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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 Notepg 613Editor’s Note618To Charles Whitworth17 December 1787 (Aet 39)

  • Warsaw
  • Schultz Hotel Monday night Decr. 18 1787.


On my way to England through Berlin there is a circumstance in which your assistance /or at least advice/ if it be in your power to afford me any would relieve me from a considerable embarassment. I am informed that in the Prussian Custom-houses they are so strict as even to search pockets and to make a point of opening all sealed letters. On my departure from England /in August 1785/ I took various letters /several/ some of which not having an opportunity of presenting them remain still with me. Concerning some of them, knowing them to be merely letters of introduction, such as official letters from Ld. Carmarthen, I should be under no difficulty. But there are others which being likely enough to contain particulars which the writers would not have wished to be known to third persons, I should be glad to return to them unopen'd. To these, would not an enveloppe from you addressed to our Minister at Berlin be a protection? In case of the affirmative, not conceiving myself to have the honour to be known to you I should beg permission to wait on you in order to lay before your /submit to your/ inspection such documents as between strangers might be necessary to inspire the requisite degree of confidence: in the other case, I pg 614would not wish to add to the trouble I have already taken the liberty of giving you. In hopes of the favour of an answer, I shall not take my departure tomorrow morning before ten o'clock. I have the honour to be, with all respect

  • Sir,                                             
  • Your most obedient humble Servant      
  • Jeremy Bentham                     

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Editor’s Note
618. 1 B.M. IV: 432. Autograph. Draft with some corrections. Docketed by Bentham: 'Brouillion not sent / J.B. to Mr. Whitworth.' Incorrectly dated.
Bentham's reference near the end of this draft to his having already troubled Whitworth indicates that earlier in the day he had either written or left a message at the legation. Presumably this had occasioned Whitworth's note (letter 617), which seems to precede this one.
According to Bowring (x, 180), 'Bentham stopped at Warsaw, intending to pay his respects to King Stanislaus, whose correspondent he had been, through Lind, the king's agent in England. But bashfulness and gloominess interfered.' As Bentham's papers published in volume ii give no hint of such a correspondence, Bowring's remark is suspect. Moreover, apart from its being out of character for Bentham to seek such an audience, this evidently was not his intention for he gave himself no time; for Bowring's statement that he stayed a week in Warsaw is certainly wrong. The conclusion of this letter states his intention to leave on the morning of Tuesday, 18 December, within forty-eight hours of his arrival; and had he stayed much longer he would have been hard put to it to reach Berlin by 27 December (letter 620). Bowring's statement, that 'he called on the British minister, and not finding him at home, did not repeat his visit', seems to be strictly correct, but also misleading.
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