Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 3: January 1781 to October 1788

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Editor’s Note441To Samuel Bentham23 April 1783 (Aet 35)


Permitt me, my dear Sir, to express my grateful acknowledgements of the honour done me in condescending to consult me on your proposed marriage. The observations which I took the liberty of submitting to you in consequence have reached Petersburgh I imagine, about ten days; before which time I take it for granted the question they relate to has one way or other been decided. But from pg 157a gentleman in your situation much consistency is not to be expected: love seeming to have been as generally admitted as charity, to the privilege of covering a multitude of sins. As my good star would have it I did not take a very peremptory part on the one side or the other: and as you were pleased to ask me whether I had anything to say for or against I accordingly made the compleatest use of the liberty thereby given me, by offering such arguments as occurred to me on both sides. With regard to one argument/On one topic/ I must confess I was altogether silent; viz: the degree of your affection for the fair object: not as holding it to be the least material of the number, but that some how or other I could not help looking upon it as more than probable that some time or other it might present itself to your consideration of its own accord. The event has proved that presumption not to have been ill grounded: insomuch that the stone, which the builder thought it unnecessary to lay, has accordingly danced into its place with as much alacrity as if /Apollo/ Neptune or Amphion had piped a country dance to it, and is become /after all/ the head-stone of the corner. To these observations you, Sir, who after having been long enough the pupil of a court are now arrived to the dignity of prescribing to it its topics for conversation, have doubtless the answer ready: You knew /me/ too well not to be assured that to imagine it possible that any advice of mine on such an occasion could be of any other than the moderate and impartial stamp of which it proved to be. And now, I think, it may be time the account of compliments should close on both sides.

pg 158Ever since I have decypherd the arcana2 I have been as full of cogitabundities as ever Mambrès was.3 That Miss or Countess or Princess or whatever she is should have her nose burst out a bleeding, upon Mama's speaking to her, that this bleeding should produce a recal of the fatal prohibition, and that notwithstanding such recal and Miss's being at her own disposal into the bargain and having made so many and such explicit tenders of her sweet self there should be any 'fear' of her resolution to bring the matter to a conclusion. Encore if there had been a father: but I don't find there is any such personage in the case. Certainly if you have stated the matter accurately and fairly, the knot must have been tied and the zone bound long enough before this. So say I, and so says Wilson, who is the only person to whom I have yet communicated it. My hypothesis is, that whatever want there may be of resolution is on the side of the gentleman: who has always been a shilly-shally sort of a gentleman, more so even than his brother, ever since I have had the honour of his acquaintance.

And to think of my Sam's getting a wife, and being by and by a father! and of my having a sister, and by and bye being an Uncle, by God's blessing, and having a parcel of mongrel animals half children and half bears for nephews and nieces! I shall expect a full and exact description of her whether she is hairy all over, how long her claws are, and whether she has got a tail—One thing appears, that whatever may be her excellencies in other respects, she wants the property the E. Florida bears have (you remember) of 'never attacking a man'. Alas poor E. Florida! Jack Spaniard /you know/ is to have it again. Lucky enough we did not go there.4

I hope by the Courier we shall hear the name, and something about the assets. I wish it may prove a Princess (not that a Princess is anything with you) or at least a Countess or a Baroness, /only/ for Jezebel's5 dear sake. The passage in which you spoke of your intimacy with Princess Dashcoff was a dagger to her.6 Not long after /our receiving/ that letter, Ear asked me at table to give you that commission which I suppose you have received before now, pg 159about Brompton the Painter;7 adding that he understood he was intimate with Sr. J. Harris. Hardly intimate said I: he was not the sort of man for Sir J. to be intimate with: though he used, as I understood to take some notice of him. 'Oh' says Madam, /with one of her angelic looks,/ 'but at that distance, very slight acquaintances are always magnified into great intimacies.' The malice was so apparent that even her first-born and best-beloved reprimanded her for it before my face. If it should be a Princess, to be sure poor dear Jezebel will break her heart: there will be no occasion for a Jehu to throw her out of the window.

Then as to assets I wonder whether her expectations are equal to poor Miss Pleschijeff's? What will she and her brother, your bosom friend say to this abandonment? Were all thoughts of that affair perfectly given over by all parties?8 She has got some little matter, you say, of her own. This I suppose we shall one of these days know the quantum of: as also who the two rich people are to whom she is heiress, and what she may expect from each. Her mother, I suppose, is one of them. But pray, Mr. Sir, what do you mean by 'heiress'? Do you mean that their assets must come to her at all events, or only that they will come to her, if they do nothing to prevent it? Tell me in either case where their estates, if on land, are situated, that I may find them in the maps, and send me a map in which they may be found, if there be such an one, /colouring/ marking the spot distinctly. I suppose if they bring in a hundred a year they will be as large as an English county. And tell me the ages of the Mother and the other friend.

