow furiously angry, but calmed himself by saying it was his own “danga,” (money.) At Bergas, about forty miles from Constantinople, was a manufacture of coarse earthen ware,—turned at the potter’s wheel,—painted red and ornamented with gold-leaf. Bentham endeavoured to get access to it, but was not able to make himself understood.

Bentham’s servant was very useful as an interpreter,—especially when sober,—but he often got drunk, and was then quarrelsome and abusive. He had been servant to that German-Russian who was on board the vessel in which Bentham went to Smyrna. Bentham and he met at Bucharest, and they went together to the house of an opulent Russian who lived on the roadside. In a corner of the room was a costly screen with fine pictures of the Russian saint,—one might almost say the Russian god, Nicholas,—when Bentham approached the screen, his friend said to him, “No! do not look hard at it,—you will give offence to the master of the house.”

The best maps at this time were very imperfect, and large towns were not noticed in them at all: for instance, Ruszig (Rustchuk on the Danube) which had nearly forty mosques. There were many detentions for want of horses, and stoppages from the badness of the roads. In travelling through Bulgaria, there is a striking distinction between the towns of the aborigines and those built by the Turks—the latter being generally gloomy dwellings of bricks, with holes, into which pieces of glass are put. Sprinkled among the Turks are a few Greek inhabitants. The Bulgarian houses are of mud, every house insulated, and having a sort of veranda or corridor projecting, under which you may walk: they have neat and very small windows covered with pieces of skin. The houses have cotton hangings, and generally a loom, in which a cloth inconceivably coarse is woven, used for their ordinary clothing. Many of the abodes have no chimney, but a hole in the roof.

At Bucharest, Bentham met with a Greek who was as much enamoured as himself with Helvetius. Bucharest has many leaning towers; one has given celebrity to Pisa. Bentham was wont to remark on the caprices of human judgment, of which this was an example; for Bucharest had many titles to the celebrity that Pisa has obtained,—yet has not obtained it. There are few towns which have such a number of churches in so small a space.

Jassy was a scene of new trouble. Bentham, to oblige a friend, had offered to convey a quantity of red caps, that were to be forwarded to the Crimea. They were seized by the officers, and he had to pay a large sum of money for their release.

Between Constantinople and the Danube, Bentham lost 200 ducats. Whether they were stolen or not, he never knew; but the loss reduced him to great perplexity. When they reached the Danube, Bentham offered ten ducats to the janissary who had conducted him from Constantinople. He was naturally dissatisfied; but Bentham could afford no more,—and was tormented with the thought that his resources would wholly fail him before he could obtain any fresh supply.

Then, as now, in Poland, except in large towns, there were no inns but those kept by the Jews,—all alike, large, lofty, and dirty,—a vast waste of space, and a great deal of the room occupied by cattle. The Jews were clad in long gowns,—a costume they continue to wear. Bentham, who carried his bedding with him, was used, whenever he was able, to get a heap of straw into a corner, and there to spread his bed, removed from the annoyance of the filthy floor. He hired horses from town to town,—sometimes four, sometimes six, but always from the Edition: current; Page: [159] Jews, to drag the wagon. At Soroka was a Prussian lieutenant, in command of the place, with whom Bentham conversed in Latin. The custom-house officer invited him to a repast. It consisted of brown bread, stewed prunes, and a strange dish, which turned out to be made of onion seeds. Bentham was alarmed by the man’s curiosity to examine his cloth-bag, in which was all his finery, and a precious pair of fur gloves. The Prussian asked what had become of the servants, seeing only one. Bentham said he had no more; and the lieutenant said to the servant, he supposed his master was a stage-player. A handsome set of six horses conducted Bentham from Soroka. They were the commandant’s, who did not object to “turn a penny” by the supposed “stage-player.”

Bentham said one day, in reference to this journey, “I’ll make you a confession how I turned thief. When my servant left me, I arose to look over his things. Among them I found a shirt, which he had stolen from a man who had borrowed money from me, and never returned it; so I appropriated the shirt to myself.”

On this journey he said, “His wheels sometimes carried his sledge, and his sledge at others his wheels.”

Bentham reached Ovidiopol in the middle of January. There he performed his quarantine. To his great surprise, the medical attendant refused a ducat which was offered him, saying, he was sufficiently paid by his imperial mistress, and carried on his discourse in Latin. Bentham feared that the refusal of the money was a bad omen, and that he was to be subjected to some despotic caprice. The medical assistant was delighted to get a portion of the present that his master had refused; and after a short purification, the prisoner was released, and three horses obtained to convey him to Kremenschuk.

Bentham arrived at Kremenschuk on the 15th January, 1786. It was night when he reached, and he was obliged to cross the river on foot.

He dined there with the governor. There were silver covers and bottle-holders, plates of Wedgewood ware; but the knives and forks were iron,—very dirty, and not changed with the dishes,—bright lustres of Russian glass,—eight or ten coloured candles on the table, in brass candlesticks,—red sweet wine from the Don,—dry from Cyprus,—Sauterne, Mountain and Muscadine; Burton ale was also introduced. All the gentlemen in boots, though many ladies were of the party; but they wore warm ruffles. Between dinner and supper, the church quire sang anthems, also songs of the Ukraine, and some Russian songs in parts. Some of the guests, particularly the military, came from considerable distances. The evening was spent in card-playing; and people whose salaries were not more than 600 rubles a-year, lost 800 rubles in a day. Everybody played high. The accounts were kept with chalk upon the green-baized card-table, with a hard brush at hand to rub them out.

Among the guests was Potemkin’s physician, who said, that for two years he had not received a farthing, of salary or other remuneration. He had been ordered about from place to place,—was sent to Dobrovna,—then to Crichoff,—then ordered to the Crimea, but this order countermanded,—then to Kremenschuk.

The gambling between the wealthy nobility Bentham represents to be frightful. Orlov, Potemkin, and others, used to play by day-light at ombre for 100 rubles a fish. One of the winners told Bentham that he had carried off from one sitting between 120 and 130,000 silver rubles, (£20,000.)

The state of the Russian army was then extraordinary. One of the colonels commanded 6 companies each of 136 privates, making 816 men; but with officers and myrmidons, they amounted to 1100. Among them they had 86 horses, the average cost of which was 1800 rubles. They had marched 300 versts without a farthing in the military chest. The colonel thought such marches very beneficial for training. One of the sources of profit was the meal allowed to the troops, which they did not think it worth while to take, but gave receipts to the officers notwithstanding. The Edition: current; Page: [160] colonel had been punishing a robber, suspected of murder, who was to be put to death by the gauntlet; and though they supposed they had killed him, he survived notwithstanding. He had been transferred for his death-punishment to the colonel. This man had previously been made a clerk by superior orders, and was employed by the colonel, with a clog fastened to his leg. Before he recovered, he stole a piece of money—was detected, and, being unable to run, was taken. So much for appropriate punishment!

When officers are put under arrest, their allowance is only bread and water. The colonel said, that money was made out of non-effective horses, and short allowances to men.

Of another dinner party with Prince Potemkin’s steward, are these memoranda:—

“Good Sherry wine, Russian beer in small square Hungarian bottles, light sparkling pleasant mead. Just before dinner, in a separate room, cold sausage, caviar with oil and vinegar, herrings with chopped onions. Then for dinner, bouilli, soups of two sorts. Pie with game, spiced meat, heath-cocks, Turkey-Russian pancakes, pickled mushrooms, to eat with turkey. Just before parting, dessert of apples, nuts, and raisins. Then retired the guests, that the host might have his feet tickled to sleep.”

“Another day, with Count Razumovsky: goose soup with bread-meat balls, roast-beef goose-pie, beef-steaks stewed, goose salted and boiled, omelettes prepared by the host. Extempore diet, bread excellent, Burton ale, claret, sweet wine from Cyprus, Hungarian wine remarkably delicate, Judac wine ten or eleven years old, sparkling like champagne, but better.”

“The soldiers have a considerable fund. They choose their own steward, they keep their resources in gold, that they may pass in any country, notwithstanding the agio. The money is under two locks—one the steward’s, the other the officer’s. This fund is responsible for each member, that he shall have his compliment of clothing, &c. What a member gets by labour goes to the fund. An officer may strike a soldier, but he must register the cause. Officers plead the necessity of the power, on the ground of their responsibility. When a soldier is in good humour, he calls his officer Batiushka, (Father,) otherwise by the name of his rank; Batiushka, and Matushka, (Mother,) are given to equals and superiors, even to Excellencies.

“There are three Russian merchants of the first class for wealth: Sabaxin, Wolodomirov, and another. The Demidovs are of the second class. Sabaxin, dying some time ago, left to seven sons, and the son of an eighth son, 1,800,000 rubles, in money, each (then about £300,000) besides fixed capital. Wolodomir has or had 400,000 rubles a-year.

“My host (Sitov) has only twenty servants, drives but a pair—qui déroge. His chariot cost 200 rubles, including conveyance hither from Moscow, being 30 rubles. He was of age at twenty, and spent his fortune of 200,000 rubles before he was twenty-three. Having had a bad mother-in-law, he forbears second marriage. At his estate, 250 versts off, on the Dnieper, he has a travelling carriage, that lets down behind and in front when he sleeps, it serving for a bed. Three hundred such, he says, are to be bought at Moscow.

“While I was at Kremenschuk, a soldier was accused by his wife of having seduced their daughter. The General sent him to be judged by the bishop.”

To his brother, Bentham was strongly attached. “General Bentham was,” said he, “of an inventive genius, full of schemes of mechanical improvement. One of his projects was to create an unchangeable temperature for time-pieces. My brother’s letters were subjects of great delight to me. He left Westminster school before he got to the highest forms; but he had got so far as to make Greek verses. He made Greek verses in Spring, and Latin verses in the Autumn.

“When he left England in 1774, he had no less than eighty-six letters of introduction. For three weeks previously, he lay on the floor to accommodate himself to that mode of life.

“On returning from his journey to Edition: current; Page: [161] Kiaktha, he made sundry suggestions to the empress, which were well received, but his plans were defeated by one of the governors, who said she was putting too much confidence in a young stranger.

“He contrived a scheme for baggage-wagons to pass through rivers without the use of pontoons. I proposed it to Sir F. Baring, who had a very narrow mind, and who did not think it worth his notice, because, he said, he did not see how it would benefit my brother.

“He travelled with Prince Potemkin from Petersburg, into the Crimea, and was in the same carriage with him for six weeks. He would sometimes be for three weeks together playing at cards,—so that if any business was done, it was when the cards were dealing.”

Bentham lived a very secluded life during his visit to his brother, occupied principally in his literary studies. The name of the estate where his brother was settled, is Zadobras, near Crichoff, (sometimes written Kriezew, and sometimes Tcherigov,) a small town to the south of Mstislav, in the province of Moghilev. Crichoff is situated on the right bank of the river Don, which runs into the Dnieper at Loev. Zadobras is situated on an elevation rather precipitous, of sixty or eighty feet, the river running at the bottom. The establishment, at whose head was Sir Samuel, then Colonel Bentham, was created under Potemkin’s auspices, for the introduction of various manufactures into that part of Russia. They had imported a master tanner, a master currier, a gardener, and divers other mechanics and artisans. Near Crichoff, was a lake whose waters were employed, and in the lake a floating island, on which were fine willows and large trees, which was sometimes at one end of the lake, and sometimes at the other. It was sometimes so near that it could be jumped on from the mainland. Zadobras had been a sort of infirmary. On occasions, all the mechanics were called away from their labours to make hay, which was sold to the governor at a fixed price. There was a sort of military command given to Sir Samuel, but his rule was disturbed by no small confusion, if not anarchy; and Bentham himself, who frequently did not visit the town for weeks together, was not wholly free from the consequences of misunderstanding and mismanagement. Dr Debraw, who had charge of the English workmen, sent to Bentham a most deplorable account of their proceedings. It seems to have been a scene of perfect bewilderment. He sends a “Journal of Transactions,” in which laziness, thievery, quarrelling, drinking—“large demands for doing nothing”—“all outgoings”—“no incomings,” form pretty nearly the whole record. Only one man of all the people imported from England, is represented as trustworthy, and against him the rest confederated. The poor Doctor writes as if he were driven to craziness by the rebellion of his subordinates—whom he calls a “Newcastle election mob”—“hirelings from that rabble town.” On one occasion the military were sent for to enforce subordination. The result of all this was what will be easily imagined. Much money was lost,—and much discontent existed; and the place was afterwards sold by Potemkin to a Pole. A piano, and a few books, among which was the Dictionaire de Jurisprudence, were Bentham’s principal external sources of intellectual amusement.

Once, during his residence at Crichoff, a German endeavoured to extort money from Bentham by holding a pistol at his head. The money was indeed owed by his brother, but it was demanded of him on whom there was no claim whatever. The Crichoff experiment has been characterized above as a very absurd attempt to domesticate in a barbarous part of Russia all sorts of civilisation. It was a hobby of Potemkin’s, and cost him many thousand pounds. Zadobras had a momentary fame,—it was prettily situated,—but has fallen into ruin. It was one of two of Potemkin’s civilisation experiments: one under Colonel Bentham, who had abundance of invention, cleverness and genius; another under Stahl, a German. Genius and economy, Bentham often said, are always quarrelling,—their thoughts run in separate channels. At Zadobras there was the strangest collection,—an English gardener, Edition: current; Page: [162] a Welsh majordomo, a Quaker tanner, a German quack doctor, to say nothing of a host of subordinates who took to quarrelling and plaguing everybody about and above them. From such scenes and such actors it is not wonderful that Bentham was most anxious to escape.

Many were the altercations which took place at Crichoff, and the confusion of tongues only made the quarrels the fiercer. Bentham had paid some attention to the Russian language,—enough to make his wants known, but not enough to understand what was said to him,—and he did not fall into the common folly of asserting that he understood more than he could speak,—a declaration which self-love and ignorance are prone enough to make.

“I know just as much of Russ,” said he, “as I know of the language of cats,—I could speak their language, and obtain an answer, but the answer I never understood.”

Of the reigning empress, Bentham said,—“Catherine the Second had celebrity; nor that altogether undeserved. In a feminine body she had a masculine mind. She laid the foundation of a code,—an all-comprehensive code.”

A letter from Chamberlain Clark, of 31st August, 1786, has this passage:—

Chamberlain Clark
Clark, Chamberlain
31st August, 1786
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Chamberlain Clark to Bentham.

“A great event has happened in the family of Q.S.P. [Queen Square Place.] Mr Abbot is married to a lady with a fortune (as I hear) of £60,000. I never heard a syllable of the business from either Mr or Mrs B., and the newspaper is the only channel through which I am informed of the marriage. I hardly know what public events to relate to you, as I conclude you receive some English newspapers. The sale of the Prince of Wales’s stud has made a great noise; but as his debts are put into a course of payment, I hope they, as well as the nation’s, will be honourably discharged. It has been long apprehended the King of Prussia’s death would occasion great commotions in Europe: that event has happened, and now things seem to go on as quietly as ever. The emperor’s brother has just arrived—but whether on business or pleasure is to me a profound secret. What do you intend to do with the Turks? Since the doctrine of Mahommed has been so heartily drubbed into your head and shoulders, I suspect you have some predilection for the circumcised. I have no wish to see Constantinople added to your empire, which, I think, is as large as can be well managed by one sovereign; but I wish a respectable kingdom could be carved out of the Ottoman dominions; and I should not have the least objection to placing the Princess of Moldavia, and the gentleman who accompanied her highness from Constantinople, at the head of it. The Board of Trade is going to be revived, and Lord Hawkesbury (late C. Jenkinson) is to be at the head of it. The members of the board are not to receive a salary, as such, but will possess sinecure places which can’t be well abolished. His lordship, for example, is made Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. You may recollect that I have been remarkable for a number of road adventures. A few days ago, as Harry Russell and myself were going in a post-chaise to make a visit below Dorking, we were overtaken on the Epsom road about twelve miles from town, between one and two in the afternoon, by two gentlemen on horseback, who eased us of some cash and our watches. Mr Russell’s, unfortunately, was of gold, with a chain and seals of the same metal. I shall be glad to know where you are, and what you are about. Let me know the value of land in your neighbourhood, and whether there is any pretty snug farm, well wooded and watered, with a pretty snug house upon it, which you could recommend as a country retreat from the noise and bustle of London. I am informed that government has just determined to send off seven hundred convicts to New [South] Wales, under convoy of a man-of-war, where a fort is to be built, and a colony established, and that a man has been found who will take upon him the command of this rabble. Major Semple is to be of the party,—a gentleman who has Edition: current; Page: [163] given proofs of his dexterity to the Marquis of Lansdowne, also downwards to ladies’ maids and hackney coachmen. These wretches are to be furnished with a twelvemonths’ provision, seeds, &c., and then must shift for themselves. I forgot to take notice of an event which, for a few days, alarmed the country,—an insane woman offered to present a petition to the king, and, at the same instant, made a blow at him with a knife; she was instantly secured, and, after several examinations before the council, was sent to our hospital of Bethlem where she is like to spend the remainder of her days. She told me nothing could prevent a deluge in the kingdom, but restoring the blood; and that the only way to bring that about, was for the Prince of Wales to make her a mother.”

A letter from George Wilson, of 24th September, 1786, has some interesting passages with reference to books and politics:—

George Wilson
Wilson, George
24th September, 1786
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

George Wilson to Bentham.

“I could give very good reasons for not having sooner answered your letter from Crichoff of 29th May, or 9th June; but it would take some time to state them. As to our silence before that, you will recollect that we had reason to suppose that you desired to hear from neither of us, and that it was, in a manner, settled, before you set out, that we were not to correspond, because you found yourself involved in too many engagements of that sort already. Your letter from Leghorn we did not consider as any departure from this plan; but only as an infliction of your revenge on Trail, for his and his cousin’s calumnies against the Grand Duke. I say this by way of justification, and by no means with any spleen; for, I do assure you, I have felt great yearnings towards you since you left this country, and vehement longings for your return. If I had the advantage of a title, I should, no doubt, have found it easy, as Lord L. has done, to see your letters to Q. S. P. on my own terms. Trail received, on going to town last Friday, a scrap of paper from you, desiring an account of the new taxes; and before he returns, will do what he can to supply you. I am not sure that any supplement to Burn will come down low enough; but you will at least have a little table of taxes, published by Kearsley. Trail had before sent you by Mr King, The Debate on the Sinking Fund, and Report of the Committee, Baring’s Principle of the Commutation Act, Plan for settling the Black Poor near Sierra Leone, by Smeathman, who is since dead, and, I suppose, the plan with him; Character of Lord Sackville, by Cumberland, Correspondence between Lord Macartney and General Stewart, Burke’s Charges, and Hastings’ Defence, and Maty’s Reviews, down to August, inclusive. Newspapers we cannot send you; because they go to Scotland, to my sister, who, by the by, is very well, and has a son nine months old. While you are making Fermes Ornées in a country which is not to be found in our maps, other people here are invading your province of a reformer. There is a Mr Paley, a parson and archdeacon of Carlisle, who has written a book called Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, in quarto, and it has gone through two editions, with prodigious applause. It is founded entirely on utility, or, as he chooses to call it, the will of God, as declared by expediency, to which he adds, as a supplement, the revealed will of God. But notwithstanding this, and some weak places, particularly as to oaths and subscriptions, where he is hampered by his profession and his past conduct, it is a capital book, and by much the best that has been written on the subject in this country. Almost everything he says about morals, government, and our own constitution, is sound, practical, and free from commonplace. He has got many of your notions about punishment, which I always thought the most important of your discoveries; and I could almost suspect, if it were possible, that he had read your introduction;* and I very much fear, that, if you ever do publish on these subjects, you may be charged with Edition: current; Page: [164] stealing from him what you have honestly invented with the sweat of your own brow. But, for all that, I wish you would come and try; for I am still persuaded, my dear Bentham, that you have, for some years, been throwing away your time; and that the way in which you are most likely to benefit the world and yourself is, by establishing, in the first place, a great literary reputation in your own language, and in this country, which you despise. But all this had been said often enough already, and it is needless to tire you with it any more. Paley’s book is written in a clear, manly, simple style, and he reasons with great accuracy. I meant to have copied and sent you an inquiry of his into the guilt of a drunken man who kills another, and the quantum of punishment that ought to be applied to him, which is as exhaustive and correct as if you had done it yourself, and, if I may say it without offence, less formal and prolix. But I have forgot it, and have not now the book by me. He has added, unnecessarily, a treatise on political economy, which he does not understand. You will see by the papers that there is a large subscription to erect a statue to your friend Howard, who is now making a tour of the Lazarettos for the plague in the Levant. Jonas Hanway, another of your fellow-labourers, but at some distance, is dead. Government are going at last to send the convicts to Botany Bay in New Holland; the Hulks being found, by sad experience, to be academies for housebreaking, and solitary confinement to any extent, impracticable from the expense of building. These colonists are not to be turned loose there; but are to have a government established over them, and some troops left; notwithstanding which, I much fear it will end in the ruin of the Friendly and Society Islands, which they will undoubtedly attempt to reach if they can either get or build ships; unless, indeed, the colony should expire, which is not unlikely, as, to 600 men there are but 70 women, and those probably not the most fertile. Will you have a few convicts for the Crimes? We have been reading here Cook’s last voyage, and are very desirous to know what is become of our good friend Major Behm, and whether our court ever interested itself to procure him any preferment. Tell us also, how far we may rely on De Tott’s account of the Turks. Eden went to Paris by no other revolution than that of his own principles, which came about more suddenly and with less pretext than any in this reign. He is to be a vice-treasurer of Ireland in the room of Lord Walsingham, who goes to Spain. It is universally believed that the French Commercial Treaty is settled; but the articles are not known: probably they will make some noise, as they cannot but touch some of our dearest prejudices. There is also an agreement about the mutual recovery of debts in France and England. It seems their courts have not been open to us, as ours are to them. Sir Gilbert Elliot is, I hope, by this time chosen for Berwick. The election was to be last Wednesday, and he was pretty safe. Douglas is well, and increasing in fame and wealth. Trail has left Ainge, and is now a complete and accomplished draughtsman, waiting for instructions. I am going on, or rather, standing still as before; for though I shall get rather more this year than the last, it is owing to accidents, and not to any regular or permanent business. There are great changes in the King’s Bench this year. Davenport is dead,—Tom Cowper dying,—Jack Lee paralytic, and John Wilson a judge by the death of Nares. By each of these events I get a step, as the soldier did when the general was killed. Bower is to have a silk gown;—so probably will Law, and Chambré, if he pleases. Erskine is at the head of the K.’s Bench decidedly, and Mingay almost before Bearcroft. Thurlow has been at death’s door, and is not well yet. Lord Mansfield still Chief-Justice, but unable to do the business. Thompson is Accomptant-general by the death of Anguish. All this you don’t care about; but I have no news but law news.”

