‘from a female pen, as well as to a female eye’: annotating Bentham’s ‘Writings on Australia’

By Tim Causer, on 12 July 2016

It’s been a few months since the last update about the ongoing editing of Bentham’s writings on Australia. In the intervening period I’ve mostly been researching and writing editorial notes for Panopticon versus New Wales and A Plea for the Constitution to illuminate Bentham’s various allusions throughout the texts.

In writing and researching the First Letter to Lord Pelham (one half of Panopticon versus New South Wales) in 1802, Bentham sought out as much information as possible about the convict colony of New South Wales. Though he relied in the main upon historical accounts and official correspondence among Bentham’s other acquisitions was a short letter dated 7 October 1800, ‘from a female pen, as well as to a female eye’, which he cited as evidence of the immorality supposedly prevalent in New South Wales (p. 19). He quoted a portion of the letter which described how the new Governor of New South Wales, Philip Gidley King, would have to ‘pay some attention to the morals and instruction of the rising generation, to which none has hitherto been given; for certainly, if we ever hope to see worth or honesty in this settlement, we must look to them for it, and not the present degenerate race.

Bentham was oddly coy about the letter’s providence, noting that for ‘authentication sake, designation will (I suppose) be regarded as indispensable; but where that sex is concerned, the most reserved mode that can be thought of, is the most respectful and the best.’ There the authorship of the letter might have remained a mystery but, as ever when it comes to Bentham, his manuscripts are fortunately more revealing. In an unpublished draft of the First Letter to Lord Pelham, Bentham wrote that ‘the Lady’s Husband—a Soldier—[was] the first man in rank under the Governor’ (UCL Bentham Papers, Box xciv, f. 335v). The Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales in October 1800 was Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson (1755–1810), making the author of the letter his wife, Elizabeth (née Driver), one of the founders of the Sydney Orphans’ School and committee member of the Female Orphans’ Institution.

Elizabeth Paterson’s letter—or perhaps an extract from it— is held among the British Library’s Bentham Papers (Additional Manuscripts 33,453, folios 423–24) and a similar note to the quotation above about its authorship, in pencil and in Bentham’s hand, is written at the end of the letter. Furthermore, on the reverse of the letter it is stated that it was from ‘Mrs Patterson [sic] Port Jackson to Mrs B. Q.S.P.’—‘Mrs B’ being Maria Sophia Bentham (1765–1858), the wife of Jeremy’s younger brother, Samuel (1757–1831). This was not the only occasion that Jeremy tapped into Samuel and Maria Sophia’s network when writing Panopticon versus New South Wales: he also drew upon a letter dated 20 May 1799 from Samuel’s friend, John Hunter (1737–1821), Governor of New South Wales from 1795 to 1800.

As well as her remarks upon colonial morality (very much written from the point of view of the official class), Elizabeth Paterson’s letter also reveals anxiety about the security of the colony in the wake of several hundred convicts having arrived from Ireland, many of whom were apparently involved in the 1798 United Irishmen rising. In September 1800, a month before Paterson put pen to paper, a nebulous ‘plot’ had been uncovered in which some Irish convicts were supposed to have been ready to resort to armed revolt. Paterson wrote of how ‘for these last six months we have been under apprehensions’ of a rising, but as the rumours were unconfirmed ‘no steps [were taken] to prevent their designs’ until 28 September. This was the day apparently ‘fixed for the destruction of the Military and principal families at Parramatta, a considerable Settlement 15 Miles from [Sydney]’. Thirty ‘Ringleaders’ were arrested and questioned and ‘the greatest part confessed the horrid plot’ and, as a result, a number of men were ordered to be flogged and/or exiled to Norfolk Island. Even though the ‘plot’ had been prevented, Paterson remained concerned that the military force in the colony was insufficient and that even after ‘our critical situation’ became known back in London, there was still the prospect of more Irish prisoners being transported to New South Wales.