If these friends, or either of them, should come to at last, you and she will of course be presented at Court on the occasion of the marriage. If so, it will probably find its way into the Petersburgh Gazette. Would it not be a great treat to Mrs. Q.S.P. if from thence /or otherwise/ it could be made to find its way into our Gazette? Could not Sir James, by writing word of it in a particular manner, ensure it a place there? If I do not mistake, Frazer who when Under Secry. of State wrote you your recommendations, is writer of the Gazette. All that is woman against woman; but independant of all that, which is not worth crossing the threshold for, there may be a real advantage in becoming the topic of conversation here on a ground rather creditable than otherwise. It might contribute to pg 160smooth the road for example to a Commissionership should that be eligible.

You /who/ know what a Castle-builder I am, may imagine what a number of Castles I am building upon this ground.—/Behold a specimen./ You, who want to revisit England, and to have the pleasure of shewing it to the Princess Beareoff or Oursoff whatever her name is, as likewise of shewing her to your friends, pretend to yourself and make yourself believe (though it is no such thing) that a visit hither is necessary to your carrying on whatever projects of improvement you may have upon the anvil. The Princess, her own revenue not being able to keep her in cloaths, much less to pay the expence of such a ramble, profers an humble petition to the Princess Dowager. A grant of 3 or 400 pounds passes the seal: whereupon the Princess attended by Sammy Sneak, and the favourite lady of the bed chamber, visit this once happy isle /like the Princess of Babylon./ Coming in summer, they find nobody in London: they stay therefore no longer than just to take up Jerry Sneak. That makes just a Coach-full, or in short, as no Coach but the Q.S.P.-ian ever travelled with less than 4 horses, two Postchaises, which would cost no more. They then take a ramble over England, to look at Saltworks, Mines and Mechanism.

They go first to Cornwall, taking Bath in their way, and Bowood in their way to Bath. In Cornwall they visit Basset with whom Carey is intimately connected:9 and from Bowood they get a heap of other recommendations. From Cornwall instead of returning to London, they visit the copper-mines in Gloucestershire, then the Salt works which I have seen at Northwich in Chester. Not far from Chester is Manchester, where liveth a very capital Manufacturer whom Capper knows, and who dined at Q.S.P. the day Capper dined there. In the Manufactories in the neighbourhood of Manchester is to be seen a variety of mechanism. Farr was telling me t'other day of a man with an odd name who had in a short time made a matter of 50,000£ /in that neighbourhood/ by the invention of machines for abridging labour. The mines in Derbyshire, and the manufactories at Birmingham, would then be on the way to London.

Q.S.P.s when they went to Scotland paid for Postchaises for 1100 miles, which came to I don't know whether it was £50 or 70£. This would not be quite so many miles but as there has been a tax since pg 161of I think it is 1½ or 2d. a mile, we will say it would come to 60£. This for two Post-chaises would be £120. I am afraid there must be something of a Swiss servant to dress hair, who would ride in one of the chaises as the ton is, except when one came to a great house, then he must ride post thither and from thence. This say would make it £130. Two guineas a day for travelling expences for two months 60 guineas allowing 7 pound for extra expences that would make it £200. If /it could be/ ten weeks so much the better. While the Sneaks were examining mines and manufactures the Princess would be reposing her sweet person. If she could be prevailed upon to trust the said person to the sea the whole expence might be brought within £300: and in coming at least that way they would probably save time. If an additional £100 could be obtained they might return by land in the winter, which they should do by way of Sweden. There there would be a great deal in the chemical and mineway to be seen. This way Capper says is rather cheaper than the other. An English carriage bought secondhand at Tattersals /for £40 or £50/ would make a great figure during the journey, and even at Petersburgh on the return.

The Princess would doubtless be wild for all this, and £200 a piece supplied by her two rich friends would do the business.

I take for granted the ordinary revenue would suffice for a fortnights stay in town, to see the Opera house, the Play-houses, the Pantheon, the Waxworks, and the Lions.

Neither Basingstoke (the Drs. abode) nor Whitchurch, humble as the appearance of things /is, then/ should be passed by unvisited: the expectations will reconcile her Highness to the humiliation. A pilgrimage should also be made to Browning-hill, to visit the dead Ancestors: more especially as I understand that estate is intended to be your's.

