WHEN I first knew this great and good man, he was in his seventy-ninth year, and quite as remarkable for strength of constitution, (though he had been always ailing up to the age of threescore,) and for cheerfulness of temper, as for the oddities which made him a laughing-stock for Professor Wilson and the reprobates of “ Blackwood,” a prodigious myth for the “ Edinburgh ” and “ Quarterly,” and a sort of Cocklane ghost for Sydney Smith, Hazlitt, Captain Parry, Tom Moore, and Lord Byron.
His “ Bentbamee ” was believed to be a language he had invented for himself, and quite incapable of being understood, or even deciphered, by any but a thorough - going disciple, such as Dr., now Sir John, Bowring, James Mill, the author of “British India,” John Stuart Mill, the two Austins, or George Grote, the banker and historian of Greece.
“ Ah,” said Mrs. Wheeler, a strongminded, clever woman, the Mary Wollstonecraft of her day, on hearing that I had been asked to the “ Hermitage ” of Queen-Square Place by Mr. Bentham, — “ Ah, you have no idea of what is before you ! I wonder you are not afraid.”
“ Afraid, my dear Madam ! Of what should I be afraid ? ”
“Afraid of being left alone with him after dinner. He cannot bear contradiction. The queerest old man alive. One of his most intimate friends told me that he was undoubtedly deranged, mad as a March hare upon some subjects, and a monomaniac upon others. Do you know that he keeps a relay of young men, thoroughly trained for the work, to follow him round all day and pick up his droppings, — or what his followers call ‘ sibylline leaves,’—bits of paper, that is, written all over with cabalistic signs, which no mortal could ever hope to decipher without a long apprenticeship ? These ‘ leaves ’ he scatters round him right and left, while on the trot through his large, beautiful garden, or, if in the house, while taking his ‘ postprandial ’ vibration, — the afterdinner walk through a narrow passageway running between a raised platform in what he calls his ‘workshop,’ and the outer partition. Here he labors day after day, and year after year, at codification, without stopping to draw a long breath, or even to look up, so afraid is he of what may happen to the world, if he should be taken away before it is all finished. And here, on this platform, the table for one guest, two secretaries, and himself is always set, and he never has more than one guest at a time.”
Extravagant and laughable as all this appeared to me at the time, I found truth enough at the bottom, before six months were over, to justify many of the drollest caricatures.
That Mr. Bentham’s minutes were drops of gold about this time, and his half-hours ingots, in the estimation of others, I had reason to know, — of others, too, among the foremost celebrities of the age. Hence, though he gave capital dinners, it was one of the rarest things in the world for a stranger to be seen at his table. The curious and the inquisitive stood no chance ; and men of the highest rank were constantly refused the introductions they sought.
“Anne, if the Duke of Sussex calls, I am not at home,” said he one day to his housekeeper: nobody ever knew why.
And there were hundreds of distinguished men, otherwise well-informed, who believed in Jeremy Bentham, afar off, somewhat as others do in the heroes of Ossian, or in their great Scandinavian prototypes, Woden and Thor. If to be met with at all, it was only along the tops of mountains, where “ mist and moonlight mingle fitfully.”
For myself, I can truly say, that, of those I met with, who talked most freely about him, and who wrote as if well acquainted, not only with his works, but with the man himself, there was not one in fifty who had ever set eyes on him or knew where to look for the “Hermitage,” while the fiftieth could not tell me whether he was an Englishman or Frenchman by birth, (most of his writings on jurisprudence being written by him in French,) nor whether he was living or dead.
Nevertheless, they were full of anecdotes. They went with the scoffers, and quoted Sydney Smith and “ Blackwood,” while “ the world’s dread laugh ” made them shy of committing themselves to any decided opinion. But if Bentham was a myth, surely Dumont was not, and the shadow might well be allowed to prove the substance ; and yet they persisted in believing the most extravagant inventions, and the drollest, without investigation or misgiving.
