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 Note72To Richard Clark26 March 1767 (Aet 19)

My dear friend

I have hitherto deferred writing to you reserving that pleasing employment in store as a refreshment after the labour of Academical exercises: but as my advancement to that pinnacle of honour which was the object of them has been hitherto retarded by the intervention of several accidents, to which these things are liable, I must lose no time in mentioning a Scheme that has just occurred to me, which if I were to delay any longer it would be too late to propose to you. My father has probably informed you of my attending a Course of Natural Philosophy which will continue till Saturday se'nnight the 11th of next Month. now if you could so contrive your affairs as to run down for 2 or 3 days between this and then, you might have an Opportunity which if I know you at all will not be unacceptable of being present at them as long as you stay. The three or four last concerning the nature and properties of Air may be very well heard separately from the rest and from one another: if you were to come 3 or 4 days before the conclusion, we might return ogether. tho' I could hardly expect this should be sufficient to incline you to take such a journey, if it were the sole inducement, yet I hope when added to the other considerations we have so often discuss'd, it may prevail with you to stretch a point if it should not pg 110be totally incompatible with your engagements. if I am not mistaken, it will not be much wide of the time when you thought you should probably have some little leisure. If this should find you much engaged, I will not insist on requesting any other answer than a bare yes or no, but that I hope you will not deny me. in the mean time it may be some satisfaction to you to know that Dr. Roberts received our letter, and acknowledged it by Mrs Roberts to Mrs Bentham in an obliging manner.2 Pray remember me with all respect to Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, and tell Mr. Hawkins that I have executed his commission, and am ready for any other he shall please to entrust me with. Know likewise by me, and grieve with me for the general concern of mankind that Mr. Harrison's3 project for discovering the Longitude which was thought to have been accomplished is come to nothing. That his timepiece in the 2 several trials that were made of it by sending it to the West Indies performed what was designed was owing to an artifice: it has since been found while remaining in England to have gone extremely irregular. the artifice he made use of was this: he had never pretended that it would go exactly true, but if the variation were uniform, it would be the same thing, as it might be easily allowed for. in order to make it appear so he calculated what the degree of heat would probably be at the latitude to which he was to go, and applying to his timepiece an artificial heat equal thereto, he observed what the variation amounted to. I think it was a second lost in every 24 hours: he therefore just before the Ship was to sail gave that in to the board as the rate of variation, and declared he would abide by it: accordingly at the conclusion of the voyage the irregularity of the variation was found to be very small, and considerably within the limits prescribed by the Statute. during all this time he would never trust it out of his own Custody: he even carried his precautions so far, as to desire that he might have notice whenever a Gun was going to be fired, on which occasions he used to set it on his lap and shield with his Coat from the violent concussion of the Air. he also kept it on his lap whenever there was a high Sea. the pg 111reason of which precautions was, the axes of the wheels being so exceedingly small to diminish the friction, that the least shake would have been liable to have broken them. so that that imperfection alone would have been sufficient to have rendered it unfit for general use. but after the performing the last voyage, when as an ultimate test it was placed for 4 months in the hands of the Professor4 at Greenwich, it was found to go so very irregular that a good watch made upon the common principles would have done almost as well. the whole account of this affair was communicated to us by the Professor on Tuesday at the conclusion of his lecture. If I should be so happy as to see you here, I will beg the favour of you to take the first and last 2 or 3 words of my Froissart and Caxton's Polychronicon5 that I may supply the deficiencies from some library 〈…〉〈…〉

  •                           Your's sincerely and affec〈tionately〉
  •                               J. Bentham

Queen's Coll. Oxon

Thursday March 26th 1767

tomorrow if nothing farther happens to prevent me I think of taking my degree.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
72. 1 U.C. clxxiii: 40. Autograph. Docketed by Clark (?): '26 March 1767. Mr.Jeremy Bentham's letter.'
Addressed: 'To Mr. Clark / at / the Old South Sea House / Old Broad Street /London.' Faded postmark.
Editor’s Note
2 See letter 66, n. 2. The Mrs Bentham in question is the wife of Dr Edward Bent ham of Christ Church.
Editor’s Note
3 John Harrison (1693–1776), a mechanician, who devised various important improvements in horology. In 1713 an Act had been passed offering large rewards for various degrees of improvement in the methods of determining the longitude. In 1735 Harrison constructed an instrument for this purpose for which he obtained £500. Throughout his life he constructed various improved time-pieces of this kind, obtaining various rewards and campaigning for larger ones. He was known as Longitude Harrison.
Editor’s Note
4 Presumably Thomas Hornsby (see letter 71, n. 2.)
Editor’s Note
5 Caxton's edition of John Trevisa's translation of the Polychronicon of Ranulphus Higden was publishd in 1482, with subsequent editions in 1495 and 1527.
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