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Bentham’s ‘Writings on Australia’ – pre-publication texts now online

By Tim Causer, on 5 September 2018

The Bentham Project is delighted to announce that open-access pre-publication versions of the texts constituting Jeremy Bentham’s Writings on Australia, edited by Dr Tim Causer and Professor Philip Schofield, are now available to download from UCL Discovery. The preparation of these texts has been made possible by generous funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The texts in question, several of which are now made available for the first time, can be downloaded at the following links:

  1. ‘New Wales’ (written in 1791)
  2. ‘History of Jeremy Bentham’s dealings with Lord Pelham’ (1802)
  3. ‘First Letter to Lord Pelham’ (1802)
  4. ‘Second Letter to Lord Pelham’ (1802)
  5. ‘Third Letter to Lord Pelham’ (1802-3)
  6. ‘A Plea for the Constitution (1803)
  7. ‘Colonization Company Proposal’ (1831)

The first six texts are intimately connected to Bentham’s attempt to persuade the British government to build his panopticon penitentiary. The ‘New Wales‘ material, written in June 1791, a matter of months after Bentham first offered the panopticon to the Pitt administration, constitutes Bentham’s first detailed engagement with Britain’s infant penal colony of New South Wales.

In July 1793 William Pitt, the leader of the administration, and Henry Dundas, the Home Secretary, visited Bentham’s home at Queen’s Square Place in order see models of the panopticon and the machinery which the inmates would operate. They gave their approval to the scheme and asked him to proceed with making preparations. Bentham subsequently spent the best part of a decade in negotiations with the government to have the panopticon built, but the attempt to bring it to fruition was, in Bentham’s view, beset by wilful delay and obstruction on the part of ministers and their underlings. These delays and obstructions had led Bentham to believe that the government had acted in the interests of the nobility rather than in the public interest and, by January 1802, to more or less accept that the panopticon would never be built. The ‘History of Jeremy Bentham’s dealings with Lord Pelham‘ (who was then the Home Secretary) consists of letters and documents compiled by Bentham dating from 12 April 1802 to 21 August 1802, which sets out many of his grievances in regard to the panopticon, and in effect constitutes a history of the beginning of Bentham’s assault on New South Wales, the government’s preference for which over his penitentiary frustrated him.

The ‘Letter to Lord Pelham‘ constitutes perhaps the earliest detailed critique of transportation to New South Wales by a major philosopher of punishment. In ‘Second Letter to Lord Pelham‘ Bentham continues his attack, seeking by sheer weight of example to demonstrate the failure of New South Wales as an instrument of penal policy, and to compare the colony unfavourably with penitentiaries in Philadelphia and New York—institutions characterized by surveillance and hard labour, and which thus constituted the closest existing approximation to the panopticon. ‘Third Letter to Lord Pelham‘ sees Bentham extend his critique to the prison hulks and ‘improved prisons’, and is especially pointed in his criticism of Lord Pelham and his predecessor as Home Secretary the Duke of Portland for their having, for instance, not only ignored high mortality among the convicts aboard the Portsmouth hulks, but also in having actively contributed to the conditions leading to that mortality. In ‘A Plea for the Constitution‘ examined New South Wales on point of law, and sought to demonstrate that the colony had been illegally founded.

Bentham unsuccessfully sought to use his writings on Australia of 1802-3 to force the government to proceed with the establishment of the panopticon. Ultimately, the government decided to abandon the panopticon in June 1803 and Bentham set aside the works, only publishing the first two ‘Letters to Lord Pelham’ and ‘A Plea for the Constitution’ in 1812, in a single volume entitled Panopticon versus New South Wales, when the government briefly again showed interest in the panopticon.

Bentham returned to writing about Australia in August 1831, though on the subject of free rather than unfree emgration. Between 4 and 14 August 1831 Bentham composed around fifty sheets relating to an incomplete work entitled ‘Colonization Company Proposal‘, which effectively constitutes Bentham’s commentary upon the National Colonization Society’s Proposal to His Majesty’s Government for Founding a Colony on the Southern Coast of Australia.