And even I,— I, myself, — though familiar with his works, both in French and English, was so much influenced by the mystery about him, and by the stories I heard of him, and by the flings I saw in the leading journals, that I was betrayed into writing as follows in “ Blackwood,” about a year before I first met Mr. Bentham, notwithstanding my profound convictions of his worth and greatness, and my fixed belief that he was cruelly misunderstood and shamefully misrepresented, and that his “ Morals and Legislation ” and his “ Theory of Rewards and Punishments ” would change the jurisprudence of the world, as they certainly have done : —
“ Setting aside John Locke’s Constitution for North Carolina, and Jeremy Bentham’s conundrums on Legislation, to speak reverently of what we cannot speak irreverently of, a truly great and incomprehensible mind., whose thoughts are problems, and whose words—when they are English — miracles,” etc.
This paragraph occurs incidentally. I durst not go farther at the time ; for Bentham had never been mentioned but with a sneer in that journal. I was writing a review of another “ British Traveller in America,” whose blundering misrepresentations had greatly disturbed me. The book was entitled, “A Summary View of America. By an Englishman.” My review was the longest paper, I believe, that ever appeared in “Blackwood.” It was the leader for December, 1824; and on the back of the title-page is a note by Christopher North himself, (Professor Wilson,) from which I extract the following rather significant passages.
“ Our readers will perceive that this number opens with an article much longer than any that ever appeared in our journal before. As a general rule, we hate and detest articles of anything like this length; but we found, on perusing this, (and so will our readers, when they follow our example,) that in reality every paragraph of it is an article by itself; in fact, that the paper is not an article, but a collection of many articles upon subjects, all full of interest, and most of them not less important than interesting.”
“In short, this review of a single book on America contains more new ' facts, more new reasonings, more new speculations of and concerning the United States of America, than have as yet appeared in any ten books (by themselves, books) upon that subject. This is enough for us, and this will be enough for our readers.
“ We do not know personally the author of this article ; nor do we pledge ourselves for the justice of many of his views. From internal evidence we believe that he says nothing but what he believes to be true.”
On the whole, perhaps, I had better add another paragraph from Christopher North’s note. It may serve to disabuse not a few of my countrymen who have hitherto misunderstood the purpose of my “ mission ” abroad, and especially the nature of my connection with the “Blackwood” freebooters.
“ It is certain that he does know America well,” continues the Professor ; “ and it is equally certain that we fully participate in his feelings, as to the folly or knavery of every writer, English or American, who libels either of these countries for the amusement of the other ; and we have not the smallest doubt that the appearance of such a writer as we have had the good fortune to introduce will henceforth operate as a salutary check both on the chatterers of the ‘Westminster Review’ and the growlers of the ‘ Quarterly.’ ”
Entertaining the opinions I have stated with regard to Mr. Bentham and his labors, and being well aware that his early writings in English (the “Fragment on Government,” for example, wherein, at the age of twenty-eight, he enters the lists with Blackstone so successfully, and the “ Defence of Usury,” an argument not only unanswered, but unanswerable, to this day) were such models of clearness, strength, and precision, and so remarkable for a transparent beauty of style, that the first was attributed to Lord Mansfield, and the last to others of like reputation ; while some of his earlier pamphlets (like that which is entitled “ Emancipate your Colonies,” being an address to the National Assembly of France, whose predecessors had made him a French citizen, or the “ Draught of a Code for the Organization of the Judicial Establishment of France,” written at the age of two-andforty) were quite as remarkable for genius, warmth, manly strength, and a lofty eloquence, as the earlier writings mentioned were for clearness and logical precision, — how could I be guilty of such irreverence, not to say impertinence ?
My answer is, that the believers in “ Blackwood,” having been pampered so long on highly seasoned, fiery pap, to which the lines of M. G. Lewis might often be applied, —
Wherever it fell,
To a cinder burned the floor,” —
were not ready for the whole truth, for the strong meat, much less for the lion’s meat I should have been delighted to serve them with ; and so, as in the case of Leigh Hunt and some others eminently obnoxious to that journal, I slipped in the few words I have quoted incidentally, as a sort of entering wedge : and the result in both cases, I must acknowledge, fully justified my expectations ; for neither Mr. Bentham nor Leigh Hunt was ever unhandsomely treated or in any way disparaged by that journal from that time forward, so far as I know.
