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Writings of Junius Redivivus [I] - 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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Writings of Junius Redivivus [I]
the prolific and popular writer who has stumbled upon this pseudonyme, literally, as we surmise, “in default of a better,” (for a title less indicative of his individualizing peculiarities could not well have been chosen,) has recently made himself known through our pages to as many of the readers of the Repository as had not made his acquaintance previously through some other medium.[*] By including us among the many organs of utterance through which he speaks forth the truths which are in him, to a world which never stood more in need of truths so profitable, he has afforded to us a testimonial of his good wishes and good opinion, which we prize highly, but which would be somewhat less precious to us, if it carried with it any obligation to be silent concerning the good we think of him. We know to what constructions we expose ourselves in praising an avowed contributor to our work; but no person shall be a contributor to any work of ours whom we cannot conscientiously praise As of all other friends, so of literary auxiliaries, we hold nothing unfit to be spoken which is fit to be thought. And they who, in all cases without exception, regulate their speech by no other rule than that of sincerity and simplicity, are indeed more liable to misconstruction on any single occasion than those who are studious of appearances, but less so in their total career: on that security we rely.
On the present occasion our remarks will relate, not so much to the two books of which we have transcribed the titles, or any of the other writings of the same author, but rather to the qualities of the author himself as therein exhibited. Nor is this, when rightly considered, the least important of the aspects under which a book, be it ever so valuable, (unless it be a book of pure science,) can be looked at. Let the word be what it may, so it be but spoken with a truthful intent, this one thing must be interesting in it, that it has been spoken by man—that it is the authentic record of something which has actually been thought or felt by a human being. Let that be sure, and even though in every other sense the word be false, there is a truth in it greater than that which it affects to communicate: we learn from it to know one human soul. “Man is infinitely precious to man,”[*] not only because where sympathy is not, what we term to live is but to get through life, but because in all of us, except here and there a star-like, self-poised nature, which seems to have attained without a struggle the heights to which others must clamber in sore travail and distress, the beginning of all nobleness and strength is the faith that such nobleness and such strength have existed and do exist in others, how few soever and how scattered. A book which gives evidence of any rare kind of moral qualities in its author is a treasure to which all the contents of all other books are as dross. What is there in the writings even of Plato or of Milton so eternally valuable to us as the assurance they give that a Plato and a Milton have been? been in this very world of ours, where, therefore, we also, according to the measure of our opportunities, may, if we will, be the like. The gospel itself is not more a gospel (ἐυαγγελίον) by the doctrines it teaches, than because it is the record of the life of Christ.
It is one of the evils of modern periodical writings, that we rarely learn from them to know their author. In those sibylline leaves wherein men scatter abroad their thoughts, or what seem their thoughts, we have little means of identifying the productions of the same sibyl; and no one particular oracle affords by itself sufficient materials for judging whether the prophet be a real soothsayer. It is so easy in a single article to pass off adopted ideas and feelings for the genuine produce of the writer’s mind; it is so difficult on one trial to detect him who, aiming only at the plausible, finds and converts to that meaner purpose the same arguments which occur to him who is earnestly seeking for the true. Would but every person who writes anonymously adopt, like Junius Redivivus, a uniform signature, whereby all the emanations of one individual mind might have their common origin attested, great would be the advantage to upright and truthful writing, and great the increase of difficulties to imposture in all its kinds and degrees. A periodical writer would then have a character to lose or to gain; the unfairness, or ignorance, or presumption which he might manifest in one production, would have their due influence in diminishing the credit of another; a comparison between different writings of the same author would disclose whether his opinions varied according to the point he had to carry, or wavered from the absence of any fixed principles of judgment. A man who pretends to the intellect or the virtue which he has not, may deceive once, but he will betray himself somewhere: it is easy to keep up a false seeming for the space of an article, but difficult for a whole literary life. If the writer, on the contrary, be wise and honest, the more we read of his writings, knowing them to be his, the more thoroughly we shall trust him, and the better we shall learn to comprehend him. Every one of his opinions or sentiments which comes to our knowledge helps us to a more perfect understanding of all the rest; and the light they reflect on each other is a protection to the author against having his meaning mistaken, worth all precautions taken together. He may then write with directness and freedom, not timidly guarding himself by a running comment of deprecatory explanation, nor encumbering his argument or interrupting the flow of his feelings by qualifications or reserves which may better be supplied from the reader’s previous acquaintance with the writer. The importance of this consideration will be most apparent to those who are most sensible how intimately all truths are connected: to those who know, that only by the general cast of an author’s opinions and sentiments, and not by any sufficient explanation which he usually has it in his power to give on that particular occasion, can we with certainty determine the sense in which he understands, and means us to understand, his own propositions.