‘New Wales’, ‘History of Jeremy Bentham’s dealings with Lord Pelham’, ‘Third Letter to Lord Pelham’, and ‘Colonization Company Proposal’, which exist only in manuscript, are here made available for the first time. The texts presented here are preliminary versions, in that the authoritative texts will appear as part of Bentham’s Writings on Australia for The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, with a full Editorial Introduction, name and subject indexes, finalized annotation, and working cross-references.

In addition to the AHRC we would like to thank the project’s co-investigator, Professor Margot Finn of UCL History; the British Academy and UCL for their continuing support of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham; UCL Library’s Special Collections for permission to publish material from its collection of the Bentham Papers; and our Bentham Project and UCL Laws colleagues. Particular thanks are due to Dr Katy Roscoe who has provided invaluable assistance in checking the text and researching the annotation. Finally, we would like to warmly acknowledge the contributions of volunteers to Transcribe Bentham whose draft transcripts of Bentham manuscripts were used in the preparation of these texts, and who are acknowledged in the introductions to the texts.

Tim Causer and Philip Schofield

 

 

 

 

 

Bentham goes back to school

By Louise Seaward, on 13 July 2015

It is a bit strange to go back to secondary school after more than 10 years away.  I have recently been visiting Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy (HAKA) in Bromley to deliver a series of tutorials as part of The Brilliant Club.  The Brilliant Club is a non-profit organisation focused on widening access to top universities for high-achieving pupils from state schools.  PhD students and post-doctoral researchers work with The Brilliant Club to deliver University-style tutorials to sixth formers and younger pupils.  These sessions are designed to build a foundation for University learning by developing students’ knowledge, research skills and confidence.

I have been teaching a group of four sixth formers from HAKA who are studying a range of AS Levels including Sociology, History and Biology.  Our course is titled, ‘Because I’m Happy: Jeremy Bentham and his Ideas on Happiness’.  The course is an introduction to Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism and concentrates on the application of his philosophy in matters of politics, religion and penal reform.  As well as reading extracts from Bentham’s own writings, the students have been able to engage with Bentham scholarship – Michel Foucault’s perspective on the Panopticon generated a particularly interesting discussion!

I have been impressed by my students’ consideration of the meaning of happiness – how important is it, how can we measure it and can it be fairly distributed through society?  We have also spent time exploring the contemporary relevance of Bentham’s ideas.  The pupils all recognised that utilitarianism could play a significant role in current debates over the acceptability of government surveillance, the usefulness of religion and the inevitability of political spin.  It has been great to see the students grow in confidence as they weighed up the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism in each tutorial.

Now that school is out for the summer, the pupils have the next few weeks to complete an essay evaluating Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism.  Once their essays have been marked, they will have the opportunity to participate in a Brilliant Club graduation ceremony to congratulate them on their progress.   I would like to thank the pupils for their enthusiasm and hard work.  Studying Bentham can be challenging but their thoughtful contributions have made the experience an enlightening one for me, and hopefully for them too.

New online publication: ‘A Visit (in 1831) to Jeremy Bentham’, by George Wheatley

By Tim Causer, on 18 February 2015

The Bentham Project has published online for the first time the text of George Wheatley’s A Visit (in 1831) to Jeremy Bentham. Wheatley’s work, which describes in detail his visit to Queen’s Square Place, Bentham’s residence in Westminster, is also available as an open-access text in PDF or XML format from UCL Discovery.

Upon the death of his father Jeremiah in 1792, Bentham inherited the family home in Queen’s Square Place. Bentham referred to his abode as the Hermitage and himself as the Hermit. Despite this apparent reclusiveness, many notable statesmen, politicians, lawyers, and intellectuals visited him, although some equally prominent figures (such as Madame de Staël) were refused an audience. Apart from half the year spent at another notable Bentham residence, Ford Abbey, between 1814 and 1818, Bentham spent the majority of his later years at Queen’s Square Place. He died within its walls, aged 84, on 6 June 1832.

Bentham’s house was demolished in the 1880s. The site is now occupied by 102 Petty France, otherwise known as the building which houses the Ministry of Justice. Between 1978 and 2004 this building (then known as 50 Queen Anne’s Gate) was the main location of the Home Office. On 12 October 2004, Councillor Catherine Longworth, Lord Mayor of Westminster, and Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL, unveiled a commemorative plaque to Jeremy Bentham on the gateway of the building.

