Front Page Titles (by Subject) Appendix C: Mill's Early Writing, 1811?-22 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I - Autobiography and Literary Essays
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Appendix C: Mill’s Early Writing, 1811?-22 - 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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Mill’s Early Writing, 1811?-22
mill’s references to the writing he did in childhood and youth are less detailed and circumstantial, in the main, than his references to his early reading (which is outlined in Appendix B, above). Nonetheless, the account is of considerable interest as indicating both what was required of him and what he undertook on his own, and as a rare indication of the childish and youthful aspirations and achievements of one later to achieve fame largely through his pen. Unfortunately, almost nothing of what he actually wrote has survived; we have only the beginning of one history (“The History of Rome”) and one poem (“Ode to Diana”), both printed above in Appendix A, a very considerable document, his “Traité de logique,” and the MS of an essay of 1822 (see nos. 2, 6, 20, 31 and 34 below).
The following list gives the approximate date of composition, with Mill’s age (in years) at the time (in most cases the date cannot be accurately fixed), and a few comments. A date such as that for no. 3—1813-16?—does not imply that the item was probably being written during that whole period, but that it was written some time during that period, though the terminal dates cannot be certainly established. The evidence is drawn from the Autobiography (A), the Early Draft (ED, with the page numbers in italics), the Journal and Notebook of his visit to France in 1820-21 (J), with some information from the Earlier Letters, Vol. XII of the Collected Works (EL), and elsewhere. Set exercises and notebooks are not included in the list, except analytical abstracts (see nos. 10-12, 17-19, and 32-3) and translations (see nos. 7 and 24). It should not be inferred that this list is complete, for Mill’s comments were usually written long after the event, except for those from the Journal and Notebook, which are much more dense. The account terminates in 1822; Mill’s first published writings, two letters on exchangeable value, appeared in the Traveller on 6 and 13 Dec., 1822.
1811. Aet. 5-6.
1. A “history of India.” In A, Mill mentions a “voluntary exercise” to which throughout his boyhood he “was much addicted,” the writing of histories. In ED, giving details not in A, he says this was “of course in imitation” of his father, and adds: “Almost as soon as I could hold a pen I must needs write a history of India too this was soon abandoned. . . .” Cf. App. B, no. 101. A17 (16)
1812. Aet. 6.
2. A “Roman history.” This he began after abandoning his history of India, and continued with for a long time. The opening pages of this history are printed above, in App. A, as “The History of Rome.” His narrative, he tells us, was “picked out of Hooke,” and his earliest extant letter, to Jeremy Bentham, dated July, 1812, asking for Vols. III and IV of Hooke (he has been “recapitulating” Vols. I and II), enables us to give the terminus a quo as 1812, which the notation on the manuscript, “by John Stuart Mill aged 6½ yrs,” confirms. Cf. App. B, no. 24. A17 (16); EL3
1813-16? Aet. 7-10?
3. An “abridgment of the Ancient Universal History.” (For the work abridged, see App. B, no. 57.) This is merely mentioned as written after his first Roman history. It and the next item are listed by Mill, it should be noted, just after his account (see A15) of his “private” historical reading between his eighth and twelfth years. See App. B, no. 51, for dating A17 (16)
4. A “History of Holland.” This was based on his “favorite Watson” and “an anonymous compilation” (see App. B, nos. 22, 23, and 58). In his letter to Samuel Bentham summarizing his education up to 30 July, 1819 (the date of the letter), he says, without giving any indication of the year meant. “I had carried a history of the United Provinces from their revolt from Spain, in the reign of Phillip II. to the accession of the Stadtholder, William III, to the throne of England.” For dating, see App. B, no. 51; see also no. 3 above. A17 (16); EL9
1813-14. Aet. 7.
5. In English verse, “as much as one book of a continuation of the Iliad.” This he undertook when he “first read Pope’s Homer,” as a voluntary exercise, under “the spontaneous promptings” of his “poetical ambition.” See App. B, no. 50. A19 (18)
1813-17? Aet. 7-11?
6. English poetry, “mostly addresses to some mythological personage or allegorical abstraction.” These were written at his father’s command, following on his beginning poetical composition with no. 5 above. The “Ode to Diana” printed above in App. A is undoubtedly one of these “addresses.” A19 (18)
1816? Aet. 9-10?
