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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays, ed. John M. Robson and Jack Stillinger, introduction by Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).
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autobiographies are seldom explicit about their purposes, which can be widely diverse. Yet to ignore the author’s intentions is to run the risk of confusing, for example, confession with self-celebration, or diary with social anatomy. Mill helps us avoid this danger by presenting, in the first paragraph of his Autobiography, a warning that serves as an enticing framework for his overt statement of purpose. He cannot imagine that anything in a life “so uneventful” could be “interesting to the public as a narrative, or as being connected” with himself. But there are, he says, other reasons that justify the publication of the record: first, a description of his “unusual and remarkable” education should be useful in showing how much can effectively be taught to children; second, an account of the successive phases of a mind always eager and open will be “both of interest and of benefit” in “an age of transition in opinions”; and, finally, and to the author most significantly (though, as he does not point out, without direct public utility), an acknowledgment of his intellectual and moral debts is necessary to satisfy his sense of duty. Having thus established the terms of a contract with his potential audience. Mill closes the paragraph with an admonition that probably no one has ever heeded: “The reader whom these things do not interest, has only himself to blame if he reads farther, and I do not desire any other indulgence from him than that of bearing in mind, that for him these pages were not written” (p. 5).2
Anyone reading this introduction (and we beg the same indulgence) presumably believes, malgré Mill, that his “uneventful” life is interesting, or accepts, with him, the validity of his stated goals. One can proceed, then, to use the opening paragraph as an avenue into comment on the Autobiography, confident that one is on the author’s chosen route. To do so is doubly important, for some critics have chosen to treat his evident omissions and underplaying of events and people as evidence of suppressed psychological states or distorting attitudes. And such inferences may be correct: but at least one should give Mill credit, with his quirks and biasses, for knowing what he was trying to do.
It is apparent, to begin with, that the narrative balance is affected by his notion of what his readers should properly take an interest in. As so often occurs in personal memoirs, there is a chronological imbalance: the first six chapters (about 70 per cent of the text) cover the period to 1840, when Mill was thirty-six years old, while the seventh and last chapter deals with the next thirty years. The title of that last chapter—“General View of the Remainder of My Life”—suggests summary and diminuendo, whereas the titles of the earlier chapters imply the rich detail that they in fact contain.
Although chronology is (in the main) the structural guide, the pace is irregular: ignoring some adumbration and very slight retrospection, one can say that Chapters i and ii cover roughly the same years (to aet. 15) from different points of view, intellectual and moral. Chapter iii, rather surprisingly, covers only about two years (to aet. 17). Chapters iv and v together deal with nine years (to 1830, aet. 24); they overlap in their accounts of the period from 1826 to 1829 (aet. 20 to 23). Chapter vi takes one through the next decade (to 1840, aet. 34), and Chapter vii brings the narrative to the point where Mill finally put down his pen, early in 1870 (aet. 63). Furthermore, the chapters vary considerably in length, so the average amount of space given per year in each period clarifies the emphasis:
Explanatory light is thrown on the imbalance by Mill’s tripartite division of his life: the first stage being one of education and of propagandism for Philosophic Radicalism; the second stage one of new ideas, assimilation, and reconsideration; and the third stage one of mature and steady (but not rigid) views, recorded in his major works. This division, seen in conjunction with the three purposes Mill announces, makes it clearer why he structured the Autobiography as he did.
The account of his education (first purpose) occupies most of the first three chapters, while the explanation of the “successive phases” of his mind (second purpose) is the main matter of the next three chapters. The division between these phases, however, cannot be distinctly drawn, and the third purpose, acknowledgment of debts, as is to be expected, is served through most of the work. The reason is that education in its widest sense is a continuous process, during which one moves through “phases” and incurs repeated debts. For example, looking at the transition from Chapter iii to Chapter iv, one sees that the former ends with an account of what Mill, in its title, identifies as the “first” stage of his self-education, and the latter, with its mention of the strenuous activities of the fledgling Philosophic Radicals (discussions, debates, studies, editing, essays), obviously is the next phase. But, while the narrative of sectarian activities in Chapter iv provides an excellent foil for the rejection of one-sidedness in Chapter v, it also outlines a continuation of the young Mill’s education. Furthermore, his education of course continued in the exciting phase described in Chapter v, “A Crisis in My Mental History. One Stage Onward.” And in each of these chapters, as in Chapters i and ii, he mentions people who influenced him. The thematic intertwining, with the consequent need to cover crucial periods from different standpoints, explains why the period of greatest overlap, from about 1821 to the early 1830s, gets most attention. A glance at Table 1 above will show that Chapters iii-v occupy about 40 per cent of the whole work, and on an average each year in that period is given more than 3½ times as much space as each year after 1840.
So, if we accept the premises Mill himself advances, the concentration on his education and intellectual development until his mid-thirties is neither surprising nor exceptionable. Indeed, the anomalous element is the final chapter, with its account of his next thirty years, in which there should be little matter relevant to his stated purposes. There is, in fact, some: most obviously, Mill pays important tribute to his wife. Chapter vi, which covers the decade of their first acquaintance, has in its title the strong assertion, “Commencement of the Most Valuable Friendship of My Life,” but the continuation of the account into the final chapter results in almost one-fifth of it being dedicated to her part in his life and work. Indeed, he ties that account directly to his third purpose:
In resuming my pen some years after closing the preceding narrative, I am influenced by a desire not to leave incomplete the record, for the sake of which chiefly this biographical sketch was undertaken, of the obligations I owe to those who have either contributed essentially to my own mental developement or had a direct share in my writings and in whatever else of a public nature I have done.4
It may be noticed that here he somewhat modifies his initial statement of purpose: rather than referring to aids to his intellectual and moral development, he refers to those who contributed to his mental development and to those who shared in his writings and public acts. This modification further justifies the final chapter, for in its pages appear substantial accounts of his writings in maturity, in the course of which he mentions other debts.5 It cannot be denied, however, that after the last tribute to his wife, the focus does alter: in actual as well as proportional length, Mill gives more space to his parliamentary career (1865-68) than to any other period in his life, even that of his “mental crisis.”6 The account of that career, the events of which were fresh in his mind only a year after his defeat, is not easily justified on Mill’s stated terms. Indeed, its main interest surely lies outside them, in his own character and fame, which are described if not in a boastful, at least in a self-satisfied way.
Apart from the concluding portion of Chapter vii (which, untypically for Mill, was not rewritten), one can, then, gain considerable insight by accepting his exordium as accurate. In that light, some comment on the way he fulfils his goals is appropriate.
First, the description of his extraordinary education, initially at the hands of his father, but later and indeed for most of the time on his own initiative, is copious and full of interest. The account is also dense, as may be seen by comparing the combined lengths of Appendices B and C below, which attempt to reconstruct his early reading and writing, with their primary source, the early pages of the Autobiography (cf. especially pp. 9-25 with App. B, pp. 552-68). The early start (Greek at the age of three) was not then so exceptional as it now would be: to choose relevant comparisons, Bentham (with not much encouragement) was quick off the infant blocks, as (with more encouragement) was Macaulay. Mill was unusual, but he appears unique because he left such a full record. His detailed memory of those early years is surprising; however, he almost certainly had at least one aide-mémoire, a copy of the letter he wrote to Sir Samuel Bentham in mid-1819,7 setting out his educational accomplishments of the preceding six years. That letter confirms and slightly expands the account in the Autobiography, and strengthens our appreciation of two aspects of his education—its continued and indeed increasing intensity, and the fact that it was intermingled with daily instruction of his younger siblings, especially of the two closest to him in age, Wilhelmina and Clara. In both these respects he was very unusual, especially when it is remembered that he had no formal education at all, his only teacher, in these early years, being his father, who was in truth using the child as a proving ground for his theories. (This wicked practice, it may be remarked, is found in all enlightened periods.) However, as Mill points out, his was not an education of cram; its great virtue, he believed, was that it enabled and encouraged him to think for himself, not only answering but questioning, not only getting but giving, not only remembering but discovering. This practice remained with him through life, and was connected with yet another distinguishing element: his curiosity and eagerness to learn. In the Autobiography this attribute is mentioned, although it surely tells against his assertion that anyone educated as he was could match his record. In the journal he kept while in France, his eagerness stands out as though in boldface, while one can read between the lines the efforts of his hosts, especially Lady Bentham, to prevent his doing lessons all the time.8
Probably the most extraordinary aspect of Mill’s precocity was his ability from about twelve to fifteen years of age to comprehend and enunciate abstract ideas in economics, and some parts of philosophy and science. Many gifted children astonish with feats of memory,9 with ability to learn languages, and, perhaps most obviously, with great mathematical powers; Mill had these talents, but also showed astonishing maturity in his wide-ranging discussions with his father and others, in his self-directed studies, in his comments on his more formal studies, and in the major surviving piece of contemporary evidence, the “Traité de logique” he wrote while in France. And, without extending the case unduly, his editing, before his twentieth year, of Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence (see the understated account on pp. 117-19 below) was a genuinely amazing feat.