Bentham announced the sending “Panopticon”—his great plan for a national penitentiary—to George Wilson in this letter, which answers that which precedes:—

Edition: current; Page: [165]
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
December 19-30, 1786
George Wilson
Wilson, George

Bentham to George Wilson.

My dear Wilson.

Great comfort to get a letter from you at last; but some chagrin to find I have been destroying the better part of my life, as you pretend to do your vacations. I had ordered horses for England, to take triumphant possession of the throne of Legislation, but finding it full of Mr Paley, I ordered them back into the stable. Since then, I have been tormenting myself to no purpose, to find out some blind alley in the career of fame, which Mr Paley’s magnanimity may have disdained. After all, I have been obliged to go a-begging to my brother, and borrow an idea of his, which I have dressed up with a little tinsel of my own, and now send to London as a private venture Parve, nec invideo sine me liber ibis in urbem.

“I think the effect of your good advice to me, is—commonly much snarling and growling at first, and obedience at the last. You and Trail passed sentence on my Introduction to a Penal Code, alias Principles of Legislation, alias I don’t know what besides, and there’s an end of it. I think you have told me more than once, that if it were possible for my scrawl to be tolerable in any shape, it would be in that of letters. I have accordingly given that form to my twopenny-halfpenny pamphlet, consisting, I suppose, from 150 to 200 pages. The hero celebrated is our Sam: for the hero to be addressed, I have taken Q. S. P. [his father] as Boileau took his gardener. The origin of this choice was, that when I first sat down, I meant nothing more than a private, or, if you please, a semi-public letter, to be shown by him to anybody that would condescend to look at it: more especially his worshipful brethren, the Middlesex Justices, to whom it more particularly belonged, as you will see. As it grew upon me, your dictum confirmed me in my choice. Being a sort of Flying Castle, or, to speak more to the times, an air-balloon, it sweeps over all sorts of ground. Amongst the rest, it passes over the ruins of the poor old Penitentiary house. There I have occasion, or, perhaps you will say, no occasion, to fling a stone or two once more at Goliah Eden. This you will be sorry for, as before, for the same reason that David’s brethren were for David. On the other hand, if you happen to think any of them give him a twinge, you will be glad, because Goliah is a Philistine. There are great bets here which carries it—private friendship or party spleen: to be sure, what we should be glad to see, were it possible, is that they might shake hands and divide stakes. Now for a little job for you and [or] Trail, which I have taken care to leave you both at the most perfect liberty to take in hand, or let alone as you have a mind. I have not here the Penitentiary House Act which passed; nor anything belonging to that affair, but my own view of the first Labour Bill. Consequently, I have been forced to proceed altogether upon the ground of the said View, whence divers undesigned misrepresentations may have arisen. What I want, is some charitable hand to take the Penitentiary Act, and, by a few notes at the bottom of the page, correct such misrepresentation for the benefit of the unlearned reader. These notes might be prefaced and accounted for by some such advertisement as this:—‘At the request of several of the Author’s friends, one of them has added a few notes for the purpose of correcting some undesigned misrepresentations of the danger of which he was aware, but which the distance of his situation rendered unavoidable.’ You may then disavow in what terms you please all combination and confederacy, &c. Treat me as cavalierly as you please, for which this shall be your sufficient warrant. If, in any shape, I have done said Goliah, or whom ever else it may concern, any injustice in point of fact or argument, redress the wrong, adding or not adding, that it was at my desire. If you and Trail want leisure, or resolution, turn the business over to anybody else that may vouchsafe to meddle with it. I avoid sending it to you, that if such should be your pleasure, you may avoid dirtying your fingers with it altogether. I send it to Edition: current; Page: [166] King, at the Coffee-house, with instructions to him to give you notice of its arrival, and make legal tender of it to you, or either of you, that you may do about it as you please. If, like old surly Northington, you please nothing, he will put it into Hughes’ hands to print, and, I believe, into Payne’s to publish. It remains for the learned to determine whether it were best in 8vo form—for the faint chance of being bound up by a few people with the poor View of the Hard Labour Bill; or in 12mo, in which case it might make a bindable book of itself. Two or more architectural drawings will accompany it; but as they are mere outlines, anybody may execute them, and the expense can be but a trifle. Perhaps the publisher will manage that. Alderman Clark had once a protegé in that line of the name or Sharp. If he is not dearer than othef folks, which Payne, I suppose, could tell, if it were worth asking, which it hardly can be, this Sharp might as well be employed as anybody else. . . . If out of compliment to Q. S. P., the Justices should be for having it published, and signify their desire in proper form, I suppose there can be no harm in the printing of their order containing such desire. . . . . . Whether you take any part or no in the publication, tell me in due time, in perfect sincerity, what you think of it, as well of Sam’s architectural idea as of the puffing and the collateral matter of all sorts which I have added to it; tell me also, as far as you can collect, what other people say of it, if they say anything. Perhaps, to give the thing two chances of arrival, I may take measures for the two copies being sent from Riga at a post or two’s distance.

“A possibility upon a possibility, is that we may pay England a visit in the course of the summer in a vessel of Sam’s invention, manned by a part of his battalion. If so, it will be from Cherson, or a port in the Crim; and perhaps we may make a point of pushing for England without touching anywhere in the passage. In that case we want to know whether, plague or no plague in the Levant, we should be obliged to perform quarantine. You could tell us by looking into the acts, or otherwise. There is no knowing beforehand, whether it will bear the sea or no; but a small trial will soon show. Perhaps though it did not at first, it may at last. At any rate, it can scarce fail to be of use for inland navigation. We shall know, as soon as rivers are open, what it is worth; and if it answers expectation, we shall have to take out a patent for it in England, and I shall have a puffing pamphlet to write to show the advantages it has above all other vessels imagined or imaginable, from which it differs as much as a house upon the inspection principle (my string of letters will tell you what that means) does from common houses. If it ever reaches England by sea, it will be scarcely less of a raree-show than the air-balloons. If it bear the sea, and the event demonstrates the received theories to be just, it should go near to supersede all other sorts of vessels, and it would have the strangest consequences with regard to trade and politics. It has already been tried, and answered as far as it has been tried: doing in its infant state what no other vessel could have done. But a regular course of experiments, whereby alone can be taken the exact measure of its utility, in comparison with others, cannot be made till the rivers are open again: in the meantime, the great improvement has been hit on to which he trusts for its bearing the sea. In the meantime, he has carte blanche for maturing the experiment; and very busy a-building we are. It is very foolish for me to run on in this manner: but it would have cost me more pains to stop than it was worth being at. At any rate, I have given one—yes, two answers, amongst more that might be given to the question, what Sam is doing? Other inventions he has of the mechanical kind, some finished, some finishing, which, if he comes to England, may perhaps form part of his cargo.

“You have received, I hope, a paper, which frightened, I suppose, the man that gave it you. I hope you quieted his fears. After one passage of it, the writer ought not by good rights to have Edition: current; Page: [167] sent it you, as he writes me word; but he tells me he had just received a kind letter from you, which made him sell his soul to the devil in hopes of pleasing you.

“Q. S. P. is so jealous of you that I have no hopes of getting you a sight of my letters by scolding him for his backwardness with regard to you. But as Alderman Clark makes similar complaints, I shall beg of him to lend them to the alderman, and write the alderman to lend them to you. I give Q. S. P. the power to prevent the publication altogether, or to add anything to it which he may choose to add, either in his own name, or in that of the editor; as likewise to strike out anything, either whole passages, or words, supplying the place with stars, or saying the manuscript was illegible in that part. . . . . . .

“Of the accuracy of De Tott’s account, I can tell you nothing certain. Some said that it was true, others that it was a lie, or exaggeration. I had no opportunity of cross-examining people. The diplomatic people and the Franks live very much among themselves, and have very little opportunity of knowing what is going forward among the Turks on the other side of the harbour. The account I could give you of the authenticity and verity of Habins’ publication would be about equally satisfactory.

“Major J—does not deserve the honour of your inquiries. He got at the time at least ten times the value of what he gave, and which he took care to set down to the public account. In the first part of his journey home, for instance, at Iskutsh, (where Sam heard of him, and drank some of the rum he had left there in presents,) he could not find terms to express his sense of the astonishing generosity of the English. As he advanced nearer Petersburg, his note lowered, till at last he came to complain of neglect and ingratitude. Sam, firing at this, sent him a message, recommending it to him to change his note back again, if he had not a mind to find himself contradicted to his face. Sam wrote particulars to Sir J—H—at the time; but his recollection of the matter is now very imperfect. Besides swords and watches, and other things, of which the value was known to the donors, he received those valuable sea beaver or otter skins, of which the value was not then so fully known, to the amount, as Sam thinks, of some hundreds; at any rate enough to make an ample fortune to him. Sam thinks he got, besides a gold snuff-box from Sir J. H., besides a magnificent piece of plate, with an inscription, which the Admiralty sent him, and which he offered to sell to Prince Potemkin, at whose house Sam saw it,—Sam thinks he got 600 of those skins; but does not pretend to any sort of certainty, except with regard to the general result.

“To speak seriously of Parson Paley, I should not have expected so much of him, from the account given of a part of the work in one of the nine reviews of Maty’s, which I received by Trail’s grace. People were surprised to see how green my eyes were for some time after I received your letter; but their natural jetty lustre is now pretty well returned.

“You have no need to breed mischief in my family by pretending affection to Sam. He never rebels against my authority, but he takes credit for your alliance. He has cut out some of the best passages in my pamphlet, on pretence that you would have done so if you had been here. Hang it, I shouldn’t care if you were, for you could not be a greater plague to me than you are now at fifteen hundred miles distant.

“Sir R. W. has a notion that Pitt means to reduce the rate of interest from five to four. Tell me what you hear about it; were it true I should like to give him a piece of my mind first. I have arguments against it ready cut and dry: the former epithet you may have some doubt about; the latter you will not dispute. You know it is an old maxim of mine, that interest, as love and religion, and so many other pretty things, should be free.

“Code was going on at a very pretty jog-trot, till Sam’s inspection-house came upon the carpet, not to mention his new model of ship-building, and his other whimsies. Fighting Sam and you Edition: current; Page: [168] together is bad enough, but correcting three copies taken by ignorant people is intolerable. In a few days I hope to return again to duty. The day has abundance more hours in it at Crichoff (or rather at our cottage three miles off, where I now live altogether) than anywhere in England. I rise a little before the sun; get breakfast done in less than an hour, and do not eat again till eight or nine at night. Trail with his three and a half lines is a shabby fellow, unworthy of my notice.—Sir W. Jones! how came he to return from the E. I.? Give me his history.

“Could you get me any lights respecting the following points?—1. Expense of the ballast lighters per man, per annum. 2. Expense per man of the New Zealand expedition. 3. Expense per man per month in prison before sent there.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
February 9-20, 1787
George Wilson
Wilson, George
My Dear Wilson,

In my last which went from hence the latter end of December, but which I doubt was rather late in coming to you, I mentioned amongst other things a project of my brother’s which, if successful, would require a patent, begging the favour of you to tell us whether a caveat would answer in any, and what respect, the purpose of securing to him the property of the invention in the meantime. As it was necessary for him to send a model to Petersburg, we find it is beginning to make a noise: and there are various channels through which the idea seems likely to have already reached England in its unfinished state. We have, therefore, judged it advisable, to run the hazard of the post, for the sake of giving you a general intimation of it, under the notion that some such intimation may be necessary for the purpose of taking out a caveat, which, if it will answer the purpose, we will beg the favour of you to get taken out as soon as possible. The single word vermicular, is sufficient to give a general idea of a leading principle. The vessel consists of a string of barges to any number, each individually of the simplest construction, and capable of being connected or disconnected at pleasure. The modes of connexion have given a good deal of exercise to his invention: for inland navigation there is but little difficulty: any mode almost will do; but the difficulty lays in adapting it to sea service—a difficulty which, though he believes everybody in England who knows anything of what sea is, will look upon it as insuperable, he is not without hopes of overcoming. Two barges upon this principle, the one of three smaller links and the other of five larger ones, were built and made use of in the course of last summer. The former was used only in plying about upon this river, from one part of our dominions to another. But the larger was sent down from our Soz (Soje) into the Dnieper, and so down as far as Kremenschuk, (about midway between Kiev and Cherson,) about 800 or 1000 miles. Laying out of the account stoppages, which the business required to be made at different places, the voyage was performed in eighteen days, a degree of expedition much exceeding anything that had ever been known. Sam and I, and Sir R. W—, went down in it about one hundred versts, (sixty or seventy miles.) According to the received theories, the length of a vessel makes no difference in the resistance it meets with in pushing through the water. This, I suppose, may hold good with regard to the greatest differences in point of length, that can ever subsist upon the present plans: if it hold good in strictness, and with regard to any length, the velocity might be increased to infinitum, by adding sails and oars, so that you might get a boat, which, like Jupiter, would require but four efforts to get from one end of the world to the other. Back-breaking, which is the death of so many vessels upon the ordinary plans, is prevented, you see, by the division of the whole into vertebros, as short as can be required. The mode of connexion thought of for the sea is now practising upon a vessel which, under the name of the Imperial Vermicular, is building here, for the faint chance of her majesty taking a fancy to set foot in it. A barge has been built for her Edition: current; Page: [169] at Smolensko, and another for the emperor, and sent down to Kieff; but they are so clumsy, that there are great doubts whether they will be deemed fit for service. In this imperial vermicular, the joint is such as to render the vessel flexible in all directions: the tail (stern) of each intermediate link is concave and adapted to a corresponding convexity in the head (stem) of the link behind.


The enabling them to play up and down as well as laterally, is performed by a contrivance which I am not able to describe without drawings, and which would be difficulty apprehended without a model. Suffice it to say, that by means of an iron bar playing upon rollers in a horizontal groove, the links are kept from striking one against another, at the same time that they are capable of being allowed to pitch and roll in every direction. This has the inconvenience of requiring some good carpenter’s, as well as smith’s work. Upon further reflection, my brother has conceived what he looks upon as a more commodious mode of connexion, as well as more secure mode of fastening by nothing but ropes and wood; and the convex and concave terminations which required some work, he now looks upon as unnecessary, even for sea service. He is accordingly building two other vermiculars, which are nothing but a parcel of oblong boxes, such as every one can work at who is capable of handling an axe—that is, every man in Russia. As such a vessel cannot be governed by the tail, it must be governed by the head, and the head link is accordingly adapted to that purpose. There are other contrivances for rendering the serpent flexible or inflexible at any joint, as occasion may require. The above-mentioned are on Sam’s own account. The prince’s peasants are just about to be set to work upon a vermicular of a hundred links, which, if it has so many, will be just a verst—that is, two-thirds of a mile long. This is to fetch Crimean salt from Kremenschuk, to which place it is hindered by waterfalls from getting all the way from the Crim by water. Another, of a few solid links, is to try the experiment of sending wood to the Crim, where it bears an immense price: the timber alone costing more than the ship it is destined for would cost when completely built at Petersburg. Timber, at present, travels very expensively and awkwardly by sea. Sam flatters himself that his mode of navigation will admit of a considerable saving in the article of men in comparison with the common one, as well as in the articles of workmanship and materials. When you go over as Judge to the E. Indies, let him have the honour of building a vermicular for your conveyance. Should it be a calm, he’ll row you all the way faster than the wind could blow you. I wish I could know, for example, what the ordinary rate of expedition is at present in the London fish trade, and what advantage would be likely to be had, if that rate could be increased in any given degree, for example, doubled. I believe, at present, the fishing smacks are stopped every now and then at Gravesend waiting for the tide. A vermicular shall catch them for you at sea, and row them up to Oxford, dropping a link wherever there is a market. I doubt they will smell rather strong at that rate before they come to the end of their voyage, unless one can persuade them to live a little while in a cage with or without fresh water. I will leave it to your imagination to extend the idea to the thousand applications, belligerent as well as pacific, to which ours extended it some months ago. We intend you for the command of an expedition to storm Paris with; and pray do not let a foolish tenderness prevail with you to leave anything there alive. You will conclude for or against the patent according as you think it more likely to do good by securing the invention in this unformed state, or harm by publishing it. Mr Williams, Alderman Clark’s partner, has taken out patents: if the connexion still subsists, nobody better. I have all along understood that the taking out a caveat costs but a guinea; but this, I suppose, does not include the solicitor’s fee. A few words, I imagine, is all that is necessary, Edition: current; Page: [170] or even usual; just enough to serve as an index to the invention.

“I am grudging every instant of the time I am fooling away in writing stuff and nonsense to you, and the much greater time it takes me to consider which I shall say to you of the thousand things I should have to say to you if it took up no time. I am writing letters to you abusing Pitt for being about to reduce the rate of interest, and abusing the world for limiting the rate of interest at all.* I am marginal-contenting Essai sur les Recompenses about the size of Beccaria’s book, with Voltaire’s Comment added to it. It was begun to serve as one of the divisions of my great French work; but I found it detachable, so I swelled it out a little, and send it you to do what you will with it. It touches upon all the possible applications of the matter of reward, ordinary and extraordinary. I want the Report of the Commissioners of Accounts bitterly; but want must be my master. I pull down the church in it inter alia; but the church will have been settled, as well as the rate of interest reduced, before it gets to England. All I have to say on the civil branch of law is marginal-contented and ready for reading, were you but here. It is a preceding introductory book. There is a Frenchman of the name of Allix, whose business it is to teach French. Alderman Clark, by whose means I knew him once, knows, I suppose, where to find him. Him I should like to have to correct the press, and expunge solecisms. A parson would not do, because perjury subscriptions are abused, and the emoluments of ecclesiastics reduced to what they themselves set them at by Curacies. If ‘Hughes’ correctors understand accents and so forth, as a Frenchman would, I would take my chance for solecisms, if such a thief as Allix could not be had for the value of five guineas. I mention Allix thus early, because his lodgings may perhaps be unknown to the Alderman by this time, and it may take some time to find him out.

“I am distracted to know what to do about staying here or returning. Here I can work double tides; but every now and then I am non-plussed for want of books. London is infested with devils. If I knew of any such lodging-place as Thorpe, where I could be perdu till my book was printed, without being known to anybody to be in England, besides you and Trail, and honest Mr R. King, whom I could depend upon for not betraying me, it might be a means of my returning sooner than I should otherwise. I would change my name and pass for a madman, or a bankrupt. I can sleep without a bed, and live without victuals. The only article of luxury I should be puzzled by the want of, is a two-legged animal who lies down without a bed by the fire and keeps it in all night, with power for me to get up at any time and kick him out of the room. A rushlight, with a fire ready laid in my bedchamber, would be but an indifferent succedaneum.

“Pray get from R. King a packet containing securities of mine: open it and give me a list of them, (there are but few,) and keep them in your custody. In particular, tell me whether amongst them is a Tontine debenture on my life, and whether it appears therein up to what time the interest has been received.

