Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/July 1879/John Stuart Mill II
|JOHN STUART MILL.|
PROFESSOR OF LOGIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN.
HAVING no more documents until 1830, I propose to make a short critical review of Mill's writings and doings in the interval, upon the basis of the information supplied by himself. I will first endeavor, for the sake of clearness, to extract the chronological sequence of the years from 1820 to 1830, which, from his plan of writing, is not very easy to get hold of.
1821. Returns from France (July). Beginning of psychological studies. Condillac.
1822. Reads the History of the French Revolution; inflamed with the subject. Studies law with Austin. Dumont's Bentham excites him to a pitch of enthusiasm. Locke, Helvetius, Hartley, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, Dugald Stewart, Brown on Cause and Effect, Bentham's Analysis of Natural Religion. Began intimacy with Grote. Charles Austin. First published writings in the "Traveller" newspaper.
1823. Utilitarian Society at Bentham's house: Tooke, Ellis, and Graham. Appointment to India House (May 21st). Letters to the "Morning-Chronicle" on the Richard Carlile prosecution (January and February). Frequent contributions throughout the year to the "Chronicle" and "Traveller." "Westminster Review" projected. Reads up the "Edinburgh Review" for his father's attack upon it in the first number of the "Westminster."
1824. First number of the "Westminster" appears (March). Contributes to the second number on the "Edinburgh Review"; to the third on "Religious Persecution"(?) and "War Expenditure"; to the fourth on "Hume's Misrepresentations in his History."
1825. Principal occupation, editing Bentham's book on Evidence. Starting of "Parliamentary History and Review"; writes the article on the "Catholic Disabilities"; also, on the "Commercial Crisis and Currency" and the "Reciprocity Principle in Commerce." Learned German. Began morning-readings in the Society at Grote's house in Threadneedle Street. Went with some others to the debates of the Owenites' Coöperative Society; founding of the Speculative Debating Society. In the "Westminster," wrote on the "Political Economy of the Quarterly," on the "Law of Libel"(?), and on the "Game Laws"(?) (number for January, 1826).
1826. Utilitarian Society ceases, and readings at Grote's continue. Speculative Society flourishing. Reviews for the "Westminster," Mignet's "French Revolution," and Sismondi's "History of France"; writes two articles on the Corn Laws; replies to the "Quarterly" on "Greek Courts of Justice." Beginning of "mental crisis."
1827. Speculative Society. Readings at Grote's (turned now to Logic). Articles in the "Westminster"; review of Goodwin's "Commonwealth"(?); of Whately's Logic (in number for January, 1828).
1828. Speculative Society. Readings at Grote's, on his father's "Analysis." Last article in "Westminster"—Scott's "Life of Napoleon." Acquaintance with Maurice and Sterling. Read Wordsworth for the first time. (At some later return of his dejection, year not stated, he was oppressed with the problem of philosophical necessity, and found the solution that he afterward expounded in the "Logic") Is promoted from being a clerk to be assistant examiner in his office.
1829. Withdrew from Speculative Debating Society. Macaulay's attack on "Essay on Government" produces a change in his views of the Logic of Politics.
With regard to these nine years, I will first remark on his articles in the "Westminster Review." He says he contributed thirteen, of which he specifies only three: of the whole, he says generally, they were reviews of books on history and political economy, or discussions on special political topics, as corn laws, game laws, law of libel. I am able to identify the greater number of them.
His first contribution is the article in the second number, on the "Edinburgh Review," which continued the attack made by his father in the first number; he puts this down as "of little or no value," although to himself a most useful exercise in composition; it is, nevertheless, in respect of his biography, an interesting study. No doubt the opinions are for the most part his father's, though independently and freshly illustrated: the demonstration of the truckling of the "Edinburgh Review" to sentiment and popularity; the onslaught against lubricated phrases; the defectiveness of the current morality as reflected in the "Review"; the denunciation of the pandering to our national egotism: all these were his father redivivus; yet we may see the beginnings of his own independent start, more especially in the opinions with regard to women, and the morality of sex.
In the third number (July, 1824) he has an article on "War Expenditure," the review of a pamphlet by William Blake on the recent fluctuations of prices. In the fourth number (October, 1825) he reviews at length a work on English history, by George Brodie, which is especially devoted to Hume's misrepresentations. He enters fully into the exposure of Hume's disingenuous artifices; and at the present time, when Hume's metaphysical reputation is so resplendent, his moral obliquity as an historian must not be glossed over. No doubt his Toryism was his shelter from the odium of his skepticism. Mill says of him: "Hume possessed powers of a very high order; but regard for truth formed no part of his character. He reasoned with surprising acuteness; but the object of his reasonings was not to attain truth, but to show that it was unattainable. His mind, too, was completely enslaved by a taste for literature; not those kinds of literature which teach mankind to know the causes of their happiness and misery, that they may seek the one and avoid the other, but that literature which, without regard for truth or utility, seeks only to excite emotion."