7. Translations of “Horace’s shorter poems.” This too was an exercise set by his father, and one can safely assume that there were similar ones later (see also no. 24 below). Since normally boys of the aspiring middle class were required at the time to concentrate on composition in the Classical languages, it should be noted that Mill says he was not required to compose at all in Greek, and only a little in Latin. Cf. App. B, nos. 84-8. A19 (18)
1813-17? Aet. 7-11?
8. A poem modelled on Thomson’s “Winter.” Again a set exercise. At this point, though probably not with reference solely to this composition, Mill says: “The verses I wrote were of course the merest rubbish, nor did I ever attain any facility of versification, but the practice may have been useful in making it easier for me, at a later period, to acquire readiness of expression.” Cf. App. B, no. 114. A19 (18)
1816-17. Aet. 10-11.
9. A “history of the Roman Government.” This more “serious” work was undertaken in his “eleventh and twelfth year,” Mill says in A; in his letter to Samuel Bentham he says merely that he had “begun to write a history of the Roman Government, . . . carried down to the Licinian Laws.” The account in A justifies the description of this history as more serious than his earlier attempts: it was “compiled (with the assistance of Hooke) from Livy and Dionysius: of which I wrote as much as would have made an octavo volume, extending to the epoch of the Licinian Laws. It was, in fact, an account of the struggles between the patricians and plebeians, which now engrossed all the interest in my mind which I had previously felt in the mere wars and conquests of the Romans. I discussed all the constitutional points as they arose: though quite ignorant of Niebuhr’s researches, I, by such lights as my father had given me, vindicated the Agrarian Laws on the evidence of Livy, and upheld to the best of my ability the Roman democratic party.” He then comments with reference to all his writings to that date: “A few years later, in my contempt of my childish efforts, I destroyed all these papers, not then anticipating that I could ever feel any curiosity about my first attempts at writing and reasoning.” And he concludes this section of his commentary by saying: “My father encouraged me in this useful amusement, though, as I think judiciously, he never asked to see what I wrote; so that I did not feel that in writing it I was accountable to any one, nor had the chilling sensation of being under a critical eye.” A17 (16); EL9
1817. Aet. 10-11.
10. A “synoptic table” of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Not mentioned in A or ED, this exercise (probably voluntary) is given in Mill’s letter to Samuel Bentham as part of his work in 1817. Cf. App. B, no. 106. EL8
1817? Aet. 10-11?
11. A “full analysis” of Demosthenes’ principal orations. Again probably voluntary. Cf. App. B, no. 66. A23 (22)
1818. Aet. 11-12.
12. A synoptic table of the first four books of Aristotle’s Organon. See App. B, no. 129, and no. 10 above. EL8
1818? Aet. 11-12?
13. A tragedy, probably in verse, “on the Roman emperor Otho,” based on Tacitus. (Cf. App. B, no. 130.) At A19n, just after mentioning the worthlessness of his poetical compositions (see no. 8 above), Mill says: “In a subsequent stage of boyhood, when these exercises had ceased to be compulsory, like most youthful writers I wrote tragedies; under the inspiration not so much of Shakespeare as of Joanna Baillie, whose Constantine Paleologus in particular appeared to me one of the most glorious of human compositions.” (Cf. App. B, no. 115.) In ED, the account is more detailed, and the tragedy on Otho, as well as the next three items, is mentioned. Probably the last two of these are referred to in his letter to Samuel Bentham, where he says: “I have now and then attempted to write Poetry. The last production of that kind at which I tried my hand was a tragedy. I have now another in view in which I hope to correct the fault of this.” (No date is given for the earlier one; the latter is dated by the letter itself, 30 July, 1819.) A19n (26); EL10
14. A verse tragedy “on the story of the Danaides.” For comment, see no. 13 above. ED26
1818-19? Aet. 12-13?
15. A verse tragedy “on a subject from Tacitus.” For comment, see no. 13 above. ED26
1819? Aet. 13?
16. A verse tragedy “on a subject . . . from Thucydides.” For comment, see no. 13 above. Cf. App. B, no. 10. ED26
1819. Aet. 12-13.
17. An “abstract” of Plato’s Republic. Mentioned only in Mill’s letter to Samuel Bentham. See App. B, no. 148. EL8
18. An “outline” of the “science” of political economy, based on his father’s oral expositions during their walks. His “written account” of each day’s discussions was rewritten “over and over again until it was clear, precise, and tolerably complete,” and was then used by James Mill as the basis of his Elements of Political Economy. Cf. App. B, no. 150. A31 (30); EL8
19. An “abstract” of Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy. The study of Ricardo’s work is mentioned in A and ED, but the “abstract” is listed only in the letter to Samuel Bentham. Cf. App. B, no. 151. A31 (30); EL8
May, 1820-Feb., 1821. Aet. 14-15.