“This day three weeks the empress passed through Crichoff, in her way to Kieff. Besides Russians, there were F. H., and the French and Imperial Ministers. Lord Carysfort was not of the party, as was expected. Poor F., who is ailing, having got something the matter with his liver, was sadly sick of the excursion. The same company, the same furniture, the same victuals: it is only Petersburg carried up and down the empire. Natives have too much awe to furnish any conversation: if it were not for the diplomatic people, she would have been dead with ennui. Dr Rogerson, the E.’s physician, attended her of course: no other Englishman of the party except a young officer, adjutant to one of the generals. Five hundred Edition: current; Page: [171] and fifty, I think, was the complement of horses provided here. The most extraordinary part of the cavalcade were no fewer than thirty washerwomen. A large wooden house, under the name of a palace, had been built here as at every other station, for the purpose of furnishing her a night’s lodging. Sam was not in the way, being then upon an expedition about the vermicular business to Cherson and the Crim, from whence he returned but Saturday. Neither was the prince,—for it was he that Sam was dancing after. Sam saw some of them in his way home through Kieff. I was, of course, much inquired after, which I chose rather to be than seen: being at the farm here a few miles from Crichoff, I escaped regal notice. The streets through which she passed were edged with branches of firs and other evergreens, and illuminated with tar barrels, alternating with rows of lamps, formed by earthen-pots filled with tallow and a candle-wick in the middle. So I was told, for I had not curiosity to go to Crichoff, either before or after, nor have I been through these three months.

“God love you. Answer this as soon as you receive it, and tell me the news, particularly what projects of all kinds are said to be in agitation.”

In the course of his residence in Russia, Bentham had oceasion to witness more than once the interference of arbitrary power. His person was arrested, and his property seized, for a debt of 280 rubles, alleged to be due by his brother. He appealed to the superior court of Mohilev, declaring that he was not altogether ignorant of natural or general jurisprudence, though unacquainted with Russian law. I find in his papers much correspondence both in French and Russian, on the subject; but I cannot discover whether he ever obtained redress. Notwithstanding the many annoyances to which he was subjected, and repeated applications from his friends to return to England, he still lingered at Zadobras, for the benefit of that complete solitude which enabled him to pursue his studies, and to proceed with his writings. George Wilson, to whom he had sent a pamphlet on Prison Discipline, refused to send it to press as being “small game,” the “subject unpopular.” Some of his remarks on the character of Bentham’s mind, are worth preserving. They are in a letter of 26th February 1787. He says:—

George Wilson
Wilson, George
26th February 1787
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

George Wilson to Bentham.

“You have now made a reasonable visit to your brother, and on your own account you are doing nothing there which may not be done at least as well here. I have, therefore, some hope that you will be induced to return by a shorter and more certain mode than that of your intended ship. It is not because Trail and I disapproved, that you abandoned your Introduction, your Code, your Punishments, &c. The cause lies in your constitution. With one-tenth part of your genius, and a common degree of steadiness, both Sam and you would long since have risen to great eminence. But your history, since I have known you, has been to be always running from a good scheme to a better. In the meantime, life passes away and nothing is completed. I don’t know why I talk thus, unless, because at this distance I may do it with safety; for, except the satisfaction of discharging so much spleen, I expect no good effect from it. I do very much wish, for many reasons, that you would come home; and am sincerely of opinion that your worldly interest absolutely requires it. If your father should not be wrought on to alter his will, there is great danger of his squandering his fortune.* I understand, that not long ago he purchased a house for Mrs B. to live in, after his death, which house they are now tired of, and want to sell. He is just now beginning a great building in his court, to look into the park, everything being down except the screen. In short, there are new whims every day, and all of them expensive.”

Trail adds to the letter:—

“I join most sincerely in Wilson’s entreaties, that you would return soonEdition: current; Page: [172] to this country; and for other reasons besides the very weighty ones which he has mentioned. Our ministers, as they have little to do abroad, seem to be full of schemes for domestic improvement. Pitt has just introduced a plan for consolidating the customs, and which he is to extend to the excise and stamp duties. The state of the poor laws has excited a good deal of attention. Gilbert, who has undertaken to reform them, is utterly incapable; but the information he has been enabled by the legislature to collect, may be useful to wiser heads. The Protestant dissenters are at work to get the Test Act repealed, and they entertain good hopes of success. Fox, and other leading men, have promised their assistance. Pitt owes so much to the dissenters, that he cannot oppose the measure. The people are certainly become more enlightened in their notions on commercial subjects. The French treaty is not only popular among those classes of manufacturers who expect to derive immediate benefit from it; but it is generally approved of throughout the nation. Lord Lansdowne sometimes says it is a pimping imitation of one of his great schemes—at others, that it is a very good treaty—and then, again, that it is a ruinous measure. I have heard nothing of late about reducing the interest of money. Soon after the conclusion of the war, it was a subject of conversation; and the landed gentry, who had found great difficulty in borrowing even at five per cent, were said to be very anxious to have the rate reduced. But since it has fallen of itself, and may be expected to sink still more, I think the subject has died away.”

Another letter of Wilson’s of 24th April, contains the following passages:—

“I have received your two letters of the 9-20, February and March. Why the first was enclosed to your father, you best know. The consequence of it was, that after keeping it a week, he sent me, not the letter, but information that he had it, for the purpose of obliging me to open it in his presence. I was accordingly obliged to read great part of it to him, and had much difficulty to conceal the rest. But reading it is not enough. I have been forced to promise to copy for him all I have read; and the copy he will put in a book which he has entitled Epistolæ Benthamianæ, consisting of your letters and Sam’s, mixed up with his to Lord Lansdowne, Alderman Clark, Dr Brown, &c., and their answers. He was much offended at having himself no letter in that packet of a later date than December, which should, indeed, have been a reason with you for not enclosing mine to him. But his anger as to this point, seems to have subsided since the receipt of your letter of March. He has at last given me a reading of the collection of your letters, which are entertaining, and in many parts interesting; but I think in other parts, it appears that you were working hard to make out a letter which you had no pleasure in writing. With respect to your inspection pamphlet, he seems inclined, since your last letter, to publish it, but with his own corrections and alterations, which are to be communicated to me to-morrow. I shall endeavour to delay the publication till the arrival of your answer to my letter of 27th February. I hope you have since received one from Trail and me, of about the 12th March. We are so well convinced from this experiment, of the difficulty of publishing for an author at such a distance, on account of the alterations which even the lapse of time may make necessary, to say nothing of other circumstances, that we are resolved, I mean Trail and myself, to have no concern in the publication of any other work which you may think proper to send over. We have another reason for this resolution, and that is, that being fully convinced of the necessity of your return, for the reasons mentioned in our two last letters, and which still subsist, we think it fair to use this species of distress which accident has put into our hands. It gives us great pleasure to learn that you have so many things in forwardness; and we think the subjects are such as will do you credit, but we are not quite reconciled to the French language, or the form of letters. As to the rate of interest, no proposal has been made in Parliament to reduce it, nor have we been Edition: current; Page: [173] able to learn that any such intention has been entertained by Mr Pitt, or any other great man; so that whatever applies to the alteration, as to this time particularly, you will have to alter. This circumstance alone, might satisfy you of the advantage of being on the spot, if you write on subjects relating to this country. I think you had your intelligence from Sir R. W—. The subject of interest, is, however, of great importance at all times; and you can say a great deal about it which has never yet been said. It is at all times sufficiently in people’s minds to make it interesting; and perhaps new doctrines concerning it, will have more weight that they do not appear to be published on the spur of the occasion. We are, therefore, very desirous that you should publish, but not till after your return.

“I have little news to write; and if I had, perhaps I should withhold it, by way of an additional distress. But, to use the words of a great author—‘it is a busy age, and everything teems with improvement.’ Our Customs are consolidated, and in three weeks our ports will be open to the French. The crown-lands are in a way of being sold. Great materials have been collected for a revision of the Poor Laws, which, in other hands than Mr Gilbert’s, might be turned to profit. The House of Commons have given a great blow to the ecclesiastical courts; and I think people begin to be more and more convinced of the mischief of tithes. Indeed, on all points of political economy, there is an evident change in the public opinion within these ten years, which may be in some degree owing to the circulation of Smith’s book, but still more to the events which have happened in our political and commercial connexion with America, to the utter disgrace of all the old thrones. In Ireland, there are great schemes of police going on, and a new system of education just announced in a long speech by Mr Orde; and all this time you are living in a cottage in White Russia, ignorant of everything that is passing in the world, unless when Sir R. W— gives you some misinformation. The dissenters have failed in their attempt to get the Test Act repealed, but the division was respectable, and they are not discouraged. They are very angry with Pitt, whom they will probably no longer support as they did at the general election. Priestley has written him a letter, a printed one, I mean, full of rage against Pitt, the Trinity, and the Church Establishment—clever enough, and very bold, but very indiscreet, and certainly prejudicial to the cause. They are founding a college at Hackney, which is to rival and overthrow Oxford, and Cambridge; but I fear they have not heads to effect that good work. They are violent zealots in their way; and one article in the constitution of the new college, is, that all the professors shall be dissenting parsons. Several eminent men among them have refused to subscribe on account of that clause. I know nothing of the history of the late transactions in France; but we are told that their land-tax is to be given up, and that at present, all credit, public and private, is at a stand. Not being a citizen of the world, I hear the miscarriage of improvements in France with great philosophy. There is a navy officer, whose name I forget, who has invented a pump which works by the motion of the ship, without men, and he is now gone out in a frigate to try it. Notice is given by Mr Minchin, of a motion with respect to the criminal law. Our fleet for Botany Bay, is, I hope, sailed to-day—they waited for a wind, and it is fair. Your father has heard of an Atlas de Commerce, by Le Clerc, Père and Fils, and a book of maps of Russia, &c., published last year in France, which are said to have great merit, and he is trying to get you a copy.”

Wilson writes again, 14th July, 1787:—

“Dr Smith has been very ill here, of an inflammation in the neck of the bladder, which was increased by very bad piles. He has been cut for the piles, and the other complaint is since much mended. The physicians say he may do some time longer. He is much with the ministry; and the clerks at the public offices have orders to furnish him Edition: current; Page: [174] with all papers, and to employ additional hands, if necessary, to copy for him. I am vexed that Pitt should have done so right a thing as to consult Smith; but if any of his schemes are effectuated, I shall be comforted.”

George Wilson
Wilson, George
May 4-15, 1787
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Bentham to George Wilson.

My Dear Wilson,

I send for your edification, a Defence of Usury and some other enormities. Abuse it and keep it, or abuse it and print it, as to your wisdom may seem meet. Don’t let Trail see it or hear it (the blasphemous 14th letter I mean) till he has submitted to have his hands tied behind him, for fear of mischief. Douglas’s phlegm might be trusted, but he is Attorney-general by this time, and has not time.

“Don’t let any very flagrant absurdities go for want of correction or erasure: false or dubious law I don’t so much care about, provided you correct it or clear it up in a note. What I send you at large is only the middle; the condemned head and tail I send you only the contents of: somewhat of their history you will find in margin of said contents. The chapter on Blackstone I give you full power over. Sam, as often as he considered it in the abstract, was for suppressing it, because Blackstone is dead, and its harping on the old string, &c.; but as often as he heard it read over, which he did two or three times, he laughed so heartily at the parody that he could not bear the thoughts of parting with it. You see there is nothing at all ill-natured in it, and as it adds a considerable strength, I think, to the argument, I should be rather sorry it were out. My greatest scruple of conscience is whether Jockeyship is really used in the sense in which it occurred to me, and in which alone it can be admitted, viz., for the sin of selling a horse at a high price. You may call this confined subject, flying at small game: but, with submission, I don’t think such a confined subject stands, as such, a worse chance for being read than a great system. As for the form of letters, it was written in this form before the law against letter writing was promulgated; and the Defence of Projectors could not have been conducted in any other way with near so much advantage. If you do print it, don’t let it linger; but send it to the press quickly, that it may begin the sooner to lay in a little stock of reputation for me against I get home. When that part that relates to the reduction of the rate of interest was condemned upon what you told me of that measure’s being laid aside, I was sadly puzzled for a long time how to introduce the part which you now see. I give you, on the other leaf, a various lection, which I wrote to humour Sam, who wanted something to be said to give folks to understand that I did not stay here, as some might suspect, to intrigue to get into this service,—an honour which I have most certainly taken no steps whatever to obtain, nor would accept of were it offered me.

“The intimation given that these ideas of mine about usury are of old standing, as I dare say you and I recollect they are, was a piece of selfish prudence, which you will think vain. There is one Playfair* who published, just before I left England, a trumpery book in 4to, called the Interest of Money Considered. Nine-tenths of it is bad writation about the origin of society, and so forth: the other tenth is a perfectly vague and shapeless proposal for relaxing the rigour of the anti-usurious laws in favour of projectors; yet without any argument in it, or any other idea, but that vague one thrown out in almost as general and vague a way as I have stated it in. I understand it has been well enough spoken of by several people.

“That you may not plead scruples of conscience, take notice that I give you full power to make all manner of alterations, additions, and subtractions to any extent you think fit.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
Aug. 16-27, 1787


“ ‘Dear—, —

It was because he had a fancy for it that Ovid, as he himself certifieth, wrote his Metamorphoses. It is for the same reason I write about Edition: current; Page: [175] usurers, whom I have a fancy, and that you know not a new one, for metamorphosing into honest men. I have a fancy for addressing myself to you on this occasion, rather than to the world (at large.) I have a fancy for sending you these letters, rather than wait a few months, and be myself the bearer of them, when the visit, which, though to a brother, your friendship styles a long one, is at an end. I have a fancy for staying here, to pick, in not unpleasing solitude, this dry bone, instead of plunging into the passing vortex, and retracing the course of the Borysthenes, to stare at crowns and diadems.’

“The egotism and pertness of the above, will prevent, I suppose, your giving it place. But do with it as you list.

“When I wrote it, I had not as yet hammered out the introduction which you see.

“Don’t wait to correct the work before you write me word whether it is to see the press or no: that you can tell me within a few days after you have received it.

“Sam is gone in pursuit of the empress in his serpentine or vermicular barge, of which I have given some account to my father.

“I stay here partly to wait for him, partly to wait for my things, the bulk of which, whatever you may think of it, I have never yet been able to get from the Crimea.”

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
George Wilson
Wilson, George
Dear Wilson,

Last post-day, Friday 12, I received yours of July 3-14. You have received, then, my Defence of Usury. You think you shall approve of it. You inform me of the imminent danger it is in of losing the appearance of whatever merit it may possess by delay. And yet—spite had almost said therefore—you delay it,—delay it till I don’t know when, still less you. No, you have not delayed it: I accuse myself of injustice in attempting to believe you. Yet my anxiety not to see week thus flung away after week, makes me force my mind for a few minutes to this improbable supposition. Send it, then, if you have any desire to acquit yourself of breach of confidence, or I, any power over my own,—send it somehow, anyhow, to the press. I wish it were possible for me to devise the least coercive form of words that would be sufficient to produce this very simple effect: no others would I use,—but those indeed I would use at any rate. . . . . .

“If you think it wants correction, which you want either time or inclination to give it, send the part in question, which comes within a narrow compass, to some publishing lawyer with a fee. But this unknown Mercury must not speak for me: what he says must be in a note of the editor’s—not in the text—yours, or Trail’s, or Douglas’s, who, the more you would say for me, the more I should be obliged to you. But even that is not at all necessary. All I am anxious to avoid is the plying the public with false law: the being seen to be ignorant or mistaken in points of law at 1500 miles distance from all sources of information, gives me not the least concern. I have no opinion-trade to spoil.

“ ‘To Mr—to peruse the enclosed paper for the press, and state in form of notes of the editor what, if anything, may be necessary for clearing up the points of law therein referred to, guineas.’ There is a form for you to save your trouble, and obviate, if possible, that uncharitable fund of scruples and difficulties of which your imagination is so fertile.

* * * * *

“ ‘The author being at a distance from all sources of legal information, and disappointed of the revision to which he had trusted with respect to matters of that nature, the present editor begs those circumstances may be considered.’

“Corrigenda if you please—not otherwise. Date—The letters were began, I think, in February or January, finished in April. If you think there will be any use in putting either of those dates instead of the one they bear already, do.

“In the short chapter on compound Edition: current; Page: [176] interest, strike out, ‘It makes frequent pretences of hating letters, but its hate is as inconstant as its love.’

“In the chapter on Champerty, strike out the passage beginning ‘You would tell me I had caught,’ and ending ‘but this is not a place to plant it in.’

“If you have an opportunity, tell Douglas how much I should be obliged to him for any part he might be disposed to take in it. He had once the kindness to say, ‘Don’t send your French to the press without my seeing it,’ and I the bluntness to reply, ‘I can have no confidence in your French.’ The vacation, I hope, will not be over before this reaches you. On the other side an order for Hughes—lest you should think it necessary that an advertisement be inserted, if necessary, that is, if your refusal makes it so; but subject to your correction.

“A thousand ways have I turned and twisted my imagination to squeeze out means of obviating the host of impediments apprehended on the part of yours; several of the condemned letters I had written before this. The event will show with what success.

“It is possible I may be set out on my return before an answer from you can reach me; but as that is quite uncertain, don’t let it hinder your answering.

“Sam is not come back yet, but I expect him every hour.

“Anderson had had the kindness to offer, even in the form of petition, to take charge of anything I might wish to publish in my absence. One of the condemned letters was to him for that purpose. I gave up that scheme for uncertainty of success and certainty of delay. He may be dead, ill, occupied, &c.

“When you see Ald. Clark, thank him for the letter I had the pleasure of receiving from him the other day.

“With this goes a letter to King, enclosing Tontine power-of-Attorney and Certificate.”

The latter portion of the above correspondence relates to the Defence of Usury, which it will be seen was written at the beginning of 1787, during the author’s residence at Crichoff. It would be difficult to find a specimen of logical demonstration more acute and perfect. It was an application of the Utilitarian principle to a limited part of the field of action. The letter to Dr Smith in favour of projectors, is novel in conception, happy in irony, eloquent in language, and irresistible in argument. Bentham, though the first to attack a widely-spread and deeply-rooted prejudice, has really left nothing to be done for its destruction, except for wise legislation to undo the mischievous work of ignorant legislators. Though not carried out to its full extent, Bentham’s principle has been partially adopted by Parliament, and the Usury Laws have undergone great modification. The MS., as intimated in the correspondence, was sent to George Wilson. He wished to suppress it; for he was by nature cold and cautious; but Bentham’s father got hold of the MS., and sent it to the press. On Bentham’s return from Russia, when passing through the Hague in 1788, the English ambassador, Sir James Harris, (after Lord Malmesbury,) put the volume into his hand, which he then saw in print for the first time.

The opinion of Dr Reid will be seen in the following letter to Dr Gregory, who declared himself converted to Bentham’s opinion, saying, that the reasoning amounted to demonstration. Dr Adam Smith himself used this expression to Mr Adam:—“The work is one of a superior man. He has given me some hard knocks, but in so handsome a manner that I cannot complain,” and he added that he thought the author was right.

Extract of a letter from the Rev. Dr Thomas Reid, of Glasgow, to Dr James Gregory, Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh, dated Glasgow, Sept. 5, 1788.

“I am much pleased with the tract you sent me on Usury. I think the reasoning unanswerable, and have long been of the author’s opinion, though I suspect that the general principle, that bargains ought to be left to the judgment Edition: current; Page: [177] of the parties, may admit of some exceptions. When the buyers are the many, the poor, and the simple; the sellers few, rich, and cunning: the former may need the aid of the magistrate to prevent their being oppressed by the latter. It seems to be upon this principle that portage, freight, the hire of chairs and coaches, and the price of bread, are regulated in most great towns. But with regard to the loan of money in a commercial state, the exception can have no place. The borrowers and lenders are upon an equal footing, and each may be left to the care of his own interest; nor do I see any good reason for the interposition of law in bargains about the loan of money, more than in bargains of any other kind. I am least pleased with the 10th letter, where he accounts for the infamy of usury. In one of the papers you mention, (which I give you leave to use as you please,) I have attempted an account of that phenomenon, which satisfies me more than his account does. I am, &c.”

The Monthly Review for May, 1788, speaks of the Defence of Usury as ‘a gem of the finest water,’—‘a grateful refreshment in the dreary fields of criticism,’ as preparing for our ‘emancipation from many great errors that capitally influence the business of human life.’ The work has been translated into several languages, and it awakened discussions in many parts of Europe. In the following year, (1789,) this advertisement appeared in the Austrian newspapers:


“His Majesty the Emperor and King, by his Aulic Rescript, dated Vienna, the 16th day of March last, has ordered to announce to the public the following question, with the premium annexed to it.

“What is Usury, and which would be the most efficacious way to prevent it, without recurring to penal laws? The answers, to be given in writing, may be sent to the Imperial and Royal United Aulic Chancery at Vienna, until the 1st of May, 1790: and the author of that which, combining the political and judiciary objects, shall be deemed the most adapted, shall have the fixed premium of five hundred golden ducats.”

