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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 Note425To Lord Ashburton3 June 1782 (Aet 34)

My Lord

The book /printed sheets/ herewith inclosed waits upon your Lordship at the desire of Ld. Shelburne. (He) /who/ had the patience to read them over with me last summer at Bowood: where I was one of a crowd whom your Lordship's and Lady Ashburton's precipitated departure consigned to disappointment. /Since then he has/ He had frequently intimated to me his wishes that it might (have the honour of coming) /come/ under your Lordship's eye: /and/ Last Tuesday he repeated them in a manner too peremptory to be resisted in particular he desired I would /myself send / furnish pg 122your Lordship with a copy without delay.2 Thus much, /my Lord,/ I thought necessary to apologize /account/ for the liberty I take in sending your /putting into/ Lordships hands a book /which is not only/ without beginning or end:2 circumstances which I reminded him of but without effect /which he was/ pleased to overrule. The approbation of (so discerning /enlightened/ a judge as) Ld. Ashburton would /indeed of course/ naturally have been one of the first objects of. my ambition: but /if left to myself / I should not of myself have chosen so premature a period for becoming a candidate for that honour/I inclose in another paper3/ A short account of the views with which it was written /as well as/ and of the undertaking of which it makes a part. I take the liberty /also/ of inclosing a pamphlet which made its appearance written three or four years ago upon the spur of the occasion (relative to) on the occasion /subject/ of a measure of detail which happened to come /then/ upon the carpet (three or four years ago.)4 This and an anonymous pamphlet called book entitled a Fragment on Government /of which I have no copies left/ is all I have yet ventured to /make/ (lay before the) public.


Of the sheet which contains from p.p. 313 to 320 inclusive there exists no other copy and /than the loose proof sheet herewith inclosed: and/ the press has been manuscript has been long ago destroy'd and the press broke up; Of the loose /proof/ sheets herewith inclosed there exists no other copy either in print or manuscript than this, which your Lordship will therefore have the goodness to preserve.5


Take upon me to

2 I should certainly not have /thought it advisable/ proper prudent declared myself a candidate for it at so premature a period produced my titles to that honour is so imperfect a condition

and /but/ which must undergo several alterations before it sees presented to the public /faces/ the light /the public eye/.

To contrast /in some measure/ with that dry cargo of /speculative/ general metaphysics.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
425.1 U.C. clxix: 124. Autograph. Draft, much corrected.
On Dunning (now Lord Ashburton) see letter 403, n. 9. Bentham had met him briefly at Bowood the previous summer but had had no opportunity for extended conversation—and if Shelburne had then hoped to have Dunning read and assess the incomplete printed proofs of the Introduction he was disappointed—because Mrs Dunning's advanced state of pregnancy caused them both to leave Bowood within forty-eight hours of Dunning's arrival (letters 416 and 417). Since that time Dunning had become Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with a peerage, and he had been brought into the cabinet as Shelburne's chief legal adviser in the unharmonious ministry formed by Rockingham in March 1782. No collection of Ashburton's papers is known to survive and there is no acknowledgement from him in Bentham's papers, but this letter, the next, and the printed sheets of the Introduction were presumably sent, since Bowring (x, 124) records seeing a memorandum made by Bentham to the effect that the proof sheets were neither acknowledged nor returned.
This draft proves that Bentham's memory was at fault when, many years later, in the historical preface to the Fragment on Government, he stated that Shelburne had (according to his own admission) put the Introduction into the hands of both Camden and Dunning during the autumn of 1781 and had visited him in London not long after his return from Bowood to tell him that neither had found it very comprehensible. Shelburne may have made this comment, but not earlier than the summer of 1782. Although this document hears no date, its form and content leave little doubt of its being a covering letter to the more detailed statement which constitutes letter 426.
Editor’s Note
2 This is interesting evidence of continued contact between Shelburne and Bentham during the first half of 1782.
Editor’s Note
4 I.e. his View of the Hard Labour Bill.
Editor’s Note
5 If the page numbers in the crossed-out version of the postscript are relevant, this passage refers to the second last proof sheet of the Introduction as set up in print by November 1780. The corrected version of the postscript suggests that Bentham decided to cut the proof sheet into separate pages before sending his packet. Although there is no other evidence to support the conclusion, it would appear as if the last pages of the Introduction written up to that date were never printed off, and therefore, if (as stated in n. 1) these pages were never returned to Bentham, the passages they contained must have been re-written and reset later.
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