20. A journal and a notebook. These were kept “according to [his father’s] injunctions” (J3) during his visit to France, recording his activities, reading, and observations on various aspects of the country. Excerpts from the journal were used by Alexander Bain in his biography of Mill. The journal MS was presented by Mill’s sister Clara to the British Museum (BL Add. MS 31909). The notebook, discovered in 1956, is in the possession of Professor Anna Jean Mill; see her ed., John Mill’s Boyhood Visit to France: A Journal and Notebook (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960). The following items (nos. 21-31), dating from 15 May, 1820, to 6 Feb., 1821 (though Mill did not return to England until July, 1821), derive from these sources; they are not mentioned in A or ED.
May-June, 1820. Aet. 14.
21. A “dialogue in continuation” of his father’s “dialogue on government” (the latter not to be confused with the famous essay by James Mill, “Government,” which, as is indicated at J42, the young Mill had not seen at the time). The dialogue having been begun on 24 May, its outline was complete on the 25th; Mill mentions working on it on 7, 8, and 10 June, finishing it on the 11th, and revising it on the 12th. On 6 July, in two sessions, he began to copy and “correct” his dialogue, and on the 11th he writes to his father: “I have taken great pains with the expression as well as with the reasoning, and I hope you will be pleased with it.” And he promises to send it soon; however, on 20 Nov. he reread and started to correct it. On f. 49v of his Notebook there is what appears to be the beginning of the dialogue. J8-13, 35-6, 42, 85, 103
June-Aug., 1820. Aet. 14.
22. A “Livre Statistique [et Géographique], consisting of the Departments of France with their chefs lieux, the rivers, . . . population, . . . &c. &c.” This he worked on steadily through June, July, and August. Presumably it included his “table of 58 rivers, the principal in France, classified and arranged; with the whole of their course, that is to say, what departments each passes through and what are the chief towns on their banks,” on which he was working on 5 July (J35). A cahier was bought at the end of July so that he could copy his livre into it. J15-59, 62
July, 1820. Aet. 14.
23. “Chemical classification tables” (J53). The preparation of these was a constant preoccupation during July, when more than once he returned, late in the day, after completing his lessons, to what was clearly an exciting pleasure. Cf. App. B, no. 100. J36-56
July-Oct.?, 1820. Aet. 14.
24. Translations from Latin into French (set exercises by his French teacher, Sauvage). These included, as well as unspecified works, the first ode of Horace (with some observations on it), the monologue of Juno in Book I of the Aeneid and an “Analyse” of it (J45), Sallust’s speech of Cataline to his accomplices (J46). Horace’s third ode with “an Analyse” (J48, 50), some of the poetry of Lebeau (J56), and part of Cicero’s Pro Milone (portions of the last appear in Mill’s Notebook, f. 28). Cf. App. B, nos. 86, 75, 52, 196, 203. J40-59, 76
July, 1820. Aet. 14.
25. A “small portion of a Treatise on Value in French.” (He may well have worked further on this; he mentions that Samuel Bentham had said that Say’s book would be borrowed if possible for the purpose; it was obtained by 22 Dec., and he was reading it during the next two weeks at least [J89-90].) This task would appear to have been undertaken as a consequence of conversations with Lady Bentham; Mill had commented just two days before his mention of this composition: “The best exercise in both these branches of knowledge [Political Economy and Logic] would perhaps be to write treatises on particular subjects appertaining to both. This I have not yet commenced doing, but I shall certainly do so.” Cf. nos. 26-8, 31 below and App. B, no. 210. J43, 45
26. A “rough sketch of a dialogue on a subject proposed to me by Lady Bentham, namely, the question whether great landed estates and great establishments in commerce and manufactures, or small ones, are the most conductive to the general happiness?” (This question was at issue between Say and Sismondi.) It is not known whether or not he finished this dialogue. J52-3
27. A “treatise on the definition of political economy,” on Lady Bentham’s advice. He only mentions beginning this work (on a subject of which he later made much). J53
Aug., 1820. Aet. 14.
