LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Last Days of Lord Byron.
The Times  No. 12,657  (19 May 1825)
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The Times.

Number 12,657. LONDON, THURSDAY,  May  19,  1825. Price 7d.


Major Parry, a gentleman who was with Lord Byron during the season of his Lordship’s operations in Greece, has published a book with the above title, which is at least curious, on account of the ample opportunities of the writer, and of the simple unaffected style in which he records his observations. With the frankness, and some of the coarseness, of a sailor (for it appears that Major Parry is a seaman by profession), he has uttered many truths which are as useful for the right understanding of the Greek question, as they will be offensive to certain individuals. Though the writer has no claims to admiration for his literary talents, it is impossible not to respect his straightforwardness and integrity, his keen mother-wit and sound natural understanding, and above all, the genuine kindness of disposition, which would be sufficient to redeem a hundred faults. If we had room, we would extract his pathetic account of the death of Byron, which throws a new light on the extraordinary beauties and defects of character in that gifted but badly educated individual. But, constrained as we are for space, we must content ourselves with the following amusing description of that egregious person Jeremy Bentham—a person whom some retired tradesmen and self-dubbed philosophers put on a level with Bacon or Locke—with Solon or Lycurgus; but who, we suspect, when the rage of Charing-cross and Strand politics shall be forgotten, will rank with the theorists and fanatics of the puritanic age—with the fifth monarchy men—with the John Lilburne and Praise-God Barebones of the Commonwealth. Be that as it may, we suppose there is no one who will peruse the following curious description of this oracle of Bird-cage-walk without being amused as much as Lord Byron himself appears to have been with it. We may merely add, that Jeremy Bentham is too elaborately odd for a great man: a great man may be occasionally odd by accident, or from the circumstances of education; but he never doggedly sets out about doing every thing differently from other men, in order to be thought a genius because he is eccentric:—

The Examiner, Mr. Parry and Mr. Bentham

Lord Byron asked me, in the course of my conversations, did I know Mr. Bentham? I said I had seen him previously to my leaving England, that he had invited me to dine with him, and had been with me to see the preparations for the expedition. He had behaved very civilly to me, I said, but I thought him a little flighty. Lord Byron eagerly asked me in what way, and I told him. At hearing my account, his Lordship laughed most immoderately, and made me repeat it over and over again. He declared, when he had fished out every little circumstance, he would not have lost it for a thousand guineas. I shall here relate this little occurrence, not out of any disrespect to Mr. Bentham, but because he is a great man, and the world are very fond of hearing of great men. Moreover, Lord Byron has been somewhat censured, chiefly, I think, for not having a most profound respect for Mr. Bentham; and the following little story goes at least to prove, that some of this philosopher’s peculiarities might very naturally excite the laughter of the poet. Mr. Bentham is said also to have a great wish for celebrity, and he will not therefore be displeased, by my sounding another note to his fame, which may, perchance, convey it where it has not yet reached.

“Shortly before I left London for Greece, Mr. Bowring, the honorary secretary to the Greek committee informed me, that Mr. Jeremy Bentham wished to see the stores and materials, preparing for the Greeks, and that he had done me the honour of asking me to breakfast with him some day, that I might afterwards conduct him to see the guns, &c.

“‘Who the devil is Mr. Bentham?” was my rough reply, “I never heard of him before.” Many of my readers may still be in the same state of ignorance, and it will be acceptable to them, I hope, to hear of the philosopher.

“‘Mr. Bentham,” said Mr. Bowring, “is one of the greatest men of the age, and for the honour now offered to you, I waited impatiently many a long day; I believe for more than two years.’

“‘Great or little, I never heard of him before; but if he wants to see me, why I’ll go.’

“It was accordingly arranged, that I should visit Mr. Bentham, and that Mr. Bowring should see him to fix the time, and then inform me. In a day or two afterwards, I received a note from the honorary secretary, to say I was to breakfast with Mr. Bentham on Saturday. It happened that I lived at a distance from town, and having heard something of the primitive manner of living, and early hours of philosophers, I arranged with my wife over-night, that I would get up very early on the Saturday morning, that I might not keep Mr. Bentham waiting. Accordingly, I rose with the dawn, dressed myself in haste, and brushed off for Queen’s-square, Westminster, as hard as my legs could carry me. On reaching the Strand, fearing I might be late, being rather corpulent, and not being willing to go into the presence of so very great a man, as I understood Mr. Jeremy Bentham to be, puffing and blowing, I took a hackney coach, and drove up to his door about eight o’clock. I found a servant girl a-foot, and told her I came to breakfast with Mr. Bentham by appointment.

“She ushered me in, and introduced me to two young men, who looked no more like philosophers, however, than my own children. I thought they might be Mr. Bentham’s sons, but this I understood was a mistake. I shewed them the note I had received from Mr. Bowring, and they told me Mr. Bentham did not breakfast till three o’clock. This surprised me much, but they told me I might breakfast with them, which I did, though I was not much flattered by the honour of setting down with Mr. Bentham’s clerks, when I was invited by their master. Poor Mr. Bowring, thought I, he must be a meek spirited young man if it was for this he waited so impatiently.