Let me add, that I did this for the same reason that I began writing about our country, and about the institutions, the people, the literature, and the fine arts of America, as if I were an Englishman,—for otherwise what hope had I of being admitted into the “Field of the Cloth of Gold,” or of being allowed to break a lance in the tournament which was always open there ? — and that I continued writing as an Englishman long after it was known by Blackwood himself, and by Wilson, that I was not only an American, but a Yankee, and a Yankee to the backbone, and that the signature I had adopted — “ Carter Holmes ” — was not so much a nom de plume as a nom de guerre, till I had got possession of the enemy’s battery, and turned the guns upon his camp.
In personal appearance, in features, and in the habitual expression of countenance. Mr. Bentham bore an astonishing resemblance to our Dr. Franklin. He was, to be sure, of a somewhat heavier build, though shorter by two or three inches, I should say, judging by the bronze full-length you have in Boston. The prevailing expression was much alike in both ; but there was not so much of constitutional benignity in the looks of Bentham, nor was he ever so grave and thoughtful as Franklin is generally represented in his portraitures ; but he was fuller of shrewdness and playfulness, — of downright drollery, indeed,-—of boyish fun,—and, above all, of a warm-hearted, unquestioning sympathy for everything alive, man or beast, that he called “virtuous,” like the “virtuous deer” and the “affectionate swan ” : and all this you could see plainly in the man’s countenance, whether at play or in repose.
So great, indeed, was the outward resemblance between these two extraordinary men,— so much alike in appearance were they, though so utterly unlike in reality, — that, after Mr. Bentham had passed the age of threescore-andfive, a bust of Dr. Franklin, by a celebrated French artist, was bought by Ricardo, at the suggestion of La Fayette, I believe, and sent to Mr. James Mill for a likeness of Bentham.
“ Do you know,” said the philosopher to me one day, while talking upon this very subject, “ that Ricardo was my grand-disciple ? ”
“ Your grand-disciple ? How so ? ”
“Why, you see, Mill was my disciple, and Ricardo was his ; ergo, Ricardo was my grand-disciple : hey ? ”
But perhaps you would like to see for yourself the “white-haired Sage of Queen-Square Place,” as Dr. Bowring, now Sir John Bowring, used to call him, — the “ Philosopher,” — the “ Hermit,” — the “ High Priest of Reform,” as others, like Mr. Canning, the Premier, Sir Samuel Romilly, Sir Francis Burdett, the two Mills, father and son, Dr. Southwood Smith, the Austins, and Frank Place, the great radical tailor, used to call him.
If so, have the goodness to follow me step by step for a few minutes, forgetting all the long years that have interposed, and you shall see him, with your eyes shut, as I saw him first, and as I continued to see him almost every day for eighteen months or so, face to face.
Picture to yourself a man “ fourscore and upwards,” like Lear, and like Lear, too, “mightily abused,” about five feet seven, a little stooping, but still vigorous and alert; with a pleasant, fresh countenance, and the complexion of a middle-aged, plump, healthy woman, such as Rubens or Gilbert Stuart would gloat over in portraiture, and love to paint for a wager ; with a low, cheerful, trembling voice in conversation, though loud and ringing in the open air ; large, clear, bluish-gray eyes, — I think I cannot be mistaken about the color, though Hazlitt, who was a tenant of Bentham’s at one time, and got snubbed for some little impertinence, which of course he never forgave, calls them “lack-lustre eyes”; very soft, plentiful white hair, slightly tinged with gold, like flossed silk in the sunshine, — pushed back from a broad, but rather low forehead, and flowing down to the shoulders. This white hair, when the wind blows it about his face in the open air, or he is talking earnestly at his own table, — and he never goes to any other, — he has a strange habit of throwing off with a sudden crook and spring of the left elbow, and a sort of impatient jerk of the left forefinger, which has come to be so characteristic of the man himself, that, if Mathews (Charles Mathews) were to do that, and that only, before you, after you had been with Bentham for five minutes, you would have, not, perhaps, a photograph or a portrait, but a “charcoal sketch” of the philosopher, which you would instantly acknowledge. And, by the way, this reminds me that I wanted to call these “Charcoal Sketches,”—that title being mine long before the late Joseph C. Neal borrowed it of me without leave, and used it for his “ Loafer ” and a variety of capital sketches, which have been attributed to me, and still are, notwithstanding my denials. I wrote one number only, — the first. It was a Yankee sketch ; while his were street sketches, and among the best in our language.
