Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE LATE MR. MILL. ( From The Economist, 17 th May, 1873.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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THE LATE MR. MILL. ( From “ The Economist, ” 17 th May, 1873.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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THE LATE MR. MILL.
The sudden death of Mr. Mill has caused a deep feeling in all the intellectual part of England. Few living philosophers have had so much influence; fewer still have inspired so much personal respect—we might say so much personal affection—among many who had never seen and who were never likely to see him. The personal attachment of the inner circle of his followers was far greater. To that inner circle we can make no claim to belong; we can only trace slightly, and in a manner which may not satisfy them, a rough outline of what seem to us the peculiarities of his mind and the sources of his influence.
To treatises such as Mr. Mill’s Logic and his Political Economy, it is not usually easy to give important praise which no one will deny. The subjects with which they deal, the logic particularly, are too full of doubts and too fertile in animosities. But no one, we think, will deny that hardly ever, perhaps never, in the history of philosophy, have two books so finished and so ample been written by a man who had only his leisure moments to give to them, and who had a day’s work to do besides. The quantity of writing in these four thick volumes is not small; but many men, in detached essays and on varied points, equal or surpass that quantity. Even a daily occupation in laborious business is easily compatible with much desultory labour. But Mr. Mill’s Logic and his Political Economy are not collections of desultory remarks; they are orderly, systematic works, in which the beginning has reference to the end, and almost every part has some relation, often a very close relation, to most other parts. To compose such books requires an incessant reminiscence of the past, and an equally incessant foresight of the future; and both these, more almost than anything else, strain and fatigue the brain. Only men with their whole time and whole strength can usually accomplish such tasks. But Mr. Mill wrote both these books when a laborious man of business, who had daily difficult and exhausting duties to perform as well. Instead of wondering at occasional faults in such books, we should rather wonder that they exist at all.
The great merit of Mr. Mill, we think, was the merit of intellectual combination. Many philosophers—several contemporaries even—were much more eminent for absolute originality. But no one comes near Mr. Mill in the art—the invaluable art when, as now, philosophy is at once rich and fragmentary—of piecing together. In Mr. Mill’s great works theories are placed in just juxtaposition which were wide apart before, and thirteen are named in the same sentence, where one would have hardly comprehended how they could be coupled together. Mr. Grote thus described the Logic in the Westminster Review—the other day as we may say—in 1865:—
“The System of Logic appears to us to present the most important advance in speculative theory which the present century has witnessed. Either half of it, the Ratiocinative or the Inductive, would have surpassed any previous work on the same subject. The Inductive half discriminates and brings into clear view, for the first time, those virtues of method which have insensibly grown into habits among consummate scientific inquirers of the post-Baconian age, as well as the fallacies by which some of these authors have been misled. The Ratiocinative half, dealing with matters which had already been well handled by Dutrieu and other scholastic logicians, invests their dead though precise formalism with a real life and application to the actual process of finding and proving truth. But besides thus working each half up to perfection, Mr. Mill has performed the still more difficult task of overcoming the repugnance, apparently an inveterate repugnance, between them, so as chemically to combine the two into one homogeneous compound; thus presenting the problem of Reasoned Truth, Inference, Proof, and Disproof, as one connected whole. For ourselves, we still recollect the mist which was cleared from our minds when we first read the System of Logic, very soon after it was published. We were familiar with the Syllogistic Logic in Burgersdicius and Dutrieu; we were also familiar with examples of the best procedure in modern inductive science; but the two streams flowed altogether apart in our minds, like two parallel lines never joining nor approaching. The irreconcilability of the two was at once removed, when we had read and mastered the second and third chapters of the Second Book of the System of Logic; in which Mr. Mill explains the functions and value of the Syllogism, and the real import of its major premiss.”
We do not altogether agree with Mr. Grote in his estimate of this particular doctrine, and on this particular instance we should have much to say if this were the place to say it. But the general description of the “Logic” which Mr. Grote gives is true and admirable. For the first time, an attempt was made to consider together the modern methods of scientific inference and, as Sir John Herschel describes, the ancient methods of scholastic inference as mediæval writers set them forth. The two were never set so completely side by side before, or so fully made to illustrate one another.
Such a book, it will at once be seen, requires a most delicate art of exposition. For these comparisons, the style of a writer must describe not only “meanings” but shades of meaning—not large ideas in the rough, but nice ideas with nice finish. And for this Mr. Mill was well fitted both by genius and by culture. He inherited a philosophical acumen from his father (and, we suspect, from a long line of Scotch and argumentative ancestors), and an education in France had given him the French gift of precise and graceful explanation. That he also caught a little, though only a little, of the tendency to diffuseness of modern French philosophers must, we admit, be acknowledged; but he also gained the literary talents most useful to a comprehensive philosopher—their extreme clearness and their wonderful readability.
In Political Economy there was an eminent field for Mr. Mill’s peculiar powers of comparison. There is little which is absolutely original in his great work; and much of that little is not, we think, of the highest value. The subject had been discussed in detail by several minds of great acuteness and originality, but no writer before Mr. Mill had ever surveyed it as a whole with anything like equal ability; no one had shown with the same fulness the relation which the different parts of the science bore to each other; still less had any one so well explained the relation of this science to other sciences, and to knowledge in general. Since Mr. Mill wrote, there is no excuse for a political economist if his teaching is narrow-minded or pedantic; though, perhaps, from the isolated state of the science, there may have been some before. Mr. Mill had another power, which was almost of as much use to him for his special occupations as his power of writing, he was a most acute and discerning reader. The world hardly gave him credit for this gift before the publication of his book on Sir William Hamilton. But those who have read that book will understand what Mr. Grote means when, in the essay we quoted before, he speaks of Mr. Mill’s “unrivalled microscope which detects the minutest breach or incoherence in the tissue of his philosophical reasoning”. And he used this great faculty both good-naturedly and conscientiously—he never gave heedless pain to any writer, and never distorted any one’s meaning.
In fact, and partly for the reasons we have stated, Mr. Mill’s two great treatises have had a unique and immense influence. In Political Economy the writer of these lines has long been in the habit of calling himself the last man of the ante Mill period. He was just old enough to have acquired a certain knowledge of Ricardo and the other principal writers on Political Economy before Mr. Mill’s work was published, and the effect of it has certainly been most remarkable. All students since begin with Mill and go back to all previous writers fresh from the study of him. They see the whole subject with Mr. Mill’s eyes. They see in Ricardo and Adam Smith what he told them to see, and it is not easy to induce them to see anything else. Whether it has been altogether good for Political Economy that a single writer should have so monarchical an influence may be argued, but no testimony can be greater to the ability of that writer and his pre-eminence over his contemporaries. In a wider field the effect of the Logic has also been enormous. Half the minds of the younger generation of Englishmen have been greatly coloured by it, and would have been sensibly different if they had not been influenced by it. And there is no other book of English philosophy of which the same can be said, even with a pretext of truth.
A complete estimate of Mr. Mill would include an account of his career in Parliament, and also an account of some peculiarities of his mind, which gave him, considering the dry nature of most of his pursuits and studies, a most singular influence. To very many younger minds he was not so much a political economist as a prophet, not so much a logician as a seer. He had, besides his rare power of arguing and analysing, an equally rare kind of contagious enthusiasm, which influenced a multitude of minds, and made them believe as he did. But an estimate of these peculiarities would be little suited to these pages; nor should we at this moment like to say much which, in our judgment, it would be necessary to say in order to make this estimate just. We have preferred to say that which is plainly true, and which could give no pain to anyone.
[Page 120, line 28,]for anti-Mill read ante-Mill