In the fifth number (January, 1825) he assails the "Quarterly" for its review of the Essay on Political Economy in the supplement to the "Encyclopædia Britannica." In the sixth number (October, 1825) there is a long article on the "Law of Libel," the sequel to a previous article on "Religious Prosecutions" (number three), but I have no means of proving them to be his, except that this is one of the topics that he specifies. For the fourth volume, numbers seven and eight, I have no clew. The ninth number (January, 1826) opens with a powerfully written paper on the "Game Laws," which I believe to be his. In the tenth number (April, 1826) there is a short review by him of Mignet's History of the "French Revolution," which is principally occupied with pointing out the merits of the book. I have heard him recommend Mignet as the best for giving the story of the Revolution. He reserves all discussions of the subject; "it being our intention, at no distant period, to treat of that subject at greater length." In the eleventh number (July, 1826) there is a searching discussion of the merits of the Age of Chivalry, on the basis of Sismondi's "History of France," and Dulaure's "History of Paris"; which is not unlikely to be Mill's. The Corn Laws is one of his subjects, and on this there is an article of thirty pages in the twelfth number (October, 1826). In the following number (January, 1827), there is a second article, referring to Mr. Canning's measure recently brought forward (1826). The concluding article of this number I believe to be Mill's; it deals with a recent article in the "Quarterly," on "Greek Courts of Justice," and is in his happiest vein. It retorts cleverly upon the exaggerations of the "Quarterly," by finding in the English legal practice abuses equal to the worst that the reviewer discovers in the Athenian courts. In the sixteenth number there is a review of Goodwin's "History of the Commonwealth," which seems to follow up the review of Hume.
The article on Whately in January, 1828, was the outcome of the discussions in Grote's house the previous year. It is a landmark not merely in the history of his own mind, but in the history of Logic. His discussion of the utility of Logic, at a time when Syllogism was the body and essence of it, hits the strongest part of the case better than the famous chapter on the "Functions of the Syllogism"; I mean the analyzing of an argument, with a view to isolating the attention on the parts. The discussion of the Predicables is an improvement upon Whately. He even praises, although he does not quite agree with, Whately's attempt to identify Induction with Syllogism, and gives him credit for illustrating, but not for solving, the difficulty of our assenting to general propositions without seeing all that they involve. His view of the desiderata of Logic is thus expressed: "A large portion of the philosophy of general Terms still remains undiscovered; the philosophical analysis of Predication, the explanation of what is the immediate object of belief when we assent to a proposition, is yet to be performed; and, though the important assistance rendered by general language, not only in what are termed the exact sciences, but even in the discovery of physical facts, is known and admitted, the nature of the means by which it performs this service is a problem still to a great extent unsolved." On the whole, it can not be said that he had, as yet, made much progress in Logic, even with the assistance of the debates in Threadneedle Street. The real advances apparently remained to be worked out by his own unassisted strength during the next twelve years. I may remark, in conclusion, that I think he greatly overrates the value of Whately's book: "The masterly sketch which he has given of the whole science in the analytical form, previously to entering upon a more detailed exposition of it in the synthetical order, constitutes one of the greatest merits of the volume, as an elementary work." If, instead of merits, defects were substituted, the sentence would be, in my judgment, very near the truth. The result of the arrangement was singularly confusing to myself, when I first read the book; and the testimony of all subsequent writers on Logic must be held as against it, for not one, to my knowledge, has ever repeated it. It grew out of the very laudable desire to approach an abstract subject by a concrete introduction; but the conditions of success in that endeavor have scarcely yet been realized by any one of the many that have made it. At a later period, Grote declaimed strongly against Mill's setting Whately above Hamilton.
The final article in April, 1828, is the review of Scott's "Life of Napoleon." It extends to sixty pages, and is in every way a masterpiece. He had now made a thorough study of the French Revolution, and had formed the design to be himself its historian. He does ample justice to Scott's genius as a narrator, and to a certain amount of impartiality founded on his naturally tolerant disposition, and his aim at winning the good word of everybody. But the exposure of the many and deep-seated defects of the work, both in facts and in reasonings, is complete, and would have marred the fame of any other writer. In point of execution, it is not unworthy to be compared with the Sedgwick and Whewell articles.
I consider some observations called for on the mental crisis of 1826. He had then completed his twentieth year. The subjective description given of his state must be accepted as complete. But the occurrence is treated as purely spiritual or mental; the physical counterpart being wholly omitted; the only expression used, "a dull state of nerves such as everybody is liable to," is merely to help out the description on the mental side. Nothing could be more characteristic of the man. There was one thing he never would allow, which was, that work could be pushed to the point of being injurious to either body or mind. That the dejection so feelingly depicted was due to physical causes, and that the chief of these causes was overworking the brain, may I think be certified beyond all reasonable doubt. We know well enough what amount of mental strain the human constitution, when at its very best, has been found to endure; and I am unable to produce an instance of a man going through as much as Mill did before twenty, and yet living a healthy life of seventy years. The account of his labors in the previous year alone, 1825 (a lad of nineteen), is enough to account for all that he underwent in the years immediately following. Moreover, it was too 'early to have exhausted his whole interest in life, even supposing that he had drawn somewhat exclusively upon the side of activity and reforming zeal. Fifteen or twenty years later was soon enough to readjust his scheme of enjoyment, by delicate choice and variation of stimulants, by the cultivation of poetry and passive susceptibility. It so happened that, on the present occasion, his morbid symptoms were purely subjective; there was no apparent derangement in any bodily organ. Judging, however, from what followed a few years later, we can plainly see in this "mental crisis" the beginning of the maladies that oppressed the second half of his life in a way that could not be mistaken. He got over the attack apparently in two or three years, with powers of enjoyment considerably impaired. That spirit left him for a time, but returned with another still worse.