But let us return to the living Bentham. The stoop, you see, is not so much on account of his great age as from a long habit of bending over his abominable manuscript,— the worst you ever saw, perhaps, not excepting Rufus Choate’s or Napoleon Bonaparte’s,— day after day, and year after year, while adding his marginal annotations in “ Benthamee ” to what has been corrected over and over again, and rewritten more than once by the secretary.
He wears a plain, single-breasted coat, of the Quaker type, with a narrow, straight collar, and a waistcoat of thin, striped calico, all open to the weather, and trousers, — not small-clothes, nor breeches, never being able to look at himself in breeches without laughing, he says ; thick woollen stockings rolled up over his knees, and shoes with ties instead of buckles, — in short, the every-day costume of our Revolutionary fathers, barring the breeches, the shoebuckles, and the ruffles, which he never could endure.
In the warmest weather he wears thick leather gloves, and in the coldest a straw hat, bound and edged with the brightest green ribbon, and carries a stout stick of buckthorn, which he has named Dapple, after the ass of Sancho Panza, for whom he professes the greatest admiration.
While thus equipped, and while you are in conversation with him perhaps, or answering one of his hurried questions, he starts off ahead in a slow trot, up one alley and down another, or to and fro in the large garden of QueenSquare Place, — the largest but one of all that open into the Green Park; and this trot he will continue for a whole hour sometimes, without losing his breath or evincing any signs of weariness, — occasionally shouting at the top of his lungs, to show that his wind is untouched, till the whole neighborhood rings with the echo, and the blank walls of the Knightsbridge Barracks “ answer from their misty shroud.”
On the whole, therefore, that extravagant story told by Captain Parry has a pretty good foundation, though he never saw with his own eyes what he describes with so much drollery, but took the whole upon trust ; for Mr. Bentham was in the habit of going after his annuity every year, trotting all the way down and back through Fleet Street, with his white hair flying loose, and followed by one or both of his two secretaries. He was the last survivor — the very last — of the beneficiaries, and seemed to take a pleasure in astonishing the managers once a year with his “wind and bottom.” Parry represents him as being taken for a lunatic running away from his keepers.
Having now the man himself before you, let me give you some idea of his habits and characteristics, his temper,— and I never saw him out of temper in my life, though he had enough to try him almost every day in his household arrangements, — his kindness of heart, his drollery, and his wonderful powers of endurance, while working out the great problem of his life.
At the time I knew him, he used to sleep in a bag, and sometimes with most of his clothes on. This he did for economy. “ It took less of sheeting,” he said. Then, too, there was not so much likelihood of his getting the clothes off, should he get restless or fidgety. He was read to sleep every night by one of his secretaries, who told me that he often amused himself with reading the same paragraph or the same page over and over again, without turning a leaf, the philosopher declaring that he had never lost a word of the whole, and that he not only understood, but remembered, the drift of the author. In this way my “ Brother Jonathan,” then just published by Blackwood in three large volumes, was read to him every night for weeks, and greatly to his satisfaction, as I then understood ; though it seems by what Dr. Bowring—I beg his pardon, Sir John Bowring — says on the subject, that the “white-haired sage” was wide enough awake, on the whole, to form a prettyfair estimate of its unnaturalness and extravagance: being himself a great admirer of Richardson’s ten-volume stories, like “ Pamela ” and “ Clarissa Harlowe,” and always looking upon them as the standard for novel-writers.