Was there ever a prettier scheme cut out upon paper? As a lawyer I cannot avoid turning my thoughts to the legal consequences of this hybridous conjunction. It won't be the first time of my reckoning my chickens, or what comes to the same thing, your chickens, before they are hatched. One good thing is, that as to all English privileges, you being an Englishman, mauvais sujet as you are, it is all the same where Ursa minor litters. They may inherit Q.S.P. and Browning-hill, trade without paying alien's duty, and sit in Parliament if they can bribe anybody to choose them. With regard to Russian privileges and disadvantages, it will be well worth your while to inform yourself, whether it would be for their advantage or otherwise to be whelped in Russia. Is there not for example, pg 162a foolish sort of law forbidding Russian subjects [several words totally obliterated] without leave? Can children born out of Russia, of a father not a Russian, inherit lands in Russia: and in particular lands in the province in which Ursina's lands, if she has any, are situated?

Then as to yourself, do not /let/ the sound of the word tempt you to accept, much less to sollicit 'naturalisation' without obtaining a distinct conception of the advantages or disadvantages that may attend it. You would not for example forfeit any of your English rights exercisible in England: but I am apt to think you would forfeit your claim to any protection from the Ambassador of England.

Nor is the plan of marriage perhaps a matter of intire indifference. You are not so bewitched, I hope, as to be incapable of acknowledging, that marry what you will, there may be occasions may hereafter happen, which may render it eligible to a man to have the possibility of recovering his freedom: and that even upon easier terms than that of having been previously made a notorious cuckold. In England a man who has been married in England may for adultery get a divorce by act of Parliament after a deal of trouble and at a most enormous expence. In Scotland he may be divorced for the same cause at much less trouble and expence. In Sweden and Denmark he may get a divorce for mere incompatibility of tempers /In a Catholic country no divorce at all./ Learn /if not too late/ how that matter stands in Russia: and if it be possible, marry in the place which is best for marrying in. Take notice that the foolish nincompoops called Legislators have not made provision for a tenth part of the varieties that may take place with relation to such an affair. The parties, natural born subjects the one of one country, the other of another: the marriage contracted for in a third; celebrated in a fourth: a cause of dissolution takes place in a 5th. dissolution applied for in a sixth: they have children born and estates in all: and they want to marry again in each. A pretty number of instances to ring changes upon!

Understand all this while, that I know perfectly well as I was telling Wilson, that this is a great Jack Whore you have got, and that all my nephews and nieces instead of going now and then upright with only a little of the Bentham stoop, will be alloffs andwisky's and go constantly upon all fours: for Capper tells me no Russian female ever could remember the time of her having her maidenhead. I have accordingly promised Wilson a parcel of the tickets which I am going to get engraved with her picture taken pg 163from the best dancer I can find in London, and under it 'Admitt the bearer and his friends.' And when you send over to [words obliterated] portion of the shift according to the Russian etiquette ⟨ … ?⟩ for to offer to palm off upon us and particularly upon such a Chemist as myself, a parcel of hog's blood or blood made a la mode de St. Januarias, but hold a bottle for the blood that comes from the next nose-bleeding produced by the next 'prohibition'.

Now you talk of whores /Jones is dead and/ Miss Ousnam is come back and lives with her father and mother.10 La Folle11 and they however do not visit. What could you do about La Folle? Unless Orsina were in good earnest what I have been telling you she is out of compliment, I never could bear any wife of your's should be two minutes alone with that cursed woman or her equally impudent daughter. One single pissing-bout with either of them would be sufficient to wash away all her delicacy. The young one met me once on the staircase in her shift without a blush: discussed with me the choice of the parts it was properest to cover; and the mother who was within hearing though not within sight, thought it a good joke. Poor thing! (I mean your Orsina) I cannot help thinking of her by the hour together, as I can conceive a man to think of a girl that his wife has just been brought to bed of.

Your rogue you, what a deal of life of one sort or another, good and bad together, have you seen at your age, while I have been but vegetating!

Oh, I'll tell you how I will manage La Folle: I will tell her you are afraid of seeing her, for fear of etc. again, after which you would never be able to endure your wife. She told me once, you yourself said to her that would be the case: and whether you ever said so or no, and whether you thought so or no when you said /it/, she will make no difficulty of believing it as true as the gospel to the world's end. Queen Elizabeth used to /sit and/ hear tag rag and bobtail talk in strains of rapture of her beauty when turned of seventy.

Wednesday April 23rd at night

I have been trying to get some lights out of Smirnof12 about Orsina: but he is as dark as pitch. I asked him whether he knew of any lady of one of the first families (Remember, Mr. Two shoes you said one of the first families) who had no husband living and only pg 164one daughter who was just of age. He knew of no such person. I asked him when a girl was of age to dispose of herself in marriage? I could not get any distinct answer to that neither. He seemed however to think that no girl who had a mother living could dispose of herself at any age without her mother's consent, unless impower'd to do so by the father's will. And as to the marriage of a girl of the Greek religion with a man of another religion [many words obliterated] I a⟨lso⟩ thought of asking him ⟨ … ?⟩ He ⟨ … ?⟩ Russian Statutes at large, and is to ⟨ … ?⟩ what he finds in a day or two. I did not tell him you were ⟨the⟩ party concerned: but neither had I any apprehension of what might be his suspicions. As you say the whole Court is up in arms about it, every thing of a secret is out of the question. You ninniest of all ninny-hammers! as if after desscribing her to the knowledge of any body that could have open'd the letter at Petersburgh you could not as well have told her name. It would be a great treat for example to M⟨rs⟩ Q.S.P. if her name were Yssoupof: Princess Yssoupof: attendu that one of the Dutchess's of Courland the last before Madlle. Medern was a Princess Yssoupof; whom poor Lohmen upon my mentioning her, called an old whore.