In his account, of course, Mill, in keeping with his third purpose, is celebrating not himself, but his father, and, despite the qualifications and explanations,10 it is a celebration, incorporating at least one memorable aphorism: “A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can” (p. 35). Moving into the period of self-education, Mill, having learned his pedagogy, broadened his teaching to include others who were caught up in the Radicals’ increasing momentum,11 and one can be sure that at least the demand side of the aphorism was observed. We cannot now recapture all the detail—let alone the enthusiasm—of the activities he joined in with others, but what is known is remarkable.
The earliest joint venture was probably the “Mutual Improvement Society,” not mentioned in the Autobiography, which flowered at least briefly under Jeremy Bentham’s patronage.12 The date of Mill’s two surviving speeches for that Society, 1823 or 1824,13 suggests that in fact it may have melded with the “Utilitarian Society” that Mill says he founded in the winter of 1822-23 (p. 81); the latter also met in Bentham’s house, included Bentham’s amanuensis, Richard Doane, and convened once a fortnight to read essays and discuss questions of ethics and politics. This small group, which continued until 1826, included Mill’s most intimate friends, as did its successor, the “Society of Students of Mental Philosophy,” which met for detailed discussion of specific philosophic and economic texts in George Grote’s house from 1825 until early in 1828, and then again in 1829.14 In the mid-20s, emulating the philosophes, Mill kept a journal of his group’s activities, and wrote a few articles for a proposed Philosophical Dictionary to be edited by Charles Austin (see p. 110; the journal and articles seem not to have survived).
Another kind of mutual education, through propagation of the faith, was contemporaneous: public debate. First, in 1825, he and some friends15 debated against the Owenites of the Cooperative Society; then, from 1826 to 1829, they embarked on a more impressive scheme, the London Debating Society, in which the coming young men opened their minds and talents on major issues of the times.16 Less important were evening meetings to study elocution, and the formation of a class to learn German on the “Hamiltonian method.”17
Of greater significance in a wider sphere was the work done by the young Philosophic Radicals with their elders and mentors on the Westminster Review, founded in 1824 (see pp. 93-101), and on the Parliamentary History and Review during its brief career from 1826 to 1828 (p. 121), the latter year also seeing the Mills withdraw from the Westminster Review stable (p. 135). Throughout this period Mill’s practical education, the value of which he acknowledges on p. 87, was going on in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company, which he had joined in 1823 on his seventeenth birthday. Finally, though the details are vague, one should not overlook the broad educational benefits of his less formal but undoubtedly strenuous and wide-ranging discussions with his friends on his daily walks between Kensington and the City, and his weekend and holiday excursions into the countryside. Even without analysis of his writings, one can wholeheartedly support his judgment that from 1822 to 1828 his “own pursuits . . . were never carried on more vigorously” (p. 89).18
Here one is moving to the second of Mill’s purposes, his desire to show “the successive phases” of a “mind which was always pressing forward, equally ready to learn and to unlearn either from its own thoughts or from those of others” (p. 5). The least precise of the three goals, it nonetheless gets very careful attention in the next few chapters of the Autobiography, those dealing with the period from the time of his mental crisis in 1826-27 until 1840, when the Logic was virtually completed. He says that in his account of “these years of transition” he has mentioned only those of his “new impressions” which appeared then and later “to be a kind of turning points, marking a definite progress” in his mode of thought (p. 175). And he goes on to indicate that he was considering much more in those years than the account indicates. The nature and intensity of some of these considerations are to be seen in the literary essays in the present volume.
Many of the changes, these essays also imply, came through personal contact of the kind already suggested, as his circle of acquaintance broadened. The record of “successive phases” of his mind is, therefore, again seen to be intertwined with that of his debts, and so the second and third purposes are served together. Often his desire to acknowledge his intellectual debts is greater than his desire to trace his development, with the result, quite intentional on Mill’s part, that emphasis falls on certain aspects of his development at the expense of others. For example, the brief period of near withdrawal from his customary activities from 1828 to 1830 is left in shade, and little evidence is available elsewhere to fill in the picture. And the years of active political sectarianism in the London and Westminster Review, years that have troubled many who otherwise admire Mill (after all, he says he had already forsworn at least overt sectarianism [see pp. 115-17]), are excused by the plea of circumstance, inadequately described. Again—and from the perspective of the editors of this volume, quite regrettably—Mill gives little space to his writings for journals in the 1830s, and much of that concerns his mainly political leaders in the Examiner.
As mentioned above, one important change, Mill’s new aesthetic interest, is seen in his literary essays. In particular, they indicate the shift in thought following his distress over the effects of purely analytic methods, and point to the existence of what was not quite a school, or even a coterie, but certainly was a group quick to respond and to interact. The relief Mill found in Wordsworth’s poetry (pp. 149-53), and his related discovery of Shelley (a favourite of Harriet Taylor’s), as well as his love of music (almost unmentioned in the Autobiography),19 and his growing appreciation of drama, painting, and architecture, all had a part in inducing the aesthetic speculations found in these essays. Though they do not amount to an important theory, elements of them are of considerable value, and helped clarify for Mill both the place of emotion in individual lives and in the human sciences, and what he took to be his proper role in the “Art and Science of Life,” as “Scientist” or “Logician,” and not as “Artist” or “Poet.”20
Mill was markedly influenced by his new acquaintances, most significantly by W. J. Fox’s circle of Unitarians,21 including Harriet and John Taylor, by Thomas Carlyle, and by John Sterling. Through Sterling (and perhaps through Cambridge friends of Charles Austin) Mill became acquainted with other of the Cambridge “Apostles,” and it is of more than passing significance that his reaching out for “radicals” of different kinds brought into the net of the London and Westminster Review some of these apparently incompatible, but equally enthusiastic proponents of a new order. When one considers the subjects and provenances of Mill’s articles in the present volume, the network of relations is evident: of those articles published in the 1830s, four of the five that appeared before 1835 were in Fox’s journal, the Monthly Repository (which in these years was Mill’s main organ for non-literary essays as well); all those after that date were in the London and Westminster under his own editorship. Not all the articles are actually reviews, but of those that are, two deal with William Bridges Adams, a protégé of Fox’s, who married Sarah Flower, the sister of Harriet Taylor’s closest friend (and Fox’s lover), Eliza. Browning also was a member of Fox’s circle, and only accident (see pp. xxxiii-xxxiv) prevented Mill’s review of his Pauline from appearing. Tennyson, Helps, Milnes, and Bulwer (see App. F, p. 604) were all Cambridge men, the first three Apostles. This evidence does not justify an accusation of puffery, though the reviews are favourable, but Mill can at least be seen as showing bias in his selection of subjects. And there is other evidence of his raising a wind. Exhalations include his placing, in the Examiner, reviews of Eliza Flower’s musical compositions,22 and complimentary notices of the Monthly Repository.23 In return, the Repository blew some kisses, mentioning as a new publication the pamphlet reprint of Mill’s “Corporation and Church Property,” and commenting, “ ‘Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ this little pamphlet, which is full of the marrow of a sound philosophy and morality.” In “Characteristics of English Aristocracy,” a review of Bulwer’s England and the English, there is praise for the appendices Mill contributed anonymously on Bentham and James Mill that might well normally have gone unnoticed. And there is an unambiguous (to the informed) reference to Mill: “The most accomplished and perfect logician we ever knew, has the best appreciation of the beautiful and the poetical.”24
In all ages, and even among the virtuous, manus manum lavat, and altruism may be a form of self-help. There were, in that age of excitement, when the old order (again) seemed to be passing away, many opportunities for the daring and enthusiastic young to air and share their views, and as Mill passed through his “successive phases” he joined in or was touched by the Philosophic Radicals of the 1820s, the Romantics, the Saint-Simonians, the Unitarians, the Cambridge Apostles, the new bureaucrats, the Philosophic Radicals of the 1830s; in some cases he was at or near the centre, in others on the periphery—but never was he to be ignored.
