To the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings--the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward--I dedicate this volume. Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to me; but the work as it stands has had, in a very insufficient degree, the inestimable advantage of her revision; some of the most important portions having been reserved for a more careful examination, which they are now destined never to receive. Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one-half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivaled wisdom.
--Dedication to "On Liberty," by John Stuart Mill
So this then is the love-story of John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor, who first met in the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty. He was twenty-five and a clerk in the East India House. She was twenty-three, and happily married to a man with a double chin.
They saw each other for the first time at Mrs. Taylor's house at a function given in honor of a Right Honorable Nobody from Essex. The Right Honorable has gone down into the dust of forgetfulness, his very name lost to us, like unto that of the man who fired the Alexandrian Library.
All we know is that he served as a pivotal point in the lives of two great people, and then passed on, unwittingly, into the obscurity from whence he came.
On this occasion the Right Honorable read an original paper on an Important Subject. Mrs. Taylor often gave receptions to eminent and learned personages, because her heart was a-hungered to know and to become, and she vainly thought that the society of learned people would satisfy her soul.
She was young. She was also impulsive, vivacious, ambitious. John Stuart Mill says she was rarely beautiful, but she wasn't. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. All things are comparative, and John Stuart Mill regarded Mrs. Taylor from the first night he saw her as the standard of feminine perfection. All women scaled down as they varied from her. As an actual fact, her features were rather plain, mouth and nose large, cheek-bones in evidence, and one eye was much more open than the other, and this gave people who did not especially like her, excuse for saying that her eyes were not mates. As for John Stuart Mill he used, at times, to refer to the wide-open orb as her "critical eye."
Yet these eyes were lustrous, direct and honest, and tokened the rare quality of mental concentration. Her head was square and long, and had corners. She carried the crown of her head high, and her chin in.
We need not dally with old Mr. Taylor here--for us he was only Mrs. Taylor's husband, a kind of useful marital appendendum. He was a merchant on 'Change, with interests in argosies that plied to Tripoli--successful, busy, absorbed, with a twinge of gout, and a habit of taking naps after dinner with a newspaper over his face. Moreover, he was an Oxford man, and this was his chief recommendation to the eighteen-year-old girl, when she married him four years before. But education to him was now only a reminiscence. He had sloughed the old Greek spirit as a bird molts its feathers, with this difference: that a bird molts its feathers because it is growing a better crop, while Mr. Taylor wasn't growing anything but a lust after "L. s. d."
Once in two years there was an excursion to Oxford to attend a reunion of a Greek-letter society, and perhaps twice in the winter certain ancient cronies came, drank musty ale, and smoked long clay pipes, and sang college songs in cracked falsetto.
Mrs. Taylor was ashamed of them--disappointed. Was this the college spirit of which she had read so much? The old cronies leered at her as she came in to light the candles--they leered at her; and the one seated next to her husband poked that fortunate gentleman in the ribs and congratulated him on his matrimonial estate.
Yet Mr. and Mrs. Taylor were happy, or reasonably so. He took much pride in her intellect, indulged her in all material things she wanted, and never thwarted her little ambitions to give functions to great men who came up from the provinces.
She organized a Literary Coterie, to meet every Saturday and study Mary Wollstonecraft's book on the "Rights of Woman."
Occasionally, she sat in the visitors' gallery at Parliament, but always behind the screen. And constantly she wrote out her thoughts on the themes of the time. Her husband never regarded these things as proof that she was inwardly miserable, unsatisfied, and in spirit was roaming the universe seeking a panacea for soul-nostalgia; not he! Nor she.
And so she gave the function to the Right Honorable Nobody from Essex. And among thirty or forty other people was one John Stuart Mill, son of the eminent James Mill, historian and philosopher, also Head Examiner of the East India House. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor had made out the list of people between them, choosing those whom they thought had sufficient phosphorus so they would enjoy meeting a great theological meteoric personality from Essex.
Mr. Taylor had seen young Mr. Mill in the East India House, where young Mr. Mill made out invoices with big seals on them. Mr. Taylor had said to Mr. Mill that it was a fine day, to which proposition Mr. Mill agreed.
The Honorable James Mill was invited, too, but could not come, as he was President of the Land Tenure League, and a meeting was on for the same night.
Mr. Taylor introduced to the company the eminent visitor from Essex--they had been chums together at Oxford--and then Mr. Taylor withdrew into a quiet corner and enjoyed a nap as the manuscript was being read in sonorous orotund.
