John Stuart Mill; His Life and Works
by Herbert Spencer, Henry Fawcett, Frederic Harrison and Other
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John Stuart Mill was born on the 20th of May, 1806. "I am glad," wrote George Grote to him in 1865, with reference to a forthcoming article on his "Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy," "to get an opportunity of saying what I think about your 'System of Logic' and 'Essay on Liberty,' but I am still more glad to get (or perhaps to make) an opportunity of saying something about your father. It has always rankled in my thoughts that so grand and powerful a mind as his left behind it such insufficient traces in the estimation of successors." That regret was natural. The grand and powerful mind of James Mill left very notable traces, however, in the philosophical literature of his country, and in the training of the son who was to carry on his work, and to be the most influential teacher in a new school of thought and action, by which society is likely to be revolutionized far more than it has been by any other agency since the period of Erasmus and Martin Luther. James Mill was something more than the disciple of Bentham and Ricardo. He was a profound and original philosopher, whose depth and breadth of study were all the more remarkable because his thoughts were developed and his knowledge was acquired mainly by his own exertions. He had been helped out of the humble life into which he had been born by Sir John Stuart, who assisted him to attend the lectures of Dugald Stewart and others at Edinburgh with a view to his becoming a minister in the Church of Scotland. Soon finding that calling distasteful to him, he had, in or near the year 1800, settled in London as a journalist, resolved by ephemeral work to earn enough money to maintain him and his family in humble ways while he spent his best energies in the more serious pursuits to which he was devoted. His talents soon made him friends, and the greatest of these was Jeremy Bentham.

As erroneous opinions have been current as to the relations between Bentham and James Mill and have lately been repeated in more than one newspaper, it may be well here to call attention to the contradiction of them that was published by the son of the latter in "The Edinburgh Review" for 1844. "Mr. Mill and his family," we there read, "lived with Mr. Bentham for half of four years at Ford Abbey,"—that is, between 1814 and 1817,—"and they passed small portions of previous summers with him at Barrow Green. His last visit to Barrow Green was of not more than a month's duration, and the previous ones all together did not extend to more than six months, or seven at most. The pecuniary benefit which Mr. Mill derived from his intimacy with Bentham consisted in this,—that he and his family lived with him as his guests, while he was in the country, periods amounting in all to about two years and a half. I have no reason to think that his hospitality was either given or accepted as pecuniary assistance, and I will add that the obligation was not exclusively on one side. Bentham was not then, as he was afterwards, surrounded by persons who courted his society, and were ever ready to volunteer their services, and, to a man of his secluded habits, it was no little advantage to have near him such a man as Mr. Mill, to whose advice and aid he habitually had recourse in all business transactions with the outward world of a troublesome or irksome nature. Such as the connection was, it was not of Mr. Mill's seeking." On the same unquestionable authority we learn, that "Mr. Mill never in his life was in debt, and his income, whatever it might be, always covered his expenses." It is clear, that, from near the commencement of the present century, James Mill and Bentham lived for many years on terms of great intimacy, in which the poorer man was thoroughly independent, although it suited the other to make a fair return for the services rendered to him. A very characteristic letter is extant, dated 1814, in which James Mill proposes that the relations between him and his "dear friend and master" shall be to some extent altered, but only in order that their common objects may be the more fully served. "In reflecting," he says, "upon the duty which we owe to our principles,—to that system of important truths of which you have the immortal honor to be the author, but of which I am a most faithful and fervent disciple, and hitherto, I have fancied, my master's favorite disciple,—I have considered that there was nobody at all so likely to be your real successor as myself. Of talents it would be easy to find many superior. But, in the first place, I hardly know of anybody who has so completely taken up the principles, and is so thoroughly of the same way of thinking with yourself. In the next place, there are very few who have so much of the necessary previous discipline, my antecedent years having been wholly occupied in acquiring it. And, in the last place, I am pretty sure you cannot think of any other person whose whole life will be devoted to the propagation of the system." "There was during the last few years of Bentham's life," said James Mill's son, "less frequency and cordiality of intercourse than in former years, chiefly because Bentham had acquired newer, and to him more agreeable intimacies, but Mr. Mill's feeling never altered towards him, nor did he ever fail, publicly or privately, in giving due honor to Bentham's name and acknowledgment of the intellectual debt he owed to him."

Those extracts are made, not only in justice to the memory of James Mill, but as a help towards understanding the influences by which his son was surrounded from his earliest years. James Mill was living in a house at Pentonville when this son was born, and partly because of the peculiar abilities that the boy displayed from the first, partly because he could not afford to procure for him elsewhere such teaching as he was able himself to give him, he took his education entirely into his own hands. With what interest—even jealous interest, it would seem—Bentham watched that education, appears from a pleasant little letter addressed to him by the elder Mill in 1812. "I am not going to die," he wrote, "notwithstanding your zeal to come in for a legacy. However, if I were to die any time before this poor boy is a man, one of the things that would pinch me most sorely would be the being obliged to leave his mind unmade to the degree of excellence of which I hope to make it. But another thing is, that the only prospect which would lessen that pain would be the leaving him in your hands. I therefore take your offer quite seriously, and stipulate merely that it shall be made as soon as possible; and then we may perhaps leave him a successor worthy of both of us." It was a bold hope, but one destined to be fully realized. At the time of its utterance, the "poor boy" was barely more than six years old. The intellectual powers of which he gave such early proof were carefully, but apparently not excessively, cultivated. Mrs. Grote, in her lately-published "Personal Life of George Grote," has described him as he appeared in 1817, the year in which her husband made the acquaintance of his father. "John Stuart Mill, then a boy of about twelve years old,"—he was really only eleven,—"was studying, with his father as sole preceptor, under the paternal roof. Unquestionably forward for his years, and already possessed of a competent knowledge of Greek and Latin, as well as of some subordinate though solid attainments, John was, as a boy, somewhat repressed by the elder Mill, and seldom took any share in the conversation carried on by the society frequenting the house." It is perhaps not strange that a boy of eleven, at any rate a boy who was to become so modest a man, should not take much part in general conversation; and Mr. Mill himself never, in referring to his father, led his hearers to suppose that he had, as a child, been in any way unduly repressed by him. The tender affection with which he always cherished his father's memory in no way sanctions the belief that he was at any time subjected to unreasonable discipline. By him his father was only revered as the best and kindest of teachers.

There was a break in the home teaching in 1820. James Mill, after bearing bravely with his early difficulties, had acquired so much renown by his famous "History of India," that, in spite of its adverse criticisms of the East-India Company, the directors of the Company in 1817 honorably bestowed upon him a post in the India House, where he steadily and rapidly rose to a position which enabled him to pass the later years of his life in more comfort than had hitherto been within his reach. The new employment, however, interfered with his other occupation as instructor to his boy; and for this reason, as well probably as for others tending to his advancement, the lad was, in the summer of 1820, sent to France for a year and a half. For several months he lived in Paris, in the house of Jean Baptiste Say, the political economist. The rest of his time was passed in the company of Sir Samuel Bentham, Jeremy Bentham's brother. Early in 1822, before he was eighteen, he returned to London, soon to enter the India Office as a clerk in the department of which his father was chief. In that office he remained for five and thirty years, acquitting himself with great ability, and gradually rising to the most responsible position that could be there held by a subordinate.