A change came, however. The last stage (on his account) was one in which he thought himself rejected by “society,” and in which, in any case, he rejected the society of most others. His relation with Harriet Taylor, a relation which they seem naïvely to have thought neither would nor should cause comment, resulted in their eventual isolation from all but a few, such as the Carlyles (and there was constant and increasing tension even with them). Mill’s account of his movement into maturity of opinion, then, ought to be seen also as a movement away from the influence of groups. He did not, it should be clear, go into intellectual solitude, for quite apart from the constant interchange of views with Harriet Taylor, he read and corresponded widely (for example with Auguste Comte). He was not, however, in an arena where the constant push-and-pull of allegiances, opinions, and events could initiate major fluctuations of belief. When, in the mid-1860s after his wife’s death and his retirement from the East India Company, the time did come for him to plunge into turbulent political waters, his general attitudes were indeed firm, though his expression of them in particular circumstances led some to believe him fickle. And at that time, as young men gathered round him—Bain, Cairnes, Fawcett, Morley, even Spencer—it was his influence on them that mattered, not theirs on him. And that tale he does not choose to tell.
The tale he does tell, right from the beginning of the Autobiography, as we have seen, is that of his third purpose: acknowledgment of his intellectual and moral debts, the importance of which justifies brief analysis. It is hard and indeed unwise to identify separately the elements that make up Mill’s accounts of his teachers and friends; there is some mention of their characters, some of their careers, and some of their writings, as well as of their relations with Mill, and all these matters bear on one another. Also, a few people of obvious importance are mentioned almost in passing,25 one may infer because the exigencies of narrative did not easily permit of a fuller account. As has been argued, the tributes and assessments are entwined with the accounts of his education and the movement of his mind; nonetheless, if we look simply at the main emphasis of passages, almost one-third of the final version is given generally to an account of his debts. (A considerably higher proportion is found in the Early Draft, which includes, inter alia, longer passages on Roebuck and Sarah Austin and necessarily excludes the narrative of the final years.) The relative weighting is interesting. Ignoring all those of less than one-half page in length, one finds:
Such computation (which ignores the strength as well as the kind of comment) does rough justice to Mill’s account; but he himself is not even-handed. Given other evidence, including Mill’s writings, no one is likely to challenge the placing of his father and his wife at the head of the list of those who influenced him. The kind of influence and its effect are perhaps moot, especially in the case of his wife, but one can easily accept his estimate of their weights. Mill says his conscience spoke to him in his father’s voice (p. 613); there can be no doubt that there was a literal transference of this function to Harriet Taylor after James Mill’s death in 1836, if not before, and only a little that Helen Taylor played a speaking role after her mother’s death in 1858.28 There is no room here for essays on these extraordinary relations; our comment is only that they were, certainly from a psychological point of view, as important as Mill indicates.
About others, though, some caveats concerning Mill’s judgment must be entered. His attitude to his mother has caused speculation: not mentioned in the Autobiography, she is given, in isolated comments of a derogatory kind, almost all of which were cancelled, only about one-half page in the Early Draft. When he began that draft, Mill was excessively, indeed petulantly, angry at his family because of what he (and/or Harriet) took to be their slighting response to his marriage; in revision, he at least moved from derogation to silence. It is likely that his mother and his siblings did not “influence” him, using the word as he intends it, but one may well regret the attitude and the omission. At the very least it is odd that a strong feminist, writing under the correcting eye of an equally strong feminist, should have given himself but a single parent in the opening narrative sentence of his autobiography: “I was born in London, on the 20th of May 1806, and was the eldest son of James Mill, the author of The History of British India” (p. 5).
Other questions can here only be asked:29 if John Austin gets (deservedly) three pages, surely Bentham deserves more than two, and George Grote more than one-half—and what of Harriet Grote? Wordsworth merits at least the treatment he receives, but where then is Coleridge? (The answer lies partly, but only partly, in the discussion of the “Coleridgeans,” Sterling and Maurice.) Does not Tocqueville, whose influence, curiously enough, is not acknowledged at all in the Early Draft, deserve as much space as Comte (even if we admit that much of the three pages devoted to the latter is given to denial of influence)? Surely Carlyle, whatever Mill’s later judgments, had more influence than Roebuck (who was on his own admission a pupil of Mill’s)—and, again, where is Jane Carlyle? Could he not have mentioned his colleagues in the East India House, such as Thomas Love Peacock? The questions pile up, and answers implying the deliberate downplaying of friendships, or the desire to avoid comment on those alive to read the account, do not seem adequate. Of greater relevance are Mill’s and his wife’s attitudes to the people discussed and the exigencies of narrative and of thesis: the case he is making does not require equal or absolute justice, and a story—even one the author claims to be devoid of interesting episode—militates against judgmental balance. One certainly may regret that Mill’s denigration of self led him to the purposes he thought proper, and so to exclude much that other autobiographers, many of them of narrower experience and less insight, delight us with. But his judgment should be respected. Although his mind, his life, and his career have an interest beyond the significance he attached to them, in developing his stated purposes Mill faithfully adheres to his contract with the reader for whom “these pages were . . . written.”
The Autobiography stands alone among Mill’s book-length works in the abundance of MS materials that have survived.30 We have no fewer than three complete MSS—Mill’s original draft, a revised MS also in his hand, and a transcript of the whole—as well as a four-page piece of holograph draft independent of the other MSS. The three complete MSS were among the collection of letters and papers owned after Mill’s death by Helen Taylor, bequeathed by her to her niece Mary Taylor, and sold at auction in 1922 by the executors of the latter’s estate. They are listed together, “a large parcel,” as lot 720 (third day) in Sotheby’s sale catalogue of 27-29 March, 1922: “Mill (John Stuart) Auto. MS. of his Autobiography upwards of 220 pp. 4to; with an earlier draft of the same in his hand, and a copy, mostly in the hand of Helen Taylor, with the suppressed passages.” The lot went for £5 5s. to Maggs Bros., who resold the MSS separately.
Early Draft. The “earlier draft” was purchased from Maggs in 1923 by Jacob H. Hollander, Professor of Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University, who kept it until his death in 1940, after which it was stored for nearly two decades in a Baltimore warehouse. In 1958 it was acquired with the rest of Hollander’s library by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More than just “earlier,” it is in fact the original draft of the Autobiography, consisting of 169 leaves all told—139 leaves constituting the first finished version of the work plus thirty leaves of rejected text retained together at the end of the draft. Written in the late months of 1853 and the early months of 1854 (see below on this and other datings), the MS contains a complete account, as Mill then would have given it, of his life up to his marriage in 1851. The paper is apparently that used in the East India Company office where Mill worked, half-sheets of white laid foolscap measuring c. 33.6 × 20.8 cm., with either a Britannia watermark (on about half the leaves, irregularly throughout) or one of three countermarks: “Stacey Wise 1849,” “C Ansell 1851,” and “C Ansell 1852.” Mill wrote in ink, generally on both sides. Before beginning a leaf, he folded it once lengthwise, to divide each page into two long halves c. 10.4 cm. wide;31 he originally composed only in the right-hand half, saving the space at left for his revisions and for corrections, comments, and other markings by his wife.