We are sure that this text will prove extremely popular amongst Bentham enthusiasts, since Wheatley provides a rich first-hand account of both the house (such as the front garden or ‘paddock’, the steam central-heating, and Bentham’s ‘workshop’ with attendant ‘platform’ and ‘ditch’) and its permanent and temporary inhabitants (such as Bentham himself, his secretaries, and his visitors). Details are given about Bentham’s peculiar meal times (and his ‘preprandial circumgyration’, when he did his pre-dinner jogging) as well as descriptions of the dishes served. Illumination is also given to Bentham’s working practices, such as his unique ink-conserving writing style and his preference for ‘preaching’ (dictating to an amanuensis) whilst being shaved.

The text has been transcribed and lightly annotated from the original which was privately printed in about 1853. It contains a brief editorial introduction by Dr Kris Grint.

Response to The Guardian’s review of Bentham’s Of Sexual Irregularities by Professor Philip Schofield

By T Philip Schofield, on 7 July 2014

In his review of Jeremy Bentham’s Of Sexual Irregularities (Guardian, 28 June 2014), Faramerz Dabhoiwala suggests that the Bentham Project, which is producing the new authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, has been culpable in not editing and publishing these writings before now. The new Bentham edition is a massive scholarly task (30 volumes hitherto published out of a projected total of 80) which is almost entirely reliant on winning competitive grants from the UK’s research councils and educational charities. Of Sexual Irregularities, for instance, was generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Given the enormous size and complexity of the task of producing a scholarly edition from handwritten manuscripts, and the need to rely on external funding, the surprise is that our small research team is as productive as it is. The wider issue is UK academia’s refusal face up to the question of how to fund long-term research projects in the humanities and social sciences. The research councils seem to be happy to disburse money to the latest flavour of the month, which promises some short-term impact, rather than scholarship that will continue to be of value for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Response to The Guardian’s review of Bentham’s Of Sexual Irregularities by Dr Michael Quinn

By Michael Quinn, on 7 July 2014

In his otherwise positive review of Of Sexual Irregularities (Guardian, 28 June 2014), Faramerz Dabhoiwala refers to the way in which the ‘official Bentham Project largely ignored this aspect of his thinking’, and regrets the fact that ‘Only three of Bentham’s documents from the 1810s are printed … so that the development and full range of his thoughts on sex are impossible to trace.’ One might be forgiven for concluding that a veritable army of ‘official’ editors had grudgingly placed in the public domain a disjointed fraction of a much more extensive and coherent discussion of sex and the law.

In order to obviate this misapprehension, two points require to be made. First, the ‘official Bentham Project’ relies entirely on funding from research councils, educational charities, and the generosity of UCL, whilst the task of its very far from ‘huge’, but rather tiny (and diminishing) staff, namely producing a critical edition of some 80 volumes, largely from semi-legible manuscripts, might be likened to that of emptying a bath full of water with a tea spoon without spilling a drop. Second, Bentham’s temporally disjointed discussions of sex form no coherent whole, having been undertaken at widely different times, for different purposes. To have combined the discussions on sex from the 1780s, which formed part of a putative work on penal law, with the discussions of 1816–18, which formed an integral part of Bentham’s sustained assault on the baleful influence of religion on popular morality, would have been contrary to the basic principles of a critical edition, whilst to have undertaken the editorial work on the earlier discussions necessary to provide proper cross-referencing would very likely, and not unreasonably, have strained the patience of the Leverhulme Trust, whose generosity funded this volume. Dabhoiwala also omits to note that the preliminary text of the closely related work Not Paul, But Jesus, Part III. Doctrine, has been freely available from the Bentham Project website since May 2013.

Jeremy Bentham and the escaped convicts

By Tim Causer, on 13 January 2014

The Bentham Project is delighted to announce the publication, for the first time, a detailed, online annotated edition of the Memorandoms of the transported convict, James Martin, which is the only extant first-hand account of perhaps the most famous escape by prisoners transported to Australia. The manuscripts upon which this work are based are part of UCL’s vast Bentham Papers collection, having seemingly been collected by Bentham when he was writing his attack on convict transportation, Panopticon versus New South Wales.