Mr. Bentham was very “regular” in his habits, very, — and timed most of his doings, whether asleep or awake, by a watch lying on the table. But then he always breakfasted between twelve and three, or a little later on special occasions, and always dined at half past six, or thereabouts, taking two cups of strong coffee in bed every morning, though he never allowed himself but one, and died in the belief that he had never broken the pledge.
And yet, notwithstanding all this, he maintained that there is no getting along in this world — or the other — without “regularity,” or what he called “system.” And that “system” he carried into all the business of life, as well as into legislation and government ; going back, after years of uninterrupted labor and the severest analysis, to invent a panopticon, a self-sustaining penitentiary, or rather to apply that invention of his brother, General Sir Samuel Bentham, to the bettering of our prisonhouses and to the restoration of the lost, — or perhaps a ballot-box, that nothing might be wanted, when that “ system ” he valued himself so much upon should be adopted throughout the world, as the outlines already are.
Scores of anecdotes are crowding upon my recollection, as I call to mind his affectionate manner, his habitual good temper, and his amiable, almost childish, kindness of heart. While yet a boy. for example, — and this he told me himself, with a singular mixture of self-complacency and self-depreciation, as if more than half ashamed of his weakness, — while yet a boy, he was on a visit, where two different persons undertook to help him to the goodies, among which was a magnificent gooseberry-pie, one of his favorite dishes to the last. He ate until he could eat no more. A third person offered him another piece ; but, notwithstanding his capacity, being “ full up to here,” he was obliged to refuse. He could n’t swallow another mouthful, and the idea of ingratitude was so strong with him that he fell a-crying. I have no doubt of his entire truthfulness ; but I could not help thinking of the poor boy at his grandfather’s table on Christmas-day, who began at last to take things rather seriously. “What’s the matter, Georgie ? what are you crying for ? ” said the grandfather. “ I can’t eat another mouthful, grandpa,” said Georgie, still blubbering. “ Never mind, my boy, never mind, fill your pockets.” “They ’re all full now, grandpa.”
One of the cleverest women I ever knew, Mrs. Sarah Austin, the magnificent mother of Lady Duff Gordon, and the author of a capital and safe book on Germany, which seems to be little known here, though greatly esteemed there, once wrote me as follows. She was a great favorite of Mr. Bentham, a pet indeed ; and her husband, the elder Austin, John, was a disciple of the philosopher, a briefless barrister, though one of the clearest reasoners and profoundest thinkers of the age, as a paper on Jurisprudence, in the “ Encyclopaedia Britannica,” will show. He wrote very little, but his pages were worth volumes ; and he gave Benthamism unadulterated and undiluted, though made intelligible to the “ meanest capacity,” in or out of the “Edinburgh” and the “ Quarterly,” — grasping every subject he handled with fingers of steel.
“ God bless you,” she says, after we had been talking about the philosopher and his vagaries and whimsicalities, — £ God bless you for exalting me in my beloved grandpa’s good graces. You can’t think how dearly I do love him, legislation and all that apart; and yet, if there ever was a woman peculiarly prone to love and admire a man for his public affections and public usefulness, I do say I am that she, and that I could not love a paragon of beauty, wit, and private kindness, if be looked on the good or ill being of mankind with indifference or scorn, or with anti-social feelings. Think of the divine old man growing a sort of vetch in his garden to cram his pockets with for the deer in Kensington Garden. I remember his pointing it out to me, and telling me the ' virtuous deer ’ were fond of it, anti ate it out of his hand. I could have kissed his feet ; it was the feeling of a kind, tender-hearted, loving child.”