On the occasion of Farr (brother of Charles) Abbott’s marriage, (to a lady of considerable wealth,) Bentham writes:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
Farr Abbott
Abbott, Farr

Bentham to Farr Abbott.

“I have been telling your mother as how and as when I have been hearing of your having committed matrimony. Much about the time that you were recommending that holy state by your example, the thread of my lucubrations had led me to an humble proposal for the encouragement of it, in the only way in which such a connexion requires to be, or ought to be encouraged, by rendering it easy for those who do not find themselves comfortable in it, to shake it off. The idea itself is rather ancient; as ancient, for aught I know, as Adam and Eve; but the arguments I have brought in support of it, are of such strength, take my word for it, as must impress conviction upon the judgment of every unprejudiced person, who may think it worth his while to listen to them. Whatever you may think of them, I am in no doubt of meeting with readers whose feelings will bear due testimony to their merit. As far as I hear, however, I have little chance of finding either you or Mrs Abbott of that number: so that if I get any thanks from either of you, it must be by bespeaking them, which I do by these presents, of which take notice.

“I have been wishing your mother a whole rabble rout of grandchildren, but that was only a way of speaking. I hate squalling, as much as I love music. I hear from an old gentleman of our acquaintance, that my new sister has a pretty finger, which he invites me to come and admire; and as that is the only part of her person a man who is not her husband can have unlimited indulgence for admiring, any acquisition of children to you, would only be so much loss to me. I never yet knew any good, and have often known much mischief come to music from women having brats, whatever may be the case with Edition: current; Page: [178] other kinds of harmony. The world says, to use a Johnsonian expression—“You give good fowls:” I rejoice to hear of it: I scarce know of any greater merit in such a world as this is, than that of giving good fowls: it gives me a great respect for you. I am rubbing up my epicurean ideas as well as I can, to enable me to worship your fowls; 1500 or 2000 miles journey, will, I hope, give me some appetite for them. Amongst the many additional oddities I have, I dare say, contracted in this my hermitage, is that of never eating anything but bread and butter till about nine o’clock at night, and then not caring what I eat, nor much whether I eat anything or no—yet I never was better in health in my life, and I rather increase in flesh than fall away.

“Remember me affectionately to Charles. He is taking great strides, I make no doubt, towards the top of his nasty prostitute profession. I will not pretend to wish that families may be ruined for his sake, any more than that Turks may have their throats cut for Sam’s. All I can wish, is, that if Turks must be killed, Sam may have some share in the killing of them; and that if Christians must be plundered, Charles may have a good finger in the plunder pie.—I am, dear Farr, yours and his very truly.”

Bentham collected at Crichoff, the seeds from the plants described in the subjoined list, which he distributed largely among his botanical friends in England. The cultivation of new, and especially of beautiful flowers, was, through life, one of his greatest pleasures. Botany he loved for its instrumentality in the diffusion of enjoyment. “We cannot,” he would say, “propagate stones.” The mineralogist cannot spread or circulate his treasures without self-depredation; but to the powers which the botanist has, of adding to the pleasures of others, there are no bounds.

List of Seeds gathered in 1787, near Crichoff, in the government of Moghilev, in the province of White Russia, N. Lat. 54. and communicated to Dr Anderson, Dr Trail, Dr Pitcairn, Dr Fordyce, Mr Aiton, and Mr Lee.


Plants growing in a very shady situation at the skirts of woods:—

No. 2. Habit somewhat like a Cowslip. Flowers purple,—in a very shady situation, some of them red on the same stalk.
No. 1. Anemonoides.—Corolla 5 ad 7 petala alba—lineis viridibus distincta.—Folia cordata amplexicaulia.
No. 1. Id. 7 petala vice 5 petala.
No. 3. Corolla 5 aut 6 petala—alba—rosacea.—Folia ovato-oblonga. Planta humilis.
No. 4. Fumaria,—a variety with white flowers.
No. 5. Fumaria,—some of it probably a variety with white flowers.
No. 6. Andromeda.—Folia Kalmoidea caulis summitatem arcuantia.
No. 7. Orobus,—an vernus?


Plants growing in a situation not much shaded, though near the skirts of woods:—

No. 1. Low plant, with awl-shaped leaves, and a spike of purple flowers.
No. 1. A variety of it with red flowers.
No. 2. Vicia spicae 5 aut 6 unciali,—planta per elegans, c. 1786. Non reperio in 1787.
No. 3. Rubus humilis,—bacca quadri-acinâ.
No. 4. Cheiranthus flore lurido noctu-olente.
No. 5. Lilium Martagon, flore nutante carnicolore maculato.
No. 6. Campanula flore magno cæruleo.
No. 7. Campanula flore magno albo cærulescenti.
No. 8. Spartium.
No. 9. Lathyrus flore luteo, foliis binatis.
No. 10. Hawkweed, hairy-leaved, trailing.—Flower brimstone-coloured.
No. 11. Planta Antherici facie? Spica sparsa. Caulis longus. Radixfibrosus. Folia graminea. Flos non visus.
No. 13. Anemone flore albo sub-lanuginoso.
No. 12. Flos labiatus partim flavus partim rubescens.—Folia superiora purpurea.


Plants growing in a mossy swamp:—

No. 1. Willow-leaved, with globular tufts of yellow stamina, and no apparent corolla.
No. 2. Rush-leaved, with globular tufts of white stamina.
No. 3. Cyclamen flowered myrtle-leaved, creeping plant, growing midst mosses in swamps.
No. 4. C. Impatiens,—a variety, with a yellowish flower almost white.
No. 5. Frutex humilis. Corolla lagenoides. Calyx nullus. Folia ovata glauca subacida.
No. 6. Rhododendron? Folia Rosmarinidea. Flores verticillati albi. Planta tota odora.


Plants growing in a very dry soil and sunny exposure:—

No. 1. Trifolium flore luteo.


No. 1. White strawberries, remarkably large, from a gentleman’s garden.
No. 2. Planta incognita, sub-humili sepe apud Bentheim collecta.—Spica circiter 12-uncialis.—Flos non visus.
No. 3. Seeds of I forget what plant.

N.B. For want of leisure, books, and instruments, the botanic characters were not attended to. The ground for looking upon them as new, is their appearing such to an experienced botanical gardener, bred up under the king’s gardener at Kew, and in other capital gardens in the neighbourhood of London. The names or descriptions here given, however loose and untechnical, it was presumed would be more satisfactory than none.

CHAPTER VIII.: 1787—1789. Æt. 39—41.

Return from Crichoff.—Journey through Poland, Germany, and Holland.—Klaproth the Chemist.—Pursuits on his Return.—Notices of the Fordyces, Hoole, Lord St Helens, Fitzherbert, Stone.—Intercourse with Romilly and Dumont.—Hastings’ Trial.—Sir Eardley Wilmot.—Opinion of Lord Lansdowne.—Correspondence with France.—Brissot.—Work on Penal Law.—Tactics of Political Assemblies.—The Abbé Morellet.—Letters of Anti-Machiavel: Controversy with George III.

Bentham reached Crichoff in February, 1786, and left it in October or November, 1787. He says, “I stole out of the Russian dominions. There was no harm in my stealing out; but there was considerable harm in my stealing out with me a Swede, who represented himself to be of noble blood. He wrote an admirable hand, and spoke seven or eight languages: having been two years in the English service, he was perfectly master of English. He had presented himself to me in my brother’s absence, soliciting employment. He had married a Polish lady of rank; but how they lived I know not.” He was, however, delighted to be taken into service, and Bentham employed him in copying. Seeing his capacity, Sir Samuel, on his return, made the Swede a sergeant, and, of course, enrolled him, and gave him a uniform. When Bentham got weary of his exile and wished to get away—distant 1500 miles from any port—he could not accomplish it, ignorant as he was of the languages of the countries through which he had to pass; so he determined, at all risks, to take the polyglot Swede with him as a servant,—and that without leave, as leave could not be obtained. Bentham consulted General Bander, who warned him of the perils to which he would expose the Swede and himself, and of the heavy character of the offence, should it be discovered. But Bentham had other perplexities,—and among them, not the least, was the want of money,—so he sold off a second-hand chariot which he had sent from England to his brother, and his brother never used; and engaged the Swede, who, though he was undoubtedly a great linguist, was a still greater liar: however, he was most anxious to escape from barbarous Russia to civilized Europe, and to avail himself of the occasion Bentham’s departure offered him. At Crichoff money was not among obtainable things; and the resources which Bentham had spent in coming, and which had been provided principally by his uncle, were not to be replenished.

The Swedish sergeant wore, of course, a serjeant’s uniform; but when Bentham had to ask a passport for his Liudi, (or follower,) the business was to destroy Edition: current; Page: [180] the serjeant’s identity; and a coat was found with a broad edging—finery which both the Benthams had worn in turn. They started from Zadobras in a kibitka made for the journey. It had a mattress, covered with leather prepared at the tannery, but very offensive from the strong odour of the birchwood bark. However, in this lay Bentham, covered with a couple of Turkish shawls, which he had bought at Constantinople. The tanner-in-chief was an English Quaker; and his wife (a Quakeress) kindly prepared the only food the travellers had for their journey, except when they reached a town. Part of the supply Bentham found so delicious, that, instead of consuming it, he brought it as presents to his friends in England. It was a compound of honey and apples, of the consistency of a rusk,—the apples of which it was made having been brought from Kiev. The apprehension of being stopped was constantly haunting Bentham; and the journey was performed with perpetual trepidation, until they passed the Polish frontier; and divers discoveries of the mendacious propensities of his Swedish companion did not add to his comforts. Bentham was both cheated and robbed in his progress.

Bentham stopped at Warsaw, intending to pay his respects to King Stanislaus, whose correspondent he had been, through Lind, the king’s agent in England. But bashfulness and gloominess interfered. He stayed a week at Warsaw, and saw nobody. He called on the British minister, and not finding him at home, did not repeat his visit.

At Berlin he was in somewhat better spirits, and made the acquaintance of Dr Brown, the king’s physician. Brown was an idolater of Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon, whom Bentham hated as much as it was possible to his benevolent nature to hate—considering him the mightiest and most mischievous of all the opponents of law reform.

Chemistry, as the reader will have had occasion to notice, was a favourite study of Bentham’s. In 1783 he had translated “Bergman’s Essay on the Usefulness of Chemistry;”* and he mustered up courage enough to call on Klaproth, who was then living there in very handsome style. So little was Bentham’s name or writings known at this time, that he was introduced as Mr Bentham, a gentleman of considerable fortune. He had something to recommend him to Klaproth, for he brought a specimen of asbestos of remarkable beauty—of a green colour, divided into filaments of inconceivable fineness.

“At the Hague,” he says, “I dined with Sir James Harris, where I went with the son of the lickspittle to the Duke of New castle, who was the dirtiest fellow I ever heard of, and when at school we used to shut the doors against him. Sir James wanted to introduce me to the Stadtholder; but he was a foolish fellow, and I should only have stared at one who would only have stared at me.

“At Hanover,” said Bentham, “I was amused by the picture of the Duke of York (apt illustration of royalty!) pulling his fool’s nose before the whole Court.”

The want of acquaintances, which in early life was felt by Bentham as so great a grievance, was gradually supplied. Desirous of instruction, few had been the means of instruction which were allowed to him beyond those which school and university afforded; and the narrow and monkish system of education which then prevailed, was not very favourable to the development of the mental faculties. Bentham too had strong affections, to which he would willingly have found a response from the breasts of others,—but in his youth this happiness was denied him. Mr Foster, who has been before mentioned, was an instrument through whom Bentham obtained some knowledge of the world.

Mr Foster’s friendship, his brother’s long residence in White Russia and connexion with the court, and his own travels in Russia, had naturally established connexions in that country. He Edition: current; Page: [181] used to speak of two brothers of the name of Tatischev, whose fraternal fondness for each other created in his mind a strong affection for both. There was also a Ronzov, (a natural son of Woronzov, for in Russia illegitimate children lose the first syllable of their father’s name.) The Tatischevs were idolators of the Empress Catherine—to them a sort of a goddess divine, and they so landed her esprit de legislation, that Bentham longed to be engaged in her service, and would willingly have gone “to codify” on the banks of the Neva.

In a letter to Colonel Bentham, dated 2d May, 1788, he gives the following particulars of his homeward journey from Russia, and of his way of life after his return:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
2d May, 1788
Samuel Bentham
Bentham, Samuel

Bentham to his Brother.

“How to begin a letter, even to you, after so long an interruption of intercourse? Well, the pen, by a prodigious effort, has been set a-going, and now let it run on.

“At Berlin, I arrived 16-27th December, lounged there rather more than a fortnight, waiting, the greatest part of the time, for the cursed Opera, put off from day to day by the indisposition of a cursed actress, the woman (Foote, I think her name is) you have heard at Petersburg. Dr Brown is doing there very well. A great part of my time was, of course, passed with him. I saw Mrs Brown a few days ago here on her way to Berlin, with their five children, by Hamburg; for which place, I imagine, they are already sailed. He had written to Benson a letter, full of indignation, for his rascality to you; and I found Mrs B. in the same sentiments. I was about a fortnight crawling post from Berlin to Holland through vile roads. I passed through Potsdam, Magdeburg, Brunswick, and Osnaburg. The finest situation by far, in so much of Germany as I travelled through, is Bentheim. I don’t know whether I ever showed you an old MS. I have, which pretends we are descended from the Counts of that country. I did not expect to have found the pretension confirmed by the identity of the arms. Of three or four coats which I observed in stone, on one side of the romantic castle, which is the family residence pertaining to the several counties which, it seems, centre in that family, one is composed of the thingumbobs called Cinq-foils, which you will find in your seal. The county is likely to be extinct, it seems, for want of heirs, and the Elector of Hanover has a large mortage upon it. When the count dies, you may give my compliments to the empress, and desire she would lend us a body of troops to assert our claim. I lounged about ten days in Holland, seeing Sir James, and as much as could well be seen of the Dutch towns in that time. I reached London a few days before my birth-day; that is to say, (for you remember neither day, month, nor time of the year,) February 4-15. Q. S. P., of course, in great joy, of which he has given you, no doubt, abundant particulars. His memory and bodily strength begin to fail him; but, in other respects, he is in mighty good health, humour, and spirits. His circumstances are, upon the whole, rather improved, I think, than impaired, since I left England, and his disposition towards us is certainly rather grown better, if there were room for it, than worse. Farr and I are upon as sociable terms as it is in his nature to be with anybody, besides his mother and brothers. He has just migrated for the summer to his country-house. During the winter, I received frequent particular in vitations, though no general one. The principal cement is his wife, who plays prettily on the harpsichord, and is a mighty good creature, but timid to an excess. His behaviour is as respectful as ever. Charles I see but little of; his business increases considerably, and he is said to deserve it. Lord Lansdowne vastly civil. Upon occasion of Hastings’ trial, has put himself to school to me about evidence. He has accused himself repeatedly, and sans ménagement, for not offering me a place when he was in; and commissioned me to consider what would suit me in case of his coming in again. He supposes I should prefer a place at one of the Boards, to engaging in what is called politics, viz., coming into parliament with a precarious place. Edition: current; Page: [182] Whether he meant all this, or whether the use of it was to make me contribute to make people think he was to come in, I cannot take upon me to say. Perhaps partly one and partly t’other; but my notion is, he never will come in, in any efficient place. As for me, my real thoughts being upon that, as upon all other occasions, as you know, the easiest for me to give, I gave them him, viz., that I was not fit for a place, and that if I were, I should not wish to have one—that I hoped always to be happy enough to preserve his good opinion, and so forth, and that was enough for me. P.C. [Colquhoun] is as zealous a friend of yours as ever. He has been showing Vermicular to George Melville, who is a very busy amateur in everything that is in any way connected with mechanics; and to Davis’s friend. Lord H. Melville, he says, is much pleased with it. On the cover, as returned by P. C., I see ‘Lord H. to return particular thanks for the inspection of the enclosed papers.’ Whether that betokens approbation, I cannot pretend to say, P. C. not having seen his lordship when I saw him last. He is certainly of my way of thinking about usury. He brought Owen Cambridge to me t’other day to acknowledge himself a proselyte; but you don’t know who Owen Cambridge* is, and it would take up too much room to tell you. I shall endeavour to send you a copy of the Defence with this, as likewise another to Pleschegoff. I choose rather to take for granted he has sent you a letter I wrote him about a month ago, in which I said something of the success of the book, than to be at the pains to write it over again. Since then, it has had some little sale in Ireland, and I hope may do something towards preventing the success of the measure of reducing the rate of interest there—a measure which, after having been thrown out of the House of Lords there this winter, is to be brought on by administration the next it is said.

“Since my arrival in England, I have, of course, been very idle, doing very little to Code, and of course feeling like a fish out of water the whole time; but by God’s assistance, I have found out a country-lodging which promises to suit me very well, and I shall migrate to it before the week is out. It is at a farm-house at Hendon, eight miles only from town—the man rents £150 a-year, and £50 of it of Mr Brown; and his wife has the reputation of a good cook, having lived in that capacity with a good family. It is decently furnished with tapestry hangings, large carpets, and immense tables. The great inconvenience is, terrible low ceilings. I shall live on the Zadobras plan, saving and excepting fleas, gnats, mice, dirt, and interruptions. It is a very pleasant country, and being all in grass, the delights of hay-making will continue five or six weeks. The Q. S. P.’s took me down, when I saw and agreed for it, and they spontaneously promised that I should not meet with any disturbance from them so long as I staid there. I have now upon trial at my lodgings (for my chambers were let during my absence, and I am in no great hurry to get back to them) a superb harpsichord of Merlin’s, which I think to buy and send into the country. It has four strings to every note, viz., besides two unisons and the octave above and octave below, and a set of hammers to produce the effect of a pianoforte. The tone is a very sweet one, but the inconvenience is, that the complexity renders it proportionably liable to be out of order, and diminishes the loudness. It is an elegant piece of furniture, very beautifully inlaid. I can have it for sixty guineas. I shall buy it, and then immediately I shall regret that I did not buy instead of it, a simple grand pianforte; the tone of which would be louder, and is to be had for the same money. The harpsichord was made in 1781, and cost then a hundred or a hundred and ten guineas. I have got a present from Anderson of a good stock of orange marmalade, with a receipt for making it. I shall set up a marmalade fabrique when needful, and shall then be very happy to have the honour of your company at Hendon, at the old hour, after you have dined at Crichoff.

Edition: current; Page: [183]

“As soon as I have finished such parts of Code as cannot be published one without the other, I go to Paris to get it corrected, and advise about the printing of it.

“I met Randal t’other day in the street, who stopt me to inquire after you. Charles was telling me of his having met Shairp. I forget where,—S. made very particular inquiries after me, desired his compliments to me, and added, that if he had known before of my arrival, he would have waited on me.”

A letter of Lord Lansdowne, of 16th June, 1788, is a confession of that tædium vitæ which spares not the most elevated of our race:—

16th June, 1788
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.

Dear Mr Bentham,

I solemnly assure you, that it has been not only on my mind, but upon my heart, to find out this parson’s house at Hendon, and to pay my court to you, not to thank you for your magnificent present of not only a most magnificent, but very useful map in the present situation, because I know your nature makes you above accepting acknowledgments; but to tell you how much we wish to see you at Bowood. I am so tired of the whole human race, that we propose to bury ourselves for some time; but as happily all desires return after a certain abstinence, you will find me very happy to make peace with my fellow-creatures through you, and to begin my return to society in London, by profiting of yours for some time in the country. I need not say anything for the ladies. Though I am just now tired to death, and quite asleep, I must tell you the news of the day—which is, that Prussia, Sweden, and Denmark, have made an alliance against Russia; and are, at least Sweden, immediately proceeding to action. You know the consequences of all this better than I do. The accounts from France are wonderfully serious. Sanguine people imagine a civil war must ensue. I cannot myself imagine that any other consequence can be expected, than a more speedy assemblage of the States, and a better constitution of the Cour Pleniere, or IIabeas Corpus, restricted to particular descriptions and bodies. Lord Wycombe sets out to-morrow, and goes with me as far as Bowood. He sleeps only one night at Bowood, and sails in the packet on Sunday for Lisbon. This affects me, as you know, but things must go their natural course.

Lansdowne House,
Tuesday night, 12 o’Clock.

“P. S. You must not be surprised if my news turns out to have no foundation, for I have it from no authority. I will take care of your letter, and instructions about it, for Lord W.”

I extract what follows, from Bentham’s reminiscences of persons of celebrity with whom he came in contact at about this period:—

“Baron Massares* was an honest fellow, who resisted Lord Mansfield’s projects for establishing despotism in Canada. He occupied himself in mathematical calculations to pay the national debt, and a good deal about Canadian affairs. There was a sort of simplicity about him, which I once quizzed and then repented. I had not studied the Deontological principle as I have studied it since.