The foregoing remarks cannot be better illustrated than by the example of the writer who furnished the occasion on which they are made. We prize the writings of Junius Redivivus for the many valuable truths which are embodied and diffused in them, truths often, as we cheerfully acknowledge, new to us, almost always newly illustrated, and to have arrived at which required, if not a subtle and profound, a penetrating, sagacious, and enlarged understanding. But this, which is so much, is the least part of what we owe to Junius Redivivus, nor are his writings chiefly precious for what they are, but for what they show him to be: in so far as is possible for inanimate letter-press, they give to the world, once more, assurance of a man. It is men the world lacks now, much more than books; or if it wants books, wants them principally for lack of men, of old mankind were often so far superior to their ideas; now their ideas are so far superior to them. There are truths spread abroad in the world in ample measure, were there but the intellect to grasp them, and the strength to act up to them. But how often does it happen that when he is most wanted, we know where to look for the man who is possessed by the truth—whose mind has absorbed it, and, better still, of whose desires and affections it has become the paramount ruler! We do not mean by the truth, this or that little bit of truth here and there, but the all of truth which a conscientious man needs in order to shape his path through the world, much more to be a light and a protection to others:—the all, or but barely so much of it as is necessary for doing any one important thing well and thoroughly.
We are grateful, then, to Junius Redivivus, that he has put the mark of common parentage upon his mind’s offspring,—that he has not cut up his literary identity into separate and small fragments, each of which might have belonged to an entire being so far inferior to what (it is impossible not to believe) he is. For if any writings of the present age bespeak a strong, healthy, and well-proportioned mental frame, his do. If he had told us his name, his birth, parentage, station, profession, all these particulars the knowledge of which is usually termed knowledge of the man, that were probably nothing: of all that in any way concerns us, his moral and intellectual being, we have assurance sufficient. With all the freshness of youthful feelings, he unites an extent of practical experience and knowledge of life, impossible in one very young, and affording the happiest earnest that the fountains of emotion at which others drink and pass on, will flow beside his path, refreshing and inspiring the whole of his earthly journey. Onesided men commonly enforce their partial views with a vehemence and an air of strong conviction which persons of more comprehensive minds are often without, being unable to throw their whole souls into a part only of the truth which lies before them: but the advantage for which others are indebted to their narrowness, Junius Redivivus derives from the excitability and ardour of his temperament: the idea or feeling required by the immediate purpose, seems to possess him as entirely as if that were the only purpose he had in life: but the other idea or feeling which ought to accompany and qualify the first, is there in reality, though appearing not, unless called for: look somewhere else and you will find the remainder of the truth supplied, and what seemed partial in the feeling, corrected by tokens that all other feelings proper to the occasion, are equally strong and equally habitual. There is an evidence of hearty conviction and energetic will in all the writings of this author which compels the persuasion that he would be as ready to act upon all he professes as to profess it: being, as we may gather from the particulars he lets fall of his own life, inured to self-reliance, and not unaccustomed to difficulties or even to emergencies. He writes as one in whom there still survived something of the spirit of the ancient heroes, along with the superior humanity and the superior refinement of modern times.
