Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 2: 1777–80

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Editor’s Note228To Jeremiah Bentham24 November 1777 (Aet 29)

Monday eveng.: Novr. 24 1777 Brompton

Hond. Sir

A letter from you without date which I suppose was sent on Monday, reached this place on Tuesday and was put in to my hands on Wednesday, but in circumstances which render'd it impossible for me to answer it. Details you must excuse my giving you till we meet. Suffice it in general that Sam and I have been employed from last Saturday sennight to this day in managing some concerns of the utmost consequence to this family. Wise (who is a most worthless fellow) has absconded with a load of debt upon him, and left his wife and 5 children, the eldest not 7 year old, without a penny. Mrs. Acworth his wife's and Mrs. Davies's mother he has defrauded of £600 besides £150 which was lent him without any fixt expectation of his repaying it. Just before I left Battle, I got him to make over his effects to her by a Bill of Sale. We have been to secure them which we successfully accomplished, having got the start of executions. To these cares, and others relative to the same occasion, pg 74has been added that of disposing of the distressed family. They are now at Maresfield 41 miles from London in or near the road through East Grindstead to Brightelmstone. They are at the house of a very decent tradesman whose wife is sister to a maid servant who had lived many years with Mrs. W. and whose behaviour to her mistress has been a singular example of fidelity and affection. It has been a burthensome office but one that our situation forced upon us. My part of it is now pretty nearly at an end and Sam's nearly. Nothing is as yet determined on concerning the place and manner of supporting them. At Maresfield they can not stay beyond a month. This house will not hold them, and there are other obstacles to their coming here. It is a fertile subject, but I must put an end to it.

Thank you kindly, Sir, for your history of Mr. Horne: it is a curious one, and one that I wanted much to be informed about. Tomorrow I shall resume my punishments; and I hope to finish the subject of the Sanctions by Saturday or Monday next, when I expect Mr. Wilson to come and fetch me. He has taken a most generous as well as active part in the late distresses. As for Sam and me, our language has been that of the Apostle—Silver and Gold have we none, but what we have, that give we unto ye.'

As to that part of your letter which relates to Sam, I am sorry to see it at all and I think I have reason to complain of it's being inserted in a letter addressed to me. Your own supposition that I never saw it, as it happens, was most strictly true: upon that supposition, as there was nothing for me to do or to forbear in consequence of what I was told, the speaking to me of it in terms so harsh as those I have the misfortune to see employ'd, could have no effect but that of making me suffer for an offence in which, be it what it may, I bore no part. I have shewn him your letter, and questioned him about his: but all I can get from him is, that he has at no time been less conscious of any intention of giving offence. If this be the case, he is very unfortunate either in his expressions or in the construction that has been put upon them. But I hope, Sir, and dare believe, that the dissatisfaction you testify at his expressions was owing in great measure to some cause as transient as that to which you attribute the expressions themselves, and that ere long you will relieve him from the concern he can not but feel under a sentence of condemnation which makes it as difficult for him to know what to write to you as how to see you. Meantime, that I may keep him as clear from my offences, if this letter should unfortunately be reckoned in to the number of them, as I wish to pg 75be of his, I have not, neither shall I let him see what I have now been writing.

I am, with all respect

  • Hond. Sir                                  
  • Your dutiful and obedient Son         
  • Jeremy Bentham                   

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Editor’s Note
228. 1 B.M. II: 145–146. Autograph. Docketed by Jeremiah Bentham: 'Fils Jeremy / Lr. datd. Brompton near Chatham 24th Novr. 1777.'
Addressed: 'To / Jeremiah Bentham Esqr. / Queen's Square Place / Westminster / Single Sheet.' Postmark: '2. NO'. Stamped: 'Chatham'.
On 19 November at Chatham Robert Wise had signed and sealed a document witnessed by Bentham and George Wilson. This conveyed to Joseph Davies, in trust for Mrs Wise and her children, whatever rights Wise had in the estates of his wife's father, Richard Nairne, and her stepfather, Edward Acworth. In case Davies did not return to England in time to execute this trust, Samuel Bentham was to act in his place (B.M. XVII: 57–58).
It appears from letter 230 that soon after the present letter was written, bailiffs began to remove Wise's effects from his property at Battle. This led in due course to the action raised against the Sheriff by Mrs Acworth in virtue of Wise's conveyance of the property to her.
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