“In 1788, I belonged to a Club, where we had a frugal supper together, the guests consisting of Fordyce, John Hunter, Sir Joseph Banks, Solander, Lovell Edgeworth, Mill the architect, Ramsden the instrument-maker, Cummin the watchmaker,—and we talked over the news: there was nothing of form. It was rather uncomfortable for me, as I could add nothing to the interest of the Club. Fordyce, when he introduced me, communicated to nobody his opinion of me, which was high. He fancied he should see me Master of the Rolls. When my brother sent me a quantity of stuffed birds from Russia, Hunter fell in love with a huge box, and when he had performed some operation, he took the box as his fee. Mrs Ramsden was a clever woman, the sister of Dolland.”

Of the Fordyces, Bentham said on Edition: current; Page: [184] another occasion,—“I think George Fordyce had twenty uncles by the father’s side. The head of the family had some great place under Government. He was too grand a personage to look at Dr George Fordyce. It was an unfortunate time when I knew him first. His laboratory took fire, and he had nothing to exhibit with, but a small portable furnace, with a few vials and common things. He had acquired a certain celebrity. He was a member of a chess club with C. J. Fox. He had no conversation. What he said, he said in a paradoxical shape, with a silly expression. There was generally a good deal that was true, with a little bit that was false. He acquired about £10,000, got by books, lecturing, and practice. He left it between his two daughters. My brother married one of them.—(Who married the other daughter? said I)—Nobody! That’s a captious, interrupting question! His plan was, that the youngest should marry, and the eldest remain with him; but just the reverse took place. His wife was clever at all sorts of handiworks, botany, &c.: latterly she amused herself by making coverlets for beds. She made acres of them. He had one son, whose loss at the age of fourteen, made a deep impression on him. He was, on the whole, the coldest of the cold Scotch. He approved, he said, of every atom of the Introduction to Morals and Legislation. He had originality, and valued it in others. In my love of chemistry, it would have been a privilege for me, had Fordyce possessed a chemical apparatus. I should have been supremely happy to have known anybody who possessed one. My chamber was spacious. There was a grate, and over the grate a chimneypiece; and in one corner a closet apart to hold chemical things. I broke a hole through the wall, (it was not perceived,) and putin a pane of glass to light my closet.

“Among the members of the St Paul’s Churchyard club, to which I belonged, with Dr Johnson, was Tasso Hoole. He was one of Dr Johnson’s lickspittles. He had, I think, a place at the East India House; and got money by plays and translations, which he got people to subscribe for. He even asked me for subscriptions, though he lived in style—asked me who lived in beggary! He got me to subscribe; and Chamberlain Clark forced him to give back the money again. I went once to the rehearsal of one of his plays.

“I knew Lord St Helens through my brother,—he was ambassador at Petersburg. My chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, were opposite chambers occupied by Lord St Helens’ elder brother Fitzherbert, who had been member for Derbyshire, but had overspent himself, and was rather in bad plight. He married a lady of the name of Purvis, respecting which marriage there was a famous suit. Fitzherbert and I had been schoolfellows at Westminster, which he had remembered, but I had forgotten; but as I was a dwarfish phenomenon, this was not unnatural, for he was no phenomenon; and there was some inter-course between us. Lord St Helens was extremely intelligent. He frequently attended the Privy-council, and he showed me an account of the assassination of Paul of Russia.

“Fitzherbert had travelled with the Duke of Devonshire, and through him, I believe, he got his baronetcy. I was once asked to a formal dinner. There came in a Mr Stone, who had been secretary to the English ambassador in Paris. He sat down to the harpsichord, and played Marlbrook, the first time, I believe, it had been played in England. He was a son or nephew of Edmund Stone [the mathematician] whom we read of—for he was a personage. We had excellent punch, made of fine spirits which had come from his estate in Barbadoes. Lord St Helens was sent for by the king immediately after dinner, and left us. There was also a French refugee bishop.”

In 1788, I find the first notice of Dumont, to whom Romilly had sent some of Bentham’s writings. He was struck with their originality and their power; and said the author was worthy to serve the cause of liberty. The MSS. were in French, and Dumont offered to rewrite portions, and to superintend the publication of the whole. He calls himself the “unknown friend” (Ami inconnu.)

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He devoted a great part of what remained of his life, to translating the works, and giving legislative effect to the opinions of Bentham, in Switzerland, and, as far as he was able, in France, through Mirabeau his friend, and, in some sort, his pupil. It was through Lord Lansdowne the acquaintance was cemented; and I find the strongest re-commendation of Dumont’s aptitude in Lord L.’s letters. But of Mirabeau, Lord L. had a very mean opinion. He says of him—“As to Count Mirabeau,—I always looked upon our friend Romilly as a man of great honour and discretion; but I have been always astonished at his courage in risking a connexion with such a man. In short, I am not at all afraid of you, should you be engaged in a controversy with him; but it’s madness to hazard any communication with him.” Mirabeau seems, however, to have been very inattentive to Romilly’s correspondence; for Romilly says in a letter to Bentham, “He (Mirabeau) never writes to me, nor answers my letters.”

On one occasion, Dumont called on Talleyrand; and while a number of German princes, covered with orders and decorations, were kept waiting, he was admitted. “It might be supposed,” said Dumont, “we talked about matters of state. Not a word. We only talked over the stories of our youth, when we were in London together.” Dumont had then a disorder, under which he was pining away, and not expected to live. They frequently met when he visited Chauvet.

“Lord Sidmouth once stopped Dumont in the street, to thank him for his works. The English government gave him a pension of five hundred pounds a-year.”

In the latter part of Bentham’s life, Dumont and he were much alienated. Bentham felt offended by some remarks made by Dumont on the shabbiness of his dinners, (the observation was offensive, uncalled for, and groundless,) which he contrasted with those of Lansdowne House. In April 1827, Dumont called on Bentham, who would not see him. I took the message. “How he is changed!” said Dumont; “he won’t listen to a word from me.” Bentham refused to come down. He loudly called out, it was hard that Dumont’s intrusion should prevent his taking a walk in his own library, he said. “He does not understand a word of my meaning,” he repeated more than once.

Dumont first communicated extracts from Bentham’s writings to the “Courrier de Provence,” and writes to Bentham “that the papers were thought sound and useful, and had been well received.” “Continue your course,” he says, “and march courageously, for the goal is in view. The suffrages of the few who think, will repay you for the indifference of the many—the reputation of one book prepares the way for another.” In another letter Dumont says,—“In the name of your own honour, finish what you have begun, and be not diverted from your object. You are young enough for a kingdom of this world. Write and bridle my wandering opinions.”

Dumont, it is well known, furnished to Mirabeau the materials for some of his most splendid speeches; and these materials were mostly provided by Bentham.

“Dumont,” said Bentham “got intimate with Mirabeau, for whom he wrote many of his addresses to his comettans. He talked to me on various subjects, and I mentioned my papers on legislation. He expressed a desire to see them, and, having read them, asked me to allow him to use them, to which I consented. I gave him the Introduction, [to the Principles of Morals and Legislation,] which was written 1781, and published in 1789. It stuck for eight years, in consequence of the coldness of Lord Camden and Dunning; the former of whom said to Lord Lansdowne that he found a difficulty in understanding it, and therefore others would. Afterwards, however, something I wrote made a strong impression in my favour. Lord Lansdowne was intimately connected with Sir Eardley Wilmot, who had been Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas. During Warren Hastings’ trial, there was a curious question of evidence: it was referred to me, and there was a great notion raised by Edition: current; Page: [186] this communication of my sagacity on this particular matter.* My views were not favourable to Lord Lansdowne’s views; for on this occasion they bore against Hastings, and he took the side of Hastings because King George the Third had taken his side. Lord Lansdowne referred the paper to Sir Eardley Wilmot, who lauded it. I did not like Sir Eardley, on account of his conduct in a case of negro slavery, when he gave damages of only one shilling in favour of the negro, and wanted to reserve the point of law. I thought the case was one where so much injury had been inflicted, that the award of one shilling excited my indignation;—one shilling for a man torn away from his family, and perhaps ruined by the law process!”

The intimacy with Romilly just alluded to, which had commenced before Bentham left England, became more active on his return. He had been engoué with the “Fragment.” “George Wilson brought about our acquaintance. I knew him before I went abroad, and we dined together, in 1784, in Chancery Lane. Our acquaintance had not then ripened into an intimacy; but on my return in 1788, I met him one day at Lord Lansdowne’s, where I also met Dumont, who had been introduced there during my absence. Great was my surprise, and a most agreeable surprise it was, to meet Romilly at Lord Lansdowne’s table.

“Romilly’s father was a jeweller. He was of a refugee family, no better than a Huguenot. There was a preacher of the name, I think. He had a brother and a sister. The sister is the mother of Dr Roget. The brother failed in business. When I first knew Romilly, he was in Gray’s Inn. I remember calling on him, and seeing there another man’s puss, which excited my concupiscence. I was very amorous of the puss, for the puss was singularly virtuous, and as interesting to me as a two-legged creature. Our love for pusses—our mutual respect for animals—was a bond of union. For pusses and mouses we had both of us great kindness. George Wilson had a disorder which kept him two months to his couch. The mouses used to run up his back and eat the powder and pomatum from his hair. They used also to run up my knees when I went to see him. I remember they did so to Lord Glenbervie, who thought it odd.”

Speaking of Romilly on another occasion, he said, “He was a man of great modesty,—of few words,—of no conversation. Dumont used often to dine there, and after dinner they would sit together for half an hour without either uttering a word. He had a way of quashing conversation, by saying, for instance, ‘O, that man is such a fool!’ but he got violent on one topic, and so laid the foundation of his fame and fortune. He did not bear his faculties meekly, nor was he heard very patiently in the House of Commons. In the Court of Chancery great oppression is exercised by the seniors towards the juniors. Many attempts had been made to set the matter right; but Romilly adhered to the aristocrats. Romilly had the ear of the chancellor, and trusted to his influence over the chancellor, and so he got some of his little miniature reforms adopted. Had they been considerable, they would have been resisted with all Lord Eldon’s might.”

I have exhibited some of the early impressions of Bentham respecting Lord Lansdowne. His later opinions were these:—

“Lord Lansdowne had a way of talking in fits and starts. His mind seemed always in a state of agitation with the passion of ambition and the desire of splendour. He was never much at ease, for he always outran the constable, and involved himself monstrously in debt. He showed me his rent roll. There was an enormous sum which I did not understand: it was so much due to his creditors. He had had a most wretched education, and a foolish father and mother, of whose management of him he always talked with horror. When I once spoke to him of the family mausoleum, he refused to show it to me; for he said it was associated with such disgraceful recollections. His father gave all the property he could to a younger Edition: current; Page: [187] brother, Fitzmaurice, amounting to £10,000 a-year. The Pettys had been Barons of some place (whose name I forget) for four and twenty generations. They were among the first conquerors of Ireland. He did not, however, talk in the pride of ancestry. What endears his memory to me is, that, though ambitious of rising, he was desirous of rising by means of the people. He was really radically disposed; and he witnessed the French Revolution with sincere delight. He had quarrelled with the Whig aristocracy, who did not do him justice; so he had a horror of the clan, and looked towards them with great bitterness of feeling. That bitterness did not break out in words, though of him they spoke most bitterly. There was artifice in him, but also genuine good feelings. His head was not clear. He felt the want of clearness. He spoke in the house with grace and dignity, yet he uttered nothing but vague generalities. He took much pains to consult particular men. I remember going with him to Warwick castle for a week. There came a man from Birmingham,—a man of great eminence, whom he had sent for, to get all manner of details in relation to some branch of political economy. His name, I think, was Gabbett, and he was a manufacturer of oil of vitriol; and was, I believe, the grandfather of Lady Romilly, with whom Romilly became acquainted at Bowood, and carried on the courtship there. I heard her spoken slightingly of in the Bowood family, as if not strong in understanding; but I thought her understanding both strong and sound.”

An amusing epistle of Bentham to one of the ladies of Bowood has these passages:—

“My plan was, after having written what you have by this time received, to go to town to pay my respects to Lord W—, with my letter in my pocket, time enough for the post. The Fates decreed otherwise. I had scarce put the seal to it, when my seven tables, together with your old acquaintance the harpsichord, and the chairs that make up the society, set up a kind of a saraband; moving circularly round the centre of the room, but without changing their relative positions. They composed themselves, however, after a short dance, nor have they had any such vagaries since. I set out, notwithstanding, and reached London that evening, but not till the post was gone. This makes another day’s retardation of that important letter more than I thought for when I put the last hand to that immortal work. What was the object of this extraordinary, and by me never-before-experienced interposition, I submit to your omniscience. What momentary consequence may be the result of the retardation above-mentioned, remains yet to be revealed; in all other respects, the world, as far as I can see, goes on as if nothing at all had happened.

“Stung to the quick by your reproaches, I have ever since been hard at work upon Ovid, in hopes of fetching up my lost time, and picking up some little gleanings of that art which I am so much a stranger to; but it is so long since I learnt Latin, I can’t make head or tail of it, for want of Lord Henry to consult, who has it by this time at his fingers’ ends, having mastered the Tristibus when I had the honour of seeing him this time twelvemonth. Was it in the original that you read it, or what translation would you recommend? Could not you spare me your own copy for a little while, putting a few marks in it to guide me to the instructive passages; distinguishing for example by a dagger † the honest arts, and by a star *, or constellation of stars, those, if you can find any, that would enable me to succeed beyond expression? Then there might be some hopes for me; for, alas! I feel but too plainly it is impossible for me to make anything out without your assistance. Well, now, a thought has come across me that makes my heart sink, and almost sets the chairs and tables a-swimming again. This beautiful Italian that has scarce been out of my hands, and never out of my thoughts, since it arrived, is but a translation from the Runic! the hand, indeed, is angelic; but the apparition of a cloven foot behind the curtain haunts me so, you can’t imagine. Come, now, I will tell you Edition: current; Page: [188] what you should do: The honest and the handsome thing would be to steal half an hour when you know nobody knows anything of the matter, and tell me of the violences that were practised upon you to make you write this; and which part, if any, you adhere to, and which part you disavow. Tell me how long you were kept without food before you would comply, and whether it was in your own apartment in the Harem that you were confined, or in the one formerly occupied by my friend the Tiger.

“It is not a small matter, as I have occasion to know, that will subdue you: witness the persecution you underwent at Worcester, rather than read a page or two of a language which is the same to you as English. But be sure disavow, at any rate, the superlative about Mr R., and above all things if it was genuine. I called at his chamber-door as soon as I had sent to Lord W., in order to look him through and through, and measure the degree of his success by the firmness of his tread, the loftiness of his head, and the self-complacent security of his countenance. But his recollections and his prospects were too delicious to be exchanged for any sort of company; for though the porter told me he had just let him in, his door was shut, and all the poundings and kickings were in vain.”

Another letter to the same lady:—

“I am smitten with remorse at the thought of having, in one of them, brought back to your recollection something that passed at Worcester, not considering, simpleton as I was! that however delightful the recollection was to me, it might be otherwise with you. You would remember only the being teazed, while I thought only of the unwonted kindness with which you contrived to soften its refusal.

“I beg, with folded hands, you would not let another post go out without telling me, either that I have not offended, or that, if I have, I am forgiven.”

And another:—

“I beg pardon.—I had quite forgot the papers you had the goodness to send me; you never told me how they fell into your hands. Did you pick them up from the ground anywhere?—or did — bring them to you? She has a real kindness for me, poor creature, whenever she dares show it, notwithstanding some insinuations that have been circulated to the contrary in very shocking terms. Last Autumn, when Bowood was turned into a desert, and we were left almost alone together, we grew very fond of one another, and came to a thorough explanation,—nothing more conciliating than sympathy in sorrow. But do not let it go any further, for poor Timon’s sake.

“I am growing more and more savage every day. I begin to moralise, and talk about the sparks flying upwards. I have known dogs that, if you spoke to them and offered them a bit of the breast of a chicken, would turn and growl at you.—I am exactly in this case. It was but t’other day I spoke to puss, the only person I ever see, in so civil a manner; she went into hysterics. I feel my forefeet drawing nearer and nearer to the ground,—as soon as the grass is got up a little, I shall take to eating it. Does Lord H. propose to have a menagerie when he goes to —; I forget the name of his place,—I believe it’s Winterton? If so, and the dens are not all engaged, put in a word for me, pray, and bespeak one of them for me, to keep me in. He need not put himself to the expense of a chain, I have had one by me these ten years. I won’t bite you; indeed I won’t, though you should put in a hand, and give me a pat now and then through the grate. If anything could keep me upon my hind legs a little longer, it would be the sight of a few lines now and then, such as those that were written to the jewel-man; but put me in the inside of the letter, so that nobody may see them but myself.

“Hands which were made never to be kissed, were made to be snapped and snarled at. What is on the other side was delayed in the hourly expectation of being able to fulfil the promise to Miss F.; the interval has given room to a sort of half repentance. The sarcastic disdainfulness which drew forth so snarling a reply, was a just punishment Edition: current; Page: [189] for bragging. I have accordingly struck out, beyond all power of deciphering, the three or four most snarling lines. Thorough prudence would have condemned the whole to the flames. The half prudence, which is all I am as yet able to rise to, comforts itself under the consciousness of saying and doing foolish things, by the thought of the penetration displayed in the discovery of their folly. If ever the time should come, when one J. B. is able to write, or speak, or behave to a Miss F. or a Miss V., as he does to others, or as others do to them, it will be a sign that the reign of attractions and fascinations is at an end, and that F. and V. are become no more than A. B. or C. The task is rather a severe one; but as endeavours are not wanting, success may at last attend them.”

An answer to an invitation to Bowood, is thus given:—

“In humble imitation of the fair objects of my adoration, I will try for once whether I cannot write a letter, discreet, guarded, and short as theirs is: dropping in, too, on my part, the word gratitude, which in my dictionary has a little more, and a little warmer meaning. I hope to kiss the fair hands, and take the gouty ones between mine, with due regard to their respective sensibilities, on Saturday or Sunday.”

The following letter is an agreeable satire upon our libel law. It was sent to Lord Lansdowne, professing to be intended for the editor of The World—and a second letter, written to Lord Lansdowne, pretending that the epistle “To the Conductor” had glided by mistake into the former envelope:—

“To the Conductor—

“In page 3 of my letter, line 5, political Foxical, dele Foxical, I doubt it is hardly safe; or blank it thus, F—ical. You can insist upon it to the jury, that it is as likely to have been intended for farcical; and Lord Kenyon, as well as Lord Mansfield, leaves it to them to determine upon the innuendos. See what Eitherside says to it, the next time he comes to you for a dinner: give him a bottle extra, and he will be satisfied; considering the obligations he is under to you, he can’t insist upon a fee for a question like this, that lies in a nutshell. If he thinks this won’t do, turn to your Priestley’s chart, and take the name of any dead politician you find there: or suppose you put it Shelburnical, it will be more piquant; and there can be no danger in it, either in the way of action or indictment: there being no such person now in rerum naturâ; such at least is my opinion; but it is your concern, not mine, and I suppose you will be ruled by Eitherside.

“Don’t forget to send me back Miss F.’s as soon as you have done with it; but don’t print it till you hear further from me. As to the additions you propose, put as much Birmingham in it as you will, that’s your affair, provided you make me the same acknowledgment as for the sterling; let me tell you, sir, these are things that don’t turn up every day, and I expect to be considered accordingly. The more additions, the more violently I can protest in general terms against the genuineness of it: then you produce scraps of the original, in proper time, in the state they were found, to any gentleman that knows the hand, and will call at the office, &c. As to Lord L.’s, you may have a hamper full of them if you please: but they are a drug in comparison of this. I really cannot bate a farthing of twenty, which, with the additions, will make forty. The V.’s are yours upon the same terms: genuine original V.’s, you rogue, you. I allow these are not quite so political; but then, you know, there are so many of the same name, it will set all the world in an uproar. The first you will have upon your back is the Maid of Honour; then there will be such confusion and explanations:—take my word for it, the Munro and Stackpoole affair won’t last half the time. You know how low it is with you; nothing less than a stroke like this can save you. Mind that the advertisement about the loss of the trunk appears in proper time; if you bungle this, all the fat will be in the fire. In other respects, times and seasons I leave to you: perhaps, as you say, it may answer better to wait till the public are grown cool about the Munro business; but that’s no reason why I should wait Edition: current; Page: [190] for a compliment I am so well entitled to. When a gentleman risks his character to serve such dogs as you, he ought to be considered accordingly.

“P.S.—If you take the V.’s, as good a way as any of marking the persons, when the time comes, without committing yourself, would be to print Horace Walpole’s verses on them, out of the Annual Register, for the next paragraph.”