It is seldom, indeed, that a wise man’s praise can be unqualified; yet of the man Junius Redivivus, as shown in his writings, there is little or nothing to be said on the disparaging side; of the works themselves somewhat. He is not a great writer: will he ever be? Possibly not: yet only perhaps because he does not desire it: he has never shown the capacity, but then he has never shown the wish, to produce a finished performance. Is this to be regretted? we hesitate to answer yes: great writers write for posterity, but frequent writers are those who do good in their generation; and no great writer, whom we remember, was a frequent writer, except Voltaire. Junius Redivivus writes far more powerfully than could be expected, from one who has written in two years as much as would amount to many volumes, and every word of it with thought. Writing of a very high order is thrown away when it is buried in periodicals, which are mostly read but once, and that hastily: yet the only access now to the general public, is through periodicals. An article in a newspaper or a magazine, is to the public mind no more than a drop of water on a stone; and like that, it produces its effect by repetition.
The peculiar “mission” of this age, (if we may be allowed to borrow from the new French school of philosophers a term which they have abused,)[*] is to popularize among the many, the more immediately practical results of the thought and experience of the few. This is marked out as the fittest employment for the present epoch, partly because now for the first time it can be done, partly because anything of a still higher description cannot; unless writers are willing to forego immediate usefulness, and take their chance, that what is neglected by their own age will reach posterity. In this, then, which is the great intellectual business of our time, Junius Redivivus is better qualified to render eminent service, than a more eminent writer. It is true, that all he has written, perhaps all he will ever have the inclination or the patience to write, will be ephemeral: but if each production only lasts its day or year, each new day or year produces a successor: and though his works shall perish, it will not be until they have planted in many minds, truths which shall survive them, and awakened in many hearts a spirit which will not die.
The staple of all popular writing in the present crumbling condition of the social fabric, must be politics: and politics predominate in the writings of Junius Redivivus. But he writes not as one to whom politics are all in all: he knows the limits of what laws and institutions can do: he never expresses himself, as if any form of polity could give to mankind even the outward requisites of happiness, much less render them actually happy, in spite of themselves, or as if a people individually ignorant and selfish, could as a community by any legerdemain of checks and balances conjure up a government better than the men by whom it is carried on. Politics with our author are important, but not all-important. The great concern with him is, the improvement of the human beings themselves: of which the improvement of their institutions will be a certain effect, may be in some degree a cause, and is so far even a necessary condition, that until it is accomplished, none of the other causes of improvement can have fair play. The individual man must after all work out his own destiny, not have it worked out for him by a king, or a House of Commons; but he can hardly be in a suitable frame of mind for seeing and feeling this, while he is smarting under the sense of hardship and wrong from other men. Nor is this the worst; for the laws of a country, to a great degree, make its morals. Power, and whatever confers power, have been in all ages the great objects of the admiration of mankind: the most obvious kind of power to common apprehension, is power in the state; and according as that is obtained by rank, court favour, riches, talents, or virtues, the favourable sentiments of mankind will attach themselves, and their ambition will be directed to one or another of these attributes. Plato expected no great improvement in the lot of humanity, until philosophers were kings, or kings philosophers:[*] without indulging so romantic a wish, we believe that in the many there will be little of the requisite culture of the internal nature, and therefore little increase even of outward enjoyments, until institutions are so framed, that the ascendency over the minds of men, which naturally accompanies the supreme direction of their worldly affairs, shall be exercised, we do not say by philosophers, but at the least by honest men, and men who with adequate practical talents combine the highest appreciation of speculative wisdom.