But, though he was thus early started in life as a city clerk, his self-training and his education by his father were by no means abandoned. The ancient and modern languages, as well as the various branches of philosophy and philosophical thought in which he was afterwards to attain such eminence, were studied by him in the early mornings, under the guidance of his father, before going down to pass his days in the India Office. During the summer evenings, and on such holidays as he could get, he began those pedestrian exploits for which he afterwards became famous, and in which his main pleasure appears to have consisted in collecting plants and flowers in aid of the botanical studies that were his favorite pastime, and something more than a pastime, all through his life. His first printed writings are said to have been on botany, in the shape of some articles contributed to a scientific journal while he was still in his teens, and it is probable, that, could they now be detected, we should find in other periodicals traces of his work, at nearly if not quite as early a period in other lines of study. That he worked early and with wonderful ability in at least one very deep line, appears from the fact that while he was still only a lad, Jeremy Bentham intrusted to him the preparation for the press, and the supplementary annotation, of his "Rationale of Judicial Evidence." That work, for which he was highly commended by its author, published in 1827, contains the first publicly acknowledged literary work of John Stuart Mill.

While he was producing that result of laborious study in a special and intricate subject, his education in all sorts of other ways was continued. In evidence of the versatility of his pursuits, the veteran author of a short and ungenerous memoir that was published in "The Times" of May the 10th contributes one interesting note. "It is within our personal knowledge," he says, "that he was an extraordinary youth when, in 1824, he took the lead at the London Debating Club in one of the most remarkable collections of 'spirits of the age' that ever congregated for intellectual gladiatorship, he being by two or three years the junior of the clique. The rivalry was rather in knowledge and reasoning than in eloquence, mere declamation was discouraged; and subjects of paramount importance were conscientiously thought out." In evidence of his more general studies, we may here repeat a few sentences from an account, by an intimate friend of both these great men, of the life of Mr. Grote, which was published in our columns two years ago. "About this time a small society was formed for readings in philosophical subjects. The meetings took place at Mr. Grote's house in Threadneedle Street, on certain days from half past eight till ten in the morning, at which hour the members (all in official employment) had to repair to their respective avocations. The members were Grote, John Mill, Roebuck, William Ellice, William Henry Prescott, two brothers Whitmore, and George John Graham. The mentor of their studies was the elder Mr. Mill. The meetings were continued for two or three years. The readings embraced a small manual of logic, by Du Trieu, recommended by Mr. Mill, and reprinted for the purpose, Whately's Logic, Hobbes's Logic, and Hartley on Man, in Priestley's edition. The manner of proceeding was thorough. Each paragraph, on being read, was commented on by every one in turn, discussed and rediscussed, to the point of total exhaustion. In 1828 the meetings ceased; but they were resumed in 1830, upon Mill's 'Analysis of the Mind,' which was gone over in the same manner." These philosophical studies were not only of extreme advantage in strengthening and developing the merits of Mr. Mill and his friends, nearly all of whom were considerably older than he was, they also served to unite the friends in close and lasting intimacy of the most refined and elevating sort. Mr. Grote, his senior by twelve years, was perhaps the most intimate, as he was certainly the ablest, of all the friends whom Mr. Mill thus acquired.

Many of these friends were contributors to the original "Westminster Review," which was started by Bentham in 1824. Bentham himself and the elder Mill were its chief writers at first; and in 1828, if not sooner, the younger Mill joined the number. In that year he reviewed Whately's Logic; and it is probable that in the ensuing year he contributed numerous other articles. His first literary exploit, however, which he cared to reproduce in his "Dissertations and Discussions" was an article that appeared in "The Jurist," in 1833, entitled "Corporation and Church Property." That essay, in some respects, curiously anticipated the Irish Church legislation of nearly forty years later. In the same year he published, in "The Monthly Repository," a remarkably able and quite a different production,—"Poetry and its Varieties," showing that in the department of belles-lettres he could write with nearly as much vigor and originality as in the philosophical and political departments of thought to which, ostensibly, he was especially devoted. Shortly after that he embarked in a bolder literary venture. Differences having arisen concerning "The Westminster Review," a new quarterly journal—"The London Review"—was begun by Sir William Molesworth, with Mr. Mill for editor, in 1835. "The London" was next year amalgamated with "The Westminster," and then the nominal if not the actual editorship passed into the hands of Mr. John Robertson. Mr. Mill continued, however, to be one of its most constant and able contributors until the Review passed into other hands in 1840. He aided much to make and maintain its reputation as the leading organ of bold thought on religious and social as well as political matters. Besides such remarkable essays as those on Civilization, on Armand Carrel, on Alfred de Vigny, on Bentham, and on Coleridge, which, with others, have been republished in his collection of minor writings, he contributed many of great importance. One on Mr. Tennyson, which was published in 1835, is especially noteworthy. Others referred more especially to the politics of the day. From one, which appeared in 1837, reviewing Albany Fonblanque's "England under Seven Administrations," and speaking generally in high terms of the politics of "The Examiner," we may extract a few sentences which define very clearly the political ground taken by Mr. Mill, Mr. Fonblanque, and those who had then come to be called Philosophical Radicals. "There are divers schools of Radicals," said Mr. Mill. "There are the historical Radicals, who demand popular institutions as the inheritance of Englishmen, transmitted to us from the Saxons or the barons of Runnymede. There are the metaphysical Radicals, who hold the principles of democracy, not as means to good government, but as corollaries from some unreal abstraction,—from 'natural liberty' or 'natural rights.' There are the radicals of occasion and circumstance, who are radicals because they disapprove the measures of the government for the time being. There are, lastly, the Radicals of position, who are Radicals, as somebody said, because they are not lords. Those whom, in contradistinction to all these, we call Philosophical Radicals, are those who in politics observe the common manner of philosophers; that is, who, when they are discussing means, begin by considering the end, and, when they desire to produce effects, think of causes. These persons became Radicals because they saw immense practical evils existing in the government and social condition of this country, and because the same examination which showed them the evils showed also that the cause of those evils was the aristocratic principle in our government,—the subjection of the many to the control of a comparatively few, who had an interest, or fancied they had an interest, in perpetuating those evils. These inquirers looked still farther, and saw, that, in the present imperfect condition of human nature, nothing better than this self-preference was to be expected from a dominant few; that the interests of the many were sure to be in their eyes a secondary consideration to their own ease or emolument. Perceiving, therefore, that we are ill-governed, and perceiving that, so long as the aristocratic principle continued predominant in our government, we could not expect to be otherwise, these persons became Radicals; and the motto of their Radicalism was, Enmity to the aristocratical principle."

The period of Mr. Mill's most intimate connection with "The London and Westminster Review" forms a brilliant episode in the history of journalism; and his relations, then and afterwards, with other men of letters and political writers,—some of them as famous as Mr. Carlyle and Coleridge, Charles Buller and Sir Henry Taylor, Sir William Molesworth, Sir John Bowring, and Mr. Roebuck,—yield tempting materials for even the most superficial biography; but we must pass them by for the present. And here we shall content ourselves with enumerating, in the order of their publication, those lengthier writings with which he chiefly occupied his leisure during the next quarter of a century; though that work was frequently diversified by important contributions to "The Edinburgh" and "The Westminster Review," "Fraser's Magazine," and other periodicals. His first great work was "A System of Logic," the result of many years' previous study, which appeared in 1843. That completed, he seems immediately to have paid chief attention to politico-economical questions. In 1844 appeared "Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy," which were followed, in 1848, by the "Principles of Political Economy." After that there was a pause of ten years, though the works that were issued during the next six years show that he had not been idle during the interval. In 1857 were published two volumes of the "Dissertations and Discussions," consisting solely of printed articles, the famous essay "On Liberty," and the "Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform." "Considerations on Representative Government" appeared in 1861, "Utilitarianism," in 1863, "Auguste Comte and Positivism" and the "Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy," in 1865. After that, besides the very welcome "Inaugural Address" at St. Andrew's in 1867, his only work of importance was "The Subjection of Women," published in 1869. A fitting conclusion to his more serious literary labors appeared also in 1869 in his annotated edition of his father's "Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind."