Some of Bentham’s correspondence of this period with France, throwslight upon the passions which so soon broke out in such ungoverned fury. One letter from Paris, of the 12th November, 1788, says:—“Our great men are exasperating the nation by language which cannot but make them unpopular. One Grand Seigneur,—and what is worse, one of the notables,—said the troops did not fire on the people, but only on the populace,—a distinction with which people and populace are sufficiently exasperated. Our debates are carried on as barbarously as in the time of Charlemagne,—our national character seems opposed to sedate deliberation. We have little moderation in our expressions, and less logic in our reasonings. We are too impetuous and too vain. Every one seeks to display his talent (esprit,)—nobody seems to think about enforcing conviction. As if we had not enough to do with a few great and grave matters, only think of Necker’s submitting to the Assembly from fifty to eighty questions, any one of which would require an age of time, and a legislature of Solons to solve,—and he says, ‘Answer them all in a few weeks.’ You are celebrating the centenary of your public liberties. Noblest of Te Deums! Would we had such to celebrate,—but we dare not even to announce the celebration of yours! The censors struck out the notice from the Mercure. There seems no bound to our wanderings. It is indeed but the French history of the past. Brittany is amusing herself with a riot,—the nobility and the tiers état with mutual recriminations of abuse. The court is appealed to for troops to enable one province to come to blows with another. Béarn is loudly clamouring for separation. Paris is full of pamphlets and pamphleteers, who and which only entangle more the too much entangled question. Some demand the pure democracy of Appenzell,—others a tyrant king and a free people. Everything tends to detach and to alienate,—nothing to unite. M. Delacretelle announces that, ‘France is about to give the noblest lessons to other nations.’ So be it,—but let me shroud myself in silence.”

Bentham was originally introduced to Brissot by Dr Swediaur.

“Brissot,” he said, “was a little weak man, ignorant of the world. He would establish a Lyceum, and that Lyceum consisted of M. Brissot, Madame Brissot, and your humble servant. He married, having nothing to maintain a wife with. She was a pretty Frenchwoman. His influence was due to a great fluency in writing. He kept up a daily newspaper himself. It was a mighty small thing, but he could be depended on; and he became the organ of a party that could depend upon him, and depend upon nobody else. He really erected a public-opinion tribunal of his own which raised him to be the head of his party. His conversation was not remarkable. Poor fellow! I had occasion to mortify him more than once, by opposing his plans. He brought me a literary project, in which one Mirza, a Persian gentleman, was to shine. I did not know it was his, and laughed at it—but he took it in good part. Once I was sitting in a chair at one end of the room, and I said to him, ‘Ayez la bonté de—’ He said, ‘You are not a Frenchman, and may be forgiven; but a Frenchman would have said, ‘Voulez vous avoir la bonté’—but withal he was a good-natured, gentle creature. We used to talk of terms of locution. I suggested to say the word champ for field of thought and action, but he would not listen to it—it was not Français.

Brissot was guillotined in 1793. He was undoubtedly one of the most disinterested of men: distinguished among a generous and enthusiastic band, who were as pure as they were poor, and who, possessing all the resources of a state, turned none of them aside for any Edition: current; Page: [191] sinister or selfish purpose. Their devotion to the cause of liberty was as impassioned as their affection for one another. Who can forget the trait of the young republican, Girey Duprey—who, knowing that to confess his connexions with Brissot, would bring with it the punishment of death, boldly declared before his judges, that he honoured the character of his martyred friend, and shared his opinions; and added, “He lived like Aristides—and died like Sydney!” It was of Brissot that Madame Roland said that, “Under despotism he advocated freedom—amidst tyranny he fought for humanity. The best of mortals, an excellent husband, a tender father, a faithful friend, a virtuous citizen, gentle and easy, confiding even to imprudence; gay, frank, ingenuous as a child of fifteen years; fit companion for the wise, fit dupe for the wicked.” This, however, is a far more flattering character than is drawn of him by Dumont, who knew him well, and who asserts that though neither the thirst for riches, the struggle for office, or the love of pleasure, had power to corrupt him—he was under the degrading influence of personal vanity and insincerity; and that to the claim of party, he sacrificed the claims of integrity.

I have extracted from Brissot’s letters to Bentham, a few passages which appear to me the only ones worth preserving. Most of the correspondence refers merely to the interchange of mutual services, such as the sending of books, newspapers, &c. They are here brought together, instead of being dispersed in conformity with the chronological arrangement of the work, as they rather illustrate the feeling which these two great men entertained towards each other, than bear on any particular events in Bentham’s life.

January 25th, 1783
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Brissot to Bentham.

(Translated Extracts.)

“Will you forgive me for breaking my word?—I was tied and chained by duty,—and sorely regretted that I could not fly to the rendezvous. I felt more than ever the disadvantage of living so far away from you, and from all the literary helps that London would furnish—and hence I must change my abode within a month. But I must finish a work I have undertaken, and it will be finished in a week. Accept my excuses, and make them acceptable to Dr Swediaur, whom I am ashamed and desolé not to have seen. The weather is frightful. It is impossible to get out.”

July 8, 1783.

“I will not conceal from you the motive of my journey to Dover. I am married; but to this hour, and for many reasons, my marriage is a secret. Mon amis comes to meet me in London. I was to have met her at Dover; but other reasons keep me here. I expect her daily—momently.”

“14th July, 1783.

“There is, my dear colleague, in your letter, a tone of dryness and drollery which grieves me. I have been separated from mon amie for fifteen months, and you do not forgive me for setting aside, for a few moments, books and commissions. You have, then, never loved me,—me whose sensibilities mingle with legislation itself. I am less severe.”

Boulogne, 12th November, 1784.

“For the services done to you, I shall, from time to time, have to ask others from you. In consequence of the new arrangements which I have been obliged to make with the government, I shall only be able to pass three or four months of every year in London. I am, therefore, obliged to abandon my London house. I shall tell you all this when I have the pleasure of seeing you. I thank you, beforehand, for all the interest you have shown towards me, and my misfortunes. Answer me here.”

Project for the Translation into French of the best English Books on Constitutions and Legislation; and for the Translation of that of Mr Howard on Prisons.

“Some individuals, either opulent or instructed, but all desirous of promoting Edition: current; Page: [192] public instruction, are about to associate for the translation, printing, and circulation of the best books on Constitutions and Legislation. Some will give their labour, others their money. Mr Howard’s book on Prisons will be the first. Any individual undertaking it alone, and paying the expenses, would undoubtedly be a loser. The reasons why good books are not translated in France is, that a Romance or a Journey has more attraction, and is more profitable. Two individuals, tolerably rich, are willing to subscribe a certain sum. Will Mr Howard himself contribute, if their names, and the name of the translator, are communicated to him? I should have written to him; but from your intimacy, I hope you will propose the plan to him, especially for his own work.”

Endorsed, “Copied and sent to J. Howard, Friday, November 26, 1784.”

Boulogne, 30th November, 1784.

“Your regrets on my future absence have much touched me. They prove your friendship. Mine is not less than yours; and sorry I am not to have better profited by your knowledge, during my stay in London. Next year I shall repay myself, for I shall spend three or four months in London, and see you often. If what you say is true when you quote Scripture, I may flatter myself to be much loved, for I have been cruelly persecuted. I read a part of your letter to my wife, who was enchanted with it, and who entreats to be recalled to your regards. Our child does well. These are my two consolations; for I have had many sorrows. Adieu, my friend—continue your friendship to me—write to me—employ me.—I am—I shall always be—entirely yours.”

Brissot’s opinion of Bentham is thus given:—*

“There are two men whom I would except from the proscription pronounced by Magellan against the English—these are Jeremy Bentham and David Williams. Reader! has your imagination ever attempted to trace the portraits of those rare beings, whom Heaven sometimes sends down upon earth as a consolation for woes, who, in the form of imperfect man, possess a heavenly spirit. Have you ever pictured to yourself, for instance, Howard or Benezet, whose traits were, candour in their countenances, mildness in their expression, unruffled brows, calmness in speech, quiet in their motions—impassibility and sensibility united,—all these belong also to my friend, Bentham. He one day gave me a description of himself whilst describing Howard. Howard had devoted himself to the reform of prisons; Bentham to that of the laws which peopled these prisons. Howard only thought of prisons, and occupied himself about them alone: for that he renounced all pleasures, and all other sights. Bentham followed this noble example; yet there was one blessing which, in Howard, soothed the agonizing feelings of his soul, caused by the horrors of dungeons, which Bentham did not enjoy—he was married; but this circumstance ought only to raise in our estimation the sacrifices made by this Angel of Peace. Howard tenderly loved his family, and, when on the point of quitting it for any length of time, in order to familiarize himself with the loss, he separated himself from it a fortnight beforehand, a week of which he spent in solitude, when, just before his departure, he returned home to enjoy some hours with his family.

“Bentham only knew me through an act of injustice on my part. In my Theory of Criminal Law, I made light of a very profound essay he had written on the ‘Punishment of Hard Labour in Houses of Correction:’ having learnt my address, he came to give me his name, and state the grounds of his opinions. His calmness and coolness altogether confounded me: how little I seemed even in my own eyes! He promised me his friendship and counsels, which I had requested. I often went to see him in his obscure retreat in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Here I must state, that those persons who are destined for the English Bar, Edition: current; Page: [193] take chambers in those parts of London, which are specially reserved for lawyers.

“Bentham had applied himself to the study of this profession, not for the sake of the profit or honours, but that he might be made thoroughly acquainted with the defects of English jurisprudence, and penetrate that labyrinth which is inaccessible to those who have not made it a particular study. He wished to reveal its vices and defects, which the legal men of that country shrouded in the greatest mystery, that they might live on these abuses, and the ignorance of the people. After having penetrated the depths of this abyss, before proposing any methods of reform, he wished to study the criminal jurisprudence of all the other European nations; and, however immense the undertaking might be, it could not impede the progress of a man whom love for the public welfare had excited.

“These Codes, for the most part, were only to be found in the languages of the nations to whom they applied. Bentham, therefore, successively acquired the knowledge of all those languages. He spoke French thoroughly, knew Italian, Spanish, and German; and I saw him study Swedish and Russian.

“As soon as he had waded through the rubbish of these Gothic laws, and collected his materials, he attempted to form a systematic plan of criminal law, founded entirely on reason, and the nature of men and things. It was to this great work, that, for ten years of his life, each day was devoted. He was as regular in his habits as Kirwan: as soon as he had risen in the morning, he took a long walk of two or three hours, when he returned to his solitary breakfast; he then applied himself to his favourite work until four in the afternoon, at which hour he always went to dine with his father. Although his father was rich, Bentham lived in a very economical manner, in order that he might have greater means of satisfying his ruling passion—love of books. I cannot but regret that the result of so much labour has not yet been made public; his journey, and lengthened residence in Russia, may perhaps be the causes of this delay. Nevertheless, all enlightened men must have duly appreciated the talents and sentiments of this benefactor of his race by his ‘Panopticon;’ a work which ought to immortalize his name, and which will do so, whenever humanity, fixing its attention on the state of prisons, shall bring into request the only work in which is to be found the secret of reforming men’s dispositions, without the use of pains and tortures, and without abusing them.

“Bentham looked with pleasure on our revolution: he watched its progress, and, wishing himself to participate in it, he more than once took up his pen, with the view of directing our steps.

“All must remember his excellent work on the ‘Organization of Courts of Justice,’ which he addressed to the Constituent Assembly, of which the Marquis of Lansdowne sent one hundred copies in his name. He was barely thanked for it; and when Larochefoucault Liancourt moved that it should be translated, Sieyes (who despotically ruled the Committees of Constitution and Jurisprudence, and who did not share in Bentham’s views, perhaps because he was not the originator of them) was the cause of the motion being lost. Bentham, not at all discouraged, wrote another essay, as clever as it was profound, on the easiest way of learning, without tumult or insurrection, the public opinions. This pamphlet is almost unknown; and no one has profited either by his views or the experience which he had gained from the practice of the House of Commons. Nevertheless, near the close of the session, on the motion of the Extraordinary Commission, of which I was president, the Legislative Assembly gave some mark of its esteem for him, by conferring on him the title of French Citizen. The Convention has since passed another decree as honourable to Bentham as the preceding one: it was on the occasion of his sending his ‘Panopticon.’

“But it was not by rewards such as these that this benefactor of his race was most exquisitely pleased; it was by acting upon his ideas, which it must have Edition: current; Page: [194] been his greatest sorrew to have seen buried in oblivion.”*

Brissot estimated his own “Traité de la Verité” very highly. It was, according to his judgment of it, his master work. He fancied that in it (see his criticism on it, Mém. vol. i. p. 326-29) he had “descended to the foundation of all the sciences,—tested their solidity,—established their relations,—tried them in the crucible of truth.” It is a book which he avows “must make those who read it better men.” “It had created happiness for himself, as it would for others. It had sensibility as well as reason to recommend it.” “It was written under the inspiration of love,—while full of the resolutions of virtue—full of the Divinity, whose kindness I recognised: while under the influence of these varied feelings, I composed my work.”

To an ambition so flattering and far-stretching, the volume on Truth most assuredly does not respond.

Bentham’s “Introduction to the Penal Code” was at this time communicated to George Wilson. He speaks of it (Nov. 30) with unwonted enthusiasm:—

George Wilson
Wilson, George
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

George Wilson to Bentham.

My Dear Bentham,

It has been for many years a subject of great regret to me that you have been spending your time upon subjects on which many people are able to write sufficiently well, while there are so many other subjects of great importance, to which nobody else, that I know of, is at all competent.

“I think all our quarrels, and the constant and intemperate opposition which I have given to your late attempts at publication, are owing to this sole cause. I am led to these reflections by having accidently looked this morning into your Introduction to your Penal Code. It grieves me to think that so much excellent matter should be either lost or forestalled—you are not likely at present to complete that Code; but is it impossible to publish the Introduction by itself? It is not unusual to publish part of a book; and why not this part, which, though called an Introduction, contains a system of morals and general jurisprudence infinitely superior to any extant? I am convinced it would raise your reputation more than anything you have yet published; and that reputation, besides being a gratification in itself, will add greatly to the weight of whatever you may write hereafter on temporary subjects. It can be done without expense, or rather, it is the only way to recover an expense already incurred. I will therefore propose to you three things—1st. To finish the Introduction; 2d. To finish the chapter on the Division of Offences, which in my copy ends at 9—12; 3d. To publish the fifteen chapters ending with [Properties] which contain 200 pages, and would make a reasonable volume. The last proposal would give you no other trouble than writing an advertisement to account for the appearance of part of a work. You may say that other pursuits have prevented, and are likely for some time to prevent your completing it, and therefore you publish this part which is sufficiently detached, and was printed off some years ago.

“I think the best way will be to publish whatever is finished, but not to begin to write anything new; that you can do afterwards if the subject and the success please you. I hinted at the danger of your being forestalled,—by which I do Edition: current; Page: [195] not only mean that other people, by the progress of reason, may make the same discoveries,—you know there are stray copies of your Introduction abroad, particularly that you gave to Lord Ashburton; others, which are now in safe hands, may, by death, get into those which are not safe. I have often been tempted to think that Paley had either seen your Introduction, or conversed with somebody that was intimate with you. There are many things in his book so like you, and so out of the common road, that they cannot be the production of the same person who wrote other things in the same book which are really puerile.*

“Did not you send to Dunning more than I have, and also the titles of the remaining chapters?—if so, publish to the end of the last complete chapter already printed, and add those titles, if you have a copy of them; this will avoid the unpleasant task of requiring to write on a subject which is not at present interesting to you, and which, if you were to begin it, might lead you further than I wish at present. I have really this matter very much at heart, and shall be much mortified if you don’t consent.”

Romilly writes on 3d December—

3d Dec. 1788
Gray’s Inn
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Romilly to Bentham.

“I have sent the ‘Observations,’ &c., to Mr Dumont with your last letter, and a request that he would return them to me as soon as he conveniently can. When I get them, am I immediately to send them by the post, or are they to be returned to you for your approbation of his proposed alterations? With respect to immutable, permit me to say, I think you triumph without much cause. I ventured to assert that there was no such word in the French language; upon which you observed, that then there ought to be—to which I readily agreed. The arguments you use are very conclusive, and prove the latter of those two propositions; but by no means go to prove the first; and, indeed, a very short transcript from the Dictionary of the Academy, which you hold in so much contempt, from Richelet, Chamband, or even Boyer, would have proved more as to the fact (which alone was in dispute) than the most ingenious arguments. I believe the truth is, that ‘immuable’ is used by the French for immutable, and that immobile means both immoveable and motionless, and that there is no such substantive in the French language as immuabilité, but that immuable is the adjective, or, as you call it, the concrete idea, and immuabilité, the substantive or abstract idea; but I have no good dictionary to refer to, and very possibly am wrong. If I am right, I confess it is an absurdity in the language, which the French will have obligations to you if you correct.—Yours, very faithfully,

Saml. Romilly.

The following extracts from letters from Lord Lansdowne have considerable interest:—

3d January, 1789
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.

Dear Mr Bentham,

As long as you honour me with your friendship, you may treat the house to which I belong with every freedom you think proper. It is a fruitful subject, and I don’t think it is in the power of your ingenuity to hit amiss. I am very glad to hear that you intend taking up the cause of the people in France; nothing can contribute so much to general humanity and civilisation as for the individuals of one country to be interested for the prosperity of another. I have long thought that the people have but one cause throughout the world—it is sovereigns who have different interests: besides, we owe it particularly to the French; for I take it, that the Constitutions of both countries were very much the same till Cardinal Richelieu took the lead in one, and the Stuarts, happily for us, in the other. Was not there a time when the clergy made a third estate with us? Edition: current; Page: [196] I have been surprised that learned men in France have not made a point of examining the progress of this and other questions in our history, more correctly than they have done.”

20th January, 1789
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
Dear Mr Bentham,

First, as to your attack upon my hand-writing, it is not my fault. I was very ill educated, and never learned to write. The people I have envied most through life have been those who can write well, and yet write so carelessly, that Lady Lansdowne, Miss V—, and myself are sometimes half-an-hour making out a particular word; but I can’t express how much I am obliged to you, when, though you compare the number of words to a bill in Chancery, you don’t compare the stuff also to one, but, upon the contrary, are so good as to say, that two sheets of mine have half the stuff of one of yours. You have a proof that your ideas are never lost upon me, by producing them at ten years’ distance. If I did not quote you to yourself, you may be sure that I shall be proud to quote so great an authority to everybody else, as I hope to have your sanction upon the other subjects you mention—such as colony-holding, the invasion of Holland, the Swedish Declaration, and the Turkish war, of which I am afraid it is too true that we have the merit of contriving. No wonder that the whole island, from the Land’s End to the Orkneys, should join in lamenting the event which has checked such a progress of glory. I was at a loss where I took up my ideas in opposition to the general sense: but I now find the fountain, and am confirmed in them in consequence. But I cannot help thinking that you do not give a very good reason for turning Republican, when you say that the two Republican parties, the Foxites and the Pittites, join only in what is unjust, unprincipled, and impolitic. Seeing this happen, as I have done upon other questions, viz. the East Indies, where they only joined in covering every villain, and prosecuting the only man of merit from thence, has a very different effect upon me, and exhibits a problem regarding Government, which requires all your acuteness to investigate. In the meantime, if I should venture at any time to attempt to stem this torrent, or to expose these doctrines, will you take the writing part upon you, if I take the speaking part?—that is, though I don’t speak better than I can write, I look upon it as the service of most danger, as times go, and therefore it is fit that the talents least worth should be applied to it.

“As to Monsieur Du Chatelet, I apprehend it must be the same who was ambassador here, in which case you had better avoid the communication you mention; for he is a narrow, peevish, vain man, and not likely to take it properly. What you mention of him is the natural inconsequence of a French character.

“I take it, what lies at the bottom of all our great proceedings, is, that we conceive France to be at our mercy: which is as weak as it is cowardly; for what nation did ever become less capable of military exertion instead of more, after great civil commotions? If we don’t go to Lisbon, I hope you will come and hide yourself here, as soon as you have published, instead of that miserable cottage, which the ladies say cannot be to answer any purpose but that of some low intrigue. I am again at my two sheets, but if they contain as much as half of one of your pages, I shall be quite content.”

Lord Lansdowne wrote several times to Bentham, urging him to accompany him to Lisbon, whither he and his family were bound in search of better health for Lady L.: but as her health improved by the visit to Devonshire, the voyage to Portugal was abandoned. Bentham thus writes to Lord Wycombe:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
March 1, 1789

Bentham to Lord Wycomber.

My dear Lord,

I owe you many thanks for a pleasure that was not originally designed for me,—your father, partly out of kindness, and partly, as I tell him, out of vanity, having taken me into the Cabinet circle, through which certain letters have gone the round of travelling. I have been praying double Edition: current; Page: [197] tides for Lady L.’s recovery, not on her account, nor your father’s, as you may imagine, but that my constancy and wisdom may not be put to the trial by a repetition of the summons to form one of her escort to Lisbon. At your age I should have jumped mast high at the thought of such a jaunt: but now, what would France and the rest of the world do, if I were to desert them to go and dangle after other men’s petticoats at Lisbon?