On the night of 28 March 1791, Martin, in company with his fellow prisoners William Bryant, his wife Mary Bryant (née Broad) and their two young children Charlotte and Emanuel, William Allen, Samuel Bird alias John Simms, Samuel Broom alias John Butcher, James Cox alias Rolt, Nathaniel Lillie, and William Morton, stole the governor’s six-oared cutter. In it, the party sailed out of Port Jackson, and up and along the eastern and northern coasts of the Australian continent, where they encountered Aboriginal peoples, and were fortunate to survive several ferocious storms. They crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria, avoided capture by Torres Strait Islanders, and eventually landed at Kupang, West Timor, on 5 June. There, they successfully (for a while, at least) posed as survivors of a shipwreck and enjoyed the hospitality of their Dutch hosts. Theirs was an incredible feat of endurance and seamanship, in surviving a two-month journey of over five thousand kilometres in an open boat.

The Memorandoms, edited and introduced by Tim Causer, are now freely available to read online, and can also be downloaded as a PDF. For those interested, an XML version of the text is also available.

The introduction to the edition provides information about the manuscripts, Bentham’s interest in convict Australia and his acquisition of the manuscripts, context and background to the escape, and a summary of previous works dealing with this famous absconding. This is followed by annotated versions of Martin’s narrative, which are linked to digital versions of the original manuscripts, allowing readers to fully explore this fascinating primary resource.

We are, as always, very grateful to UCL Library Special Collections for permission to reproduce transcripts of manuscripts in their possession, and for their continuing support, and to UCL Creative Media Services, who created the digital images of the manuscripts for our Transcribe Bentham project. We would welcome any comments or feedback about this edition of Martin’s Memorandoms, or additional information which could further improve the resource. Please send them to t.causer [at] ucl.ac.uk.

The Return of Demonic Bentham

By Michael Quinn, on 26 November 2013

Jeremy Seabrook provides an arresting and provocative challenge to the rhetoric underlying cuts in welfare spending, and is acute in pointing out historical echoes of the effort—undertaken in tandem with the contradictory assurance that we are all in this together—to divide the recipients of such spending into the deserving and undeserving poor. I know of the stresses and paralyzing anxieties imposed on recipients of disability benefits by the fitness for work assessments, and agree that singling out the most vulnerable (and therefore least able to resist?) to bear a disproportionate burden is wrong, however effective as a political strategy. However, I do want to take issue with Seabrook over the attitude of Jeremy Bentham to poor relief in general, and to the deserving/undeserving dichotomy in particular.

For Bentham, the question of poor relief highlighted the conflicting imperatives of the two most important subordinate ends of legislation, namely subsistence and security. In 1796 he began a detailed analysis of poor relief, fundamental to which was the distinction between poverty (i.e. dependence on investment of labour for subsistence), the unavoidable condition of almost all mankind, and indigence (i.e. exposure to starvation through lack of property, and inability either to labour, or to procure subsistence despite labour). Relief of poverty was neither possible, nor desirable: upon the ‘natural’ connection between investment of labour and acquisition of subsistence depended the production of both the matter of subsistence, and, by accumulation of surplus productivity, the matter of abundance, or wealth. Bentham was thus an unapologetic advocate of economic competition between individuals as the motor of increasing wealth, while the energy for driving the motor was derived from individual responsibility for individual subsistence in the first place, and for that of helpless dependents in the second.

Bentham analysed the contingencies responsible for indigence, rejecting desert as a criterion for receipt of relief, to which the fact of indigence alone constituted the legitimate claim. He refused, that is to say, the attempt to allocate relief according to a distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor: ‘Neither by good nor by ill desert, can anything be added to, or taken from, the quantum of demand on the score of indigence.’ That said, the state could and should impose deterrent conditions upon relief, since their absence enhanced the attractiveness of dependence on relief as an alternative to self-maintenance, and since making relief more eligible than (i.e. preferable to) independent labour ultimately threatened generalized indigence or widespread starvation. I hesitate to detail Bentham’s conditions, for fear of putting ideas into heads at the Department of Work and Pensions, but they are: first, since the aim was to prevent starvation, relief should be limited to ‘the necessaries of life’. Second, since labouring for subsistence was mankind’s inescapable condition, the indigent too, excepting only those utterly incapable, should be required to labour. Third, since out-allowances, that is cash welfare payments, were incompatible with the efficient extraction of labour, the indigent should be obliged to enter large-scale Industry-Houses.