When we remember how much and what varied knowledge is in those learned books, it is almost difficult to believe, that, during most of the years in which he was preparing them, Mr. Mill was also a hard worker in the India House, passing rapidly, and as the reward only of his assiduity and talent, from the drudgery of a junior clerk to a position involving all the responsibility, if not quite all the dignity, of a secretary of state. One of his most intimate friends, and the one who knew far more of him in this respect than any other, has in another column penned some reminiscences of his official life; but if all the state papers that he wrote, and all the correspondence that he carried on with Indian officials and the native potentates of the East, could be explored, more than one volume would have to be written in supplement to his father's great "History of British India."

Having retired from the India House in 1858, Mr. Mill went to spend the winter in Avignon, in the hope of improving the broken health of the wife to whom he was devotedly attached. He had not been married many years, but Mrs. Mill, who was the widow of Mr. John Taylor, a London merchant, had been his friend since 1835, or even earlier. During more than twenty years he had been aided by her talents, and encouraged by her sympathy, in all the work he had undertaken, and to her rare merits he afterwards paid more than one tribute in terms that have no equal for the intensity of their language, and the depth of affection contained in them. Mrs. Mill's weak state of health seems to have hardly repressed her powers of intellect. By her was written the celebrated essay on "The Enfranchisement of Women" contributed to "The Westminster Review," and afterwards reprinted in the "Dissertations and Discussions," with a preface avowing, that by her Mr. Mill had been greatly assisted in all that he had written for some time previous. But the assistance was to end now. Mrs. Mill died at Avignon on the 3d of November, 1858, and over her grave was placed one of the most pathetic and eloquent epitaphs that have been ever penned. "Her great and loving heart, her noble soul, her clear, powerful, original, and comprehensive intellect," it was there written, "made her the guide and support, the instructor in wisdom, and the example in goodness, as she was the sole earthly delight, of those who had the happiness to belong to her. As earnest for all public good as she was generous and devoted to all who surrounded her, her influence has been felt in many of the greatest improvements of the age, and will be in those still to come. Were there even a few hearts and intellects like hers, this earth would already become the hoped-for heaven." Henceforth, during the fourteen years and a half that were to elapse before he should be laid in the same grave, Avignon was the chosen haunt of Mr. Mill.

Passing much of his time in the modest house that he had bought, that he might be within sight of his wife's tomb, Mr. Mill was also frequently in London, whither he came especially to facilitate the new course of philosophical and political writing on which he entered. He found relief also in excursions, one of which was taken nearly every year, in company with his step-daughter, Miss Helen Taylor, into various parts of Europe. Italy, Switzerland, and many other districts, were explored, partly on foot, with a keen eye both to the natural features of the localities, especially in furtherance of those botanical studies to which Mr. Mill now returned with the ardor of his youth, and also to their social and political institutions. Perhaps the longest and most eventful of these excursions was taken in 1862 to Greece. On this occasion it had been proposed that his old friend, Mr. Grote, should accompany him. "To go through those scenes, and especially to go through them in your company," wrote Mr. Grote in January, "would be to me pre-eminently delightful; but, alas! my physical condition altogether forbids it. I could not possibly stay away from London, without the greatest discomfort, for so long a period as two months. Still less could I endure the fatigue of horse and foot exercise which an excursion in Greece must inevitably entail." The journey occupied more than two months; but in the autumn Mr. Mill was at Avignon; and, returning to London in December, he spent Christmas week with Mr. Grote at his residence, Barrow Green,—Bentham's old house, and the one in which Mr. Mill had played himself when he was a child. "He is in good health and spirits," wrote Mr. Grote to Sir G.C. Lewis after that visit; "violent against the South in this American struggle; embracing heartily the extreme Abolitionist views, and thinking about little else in regard to the general question."

It was only to be expected that Mr. Mill would take much interest in the American civil war, and sympathize strongly with the Abolitionist party. His interest in politics had been keen, and his judgment on them had been remarkably sound all through life, as his early articles in "The Morning Chronicle" and "The London and Westminster Review," and his later contributions to various periodicals, helped to testify; but towards the close of his life the interest was perhaps keener, as the judgment was certainly more mellowed. It was not strange, therefore, that his admirers among the working classes, and the advanced radicals of all grades, should have urged him, and that, after some hesitation, he should have consented, to become a candidate for Westminster at the general election of 1865. That candidature will be long remembered as a notable example of the dignified way in which an honest man, and one who was as much a philosopher in practice as in theory, can do all that is needful, and avoid all that is unworthy, in an excited electioneering contest, and submit without injury to the insults of political opponents and of political time-servers professing to be of his own way of thinking. The result of the election was a far greater honor to the electors who chose him than to the representative whom they chose; though that honor was greatly tarnished by Mr. Mill's rejection when he offered himself for re-election three years later.

This is hardly the place in which to review at much length Mr. Mill's parliamentary career, though it may be briefly referred to in evidence of the great and almost unlooked-for ability with which he adapted himself to the requirements of a philosophical politician as distinct from a political philosopher. His first speech in the House of Commons, delivered very soon after its assembling, was on the occasion of the second reading of the Cattle Diseases Bill, on the 14th of February, 1866, when he supported Mr. Bright in his opposition to the proposals of Mr. Lowe for compensation to their owners for the slaughter of such animals as were diseased or likely to spread infection. His complaint against the bill was succinctly stated in two sentences, which fairly illustrated the method and basis of all his arguments upon current politics. "It compensates," he said, "a class for the results of a calamity which is borne by the whole community. In justice, the farmers who have not suffered ought to compensate those who have; but the bill does what it ought not to have done, and leaves undone what it ought to have done, by not equalizing the incidence of the burden upon that class, inasmuch as, from the operation of the local principle adopted, that portion of an agricultural community who have not suffered at all will not have to pay at all, and those who have suffered little will have to pay little; while those who have suffered most will have to pay a great deal." "An aristocracy," he added, in words that as truly indicate the way in which he subjected all matters of detail to the test of general principles of truth and expediency,—"an aristocracy should have the feelings of an aristocracy; and, inasmuch as they enjoy the highest honors and advantages, they ought to be willing to bear the first brunt of the inconveniences and evils which fall on the country generally. This is the ideal character of an aristocracy: it is the character with which all privileged classes are accustomed to credit themselves; though I am not aware of any aristocracy in history that has fulfilled those requirements."

That, and the later speeches that Mr. Mill delivered on the Cattle Diseases Bill, at once announced to the House of Commons and the public, if they needed any such announcement, the temper and spirit in which he was resolved to execute his legislative functions. The same spirit and temper appeared in the speech on the Habeas Corpus Suspension (Ireland) Bill, which he delivered on the 17th of February; but his full strength as a debater was first manifested during the discussion on Mr. Gladstone's Reform Bill of 1866, which was brought on for second reading on the 12th of April. His famous speech on that occasion, containing the most powerful arguments offered by any speaker in favor of the measure, and his shorter speech during its discussion on the 31st of May, need not here be recapitulated. They were only admirable developments in practical debate of those principles of political science which he had already enforced in his published works. The other leading topics handled by Mr. Mill during the session of 1866 were the expediency of reducing the National Debt, which he urged on the occasion of Mr. Neate's proposal on the 17th of April; the Tenure and Improvement of Land (Ireland) Bill, on which he spoke at length and with force on the 17th of May, then practically initiating the movement in favor of land-reform, which he partly helped to enforce in part with regard to Ireland, and for the more complete adoption of which in England he labored to the last; the Jamaica outbreak, and the conduct of Governor Eyre, on which he spoke on the 31st of July; and the electoral disabilities of women, which he first brought within the range of practical politics by moving, on the 20th of July, for a return of the numbers of householders, and others who, "fulfilling the conditions of property or rental prescribed by law as the qualification for the electoral franchise, are excluded from the franchise by reason of their sex."