Columbia MS. The second of the complete MSS (to take them in the order in which they were written), the “Auto. MS.” of the description in Sotheby’s catalogue, was bought from Maggs by Professor John Jacob Coss, acting for members of the Department of Philosophy at Columbia who presented it to the Columbia University Library in April, 1923. This MS consists of 210 leaves (not counting those left blank by Mill or used as wrappers) measuring c. 26 × 21.5 cm. The first 162 leaves, medium blue paper sewn in twenty-leaf gatherings marked A through I (with the initial leaf of A and the last seventeen leaves of I left blank) and containing either a fleur-de-lis watermark or the countermark “Weatherley 1856,” constitute a revised version of the Early Draft text plus a three-page continuation, the text of 247.35-251.9 below. This part of the MS was written in 1861. The remaining forty-eight leaves, a gathering marked K and made up of twenty-four sheets of darker blue (unwatermarked) paper folded separately and unsewn, represent—except for text taken over from the Yale fragment (see below)—the first and only draft of the rest of the Autobiography, written in the winter of 1869-70.
Rylands transcript. The third of the MSS sold at Sotheby’s, the “copy, mostly in the hand of Helen Taylor, with the suppressed passages,” went to an unknown English buyer, and was lost sight of until July, 1959, when it was discovered in the London salerooms of Messrs. Hodgson and acquired by the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Consisting of 282 leaves of various kinds and sizes of paper, the transcript was made mainly or entirely in the months just after Mill’s death by three writers—Helen Taylor, Mill’s youngest sister Mary Elizabeth Colman, and an unidentified French copyist. It is from this MS that the first edition of the work (1873) was printed, and the “descent” of the text is thus simple and straightforward: Mill revised, recopied, and continued his original version (Early Draft) in the Columbia MS; Helen Taylor and her helpers copied the Columbia text in the Rylands transcript; and the work was set in type from the Rylands transcript.
Yale fragment. In addition to these complete MSS, Mill’s first draft of the present 251.18-259.21, the “Note . . . concerning the participation of my wife in my writings” given below beginning on p. 250, is extant at Yale. This is written on the four pages of a folded sheet of bluish-gray wove paper, page size c. 25.8 × 20.2 cm. The MS bears the pencil date “” in the hand of a twentieth-century scholar or archivist, but the basis for this dating is not clear. Mill could have drafted the note any time between the completion of the Early Draft, in 1854, and the writing of the last part of the work in 1869-70. The tenses, the tone, and the mention of On Liberty as a “book” (pp. 256-8) strongly suggest that it was composed no earlier than 1859, after his wife’s death and the publication of On Liberty, and probably after 1861, because it was not included in the continuation of the Early Draft written at that time.
In his surviving letters Mill first mentions the Early Draft on 23 January, 1854, four days after recording in a diary entry his bitterness at having “procrastinated in the sacred duty of fixing in writing, so that it may not die with me, everything that I have in my mind which is capable of assisting the destruction of error and prejudice and the growth of just feelings and true opinions.”32 Replying to a letter now lost, he writes to his wife:
I too have thought very often lately about the life & am most anxious that we should complete it the soonest possible. What there is of it is in a perfectly publishable state—as far as writing goes it could be printed tomorrow—& it contains a full writing out as far as anything can write out, what you are, as far as I am competent to describe you, & what I owe to you—but, besides that until revised by you it is little better than unwritten, it contains nothing about our private circumstances, further than shewing that there was intimate friendship for many years, & you only can decide what more it is necessary or desirable to say in order to stop the mouths of enemies hereafter. The fact is there is about as much written as I can write without your help & we must go through this together & add the rest to it at the very first opportunity—I have not forgotten what she said about bringing it with me to Paris.33
University of Illinois
He discusses the subject at length again on 10 February:
I . . . have read through all that is written of the Life—I find it wants revision, which I shall give it—but I do not well know what to do with some of the passages which we marked for alteration in the early part of it which we read together. They were mostly passages in which I had written, you thought, too much of the truth or what I believe to be the truth about my own defects. I certainly do not desire to say more about them than integrity requires, but the difficult matter is to decide how much that is. Of course one does not, in writing a life, either one’s own or another’s, undertake to tell everything—& it will be right to put something into this which shall prevent any one from being able to suppose or to pretend, that we undertake to keep nothing back. Still it va sans dire that it ought to be on the whole a fair representation. Some things appear to me on looking at them now to be said very crudely, which does not surprise me in a first draft, in which the essential was to say everything, somehow, sauf to omit or revise afterwards. As to matters of opinion & feeling on general subjects, I find there is a great deal of good matter written down in the Life which we have not written anywhere else, & which will make it as valuable in that respect (apart from its main object) as the best things we have published. But of what particularly concerns our life there is nothing yet written, except the descriptions of you, & of your effect on me; which are at all events a permanent memorial of what I know you to be, & (so far as it can be shewn by generalities) of what I owe to you intellectually. That, though it is the smallest part of what you are to me, is the most important to commemorate, as people are comparatively willing to suppose all the rest. But we have to consider, which we can only do together, how much of our story it is advisable to tell, in order to make head against the representations of enemies when we shall not be alive to add anything to it. If it was not to be published for 100 years I should say, tell all, simply & without reserve. As it is there must be care taken not to put arms into the hands of the enemy.34
Taken together, the two letters show (1) that an early form of the draft, including at least the first eight leaves of the original Part II,35 largely unrevised since it was first written but nevertheless “in a perfectly publishable state,” was finished by 23 January, 1854; (2) that Mill and his wife had read an “early part of it” together, marking passages for alteration (those extracted in App. G from R23-5, and possibly Mill’s subsequent revisions of them—in R242-252 and R19/20, also marked by her—are more or less specifically mentioned in the second letter); but (3) that she had not yet read any portion of the original Part II, in which she and their relationship are described. Up to this point, therefore, there were at least two periods of composition—one in which he wrote the early part that they read and marked together, the other in which he continued writing in her absence.
We have, unfortunately, virtually no biographical documents for the first two years of their marriage, after they had returned from the Continent and settled at Blackheath Park in September, 1851. In August, 1853, Mill took his wife to Sidmouth, Devonshire, returning to London alone on the 23rd—the first time since the marriage that they had been separated. He remained in London through much of September, and then, on the advice of their physicians, accompanied his wife to Nice. When his three-month leave of absence from the India House had expired, he left her at Hyères, on 27 or 28 December, and arrived back in London on 5 January.
It is unlikely that he worked on the draft between 5 and 23 January (the date of the first letter quoted above). On his return he was occupied with official correspondence that had accumulated in his absence, and of his own work he was primarily concerned with the essay on “Nature.” He told his wife on 14 January:
I am working hard at getting up the arrear of India house business & have taken some of it home to work at tomorrow (Sunday). I hardly feel well or vigorous enough to set about any work of our own yet on Sundays & in the evenings—when I do the first thing shall be to finish the rewriting of the paper on Nature, which I began before we left.36
Moreover, the tone of his letter of 23 January (“I too have thought very often lately about the life”) does not suggest that he has been writing. What seems most probable, if we assume that he began the draft in London, perhaps even (as he did with other works) during office hours at the India House when correspondence lagged, is that he commenced writing earlier than August, 1853; that he and his wife read and marked the early part (at least the first twenty-five leaves, through the first extract given in App. G) before going to Devonshire in that month; and that he continued writing, through at least the first eight leaves of the original Part II, in the August-September interval of separation, before joining her for their sojourn in France. A large part of the draft, the “publishable” version described in the letter of 23 January, 1854, should therefore be dated earlier than 24 September, 1853, the date on which they left England together.