Preparatory to the additional elucidation of his life and work from 1830 to 1840, I have constructed the following chronological outline:
1830. Put on paper ideas on "Logical Distinctions among Terms," and the "Import of Propositions." First acquaintance with the French Philosophy of History: St. Simonians; Comte. Went to Paris after the Revolution of July. Began to write steadily on French politics ("Examiner").
1831. Writing in "Examiner": Essays on "The Spirit of the Age." Essays on "Unsettled Questions in Political Economy" (1830 and 1831, not published till long after). Resumed "Logical Axioms and Theory of the Syllogism." Tide of the Reform Agitation. First introduction to Mrs. Taylor.
1832. Essays in "Tait's Magazine," and in the "Jurist." Papers on "Corporation and Church Property" and the "Currency Juggle."
1833. "Monthly Repository": Review of Alison's "History"; "Thoughts on Poetry"; Analysis of "Platonic Dialogues." In Paris in autumn, and saw Carrel for the first time.
1834. "London Review" projected; Molesworth to be proprietor. No special work recorded.
1835. Read De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America." "London Review": article on Sedgwick.
1836. His father's death. Illness in the head. Three months' leave of absence; tour in Switzerland and Italy. "London and Westminster Review": "Civilization" (April). Is promoted to be second assistant in his office (salary £800), and again to be first assistant (£1,200).
1837. "London and Westminster Review": "Aphorisms" (January); "Arm and Carrel" (October).
1838. "London and Westminster Review": "A Prophecy" (January). "Alfred de Vigny" (April). "Bentham" (August).
1839. Illness. Received six months' leave of absence, and traveled in Italy.
1840. "London and Westminster": "Coleridge" (March). "Edinburgh Review": De Tocqueville's "Democracy" (October). With Henry at Falmouth, in his last illness.
He tells us how he was excited by the French Revolution of 1830, and visited Paris in consequence. He wrote on the 13th August a long letter to his father on the state of parties. He begins: "I have had some conversation with M. Say, and a great deal with Adolphe d'Eichthal and Victor Lanjuinais, and I have been a very assiduous reader of all the newspapers since I arrived. At present, if I were to look only at the cowardice and imbecility of the existing generation of public men, with scarcely a single exception, I should expect very little good; but when I consider the spirit and intelligence of the young men and of the people, the immense influence of the journals, and the strength of the public voice, I am encouraged to hope that as there has been an excellent revolution without leaders, leaders will not be required in order to establish a good government." He then goes on to give a detailed account of how the revolution was accomplished—the flinching of the generals of the army, the cowardice and meanness of Dupin above everybody. He has the lowest opinion of the ministry, not a Radical among them except Dupont de l'Eure; all mere place-hunters. Thiers at the meeting for organizing the resistance showed great weakness and pusillanimity. (I heard him long afterward say he detested Thiers.) Of the new measures he praises most the lowering of the age qualification to the Chamber from forty to thirty; he has seen no one that attaches due importance to this change. "I am going to the Chamber of Deputies to-morrow with Mr. Austin, and next week I am to be introduced to the Society of ‘Aide-toi,’ where I am to be brought in contact with almost all the best of the young men, and there are few besides that I should at all care to be acquainted with. . . . I have heard of an immense number of the most affecting instances of the virtue and good sense of the common people." These last observations are thoroughly characteristic. Young men and ouvriers were Mill's hopes.
We learn from himself that he wrote the articles in the "Examiner" on French politics for several years. Even when English politics became all-engrossing, he still maintained his interest and fond hopes in the future of France.
His first bad illness was ten years after the beginning of the period of dejection in 1826. In 1836, his thirtieth year, he was seized with an obstinate derangement of the brain. Among the external symptoms were involuntary nervous twitchings in the face. Of the inner consciousness corresponding, we have suggestive indications in the family letters of the time. The earliest allusion to his state is contained in his father's first letter to James in India: "John is still in a rather pining way; though, as he does not choose to tell the cause of his pining, he leaves other people to their conjectures." This shows that he had ceased to give his father his confidence in bodily as well as in his mental matters. His medical adviser sent him in the first instance to Brighton. A letter from thence addressed to Henry at home—date not given, but probably near the time of his father's letter—says: "There seems to be a change considerably for the better in my bodily state within the last three days; whether it will last I can not yet tell; nor do I know whether the place has contributed toward it, as the more genial weather of yesterday and to-day is probably the chief cause." He then says that he will continue his stay if the improvement goes on, but is reluctant to be long absent, partly on account of his father's illness, and partly on account of his tutoring "Mary and George." He trusts to Henry to keep him informed on the state of matters, and if he can be of any use to his father he will forego the present advantages and trust to getting well as the summer advances. In a letter, dated 7th May, from Henry to James in India, occurs a further allusion: "There is a new visitor added to the list of young men who come here, a Dr. King, whom John consults about his health" (he afterward married the eldest daughter, but soon left her a widow). John "is certainly ill, but nothing, every one assures us, to be frightening himself about." The father's death occurred soon after (23d June), and on the 29th July Henry wrote: "We are all well in health, except John and myself—John from his old complaint. . . . George and I are going to the Continent with John, who has got leave of absence from the India House for three months on plea of ill-health." In this letter is a postscript: "John has honored me with the present of a watch that was given to my father by Mr. Ricardo; so you see it is trebly valuable to me." This reminds us of John's loss of his own watch; to which I may add that to the end of his life he had only an ordinary silver watch.