The subject was, "The Proper Sphere of Woman in the Social Cosmogony." By chance Mrs. Taylor and John Stuart Mill sat next to each other.
The speaker moved with stately tread through his firstly to his seventhly, and then proceeded to sum up. The argument was that of Saint Paul amplified, "Let woman learn in subjection"--"For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also the head of the Church"--"God made woman for a helpmeet to man," etc.
Mrs. Taylor looked at young Mr. Mill, and Mr. Mill looked at Mrs. Taylor. They were both thinking hard, and without a word spoken they agreed with each other on this, that the speaker had no message.
Young Mr. Mill noted that one of Mrs. Taylor's eyes was much wider open than the other, and that her head had corners. She seemed much beyond him in years and experience, although actually she was two years younger--a fact he did not then know.
"Does not a woman need a helpmeet, too?" she wrote on the fly-leaf of a book she held in her lap. And young Mr. Mill took the book and wrote beneath in a copper-plate East India hand, "I do not know what a woman needs; but I think the speaker needs a helpmeet."
And then Mrs. Taylor wrote: "All help must be mutual. No man can help a woman unless she helps him--the benefit of help lies as much in the giving as in the receiving."
After the function Mrs. Taylor asked Mr. Mill to call. It is quite likely that on this occasion she asked a good many of the other guests to call.
Mr. Mill called the next evening.
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John Stuart Mill was not a university man. He was an intellectual cosset, and educated in a way that made the English pedagogues stand aghast. So, probably thousands of parents said, "Go to! we will educate our own children," and went at their boys in the same way that James Mill treated his son, but the world has produced only one John Stuart Mill.
Axtell, the trotter, in his day held both the two-year-old and the three-year-old record. He was driven in harness from the time he was weaned, and was given work that would have cocked most ankles and sent old horses over on their knees. But Axtell stood the test and grew strong.
Certain horsemen, seeing the success of Axtell, tried his driver's plan, and one millionaire I know ruined a thousand colts and never produced a single racehorse by following the plan upon which Axtell thrived.
The father of John Stuart Mill would now be considered one of England's great thinkers, had he not been so unfortunate as to be thrown completely into the shadow by his son. As it is, James Mill lives in history as the man who insisted that his baby three years old should be taught the Greek alphabet. When five years old, this baby spoke with an Attic accent, and corrected his elders who dropped the aspirate. With unconscious irony John Stuart Mill wrote in his "Autobiography," "I learned no Latin until my eighth year, at which time, however, I was familiar with 'Æsop's Fables,' most of the 'Anabasis,' the 'Memorabilia' of Xenophon, and the 'Lives of the Philosophers' by Diogenes Lærtius, part of Lucian, and the 'Ad Demonicum' and 'Ad Nicoclem' of Isocrates." Besides these he had also read all of Plato, Plutarch, Gibbon, Hume and Rollin, and was formulating in his mind a philosophy of history.
Whether these things "educated" the boy or not will always remain an unsettled question for debating-societies.
But that he learned and grew through constant association with his father there is no doubt. Wherever the father went, the boy trotted along, a pad in one hand and a pencil in the other, always making notes, always asking questions, and always answering propositions.
The long out-of-door walks doubtless saved him from death. He never had a childhood, and if he ever had a mother, the books are silent concerning her. He must have been an incubator baby, or else been found under a cabbage-leaf. James Mill treated his wife as if her office and opinions were too insignificant to consider seriously--she was only an unimportant incident in his life. James Mill was the typical beef-eating Englishman described by Taine.
According to Doctor Bain's most interesting little book on John Stuart Mill, the youth at nine was appointed to supervise the education of the rest of the family, "a position more pleasing to his vanity than helpful to his manners." That he was a beautiful prig at this time goes without saying.
The scaffolding of learning he mistook for the edifice, a fallacy borrowed from his father. At the age of fourteen he knew as much as his father, and acknowledged it. He was then sent to France to study the science of government under Sir Samuel Bentham.
His father's intent was that he should study law, and in his own mind was the strong conviction that he was set apart, and that his life was sacred to the service of humanity. A year at the study of law, and a more or less intimate association with barristers, relieved him of the hallucination that a lawyer's life is consecrated to justice and the rights of man--quips, quirks and quillets were not to his taste.