In the session of 1867 Mr. Mill took a prominent part in the discussions on the Metropolitan Poor Bill; and he spoke on various other topics,—his introduction of the Women's Electoral Disabilities Removal Bill being in some respects the most notable: but his chief action was with reference to Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill, several clauses of which he criticised and helped to alter in committee. Though he was as zealous as ever, however, in his attendance to public business, he made fewer great speeches, being content to set a wise example to other and less able men in only speaking when he felt it absolutely necessary to do so, and in generally performing merely the functions of a "silent member."

In 1868 he was, if not more active, somewhat more prominent. On March the 6th, on the occasion of Mr. Shaw-Lefevre's motion respecting the "Alabama Claims," he forcibly expressed his opinions as to the wrong done by England to the United States during the civil war, and the need of making adequate reparation; and on the 12th of the same month he spoke with equal boldness on Mr. Maguire's motion for a committee to inquire into the state of Ireland, repeating anew and enforcing the views he had lately put forward in his pamphlet on Ireland, and considerably aiding by anticipation the passage of Mr. Gladstone's two great measures of Irish Reform. He took an important part in the discussion of the Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices Bill; and among a great number of other measures on which he spoke was the Married Women's Property Bill of Mr. Shaw-Lefevre.

Soon after that the House of Commons was dissolved, and Mr. Mill's too brief parliamentary career came to an end. The episode, however, had to some extent helped to quicken his always keen interest in political affairs. This was proved, among other ways, by the publication of his pamphlet on "England and Ireland" in 1868, and of his treatise "On the Subjection of Women" in 1869, as well as by the especial interest which he continued to exhibit in two of the most important political movements of the day,—all the more important because they are yet almost in their infancy,—the one for the political enfranchisement of women, the other for a thorough reform of our system of land tenure. The latest proof of his zeal on the second of these important points appeared in the address which he delivered at Exeter Hall on the 18th of last March, and in two articles which he contributed to "The Examiner" at the commencement of the present year. We may be permitted to add that it was his intention to use some of the greater quiet that he expected to enjoy during his stay at Avignon in writing frequent articles on political affairs for publication in these columns. He died while his intellectual powers were as fresh as they had ever been, and when his political wisdom was only ripened by experience.

In this paper we purposely limit ourselves to a concise narrative of the leading events of Mr. Mill's life, and abstain as far as possible from any estimate of either the value or the extent of his work in philosophy, in economics, in politics, or in any other of the departments of thought and study to which, with such depth and breadth of mind, he applied himself; but it is impossible for us to lay down the pen without some slight reference, however inadequate it may be, to the nobility of his character, and the peculiar grace with which he exhibited it in all his dealings with his friends and with the whole community among whom he lived, and for whom he worked with the self-sacrificing zeal of an apostle. If to labor fearlessly and ceaselessly for the good of society, and with the completest self-abnegation that is consistent with healthy individuality, be the true form of religion, Mr. Mill exhibited such genuine and profound religion—so permeating his whole life, and so engrossing his every action—as can hardly be looked for in any other man of this generation. Great as were his intellectual qualities, they were dwarfed by his moral excellences. He did not, it is true, aim at any fanciful ideal, or adopt any fantastic shibboleths. He was only a utilitarian. He believed in no inspiration but that of experience. He had no other creed or dogma or gospel than Bentham's axiom,—"The greatest happiness of the greatest number." But many will think that herein was the chief of all his claims to the honor of all men, and the best evidence of his worth. At any rate, he set a notable example of the way in which a man, making the best use in his power of merely his own reason and the accumulated reason of those who have gone before him, wisely exercising the faculties of which he finds himself possessed, and seeking no guidance or support from invisible beacons and intangible props, may lead a blameless life, and be one of the greatest benefactors of his race. No one who had any personal knowledge of him could fail to discern the singular purity of his character; and to those who knew him best that purity was most apparent. He may have blundered and stumbled in his pursuit of truth; but it was part of his belief that stumbling and blundering are necessary means towards the finding of truth, and that honesty of purpose is the only indispensable requisite for the nearest approach towards truth of which each individual is capable. That belief rendered him as charitable towards others as he was modest concerning his own attainments. He never boasted; and he despised no one. The only things really hateful to him were arrogance and injustice, and for these he was, to say the least, as willing and eager to find excuse as could be the most devout utterer of the prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We had noted many instances, coming within our own very limited observation, of his remarkable, almost unparalleled magnanimity and generosity; but such details would here be almost out of place, and they who need such will doubtless before long receive much more convincing proof of his moral excellence.

We shall not here dilate on those minor qualities of mind and heart that made Mr. Mill's society so charming to all who were fortunate enough to have any share in it; and these, especially in recent years, were many. When the first burden of his grief at the loss of his wife had passed,—perhaps partly as a relief from the solitude, save for one devoted companion, that would otherwise have been now forced upon him,—he mixed more freely than he had done before in the society of all whose company could yield him any satisfaction or by whom his friendship was really valued. His genial and graceful bearing towards every one who came near him must be within the knowledge of very many who will read this column; and they will remember, besides his transparent nobility of character, and the genial ways in which it exhibited itself, certain intellectual qualities for which he was remarkable. We here refer, not to his higher abilities as a thinker, but to such powers of mind as displayed themselves in conversation. Without any pedantry,—without any sort of intentional notification to those with whom he conversed that he was the greatest logician, metaphysician, moralist, and economist of the day,—his speech was always, even on the most trivial subjects, so clear and incisive, that it at once betrayed the intellectual vigor of the speaker. Not less remarkable also than his uniform refinement of thought, and the deftness with which he at all times expressed it, were the grasp and keenness of his observation, and the strength of memory with which he stored up every thing he had ever seen, heard, or read. Nothing escaped his notice at the time of its occurrence: nothing was forgotten by him afterwards. His friends often found, to their astonishment, that he knew far more about any passages in their lives that he had been made aware of than they could themselves remember; and, whenever that disclosure was made to them, they must have been rejoiced to think, that this memory of his, instead of being, as it might well have been, a dangerous garner of severe judgments and fairly-grounded prejudices, was a magic mirror, in which their follies and foibles were hardly at all reflected, and only kindly reminiscences and generous sympathies found full expression.

But he is dead now. Although the great fruits of his life—a life in which mind and heart, in which senses and emotions, were singularly well balanced—are fruits that cannot die, all the tender ties of friendship, all the strictly personal qualities that so much aided his work as a teacher of the world, as the foremost leader of his generation in the search after truth and righteousness, are now snapped forever. Only four weeks ago he left London for a three-months' stay in Avignon. Two weeks ago he was in his customary health. On the 5th of May he was attacked by a virulent form of erysipelas. On the 8th he died. On the 10th he was buried in the grave to which he had, through fourteen years, looked forward as a pleasant resting-place, because during fourteen years there had been in it a vacant place beside the remains of the wife whom he so fondly loved.




I have undertaken to prepare a sketch of Mr. Mill's official career, but find, on inquiry, scarcely any thing to add to the few particulars on the subject which have already found their way into print. Of his early official associates, all have, with scarcely an exception, already passed away; and there is no one within reach to whom I can apply for assistance in verifying or correcting my own impressions. These are in substance the following.