On 13 February, 1854, still planning to join his wife in Paris, Mill again mentions bringing the draft with him, and adds:
But if we are not to be together this summer it is doubly important to have as much of the life written as can be written before we meet—therefore will you my own love in one of your sweetest letters give me your general notion of what we should say or imply respecting our private concerns. As it is, it shews confidential friendship & strong attachment ending in marriage when you were free & ignores there having ever been any scandalous suspicions about us.37
To his earlier letter of the 10th she replied on 14-15 February:
I feel sure dear that the Life is not half written and that half that is written will not do. Should there not be a summary of our relationship from its commencement in 1830—I mean given in a dozen lines. . . . This ought to be done in its genuine truth and simplicity—strong affection, intimacy of friendship, and no impropriety. It seems to me an edifying picture for those poor wretches who cannot conceive friendship but in sex—nor believe that expediency and the consideration for feelings of others can conquer sensuality.38
While her letter was en route Mill wrote to her again on the 18th that he was “most anxious at present about the Life, but . . . can do little in the way of addition to it till I hear from her,”39 and a diary entry of 19 February implies further concern with the life: “Goethe . . . [called] his autobiography, which tells just as much about himself as he liked to be known, ‘Aus meinem Leben Dichtung und Wahrheit.’ The Aus even without the Dichtung saves his veracity.”40 Finally on the 20th, having received her letter, he was able to report some progress in the work:
As to the Life—which I have been revising & correcting—the greater part, in bulk, of what is written consists of the history of my mind up to the time when your influence over it began—& I do not think there can be much objectionable in that part, even including as it does, sketches of the character of most of the people I was intimate with—if I could be said to be so with any one. I quite agree in the sort of résumé of our relationship which you suggest—but if it is to be only as you say a dozen lines, or even three or four dozen, could you not my own love write it out your darling self & send it in one of your precious letters—It is one of the many things of which the fond would be much better laid by you & we can add to it afterwards if we see occasion.41
On 5 February Mill had finished rewriting “Nature”; on 5 March, having caught up with India House correspondence, he began writing “Utility of Religion.”42 Between those dates, and especially around 20 February, when we have seen him “revising & correcting,” he read over and revised the whole of the draft he had written in 1853, and it was probably then also that he finished writing the original Part II. Professor Levi is surely right in suggesting that a passage from Harriet Mill’s letter of 14-15 February (“strong affection, intimacy of friendship . . . an edifying picture for those poor wretches who cannot conceive friendship but in sex—nor believe that expediency and the consideration for feelings of others can conquer sensuality”) is echoed in Mill’s account of their relationship in the twentieth leaf of Part II:
our relation to each other was one of strong affection and confidential intimacy, entirely apart from sensuality. . . . we disdained, as every person not a slave of his animal appetites must do, the abject notion that the strongest and tenderest friendship cannot exist between a man and a woman without a sensual tie; or that sensuality cannot be put aside when regard for the feelings of others, or even when only prudence and personal dignity require it.43
She did not otherwise send him the account he requested, for of the numbered series of Mill’s letters to her all but one—a short letter addressed to Marseilles on 13 March—are extant between 20 February and the middle of April, and there are but two subsequent references to the work during the period. On 24 February he writes: “we must do what we can while we are alive—the Life being the first thing—which independent of the personal matters which it will set right when we have made it what we intend, is even now an unreserved proclamation of our opinions on religion, nature, & much else.”44 The gist of the first part of this statement is repeated in a letter of 20 March: “above all I am anxious about the Life, which must be the first thing we go over when we are together.”45
Harriet Mill returned to London in the middle of April, and it must have been either then or shortly afterward—“the Life being the first thing”—that she read and “improved” the remainder of the draft. Though no useful terminal date for Mill’s subsequent corrections can be assigned with certainty, it seems most reasonable to suppose that he revised and rewrote the leaves of Part II before departing for a six-week tour of Brittany in June-July, 1854, and certainly before setting out on his extended tour of France, Italy, and Greece, 8 December, 1854-late June, 1855, during which he was separated from his wife for nearly seven months.
The Early Draft is a heavily worked over MS, with cancellations and interlined revisions on nearly every page, and a great many additional passages written and rewritten at left. Mill foliated the MS in pencil, and most of the leaves show evidence of having been renumbered one or more times as additional leaves were inserted, passages reordered, and revised leaves substituted for earlier ones. The principal additions and rearrangements are reported in notes to the Early Draft text and in headnotes to the extracts given in Appendix G. The most interesting of Mill’s large-scale changes has to do with his early intention to divide the work into two parts, the first covering his life before he met Harriet Taylor, and “Part II,” beginning with his “first introduction to the lady whose friendship has been the honour and blessing of my existence.” Possibly because he wished to bring her in at an earlier point in his account (after his writings of 1832, rather than, as originally, after his writings of 1834 and Molesworth’s proposal in that year to establish the London and Westminster Review), perhaps also because the two parts were of considerably disproportionate lengths (121 vs. 24 leaves). Mill rearranged several paragraphs, condensed the first eight leaves of Part II to three and a half, and discarded the two-part division altogether (see pp. 616-17 below).
Except possibly for the revised leaves that replaced the rejected leaves of the original Part II and the ending of Part I, Harriet Mill read the entire MS, marking passages with lines, X’s, and question marks beside the text, deleting and sometimes rewriting Mill’s sentences, here and there commenting in the space at left; and Mill followed many of her suggestions and accepted most of her pencilled alterations by rewriting them in ink. A sizable proportion of her markings are editorial in character, calling attention to wordiness, vagueness, inaccuracy of expression, repetition of word or phrase, and the like “minuter matters of composition” (see p. 255); but she was also the originator of some major changes in the texture and tone of the work. In response to her markings Mill suppressed personal and family details that, had they been retained, would have made the Autobiography a warmer, if often more critical document, and she exerted extensive influence on the several versions in which he attempted to describe his practical deficiencies (see pp. 608-11) and on the account he wrote of their relations in the original Part II. While “HTM” appears frequently in the textual apparatus, the notes report only the most significant of her markings and alterations, and do not adequately convey the pervasiveness of her pencil in the MS.46
Mill returned to the work sometime in 1861, two or three years after the death of his wife, and on this occasion wrote the first 162 leaves of the Columbia MS, the text from the beginning through the present 251.9.47 Most of this, of course, was revision rather than initial composition—the “second writing” that Mill refers to in describing the “double redaction” method by which “all my books have been composed” (see pp. 229-31)—but, although the Early Draft on which it was based is itself, in its final stage, a highly finished piece of writing, the new version is substantially different. Between the Early Draft and the corresponding text of the Columbia MS there are some 2,600 substantive differences, large and small (the figure is offered simply as a rough indication of the frequency of revision; the alteration of a single word counts as one substantive change, and the omission or addition of an entire paragraph or more also counts as one). The number and nature of the differences make impracticable the usual method of recording variants in this edition. We have, therefore, chosen to present the Early Draft and the Columbia MS as parallel texts on facing pages, with spacing adjusted to bring corresponding passages, as much as possible, opposite one another. As a result, blank spaces (and even whole blank pages) on one side or the other immediately call attention to the most extensive of the revisions. Some of the less obvious may be mentioned briefly.
With the distance gained by the passing of seven or more years since his writing of the Early Draft, Mill viewed the events of his life with increased detachment. He could now, for example, add a mitigating comparison to his description of heavy dejection during his mental crisis, by seeing it as like “the state . . . in which converts to Methodism usually are, when smitten by their first ‘conviction of sin,’ ” and go on, less dramatically. “In all probability my case was by no means so peculiar as I fancied it, and I doubt not that many others have passed through a similar state” (pp. 137, 145). This new objectivity dictated a number of changes by which earlier outbursts of egotism, contrasting strikingly with the characteristic self-effacement that marks much of the work, were deflated or restrained. Occasionally, for passages first written specifically about himself, Mill substituted generalization (compare the two versions of the concluding statement about Plato’s influence, pp. 24, 25); and many particulars of biographical detail were omitted in the revised account: his meeting with the Frenchmen Ternaux, Destutt de Tracy, Dunoyer, and others (p. 62), “emulation of a little manuscript essay of Mr. Grote” in attempting his first argumentative composition (p. 72), writing an early essay replying to Paley’s Natural Theology (p. 74), keeping a journal “on the model of Grimm’s Correspondence” and contributing three or four articles to a projected “Philosophical Dictionary, suggested by Voltaire’s” (p. 110), weekly evening meetings to study elocution (p. 126), his elaborate speech in reply to Thirlwall (p. 128), his enthusiastic admiration in response to Carlyle’s article on Johnson (p. 182), and so on. The revised life is less full, less varied in texture, than that of the Early Draft.
