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Jeremy Bentham

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

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Editor’s NoteEditor’s Note320To Samuel Bentham25–27 August 1779 (Aet 31)

Linc. Inn Wednesday morning Aug 25. 1779


I am now writing to you for the last time on thick paper. I shall send you I believe some exquisite thin paper called Bank pg 266Paper; doubting whether the like may be to be got in Holland. You may make use of it for all your correspondents—They will not take your letters the worse for costing them little. Divide each page into two columns—by this means you will lose less room by breaks.


I am not at all melancholy—I have perfectly got the better of the shock at parting, and think of nothing but the flattering prospects that are before us.


You a Mechanic, and bid me get a box on purpose made for the Delineator stand? I sent for the Carpenter in blind obedience to your orders: but when he came it occurred to me that upon farther taking to pieces it might very likely be puttable into the box with the smooth inside. The honest obliging fellow came in to the proposal very readily and put it into execution. He has marked the claws 1,2, 3 and put correspond marks to the part of the foot into which they are respectively to be inserted. The box was not full pg 267by a great deal: so I put 4 Priestly into it and Restaut2 and Hume. Also Contract and Principal Dimensions: item the flannel sailing jacket merely to fill up chinks. There were 6 boxes of them in all. I dispatched them by two men and a wooden horse part last night and part this morning. With a letter for Sambouski who said it was very well and renew'd his promises of taking care of them. They are marked S.B. Paper No. 1,2, etc. on the wood in thumping large capitals.


It would have been better by the bye if I had number'd them 1/6 2/6 etc. meaning No. 1 out of 6. No. 2 out of 6 etc.: then by seeing any one a man would know at any time how many of them there should be. Suppose you were to adopt this contrivance and number your boxes and gimcracks accordingly. You and I ought to neglect none of the helps to a weak memory.


I have been and got a memorandum book to set down every thing that relates to you, and have entitled it S.B.


I see by a paper of today that Sr. Ch: Douglas has lately lost his wife.


Endeavour to see the 2d. vol. of Dr. Burney's Musical tour through Germany. I have just been running over it on your account. He had recommendations to Matthias and Hanbury at Hamburgh of whom he makes honourable mention.3 They probably have the book. In the Stadt-huys at Amsterdam and elsewhere take notice of the Carillons or Chimes that are play'd upon by fists and feet: There and elsewhere in your route take notice of the Organs which are in many places of an immense size. 32 feet in height with 4 rows of keys beside pedals for the feet and from fifty to 64 stops and 8 or 6 pairs of bellows. In Hamburg there are a matter of 5 such. pg 268These may be worth examining if not on a musical account, at least as mechanical contrivances. They will afford pus for mechanical digest.

8 Key

Have-not you got mine with you—I have yours I remember you may have locked the door and put the key into your pocket, At least I can not find it since you have been gone I have found it.


I send you my laced ruffles—the sheet they are inclosed in will serve to write your Will upon.

10. Law and Language Books.

When you are at Hamburgh if you could get Grammar and Dictionaries of the Danish and Swedish languages cheap (either in French or English) I should be glad to have them. Grammars at any rate. Dictionaries too if you can get them under 10s. the two. At Hamburgh likewise you might get me the body of Danish Laws as cheap probably as at Copenhagen. See Facienda. Likewise Harpsichord Music if you hear any that you like, and if the price should not be more than 3s. for 6 Lessons or whatever they are. Here the price is 10s. 6 with only one accompaniment.

August 22. 1779.

I Samuel Bentham do make this my last Will and Testament.

Whereas my capital will be considerably reduced by the expence of the excursion I am about to undertake, and whereas my Brother Jeremy Bentham stands more in need of what little I may leave than any body else whom I could think of leaving any thing to, I hereby revoke all former Wills and Testaments, giving him whatever is in my power, and making him sole Executor of this my Will.

I will send you a Sheet of English Paper like this to write it on. Send it back to me by means of Strachan.4

By the same means send also a copy of the 'Journey through Holland' or whatever the book is which he told us of. It will be a great delight to me to follow you on your travels: and I may collect from it inquirenda, videnda etc. for you against you return that way. I mean if you can get another in addition to your own.

pg 269Send me also by the same means the map of Courland if you can get it. It is by a Mr. Groll I think his name is or Grot a Clergyman of that country.5 Don't fob me off with an old antiquated one of a prior date to his.

Mr. De Court tells me of a certain sort of Biscuit, which he exports to France, which is very common in Holland, but which he has never seen here. If they are good and you find that the encrease they make in the parcel would not be attended with any considerable trouble to Mr. Strachan or expence to us, but not otherwise, you might send a small parcel of them to Mr. Lind.

I hope you have been in no need of being reminded of the force of habit.

The name of the new Padlock is 'Habit' as well as of the other. The fewer burthens upon the memory I thought the better.

Friday morning.

Yesterday I received your letter—there's a dear good boy for writing. Yesterday also came one from Q.S.P. to both of us. Very kind, but = 0 as usual.

I received a day or two ago a letter from Davies in which he says he shall not go to sea; and I expect him every day to pick me up and carry me to Brompton.

I have transacted the business with Otley6; which hung upon me very much. He is to take back all but 16 of the inlaid steel buttons, and to allow ½ a guinea for the plain cut ones. This half guinea alas! goes for the D. of C.7 As he is so dear, there is no such thing as having two of him; but the one I have got you shall have, attendu that to me it could give pleasure only, and to you it might afford pleasure and profit too. You might produce it before him at taking leave or sooner, asking leave to examine it with the original: who knows but it might give him occasion to make you a present of his picture in another form? What put this into my head was, the parable of the nest eggs in Hudibras.

