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Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 4: October 1788 to December 1793

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Editor’s NoteEditor’s Note789To Robert Adam28 May 1791 (Aet 43)

  • Hendon Middlesex
  • May 28, 1791


I need scarcely assure you how flattering it is to me to find my gimcrack so well approved of by so able and eminent a judge, nor what satisfaction it would give me to see the execution of it in such good hands.2

I shall think it long ere I take the /I long to take the/ benefit of the instruction your politeness has in store for me: and should be glad to hear when you expect to be on the return; the rather as I pg 306shall not think I have done justice either to the public or to the invention such as it is without giving it the benefit of your corrections and improvements, if the period be not too far distant. No one could possibly come to the subject more ignorant than I did, and having no professional reputation to maintain you would find me just as open to correction as the youngest of your pupils.

As to facilitating your application to the gentlemen in question, I know of nothing I can do better than to send you some more copies of what is printed of the book which you have to distribute among them as you think fit, as they will find in it the leading points argued more at large than can possibly be done vivâ voce.3 Whatever errors there may be in it4 /the detail/ will not prejudice the cause, as they will not be binding upon you. Unfortunately it is that sort of building which it will be more difficult to represent upon a flat surface than perhaps any other that was ever yet imagined. As soon as I have settled all the parts I intend to have a model made. Perhaps you might contrive to put /get/ together something /put together/ on paste board if it were only in paste board.5

The person to whom I had sent so much as you have seen is an old acquaintance of mine, Dr James Anderson of Coatfield. Having mentioned to me amongst other things that some people had been talking with him on the subject of Penitentiary Houses, I sent him my plan which was unknown to him that he might make what use he thought fit of it, and send me such /any/ hints as /that/ might occurr to him. Architecture is a subject I know he has turned his thoughts to. He has written a little book on smoaky chimnies, and in the miscellany he published under the name of the Bee are some elucidations relative to the origin and advantages of the Gothic stile, which to me who know nothing about the matter were new and seemed ingenious. I question whether it will be in his power to contribute much to the reception of the plan though he certainly will not want for inclination. I believe his opinion would have some weight with Mr Stirling6 (the present Ld Provost is not he?) but he I understand is now in London. Perhaps likewise with Mr David pg 307Steward7 the Banker who having been Provost is one I suppose of the Magistrates, and who I imagine would not think the worse of the plan from knowing that it has the unreserved approbation of his uncle Dr G. Fordyce who has the charge of his eldest son here, and to whom I have been obliged in the manner you have seen. If any of the gentlemen in question after hearing what you will have to say to them with relation to the plan persist in their attachment to Mr Blackburn's, they will differ not only from every body in as well as out of the profession it has been my fortune to meet with, but also from Mr. Blackburn himself of whom I could give you a history too long for paper, and who would have been glad to have executed my plan in Dublin for the Irish Administration at whose desire it is, as I suppose you know, that I am at work upon it. My plan of management between which and the plan of construction there must of course be an intimate connection is8 as /no less/ different from the common ideas. If the assistance of one who has turned his thoughts so much to both branches of the subject should appear to you likely to be looked upon by the gentlemen in question as capable of being of use you are welcome to speak of me as one who would think it much for his advantage to lend any assistance he may be capable of to Mr Adam.9

I am sorry to have been the means of your spending so much time to no purpose: had I known /been apprised/ of your wishes I would with pleasure have saved you the trouble: I live in a hole in the ground unknown to every body but the Postman in which I put myself in order to be out of the way of every sort of interruption. When I can find time to be visible I come to town. Let me know your hours and when I hear of your being in London and I will call upon you without ceremony.

But this need not hinder me from having in the meantime the benefit of any hints with which you may be disposed /find time/ to favour me either with the pen or the pencil—The roughest scratch without the smallest regard to appearance so as the idea be but expressed will be sufficient.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
789. 1 U.C. CXIX: 17–18. Autograph draft. No docket or address. That a letter in some such wording was sent to Adam is evident from the reply of 7 June (letter 792).
Editor’s Note
2 Bentham alludes to the letter of 23 May from Adam to Pole Carew, quoted above in letter 784, n. 2.
Editor’s Note
3 Marginal alternative wording: 'I send also an order to the Printer to send you half a dozen at a venture and the inclosed will produce you any number more you may have occasion for, that it may be by then in readiness to obviate any doubts that may occurr when you are not present to resolve them'.
Editor’s Note
4 Marginal alternative wording: 'If there be no defect in the general idea'.
Editor’s Note
5 The passage from 'Unfortunately' to 'paste board' is a later addition, partly written in the margin.
Editor’s Note
6 James Stirling (d. 1805), was lord provost of Edinburgh in 1791 and again in 1794–5 and 1798–9. He was made a baronet in July 1792, for political services, particularly the handling of riots.
Editor’s Note
7 David Steuart (d. 1824) had been lord provost, 1780–2. He had published plans for a new prison in Edinburgh in 1782 (see Correspondence, iii, 167 n. 5).
Editor’s Note
8 Marginal alternative wording: 'The sheets you will receive will [be]'.
Editor’s Note
9 Marginal alternative wording: 'If either should be deemed worthy of the attention of the gentle Magistrates of Edinb. you are welcome to speak of me as one [who] would take a pleasure in rendering any assistance in his power to so laudable a design, and who would think it very much for his advantage to cooperate with Mr Adam'.
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