28. Logical tables. “Je commençai,” he says, “à me faire des tables Logiques.” See no. 31 below. J64
29. Notes on “Usages des Béarnais et des Bigorrais.” These were drawn “from Essais historiques sur le Béarn and Itinéraire topographique et descriptif des Hautes-Pyrénées” (see App. B, nos. 198 and 199), and included also his personal observations. J65
Oct., 1820. Aet. 14.
30. A “catalogue de celles [plantes] qui croissent dans les Pyrenées.” This was based on Lapeyrouse; but it should be mentioned that George Bentham’s Catalogue des plantes indigènes des Pyrénées et du Bas Languedoc (1826), in which he notes corrections needed in Lapeyrouse’s Histoire abrégée des plantes des Pyrénées (see App. B, no. 200), was developed in the first instance from the botanizing he did (while instructing the young Mill) during the summer of 1820. J79
31. “Traité de logique.” On 24 Oct., Mill says: “Je commençai a écrire un court Traité de Logique.” The “Traité” is not mentioned again, but he completed it: the MS is in the Pierpont Morgan Library. It was, to some extent, based on Gergonne’s lectures on Logic, which Mill attended (his notes of the latter part of the course are in the Mill-Taylor Collection, British Library of Political and Economic Science), but is not by any means a mere reproduction of those lectures, which did not begin until 16 Nov., nearly a month after Mill began his “Traité.” J80
1822. Aet. 15-16.
32. An “account” of Locke’s Essay, “consisting of a complete abstract of every chapter, with such remarks as occurred” to him. The reading of Locke, which came after his encounter with Bentham’s major writings (see A67ff.), was assigned by his father, but it seems likely that the “account” was voluntary. Cf. App. B, no. 229. A71 (70)
33. A similar account of Helvétius’ De l’esprit. In A, Mill merely mentions reading Helvétius “of [his] own choice”; in ED, he indicates that he next performed, after Locke, the same process on Helvétius, again the account being voluntary. Cf. App. B, no. 230. A71 (70)
1822. Aet. 16.
34. His “first argumentative essay,” in the summer of 1822, “an attack on what [he] regarded as the aristocratic prejudice, that the rich were, or were likely to be, superior in moral qualities to the poor.” This voluntary exercise was undertaken in “emulation of a little manuscript essay of Mr. Grote.” This essay (or a draft of it) is almost certainly that in Mill’s hand in his father’s “Common-Place Book.” Vol. II, ff. 79v-80r, headed by James Mill “Grote on Moral Obligation” (London Library). A73 (72)
35. Two “speeches, one an accusation, the other a defence of Pericles.” The genre was set by the father, but the subjects were chosen by the son. While with the Austins, in the autumn of 1822, Mill wrote to his father to say that he had finished the defence; his father already had the attack in his possession. The defence had been revised by 14 Nov., as he indicated in a letter to the Grotes. A75 (74); EL13, 15
36. A “reply to Paley’s Natural Theology.” Suggested by his father, this may be the work he refers to by the Benthamic name of “Jug True” in the letter to the Grotes cited in no. 35. The suggestion by James Mill may derive from the entry in his “Common-Place Book” immediately following no. 34 above, headed “No. 1 Jug. Util” (Vol. II. ff. 80v). In 1822 Grote (under the pseudonym “Philip Beauchamp”) published Analysis of the Influence of Natural Religion, on the Temporal Happiness of Mankind, based on Bentham’s MSS. Cf. App. B, no. 239. ED74; EL15
37. Writings “for the Util. Rev.” This matter, which is mentioned only in the letter to the Grotes cited in nos. 35 and 36, may actually be a reference to the Utilitarian Society (“Rev.” being a misreading of “Soc.”), for which plans were already under way (it began to meet in 1823), and for which Richard Doane had written a trial piece which Mill had read. (The Westminster Review had not been thought of at this time.) EL15
1822? Aet. 16?
38. Papers “on subjects often very much beyond [his] capacity [at the time], but [giving] great benefit both from the exercise itself, and from the discussions which it led to with [his] father.” These may be taken to include the essay referred to only in Kate Amberley’s record of Harriet Grote’s conversations with her: “J. S. Mill wrote an essay (never printed it) when he was young against all sentiment & feeling etc. He was much ashamed of it later in life & got Mrs. Grote’s copy fr. her and destroyed it.” A75 (74); The Amberley Papers, ed. Bertrand and Patricia Russell, 2 vols. (London: Hogarth Press, 1937), Vol. I, p. 421