In the few last decades of its existence, the East-India Company's establishment, in Leadenhall Street, consisted of three divisions,—the secretary's, military secretary's, and examiners' offices,—in the last of which most of the despatches and letters were composed which were afterwards signed by the directors or the secretary. Into this division, in the year 1821, the directors, perceiving an infusion of new blood to be very urgently required, introduced, as assistant examiners, four outsiders,—Mr. Strachey (father of the present Sir John and Major-Gen. Richard Strachey), Thomas Love Peacock (author of "Headlong Hall"), Mr. Harcourt, and Mr. James Mill; the selection of the last-named being all the more creditable to them, because, in his "History of British India," he had animadverted with much severity on some parts of the Company's administration. Two years afterwards, in 1823, the historian's son, the illustrious subject of these brief memoirs, then a lad of seventeen, obtained a clerkship under his father. According to the ordinary course of things in those days, the newly-appointed junior would have had nothing to do, except a little abstracting, indexing, and searching, or pretending to search, into records; but young Mill was almost immediately set to indite despatches to the governments of the three Indian Presidencies, on what, in India-House phraseology, were distinguished as "political" subjects,—subjects, that is, for the most part growing out of the relations of the said governments with "native" states or foreign potentates. This continued to be his business almost to the last. In 1828 he was promoted to be assistant examiner, and in 1856 he succeeded to the post of chief examiner; after which his duty consisted rather in supervising what his assistants had written than in writing himself: but for the three and twenty years preceding he had had immediate charge of the political department, and had written almost every "political" despatch of any importance that conveyed the instructions of the merchant princes of Leadenhall Street to their pro-consuls in Asia. Of the quality of these documents, it is sufficient to say, that they were John Mill's; but, in respect to their quantity, it may be worth mentioning that a descriptive catalogue of them completely fills a small quarto volume of between three hundred and four hundred pages, in their author's handwriting, which now lies before me; also that the share of the Court of Directors in the correspondence between themselves and the Indian governments used to average annually about ten huge vellum-bound volumes, foolscap size, and five or six inches thick, and that of these volumes two a year, for more than twenty years running, were exclusively of Mill's composition; this, too, at times, when he was engaged upon such voluntary work in addition as his "Logic" and "Political Economy."

In 1857 broke out the Sepoy war, and in the following year the East-India Company was extinguished in all but the name, its governmental functions being transferred to the Crown. That most illustrious of corporations died hard; and with what affectionate loyalty Mill struggled to avert its fate is evidenced by the famous Petition to Parliament which he drew up for his old masters, and which opens with the following effective antithesis: "Your petitioners, at their own expense, and by the agency of their own civil and military servants, originally acquired for this country its magnificent empire in the East. The foundations of this empire were laid by your petitioners, at that time neither aided nor controlled by Parliament, at the same period at which a succession of administrations under the control of Parliament were losing, by their incapacity and rashness, another great empire on the opposite side of the Atlantic."

I am fortunate enough to be the possessor of the original MS. of this admirable state paper, which I mention, because I once heard its real authorship denied in that quarter of all others in which it might have been supposed to be least likely to be questioned. On one of the last occasions of the gathering together of the Proprietors of East-India Stock, I could scarcely believe my ears, when one of the directors, alluding to the petition, spoke of it as having been written by a certain other official who was silting by his side, adding, after a moment's pause, "with the assistance, as he understood, of Mr. Mill," likewise present. As soon as the Court broke up, I burst into Mill's room, boiling over with indignation, and exclaiming, "What an infamous shame!" and no doubt adding a good deal more that followed in natural sequence on such an exordium. "What's the matter?" replied Mill as soon as he could get a word in. "M——[the director] was quite right. The petition was the joint work of —— and myself."—"How can you be so perverse?" I retorted. "You know that I know you wrote every word of it."—"No," rejoined Mill, "you are mistaken: one whole line on the second page was put in by——."

In August, 1858, the East-India Company's doom was pronounced by Parliament. The East-India House was completely re-organized, its very name being changed into that of the India Office, and a Secretary of State in Council taking the place of the Court of Directors. But a change of scarcely secondary importance to many of those immediately concerned was Mill's retirement on a pension. A few months after he had left us an attempt was made to bring him back. At that time only one-half of the Council were nominated by the Crown, the other half having been elected, and the law prescribing that any vacancy among these latter should be filled by election on the part of the remaining elected members. On the first occasion of the kind that occurred, Mill was immediately proposed; and I had the honor of being commissioned to sound him on the subject of the intended offer, and to endeavor to overcome the objections to acceptance which it was feared he might entertain. I went accordingly to his house at Blackheath, but had no sooner broached the subject than I saw that my mission was hopeless. The anguish of his recent bereavement was as yet too fresh. He sought eagerly for some slight alleviation of despair in hard literary labor; but to face the outside world was for the present impossible.

Here my scanty record must end, unless I may be permitted to supplement its meagreness by one or two personal—not to say egotistical—reminiscences. The death of Mr. Mill senior, in 1836, had occasioned a vacancy at the bottom of the examiner's office, to which I was appointed through the kindness of Sir James Carnac, then chairman of the Company, in whose gift it was. Within a few months, however, I was transferred to a newly-created branch of the secretary's office; owing to which cause, and perhaps also to a little (or not a little) mutual shyness, I for some years came so seldom into contact with Mr. Mill, that, though he of course knew me by sight, we scarcely ever spoke, and generally passed each other without any mark of recognition when we happened to meet in or out of doors. Early in 1846, however, I sent him a copy of a book I had just brought out, on "Over-population." A day or two afterwards he came into my room to thank me for it; and during the half-hour's conversation that thereupon ensued, sprang up, full grown at its birth, an intimate friendship, of which I feel that I am not unduly boasting in declaring it to have been equally sincere and fervent on both sides. From that time for the next ten or twelve years, a day seldom passed without, if I did not go into his room, his coming into mine, often telling me as he entered, that he had nothing particular to say; but that, having a few minutes to spare, he thought we might as well have a little talk. And what talks we have had on such occasions, and on what various subjects! and not unfrequently, too, when the room was Mill's, Grote, the historian, would join us, first announcing his advent by a peculiar and ever-welcome rat-tat with his walking-stick on the door. I must not dwell longer over these recollections; but there are two special obligations of my own to Mill which I cannot permit myself to pass over. When, in 1856, he became examiner, he had made it, as I have been since assured by the then chairman of the East-India Company, a condition of his acceptance of the post, that I, whose name very likely the Chairman had never before heard, should be associated with him as one of his assistant examiners; and I was placed, in consequence, in charge of the Public-Works Department. Not long afterwards, having lapsed into a state of nervous weakness, which for nearly a year absolutely incapacitated me for mental labor, I should, but for Mill, have been compelled to retire from the service. From this, however, he saved me by quietly taking upon himself, and for the space of twelve months discharging, the whole of my official duties, in addition to his own. Is it wonderful that such a man, supposed by those who did not know him to be cold, stern, and dry, should have been enthusiastically beloved by those who did?

It is little to say, that my own friendship with him was, from first to last, never once ruffled by difference or misunderstanding of any kind. Differences of opinion we had in abundance; but my open avowal of them was always recognized by him as one of the strongest proofs of respect, and served to cement instead of weakening our attachment.[1] The nearest approach made throughout our intercourse to any thing of an unpleasant character was about the time of his retirement from the India House. Talking over that one day with two or three of my colleagues, I said it would not do to let Mill go without receiving some permanently-visible token of our regard. The motion was no sooner made than it was carried by acclamation. Every member of the examiners' office—for we jealously insisted on confining the affair to ourselves—came tendering his subscription, scarcely waiting to be asked; in half an hour's time some fifty or sixty pounds—I forget the exact sum—was collected, which in due course was invested in a superb silver inkstand, designed by our friend, Digby Wyatt, and manufactured by Messrs. Elkington. Before it was ready, however, an unexpected trouble arose. In some way or other, Mill had got wind of our proceeding, and, coming to me in consequence, began almost to upbraid me as its originator. I had never before seen him so angry. He hated all such demonstrations, he said, and was quite resolved not to be made the subject of them. He was sure they were never altogether genuine or spontaneous; there were always several persons who took part in them merely because they did not like to refuse; and, in short, whatever we might do, he would have none of it. In vain I represented how eagerly everybody, without exception, had come forward; that we had now gone too far to recede; that, if he would not take the inkstand, we should be utterly at a loss what to do with it; and that I myself should be in a specially embarrassing position. Mill was not to be moved. This was a question of principle, and on principle he could not give way. There was nothing left, therefore, but resort to a species of force. I arranged with Messrs. Elkington that our little testimonial should be taken down to Mr. Mill's house at Blackheath by one of their men, who, after leaving it with the servant, should hurry away without waiting for an answer. This plan succeeded; but I have always suspected, though she never told me so, that its success was mainly due to Miss Helen Taylor's good offices. But for her, the inkstand would almost certainly have been returned, instead of being promoted, as it eventually was, to a place of honor in her own and her father's drawing-room.