James Mill held the office of Chief Examiner in the East India House, at a salary equal to seven thousand five hundred dollars a year. The gifted son was now nineteen, and at work as a junior clerk under his father at twenty pounds a year. Before the year was up he was promoted, and when he was twenty-one his salary was one hundred pounds a year.
There are people who will say, "Of course his father pushed him along." But the fact that after his father's death he was promoted by the Directors to Head of the Office disposes of all suspicion of favoritism. The management of the East India Company was really a matter of statesmanship, and the direct, methodical and practical mind of Mill fitted him for the place.
Thomas Carlyle, writing to his wife in Scotland in the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty-one, said: "This young Mill, I fancy and hope, is a being one can love. A slender, rather tallish and elegant youth, with Roman-nosed face, earnestly smiling blue eyes, modest, remarkably gifted, great precision of utterance, calm--a distinctly able and amiable youth."
So now behold him at twenty-five, a student and scholarly recluse, delving all day in accounts and dispatches, grubbing in books at night, and walking an hour before sunrise in the park every morning. It was about then that he accepted the invitation of Mrs. Taylor to call.
I do not find that James Mill ever disputed the proposition that women have souls: he evidently considered the matter quite beyond argument--they hadn't. His son, at this time, was of a like opinion.
John Stuart Mill had not gone into society, and women to him were simply undeveloped men, to be treated kindly and indulgently. As mental companions, the idea was unthinkable. And love was entirely out of his orbit--all of his energies had been worked up into great thoughts. Doctor Bain says that at twenty-five John Stuart Mill was as ignorant of sex as a girl of ten.
He called on Mrs. Taylor because she had pleased him when she said, "The person who helps another gets as much out of the transaction as the one who is helped." This was a thought worth while. Perhaps Mrs. Taylor had borrowed the idea. But anyway it was something to repeat it. He revolved it over in his mind all day, off and on. "To help another is to help yourself. A helpmeet must grow by the exercise of being useful. Therefore, a woman grows as her husband grows--she can not stand if she puts forth intelligent effort. All help is mutual."
"One eye was wider than the other--her head had corners--she carried her chin in!"
John Stuart Mill wished the day would not drag so; after supper he would go and call on Mrs. Taylor, and ask her to explain what she meant by all help being mutual--it was a trifle paradoxical!
The Taylors were just finishing tea when young Mr. Mill called. They were surprised and delighted to see him. He was a bit abashed, and could not quite remember what it was he wanted to ask Mrs. Taylor, but he finally got around to something else just as good. Mrs. Taylor had written an article on the "Subjugation of Women"--would Mr. Mill take it home with him and read it, or would he like to hear her read a little of it now?
Mr. Mill's fine face revealed his delight at the prospect of being read to. So Mrs. Taylor read a little aloud to Mr. Mill, while Mr. Taylor took a much-needed nap in the corner.
In a few days Mr. Mill called to return Mrs. Taylor's manuscript and leave a little essay he himself had written on a similar theme. Mr. Taylor was greatly pleased at this fine friendship that had sprung up between his gifted wife and young Mr. Mill--Mrs. Taylor was so much improved in health, so much more buoyant! Thursday night soon became sacred at the Taylors' to Mr. Mill, and Sunday he always took dinner with them.
Goldwin Smith, a trifle grumpy, with a fine forgetfulness as to the saltness of time, says that young Mr. Mill had been kept such a recluse that when he met Mrs. Taylor he considered that he was the first man to discover the potency of sex, and that he thought his experience was unique in the history of mankind.
Perhaps love does make a fool of a man--I really can not say. If so, then John Stuart Mill never recovered his sanity. Suppose we let John speak for himself--I quote from his "Autobiography":
It was at the period of my mental progress which I have now reached that I formed the friendship which has been the honor and chief blessing of my existence, as well as the source of a great part of all that I have attempted to do, or hope to effect hereafter, for human improvement.
My first introduction to the lady who, after a friendship of twenty years, consented to become my wife, was in Eighteen Hundred Thirty, when I was in my twenty-fifth and she in her twenty-third year.
* * * * * * *
I very soon felt her to be the most admirable person I had ever known.
It is not to be supposed that she was, or that any one, at the age at which I first saw her, could be, all that she became afterwards. Least of all could this be true of her, with whom self-improvement, progress in the highest and in all senses, was a law of her nature; a necessity equally from the ardor with which she sought it, and from the spontaneous tendency of faculties which could not receive an impression or an experience without making it the source or occasion of an accession of wisdom.