Here and there Mill toned down his recollections of family relationships and especially of his father. Indirect references to his mother, in speaking of his father’s “ill assorted marriage,” “to which he had not, and never could have supposed that he had, the inducements of kindred intellect, tastes, or pursuits” (pp. 52, 6), are charitably omitted. James Mill’s “authority and indignation” is rewritten as “displeasure” (pp. 14, 15); and the fact that he “often mockingly caricatured” his son’s bad reading aloud is discarded (p. 26), along with a number of other sentences and phrases of similar tendency (compare the summary comments on the severity of his upbringing at 52.19-21 and 53.28-9). By changes of this sort, and the addition of several sentences comparing James Mill with Bentham (p. 213), the revised version comes considerably closer than the earlier to being, in the passages describing his father, a eulogy.48 The same access of charity is evident in recollections of associates outside his family. He cut out the greater part of his “character” of Roebuck (pp. 154-8), softened his critique of Maurice (pp. 160-1), rewrote his account of Sterling (pp. 162, 161), dropped a nasty paragraph on Sarah Austin (p. 186), and resorted to anonymity (“My father and I had hoped that some competent leader might arise; some man of philosophic attainments and popular talents”) in place of several sentences of harsh commentary on George Grote’s lack of courage, energy, and activity (pp. 202, 204-5).
The more formal and generalized character of the later version is continued in the last part that Mill wrote, the forty-eight leaves of the K gathering in the Columbia MS, containing the text of the work from the present 251.10 to the end. This was drafted in the winter of 1869-70.49 Mill presumably also gave the earlier part of the MS a final polish at this time (there are in this part a few interlineations and other alterations in darker ink than the rest); there is no evidence of any authoritative changes in the work after this date.50 At this point other hands take over, and the text deteriorates.
In a codicil to his will dated 14 February, 1872, Mill names Helen Taylor as his literary executor “with full and absolute power and license . . . to edit all or any of my literary works and to publish all or any of my manuscripts as she in her sole discretion may think fit.” He then specifically mentions the Autobiography:
And whereas in these days no one is secure against attempts to make money out of his memory by means of pretended biographies I therefore think it necessary to state that I have written a short account of my life which I leave to the absolute charge and controul of my said stepdaughter Miss Helen Taylor to be published or not at her will and discretion and in the event of her death in my lifetime to the charge and controul of William Thomas Thornton [a longtime colleague of Mill’s at the India House] of No. 23 Queens Gardens Hyde Park Square on condition that he publishes the same within two years of my decease.
Mill died at Avignon on 7 May, 1873, and the will was proved in London on 5 September. By the latter date the Autobiography was already set in type and about to be printed.
Though Helen Taylor may have begun copying the Columbia MS in France before Mill’s death, the greater part of the Rylands transcript was made afterward, in the summer of 1873, when she was in England “pressing on as quickly as I am able” with the publication of the work, “having come to England for that purpose only.”51 In the last 236 leaves of the Rylands MS, which constitute about five-sixths of the whole, Helen Taylor and Mary Colman copied discontinuous sections of the Columbia MS simultaneously (the former doing Columbia MS gatherings B, E, G, H, I, and K, the latter doing C, D, and F), and there is further evidence of haste in the great number of errors in these leaves, and in the fact that although Helen Taylor here and there corrected and punctuated Mary Colman’s parts of the transcript, she clearly did not read them over entirely or attempt to prepare them in any thorough way for the press. Mary Colman’s pages of the transcript went to the printer with more than 1,200 variants from Mill’s text unaltered, including some 170 substantive variants—all of them errors, and many quite obvious. Altogether, when we add the considerably longer stretches copied by Helen Taylor and the twenty-three leaves at the beginning in the hand of the unidentified French copyist, the transcript has over 2,650 variants, including more than 450 substantives, from the MS that was its immediate source.
The Autobiography was published by Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, “8vo. price 7s. 6d.,” on 17 October, 1873.52 The most significant of the differences between the first printed text and that of the Columbia MS are (1) the omission of the first paragraph that Mill wrote when he took up the work again in 1869-70 (the present 251.10-17); (2) the rearrangement of the remaining nine paragraphs of transition between the 1861 and 1869-70 parts of the MS (247.35-251.9, 251.18-261.12) into the order 4-5, 1-3, 9, 6-8 (so that 1873 has, in succession, 251.18-257.32, 247.35-251.9, 261.8-12, 257.33-261.7); and (3) the excision of ten mostly short passages (563 words altogether) referring to Helen Taylor.53 In addition to these, there are some eighty other substantive differences of varying length and importance,54 and, as one would expect in comparing any MS text with a printed version, hundreds of differences in the accidentals of punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and word-division.
The evidence of rearranged and partly rewritten leaves in the Rylands MS shows that Helen Taylor originally copied all ten of Mill’s paragraphs beginning at 247.35 in their original order, and that she dropped 251.10-17 and rearranged the others as a revision in the transcript. The cancellation of the ten passages referring to herself, on the other hand, as the spaced asterisks replacing them in 1873 make clear, was done at proof stage.55 The rest of the substantive differences between the Columbia MS and the printed text represent errors and alterations originating in the Rylands transcript and then further changes made by the 1873 compositor and/or the proof-correctors. It is remarkable that only sixty of the more than 450 substantive errors in the Rylands transcript got into print. Someone—most likely Helen Taylor, but perhaps also Alexander Bain, who we know had a text of the work in hand in the weeks just before it was published—read proofs fairly carefully against the Columbia MS, and restored Mill’s wording in some 390 places. The first printed text could have been much worse.
The 1873 edition (reprinted many times in London and New York) remained the sole source of text until September, 1924, when the Columbia University Press issued Autobiography of John Stuart Mill Published for the First Time without Alterations or Omissions from the Original Manuscript in the Possession of Columbia University, with a Preface by John Jacob Coss (and, as the Preface explains, the “editorial work . . . undertaken by Mr. Roger Howson”). Considerably more faithful than the text of 1873, this nevertheless departs from readings of Mill’s MS in more than nine hundred particulars, including some seventy errors of wording and paragraphing, many of which originated in the Rylands transcript and 1873, on the latter of which Howson relied too much in his attempts to decipher Mill’s hand. It was, however (as it should have been), the standard edition for the next forty-five years, although, until the textual puzzles were untangled in the early 1960s, scholars and critics sometimes used another text also published in 1924, Harold J. Laski’s Oxford World’s Classics edition, which is an imperfect and unedited reprint of the first edition. The second twentieth-century text based on the Columbia MS is that in the Riverside paperback edited by Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969). This improves on the accuracy of the 1924 Columbia edition in the nine hundred particulars just mentioned, and has been the most reliable text for the past decade. The third editing from the Columbia MS is that in the present volume. It corrects “their contraries” to “the contraries” at 53.1 (Mill wrote “their” but then deleted “ir”) and restores “given to the world” to Mill’s note at 253n.22 (words deleted by Helen Taylor’s pencil in the MS); otherwise it is substantively identical with the text published in 1969. In the present edition the reader can, as mentioned, compare at a glance this text with that of the Early Draft in various stages, aided by the editorial apparatus described later in this introduction.
[2 ]References to material printed in this volume are normally given in the text. The third of these stated purposes, it should be noted, is not present in the corresponding text of the Early Draft.
[4 ]P. 251. The composition of the concluding pages of Chap. vii is described on p. xxvii below.