You can see the letter, and the page of the draft of Panopticon versus New South Wales below. In the meantime, the editorial work continues apace. The annotation of the printed versions of Panopticon versus New South Wales and A Plea for the Constitution is at quite an advanced stage, and transcripts of manuscripts from Box 116 , produced in the main by TB volunteers, are also being checked, and the quality is extraordinarily high. Once this checking is complete, we will begin to compare the draft versions of these two texts with the printed versions, and see just what Bentham decided to leave out from the final versions. But that is something for a future update…

 

Elizabeth Paterson to Maria Sophia Bentham, 7 Oct 1800 (p.1) British Library Add. MS  33,453, fo. 423r

Elizabeth Paterson to Maria Sophia Bentham, 7 Oct 1800 (p.1)
British Library Add. MS 33,453, fo. 423r

Elizabeth Paterson to Maria Sophia Bentham, 7 Oct 1800 (p.1) British Library Add. MS  33,453, fo. 423v

Elizabeth Paterson to Maria Sophia Bentham, 7 Oct 1800 (p.1)
British Library Add. MS 33,453, fo. 423v

Elizabeth Paterson to Maria Sophia Bentham, 7 Oct 1800 (p.1) British Library Add. MS  33,453, fo. 424r

Elizabeth Paterson to Maria Sophia Bentham, 7 Oct 1800 (p.1)
British Library Add. MS 33,453, fo. 424r

 

UCL Bentham Papers, Box xciv, fo. 335v

UCL Bentham Papers, Box xciv, fo. 335v

 

 

 

Progress Update, 2 to 8 July 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 8 July 2016

Hello!  The Bentham Project have been in Lille this week attending the 2016 conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies (ISUS).  Members of the Project have been both presenting and listening to the latest research on Bentham including his writings on political fallacies, information control and penal reform.  Check out our twitter feed for more info.

Here is our round-up of the latest statistics.  Transcription is continuing at a great pace and our volunteers deserve much thanks, as always.

16,262 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 57 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 15,354 (94%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 419 795 52%
Box 2 616 753 81%
Box 4 10 694 1%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 4 169 2%
Box 8 20 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 22 459 4%
Box 11 9 480 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 18 4 193 2%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 172 427 40%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 306 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 145 296 48%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 212 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 788 865 91%
Box 117 465 853 54%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 538 990 54%
Box 120 205 686 29%
Box 121 149 526 28%
Box 122 306 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 16 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 88 381 23%
Box 149 85 581 14%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 195 728 26%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 984 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 32 701 4%
Add MS 35549 8 366 2%
Add MS 35550 37 637 5%
Overall 16,262 35,002 46%

Progress Update, 25 June to 1 July 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 1 July 2016

Hi everyone!  We’re here with the statistics for this week once again.  Our volunteers are making excellent progress and we are very thankful for their efforts.

16,205 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 52 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 15,351 (94%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 412 795 51%
Box 2 608 753 80%
Box 4 10 694 1%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 4 169 2%
Box 8 20 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 1 459 1%
Box 11 9 480 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 18 4 193 2%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 172 427 40%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 306 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 145 296 48%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 212 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 787 865 90%
Box 117 465 853 54%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 538 990 54%
Box 120 200 686 29%
Box 121 149 526 28%
Box 122 306 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 16 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 88 381 23%
Box 149 85 581 14%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 195 728 26%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 947 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 984 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 31 701 4%
Add MS 35549 8 366 2%
Add MS 35550 23 637 3%
Overall 16,205 35,002 46%

Progress Update, 18 to 24 June 2016

By Louise Seaward, on 24 June 2016

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another round-up of the latest Transcribe Bentham statistics.  Our volunteers are still beavering away and as always, we are very grateful for their hard work.  We have now passed the 16,000 manuscript mark and transcription is continuing!