Mine is scarcely just now the mood in which I should have been naturally disposed to relate anecdotes like this; but, in the execution of my present task, I have felt bound chiefly to consider what would be likely to interest the reader.



[1] I may be permitted here, without Mr. Thornton's knowledge, to recall a remark made by Mr. Mill only a few weeks ago. We were speaking of Mr. Thornton's recently published "Old-fashioned Ethics and Common-Sense Metaphysics," when I remarked on Mr. Mill's wide divergence from most of the views contained in it. "Yes," he replied, "it is pleasant to find something on which to differ from Thornton." Mr. Mill's prompt recognition of the importance of Mr. Thornton's refutation of the wage-fund theory is only one out of numberless instances of his peculiar magnanimity.—B.



To dilate upon Mr. Mill's achievements, and to insist upon the wideness of his influence over the thought of his time and consequently over the actions of his time, seems to me scarcely needful. The facts are sufficiently obvious, and are recognized by all who know any thing about the progress of opinion during the last half century. My own estimate of him, intellectually considered, has been emphatically though briefly given on an occasion of controversy between us, by expressing my regret at 'having to contend against the doctrine of one whose agreement I should value more than that of any other thinker.'

While, however, it is almost superfluous to assert of him that intellectual height so generally admitted there is more occasion for drawing attention to a moral elevation that is less recognized partly because his activities in many directions afforded no occasion for exhibiting it, and partly because some of its most remarkable manifestations in conduct are known only to those whose personal relations with him have called them forth. I feel especially prompted to say something on this point, because, where better things might have been expected, there has been, not only a grudging recognition of intellectual rank, but a marked blindness to those fine traits of character, which, in the valuation of men, must go for more than superiority of intelligence.

It might indeed have been supposed, that even those who never enjoyed the pleasure of personal acquaintance with Mr. Mill would have been impressed with the nobility of his nature as indicated in his opinions and deeds. How entirely his public career has been determined by a pure and strong sympathy for his fellow men, how entirely this sympathy has subordinated all desires for personal advantage, how little even the fear of being injured in reputation or position has deterred him from taking the course which he thought equitable or generous—ought to be manifest to every antagonist, however bitter. A generosity that might almost be called romantic was obviously the feeling prompting sundry of those courses of action which have been commented upon as errors. And nothing like a true conception of him can be formed, unless, along with dissent from them, there goes recognition of the fact that they resulted from the eagerness of a noble nature impatient to rectify injustice and to further human welfare.

It may perhaps be that my own perception of this pervading warmth of feeling has been sharpened by seeing it exemplified, not in the form of expressed opinions only, but in the form of private actions, for Mr. Mill was not one of those, who, to sympathy with their fellow men in the abstract, join indifference to them in the concrete. There came from him generous acts that corresponded with his generous sentiments. I say this, not from second-hand knowledge, but having in mind a remarkable example known only to myself and a few friends. I have hesitated whether to give this example, seeing that it has personal implications. But it affords so clear an insight into Mr. Mill's character, and shows so much more vividly than any description could do how fine were the motives swaying his conduct, that I think the occasion justifies disclosure of it.

Some seven years ago, after bearing as long as was possible the continued losses entailed on me by the publication of the "System of Philosophy," I notified to the subscribers that I should be obliged to cease at the close of the volume then in progress. Shortly after the issue of this announcement I received from Mr. Mill a letter, in which, after expressions of regret, and after naming a plan which he wished to prosecute for re-imbursing me, he went on to say, "In the next place ... what I propose is, that you should write the next of your treatises, and that I should guarantee the publisher against loss; i.e., should engage, after such length of time as may be agreed on, to make good any deficiency that may occur, not exceeding a given sum,—that sum being such as the publisher may think sufficient to secure him." Now, though these arrangements were of kinds that I could not bring myself to yield to, they none the less profoundly impressed me with Mr. Mill's nobility of feeling, and his anxiety to further what he regarded as a beneficial end. Such proposals would have been remarkable even had there been entire agreement of opinion, but they were the more remarkable as being made by him under the consciousness that there existed between us certain fundamental differences, openly avowed. I had, both directly and by implication, combated that form of the experiential theory of human knowledge which characterizes Mr. Mill's philosophy: in upholding Realism, I had opposed in decided ways those metaphysical systems to which his own Idealism was closely allied; and we had long carried on a controversy respecting the test of truth, in which I had similarly attacked Mr. Mill's positions in an outspoken manner. That, under such circumstances, he should have volunteered his aid, and urged it upon me, as he did, on the ground that it would not imply any personal obligation, proved in him a very exceptional generosity.

Quite recently I have seen afresh illustrated this fine trait,—this ability to bear with unruffled temper, and without any diminution of kindly feeling, the publicly-expressed antagonism of a friend. The last evening I spent at his house was in the company of another invited guest, who, originally agreeing with him entirely on certain disputed questions, had some fortnight previously displayed his change of view,—nay, had publicly criticised some of Mr. Mill's positions in a very undisguised manner. Evidently, along with his own unswerving allegiance to truth, there was in Mr. Mill an unusual power of appreciating in others a like conscientiousness, and so of suppressing any feeling of irritation produced by difference,—suppressing it, not in appearance only, but in reality, and that, too, under the most trying circumstances.

I should say indeed, that Mr. Mill's general characteristic, emotionally considered, was an unusual predominance of the higher sentiments,—a predominance which tended, perhaps, both in theory and practice, to subordinate the lower nature unduly. That rapid advance of age which has been conspicuous for some years past, and which doubtless prepared the way for his somewhat premature death, may, I think, be regarded as the outcome of a theory of life which made learning and working the occupations too exclusively considered. But when we ask to what ends he acted out this theory, and in so doing too little regarded his bodily welfare, we see that even here the excess, if such we call it, was a noble one. Extreme desire to further human welfare was that to which he sacrificed himself.




If we would have a just idea of any man's character, we should view it from as many points, and under as many aspects, as we can. The side-lights thrown by the lesser occupations of a life are often very strong, and bring out its less obvious parts into startling prominence. Much especially is to be learned of character by taking into consideration the employment of times of leisure or relaxation; the occupation of such hours being due almost solely to the natural bent of the individual, without the interfering action of necessity or expediency. Most men, perhaps especially eminent men, have a "hobby",—some absorbing object, the pursuit of which forms the most natural avocation of their mind, and to which they turn with the certainty of at least satisfaction, if not of exquisite pleasure. The man who follows any branch of natural science in this way is almost always especially happy in its prosecution; and his mental powers are refreshed and invigorated for the more serious and engrossing if less congenial occupation of his life. Mr. Mill's hobby was practical field botany; surely in all ways one very well suited to him.

