The Jeremy Bentham Cabinet
University College, London
In his will of 1832, Jeremy Bentham directed his friend Dr Southwood Smith to take charge of his body and have his skeleton "put together in such a manner as that the whole figure may be seated in a chair usually occupied by me when living, in the attitude in which I am sitting when engaged in thought in the course of time employed in writing." The skeleton, padded out with straw and cloth and clad in his own clothes, with a wax head, was placed in a cabinet and later given to University College. It was first housed in the anatomical museum there, and eventually put on display in the South Cloisters. At first, Bentham's mummified head was kept at his feet, but it was later removed for safekeeping. On one occasion it was kidnapped by King's College students; a small sum was paid to charity to secure its return.
Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee
Reproduced with permission of "UCL Art Collections, University College London"