Seabrook is also absolutely correct in seeing Bentham as an advocate of the private provision of welfare services. Bentham proposed transferring responsibility for relief to a joint-stock company, the National Charity Company, subsidized by receipt of the existing poor rates. The company would build two hundred and fifty panopticon industry-houses in England and Wales, each accommodating two thousand people. Paupers would be occupied largely in ‘self-supply’, that is the production of their own subsistence. It should also be noted, however, that Bentham’s company would differ from modern private providers in the transparency of its management. It should also be noted that Bentham would have rejected utterly the notion of a cap on benefit spending. He called this idea the ‘Limited or Inadequate Provision System’, and he thought it both intellectually disreputable, in drawing an arbitrary ceiling on that spending, so that once that ceiling is reached, no further claims can be met—‘it admits the propriety of a provision at the public charge, and, at the same time, as far as the deficiency extends, refuses to make any such provision’— and morally bankrupt—pregnant ‘with profusion on one side, homicide on the other’.

Finally, it really is time that Bentham’s reference to ‘that part of the national live stock which has no feathers to it, and walks upon two legs’ was recognized for what it is, namely a humorous allusion to Plato’s definition of man in The Statesman, and its parody by Diogenes the Cynic, rather than as an example of Bentham’s own casual inhumanity. Bentham alluded to the definition twice in his poor law writings, the second time in the admittedly complacent and underwhelmingly funny reference quoted by Seabrook, but first in attacking the notion of the rights of man:

‘the pompous, the wordy, the nonsensical, the pretending Plato, fancying he had discovered and was explaining the secret of man’s nature, defined him a two-footed animal without feathers. Stripping a fowl of its feathers and tossing it down into the street among the by-standers, there, cried a contemporary philosopher of more acuteness and pleasantry than humanity, there, cried he, runs Plato’s man. Take a new-born infant, and setting it down in a cart-rut just before a Cart were passing by, thus (might a philosopher of like complection say to a French Constitution-maker) there lies your man, with all his rights. Hold! What are you about? Dare you snatch him up without his consent?—if you do, he is your slave.’

The relentless economies of the National Charity Company are rebarbative enough to a twenty-first century reader—even when set against the raft of ancillary services which they helped to make possible—without adding ill-founded character assassination.

Michael Quinn is Senior Research Associate at the Bentham Project, UCL and editor of two volumes of Jeremy Bentham’s Writings on the Poor Laws (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2001 and 2010).

Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III

By Kris Grint, on 30 April 2013

 

The Bentham Project is pleased to announce the publication of a preliminary edition of Jeremy Bentham’s Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III.

This is the first time that the third volume of Not Paul, but Jesus has been published in any form. The first volume, appearing in 1823, was published under the pseudonym Gamaliel Smith. In the work as a whole, Bentham aimed to drive a wedge between the religion of Jesus and the religion of Paul — between Christianity and Paulism. In this third volume, he focused on sexual morality. This version will eventually be superseded by an authoritative version in the complete edition of Not Paul, but Jesus in the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.

Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III by Jeremy Bentham, edited by Philip Schofield, Michael Quinn and Catherine Pease-Watkin, is now freely available to view online, and can also be downloaded as a PDF. An XML version of the text is also available.

Encoding text with XML to the standards of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has been a practice at the heart of the Bentham Project’s research ever since the launch of Transcribe Bentham in 2010. Since that time, Bentham’s manuscripts have been transcribed directly into TEI-compliant XML by volunteers using our Transcription Desk software. We are also converting our legacy transcripts (over 13,000 folios) into this format to ensure their preservation and future usability. These transcripts, along with high-resolution photographs of the original manuscripts, are collected together in UCL’s online digital repository. Not Paul, but Jesus, however, marks the first time an edition of Bentham’s work suitable for publication has been encoded into XML. It has subsequently been transformed, via XSLT, into online and PDF versions. This process posed numerous technical challenges, some of which will be described in subsequent blog posts.