He had another pet, almost a rival on some special occasions for Mrs. Austin. It was a large sleepy-Iooking tomcat, very black, and of a most uncommon seriousness of deportment. The philosopher treated him with great consideration, I might almost say reverence, and called him Doctor, — but whether an LL. D., a D. D., or only an M. D., I never clearly understood, though I have a faint recollection, that, on the happening of some event in which Tom bore a part, he accounted for the deference he showed, by calling him the Reverend Doctor somebody. Like Byron, too, lie once had a pet bear ; but he was in Russia at the time, and the wolves got into the poor creature's box, on a terrible winter’s night, and carried off a part of his face, a depredation which the philosopher never forgot nor forgave to his dying day. He always kept a supply of stale bread in the drawer of his dining - table for the “ mousies.”
When he introduced me to Mr. Joseph Hume, the great penny-wise and pound-foolish reformer, he begged me to bear in mind that he was only a Scotchman, or “ no better than a Scotchman and he once gave me an open letter to the celebrated philanthropist, Dr. South wood Smith, which he asked me to read before it was delivered. I did so, and found that he wished the Doctor to know that I had been at Queen-Square Place a long while, and that, so far as he knew, had neither told lies nor stolen spoons. Of course I delivered the letter, leaving Dr. Smith to take the consequences, if any silver should be missed after I left him.
And, by the way, this reminds me that this very Dr. Smith was the individual to whom lie bequeathed his body, with certain directions, which appear to have been carried out to the very letter, according to Miss Margaret Fuller, who describes what she herself saw with her own eyes not long after Mr. Bentham’s death.
" I became acquainted with Dr. Southwood Smith,” she says. “ On visiting him, we saw an object which I have often heard celebrated, and had thought would be revolting, but found, on the contrary, an agreeable sight: this is the skeleton of Jeremy Bentham. It was at Bentham’s request, that the skeleton, dressed in the same dress he habitually wore, stuffed out to an exact resemblance of life, and with a portrait-mask in wax, — the best I ever saw, — sits there as assistant to Dr. Smith in the entertainment of his guests, and companion of his studies. The figure leans a little forward, resting the hands on a stout stick which Bentham always carried, and had named ' Dapple '; the attitude is quite easy, the expression on the whole mild, winning, yet highly individual.” — In Westminster Abbey there was at this time, and probably is now, a wax figure of Lord Nelson in the very dress he wore at Trafalgar. It is set up in a show-case, just as Barnum would do it.
One other incident, showing his imperturbable good temper, and I have done. A Frenchman had somehow got access to him, — through Dr. Bowring, I believe. No sooner was he seated than he pulled out Mr. Bentham’s pamphlet, already mentioned, and entitled, " Emancipate your Colonies,” which opens in this way : —
“You have made me a Frenchman. Hear me speak like one.”
This the poor Frenchman read, in an ecstasy of admiration, as if written, " You have make me a Frainchman. Hear me speak like own" Yet Mr. Bentham kept his countenance, gave the poor fellow a good dinner, and gossiped with him till the time had run out.
But Mr. Bentham could be “terribly in earnest,” when the proper occasion arose. Aaron Burr had been a guest of his for a long while, after being driven abroad by the outburst of indignation here.—and, while with him, made such revelations of character, that Mr. Bentham, who acknowledged his talents, actually shuddered when he mentioned his name. Burr declared. in so many words, that he meant to kill Hamilton, because he had threatened to do so long before. He told Mr. Bentham, while boasting of his great success with our finest women, that Mrs. Madison herself was his mistress before marriage ; and seriously proposed — in accordance with what may be found in his Life by Matthew L. Davis, about educating daughters and sons alike, and exposing them in the same way — that he would send for his daughter Theodosia, and Mr. Bentham should take her for his mistress ; and in a marginal note, now before me, by the Reverend John Pierpont, I find abundant confirmation of what Mr. Bentham told me, though Mr. Davis undertook to say that the stories of Aaron Burr’s bonnes fortunes were true, and that he had a trunkful of letters from the leading women of his day to prove it, and that Mr. Bentham was untrustworthy. Upon this point I challenged him to the proof; but he shrunk from the issue.