Next day, the 30th, the party left London. They traveled in France and Switzerland for a month, and the two boys took up their abode at Lausanne, while John went on to Italy. The expressions as to his state are still (September 4th) very discouraging: "His head is most obstinate; those same disagreeable sensations still, which he has tried so many ways to get rid of, are plaguing him." Three weeks later Henry says: "John wrote to us a very desponding letter, saying that, if he had to go back without getting well, he could not again go to the India House, but must throw it up, and try if a year or two of leisure would do anything." The same letter incidentally notices that Mrs. Taylor joined the party, and accompanied John in his tour, while the young people remained at Lausanne. We have no further references to this illness; he got round in time, but he retained to the end of his life an almost ceaseless spasmodic twitching over one eye. His renewed capability for work is shown by the dates of his writings immediately subsequent. He had many illnesses afterward, but I do not know that any one was so markedly an affection of the brain as on this occasion.
Two years and a half later, in the beginning of 1839, he went to Italy, and was away six months on sick-leave. The expressions that I shall quote from the correspondence are my only means of knowing the nature and extent of his malady. On January 17th Henry writes: "As to John's health, none of us believe that it is anything very serious; our means of judging are his looks when he was here, and also what we have heard from Dr. Arnott. We are told, however, that his sending him away is because his pains in the chest, which are the symptoms, make it seem that a winter in Italy just now will afford him sensible and permanent benefit for the whole of his life. . . . That this might have turned to gout." The next letter is one from himself, dated Rome, March 11th. He says: "I have returned here after passing about three weeks very pleasantly in Naples, and the country about it. I did not for some time get any better, but I think I am now, though very slowly, improving, ever since I left off animal food, and took to living almost entirely on macaroni. I began this experiment about a fortnight ago, and it seems to succeed better than any of the other experiments I have tried." The remainder of the letter describes Naples and neighborhood—"Pompeii, Baiæ, Pæstum, etc." Ten days later he writes: "As for me I am going on well too—not that my health is at all better; but I have gradually got quite reconciled to the idea of returning in much the same state of health as when I left England; it is by care and regimen that I must hope to get well, and, if I can only avoid getting worse, I shall have no great reason to complain, as hardly anybody continues after my age (thirty-three) to have the same vigorous health they had in early youth. In the mean time it is something to have so good an opportunity of seeing Italy." Again, he writes on May 31st, from Munich on his way home: "I am not at all cured, but I cease to care much about it, I am as fit for all my occupations as I was before, and as capable of bodily exertion as I have been of late years—only I have not quite so good a stomach." He then dilates on the pleasures of his Italian tour, to which he added the Tyrol. He returned to his office-work on July 1st. The only indication of his state is in a letter from Henry: "John is come back looking tolerably well; he is considerably thinner, however." We infer that his primary affection was in the chest, and to this was added weakness of stomach. In both these organs he was subject to recurring derangements for the rest of his life.
The "London Review," projected in 1834, started in April, 1835. Sir William Molesworth undertook the whole risk, and Mill was to be editor, although he considered it incompatible with his office to be openly proclaimed in that capacity. His father lent his latest energies to the scheme, and opened the first number with a political article, entitled "The State of the Nation"—a survey of the situation of public affairs in the beginning of 1835, in his usual style. John Mill's first contribution was the Sedgwick article. I have heard that Sedgwick himself confessed that he had been writing about what he did not understand, but my informant was not himself a Cambridge man. Effective as the article was for its main purpose of defending the "Utilitarian Ethics" against a, it always seemed to me rather weak in the introduction, which consists in putting the question, "For what end do endowed universities exist?" and in answering, "To keep alive philosophy." In his mind, philosophy seemed to mean chiefly advanced views in politics and in ethics; which, of course, came into collision with religious orthodoxy and the received commonplaces of society. Such a view of the functions of a university would not be put forth by any man that had ever resided in a university; and this is not the only occasion when Mill dogmatized on universities in total ignorance of their working.
The second number of the "Review" is chiefly notable for his father's article on "Reform in the Church." It is understood that this article gave a severe shock to the religious public; it was a style of reform that the ordinary churchman could not enter into. The prospects of the "Review" were said to be very much damaged in consequence. John Mill wrote on Samuel Bailey's "Rationale of Political Representation." Bailey's views being in close accordance with his own, he chiefly uses the work as an enforcement of the radical creed. After Bentham and the Mills, no man of their generation was better grounded in logical methods, or more thorough in his method of grappling with political and other questions, than Samuel Bailey.
In the same number Mill reviews Tennyson's poems. He assigns as his inducement that the only influential organs that had as yet noticed them were "Blackwood" and the "Quarterly Review"; on which notices he pronounces a decided and not flattering opinion. He is, accordingly, one of the earliest to mete out justice to Tennyson's powers; and as a critical exercise, as well as a sympathetic appreciation, the article is highly meritorious. In numerous instances besides, Mill was among the first, if not the very first, to welcome a rising genius.