We are grateful to the Leverhulme Trust whose generous grant has made possible the online publication of this important work. We are also grateful to University College London Library for permission to reproduce this transcript of manuscripts in their possession.

We would welcome any comments or feedback about this electronic edition of Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III. Please send them to k.grint [at] ucl.ac.uk.

Latest Collected Works volume: ‘On the Liberty of the Press’

By Tim Causer, on 1 June 2012

The latest volume of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham has been published by Oxford University Press. Edited by Catherine Pease-Watkin and Philip Schofield, and entitled On the Liberty of the Press, and Public Discussion, this volume of essays by Bentham illustrates his attempts to influence the direction of political and constitutional change in Spain and Portugal during the early 1820s.

For more information, please visit the OUP website.

Bentham in China

By Tim Causer, on 22 May 2012

Dr Michael Quinn reports on a recent trip to China:

On 12 and 13 May 2012, what was almost certainly the first Chinese conference dedicated to the study of Jeremy Bentham was hosted by the Law School of Zhengzhou University. Professor Philip Schofield and Dr Michael Quinn from the Bentham Project were joined in attending by Professor David Lieberman from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Gerald Postema from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dr Emmanuelle de Champs from the University of Paris VIII and the Centre Bentham.

Attendees at the Bentham Conference, Zhengzhou University, 12 and 13 May 2012

The conference proved to be a stimulating intellectual exchange, as both Chinese and Western scholars presented research on Bentham, before an audience of academics and students. Professor Schofield contributed both a lecture on Bentham’s critique of natural rights, in which he constructed a Benthamic response to contemporary critics of utilitarianism, such as John Rawls, and a paper based on his current editorial work on Bentham’s disinclination to regulate in matters of taste, particularly sexual taste. Professor Lieberman lectured on the idea of the mixed constitution, and read a fascinating paper on the connections between Bentham’s enthusiasm for codification and his democratic theory. Dr de Champs revealed the extent to which the early Bentham self-identified as an active citizen in a European Republic of Letters, and Dr Quinn discussed some of the tensions involved in responding to the pains experienced by an illiberal majority in consequence of the proposed decriminalization of ‘harmless’ actions to which they objected. The Chinese audience responded enthusiastically to the lecture by Professor Postema on ‘The Ethos of Law’, which stressed the individual and collective responsibility for creating an environment in which power, public or private, was held consistently to account. Dr Chen Jinghui presented a paper on Hart’s ‘Content-Independent Reasons’; Professor Guodong Xu explored the connections between Epicureanism and Utilitarianism; Dr Hongguo Chen investigated Bentham’s treatment of William Blackstone; Dr Danhong Wu painstakingly reviewed Bentham’s exhaustive discussion of the law of evidence; Professor Yanxin Su revealed the extent to which Bentham’s legal thought was influenced by his knowledge of Roman law; Professor Honghai Li sought to rehabilitate common law, in opposition to Bentham’s pejorative appellation ‘dog law’; and Professor Xiaobo Zhai presented a ground-breaking paper on Bentham’s ‘natural arrangement’. Professors Schofield, Lieberman and Postema were appointed honorary professors of Zhengzhou University, and Professor Schofield took part with the President of the University in inaugurating the new Bentham Centre at the University, under its Director Professor Xiaobo Zhai.

Professors Gerald Postema, Philip Schofield, and David Lieberman receive honorary professorships from Zhengzhou University

Inauguration of the Bentham Centre, Zhengzhou University

 

A fulsome tribute and accompanying thanks must be paid to the superb hospitality afforded by Zhengzhou University. All the foreign guests left harbouring wonderful memories of their time in China, and with the firm intention of broadening and deepening the new relationships forged during the trip. Their only regret concerned the recognition that they might never again be able to eat Chinese food in Europe or America: it’s just not the same as Chinese food in China!

We feel sure that Jeremy would be happy to know of the developing interest in his thought in a country with one fifth of the world’s population, and would be anxious to promote the translation of his works into Chinese.