In politics, Junius Redivivus is a radical. But since there are various kinds of radicals, it is fitting to state to which variety of the species our author belongs. Some men (it has been well said) are radicals, only because they are not lords: this will not suit our author; who, it is evident, would scorn equally to accept or to submit to, irresponsible or unearned superiority. Others are radicals, because they are of a fretful and complaining disposition, and accustomed to think present evils worse than any future contingent ones: such men in the United States would be aristocrats: be the order of things what it may, it must have some faults peculiarly its own, and those faults in the estimation of such people ensure its condemnation: neither is our author one of these. He is full of that spirit of love, which suffers little besides loveliness to be visible where loveliness is, and which boils up, and explodes in indignation only when heated by the contact of evil unmixed or predominant. Even in a semi-barbarous people, like those of Spanish America, he finds ample food for admiration and sympathy; in the Tale of Tucuman, and elsewhere, he dwells with peculiar complacency upon whatever those nations afford of beautiful or noble. Others again are radicals, merely because the taxes are too high: they can conceive of no evil except poverty, and finding themselves poor, or seeing that their neighbours are so, think it is the fault of the Government for hindering them from being rich; not so our author: he sees that there is a cause independent of Government, which makes the majority poor, and keeps them so, where it is not counteracted either by natural or artificial checks; this is, the tendency of population to a more rapid increase than is compatible with high wages. No person has inculcated this truth with greater earnestness and perseverance, or in a manner more likely to impress it upon the minds of those who are most directly interested in it, than Junius Redivivus. And there is nothing by which he is more honourably distinguished, both from the demagogue, and from the more ignorant or narrow-minded of the radicals. This is one of the most striking instances of the remark we made, that his truths are seldom half-truths. A perception of the abuses of existing Governments without a sense of the dependence of wages on a limitation of the number of labourers, has led many into grievous errors: so has a perception of the latter half-truth without the former: but let a man once clearly perceive and understand both, and his aberrations in political opinion are by that sole fact restrained within comparatively narrow limits.
Our author is a radical, because he is convinced both from principle and from history, that is both from the experience of men and of nations, that power, without accountability to those over whom, and for whose benefit it is to be exercised, is for the most part a source of oppression to them, and of moral corruption to those in whom the power resides. On the same principle we are radicals also: not that we consider the above proposition to be true without exception: nor do we in any case look upon it as embracing the whole of what ought to be taken into consideration in forming our practical conclusions: but we hold it to contain as much of the truth, as is amply sufficient to prove all institutions worthless, which like most of those which now exist, are constructed in utter defiance, or entire negligence of it.
For the details of our author’s political opinions, and his applications of them to the existing state of society in England, we refer our readers to The Producing Man’s Companion, which has been revised and greatly enlarged in this second edition. We shall make no extracts, because, to convey any but a most partial view of the contents of the volume, would require more copious citations than our space admits of, and because so interesting, and so cheap, and portable a work, should be in the hands of every one whom words of ours can influence. A connected or systematic treatise we cannot call it: the wonder is, how with so little apparent order or concatenation in his ideas, the author has contrived always to think consistently with himself. The book is like those kinds of living creatures which have joints, but no limbs: no reason can be given why the animals, or why the book, should not be twice as long; why the writer stopped when he did, or why he did not stop sooner. But all his opinions are so nicely adjusted to one another; they seem mutually to receive and give so exactly the proper, and none but the proper modifications; that in his own mind it is clear his ideas are in their right places, though when poured out upon paper they defy the very notion of arrangement, and lie one upon another in a kind of heap. This would be disagreeable if the book were very long, but being short, and made up of parts so good in themselves, it scarcely needs that they should be more artfully put together.
Our author is a most minute observer, both of things and men; the extent of his miscellaneous information is truly surprising: and most of it has evidently been acquired by himself, not derived from books. He appears to be well versed in experimental physics, and familiar with the processes of very many branches of practical industry. His sagacity and ingenuity display themselves here also in numerous contrivances, and a still greater number of prophecies of contrivances, which will probably some time or other be fulfilled. But these belong neither to the works we are reviewing, nor to the general scope of this article.