“The finding your whereabouts has put into my head a project for appointing his son my ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Madame Necker; and accordingly I do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you, &c. &c., my said ambassador at the court of the said lady, for the purpose of presenting at the toilette of the said lady—not a pincushion, but a project of a pincushion of my invention for sticking motions on, for the entertainment of the Etats Generaux. You are to know that, for these five or six months past, my head and my heart have been altogether in France; our own affairs, I think no more of them than of those of the Georgium Sidus. I am working as hard as possible on a treatise on the conduct and discipline of political assemblies, under the short title of Political Tactics; dissecting the practice of our two Houses, for the instruction of their newly created brethren; having taken out a license from your father for cutting and hacking without mercy. I am labouring might and main to get out some of the most essential parts at least time enough for their meeting. It was in the course of that inquiry that I hit upon the project above-mentioned, too simple and obvious to claim any merit on the score of ingenuity. I accordingly take the liberty of troubling you with some papers, designed to form, with little innovation, so many chapters in the above work, though they would not follow one another in immediate succession there, as here. Which of them shall be presented, and in what order, I beg leave to commit to your discretion.

“I attempted t’other day to let off two squibs for the benefit of the Tiers, but they both hung fire,—one from causes that I am apprized of, what became of the other I don’t know. They were in my own dog-French; one of them was afterwards Frenchified by a reverend gentleman at L—House, without being applied to by the landlord, or knowing who was the author, till after he had given his opinion,—which, in respect of the language, was none of the most encouraging. Poor dear Tiers! I hope they will now do pretty well without me. Considering the nurse they have got, I hope my younger brethren of the—will be able to stand on their legs without me.

“I have got as much soi-disant French as would reach up to my chin, and now I am to be condemned to translate it into English. This is what your father, who has never seen any of it, modestly advises me; and so I believe I shall, notwithstanding, as I have a suspicion he is in the right. Poor man! he has been wearing the ends of his fingers off in writing to me and for me. He puts me into the hands of a quidam, who is to get my English, somehow or other, into French. I send him by this packet my Usury, and by the next, or next but one, a great quarto volume of metaphysics, upon Morals and Legislation, which had been lying imperfect at the printer’s ever since I have had the honour of knowing you, and before, till t’other day that I took it out, and put a patch at the end, and another at the beginning. You may see the outside at the Abbé’s; but I sha’n’t send you a copy, because the edition was very small, and half of that devoured by the rats; and God knows when I shall have time to make the alterations necessary for a second edition, if called for; and I have none to spare for naughty boys who run up and down the country playing, and don’t read.”

In a letter of Lord Lansdowne, dated 29th March, 1789, he says,—

29th March, 1789

“The King of Sweden is going on at a rare rate, without making the least account of your indignation or mine. I don’t believe he knows it. I wish you would make him sensible of it, for which there is but one way—that of appealing to the public opinion of Europe. If the Edition: current; Page: [198] people of different countries could once understand each other, and be brought to adopt half-a-dozen general principles, their servants would not venture to play such tricks. I hope, when you have given France a legislature, you will suffer nothing to interfere, and prevent your pen from enforcing these principles.”

Among his adventures of this period, he mentioned that he was once robbed on Turnham-green. “A man stopped the carriage, and dashed his pistol through the window of the carriage, and, with a volley of oaths and imprecations, demanded our money. One lady fainted, and saved her money. We were playing at cards. There were some halfpence which were put into his hand. He flung them down, saying—‘D— the halfpence.’ He took from me 3s. 6d., and no more; so I purchased the adventure at a cheap rate.”

Bentham sent his work on the Tactics of Political Assemblies* to the Abbé Morellet, to be published in Paris, accompanied by this characteristic Letter.

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
February, 1789
Abbé Morellet
Morellet, Abbé

Bentham to the Abbé Morellet.


I am the Bentham mentioned by Lord Lansdowne. He bids me send you all my children. I send you the last; but only to look at, not to dress in a French jacket. It’s elder brethren waited on you of their own accord many years ago. A much larger I hope will follow, (by the next weekly packet but one,) for the which, and other particulars, I beg leave to refer you to a letter that goes by this packet to Lord Wycombe. What Lord Lansdowne attempts to trouble you with, is a Treatise on Political Tactics, containing principles relative to the conduct and discipline of Political Assemblies. It will be impossible for me to complete it time enough to be published before the meeting of the Etats Generaux, for whose use it is principally designed: but I hope to be able to despatch, by that time, such parts as seem to be of most immediate and essential importance. The favour I am a suitor for at your hands, is that you will get some disciple of yours to translate it into French, and publish it: the more you put into it of your own, either by correcting his translation, or subjoining a note to correct any mistakes the author may have fallen into, or, in short, in any other way, the more, of course, I shall feel myself honoured and obliged.

“As something must be understood relative to terms, what think you of the following? The author to provide for the expense, either by eventual engagement, or, if required, by previous remittance, and the real profits, if any, to be equally shared between him and the translator. As I have been, and shall be at the expense of near £100 sterling, in books bought to be consulted for this purpose, I think there would be no harm in my getting back a part of the money if it should so happen; but for this, as well as everything else, I beg leave to commit myself entirely to you. Would a small edition in the original English be likely to find readers? I should be very glad if it would, for I never saw an English translation that I could bear to read: and it was that consideration that set me upon writing such piles of barbarous French, as I have written to my great sorrow. In this event, the author’s having three-fourths of the net profits, upon the English (he standing as before to the expense) seems as reasonable as that he should have one-half upon the French. The greatest part is already in my dog-French, and now I have the pleasure of translating it, or rather rewriting it into English.

“Lord Lansdowne has sent me your two pamphlete—the King’s Answer to the Prince’s, and the Strictures on the Composition of 1614. But I hope not to be beholden for any more of them to a third person. If you send them out in quest of an estime sentie, you can send them nowhere to so good a market, as by sending them to me. Few people, I flatter myself, think more together than you and I do. I made two attempts Edition: current; Page: [199] to get a push at the wheel on the same side with you; but I fell down both times, and could not reach it; for which, see, once more, my letter to Lord Wycombe. I have almost written an essay on Representation, and the subjects are so connected, that there are parts which I hardly know where to put, whether in that, or in the Tactics. For instance—On the conjunction, or separation of the right of proposing, debating, and voting. On the division of a political body, into divers independent bodies. On inequalities in the relative force of votes. On the manner of voting—when it should be public, and when secret. The two first, and the fourth of these heads are already written in French, and the third nearly so.

“After laying down my principles, and deducing rules from them, and giving the reasons for each rule, I apply the standards, thus laid down, to the English practice. This I hope will help to make the book readable with you, and may possibly make some little sensation here, by a side wind. If I can manage matters so as to send you to the amount of about 100 8vo pages or so, by the end of March, I should hope they might be got out a few days before the meeting of the States.

“If you want British Spirits to put into Madame H.’s wine, instead of water, you may have some, if you can get the cargo from the person to whom it was consigned, for which purpose I enclose a letter to the C. de Mirabeau. But if he gives it up, you will be sensible of the propriety of his not knowing into what hands it passes; and for that purpose, you will instruct your messenger not to know who it was that sent him. Understand that I know nothing of him, nor he of me. It is a libel on the people of France for their attempt to saddle the nation with the Composition of 1614. Understand also that nobody revised the copy but the author, nor he beyond the 8th page, such was his fear of not being in time: on which consideration he gave carte blanche to his intended editor, whose experience in the metier de four-bisseur is well known. The other, which is a dissection of the Noblesse of Brittany, you might get, without difficulty, from the bookseller, if it were worth while. He refused to publish it, even at the author’s expense; because, after the corrections it had undergone by a third hand, it was not sufficiently legible, and because it was too strong to pass the Censor, &c. &c. It is now, like the first, entirely out of date.

“I am, with the truest respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant.”

The Abbé Morellet says in answer:—“Light-minded and unreflecting persons cannot estimate the importance of the subject you have treated in your Parliamentary Tactics. It is an instrument by which the great victory will be won by reason and by freedom, over ignorance and the tyranny of bad laws and vicious constitutions.” He says he had visited both Necker and his wife to talk over the better arrangement of public discussions,—but they were so occupied with other cares, that they had no time to give the needful attention to so weighty a matter. He speaks of the violent animosity existing between Necker and Mirabeau: “Mirabeau has created against Necker a storm of indignation, by publishing letters meant to be secret, in which the Duchess of Wurtemberg, Prince Henry, and, what is still worse, many private individuals are so cruelly compromised, that in future nobody can trust him.” The Abbé urges Bentham in the strongest terms to write on the Theory of Representation—a subject, as he says, so much discussed and so little understood—but on whose solution depends the peace and happiness of society.

The letter which follows may be considered as the joint criticisms of Wilson, Trail, and Romilly on Parliamentary Tactics. It is wise and kind—much frankness and friendliness, allied with sound and solid judgment.

George Wilson
Wilson, George
Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy

George Wilson to Bentham.

Dear Bentham,

You will think Edition: current; Page: [200] our criticisms pretty numerous, severe, and perhaps sometimes a little impertinent. But the good parts require no observation, and civility is not always compatible with conciseness. There is much excellent matter in these sheets, and often great happiness of expression. The separation of the debate from the vote, and the speaking without order, are so important, that it seems impossible for a popular assembly to get on at all without them; and the omission of them is alone sufficient to account for the inutility of all former States in France.

“Everything relating to this subject you have stated extremely well. We had no idea before how much depended on the mode of proceeding in public assemblies. It is a part of our constitution, equal in importance to any, and, hitherto, unobserved. It is a great satisfaction to find that it comes out so well on investigation. The French seem to be much embarrassed, not only by their rage for instructions, but also by the mode in which they are given; for the election is complicated with the reduction of the cahier, and it seems to be that which has retarded the elections at Paris, of which we have got no account, though the States have met. If they will instruct, let them at least do it afterwards. I hope when you have disciplined these States, you will tell them how to elect the next, and how far their instructions ought to be carried and obeyed. But this part of your task is not so pressing. By the by, don’t you think the terms Discipline and Justice as dangerous to the liberties of the Assembly as the word Marshal, which, in your first note, you are so afraid of? that note, and one or two other passages which we have remarked upon, are not equal in importance to the rest, and might, perhaps, have been shortened. There are occasionally great faults in the style—a fondness for parentheses, which tend much to intricacy and obscurity, and generally only seem to introduce some idea which would naturally occur to the reader; and if it did not, might be spared—and a passion for metaphor, which does not suit with a didactic work—and haste, too, has sometimes prevented you from attending to the consistency of your figures. There is nothing after all like plain language, and simple unqualified propositions delivered in short sentences. We think there is too much arrangement, and that the reasons might as well have been put below the rule, as in a separate chapter. The present mode occasions repetition, and, we think, distracts the attention. The addition of the English and French practice is very entertaining and highly useful.

“In many places we have found fault without suggesting a remedy. To have done both would certainly have been better, but it is not altogether so easy; and to do half one’s task is better than to do nothing.

“Yours sincerely,
“G. W.”

The following is Bentham’s answer:

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
May 16, —89
George Wilson
Wilson, George
Dear Wilson,

Many thanks to you for your criticisms: the more you abuse me, the more you oblige me. Most of them I feel the force of, some of them my own conscience had anticipated. All the things you say should be done are done; but all things cannot be done at the same time, nor in the same place. That, for the learning of which you wish I had attended the House more frequently, I possess as fully as if I had been born and lived there. Do not suppose I ever lose sight of the softening which rules receive by practice. The importance of the want of order in sitting, I have seen in the same light that you do: but that head belongs to a preceding Essay.

“I accuse myself that I did not think to ask you to get me a sight of Dumont’s letter, giving an account of the French Assemblies: think of it I did; but I forgot it again, and left you without doing it. I accuse you, that you did not put in a word for me immediately without asking; to revenge myself, and show that I am not like you, I send you one I have just received from the same place. You will suspect with me, that it is not quite so entertaining Edition: current; Page: [201] to my friend the Abbé to see the practice of his country abused as it seems to be to you. You will grieve with me at the foolish and inconsistent step taken by Necker, in confuting his enemies, by stopping their mouths.

“You will see in the Abbé’s letter an allusion to what I had said to him of the work of the Triumvirate. I had told him of the credit I conceived it entitled to, the use I hoped it would be of in France; the obligations I was under to it, adding that mine might serve as a supplement and key to it, as that did not enter into the why nor wherefore. Names I took care not to mention.

“The apparent inconsistency between my use of the words tactics and discipline, and my censure of the word marshal, struck me at first, as it was what had not occurred to me; but think again: you will find that the difference between an authoritave and an unauthoritative expression exculpates me. I might call him a drill-serjeant, or any thing; he would not be the more so for that: it would make no difference in his powers or pretensions; but whatever the law called him, such he would be.

“When you and Trail have read Morellet’s letter, put it up in the cover in which I enclose it, sealing it with a common seal, and send it to Lansdowne House: for which place I take the opportunity of sending a packet.

“I have got a copy of Calonne’s last Lettre au Roi, which is not sold. Have you, or Trail, or Romilly, a mind to see it?”

Romilly, writing to Bentham on the subject of his Political Tactics, says—

“I have read your Tactics with the greatest pleasure. All that is said about voting and debating at the same time, and about a right of pro-audience, is admirable. On ne peut pas mieux.

In the year 1789, an attempt was made by Great Britain, or by the King of Great Britain, to break up the alliance between Russia and Denmark. The pretext was the restoration of the balance of the power, and the retention by Russia of Oczakow, which had been taken from the Turks by the Russians. In the Gazette de Leyde, letters were written under a feigned name by George the Third himself, urging upon the King of Denmark the propriety of his breaking his engagements with Russia, and associating himself with the policy then pursued. A private communication of Mr Elliott our minister, at Copenhagen, to the Danish court, obtained publicity, and upon that communication, Bentham sent the following remarks to the Editor of the Public Advertiser:


April 23d, 1789


Observations on the Declaration presented to the Court of Denmark by Mr Elliott, British Minister at that Court, April 23d, 1789, showing the causes of the unjust and useless war into which the ministry are endeavouring to plunge us.

Text of the Declaration.

Paragraph I.

“I willingly acquiesce to (in) the desire your Excellency has expressed of receiving, in writing, the summary of those representations I had the honour to make you by word of mouth, by the order of the (my) court.”

Observations on Par. 1.

Verbal discourses being capable of being avowed in one moment, and denied the next, avowed to one person, and denied to another, it was equally natural and prudent in the Danish Minister to desire to receive, in a form unsusceptible of falsification, a menace which exposes its own injustice to the eyes of Europe, particularly of the British nation, who may now see themselves upon the point of being plunged into a war, without object or pretence, for the purpose of carrying the menace into effect. The injustice and violence stamped upon the face of the composition of the British Court, are features which the minister of the insulted nation was sure to find in it, as being inseparable from the measure. The hypocritical grimace and affectation of gratuitous falsehood, with which it is so unnecessarily adorned, is so much more than he could have promised himself.

Text. Par. 2.

“Your Excellency will be pleased to remember, that at the instant that the King of Denmark yielded up a great part of his land and sea forces, as auxiliaries to Russia, his Edition: current; Page: [202] Danish Majesty applied for the intervention of his Britannic Majesty, to reëstablish tranquillity between Sweden and Russia.”

Observations on Par. 2.

The King of Denmark yielded up for that purpose not a man nor a ship more than he was bound to yield up, by an already subsisting and strictly defensive treaty; our great and good ally having attacked Russia, for the avowed purpose of compelling her to make a present of a few of her provinces to him, and a few more to the Porte.* Denmark, after employing entreaties and remonstrances without effect, unwillingly, and without any interest but that of peace, granted the stipulated succours. Those who had set him on, could, if they thought proper, take him off. Decency required that they should be applied to for that purpose, manifest as it was that the application would have been ineffectual. This application not having been made public, the purport and design of it can be spoken of only by conjecture. It was made not to Britain only, but to Prussia. The intrigues of the Court of London at that of Berlin not having been as yet consummated, justice from the lesser quarter seemed at first not altogether hopeless. The known connexion between Prussia and Great Britain, furnished an ostensible reason for extending to the latter, communications that had been made to the former; and frankness and publicity were suitable accompaniments to the upright and generous conduct of the Prince of Denmark.

Text. Par. 3.

“It is also with the liveliest sorrow, that I must recall to your Excellency’s memory, that the Empress of Russia thought proper to avoid the mediation of the king and his allies; and that this refusal was the only cause of the continuation of hostilities, since his Majesty the King of Sweden had accepted, in the freest and most amicable manner, that offer from the three Courts, which were animated with the only desire of stopping the shedding of blood, and maintaining the northern balance.”

Observations on Par. 3.

If two or more incendiaries were to enter into a conspiracy, and set a man’s house on fire, it is natural enough that the owner of the house would not think proper to employ any of them to put out the fire, or to sit as judges, for the purpose of assessing the damages; and it is equally natural, that any of them should be ready to accept that office in the fairest and most amioable manner.

What purpose, but that of a wanton insult, could it answer to the contrivers or abettors of a plan of assassination, to profess themselves animated by the sole desire of stopping bloodshed in the face of those who knew them to be the authors of it?

Setting one power to conquer provinces from another without pretence of title, at the time that other is labouring under the pressure of an unprovoked and unexpected war, and then fettering the hands of those who owe her assistance; such, it seems, is to be the British mode of maintaining the political balance. If this is the way to maintain it, what would be the way to disturb it?

Text. Par. 4.

“Your Excellency has afterwards been witness that the king and his allies have acted with energy, to give the most undoubted proofs that they thought the preservation of Sweden was of the utmost importance, and that these courts mutually endeavoured to maintain a cessation of hostilities from the land and sea forces of his Swedish Majesty, which had acted in the military operations of the last campaign, and their endeavours had the most salutary effects.”

Observation on Par. 4.

An Englishman who knows the facts alluded to, beholds the insolence, sees himself made a party to it, and does not burn with generous indignation against the authors of it, deserves to bear the impending consequence of it. Yes—with energy enough they did act: proofs, the most undoubted, of their thinking the preservation of Sweden of importance, they undoubtedly did give. The King of Sweden plunges his poor and thinly-peopled nation into a war, the most notoriously void of pretence of any upon record, in the teeth of the plain and positive letter of a constitutional law of his own framing, and to which he had sworn observance. His own army, faithful to the constitution, refused to be made the tools of tyranny and injustice. A memorable example, and may it never be forgotten in any country, and least of all in Britain! At this crisis, the Danish body of auxiliaries enters Sweden in a defenceless quarter, taking nothing, damaging nothing, hurting nobody, friends to the country, adverse only to its oppressors, and that only during the continuance of the oppression. The Swedish monarch, thinly accompanied, shuts himself up in Gottenburg, which the Danish auxiliaries prepare to invest. A few days more would have brought him to reason, and the peace of the north would have been restored. Alarmed at the danger, Prussia threatens with her armies, Britain with her fleets, and Mr Elliott, running backward and forward between the fugitive tyrant and the deliverers of his country, interposes what, in the language of Mr Elliott’s court, is called a mediation. The hands of the Prince of Denmark, the common friend of Sweden and Russia, are tied up from keeping the peace; and the hands of the pensioner of Edition: current; Page: [203] the Turks are let loose to prosecute his plan of unprovoked hostility and conquest.

As to the preservation of Sweden, had that been an object, no great exertion would have been necessary:—not to have destroyed her liberty;—not to have plunged her into a pretenceless war against a superior enemy. If such be preservation, Heaven grant that Britain may never be preserved!

As to cessation of hostilities, a sovereign, whose only fleet has been disabled in an engagement, will readily enough cease from hostilities at sea; a sovereign, whose only army has mutinied, and made peace for itself, will readily enough cease from hostilities by land. Such were the cessations on which the British mediator blushes not to found his pretenxions to neutrality and impartial justice. After the Turk had been spirited up to attack Russia in the south, the Swede was spirited up to attack her in the north, to prevent her sending a flest to the Mediterranean to retaliate on the aggressor. For accomplishing this object, the bare show of hostility on the part of Sweden was sufficient: and Britain, long before she pretended mediation, had consummated her injustice.

Everywhere, out of England, these facts are as notorious as the existence of the powers to which they relate; and would be so in England, if the only sources of information, accessible to the bulk of readers, were not poisoned by ignorance or corruption, or national partiality, or party prejudice.

Text. Par. 5.

“The King, my master, still sees with sorrow that, since that epoch, the offers of mediation and services from the King and his allies, have not produced the desired effect: nor could they incline the Empress to agree to a mediation for restoring peace to the east, nor to the north of Europe.”

Observations on Par. 5.

The sorrow may be admitted, as it is not pretended to be accompanied by surprise.

Text. Par. 6.