Smyrnof was as busy as a bee packing up fine things in abundance for Count Soltakoff,13 the man that whilom commanded a Russian army.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
441. 1 B.M. IV: 46–9. Autograph.
Addressed: 'I.B. to S.B. / Epithalamica / Don't open this if the match fails. / It will only plague you. / It is badinage Castle-building etc.'
Although filed among papers of the year 1784 the contents of this letter exclude it from that sequence. The only explicit indication of date is a heading of a paragraph near the end: 'Wednesday April 23rd at night.' In 1783 April 23 was a Wednesday. Moreover, in no other year could Bentham have written: 'Alas, poor E. Florida! Jack Spaniard /you know/ is to have it again' (p. 158 below)—a reference to the preliminaries of the peace of Versailles which had been made public about three months before. This letter appears to be a reply to the missing letter mentioned in letter 438 at n. 3.
This is the first reference in the correspondence to the love affair between Samuel Bentham and the Countess Matyushkina, which dragged on until finally broken off under pressure from her parents about the end of 1783. Sof'ya Dmitriyevna Matyushkina (1755–96) belonged to the highest circles of Russian society. Her father, Count Dmitriy Mikhaylovich Matyushkin (1725–1800), was a privy councillor and chamberlain. Her mother, Anna (1716–1804), belonged to the proud family of the Gagarins, being the daughter of Prince Aleksey Matveyevich Gagarin. She was Grand Mistress and Lady in Waiting at the empress's court, and at one time had been a favourite with Catherine II though, to judge by the reported critical comments of the empress on her opposition to a match between her daughter and Samuel, this was the case no longer. Anna's younger sister, Dar'ya, was to show, out of family pride, the most determined opposition to any such match. She was married to Prince Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Golitsyn (1718–83), a distinguished soldier now holding rank as fieldmarshal, who, until his death in October, seems to have occupied some sort of locus parentis in the affairs of his wife's niece during the absence of her father in Moscow. Countess Matyushkina herself was about twenty-eight years of age at this time. The French diplomat Bourrée had known her a few years earlier and described her as pretty, lively, and pleasant, 'la tête fort romanesque', but summed her up as a heartless flirt. However, her feelings for Samuel seem to have been quite genuine. For a less critical description of her see letter 464.
Editor’s Note
2 This may be an indication that part of Samuel's missing letter was written in sympathetic ink.
Editor’s Note
3 The sorcerer in Voltaire's Le taureau blanc, which Bentham had translated in 1774 (see Correspondence, i, 185 and n. 4).
Editor’s Note
4 Some references to East Florida in earlier correspondence suggest that Bentham had then toyed with the idea of emigrating there (Correspondence, i, 170 n., 174 and n., 179, 235).
Editor’s Note
5 Their step-mother, Mrs Bentham.
Editor’s Note
6 This passage is in letter 438.
Editor’s Note
7 Richard Brompton, who died in 1782, spent the last few years of his life at St Petersburg holding an appointment as portrait painter to Catherine II.
Editor’s Note
8 For Miss Pleshcheyeva and Bentham's earlier jesting on that subject, see Correspondence, ii, 429 n., 445 and n.
Editor’s Note
9 Sir Francis Basset, 1st bart., m.p. (1757–1835), of Tehidy, later Lord de Dunstanville, a great mine-owner in Cornwall, and a friend of Jeremiah Bentham (cf. letter 354 at n. 3. 'Carey' is probably an error for [Reginald Pole] Carew.
Editor’s Note
10 In 1778 Miss Ousnam had eloped with a second lieutenant of marines (presumably Jones), who had evidently not married her (letter 234, n. 4).
Editor’s Note
11 I.e. Bentham's hostess at Brompton, Mrs Elizabeth Davies.
Editor’s Note
12 The Rev. Yakov Ivanovich Smirnov (1759–1840), chaplain to the Russian church in London from 1780 till his death and also to the Russian embassy. (See letter 501.)
Editor’s Note
13 Nikolay Ivanovich Saltykov (1736–1816). A distinguished soldier, who saw active service during the Seven Years War and the Russo-Turkish war of 1768–74, he later succeeded Potëmkin as president of the college for military affairs.
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