He closes the number with a political article on the measures of the Government for the session—among others, the Irish Church and the Municipal Corporations bills. His text seems to be that the statesmen of the generation are good in destroying, but bad in construction; and he says that the remark applies to all the Whig reforms, and most of all to Lord Brougham's law reforms.
In the third number (July, 1835) Mill reviewed De Tocqueville's book, which had then appeared—the review extending to forty-five pages. It was a very full account of the book, with copious extracts, but may be considered as superseded by the article written for the "Edinburgh Review" in 1840, which is reprinted in the "Dissertations." The number concludes with a short but energetic review of the Parliamentary session just concluded. It is of the tone and character of all his political writings in those years; a retrospect of recent achievements, with a view of the present position and declaration of the one thing needful for it—a leader. He bitterly complains of the absence of a man of action, and asks: "Why does not Mr. Grote exert himself? There is not a man in Parliament who could do so much, or who is more thoroughly the people's friend. . . . O'Connell is the only figure that stands erect." The Liberal press is too much given to truckling to the Ministry. The bull must be taken by the horns; the Tories must be awakened by the apparition of a House of Lords Amendment Bill.
In the fourth number (January, 1836) he had an article entitled "State of Society in America," reviewing a number of books of American travels, and following up the article on De Tocqueville. It is occupied with an attempt to connect the features of American society with the industrial position and political constitution of the country. It may be called one of his minor sociological studies.
The fifth number is the first of the union of the "London" with the old "Westminster," hereafter called "The London and Westminster." It appeared in April, 1836. Mill contributes to it his article on "Civilization," contained in the "Dissertations," and a short political article on the "State of Politics in 1836." I never felt quite satisfied with the article on "Civilization." The definition given at the outset seemed inadequate; and the remainder of the article is principally one of his many attacks on the vicious tendencies of the time. He regards as consequences of our civilization, the decay of individual energy, the weakening of the influence of superior minds, the growth of charlatanerie, and the diminished efficacy of public opinion, and insists on some remedies for the evils; winding up with an attack on the universities. To my mind these topics should have been detached from any theory of civilization, or any attempt to extol the past at the cost of the present. The political article is a survey of the measures pending in Parliament. He is very much excited, as his father was, about the spoiling of the country with unnecessary railways. There is the usual complaint of the torpidity of Radicals, Joseph Hume being his only exception.
For the July number he contributes only the opening article, which is a political survey, on the text of Sir John Walsh's "Contemporary History." It retraces the history of reform and its consequences, and discourses on the relative merits of Tories, Whigs, and Radicals, with the usual complaints. Knowing the state of his health this year, the occurrence of his father's death, and his three months' absence, we are surprised to find that he can contribute to the October number, of which the first article is his, on the "Definition and Method of Political Economy." Doubtless this had been lying by him, and had been brought out to fill a gap.
In January, 1837, the political article is by Sir William Molesworth ("The Terms of Alliance between Radicals and Whigs"). Mill contributes only a short paper on an anonymous work of Arthur Helps, I believe his first publication—"Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd." This was another occasion when he displayed his passion for discerning and encouraging the first indications of talent and genius. I remember when I first came to London, this was one of the books he lent me; and we agreed that, in point of thinking power, Helps had not fulfilled the promise of that little work.
For April, 1837, he contributes a review of Fonblanque's "England under Seven Administrations," which would be easy work. The article is laudatory enough, but iterates the author's standing complaint against all the journals, namely, too great subserviency to the Ministry in power. The political summary in the number is again by Molesworth. Carlyle contributes a short paper on the "French Revolution," under an editorial caveat.
In July appears the review of Carlyle's "French Revolution," which Mill considers to have been one of his grand strokes in the "Review." Carlyle's reputation was as yet hanging very dubious. The effect to be produced by the "French Revolution" was extremely uncertain. Mill was now well acquainted with Carlyle, and knew how his peculiarities affected people, and how easily a prejudice might be created that would retard his fame for years. A judicious boldness was the only chance, and the article opens thus: "This is not so much a history, as an epic poem; and notwithstanding, or even in consequence of this, the truest of histories. It is the history of the French Revolution, and the poetry of it, both in one; and, on the whole, no work of greater genius, either historical or poetical, has been produced in this country for many years." Nothing could be better calculated to disarm prejudice against the book than the conduct of this article throughout; it is indeed a masterpiece of pleading, and deserved to be successful, as it was. A little later, Mill admitted into the "Review" an article on Carlyle by John Sterling, which was a still more complete exhibition of Carlyle, and is probably yet one of the best criticisms that he has ever received. Still, when Carlyle, in his "Life of Sterling," refers to that article as the first marked recognition he had received in the press, he was unfairly oblivious to what Mill's article had previously done for him.
In this number the political article has to advert to the death of King William, and the events that followed. The Radicalism is as strong as ever; but the signature (E) is not Mill's, and I do not know the author.
The next number is October, 1837. The opening chapter is the political one, and is by Mill. Its text is the opening of the new Parliament of 1837. It is, if possible, more energetic and outspoken than ever. It addresses first the Ministers, and demands of them the ballot, as a special measure, and a number of other reforms, the Church included. It addresses the Radicals in Parliament in the usual strain. It hits the Tories very hard for their disingenuous dealing on the new Poor Law at the elections, and demonstrates that not they, but the Radicals, were the real upholders of the rights of property. The incitements to action are redoubled, as the power of the Liberals has diminished. I do not know of any compositions that better deserve to be compared with the Philippics of Demosthenes than Mill's political onslaughts in those years.