[5 ]The acknowledgments are not extensive, though Helen Taylor is given a page explicitly (and more implicitly), and Thomas Hare’s writings are also given a page.
[6 ]If we include the discussion of his writings while he was a member of parliament, the account fills about twenty pages, whereas that of his crisis occupies about eight.
[7 ]See Earlier Letters [EL], ed. Francis E. Mineka, CW, Vols. XII-XIII (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963), Vol. XII, pp. 6-10.
[8 ]See Anna J. Mill, ed., John Mill’s Boyhood Visit to France (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960), esp. pp. 24, 28, 35, 43, 50.
[9 ]Given Mill’s attitude towards his own life, it is not surprising that the Autobiography lacks particularity of detail. But there are some sentences that convey a sense of luminous memory breaking through the calm level. Often these have to do with his father’s use of the Socratic method in teaching: “my recollection,” he says, “is almost wholly of failures, hardly ever of success” (p. 35). Earlier he had remarked that he “well” remembered “how, and in what particular walk,” his father had attempted to get him to understand syllogistic logic (p. 21); here he goes on to mention what was obviously vivid in his mind, forty years after the event, his inability to define “idea,” and his father’s challenging him for having said that “something was true in theory but required correction in practice” (p. 35). Shortly thereafter he says he remembers “the very place in Hyde Park where, in [his] fourteenth year,” his father explained to him how unusual a person his education had made him (p. 37). Perhaps the most surprising passage is that concerning Ford Abbey, where the grounds, Mill (with his wife’s help) says, “were riant and secluded, umbrageous, and full of the sound of falling waters” (p. 57). More often the emotion is excluded with the telling detail, and only retracing the process of revision gives an opening: he mentions reading Dugald Stewart on reasoning “a second or third time” (originally he had written—probably correctly—“third or fourth”), but he cancelled “sitting in the garden at Mickleham” (where the Mills hada cottage). The detail is striking for anyone who has handled the bulky folios of Stewart, another matter that Mill omits. (Pp. 188-9.)
[10 ]Probably the one he intended to tell most against a general application of his father’s methods is that on p. 37, where Mill says that much of what was accomplished was incompatible with “any great amount of intercourse with other boys.” (It need not be said that this pre-Freudian remark has no special reference to the English public schools.)
[11 ]See John Arthur Roebuck’s account in his Life and Letters, ed. R. E. Leader (London: Arnold, 1897), pp. 25-8. See also pp. 306-7, where Leader gives Roebuck’s speech at an election meeting in support of Mill’s candidacy for Westminster (reported in the Morning Star, 7 Apr., 1865, p. 2).
[12 ]See John M. Robson, “John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, with Some Observations on James Mill,” in Essays in English Literature Presented to A. S. P. Woodhouse, ed. M. MacLure and F. W. Watt (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964), p. 254.
[13 ]One, “On the Utility of Knowledge,” was dated 1823 by its editor, H. J. Laski (who had the MS in his possession); see Mill’s Autobiography, ed. Laski (London: Oxford University Press, 1924), pp. 267-74. The MS of the other, “On Parliamentary Reform,” is inscribed by Mill “1823 or 24” (Mill-Taylor Collection, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics).
[14 ]The Utilitarian Society included William Prescott (Grote’s banking partner), William Eyton Tooke, William Ellis, George John Graham, and John Arthur Roebuck; the Society of Students of Mental Philosophy (which Harriet Grote called “the Brangles”) included all these (though Tooke is not named in known sources) plus, at one time or another, George Grote, Horace Grant, Henry Cole, Edward Lytton Bulwer, “two brothers Whitmore” (probably George and William, who were members of the London Debating Society), and [John?] Wilson. (See Textual Introduction, A System of Logic, CW, Vols. VII-VIII [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973], Vol. VII, p. liii, and the sources there cited, and F. E. Sparshott, Introduction, Essays on Philosophy and the Classics, CW, Vol. XI [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978], p. viii n.)
[15 ]He mentions Roebuck, Ellis, and Charles Austin (pp. 127-9).
[16 ]See pp. 129-33. Roebuck was (for most of the period) Mill’s major ally, but many other friends joined in the fray. The Society continued for a few years after Mill (with John Sterling, a new friend made through the Society) withdrew in 1829.
[17 ]P. 123. Mill’s assertion that he “learnt German” at this time, and his later mention of reading “Goethe and other Germans” (adding in an earlier version, “either in the original or in translations,” p. 160b), merit attention, because the question whether he read the language is often raised, especially in connection with his philosophy. The Hamiltonian method (set out in James Hamilton, The History, Principles, Practice and Results of the Hamiltonian System [Manchester, Sowler, 1829]) involved immediate word for word translation by the student, the method originally used, and apparently still approved, by James Mill, who, on 15 Nov., 1825, was one of a group that examined “eight lads” of poor families who had been learning Latin, French, and Italian by this system (Morning Chronicle, 16 Nov., 1825).
[18 ]In the Early Draft the sentence as first written reinforced the point by continuing, “than during the next few years.” Harriet Taylor underscored “few” and Mill responded with the question, “meaning of this mark?” Her answer, whatever it was, led to the deletion of the words.
[19 ]There are references on pp. 21, 147-9. He played the piano (and composed in an amateur way); the piano he used in France still exists, in Fondation Flandreysy-Espérandieu, Palais du Roure, Avignon.
[20 ]See John M. Robson, “J. S. Mill’s Theory of Poetry,” University of Toronto Quarterly, XXIX (July, 1960), 420-37, and, for a more personal application of the theory, Robson, “Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill. Artist and Scientist,” Queen’s Quarterly, LXXIII (Summer, 1966), 167-86.
[21 ]Mill surely knew of Fox, if he had not actually met him, as early as 1824, for Fox contributed to the first number of the Westminster the lead article, which almost certainly is one of the two Mill says he took most to heart (see p. 96 below).
[22 ]3 July, 1831, pp. 420-1; 8 Apr., 1832, p. 230, 21 Apr., 1833, p. 245; 20 Apr., 1834, p. 244, and 4 Jan., 1835, p. 4.
[23 ]17 Mar., 1833, pp. 164-5; 14 Apr., 1833, pp. 229-30; 16 June, 1833, pp. 372-3; 8 Sept., 1833, p. 567; 15 Dec., 1833, pp. 788-9; 12 Jan., 1834, p. 21.
[24 ]Monthly Repository, n.s. VII (Mar., 1833), 215, and ibid. (Sept., 1833), 601, and 593.
[25 ]As an example (not a complete account), the following persons, all of whom most certainly influenced Mill in some significant way, are, except as noted, given two sentences or less: Ricardo, Joseph Hume, Samuel Bentham and his family (about five sentences), Mill’s teachers in France, Say (four sentences), W. E. Tooke, William Ellis, G. J. Graham, Thirlwall (three sentences), Coleridge, Goethe, Fonblanque (three sentences), and Bain.
[28 ]Though Helen Taylor had nothing to do with the formation of Mill’s central views, she was a major influence on the expression of his ideas and on his actions in the last decade of his life.
[29 ]One of them seems best relegated to a footnote, important as it is: would it not have been instructive for him to have given more space tothe influence on him of the dead (Aristotle, Bacon, Locke, as well as the acknowledged Plato)?
[30 ]This section on the composition of the work and the transmission and first publication of the text draws (sometimes verbatim) on two previous accounts by Jack Stillinger—“The Text of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, XLIII (Sept., 1960), 220-42, and the introduction to The Early Draft of John Stuart Mill’s “Autobiography.” These in turn are indebted to Albert William Levi’s pioneer work in “The Writing of Mill’s Autobiography,” Ethics, LXI (July, 1951), 284-96.
[31 ]He used the same method in the extant MSS of “Notes on Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato” (see Textual Introduction, Essays on Philosophy and the Classics, CW, Vol. XI, pp. lxxxi-lxxxii, and illustration facing p. 175) and in the surviving MS page of “The Silk Trade” (see Essays on Economics and Society, CW, Vol. IV [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967], illustration facing p. 138).