* * * * * * *
In her, complete emancipation from every kind of superstition (including that which attributes a pretended perfection to the order of Nature and the universe) and an earnest protest against many things which are still part of the established constitution of society, resulted not from the intellect, but from strength, a noble and elevated feeling, and co-existent with a highly reverential nature. In general spiritual characteristics, as well as in temperament and organization, I have often compared her, as she was at that time, to Shelley: but in thought and intellect, Shelley, so far as his powers were developed in his short life, was but a child compared with what she ultimately became.
Alike in the highest regions of speculation and in the smaller practical concerns of daily life, her mind was the same perfect instrument, piercing to the heart and marrow of the matter, always seizing the essential idea or principle.
The same exactness and rapidity of operation, pervading as it did her sensitive as well as her mental qualities, would, with her gifts of feeling and imagination, have fitted her for a consummate artist, as her fiery and tender soul and her vigorous eloquence would certainly have made her a great orator. And her profound knowledge of human nature, and discernment and sagacity in practical life, would, in the times when such a career was open to women, have made her eminent among the rulers of mankind.
Her intellectual gifts did but minister to a moral character at once the noblest and the best balanced which I have ever met with in my life. Her unselfishness was not that of a taught system of duties, but of a heart which thoroughly identified itself with the feelings of others, and often went to excess in consideration for them by imaginatively investing their feelings with the intensity of her own.
The passion of justice might have been thought to be her strongest feeling, but for her boundless generosity, and a lovingness ever ready to pour itself forth upon any or all human beings who were capable of giving the smallest feelings in return. The rest of her moral characteristics were such as naturally accompany these qualities of mind and heart: the most genuine modesty combined with the loftiest pride; a simplicity and sincerity which were absolute towards all who were fit to receive them; the utmost scorn for whatever was mean and cowardly, and a burning indignation at everything brutal or tyrannical, faithless or dishonorable in conduct and character, while making the broadest distinction between "mala in se" and mere "mala prohibita"--between acts giving evidence of intrinsic badness in feeling and character, and those which are only violations of conventions either good or bad, violations which whether in themselves right or wrong are capable of being committed by persons in every other respect lovable and admirable.
To be admitted into any degree of mental intercourse with a being of these qualities could not but have a most beneficial influence on my development; though the effect was only gradual, and several years elapsed before her mental progress and mine went forward in the complete companionship they at last attained. The benefit I received was far greater than any which I could hope to give; though to her, who had at first reached her opinions by the moral intuition of a character of strong feeling, there was doubtless help as well as encouragement to be derived from one who had arrived at many of the same results by study and reasoning: and in the rapidity of her intellectual growth, her mental activity, which converted everything into knowledge, doubtless drew from me, as it did from other sources, many of its materials. What I owe, even intellectually, to her is, in its detail, almost infinite; of its general character a few words will give some, though a very imperfect, idea.
With those who, like the best and wisest of mankind, are dissatisfied with human life as it is, and whose feelings are wholly identified with its radical amendment, there are two main regions of thought. One is the region of ultimate aims--the constituent elements of the highest realizable ideal of human life.
The other is that of the immediately useful and practically attainable. In both these departments, I have acquired more from her teaching than from all other sources taken together. And, to say truth, it is in these two extremes principally, that real certainty lies. My own strength lay wholly in the uncertain and slippery intermediate region, that of theory, or moral and political science; respecting the conclusions of which, in any of the forms in which I have received or originated them, whether as political economy, analytic psychology, logic, philosophy or history, or anything else, it is not the least of my intellectual obligations to her that I have derived from her a wise skepticism, which, while it has not hindered me from following out the honest exercise of my thinking faculties to whatever conclusions might result from it, has put me on my guard against holding or announcing these conclusions with a degree of confidence which the nature of such speculations does not warrant, and has kept my mind not only open to admit, but prompt to welcome and eager to seek, even on the questions on which I have most meditated, any prospect of clearer perceptions and better evidence. I have often received praise, which in my own right I only partially deserve, for the greater practicality that is supposed to be found in my writings, compared with those of most thinkers who have been equally addicted to large generalizations. The writings in which this quality has been observed, were not the work of one mind, but of the fusion of two: one as eminently practical in its judgments and perceptions of things present, as it was high and bold in its anticipations for futurity.
