Bentham Project


Bentham Project Visit to Forde Abbey

The Scene of a 'humiliating defeat'?

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John Flowerdew Colls, who had been Bentham's amanuensis described a race between Jeremy Bentham (aged 67) and Lady Romilly:
'In the second season of our residence at this ancient monastery he had to encounter a somewhat more humiliating defeat, in a trial of corporeal agility, and in this instance, the most accomplished and beautiful lady (as I thought, in those days, my eyes had ever seen) had the satisfaction of beating him by the superior swiftness of her feet. The fair heroine was no other than Lady Romilly, who, with her amiable daughter and Sir Samuel, who were then on a visit to their old friend for a few days during the long vacation. Bentham had challenged her ladyship to run with him to the end of the long gravel-walk in his pleasure grounds; and, as usual, in the full confidence of his superior strength of body as well as of mind, vauntingly insisted that he would be the first to reach his goal; ... Her ladyship took the lead at the firstbound, and completely distanced her pursuer before they had run through half the course, spite of the most strenuous efforts of her facetious host to get before her, aided and assisted at every step by his right-hand-man and faithful aid-de-camp 'Dapple', the appellation given by him to his favourite walking stick. A hearty laugh, as you may imagine, was one of the consequences of the defeat though, when the vanquished hero came to a standstill, he was too busy with his pocket-handkerchief to allow the lookers-on to take particular notice of the effect which her Ladyship's superior fleetness wrought upon him ...'7

We cannot, of course, be certain which of the paths in the 'pleasure grounds' was the scene of the race.