[32 ]Diary entry for 19 Jan., 1854, in The Letters of John Stuart Mill, ed. Hugh S. R. Elliot, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1910), Vol. II, p. 361.
[33 ]LL, CW, Vol. XIV, pp. 137-8 (23 Jan., 1854) (At the end of this passage, as frequently elsewhere in his letters to her, Mill refers to his wife in the third person.)
[34 ]Ibid., p. 154. Between 23 Jan. and 10 Feb. the “Life” is mentioned briefly in two other letters: “I fancy I see one large or two small posthumous volumes of Essays, with the Life at their head,” he writes on 29 Jan. (ibid., p. 142); and on 4 Feb. he promises to “look again through the Life” when he has finished rewriting “Nature” (ibid., p. 149). The “Essays” that he was envisioning in the first of these (29 Jan.) include “Nature,” “Utility of Religion,” On Liberty, and some pieces later incorporated into Utilitarianism; presumably they are also the “various Essays, for eventual publication, on some of the fundamental questions of human and social life” that he refers to toward the end of the Autobiography (p. 245 below). See Textual Introduction, Essays on Ethics, Religion and Society, CW, Vol. X (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), pp. cxxii-cxxix.
[35 ]But apparently not the whole of Part II—or, more specifically, not the text of RII 20 (see the fourth paragraph below, and App. G, pp. 616-17)—since Mill says in both letters that he has written nothing of their “private circumstances.” Two breaks in the composition of the original Part II are evident from changes in pen, the first following the text of the extract given from RII.1-8 (pp. 617-24 below), the second coming after the sentence ending at 222.20 (“ . . . did not know what to say.”)
[36 ]LL, CW, Vol. XIV, p. 131.
[37 ]Ibid., p. 159.
[38 ]F. A. Hayek, John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951), p. 196.
[39 ]LL, CW, Vol. XIV, p. 163.
[40 ]Letters of John Stuart Mill, ed. Elliot, Vol. II, p. 373.
[41 ]LL, CW, Vol. XIV, pp. 165-6.
[42 ]Ibid., pp. 152, 178.
[43 ]Levi, “The Writing of Mill’s Autobiography,” p. 292. The passage from RII.20 was rewritten as the present 236.15-24. See also the textual notes on pp. 236-7.
[44 ]LL, CW, Vol. XIV, p. 168.
[45 ]Ibid., p. 190.
[46 ]Her pencilled markings, alterations, and comments appear in nearly a hundred of the 169 leaves, they are absent most notably in the revised leaves that replaced R119-21, RII.1-8, 20, and 24. Occasional markings and alterations of Mill’s revisions at left—revisions made as a result of her earlier markings (e.g., in the discarded versions given in the long textual note on pp. 64-5)—are evidence that she read at least some of the MS twice.
[47 ]The dating is based on Helen Taylor’s notes in the 1873 first edition, pp. 240, 251. “Written about 1861” appended to the end of the paragraph at 247.17 in the present volume, and “What precedes was written or revised previous to, or during the year 1861. What follows was written in 1870” appended to the end of the paragraph at 251.9. As is explained below, several paragraphs of Columbia MS text were reordered in the Rylands transcript (and thence in the 1873 edition) in the span where the latter note occurs. But 251.9 is where the text of gathering I of the Columbia MS leaves off, and 251.10 is the beginning of K; it seems virtually certain that the dating in the 1873 note should be applied to (because it originally derived from) this division in the MS. There are a few details in the text before 251.10 that postdate the year 1861—e.g., the references on pp. 79 and 105 to John Romilly as “Lord Romilly” (his title beginning in 1865)—but these are in every instance darker-ink interlineations in the Columbia MS and not part of the original writing.
[48 ]This is how Mill himself viewed it. In a letter of 26 Nov., 1865, he thanks George Grote for “doing justice to my father” in an article in the Westminster Review, and adds. “My own contribution to his memory is already written in a MS designed for posthumous publication [i.e., the Autobiography]. though if I live more than a few years longer, I shall very likely publish it while I am alive” (LL, CW, Vol. XVI, p. 1121).
[49 ]The dating is based on the second of Helen Taylor’s notes quoted in n. 47 just above, Mill’s parenthetical date in the text at 276.17, and the first sentence of Helen Taylor’s continuation given below in App. H (p. 625), all of which refer to 1870 or “the winter of 1869-1870.”
[50 ]Except possibly in one instance (at 251.42), Mill did not respond to, and may never have seen, the handful of alterations and comments pencilled by Helen Taylor in the Columbia MS. For the record, they are as follows: 47.28-9, deletion of the five-word parenthesis; 55.4, deletion of a redundant “in education” after “dispensed with” (an emendation followed in the present text); 193.27, “Not true” written on the opposite verso and connected specifically to the words “or artistic tastes”: 195.6, “Miss Flower” (with the initials “HT”) also on the opposite verso, identifying the “person of genius”, 251.28-9, alteration of “preceded, all . . . her work” to read “preceded it, all . . . my wife’s work”, 251.42, interlineation of “perhaps” (subsequently cancelled in ink, but not necessarily by Mill) after “except”; 253n.22, deletion of “given to the world”; and 274.10, interlineation of “English” before “electors.” Helen Taylor’s note printed below on p. 282 is written in ink.
[51 ]From an undated pencil draft written on the back of a note to her from the editor Howard Evans, 30 July, 1873 (Mill-Taylor Collection, British Library of Political and Economic Science). Both the Rylands transcript and the 1873 first edition are minutely described, and the dating discussed, in “The Text of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography” (see n. 30 above). Though it has no independent authority, the transcript is of considerable importance textually. Before its rediscovery in 1959, there existed two separate texts of the full work, in the Columbia MS and the 1873 edition, and scholars had no knowledge of their relative authority (there was always the possibility that Mill himself provided copy, in another MS now lost, for the 1873 printing). The Rylands MS shows indisputably that Mill had no direct hand in the copy-text from which 1873 was printed, and thus establishes the Columbia MS as the single authoritative source for the final version of the work.
[52 ]Athenaeum, 11, 18 Oct., 1873, pp. 451, 508, and The Times, 17 Oct., 1873, p. 6. The “second edition” of 1873 is apparently a reissue of sheets of the first impression, with a cancellans title leaf pasted to the stub of the original title and a twelve-page index inserted at the end. A sub-edition was issued in New York, by Henry Holt and Co., from plates of the first London issue, in the first week of Nov., 1873.
[53 ]264.30-1 (“Miss Helen Taylor . . . character,”), 264.33-8 (“, and have . . . adequate idea”); 264.39-265.1 (“—another companion . . . quality”); 265.3-4 (“, the least . . . attached to it”), 265.30-1 (“at my daughter’s suggestion”); 265.35-6 (“it was enriched . . . writing. But”); 268.10-13 (“And I shall . . . till our return.”); 285.19-37 (“The time . . . others.”); 286.30-287.4 (“At this time . . . were hers.”); 290.16 (“by my daughter and myself,”)
[54 ]These are listed in “The Text of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography,” pp. 232-3, 237.
[55 ]She worried a great deal over these passages. In letters of 6 and 13 Sept., 1873, Alexander Bain had urged her to omit the most extravagant parts of Mill’s description of her mother as well as herself: “I greatly doubt the propriety of your printing those sentences where he declares her to be a greater poet than Carlyle . . . and a greater thinker than himself—and again, a greater leader than his father (or at all events an equal)” (pp. 183, 213 in the present volume); “I would recommend to you, under all the circumstances, to decline the compliment, for yourself, of being more original than Mr Mill” (Bain refers specifically to the passage at the top of p. 265). Her eloquent reply of 14 Sept., too long to be included here, should be read in full; see “The Text of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography,” pp. 234-7. The result was a compromise: retention of the passages about her mother on the grounds that Mill meant what he said, and omission of the references to herself because Mill “agreed . . . that nothing known from private intercourse ought to be published if it gives pain to living persons.”