This number contained also the article on Armand Carrel. The best part of it is, perhaps, the history of French politics from the restoration of the Bourbons, on which he was thoroughly informed. The personality of Carrel is sketched chiefly from Carrel's biographers, to which he adds the impressions made by Carrel on himself. The distinguishing aim of Carrel's political life is remarkable for its common sense and intelligibility—to mitigate the mutual hostility of parties as a preparation for a constitutional régime. In the summing up of Carrel's personality Mill displays himself: "Like all persons of fine faculties, he carried the faculties with him into the smallest things; and did not disdain to excel, being qualified to do so, in those things which are great only to little men." This doctrine, I conceive, was held by Mill to an erroneous excess; the counter-doctrine of the limitation of the human faculties he never fully allowed for. He believed in large minds without any qualification, and saw very little incompatibility between the most opposite gifts.
In January, 1838, appeared the first "Canada and Lord Durham" article. In the "Autobiography" he celebrates the influence exerted by this and his subsequent article on the return of Lord Durham, and believes that they were a turning-point not merely in the settlement of Canada, but in the future of all our British colonies. Besides writing these articles, Mill exercised great personal influence on Lord Durham's Canadian measures, chiefly through his secretary, Charles Buller, who was always very open to Mill's suggestions. The present article apologizes for not reviewing the home political situation at large, because "a question has arisen which suspends all united action among Radicals. . . . On this most grievous subject we shall, in the course of this article, declare our whole opinion." He yet, however, finds it necessary first to denounce in fitting terms Lord John Russell's declaration of hostility to all reform on the first night of the session. The discussion of the Canadian problem is in his very best style, and is as well worth reading even now as any of his reprinted papers.
The number for April, this year, opens with one of his literary articles, reproduced in the "Dissertations—" "Alfred de Vigny." This article is his latest and most highly elaborated attempt to philosophize upon literature and poetry. The "Thoughts on Poetry" is his only other paper that he has thought worth preserving. The reviews of Tennyson and Carlyle's "French Revolution" are replete with just criticism, but do not reach the height of philosophical explanation. In his philosophy of style, there are many good points, but, as I conceive, some serious omissions. I doubt if he gave enough thought to the subject. The earlier part of the "De Vigny" article on the influence exerted on poetry by political changes, such as the French Revolution, is, I think, very happily expressed, and is quite equal to any other similar dissertations by our best historians and critics. It is when he comes to state the essential quality of the poetic genius or temperament that I think his view defective. In the first place, he puts too much stress on the emotional quality, and too little on the intellectual. In the second place, he is wrong in identifying the poet intellectually with the philosopher or thinker: he regards genius, whether in poetry or in philosophy, as the gift of seeing truths at a greater depth than the world can penetrate. On the former of these two heads he accepts De Vigny's emotional delineation—"the thrill from beauty, grandeur, and harmony, the infinite pity for mankind"—as the tests, or some of the tests, of the poetic nature; but he takes no direct notice of the genius of expression, the constructive or creative faculty, without which emotion will never make a poet, and with which the grandest poetry may be' produced on a very slight emotional basis. To criticise Shelley without adducing his purely intellectual force, displayed in endless resources of language, is to place the superstructure of poetry on a false foundation. Shakespeare, in any view of him, was ten parts intellect for one of emotion; and his intellect did not, so far as I am aware, see truths at a greater depth than the world could penetrate. Mill inherited his father's disposition to think Shakespeare overrated; which, to say the least, was unfortunate when he came to theorize on poetry at large.
In August, appeared the review of Bentham, which I will advert to presently.
The next number is December, 1838. It closes with Mill's second article on Canada—"Lord Durham's Return"—vindicating his policy point by point, in a way that only Mill could have done. It concludes: "If this be failure, failure is but the second degree of success; the first and highest degree may be yet to come."
The succeeding number appears in April, 1839, and contains the last, and in one view the greatest, of Mill's political series. Liberalism in Parliament is now at its lowest ebb: and only some new and grand expedient can be of any avail. Departing from his old vein of criticism of Whigs and Radicals, he plans the "reorganization of the Reform party" by an inquiry into the origin-and foundations of the two great parties in the state. He inquires who, by position and circumstances, are natural Radicals, and who are natural Tories; who are interested in progress, and who in things as they are. I strongly recommend this article as a piece of admirable political philosophy, and I do not know any reason for his not preserving it, except that it is so closely connected with the passing politics of the time. At all events, it is the farewell to his ten years' political agitation. As this was the year of his second bad illness, I presume the article was written in the end of 1838, in the midst of great suffering.
After six months' interval, the next number appeared October, 1839. It contained no article of Mill's: he had been abroad the first half of the year. The number is otherwise notable for Sterling's article on Carlyle, and Robertson's on Cromwell. In March, 1840, was published the last number under Mill's proprietorship. It opened with his "Coleridge" article.
