Jeremy Bentham

T. L. S. Sprigge (ed.), The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 1: 1752–76

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Editor’s Note151To Samuel Bentham22-23 February 1776 (Aet 27)

Ce ne fut pas Madlle. Buckle, mais Madlle. Stretton fille de Made. Brickendon, dont le mari le Dr. Brickendon est mort il y a pg 295environ une annèe. Je l'ai vue il y a deux ans chez Q.S.P. avec Mad. sa mere et Monsr. Son (beau pere) selon ce que je crois vous avoir dit.—Peste! je ne puis pas ecrire Francois maintenant—cela me gene trop—et le tems me manque. I did not like her much the first time—I like her much better now: so well that I know not whether I may not give into the Q.S.P. projects: provided always that the fortune be a large one. less than £30,000 in possession or expectancy it must not be. Her features are not pretty—Teeth regular, but not close set—complexion far from blooming—Her shape is elegant. She appears good-natured affable and unaffected : and upon the whole her countenance, especially when she smiles is far from being unpleasing—c'est a dire by candle-light: reste a voir ce qu'elle paroitra by daylight. I thought and so my Father remarked, that she seemed to look sociably enough at me—there was with her besides her Mother a Miss Brickenden, a girl much about her own age, daughter of Dr. B. by a former wife. She (Miss S.) plays upon the Harpsichord and Guittar, and sings. Upon the Harpsichord I should suppose pretty well as she plays Abel's musick, which is far enough from easy2—Voila a caementing principle—She does not play thorough-base: if she will learn I will teach her I know nothing of it at present myself : but that you know makes no difference. What is best of all she loves retirement: and lives in the country 9 months in the year by her own choice rather than her mother's.

pg 296The misfortune is the acquaintance between Q.S.P. and them is like all the other acquaintances of Q.S.P. very distant: Q.S.P. made while I was there several overtures for parties etc. which were received but coldly: Possibly the old lady smelt a rat: If I could once get access upon my own bottom I have a sort of presentiment that, if I found myself in the mind I might succeed. But how to do that is the question. They stay but a few days longer in town: and will not see town again these 8 or 9 months. Their house is at Ripley in Surry—not a vast way from Chertsey: but where precisely I know not. What think you is in the wind? For Q.S.P. to take a house in the Summer as near to Ripley as they can find one. They see little company—there is little in the neighbourhood for them to see—Miss rides out sometimes—The old Lady I suppose hardly. Voila des occasions. Et cependant if the old lady smells a rat and has no stomach to the alliance—all this will not do. I am not the man for a coup de main—I must have access, and be intimate before I can do any thing. If it should appear worth while, I have a scheme of my own to graft upon that. Q.S.P. for such a purpose would do any thing: kick J.C. out of doors and hug the Devil in his arms. I will make him caement anew his 'unalterable friendship' with Mr. L.3 and I will then make Mr. L. take a house in the neighbourhood too. Parents trumpetings especially those of such a parent signify nothing. Mr. L. would trumpet me to the purpose: and disassociate dans l'esprit des dames the idea of your humble servant from that of Q.S.P. As to Assets they consist in 1. A landed estate in the Isle of Thanet—The value and the exact place as yet unknown—In the Will, mention is made of Manors— Mr. Wise4 probably knows or could learn—Mr. Stretton died in 1768. The Land is left to Mrs. Stretton (now Brickenden) for life— afterwards to Miss: but in a plaguey strict kind of settlement as I am apprehensive, that will make it but a sort of apron string tenure. 2dly. Money in the funds: left immediately and absolutely to Miss. The amount as yet unknown—It can be known to a certainty by searching the books. This Q.S.P. you may take for granted will not fail in. When he knows I shall know and when I know, you shall know. I wish you would set Mr. Wise about it, saying you have a particular reason for desiring to know, but begging as a particular favour that it may be kept a secret. Mention pg 297seems to be made in the will (according to an extract hastily taken by my father) of a brother of Mr. Stretton's as then living. The Exors and Trustees Emerson Maseres of some parish about London I fancy I know something of his history—and Sam. Frimoult or Frimault (pronounced Frimò) a parson—Rector of Wootton in I know not what county.5 This is not much to the purpose—As the Isle of Thanet (in Kent) is no very large district. It is probable that if Mr. Stretton's estate was a large one there will be no great difficulty in getting tidings of it. If the money in the Stocks amount to 12000£ or thereabouts, or the old Lady could and would give up Land enough to make up the interest of that sum reserving to herself a residue = 30,000–12,000. and alors, au pis aller when either of the old folks dies I come into Parliament, a coup sur. Here is speculation enough for you: to which I leave your worship for the present. All this, Dieu merci, sits as easy on me as an old glove.

The sooner thou doest thy part in the business the better. You may if you think proper communicate it to Mr. D. but sub sigillo profundissimi silentii. Any intimation of the project coming round to Ripley could blast every thing. Ay true—the best way would be for him to write to Mr. W. as on his account. Parishes, Number of Farms, Tenants' names Rent of each farm, Number of Acres on each farm—all this is too much to expect—but as much of it as one could, one would wish to know.