“I supposed the philosopher himself did not get up till noon, as he did not breakfast till so late, but in this I was also mistaken. About ten o’clock I was summoned to his presence, and mustered up all my courage, and all my ideas for the meeting. His appearance struck me forcibly. His white thin locks cut straight in the fashion of the quakers, and hanging or rather floating on his shoulders; his garments something of their colour and cut, and his frame rather square and muscular, with no exuberance of flesh, made up a singular looking and not an inelegant old man. He welcomed me with a few hurried words, but without any ceremony, and then conducted me into several rooms to shew me his ammunition and materials of war. One very large room was nearly filled with books; and another with unbound works, which, I understood, were the philosopher’s own composition. The former he said furnished him his supplies; and there was a great deal of labour required to read so many volumes.

“I said inadvertently, ‘I suppose you have quite forgotten what is said in the first before you read the last.’ Mr. Bentham however took this in good part, and taking hold of my arm, said we would proceed on our journey. Accordingly off we set, accompanied by one of his young men carrying a portfolio, to keep, I suppose, a log of our proceedings.

“We went through a small garden, and passing out of a gate, I found we were in Saint James’s Park. Here I noticed that Mr. Bentham had a very snug dwelling, with many accommodations, and such a garden as belongs in London only to the first nobility. But for his neighbours, I thought, for he has a barrack of soldiers on one side of his premises, I should envy him his garden more than his great reputation. On looking at him, I could but admire his hale and even venerable appearance. I understood he was seventy-three years of age, and therefore I concluded we should have a quiet comfortable walk. Very much to my surprise, however, we had scarcely got into the Park, when he let go my arm, and set off trotting like a Highland messenger. The Park was crowded, and the people, one and all, seemed to stare at the old man; but heedless of all this he trotted on, his white locks floating in the wind, as if he were not seen by a single human being.

“As soon as I could recover from my surprise, I asked the young man, ‘Is Mr. Bentham flighty,’ pointing to my head. ‘Oh no, it’s his way,’ was the hurried answer, ‘he thinks it good for his health, but I must run after him,’ and offset the youth in chace of the philosopher. I must not lose my companions, thought I, and off I set also. Of course the eyes of every human being in the Park were fixed on the running veteran and his pursuers. There was Jerry a-head, then came his clerk and his portfolio, and I being a heavier sailer than either, was bringing up the rear.

“What the people might think, I don’t know, but it seemed to me a very strange scene, and I was not much delighted at being made such an object of attraction. Mr. Bentham’s activity surprised me, and I never overtook him or came near him till we reached the Horse Guards, where his speed was checked by the Blues drawn up in array. Here we threaded in amongst horses and men till we escaped at the other gate into Whitehall. I now thought the crowded streets would prevent any more racing; but several times he escaped from us, and trotted off, compelling us to trot after him till we reached Mr. Galloway’s manufactory in Smithfield. Here he exulted in his activity, and inquired particularly if I had ever seen a man at his time of life so active. I could not possibly answer, no, while I was almost breathless with the exertion of following him through the crowded streets.

“After seeing at Mr. Galloway’s manufactory, not only the things which had been prepared for the Greeks, but his other engines and machines, we proceeded to another manufactory at the foot of Southwark bridge, where our brigade of guns stood ready mounted. When Mr. Bentham had satisfied his curiosity here also, and I had given him every information in my power, we set off to return to his house, that he might breakfast; I endeavoured to persuade him to take a hackney-coach, but in vain. We got on tolerably well, and without any adventures, tragical or comical, till we arrived at Fleet-street. We crossed from Fleet Market over towards Mr. Waithman’s shop, and here, letting go my arm, he quitted the foot pavement, and set off again in one of his vagaries up Fleet-street. His clerk again set off after him, and I again followed. The race here excited universal attention. The perambulating ladies, who are always in great numbers about that part of the town, and ready to laugh at any kind of oddity, and catch hold of every simpleton, stood and stared at or followed the venerable philosopher. One of them, well known to all the neighbourhood, by the appellation of the City barge, given to her on account of her extraordinary bulk, was coming with a consort full sail down Fleet-street, but whenever they saw the flight of Mr. Jeremy Bentham, they hove too, tacked, and followed to witness the fun or share the prize. I was heartily ashamed of participating in this scene, and supposed that every body would take me for a mad doctor, the young man for my assistant, and Mr. Bentham for my patient, just broke adrift from his keepers.

“Fortunately the chase did not continue long. Mr. Bentham hove too abreast of Carlisle’s shop, and stood for a little time to admire the books and portraits hanging in the window. At length one of them arrested his attention more particularly. ‘Ah, ah,’ said he, in a hurried indistinct tone, ‘there it is, there it is,’ pointing to a portrait which I afterwards found was that of the illustrious Jeremy himself.

“Soon after this, I invented an excuse to quit Mr. Bentham and his man, promising to go to Queen-square to dine. I was not, however, to be again taken in by the philosopher’s meal hours; so, laying in a stock of provisions, I went at his dining hour, half-past ten o’clock, and supped with him. We had a great deal of conversation, particularly about mechanical subjects, and the art of war. I found the old gentleman as lively with his tongue as with his feet, and passed a very pleasant evening; which ended by my pointing out, at his request, a plan for playing his organ by the steam of his tea-kettle. This little history gave Lord Byron a great deal of pleasure; he very often laughed as I told it; he laughed much at its conclusion, and he frequently bade me repeat what he called Jerry Bentham’s Cruise.”