“Under these circumstances, when Russia refuses to accept every mediation, and the continuation of hostilities proceeds from this refusal only, his Britannic Majesty and his allies think, they should strongly represent to the Court of Denmark, that this Court appears to them entirely freed from every stipulation of a treaty merely defensive; and even add, that, in the present case, the joining the Danish forces, either by land or sea, to those of Russia, would even cause Denmark to be considered as one of the powers at war, and could (not) but justify the King of Sweden in asking for a speedy and efficacious assistance from his Britannic Majesty, and his allies, from which his Swedish Majesty has accepted a pure and unlimited mediation.”

Observations on Par. 6.

In this paragraph we see promulgated an article of a new complexion in the law of nations:—That if two powers engage in a defensive treaty, and the oasus fœderis occurs, it depends upon any third power whatever to dissolve the engagement at pleasure. Upon nonsense like this, argument would be thrown away. But surely, if this country is not irrecoverably fasoinated by the charms of war and taxation, as well as of wanton oppression and injustice, such pretensions on the part of its servants has some claim to notice. Pope of Denmark, master of dispensing power, Defender not of Faith, but of the breach of it; such are the titles which the head of the British church has been advised to arrogate, and of which British blood and treasure are to be poured forth in the defence.

As to his Swedish Majesty’s being justified in asking for a speedy and efficacious assistance from Britain, it is well enough known, that he is not a man to lose anything for want of asking, nor wait for justifications. The material question is, whether his Britannic Majesty means to gratify him in such a request? And to this, we shall immediately see an answer in the affirmative, in terms sufficiently explicit.

Text. Par. 7.

“From the principles of sincerity which I have ever observed towards a Court in alliance, and a friend to Great Britain, I must assure you, sir, that neither the King of England, nor his allies, can give up the system they have adopted, with the design only of maintaining the equal balance of the north; (a) balance no less necessary to Denmark, than to all maritime and trading nations.”

Observations on Par. 7.

What is curious in this business is, to see the ease and unconcern with which the minister undertakes, not only for the King of Prussia, but for the Dutch, whose task it is to make a perpetual sacrifice of their country’s welfare to the capricious and mischievous politics of a British Ministry. Such is the degraded state to which a people, once so highspirited and free, have seen themselves reduced by a confederacy of tyrants.

As to political balances, how clear and how just the notions entertained, or pretended to be entertained, of such matters by this negotiator and his employers are, has been already seen.

Text. Par. 8.

“I doubt not your Excellency perceives how little the most favourable interpretation of your treaty could assist the Empress, if it occarioned a vigorous coöperation, by land and by sea, of the three Powers in defence of Sweden; nor that the Council of Copenhagen is too wise and too moderate to expose either Russia or Edition: current; Page: [204] Denmark to an increase of hostilities from Courts which, in other respects, wish but for peace, and who desire to establish it on the most solid foundation, and on conditions the most advantageous to every party concerned.”

Observations on Par. 8.

If the form of this paragraph is hypothetical, the spirit of it is as categorical as any one could desire. We now see, then, what we, for our part, have to expect. If the Danes are true to their engagements, our Ministry is to throw off the mask, abet unprovoked aggression with a high hand, and plunge the nation into a causeless and useless war. Perceiving what he is here desired to perceive, it is to be hoped that his Excellency will also perceive, on the other hand, how little the good-will of the British Ministry could affect their virtuous ally, if Parliament, when applied to, should hesitate to throw away t’other fifty or hundred millions of the nation’s money for their amusement, and to saddle it with two or three millions a-year more, in taxes, for the pleasure of cutting the throats of a people who never offered them the smallest injury. Such hesitation is not altogether out of the sphere of possibility. Fond as the people of this country are of war and insolence, prone as they have shown themselves, of late years, to make sudden starts from well-grounded and deep-rooted jealousy, to implicit confidence and foolish fondness towards George the Third, it is too much to suppose them capable of being wrought up to such a pitch of infatuation.

I hope the Danish Minister is not the only one who will consider, that neither threats nor promises like these, are quite so soon performed as made; and that, when the trustee of a free people takes upon him, thus smoothly, to offer their lives and fortunes in support of a war not less foolish than flagitious, he may find, to his shame, that he has reckoned without his host.

The pride of dictation, the pomp of arbitrage, the glory and renown of unretaliated injustice, form at a distance a captivating spectacle. But, when the pageant is brought near, and war and taxation are spied in the background, reflection begins to operate, and prudence whispers, that even the transports of senseless ambition may be bought too dear.

Text. Par. 9.

“Therefore, sir, I must expressly entreat you, from the king and his allies, to induce the Court of Denmark not to grant any part of their forces, either by land or sea, to act offensively against Sweden, under pretence of a Defensive Treaty; but, on the contrary, to support a perfect neutrality, in every province, and in all the seas belonging to the King of Denmark.”

Observations on Par. 9.

Under what pretence trespass upon the patience of the Danish Minister with this insolence? Is, then, a Defensive Treaty between Denmark and Russia but a pretence? Was it not the King of Sweden that attacked Russia, and that for the avowed purpose of making conquests at her expense? Are aggressors to choose how the aggrieved country shall be defended? And can Russia be defended without offending the King of Sweden?

Text. Par. 10.

“Depend on it, sir, that as soon as Denmark will have taken a resolution so conformable to the wishes of his (its) true friends, the concurrence of the King of Denmark towards the reestablishment of a general peace would be infinitely agreeable to the king, my master, and I dare add that your Excellency has too long been acquainted with the true interests of Russia, and with the sentiments of England, not to be sensible that the Empress of Russia cannot better confide to effect a peace than to his Britannic Majesty and his allies. My instructions are to ask of your Excellency a clear and decisive answer on the intentions of his Danish Majesty, with regard to a junction of part of his forces, either by land or sea, to the forces of her Imperial Majesty of Russia, and to propose the neutrality of the Danish States, and of the Danish seas, under the most efficacious promise of security from the King of England and his allies.”

Observations on Par. 10.

Another proposition for the truth of which Mr Elliott is entitled to full credit, viz. that supposing a resolution, on the part of the King of Denmark, to break his treaty with Russia, and refuse her all assistance, the concurrence of that king, towards the reëstablishment of a general peace, would be infinitely agreeable to Mr Elliott’s royal master; as a peace, good or bad, is not to be made, nor any other political effect to be produced, by sitting still and doing nothing; if Denmark, without helping Russia, is to act towards the production of a peace, it must be by helping the enemies of Russia. At this price, she may be sure enough of the temporary smiles of this “true friend,” this adept in the true interests of Russia, who in return for his indefatigable labours in her service for these two years, now demands her “confidence.

A declaration in which this country is not less concerned than Denmark, is, “the most efficacious promise of security from the King of England,” so generously offered to Denmark, in case of her deserting her allies, coupled with the assurance which we saw given of speedy and efficacious assistance to be afforded to the King of Sweden, in case such desertion does not take place. Punishment on one hand, protection on the other, are thus held out to this injured and insulted people, all for the amusement of this their “true friend,” all at the expense of Britain. If after all these efforts this true friend of peace, and his virtuous Edition: current; Page: [205] seconds, fail of compassing the felicity of a war, they are the most unfortunate of men. War with somebody they will have at any rate. Now in one event—hereafter in another. War with Denmark, if Denmark will not be bullied into a breach of faith. War with Russia if Denmark crouches, and Russia at some future period, when recovered out of her present difficulties, should bethink her of her wrongs, and call a faithless ally to account for his infidelity.

Text. Par. 11 and last.

“This desire of avoiding every kind of useless animosities has caused me to address myself to your Excellency by a private letter rather than deliver a formal declaration, the contents of which might have been made more public than the actual circumstances of affairs require; and I am bold enough to flatter myself that, whatever may be the event of my negotiations, your Excellency will do me the justice of acknowledging that I have laboured to prevent the miseries of war. May our united endeavours revive in the hearts of the sovereigns the true love of their subjects, too unhappily victims of that chimerical love of glory which has so frequently and so unnecessarily stained Europe with blood!”

Observations on Par. 11 and last.

Secrecy is the known companion of guilt: publicity of probity and innocence. The first endeavour was to confine the matter to verbal insinuations: that defeated, the business was pursued by letter, which it is desired might be considered as a private one. This letter, whether by policy or accident, has been made public; and the reproach of meanness added to that of insolence and tyranny, is what the authors of the proposition have got by their endeavours to hide it. Had the Danish Minister yielded to private insinuations, not only would Russia have been deprived of the assistance due from Denmark, but the seeds of jealousy and dissension would have been sown between the two courts. The extorted neutrality would have been published as a voluntary one, and the breach of alliance would have been imputed either to disaffection or to the unjust desire of reaping the benefit of it without sharing in the burthens. The disavowal of the threats, after they had produced their effect, would thus have effected a double purpose: the reproach of injustice would have been transferred from the authors to the victims of it. Interrogated concerning the cause of the infidelity of Denmark to Russia, the British Minister at Copenhagen would have known no more of it than the British Cabinet did of the causes of the Turkish war. Pride, too, by disposing the Danish Court to attribute their defection to any other principle rather than fear, might have disposed them to join in throwing a veil of secrecy over the business.

The plan was not ill laid for a plan of knavery; but it is the property of knavery that its successes hang upon a hair; and when exposed to the public eye the breath of one honest man is enough to break it.

That there is a species of “coldness” in the “self-flattery” here professed by Mr Elliott will not be disputed with him; but what purpose it can answer to a man, in the act of setting fire to a train, to boast of the pains he is taking to prevent the conflagration, is a question not easy to resolve.

Actions are the test of words. A wish, which would have been the language of virtue in the mouth of a guardian of peace, corrupts into hypocritical violence in the impure lips of a Minister of violence. Such is the response of an honest man to this concluding prayer.




The plan of aggression in the north I find pursues an uninterrupted course. Opportunities are sought, and none are suffered to pass unimproved. To evince the partiality of his Majesty’s proffered mediation, Sir Roger Curtis is sent to perform the office of Drill Serjeant to the Swedish Navy. This is old news in Europe. I have looked for it in vain in our own prints. Should occasion require, Gibraltar’s other hero may be despatched perhaps for the defence of Gottenburg. Once already has that port been saved by us; Sweden rescued from the miseries of ancient liberty, and the nations of the Baltic from the calamities of peace. At that time the pen of an Elliott was sufficient to the task. A second time the sword of another Elliott may be nothing less than necessary. Terrified or deceived, Christian for once submitted to our mandate. Catherine may not be quite so tractable: a Russian Admiral may have scruples about recognising a British Envoy for his commanding officer.

Once more, if the endeavours of the Ministry are not crowned with war, they are the most unfortunate of men. A Swedish frigate is captured by a Russian off the coast of Norway. Restitution is demanded by the British envoy.—On what pretence? That the vessel was British? That it had British subjects, or British goods in it? No: but it was taken too near the Danish coast. The King of Great Britain is become King of Norway: Great Britain is therefore injured by a violation of the territory of Norway. The nominal King of Denmark has no interest in the peace of his own country, no feeling for his own honour: it is therefore become necessary for his brother of Great Britain to take the sceptre out of his hands. Such is the logic of St James’s. If the consequents only of these syllogisms are expressed, it is only to save words; the antecedents are implied.

One of the glories of the first Pitt was the destroying of a French fleet, not near but upon Edition: current; Page: [206] the coast of Portugal. What would have been his language, if a neutral court—Denmark for instance—addressing itself to Portugal or to him, had taken France by the hand, and called for satisfaction? In the present instance, conceive Denmark to have recalled the precedent.—“We will talk about the Swedish frigate, when, in satisfaction to the violated peace of Portugal, you have put France into the same plight she would have been in had the coast of Lagos never felt the flame of British firebrands.” If such had been the answer of Denmark, what would, what could have been the reply?

The fair and open reply is, that justice and humanity have no place in cabinets. It is for weak states to suffer injuries: it is for strong ones to inflict them. Do as you would be done by, a rule of gold for individuals, is a rule of glass for nations. The duty of a king to his subjects and to the world, is to compass war, by any means, and at any price; and the less the profit or pretence, the greater is the glory. To do mischief is honour: to do it slily, darkly, and securely, is policy. The number of troops a nation is able to bring into the field, gives the measure of its power: the number of unprovoked and unrequited injuries it has been able to inflict, gives the measure of its virtue. The true contest among kings is, who with least smart to himself shall give the hardest blow. The King of England, is he not the King of Humphreys and Mendoza? The prowess of Humphreys and Mendoza, is it not the object of envy and imitation to the Ministers of the King of Great Britain?


Soon after the publication of the foregoing, the following Ministerial apology appeared. Bentham attributed it, on what he thought good authority, to the king himself:—

June 4, 1789

To the Printer of the Public Advertiser.


—In several of the public papers, but particularly in those called Opposition papers, great pains, I observe, have lately been taken to blame his Majesty’s Ministers for having concluded the late Treaty of Defensive Alliance with the King of Prussia. The manner in which most of the authors of these remarks have treated the subject, proves, that the ardour of serving their party has led them far beyond the sphere of their knowledge, and that they are very little acquainted with the different interests of the several powers of Europe, of whose respective political situations an exact statement appeared in one of your papers some time in the beginning of May.* The necessity of a continental ally being allowed on all sides, the enemies of the treaty in question could do no less than point out another power, as preferable to the King of Prussia; and they have very wisely fixed upon Russia. But whilst, in order to prove the advantages of an alliance with that empire, they represent its power by sea and by land in its utmost magnitude, they seem not to be aware, that what they allege as an inducement to an alliance, might partly be looked upon as a sufficient reason for declining it. The power of Russia has lately grown to such a pitch, that, in the opinion of the best informed statesmen, it threatens to overthrow the political balance of Europe. But by the present judicious combination of England, Prumia, Sweden, and perhaps Denmark, it is likely to receive a seasonable check; and, in proportion as Russia will thereby be reduced, Sweden will rise in importance, and become firmly attached to this country, by whose assistance it has been raised from its late insignificance, and rescued from the power of Russia, which has long meditated its destruction. The great abilities of the present King of Sweden and his brothers, seem to point out the present period of time as expressly calculated for restoring the balance of power in the north, destroyed by the preponderance of Russia.

Independent of these considerations, would it become the spirit of the British nation to court the alliance of the haughty and imperious Czarina, who, when England was involved in a war with numbers of enemies, assumed the air of a Dictatrix on the seas, and promoted every measure which could tend to the reduction of the power of Great Britain? The armed neutrality was chiefly the work of the Court of Petersburg, whereby England was deprived of the great advantages which her numerous armed vessels would have given her over her enemies, by intercepting their supplies of warlike stores. It is true, the late King of Prussia gave likewise into that measure; but he had at least some cause to complain of the conduct of England towards him in the year 1762, whilst Russia was plainly actuated only by a jealousy of the great power of the British navy, which she has ever since shown a disposition to diminish. The commercial advantages which this country might derive from a treaty with Russia, the other powers in the Baltic, together with Poland, will be able in a great measure to afford; whilst, from the wisdom of the present administration, we may expect that such encouragement will be given to the cultivation, in the British dominions, of the important articles of hemp and timber, that the immense sums which are paid for them to foreign nations, will, in time, be considerably lessened. The system adopted by the present administration tends likewise manifestly to lemen, if not entirely to annihilate, the influence of France in Turkey and Sweden, which may Edition: current; Page: [207] very probably be attended with such commercial advantages to England, with regard to the former power, that the British trade to the Levant, at present almost entirely superseded by the French, may regain its pristine importance.—I am, sir, your humble servant,


To Partizan’s letter Bentham thus replied:—

Jeremy Bentham
Bentham, Jeremy
June 15th, 1789


The Public Advertiser, June 15th, 1789.

Observations on a Ministerial Defence of the Prussian Treaty, signed “A Partizan,” and inserted in the Public Advertiser of June 4th.

Text. Par. 1.

“In several of the public papers, but particularly in those called Opposition papers, great pains, I observe, have lately been taken to blame his Majesty’s Ministers for having concluded the late treaty of Defensive Alliance with the King of Prussia.”

Observations on Par. 1.

I am heartily glad to find there is one party amongst us whose eyes begin to open to the folly of the plan of continental politics we have been so long pursuing;—better half open than perfectly closed. I hope, ere I have done, to open them a little wider. “Defensive Treaty,”—so pretends the title. The whole tenor of our foreign politics for two years past, and the very terms of Mr Elliott’s declaration, so lately delivered to Denmark, show it to be offensive.

Text. Par. 2.

“The manner in which most of the authors of these remarks have treated the subject, proves, that the ardour of serving their party has led them far beyond the sphere of their knowledge, and that they are very little acquainted with the different interests of the several powers of Europe, of whose respective political situations, an exact statement appeared in one of your papers some time in the beginning of May.”

Observations on Par. 2.

For this statement, I suppose we are obliged to the author of this argument. I have not met with it, nor should I think of looking for it, but in the persuasion of finding it as erroneous as these deductions are inconclusive. True, or false, it is equally incapable of throwing any other than a false light on the present question. According to this pretender to superior “knowledge,” the writers on the other side show themselves “very little acquainted with the different interests of the several powers of Europe.” Without the pains of studying that exact statement, it shall be seen whether he possesses any tolerable conception of the interests of any one.

Text. Par. 3.

“The necessity of a continental ally being allowed on all sides, the enemies of the treaty in question could do no less than point out another power, as preferable to the King of Prussia; and they have very wisely fixed upon Russia.”

Observations on Par. 3.

Somewhat less unwisely than those who fixed on Prussia. An impregnable Empress, with twenty-five or thirty millions of subjects, is a less ineligible ally than a collection of disjointed scraps and fragments, made up into a nominal kingdom, with less than six millions. See the vulnerability of this tottering power extremely well stated by Sir J. Dalrymple, in the Public Advertiser of April. See the same truth fully developed by the masterly and impartial hand of the Comte de Mirabeau, in his great work, Sur la Monarchie Prussienne. The necessity of a “continental ally allowed on all sides:” assuredly not on mine. Of the non-necessity of all alliances to this country; of the inutility and mischievousness of all such engagements, my conviction is as strong as of my own existence. The fewer allies, the more friends. Neither Prussia nor Russia would I have for an ally, nor any other power whatsoever, would they pay us for our alliance the half of their revenue. An alliance which is not necessary, is much worse than useless. No ally will engage to go to war for you, without your engaging to go to war for him. The first power in Europe, a nation that for more than thirty years, and in two successive wars, has shown herself more than a match for the two greatest next to herself, cannot stand in need of alliances for her defence. Other powers may join with one another to guard themselves against her attacks; prudence may enjoin them; justice cannot but authorize them;—both forbid her to take umbrage. But that three or more powers should join in offensive war, in the view of plundering one which is more than a match for any two of them, is out of all probability and all example. To engage her in alliance, is to shake her peace for nothing. Such measures, instead of increasing her security, diminish it. Being unnecessary for defence, they announce aggression, if they do not, as, unhappily in our own case, follow it. Exciting well-grounded jealousy, they beget counter-alliances; and, by the boundless terror they inspire, create many sincere enemies, in return for one false friend.

There is a point in the scale of national security, beyond which the nature of things will not suffer man to soar. We stand—we have long stood—upon that pinnacle. No step we can take can raise us above it: no effort we can make, but must endanger our sinking below it.

Edition: current; Page: [208]

Text. Par. 4.

“But whilst, in order to prove the advantages of an alliance with that empire, they represent its power by sea and by land in its utmost magnitude, they seem not to be aware, that what they allege as an inducement to an alliance, might partly be looked upon as a sufficient reason for declining it.”

Observations on Par. 4.

The argument which this introduction ushers in, might be partly deserving of that name, if the alliance, which it is employed to represent as ineligible, could be partly made, and partly not made. Here it follows:—

Text. Par. 5.

“The power of Russia has lately grown to such a pitch, that, in the opinion of the best informed statesmen, it threatens to overthrow the political balance of Europe.”

Observations on Par. 5.

A comment on this passage is no further of use, than as it serves to show the badness of the cause, by the necessary distress betrayed by those who stand up in its defence. Is Russia, or is she not, so strong as the opposition writers, it seems, have been representing her? Is the alliance of a strong power, or is it not, better than that of a weak one? No one reply, nor any two consistent replies, will answer the purpose of this advocate. The statements of the opposition must be true and false, Russia strong and weak, an eligible ally, and an ineligible one at the same time. Weak, for the purpose of assisting us, so long as the alliance lasts: Strong, for the purpose of injuring us, when, in order to get at us, she has made a sudden spring, broke the alliance, and overthrown the political balance of Europe: Ineligible, so long as a chain of aggressions, as unexampled as they were unprovoked, have failed of winning her to our side. Eligible, as soon as these extraordinary favours shall have purchased her unnecessary assistance. Her thirty ships of the line, after having been less useful to us for I don’t know what length of time, than the King of Prussia’s none, are to swell in the compass of a night to sea s