* * * * * * *
The social functions at the Taylor home now became less frequent, and finally ceased. Women looked upon the friendship of John Stuart Mill and Mrs. Taylor with some resentment and a slight tinge of jealousy. Men lifted an eyebrow and called it "equivocal"--to use the phrase of Clement Shorter.
"The plan of having a husband and also a lover is not entirely without precedent," said Disraeli in mock apology, and took snuff solemnly. Meantime manuscripts were traveling back and forth between the East India House and the Taylors'.
John Stuart Mill was contributing essays to the magazines that made the thinkers think. He took a position opposed to his father, and maintained the vast importance of the sentiments and feelings in making up the sum of human lives. When Mill was mentioned, people asked which one.
The Carlyles, who at first were very proud of the acquaintanceship of Mill, dropped him. Then he dropped them. Years after, the genial Tammas, writing to his brother John, confirmed his opinion of Mill, "after Mill took up with that Taylor woman." Says Tammas: "You have lost nothing by missing the 'Autobiography' of Mill. I never read a more uninteresting book, nor should I say a sillier."
James Mill protested vehemently against his son visiting at the Taylors', and even threatened the young man with the loss of his position, but John Stuart made no answer. The days John did not see Harriet he wrote her a letter and she wrote him one.
To protect himself in his position, John now ceased to do any literary work or to write any personal letters at the office. While there he attended to business and nothing else. In the early morning he wrote or walked. Evenings he devoted to Mrs. Taylor; either writing to her or for her, or else seeing her. On Saturday afternoons they would usually go botanizing, for botany is purely a lovers' invention.
Old acquaintances who wanted to see Mill had to go to the East India House, and there they got just five minutes of his dignified presence. Doctor Bain complains, "I could no longer get him to walk with me in the park--he had reduced life to a system, and the old friends were shelved and pigeonholed."
When Mill was thirty his salary was raised to five hundred pounds a year. His father died the same year, and his brothers and sisters discarded him. His literary fame had grown, and he was editor of the London "Review." The pedantry of youth had disappeared--practical business had sobered him, and love had relieved him of his idolatry for books. Heart now meant more to him than art. His plea was for liberty, national and individual. The modesty, gentleness and dignity of the man made his presence felt wherever he went. A contemporary said: "His features were refined and regular--the nose straight and finely shaped, his lips thin and compressed--the face and body seemed to represent the inflexibility of the inner man. His whole aspect was one of high and noble achievement--invincible purpose, iron will, unflinching self-oblivion--a world's umpire!"
Mill felt that life was such a precious heritage that we should be jealous of every moment, so he shut himself in from every disturbing feature. All that he wrote he submitted to Mrs. Taylor--she corrected, amended, revised. She read for him, and spent long hours at the British Museum in research work, while he did the business of the East India Company.
When his "Logic" was published, in Eighteen Hundred Forty, he had known Mrs. Taylor nine years. That she had a considerable hand in this comprehensive work there is no doubt. The book placed Mill upon the very pinnacle of fame. John Morley declared him "England's foremost thinker," a title to which Gladstone added the weight of his endorsement, a thing we would hardly expect from an ardent churchman, since Mill was always an avowed freethinker, and once declared in Gladstone's presence, "I am one of the few men in England who have not abandoned their religious beliefs, because I never had any."
Justin McCarthy says in his reminiscences: "A wiser and more virtuous man than Mill I never knew nor expect to know; and yet I have had the good fortune to know many wise and virtuous men. I never knew any man of really great intellect, who carried less of the ways of ordinary greatness about him. There was an added charm to the very shyness of his manner when one remembers how fearless he was, if the occasion called for fortitude or courage."
After the publication of the "Logic," Mill was too big a man for the public to lose sight of.
He went his simple way, but to escape being pointed out, he kept from all crowds, and public functions were to him tabu.
When Mrs. Taylor gave birth to a baby girl, an obscure London newspaper printed, "A Malthusian Warning to the East India Company," which no doubt reflected a certain phase of public interest, but Mill continued his serene way undisturbed.
To this baby girl, Helen Taylor, Mill was always most devotedly attached. As she grew into childhood he taught her botany, and people who wanted a glimpse of Mill were advised to "look for him with a flaxen-haired little sprite of a girl any Saturday afternoon on Hampton Heath."
Mr. Taylor died in July, Eighteen Hundred Forty-nine, and in April, Eighteen Hundred Fifty-one, Mrs. Taylor and Mill were quietly married. The announcement of the marriage sent a spasm over literary England, and set the garrulous tongues a-wagging.