You left behind you your liquefiable amalgam: also a gimcrack for weighing. The former I shall send by Strachan: together with the best set of inlaid buttons: which (as also certain papers of the D. of C.) I forgot to put up in the Hamburgh Box. In the Hamburgh pg 270box you will also find a pamphlet on the marine which I gave 9d. for at a Bookseller's in Oxford Road. I can not get any good lights yet about a Surveying Book. I don't think therefore that I shall send one. You will hardly want one unless you have M. to bring it.

I have enquired at Cadel's—Of Mungo Murray's8 there is nothing else but what you have.

I have settled the matter with Ravenscroft about Richard and got William in his stead. Hairdressing is now a very comfortable operation.

In short I am altogether very comfortable, Mr. Sir: howsoever your vanity may dispose you to think otherwise: and not the less so from having observed the Wind to change amain. I hope it has for some time been very favourable to you. You will make me a connoisseur in winds.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
320. 1 B.M. II: 357–358. Autograph.
On 24 August Bentham had seen brother Samuel off at Billingsgate on a Dutch eel-boat bound for Hellevoetsluis in Holland. Britain was now at war with the French, so Samuel could not take a route through France. The war added an element of risk to Samuel's sea voyage. This letter was doubtless for delivery to him on board the ship during its progress down the Thames.
The letter-book at the British Museum contains letters bearing on Samuel's departure. Among them are (B.M. II: 333) a letter from Baron Maseres to Jeremy Bentham, giving times when Samuel could wait upon Lord Shelburne; several letters from Jeremiah Bentham to Samuel showing him being gradually won over to the sense of the Russian expedition; and some of the letters of introduction which Samuel took abroad with him. B.M. XX: 4 contains a complete list in Jeremiah Bentham's hand of the letters of introduction Samuel took abroad. Lind seems to have helped him obtain many of them.
Samuel Bentham did not in the event return to England until 1791, having meanwhile entered the service of the Russian Empress. When he set out, however, he had no firm intention of so long an exile, or at least his relatives had no idea of it. His declared plan seems to have been simply that he 'should spend some time in visiting maritime countries abroad, to study the shipbuilding and naval economy of foreign powers', thereby following, as his widow informs us, the suggestion of Lord Howe (Life of Sir Samuel Bentham, 8).
Jeremy Bentham was enthusiastic about the expedition, and not only as a step in Samuel's career. He hoped that Samuel might prepare the ground, particularly in Russia, for reception of advice on law reform. The two brothers felt that their cause was in a sense the same, a critique of existing practices in terms of their utility, a study of what ought to be rather than what is, and a battle against vested interests to effect the reforms dictated by that study. For Jeremy the enemy was outmoded legal institutions; for Samuel, outmoded methods of shipbuilding and naval administration.
Jeremiah Bentham had at first opposed the plan. His hopes were that Samuel would join a private shipbuilding yard, and he doubted whether a visit to Russia would add to his qualifications. He was clearly depressed at Samuel's going so far away. Samuel pointed out that his father was not offering him the money to join such a business as a partner, and that his best opportunity for carrying out nautical experiments was in Russia, where the First Lord of the Admiralty, Count Chernyshev, was a man 'who interests himself in making improvements'. He would obtain excellent letters of recommendation. 'I should go recommended to him not as a poor man who not being able to subsist in his own country would be glad to go anywhere for a livelihood, but as a man of Science as well as a Shipwright, and who is considered such a man in his own country. I should not go to him as one begging a favor. I should not ask for any post in their service, nor would I accept of any which there is much probability of their offering me … I should make some proposals which it would be to their interest to attend to and would probably appear to be to their interest to attend to.' If he had an opportunity of testing his ideas in this way, he would be well qualified to join a private business on his return home. (To his father, 9 May 1779, B.M. II: 322.)
His father continued to oppose the Russian project but without putting forward any very constructive alternative proposal, although he had an inconclusive interview with Mr Randall, senior partner in a merchant's yard. Gradually he accepted the project, and agreed to pay Samuel his regular allowance (cf. letter 370). It seems that Samuel also had £100 from his cousin Mulford (see letter 319, n. 2). He also had some money of his own in 'the funds' to fall back upon.
Various people to whom Samuel had introductions are alluded to in this letter. Notes have been defferred until they figure more prominently in the text.
Editor’s Note
2 Possibly Pierre Restaut, Principes généraux et raisonés de la grammaire françoise par demandes et par réponses, Paris, 1730. The Ms word actually looks more like 'Restant'.
Editor’s Note
3 Charles Burney, Mus.D., The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and United Provinces, or the Journal of a Tour … In Two Volumes, 1773. The reference to the hospitality at Hamburg of Mr Matthias, English resident, and John Hanbury, the merchant, is in Vol. II, p. 255. For these two gentlemen see letter 333, nn. 1, 20.
Editor’s Note
5 This map has not been identified.
Editor’s Note
6 G. and R. Otley, Woollen-drapers, Men's Mercers and Button-sellers, 43 Holborn and 71 New Bond Street.
Editor’s Note
7 He had bought a miniature of the Duke of Courland. Samuel Bentham's travels were to take in the little state of Courland, of which Mittau was the capital: he had obtained a letter of introduction to the Duke.
Editor’s Note
8 Mungo Murray (d. 1770) was a shipwright at Deptford, and a teacher of mathematics and navigation. He published A Treatise on Shipbuilding (1754) and The Rudiments of Navigation (1760) and other works.
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