One of the most delightful qualities of this author, his lively admiration and keen enjoyment of the beautiful in all its kinds, both spiritual and physical, has been nowhere more exemplified than in his contributions to our work; and our readers do not require from us any assurance of it. Besides the value of this quality in itself, it has saved him from an error which many, and they not the most narrow-minded of our social reformers, habitually fall into; the error of expecting that the regeneration of mankind, if practicable at all, is to be brought about exclusively by the cultivation of what they somewhat loosely term the reasoning faculty; forgetting that reasoning must be supplied with premises, complete as well as correct, if it is to arrive at any conclusions, and that it cannot furnish any test of the principles or facts from which it sets out; forgetting too that, even supposing perfect knowledge to be attained, no good will come of it, unless the ends, to which the means have been pointed out, are first desired. But of this, perhaps, on another occasion, and at greater length. Our object in introducing the topic was to observe, that this error demonstrates of those who hold it either a deficiency in themselves, of all mental faculties, except the calculating understanding, or else that the other powers are so uncultivated, or so ill-cultivated, as to be at habitual variance with that faculty. It is otherwise with Junius Redivivus: his sensibility to beauty has contributed largely to quicken his intellect and expand his views; and in nothing more so than in opening his eyes to the importance of poetry and art, as instruments of human improvement on the largest scale. Where the sense of beauty is wanting, or but faint, the understanding must be contracted: there is so much which a person, unfurnished with that sense, will never have observed, to which he will never have had his attention awakened: there is so much, of the value of which to the human mind he will be an incompetent and will be apt to be a prejudiced judge; so many of the most important means of human culture which he will not know the use of, which he is almost sure to undervalue, and of which he is at least unable to avail himself in his own efforts, whether for his own good or for that of the world. It is true of this as of all the other sensibilities, that without intellect they run wild; but without them, intellect is stunted. A time will come, when the education of both will proceed hand in hand; let us rather say, when the aid of culture will be more particularly invoked to strengthen the part which is relatively deficient or at lowest, to bestow the power of appreciation, when the quality to be appreciated is one which only nature can give.
Our author is as much of a poet as intense sensibility and vigorous intellect can make him, with the assistance of a memory richly stored with accurate pictures of things seen, and well seen, and keenly enjoyed, by himself. We do not think he has much fancy: his descriptions are extremely literal, and indeed profess to be so. The Tale of Tucuman, his longest poem, was avowedly composed, not to body forth the ideal, but to delineate the actual: “To convey,” he says in the preface, “in as agreeable a form as may be, a knowledge of the manners and customs of the Southern Americans: the descriptions,” he adds, “of scenery, costume, manners, and customs, are as accurate as though it were a prose work. Most of the incidents are of actual occurrence; and living beings have sat for the portraits of the actors.”[*] Having thus an object in view, altogether distinct from that of the poet and artist, the wonder is not great if he have not succeeded equally well in both. He had in reality a third purpose in addition; the inculcation of his opinions, concerning things in general, not excepting persons, in digressions, after the manner of Don Juan.[†] of which he has likewise imitated the versification. The work is interesting, though most readers will, we are afraid, skip a great part of the descriptive passages, for the sake of which all the rest would appear to have been written. The claim of this publication to the character of poetry rests, we think, upon the strong human sympathies which unfold themselves in some passages of the rather meagre story. In several of our author’s shorter poems, we think there is more poetry; though still of the same grade of excellence: no high order of imagination; little beyond memory and strong feeling; both of these, however, of the best kind, and quite sufficient to ensure his being always read with pleasure. The versification is often rugged, evidently from haste: when our author writes in verse, he should write more carefully, and alter more freely; otherwise it is not worth while: the only reason for preferring verse to prose, being the music of its sound.
WRITINGS OF JUNIUS REDIVIVUS [II]
[[*] ]Adams, in addition to three poems, had contributed four other items to the Monthly Repository: in n.s. VI, “Junius Redivivus on the Conduct of the Monthly Repository” (Dec., 1832), 793-7 (with reply); and in n.s. VII, “On the State of the Fine Arts in England” (Jan., 1833), 1-33, “Beauty” (Feb., 1833), 89-96, and “On the Condition of Women in England” (Apr., 1833—i.e., the same number as this review of his work by Mill), 217-31.
[[*] ]Thomas Carlyle, letter to Mill, 12 Jan., 1833, in The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Vol. VII, p. 300.
[[*] ]For the term, see Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, Nouveau christianisme (Paris: Bossange père, et al., 1825), pp. 76 and 87-8. Mill comments on the issue in a review in the Examiner, 2 Feb., 1834, pp. 68-9.
[[*] ]Republic, Vol. I, p. 508 (Bk. V, 473d).
[[*] ]A Tale of Tucuman, pp. 5 and 9.
[[†] ]Byron, Don Juan, a Poem, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Kay, 1825).