Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/280

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Bentham
Bentham
276

educate in his own house Meliemet Ali's intended successor, and he makes some suggestions as to his education, mental and moral, which scarcely bear being printed (Burton Collection MSS., British Museum).

In 1829 appeared his 'Petition for Justice,' written in his most vigorous style. In 1830 he published letters on the sale of public offices, a practice which, for very insufficient reasons, he thought likely to be advantageous. He was then, as may be seen from his letters, busy with the subject of the codification of international law; but on this, though one of the permanent objects and interests of his life, he left no finished treatise. In 1831 he was engaged in speculations as to the art of framing laws which are preserved in his 'Pannomial Fragments.' He was also active in forming a parliamentary candidate society, and in furthering the return to parliament of Rammohun Hoy, a Hindoo. The acceptance of the Cortes of Portugal of an offer to prepare a code encouraged him to print his 'Codification Proposal' addressed to all nations. In 1823 appeared his 'Leading Principles of a Constitutional Code for any State' (ii. 207) ; and in 1827 was printed the first volume of his 'Constitutional Code,' in some respects the most striking of his works. Another volume was printed in 1830, and he was engaged upon this work only a few days before his death. To the last he was indefatigable in his labours and parsimonious of his time, suffering few persons to visit him, rarely dining out, making it a point to compose so much a day, and ordering his life as if conscious that he owed it to humanity to do as much us he could before he died. He hated idle intruders. In a letter to O'Connell written in 1828, which describes his life at the Hermitage at Queen Square, he states that he never saw anyone except at seven o'clock dinner. In his old age one guest only was admitted, but in other years the dinners at the Hermitage were brilliant. Mr. Rush the American minister, describes a dinner-party at which James Mill, Brougham, Dumont, and Romilly were present, and adds: 'Mr. Bentham did not talk much. He had a benevolence of manner suited to the philanthropy of his mind. He seemed to be thinking only of the convenience and pleasure of his guests' (Residence at the Court of Londoy, 209). All who knew him well felt affection for him; his failings were obvious and unimportant. One of his amanuenses, Mr. Colls, has indeed left, under the title of 'Utilitarianism Unmasked,' a picture drawn by no friendly hand. Yet the most serious blemishes are the sage's love of praise, his preference for home-brewed ale to wine, and his custom of having of a morning on the table of his workshop a canister of hot spiced ginger nuts and a cup of strong coffee. His features in old age, which are rendered familiar by Pickersgills excellent portrait, bespoke serenity, benevolence, and conscious power ; and Aaron Burr, who knew him in 1818, expressed only a common impression when he said, 'It was impossible to conceive a physiognomy more strongly marked with ingenuousness and philanthropy' (Parton's Life, 171). A sketch of him as he appeared in old age will serve to complete the picture : 'His apparel hung loosely about him, and consisted chiefly of a grey coat, light breeches, and white woollen stockings, hanging loosely about his legs ; whilst his venerable locks, which floated over the collar and down his back, were surmounted by a straw hat of most grotesque and indescribable shape, communicating to his appearance a strong contrast to the quietude and sobriety of his general aspect. He wended round the walks of his Garden at a pace somewhat faster than a walk, but not so quick as a trot' (Annual Biography and Obituary, 1833, p. 363).

                                        Though weakly and dwarfish in boyhood, Bentham was healthy and robust in manhood and old age. He possessed an unfailing flow of high spirits; he was, as Mr. John Stuart Mill remarks, 'a boy to the last.' At the age of eighty-two he wrote to his friend Admiral Mordoinoff: 'I am alive; though turned of eighty, still in good health and spirits, codifying like any dragon,' There is a story that during his last illness he asked his doctor to tell him if there was any prospect of recovery. On being informed that there was none, he replied serenely, 'Very well, be it so; then minimise pain.' He died on 6 June 1832. He left his body to be dissected. This was done; clothed in Bentham's usual attire, his skeleton is kept in University College. All this was not the result of a passing freak or affectation of singularity. He had meditated much on the uses of the dead to the living; and on coming of age he had disposed of his belly by will that it might be dissected for the benefit of mankind. In the British Museum there is a copy of an unpublished work of which only twenty or thirty copies were printed. It is entitled, 'Auto-Icon, or the Uses of the Dead to the Living. A fragment from the MSS. of Jeremy Bentham.' He arranged the materials in December 1832, but he added passages as late as May 1832. Its object was to show how, if embalmed, every man might be his own statue. A sample of this extravaganza will suffice. 'If a country gentle-