Of the tens of thousands who are acquainted with the philosophical writings of Mr. Mill, there are probably few beyond the circle of his personal friends who are aware that he was also an author in a modest way on botanical subjects, and a keen searcher after wild plants. His short communications on botany were chiefly if not entirely published in a monthly magazine called "The Phytologist," edited, from its commencement in 1841, by the late George Luxford, till his death, in 1854, and afterwards conducted by Mr. A. Irvine of Chelsea, an intimate friend of Mr. Mill's, till its discontinuance in 1863. In the early numbers of this periodical especially will be found frequent notes and short papers on the facts of plant distribution brought to light by Mr. Mill during his botanical rambles. His excursions were chiefly in the county of Surrey, and especially in the neighborhood of Guildford and the beautiful vale of the Sittingbourne, where he had the satisfaction of being the first to notice several plants of interest, as Polygonum dumetorum, Isatis tinctoria, and Impatiens fulva, an American species of balsam, affording a very remarkable example of complete naturalization in the Wey and other streams connected with the lower course of the Thames. Mr. Mill says he first observed this interloper in 1822 at Albury, a date which probably marks about the commencement of his botanical investigations, if not that of the first notice of the plant in this country. Mr. Mill's copious MS lists of observations in Surrey were subsequently forwarded to the late Mr. Salmon of Godalming, and have been since published with the large collection of facts made by that botanist in the "Flora of Surrey," printed under the auspices of the Holmesdale (Reigate) Natural History Club. Mr. Mill also contributed to the same scientific magazine some short notes on Hampshire botany, and is believed to have helped in the compilation of Mr. G.G. Mill's "Catalogue of the Plants of Great Marlow, Bucks."

The mere recording of isolated facts of this kind of course affords no scope for any style in composition. It may, however, be thought worth while to reproduce here the concluding paragraph of a short article on "Spring Flowers in the South of Europe," as a sample of Mr. Mill's popular manner, as well as for its own sake as a fine description of a matchless scene. He is describing the little mountain range of Albano, beloved of painters, and, after comparing its vernal flora with that in England, goes on:—

'If we would ascend the highest member of the mountain group, the Monte Cavo, we must make the circuit of the north flank of the mountains of Marino, on the edge of the Albano Lake, and Rocca di Tassa, a picturesque village in the hollow mountain side, from which we climb through woods, abounding in Galanthus nivalis and Corydalis cava, to that summit which was the arx of Jupiter Latialis, and to which the thirty Latian cities ascended in solemn procession to offer their annual sacrifice. The place is now occupied by a convent, under the wall of which I gathered Orinthogalum nutans; and from its neighborhood I enjoyed a panoramic view, surely the most glorious, in its combination of natural beauty and grandeur of historical recollections, to be found anywhere on earth. The eye ranged from Terracina on one side to Veii on the other, and beyond Veii to the hills of Sutrium and Nepete, once covered by the Cimmian forests, then deemed an impenetrable barrier between the interior of Etruria and Rome. Below my feet the Alban mountain, with all its forest-covered folds, and in one of them the dark-blue Lake of Nemi; that of Albano, I think, was invisible. To the north, in the dim distance, the Eternal City, to the west the eternal sea, for eastern boundary, the long line of Sabine mountains from Soracte past Tibur and away towards Proeneste. The range then passed behind the Alban group, but re-appeared to the south-east as the mountain crescent of Cora and Pometia, enclosing between its horns the Pontine marshes, which lay spread out below as far as the sea line, extending east and west from Terracina in the bay of Fondi, the Volscian Anxur, to the angle of the coast where rises suddenly, between the marshes and the sea, the mountain promontory of Circeii, celebrated alike in history and in fable. Within the space visible from this one point, the destinies of the human race were decided. It took the Romans nearly five hundred years to vanquish and incorporate the warlike tribes who inhabited that narrow tract, but, this being accomplished, two hundred more sufficed them to complete the conquest of the world.

During the frequent and latterly prolonged residence at Avignon, Mr. Mill, carrying on his botanical propensities, had become very well acquainted with the vegetation of the district, and at the time of his death had collected a mass of notes and observations on the subject. It is believed to have been his intention to have printed these as the foundation of a flora of Avignon.

In the slight contributions to the literature of botany made by Mr. Mill, there is nothing which gives any inkling of the great intellectual powers of their writer. Though always clear and accurate, they are merely such notes as any working botanical collector is able to supply in abundance. Mainly content with the pursuit as an outdoor occupation, with such an amount of home work as was necessary to determine the names and affinities of the species, Mr. Mill never penetrated deeply into the philosophy of botany, so as to take rank among those who have, like Herbert Spencer, advanced that science by original work either of experiment or generalization, or have entered into the battle-field where the great biological questions of the day are being fought over. The writer of this notice well remembers meeting, a few years since, the (at that time) parliamentary logician, with his trousers turned up out of the mud, and armed with the tin insignia of his craft, busily occupied in the search after a marsh-loving rarity in a typical spongy wood on the clay to the north of London.

But however followed, the investigation of nature cannot fail to influence the mind in the direction of a more just appreciation of the necessity of system in arrangement, and of the principles which must regulate all attempts to express notions of system in a classification. Traces of this are not difficult to find in Mr. Mill's writings. It may be safely stated, that the chapters on classification in the "Logic" would not have taken the form they have, had not the writer been a naturalist as well as a logician. The views expressed so clearly in these chapters are chiefly founded on the actual needs experienced by the systematic botanist; and the argument is largely sustained by references to botanical systems and arrangements. Most botanists agree with Mr. Mill in his objections to Dr. Whewell's views of a natural classification by resemblance to "types," instead of in accordance with well-selected characters; and indeed the whole of these chapters are well deserving the careful study of naturalists, notwithstanding that the wonderfully rapid progress in recent years of new ideas, lying at the very root of all the natural sciences, may be thought by some to give the whole argument, in spite of its logical excellence, a somewhat antiquated flavor. How fully Mr. Mill recognized the great importance of the study of biological classifications, and the influence such a study must have had on himself, may be judged from the following quotation:—

"Although the scientific arrangements of organic nature afford as yet the only complete example of the true principles of rational classification, whether as to the formation of groups or of series, those principles are applicable to all cases in which mankind are called upon to bring the various parts of any extensive subject into mental co-ordination. They are as much to the point when objects are to be classed for purposes of art or business as for those of science. The proper arrangement, for example, of a code of laws, depends on the same scientific conditions as the classifications in natural history; nor could there be a better preparatory discipline for that important function than the study of the principles of a natural arrangement, not only in the abstract, but in their actual application to the class of phenomena for which they were first elaborated, and which are still the best school for learning their use. Of this, the great authority on codification, Bentham, was perfectly aware; and his early 'Fragment on Government,' the admirable introduction to a series of writings unequalled in their department, contains clear and just views (as far as they go) on the meaning of a natural arrangement, such as could scarcely have occurred to any one who lived anterior to the age of Linnaeus and Bernard de Jussieu" (System of Logic, ed. 6, ii., p. 288).




Mr. Mill's achievements as an economist, logician, psychologist, and politician are known more or less vaguely to all educated men; but his capacity and his actual work as a critic are comparatively little regarded. In the three volumes of his collected miscellaneous writings, very few of the papers are general reviews either of books or of men; and even these volumes derive their character from the essays they contain on the severer subjects with which Mr. Mill's name has been more peculiarly associated. Nobody buys his "Dissertations and Discussions" for the sake of his theory of poetry, or his essays on Armand Carrel and Alfred de Vigny, noble though these are in many ways. His essay on Coleridge is very celebrated; but it deals, not with Coleridge's place as a poet, but with his place as a thinker—with Coleridge as the antagonistic power to Bentham in forming the opinions of the generation now passing away. Still at such a time as this it is interesting to make some endeavor to estimate the value of what Mr. Mill has done in the way of criticism. It is at least worth while to examine whether one who has shown himself capable of grappling effectively with the driest and most abstruse problems that vex the human intellect was versatile enough to study poetry with an understanding heart, and to be alive to the distinctive powers of individual poets.