You must tell me in writing how many Ink Glasses you would wish to have: item how many spouts what do you call them to each—1 for you and 1 for Mr. D. that's two—Well and good—but would you not have a third to hold a pen with a broader nib than ordinary—viz: for printing ?

  • Thursday Feb. 22. 1776.
  •   Linc. Inn.

Let me know if any thing is done in the affair of the Secretaryship?6 I interest myself in it greatly—Bestir yourself—conquer our friend's backwardness, and your own. As I do not know Mr. Wise, I cannot consent to his being trusted with the motive to the enquiry—Q.S.P. has just been with me—I intimated to him my design of getting intelligence through your means—He pursed up his mouth and made a piece of work about it, thinking it would be pg 298a means of the project's getting air—You see therefore what caution is required. Remember the Estate is now Mrs. Brickenden's, and known probably by her name. Think what will be my situation perhaps in a month or two courting sous les yeux d'un pere—et d'un tel pere!

He told me the scheme of taking a house near Ripley was my mother's—it is possible—as she and I have been sociable of late. He recommends it to me to make up to her.

Ripley is G miles on this side Guildford.

Old Jones your music master and mine used to go now and then to Mrs. Brs. to teach Miss S. the guittar: and it is from that quarter that Miss had heard of my playing on the fiddle. The poor old man has now access there no longer. He has been desired to forbear his visits (so said Mrs. B. without assigning any particular reason— But I suppose he was troublesome—grown perhaps by this time childish, and uncleanly as people of a certain age are apt to do.)7

Notre cher Pere me faire l'honneur toujours comme vous savez de me croire dépourvu de sens commun—Upon my mentioning my communicating the affair to you, he cautioned me against opening the affair to poor old Jones; asking him particulars of the fortune etc.

Friday—a diner

Je t'ecris dans ce moment parce que je n'ai point d'autre chose a faire—je comptai mettre dans ma poche une lettre que j'avais commencée pour Miss Dunkley: mais au lieu de ce papier-la j'y ai mis par mepriseune autre.

J'ai été deja une deux fois chercher Poore sans fruit—cependant il est en ville.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
151. 1 B.M. II: 5–7. Autograph.
Addressed: 'To / Mr. Bentham / at the King's Dock Yard / near Rochester.' Postmark: '23 FE'.
This letter concerns the young lady, Miss Stratton, to catch whom for Bentham father and son schemed throughout the greater part of 1776. Sarah Stratton was the daughter of Edward Stratton (d. 1768) who had lived near Jeremiah Bentham in Westminster. His widow, Mrs Sarah Dorothy Stratton (d. 1801), married as her second husband John Brickenden, a Westminster physician who died in the summer of 1775. From her second husband she inherited the estate at Ripley, where Bentham's courtship of her daughter was largely to take place; her first husband had left substantial property in the Isle of Thanet.
Bentham in later life referred to the episode in the following terms, recorded by Bowring in the manuscript note in his own copy of the Memoirs already quoted in letter 133, n. 1 and letter 149, n. 6:
'Dr. Brickenden an acquaintance of my father married a lady who had a daughter whose name was Storer. There was a scheme for me to court the lady who had a handsome portion. They had a country house at Ripley in Surry. I visited them and was well received. She played on the harpsichord and I played on the fiddle. When George Wilson and I went to Fetcham I asked the ladies to dine with us—but I found they were going to Chatham, and I offered my services to escort them, they in their carriage I on horseback. I introduced my brother to them. There was a young apothecary of the party as well, a young Scotchman, Forbes of Culloden, who lived in the neighbourhood under the care of a parson of the name of Rose. This Mr. Forbes married Miss Storer but it was not a happy marriage.'
Bentham has evidently forgotten the young lady's name: it is variously spelt, in his letters and elsewhere, 'Strutton', and 'Stretton', but Stratton appears to be the authentic form.
Editor’s Note
2 Karl Friedrich Abel (1725–87), the German composer and instrumentalist, had lived in England since 1759.
Editor’s Note
3 Presumably John Lind.
Editor’s Note
4 Robert Wise, the husband of Mrs Davies's sister, Sarah Nairne, Mrs Davies being wife of Samuel's landlord at Chatham. Wise's subsequent bankruptcy and desertion of his wife involved many labours for the Davies family and the Bentham brothers (cf. letters 194 ff).
Editor’s Note
5 The trustees under Miss Stratton's father's will were Emerson Massarede of the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Samuel Fremoult (d. 1779), rector since 1739 of Wootton, about nine miles from Canterbury.
Editor’s Note
6 Probably a reference to Joseph Davies's prospect of being appointed secretary to Lord Howe (cf. letter 153, n. 2).
Editor’s Note
7 Cf. Bowring, x, 8-9, where Bentham describes his last visit to Jones, dating it 1775.
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