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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 NoteEditor’s Note530To Joseph Townsend12 May 1785 (Aet 37)

Lincolns Inn May 12 1785.

Dear Sir

Here am I still: how much longer I shall be here, I do not as yet precisely know: nor by what track nor by what manner pg 328/conveyance/ I shall migrate elsewhere. I am waiting for letters from Petersburgh: which is like the countryman's waiting/that is to say I am in the state and condition of your friend Horace's countryman who /kept/ waiting/ for the river to run itself dry. Thanks to my stars /sins/, I have to do with one of the most indolent men of one of the most indolent nations upon the face of God's/almightys/ earth. I write for him letter after letter about business purely his own. He, I am told, expresses much satisfaction: and how do you think he testifies it? You would suppose, by answering them: no such thing: he orders them to be translated out of my dog-French into Russian: for what purpose, or for whose use, I can't pretend to guess: not for his own most certainly: as he makes at least as much use of the French as of the Russ. However he talks of writing soon, and there the matter rests.

As for you, I will /almost/ venture to prophesy you will not quit the land of Tin /island/ in a hurry: the gnomes of Cornwall have bound /encompassed/ you with silver chains. I see the would-be Gulliver struggling to get loose: in vain. a swarm of little Pluto's keep fast hold of him by the heart-strings.

As to Sir Edward Bayntun,2 I am much obliged to him for his good intentions: they are like Prince Potemkin's, of lasting stuff, not to be demolished /put an end to/ by performance. I should rather have said, for his declarations: which assuredly is full as much as I had any title to expect.

To come back to Milk maids. You gave me as your /decided/ opinion that no such animals would be to be met with, born in two countries at once. After great consideration and some enquiry, I do believe /am inclin'd to think/ you are in the right. Indeed I know but of /never cou'd hear of more than/ one sort of being that into and with /have been/ /is to be found/ in more than one place at a time, in any period of its existence. I think therefore I have done something in finding in /the person/ a Niece of my all performing pg 329capable Scotchman an intelligent well-bred young /gentle/ woman of about 25, who to the theoretical merit of having imbibed sound chemical principles from her Uncle, adds the practical requisite of having been born and bred in a Cheshire Dairy. You will say that is doing the business but by halves: true: but it would be more than half done, if I could get her regenerated in Wiltshire. Now how to bring about this good work? of my self /you know/ I can do nothing: I can pretend to the /art/ of regeneration no more /I can have no more pretend I make no more pretensions/ than to its simple forerunner prototype. But you, my venerable friend, are alike an adept in both: the one is /last/ your choice /pastime is,/ the other is /and the first/ your trade. Now then how shall I contrive to pay you: for everyone must live by his trade: and yours is not none of those which people dont /men are wont to/ live the worst by. I wont pretend to pay you but put it into your hands/ Don't /be wicked now and/ think that I mean to propose to you/ to pay yourself by making /intermixing upon this occasion/ your pastime /with/ your trade: that would be curtailing you of a syllable, without making you a jot the richer: besides that my commission does not extend quite so far: /and [several words crossed out] sacred as the precedent is, it is possible she might have her scruples about acting/ the part of Ruth, though you were to be her Booz. I mean to pay you more liberally in your own coin. Pewsey, I am told, or the near neighbourhood of it is a second Canaan; don't be angry, I speak of its produce, not of its inhabitants. The ditches instead of mud are filled with milk: and the footpaths instead of gravel are cased with Cheese. You must /can not but/ know plenty of your ouailles or of their commeres who out of courtesy /Christian Charity/ aided by the moderate application of a more substantial motive would undertake this pious work. The process would /need/ not take up above a week: and any recompense you thought adequate, two or three guineas suppose, would be chearfully bestow'd. But what /you will say, is/ become of the Levites there you'll say all this while? Have a little patience. I have a piece of Malachites—(Ye heavenly powers! what a piece!) fit to make a breast-plate for the Angel Gabriel. Indeed I know not but that it might/Who can say it may not/ have served heretofore to that use? Stones you know /tell us/ have fallen from heaven before now and this for aught I know /why may not this/ may be one of them? Sure nothing half so beautiful was ever /could ever have been/ dug out of the earth. This /jewel/ my fair Cheese-maker, who I am told /I understand/ is a fossilist to boot, shall bring down in her lap, and deposit with pious pg 330gratitude in the sanctum sanctorum of Pewsey. To this all /shall/ be added about 50 or 60 specimens of Siberian ores: sent over by my Brother in days of yore as an earnest of better things to come. True it is these were put up in a bundle with your direction to them before I had thought of Pewsey in any other light than that of a place in which I had spent some pleasant hours, and might possibly, at I know not what distant period, spend more. But the handling of so much wealth hath made me mercenary: and I have vowed a vow, /a tremendous irrevocable vow,/ that your eyes shall never behold a single grain of them, unless wafted to Pewsey by that enviable conveyance.

When you see Lord Lansdown, you will hear of a great pie which was cut up at his house, and in which, alas! alas! I full well know, my reverend friend would have rejoiced to have had a finger. I cried out with a loud voice, where is he? They answer'd me and said, three hundred miles off, even in Cornwall: too busy and too wise, to leave mountains for an /horse-loads/ chip-bond-boxes. What could I do? There is an hour for pies as for other things. The hour of this pie was come: it had been kept till it could be kept /would keep/ no longer. But what hath kept, keeps still, and will have kept when pyes and custards are grown stale (how does my little custardophagus?) is the /sincere/ regard and esteem with which I am

/Dear Sir/ Your obliged friend and humble servant If /at this distance/ you can assist me, /I beg leave to propose/ the best mode of doing it that you should send me /in your answer to me/ you should inclose a letter addressed to the discreet matron you make /whom you honour with your/ choice of, which that I may forward it to her. The lady's name is Miss Kirtland. At any rate I beg your immediate answer, that other measures may be taken if this should fail.

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Editor’s Note
530. 1 U.C. ix: 10–11. Autograph, brouillon, with corrections. Docketed by Bentham: '1785 May 12 / S.B. and Pot. / J.B. Linc. Inn / to / Rev. Jo. Townsend Truro / Brouillon / For Miss Kirtland to go to a Wiltshire Dairy.' Printed with incorrect date, Bowring, x, 139–40.
Miss Kirtland was (allegedly) the niece of the horticulturist, Henderson, whom Bentham had engaged to take to Russia with a view to his entering into Potëmkin's service (see letter 531). For further reference to her Wiltshire visit see letter 534. It is evident from this letter that Bentham was hoping to receive instructions from Potëmkin how to arrange his journey; and the only reply he is known to have received from Potëmkin (letter 531) confirmed that he was expected to come by the southern route unless this presented difficulties.
Editor’s Note
2 Sir Edward Bayntun Rolt (1710–1800), 1st bart., of Spye Park, near Chippenham, Wilts. The reference to him remains unexplained; both this and the beginning of the following paragraph indicate that Bentham had received a letter from Townsend which is now missing.
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