" This reminds me,” says Mr. Pierpont, in the note referred to, " that Colonel William Alston, the father of Joseph, who married Miss Burr, once told me, at his own table, that, soon after the marriage of his son to Miss Burr, her father. Colonel Burr, had told him, (Colonel Alston,) that, rather than have had his daughter marry otherwise than to his mind, he would have made her the mistress of some gentleman of rank or fortune, who would have placed her in the station in society for which he had educated her.
44 I believe, however,” he adds, in a postscript, “ that not even parental authority or influence could ever have brought the beautiful and accomplished Miss Theodosia Burr thus to prostitute beqself to her father’s ambitious purposes.”
In speaking of Burr, one day, and of his wonderful strength of character and keenness of observation, he broke away suddenly, called him an " atrocious scoundrel,” and then asked me about his life and history. Then it was that the kind-hearted, benevolent old man underwent a sudden transfiguration. He trembled all over; his clear eyes lighted up ; his white hair was like a glory about his face ; and he seemed like one of the Hebrew Prophets, in his terrible denunciations of the heartless manslayer, and the shameless, boastful profligate.
Our very pleasant, and, to me, most profitable intercourse for a year and a half was brought to an end by the happening of two or three incidents. His fat housekeeper, who ruled him with a rod of iron, and insulted Mrs. Austin and others, undertook to manage me in the same way, and got packed off in consequence, though I did all I could to keep the secret, and prevent the catastrophe ; but he insisted on knowing why I left him, and he applied to the secretaries, who were witnesses of the whole transaction. The philosopher was indignant, and insisted on her making me a suitable apology. I said I wanted no apology, having made up my mind to go on my journey. She refused, and he cut her adrift, after having been so dependent upon her, I know not how many years, that he would allow her to say, “ The pan is put away,” when he asked for more of a favorite dish,—fried parsley, — which he had prepared for Dr. Macculloch, the geologist, who at one time could eat nothing else. She was reinstated, however, within two or three years after I left him.
The other incident was this. Mr. Bentham had urged me to write a paper for the “Westminster Review,” of which Dr. Bowring and Mr. Henry Southern were the editors. I did so, and took for my text four or five orations by Webster, Everett, and Sprague, and then launched out upon the subject of Jurisprudence, of the Militia System, as it prevailed here at the time,— a monstrous folly, and a monstrous outrage upon the rights of man, — and of Slavery. The proof came without a word of alteration or amendment. Of course I had nothing to do but correct any verbal errors. But, lo ! when the article appeared, not only had changes been made, passages struck out, and various emendations worked in, but I was made to say the very reverse of what I did say, and to utter opinions which I never entertained, and for which I have had to suffer from that day to this among my countrymen.
For example. The editor, who had never seen the pamphlets, as he proves by calling them “books,” interpolates the following, which, as I have said before, I have had to answer tor : —
“ Violent exaggeration is the character of American literature at the present day, and, compared with the chaster and more rational style of our best writers, the style of the North American authors is usually the rant and unmeaning vehemence of a strolling Thespian, when placed beside the calm. appropriate, and expressive delivery of an accomplished actor.” Bear in mind that the samples I gave were from Webster, and Everett, and Sprague !— three of our coldest and clearest crystals, and among the least impassioned, and certainly the least extravagant, of our orators. “ Sometimes,” the editor adds, with a show of relenting at last, “sometimes the reader will find these remarkable parts the worst, and sometimes the best of the paragraph, and often composed in a spirit worthy of a less vitiated expression.” 1
This was a little too much ; but, owing to the expostulations of Mr. Bentham, who had wasted about twenty or twenty-five thousand dollars on the “Westminster Review,” without a hope of getting a sixpence in return, I consented to overlook the outrage. But my confidence in the amiable Dr. Bowring was ended forever. We had a short interview, but no intimacy after this, and I had begun to think of Northern Europe more seriously than ever, when at last the tiff with the housekeeper settled the question, — the Doctor declaring, though he knew from Mr. Bentham’s own lips how much he desired me to stay, and how unwilling he was to part with me, that he, Mr. Bentham, said that he would as lief have a rattlesnake under his roof!
- See “ Westminster Review” for January, 1826.↩