Bentham Project

Engraving by George Washington Appleton after Robert Matthew Sully

The Old Radical: Representations of Jeremy Bentham

Catalogue entry No. 21, p.42.


An engraving of the sketch made at the request of John Neal (1793–1876) by an American portrait painter, Robert Matthew Sully (1803–55), of Bentham at work, was to be included in Neal’s work of 1830, Principles of Legislation (an English translation of Dumont’s Traités de legislation penale and civile based Bentham’s writings on legislation). When the above Catalogue was published in 1998 no engraving in copies of Neal’s work had been traced, but recently the engraved portrait was found in the copy of Principles of Legislation in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The engraving of the Sully sketch is by George Washington Appleton (1805–31), an American portrait painter and engraver, based in Portland, Maine, who in 1829 also painted a portrait of John Neal. The engraving was later reproduced in Harold A. Larrabee’s Bentham’s Handbook of Political Fallacies, Baltimore, 1952 (copy shown here)

In fact the first use John Neal made of the engraving by Appleton was as a frontispiece to an edition of the periodical he had launched in January 1828 in Boston called The Yankee: and Boston Literary Gazette, the motto of which was 'Utility—"the greatest happiness of the greatest number."' The engraving appeared as the frontispiece of the Yankee, new series, vol. i, no. lxxix (July 1829), and was described by Neal as 'engraved from the copy of a very spirited sketch of him, by Robert M. Sully, a young Virginian of great promise, to whom Bentham sat in the year '27.' Neal must have returned to America with a copy of the Sully sketch, as the original of Sully's sketch had been given by Neal to Bentham's youngest niece, Sarah Bentham (1804–64).


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