It was in his earlier life, when his enthusiasm for knowledge was fresh, and his active mind, "all as hungry as the sea," was reaching out eagerly and strenuously to all sorts of food for thought,—literary, philosophical, and political,—that Mr. Mill set himself, among other things, to study and theorize upon poetry and the arts generally. He could hardly have failed to know the most recent efflorescence of English poetry, living as he did in circles where the varied merits of the new poets were largely and keenly discussed. He had lived also for some time in France, and was widely read in French poetry. He had never passed through the ordinary course of Greek and Latin at school and college, but he had been taught by his father to read these languages, and had been accustomed from the first to regard their literature as literature, and to read their poetry as poetry. These were probably the main elements of his knowledge of poetry. But it was not his way to dream or otherwise luxuriate over his favorite poets for pure enjoyment. Mr. Mill was not a cultivator of art for art's sake. His was too fervid and militant a soul to lose itself in serene love and culture of the calmly beautiful. He read poetry for the most part with earnest, critical eye, striving to account for it, to connect it with the tendencies of the age, or he read to find sympathy with his own aspirations after heroic energy. He read De Vigny and other French poets of his generation, with an eye to their relations to the convulsed and struggling state of France, and because they were compelled by their surroundings to take life au serieux, and to pursue, with all the resources of their art, something different from beauty in the abstract. Luxurious passive enjoyment or torpid half-enjoyment must have been a comparatively rare condition of his finely-strung, excitable, and fervid system. I believe that his moral earnestness was too imperious to permit much of this. He was capable indeed of the most passionate admiration of beauty, but even that feeling seems to have been interpenetrated by a certain militant apostolic fervor; his love was as the love of a religious soldier for a patron saint who extends her aid and countenance to him in his wars. I do not mean to say that his mind was in a perpetual glow: I mean only that this surrender to impassioned transports was more characteristic of the man than serene openness to influx of enjoyment. His "Thoughts on Poetry and its Varieties," while clear and strenuous as most of his thoughts were, are neither scientifically precise, nor do they contain any notable new idea not previously expressed by Coleridge, except perhaps the idea, that emotions are the main links of association in the poetic mind: still his working out of the definition of poetry, his distinction between novels and poems, and between poetry and eloquence, is interesting as throwing light upon his own poetic susceptibilities. He holds that poetry is the delineation of the deeper and more secret workings of human emotion. It is curious to find one who is sometimes assailed as the advocate of a grovelling philosophy complaining that the chivalrous spirit has almost disappeared from books of education, that the youth of both sexes of the educated classes are growing up unromantic. "Catechisms," he says, "will be found a poor substitute for the old romances, whether of chivalry or faery, which, if they did not give a true picture of actual life, did not give a false one, since they did not profess to give any, but (what was much better) filled the youthful imagination with pictures of heroic men, and of what are at least as much wanted,—heroic women."

If Mr. Mill did not love poetry with a purely disinterested love, but with an eye to its moral causes and effects, neither did he study character from mere delight in observing the varieties of mankind. Armand Carrel the Republican journalist, Alfred de Vigny the Royalist poet, Coleridge the Conservative, and Bentham the Reformer, are taken up and expounded, not as striking individuals, but as types of influences and tendencies. This habit of keeping in view mind in the abstract, or men in the aggregate, may have been in a large measure a result of his education by his father; but I am inclined to think that he was of too ardent and pre-occupied a disposition, perhaps too much disposed to take favorable views of individuals, to be very sensitive to differences of character. It should not, however, be forgotten that in one memorable case he showed remarkable discrimination. Soon after Mr. Tennyson published his second issue of poems, Mr. Mill reviewed them in "The Westminster Review" for July, 1835, and, with his usual earnestness and generosity, applied all his powers to making a just estimate of the new aspirant. To have reprinted this among his miscellaneous writings might have seemed rather boastful, as claiming credit for the first full recognition of a great poet: still it is a very remarkable review; and one would hope it will not be omitted if there is to be any further collection of his casual productions. I shall quote two passages which seem obvious enough now, but which required true insight, as well as courageous generosity, to write them in 1835—

"Of all the capacities of a poet, that which seems to have arisen earliest in Mr. Tennyson, and in which he most excels, is that of scene-painting in the higher sense of the term; not the mere power of producing that rather vapid species of composition usually termed descriptive poetry,—for there is not in these volumes one passage of pure description,—but the power of creating scenery in keeping with some state of human feeling, so fitted to it as to be the embodied symbol of it, and to summon up the state of feeling itself with a force not to be surpassed by any thing but reality."

* * * * *

"The poems which we have quoted from Mr. Tennyson prove incontestably that he possesses in an eminent degree the natural endowment of a poet,—the poetic temperament. And it appears clearly, not only from a comparison of the two volumes, but of different poems in the same volume, that with him the other element of poetic excellence, intellectual culture, is advancing both steadily and rapidly; that he is not destined, like so many others, to be remembered for what he might have done rather than for what he did; that he will not remain a poet of mere temperament, but is ripening into a true artist.... We predict, that, as Mr. Tennyson advances in general spiritual culture, these higher aims will become more and more predominant in his writings; that he will strive more and more diligently, and, even without striving, will be more and more impelled by the natural tendencies of an expanding character, towards what has been described as the highest object of poetry,—'to incorporate the everlasting reason of man in forms visible to his sense, and suitable to it.'"

This last sentence might easily be construed into a prediction of "In Memoriam" and "The Idyls of the King."

If it is asked why Mr. Mill, with all his width of knowledge and sympathy, has achieved so little of a reputation as a miscellaneous writer, part of the reason no doubt is, that he sternly repressed his desultory tendencies, and devoted his powers to special branches of knowledge, attaining in them a distinction that obscured his other writings. Another reason is, that, although his style is extremely clear, he was for popular purposes dangerously familiar with terms belonging more or less to the schools. He employed these in literary generalizations, without remembering that they were not equally familiar to his readers; and thus general readers, like Tom Moore, or the author of the recent notice in "The Times," who read more for amusement than instruction, were disposed to consider Mr. Mill's style "vastly unreadable."




To a savage contemplating a railway train in motion, the engine would present itself as the master of the situation,—the determining cause of the motion and direction of the train. It visibly takes the lead, it looks big and important, and it makes a great noise. Even people a long way up in the scale of civilization are in the habit of taking these attributes, perhaps not as the essential ones of leadership, but at all events as those by which a leader may be recognized. Still that blustering machine, which puffs and snorts, and drags a vast multitude in its wake, is moving along a track determined by a man hidden away from the public gaze. A line of rail lies separated from an adjacent one, the pointsman moves a handle, and the foaming giant, that would, it may be, have sped on to his destruction and that of the passive crew who follow in his rear, is shunted to another line running in a different direction and to a more desirable goal.

The great intellectual pointsman of our age—the man who has done more than any other of this generation to give direction to the thought of his contemporaries—has passed away; and we are left to measure the loss to humanity by the result of his labors. Mr. Mill's achievements in both branches of philosophy are such as to give him the foremost place in either. Whether we regard him as an expounder of the philosophy of mind or the philosophy of society, he is facile princeps. Still it is his work in mental science which will, in our opinion, be in future looked upon as his great contribution to the progress of thought. His work on political economy not only put into thorough repair the structure raised by Adam Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo, but raised it at least one story higher. His inestimable "System of Logic" was a revolution. It hardly needs, of course, to be said that he owed much to his predecessors,—that he borrowed from Whewell much of his classification, from Brown the chief lines of his theory of causation, from Sir John Herschel the main principles of the inductive methods. Those who think this a disparagement of his work must have very little conception of the mass of original thought that still remains to Mr. Mill's credit, the great critical power that could gather valuable truths from so many discordant sources, and the wonderful synthetic ability required to weld these and his own contributions into one organic whole.

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