The Bentham article both stands alone as an appreciation of Bentham's work, and also forms one member of a correlative couple with the disquisition on Coleridge. No one possessed the qualifications of Mill for setting forth Bentham's merits and defects: we wish that he had made still more use of his means in depicting Bentham's personality. But in the mode of dealing with the defective side of Bentham, he undoubtedly gave offense to the Benthamite circle. He admits (in the "Autobiography") that it was too soon to bring forward the faults of Bentham; and, looking at the article now, we may be allowed to say that a little more explanation is wanted on various points; as, for example, Bentham's deficiency in imagination, his omission of high motives in his springs of action, and his aversion to the phrases "good and bad taste." It is apparent that Mill is criticising him from a point of view not taken by any other of Bentham's friends and disciples. When we turn to the "Coleridge" article, we find the more explicit statement of his position, as between the great rival schools. There we have a labored introduction to show the necessity of studying the conflicting modes of thought on all questions; we are told that, as partisans of any one side, we see only part of the truth, and must learn from our opponents the other part. Following out this text, Mill endeavors to assign the truth that there is in Conservatism, when purified by Coleridge and raised to a coherent system, or a philosophy. It is needless to advert to the detailed illustration, but the conclusion is open to remark. A conservative philosophy may be, he says, an absurdity, but it is calculated to drive out still worse absurdities. To cut the matter short, he hopes from it, not the conversion of Conservatives into Liberals, but the adoption of "one liberal opinion after another as a part of Conservatism itself." Surely this is spreading the snare in the sight of the bird. We may ask whether, after forty years' trial, the Conservative philosophy of Coleridge has really borne such fruits; or whether the adoption of Liberal opinions by Conservatives has had anything to do with philosophical consistency. Did Mr. Gladstone's conversion follow, in any degree, from Coleridge's philosophy?
Be this as it may, these two articles made a temporary alienation between Mill and his old associates, and planted in their minds a painful misgiving as to his adherence to their principles or to any principles. There is, in the "Logic," an extract from the "Coleridge" article, on the essential conditions of stability in any society. One of these conditions is, that there be something that is settled, and not to be called in question. Grote never ceased to convert this remark into an expression for the standing intolerance of society toward unpopular opinions.
From these two articles it is a natural transition to remark generally upon his principle in conducting the "Review" from first to last. He aimed at a wider comprehension than had ever been allowed before in any periodical representing a sect. He sought out fresh and vigorous thinking, and did not expect a literal adherence to his own opinions. The "Review" abounds in editorial caveats, attached to the articles. His principle of seeing partial truth in opposite sides was carried out in this form. He respected real ability when combined with sincerity; and, as an editor, he never refused a reading to an offered contribution; in fact, he delighted in the perusal of young authors' essays.
It was a noble experiment to endeavor to combine opposites and to maintain a perpetual attitude of sympathy with hostile opinions. A dissertation would be well expended in inquiring into its results. For the present, I remark that, as real opposition can not be smoothed down, we must still go on the old track of counter-argumentation; while every honest truth-seeker endeavors to do justice to the case of an opponent. The watchword in these days of the "Review" was, "Sympathize in order to learn." That doctrine, preached by Goethe and echoed by Carlyle, was in everybody's mouth, and had its fling.
Mill's account of the management of the "Review," first as held by Molesworth, and afterward by himself, leaves uncertainties on various interesting points. He was at first sole editor, it appears, without being the avowed editor; he does not say what this exactly meant. In point of fact, he rather supervised than edited the "Review." The first acting editor, as I am informed, was Mr. Thomas Falconer, a barrister, and now a county court judge, Mill guiding him, "but not being the active correspondent with contributors. During Mill's absence in the autumn of 1836, Mr. Falconer did all the editing uncontrolled, and, in the exercise of his editorial discretion, rejected Carlyle's article on Mirabeau, which Mill had previously approved of; the rejection was afterward reversed by Mill, who printed the article in the following January (1837). Although not the impression left by the narrative in the "Autobiography," I am constrained by the facts within my knowledge to believe that Robertson's period as assistant editor must have begun in the summer of 1837; and Molesworth's retirement could not have been till the end of the year. This affects our estimate of the numbers issued at Mill's sole risk. Molesworth may have borne the cost of ten or eleven numbers, which would leave Mill seven or eight, of the eighteen in all. Molesworth expended, no doubt, a considerable sum in starting it; and Mill must have been both very sanguine and also very much bent upon propagating his views in politics, philosophy, and literature, to take the whole risk upon himself. He paid his subeditor, and also sixteen pounds a sheet to the contributors that took payment. On these eight numbers he must have lost considerably. I can form some estimate of the loss from knowing what Hickson paid to contributors, when he took over the "Review," and worked it on the plan of making it pay its own expenses, he giving his labor gratis. Readers of the "Autobiography" remember the account Mill gives of his two most brilliant successes achieved by the "Review"—the saving of Lord Durham, and the rescuing of Carlyle's "French Revolution" from probable failure. In an interesting letter, written soon after the "Review" ceased, he insists with even greater empressement on these two feats, but adds, "My third success is that I have dinned into people's ears that Guizot is a great thinker and writer, till they are, though slowly, beginning to read him—which I do not believe they would be doing yet, in this country, but for me." His admiration of Guizot persisted some time longer, and led to his most elaborate article of all, in the "Edinburgh Review," five years later; which article he has seen fit to reprint; but we may suppose that Guizot's subsequent career and writings had a disenchanting effect on him as on many others.