16,153 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed, which is an increase of 27 on last week’s total.  Of these transcripts, 15,331 (94%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

The more detailed progress chart is as follows:

Box No. of manuscripts worked on No. of manuscripts in box Completion
Box 1 404 795 40%
Box 2 607 753 80%
Box 4 10 694 1%
Box 5 200 290 68%
Box 7 4 169 2%
Box 8 20 284 7%
Box 9 47 266 17%
Box 10 1 459 1%
Box 11 9 480 1%
Box 15 86 814 10%
Box 18 4 193 2%
Box 27 350 350 COMPLETE
Box 29 22 122 18%
Box 30 4 193 2%
Box 31 19 302 6%
Box 34 40 399 10%
Box 35 287 439 65%
Box 36 37 419 8%
Box 37 36 487 7%
Box 38 172 427 40%
Box 39 12 284 4%
Box 41 87 572 15%
Box 42 92 910 10%
Box 44 53 202 26%
Box 50 176 198 88%
Box 51 386 940 41%
Box 57 19 420 4%
Box 62 78 565 13%
Box 63 155 345 44%
Box 70 306 350 87%
Box 71 663 663 COMPLETE
Box 72 614 664 92%
Box 73 151 151 COMPLETE
Box 79 199 199 COMPLETE
Box 87 2 604 1%
Box 95 126 147 85%
Box 96 534 539 99%
Box 97 145 296 48%
Box 98 224 499 44%
Box 100 211 442 47%
Box 106 235 581 40%
Box 107 503 538 93%
Box 110 15 671 2%
Box 115 277 307 90%
Box 116 784 865 90%
Box 117 464 853 54%
Box 118 258 880 29%
Box 119 538 990 54%
Box 120 195 686 28%
Box 121 146 526 27%
Box 122 306 728 42%
Box 123 45 443 10%
Box 124 16 383 4%
Box 139 40 40 COMPLETE
Box 141 88 381 23%
Box 149 57 581 9%
Box 150 972 972 COMPLETE
Box 169 195 728 26%
Add MS 35537 730 744 98%
Add MS 35538 824 858 96%
Add MS 35539 882 948 93%
Add MS 35540 948 1012 93%
Add MS 35541 983 1258 78%
Add MS 35547 31 701 4%
Add MS 35549 7 366 1%
Add MS 35550 22 637 3%
Overall 16,153 35,002 46%

Working on Transcribe Bentham…

By Louise Seaward, on 17 June 2016

We have been lucky enough to have Klaudia Lleshi working with us over the past few weeks as a student intern and we are very grateful for all her help.  On her last day, Klaudia would like to share her experience of working on Transcribe Benham:

‘I have been working with the Transcribe Bentham project team as part of my work placement for the past six weeks. I am currently studying MSc Digital Humanities at UCL. The course has given me an opportunity to build on both my computing and technological skills as well as learn more about how different digital aspects are applied in humanities and why. Over the course of these six weeks I have had the chance to do several different types of jobs. I have transcribed some of Bentham’s work, although I probably still have a long way to go to actually be able to understand all of his handwriting, but practice makes perfect. I have also helped in writing the blog for the statistics of the project each week. I have updated the Transcribe Bentham blog as well as looking in to more recent news about Bentham, his work and the Transcribe Bentham project. Having already had some experience working on blogs previously, it was nice to get back to it and be able to update the content of the blog/website. I have worked with Oxygen to create XML based files of completed transcripts each week that will eventually be used to display these files as part of documents on a website that will be available for anyone to access. This has given me the chance build on the little knowledge I already had about Oxygen and practice creating different file types. I have had the chance to do several tasks as part of this work experience, with everyday being different. Getting the chance to digitise some of Bentham’s work by taking the photographs of the papers was great and then being able to use Adobe Bridge to edit the images so that they are in the correct format ready for upload also showed me the process of digitisation that they go through before they are finally uploaded ready for transcribing.

It has been a lovely six weeks with the Transcribe Benham Team, it has been good for me to work in the different areas of the project and learn how it all comes together. The team has been great and I’m sure the Transcribe Bentham Project will continue to grow and develop further with the all the new things they have planned for the future.’

Klaudia Lleshi