Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 4: October 1788 to December 1793

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Editor’s Note643To Lord Wycombe1 March 1789 (Aet 41)

March 1, 1789

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, pg 33as 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 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, etc. etc., 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.2 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.3 They were in pg 34my own dog-French; one of them was afterwards Frenchified by a reverend gentleman4 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,5 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.6 You may see the outside at the Abbes; 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.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
643. 1 Bowring, x, 196–7. Lord Lansdowne's elder son, John Henry Petty (1765–1809), was styled Lord Wycombe after his father became a marquis in 1783. He succeeded him as 2nd Marquis of Lansdowne in 1805. Lord Wycombe visited Paris in the spring of 1789 and later in the year made a tour of Europe, including a visit to Russia.
Editor’s Note
2 The planet Uranus, first named in honour of George III by Sir William Herschel, when he discovered it in 1781.
Editor’s Note
3 The 'Libel on the People of France' and the 'Observations' on the noblesse of Brittany (see letter 642, n. 11 and n. 13).
Editor’s Note
4 Etienne Dumont.
Editor’s Note
5 The Abbé Morellet (see letter 642).
Editor’s Note
6 The Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, most of which had been in print since 1780–1, was published in April 1789.
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