Reference > Cambridge History > The Period of the French Revolution > Bentham and the Early Utilitarians > His Friends; Étienne Dumont, James Mill
  Jeremy Bentham The Westminster Review  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

III. Bentham and the Early Utilitarians.

§ 2. His Friends; Étienne Dumont, James Mill.


It was fortunate for Bentham’s reputation that he soon came to be surrounded by a group of devoted friends, who were convinced of the value of his ideas and eager to help in making them known. And he was content to leave in their hands the selection, revision and publication of his more important manuscripts. His first work had brought him to the notice of Lord Shelburne (afterwards first marquis of Lansdowne), at whose house he met a number of the statesmen and political thinkers of the day. There, also, he met Étienne Dumont, who afterwards, gave literary form to the principles of legislation and administration which Bentham elaborated. Dumont was a citizen of Geneva, who had been minister of one of its churches; driven from his native town by political troubles, he settled, for some time, in St. Petersburg, and, in 1785, came to London as tutor to Lansdowne’s son; in 1788 and, again, in 1789, he visited Paris and was in close relations, literary and political, with Mirabeau. On the earlier of these visits, he was accompanied by Sir Samuel Romilly, with whom he had become intimate and who was already known to Bentham; Romilly showed him some of Bentham’s manuscripts, written in French, and Dumont became an enthusiastic disciple and one of the chief agents in spreading the master’s ideas. With Bentham’s manuscripts and published work before him, and with opportunities for conversation with the author, he produced a series of works which made the new jurisprudence and political theory known in the world of letters. He translated, condensed and even supplied omissions, giving his style to the whole; but he did not seek to do more than put Bentham’s writings into literary form, and, in Bentham’s collected Works, published after his death, many of the most important treatises are retranslations into English from Dumont’s versions. The first of Dumont’s treatises appeared in 1802, the last in 1825. It is stated that, by 1830, forty thousand copies of these treatises had been sold in Paris for the South American trade alone.   5
  Other helpers surrounded Bentham during his long life; but his acquaintance with James Mill, which began in 1808, led, for the first time, to the association of a master-mind with his own in pursuit of common objects. Mill was less of a jurist than Bentham, but more of a philosopher, and better equipped for the defence of their fundamental principles on psychological and general grounds. He was also a man of affairs, familiar with practical business and accustomed to deal with other men, and his influence counted for much in making philosophical radicalism an effective political force. Bentham was a recluse occupied with ideas and projects, infinitely patient in elaborating them on paper, and convinced that they would be carried into effect so soon as he had demonstrated their value. The men who sought him out regarded him as a sage, hung upon his lips and approved his doctrines; and he expected other men, especially political leaders, to be equally rational. During the first half of his career, he was not a radical in politics; but the failure of his scheme for a panopticon, which he regarded as an administrative reform of the first importance, and in the advocacy of which he had incurred lavish expenditure, gave him a new—if, also, somewhat perverted—insight into the motives of party politicians, and led to a distrust of the governing classes. His mind was thus fitted to receive a powerful stimulus from James Mill, a stern and unbending democrat, whose creed, in Bentham’s caustic phrase, resulted “less from love to the many than from hatred of the few.”   6

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Jeremy Bentham The Westminster Review  
 
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