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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 Note269To Samuel Bentham14 August 1778 (Aet 30)

Linc. Inn. Friday Aug 14th 1778

I have received, I think, in all, five letters from you since we were at Horsham: 2 dated before the 4th of this month, 2 dated on the day (one of them with a parcel containing the Vol. of Phil. Transns. and a letter from Mr. D. to Mrs. D, and one from you to her) and now to day one dated the 11th.

Yesterday sennight being the 6th I went to Colchester: yesterday I returned. The day before I went (the 5th) I wrote to you at Portsmouth; when or how you will receive it God knows, who as you very justly and originally observe knows every thing. I there told you amongst other things the progress of my negotiations with the illustrious Mr. Wood of Battle; the result of which is that the Spinnet is lodged to day in James Street, and that there is 10s. paid for it, carriage porterage and package included.

I have also told you of my having re͠ced as a present from Chastellux a copy of the 2d. edition of his book; accompanied with a note which I transcribed for you. I dispatched to him an enormous long letter Tuesday the 4th.

Wilson returned to town from Maidstone the day before yesterday: pauvre diable he has got 2 monstrous large boils upon his backside, one on each side, so that he can hardly sit: this will certainly detain him 2 or 3 days in town, and not improbably as many weeks.

I have been making a sanglierical dinner to-day at Browne's upon a Haunch of Venison.

pg 156On Monday sen'night I was at Petersham: Q.S.P. made me promise that when I returned from Colchester I woud spend two or three days with them—O Lord! if it be possible take this cup from me. I shall make Wilson's indisposition partly a reason partly an excuse for delaying it as long as possible.

A day or two before I went to Colchester I saw my Uncle. He is to spend some time at Southampton that Mrs. Gr. may bathe. He talked (in a manner as if he intended it) of going over to Portsmouth to see you. I suppose if he does he will hardly take Madam with him. He talked likewise about sending you some Venison. It may probably go there while you are at Plymouth. Think therefore where it will answer best for you to make a present of it, write me word, and I will send word to Mr. Witchel. I have not enquired; but I take for granted from what my Uncle said, that he is gone out of town by this time. I will therefore give him a line to tell him of your not being at Portsmouth.

You may for aught I know have done very right in going where you are: it was however a little disappointment to me, the not hearing as I expected to have done this week, the result of your double-rudder experiments. You must be, I should think, in the way of accumulating anecdotes upon anecdotes, and forming observations upon observations: I hope you have not the laziness and the imprudence to trust the least scrap of any one of them for the space of four and twenty hours to that most damnable of all treacherous faculties, the thing which by an abuse of the King's English, you call your memory. [Set down everything the moment you hear it and when it comes to a sheetfull send it to the post office. G.W.*]2

I spent my time very comfortably at Forster's: the people all perfectly sociable and civil, and not too much so. They pressed me a good deal to stay longer; which I should have done, had it not been for Wilson's going to Scotland. I took down some papers, and read to him what I have written about the Religious Sanction. The evening before I came away, I happen'd while we were riding out together to mention that I should take it very well for the sake of expedition if I had 5 or 6 pupils who were initiated in my principles to whom I should give so many parts of my plan to execute under my eye. Upon that he proposed my giving him such a part, for him to execute. I was confounded at a proposal so unexpected: I had pg 157not insincerity enough to make line speeches; so that I scarce knew what to say. However as I found him disposed to work under my direction, I took advantage of it to propose to him a work which he might undertake upon a more independent footing. This was the rationale of the Laws of debate in public assemblies, deduced from the principle of utility. I open'd the subject to him a little: enough to let him see and to make him acknowledge that it was a fine field for speculation, one that he may very well find his account in engaging in, and that lies particularly within his competence. The knowledge of Parliamentary affairs that he has imbibed during the course of his index-making operations gives him a greater fund of materials than almost any other man could have to set out with.3

If by great accident any news for you to talk about should happen to come to my ears I will send it you: but at present all we have to talk about is what the great folks with you have been doing or rather leaving undone. There is not a soul here can conceive the shadow of a reason for Keppel's foregoing a certainty of engaging in expectation of a chance: and we hear various accounts which concur in giving us to understand that people in the fleet are as much at a loss about it as we are. In particular the Lieutt. of the Milford I think it is is named on this occasion: the frigate who was between the two fleets employ'd in making signals.4 But you have had the whole tale of it from your Landlord or rather Water-lord B. of the F.5 If you do not give me a monstrous deal about it by this post, I would not be in your shoes for sixpence.

Wilson's boils are better, and he talks now of setting out on Sunday.

Aug. 14th 1778.


* The hog means news for himself: but I mean pus for thine own use.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
269. 1 B.M. II: 221–222. Autograph. Docketed: 'I.B. Augt. 14th 1778.'
Addressed: 'Mr. Samuel Bentham / at the Fountain / Plymouth Dock.' Postmark: 'AV..'.
Editor’s Note
2 The words here placed in square brackets are in Wilson's hand.
Editor’s Note
3 This seems to be the earliest reference to what became Bentham's Essay on Political Tactics (published in part, 1791; Bowring, II, 299–373). We do not know whether anything came of the proposal that Forster should work on this under Bentham's direction.
Editor’s Note
4 The Milford was a 25-gun frigate commanded at Ushant by Captain Sir William Burnaby.
Editor’s Note
5 John Bazely, Captain of the Formidable, flagship of Vice-Admiral Palliser (cf. letter 245, and n. 3). Samuel was evidently now on board as a volunteer.
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