Front Page Titles (by Subject) 369.: EUGENE SUE EXAMINER, 11 DEC., 1847, P. 787 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV
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369.: EUGENE SUE EXAMINER, 11 DEC., 1847, P. 787 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXV - Newspaper Writings December 1847 - July 1873 Part IV, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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The Daily News had published a series of articles on 26 Oct., and 2, 9, 25, and 29 Nov., 1847, entitled “The Literature of the Lower Orders,” by William Hepworth Dixon (1821-79), journalist, historian, and traveller. The editor of the Examiner, John Forster (1812-76), excerpted from and endorsed these articles in pieces entitled “The Moral Epidemic,” 30 Oct., pp. 690-1, and “Literature of the Lower Orders,” 6 Nov., p. 709. Mill’s response, in a letter to the editor, in which Harriet Taylor probably had a hand, is his first contribution to the Examiner since August 1842 (No. 293). It appears in the “Political Examiner,” headed as title, with the subhead, “To the Editor of the Examiner.” It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter signed J.S. in the Examiner of 11th December 1847 remonstrating against an attack on Sue’s novel of Martin l’Enfant trouvé”
(MacMinn, p. 69).
You have lately quoted with approval, and thereby given additional publicity and weight to some articles in the Daily News, which purported to give an account of “The Literature of the Lower Orders,” meaning the cheap periodicals, and publications in series. The quality of the mental food and entertainment provided for the “lower orders” (if they are really the purchasers of this cheap literature) is so important a subject, that the Daily News is to be commended for directing attention to it; but that paper has unfortunately delegated the office of examining the publications in question to a person so little worthy of the judicial trust reposed in him, as to heap all the terms of moral reprobation in his vocabulary upon works with which he seems entirely unacquainted. He has already been under the necessity of retracting the words in which he had accused one publication (the production, too, of a woman), of “looseness, warmth of colouring in criminal scenes, and a false glow cast round guilty indulgences.”1 Among the other works which he has designated by name as forming the literature which he terms “a chaos of corruption,”2 there is one characterised by him in the following words, which have been quoted in the Examiner.
Martin the Foundling, our readers already know too well as the most disgusting production of a writer who was never remarkable for his purity. In these penny numbers, largely circulated and almost universally devoured by eager female readers [the italics are the writer’s own] his most obscene and intoxicating details are reproduced with all the minute fidelity of which the English language is capable, and this very fidelity is flaunted forth as the chief recommendation of this edition. The translations current in the superior ranks are expurgated; but in spite of that necessary care for the taste and better feeling of the educated English reader, the tale is utterly disgusting.3
It is not often that a single paragraph displays such complicated unfitness in the writer of it, for having anything to do with the subject which he affects to treat of, as is shown in these sentences. So uneducated is he, as to suppose that “educated English readers” read French books in a translation. So ignorant of life and the world as not to know that the demand for M. Sue’s and all other French novels among the “superior ranks,” the “eager female readers” of the English nobility and higher classes, is so great and incessant that the libraries in Bond street cannot supply them fast enough or in quantity enough.4 And, to crown all, he has never read the book he condemns. I, having read it, doubt whether he has even looked at it. He has charged it with being what it is not, and entirely missed what it is. It does not contain “obscene and intoxicating details.” It does not describe scenes of sensuality, or introduce any licentious characters except those whom it intends in other respects to inspire disgust. Martin l’Enfant trouvé is a book which no one can read without seeing that it is written with a serious moral and even political purpose. It is a manifesto against the relation between rich and poor, such as the present institutions of society have made it. The author aims at exhibiting the moral perversion which the existing state of society engenders in a part of the rich and in a part of the poor; and this is done with something of the melodramatic exaggeration of the Mysteries of Paris,5 though in a far less degree. But he also presents, from both classes, characters of the noblest and highest principle, and the most conscientious self-control, and I do not fear to add that there are diffused through the book, and illustrated by the conduct and maxims of those characters, many principles of conduct and ideas of moral and social improvement, decidedly in advance of the age, and showing in the writer no ordinary degree of the desire and the capacity both to improve the outward condition of mankind, and to raise the tone of their minds; notwithstanding some errors, and among the rest a very decided tendency towards Communism, which in this most improving writer further reflection will probably reduce within just bounds.
I confess I feel indignant at seeing one of the very few popular imaginative writers of our time, who aim at any noble objects or inculcate any lessons but the most beaten and trivial moralities, made a byeword by people who have never read him for the extreme contrary of all that he is and desires to be. I know nothing of M. Sue except his works, but the more recent of them, and especially Martin, have given me the highest esteem for his intentions and for many of his principles,6 and I protest, with all the force I am capable of, against the calumnious representation of them which the Daily News has sent forth, and which you have, I am sure unwittingly, assisted in diffusing.
A remonstrance, addressed to the Daily News, not having been inserted, I address this protest to you.
[1 ]Forster, “Literature of the Lower Orders,” Examiner, 6 Nov., 1847, p. 709, quoting Dixon, “The Literature of the Lower Orders. Batch the Second,” Daily News, 2 Nov., p. 3. The attack was on Susannah Frances Reynolds, Gretna Green; or, All for Love (London: Dicks, 1848). Dixon retracted the charge in his “Batch the Third,” Daily News, 9 Nov., 1847, p. 3.
[2 ]Examiner, 6 Nov., p. 709; Daily News, 2 Nov., p. 3.
[3 ]Forster, “The Moral Epidemic,” Examiner, 30 Oct., p. 690, quoting Dixon, “The Literature of the Lower Orders. Batch the First,” Daily News, 26 Oct., p. 3. Eugène Marie Joseph Sue (1804-57) was a popular French novelist, whose Martin, l’enfant trouvé, ou Les mémoires d’un valet de chambre, 12 vols. (Paris: Pétion, 1846-47), had appeared in English as Martin the Foundling in 1847, issued by three different publishers.
[4 ]Libraries, normally as part of a bookseller’s or publisher’s shop, were clustered in the area of Bond St.: for example, E.S. Ebers and Co., 27 Old Bond St.; John Mitchell, 33 Old Bond St.; Eliza Andrews, 167 New Bond St.; Saunders and Otley, 50 Conduit St.; Edward Bull, 19 Holles St.; and Edward Churton, 26 Holles St.
[5 ]Sue, Les mystères de Paris, 10 vols. (Paris: Gosselin, 1842-43). The first London edition, published in 1844 by Dugdale, was followed by many republications and imitations.
[6 ]The reference may include Sue’s Mathilde: Mémoires d’une jeune femme, 6 vols. (Paris: Gosselin, 1841), and Le juif errant, 10 vols. (Paris: Paulin, 1844-45). Mill refers to the latter, as well as to Martin, l’enfant trouvé, in a letter of 1848 to Sue accompanying a gift of his Principles (EL, CW, Vol. XIII, p. 736).
[7 ]To the letter is appended in square brackets a note by John Forster: “We think the charge of our contemporary much too sweeping, but we cannot admit that the imputation of licentiousness, in the instance of Martin, is groundless. There are scenes in it of wanton sensuality or grossness; but there are many other writings of Eugène Sue that we have read with unmixed admiration.—Ed. Ex.”