Reverting to the salient idea of his political articles for those seven or eight years—the fatality of there being no leader of the Radical party, although it was composed of very able men—I have often wondered in vain what he expected a leader to do or to be. Everything is not possible even to the greatest of chiefs; and it is doubtful whether any of the men that ever wielded the fierce democracy, from Demosthenes to Gambetta, would have headed a conquering majority in the last years of the Melbourne Ministry. He nearly admits as much, but not without reservation. He says explicitly that his father might have been such a leader; and even implies that he himself could have made the state of matters very different. We may well hesitate on both heads. That his father would have made an able minister or party leader, we must cheerfully allow; but his sentiments and views would have required a thick covering of disguise to allow even his being elected to Parliament, and still more to qualify him for meeting that most pressing want of the time—Reform of the Church.
This paper may fitly conclude with the remaining event of importance in the year 1840—the last illness and death of Mill's favorite brother Henry, which took place at Falmouth, on the 4th of April, in his nineteenth year. He was sent there in the beginning of the year, for the relief of his complaint—consumption; and John plied him with every kindness that he could devise. He went and lived at Falmouth, during his illness, as long as he could get away from his office; and had an opportunity at the same time of seeing a great deal of
Sterling, who was there also on account of chest-weakness. A letter of warm acknowledgment to Mr. Barclay Fox, of Falmouth, for the attention bestowed on Henry by his family, is for Mill unusually effusive, and teems with characteristic traits. One not a Christian, addressing a Christian family upon death, and wakening up the chords of our common humanity, is a spectacle worth observing.
- On looking over the file of the "Examiner," to see the drift of these Essays, which I expected to turn upon social questions, more than politics, I find that they all point in the direction of his "Representative Government," in so far as they contain anything constructive. There is a long exordium on the character of the present age, as an age of transition, with all the consequences growing out of that—unsettlement of existing institutions, in the absence of principles to found new ones upon. "Worldly power must pass from the hands of the stationary part of mankind into those of the progressive part. . . . There must be a moral and social revolution which shall, indeed, take away no men's lives or property, but which shall leave to no man one fraction of unearned distinction or unearned importance. . . . For mankind to change their institutions while their minds are unsettled, without fixed principles, is indeed a fearful tiling. But a bad way is often the best to get out of a bad position. Let us place our trust in the future, not in the wisdom of mankind, but in something far surer, the force of circumstances which makes men see that, when it is near at hand, which they could not foresee when at a distance." Discussing the way to secure government by the fittest, he considers the time is gone by when wealth is the criterion. Age has more to say for itself, excepting in a time of transition. He considers at some length the sources of moral influence on society. The last of the series (May 29th) concludes, "I shall resume my subject as early as possible after the passing of the Reform Bill"; the agitation then going on being used as the climax of the proof that the time is one of transition.
- He took the opportunity of studying Roman history while in Italy; and in Rome itself he read Niebuhr. It was long a design of his to write the philosophy of the rise of the Roman power, but he failed to satisfy himself that he possessed an adequate clew. So late as 1844, or 1845, he was brooding over a review article on this subject.
- I was well acquainted with Mill's sub-editor, John Robertson, now dead. He was a fellow townsman, and was the medium of my introduction to Mill. I had, for several years, abundant opportunities of conversing with him, and learned a great deal about Mill during our intercourse. But he was very reticent about his own relations with Mill; he never told me, at least, what was his pecuniary allowance as sub-editor; nor did he explain how they worked together in the matter of editing: his habit was to style himself editor, and to seem to take the sole management. He has not left behind him any record of the connection between him and Mill; while I know enough of his history to make me doubt whether it commenced in 1836. Those that knew Robertson were not a little taken aback by Mill's character of him: "A young Scotchman, who had some ability and information, much industry, and an active, scheming head, full of devices for making the 'Review' more salable, etc." I remember on one occasion when Mr. Disraeli, in the House of Commons, quoted Mill as an authority on some economical view, Lord John Russell, in reply, spoke of him as a learned author; the next time I met him, he accosted me with his humorous twinkle, "You see what I am now, according to Lord John Russell." The malapropos here was not even so bad. Robertson's attainments were of the slenderest description, and his industry very fitful; but he could make a vigorous and brilliant display both in composition and in conversation. He contributed striking articles to the "Review," his best being his "Cromwell." He was also a very good writer of newspaper articles. His impetus and suggestiveness in conversation drew out Mill, who never talked better than he did with him. But although he made friends in London circles and in the clubs, he was very distasteful to many of Mill's associates, and increased the difficulties of carrying on the "Review"; being, in fact, for a novus homo, as Henry Mill styled him, somewhat arrogant. He took much interest in the Scotch Non-Intrusion controversy, and coached the Melbourne Government upon the question. About 1844 he disappeared from London, and was afterward rarely heard of. Mill scarcely ever mentioned his name in later years. His widow has gathered together the extant indications of his career, but he left few or no reminiscences of his more interesting connections.
- I can not identify all the signatures of the articles in the "Review"; but, in addition to the contributors incidentally brought forward in the text, I may mention the names of Lytton Bulwer, Charles Buller, J. A. Roebuck, James Martineau, Harriet Martineau, Blanco White, Andrew Bisset, W. J. Fox, Mazzini, George Fletcher, Henry Cole. Never was so much "good blood" infused into a periodical of the same duration. Of old "Reviews," I think it would be difficult to produce nine volumes possessing the same amount of interest and stimulus.