George Mill, a brother of John Stuart, with unconscious humor placed himself on record thus, "Mrs. Taylor was never to anybody else what she was to John." Bishop Spalding once wrote out this strange, solemn, emasculate proposition, "Mill's 'Autobiography' contains proof that a soul, with an infinite craving for God, not finding Him, will worship anything--a woman, a memory!"
This almost makes one think that the good Bishop was paraphrasing and reversing Voltaire's remark, "When a woman no longer finds herself acceptable to man she turns to God."
What the world thought of Mill's wife is not vital--what he thought of her, certainly was. I quote from the "Autobiography," which Edward Everett Hale calls "two lives in one--written by one of them":
Between the time of which I have now spoken, and the present, took place the most important events of my life.
The first of these was my marriage to the lady whose incomparable worth had made her friendship the greatest source to me both of happiness and of improvement. For seven and a half years that blessing was mine; for seven and a half only! I can say nothing which could describe, even in the faintest manner, what that loss was, and is. But because I know that she would have wished it, I endeavor to make the best of what life I have left, and to work on for her purposes with such diminished strength as can be derived from the thoughts of her, and communion with her memory.
When two persons have thoughts and speculations completely in common; when all subjects of intellectual and moral interests are discussed between them in daily life, and probed to much greater depths than are usually or conveniently sounded in writings intended for general readers; when they set out from the same principles, and arrive at their conclusions by processes pursued jointly, it is of little consequence, in respect to the question of originality, which of them holds the pen; the one who contributes the least to the composition may contribute most of the thought; the writings which result are the joint product of both, and it must often be impossible to disentangle their respective parts, and affirm that this belongs to one and that to the other. In this wide sense, not only during the years of our married life, but during many of the years of confidential friendship which preceded, all my published writings were as much her work as mine, her share in them constantly increasing as years advanced. But in certain cases, what belongs to her can be distinguished and specially identified. Over and above the general influence which her mind had over mine, the most valuable ideas and features in these joint productions (those which have been most fruitful of important results, and which have contributed most to the success and reputation of the works themselves) originated with her, were emanations from her mind, my part of them being no greater than in any of the thoughts which I found in previous writings, and made my own only by incorporating them with my own system of Thought. During the greater part of my literary life I have performed the office in relation to her, which from a rather early period I had considered as the most useful part that I was qualified to take in the domain of thought: that of an interpreter of original thinkers, and mediator between them and the public.
* * * * * * *
Thus prepared, it will easily be believed that when I came into close intellectual communion with a person of the most eminent faculties, whose genius, as it grew and unfolded itself in thought, continually struck out truths far in advance of me, but in which I could not, as I had done in those others, detect any mixture of error, the greatest part of my mental growth consisted in the assimilation of those truths, and the most valuable part of my intellectual work was in building the bridges and clearing the paths which connected them with my general system of thought.
The steps in my mental growth for which I was indebted to her were far from being those which a person wholly uninformed on the subject would probably suspect. It might be supposed, for instance, that my strong convictions on the complete equality in all legal, political social and domestic relations, which ought to exist between men and women, may have been adopted or learned from her. This was so far from being the fact that those convictions were among the earliest results of the application of my mind to political subjects, and the strength with which I held them was, as I believe, more than anything else, the originating cause of the interest she felt in me. What is true is, that, until I knew her, the opinion was in my mind, little more than an abstract principle. I saw no more reason why women should be held in legal subjection to other people, than why men should. I was certain that their interests required fully as much protection as those of men, and were quite as little likely to obtain it without an equal voice in making the laws by which they were to be bound. But that perception of the vast practical bearings of women's disabilities which found expression in the book on the "Subjection of Women" was acquired mainly through her teaching. But for her rare knowledge of human nature and comprehension of moral and social influences, though I doubtless should have held my present opinions, I should surely have had a very insufficient perception of the mode in which the consequences of the inferior position of women intertwine themselves with all the evils of existing society and with all the difficulties of human improvement. I am indeed painfully conscious of how much of her best thoughts on the subject I have failed to reproduce, and how greatly that little treatise falls short of what would have been if she had put on paper her entire mind on the question, or had lived to devise and improve, as she certainly would have done, my imperfect statement of the case.
The first of my books in which her share was conspicuous was the "Principles of Political Economy." The "System of Logic" owed little to her except in the minute matters of composition, in which respect my writings both great and small have largely benefited by her accurate and clear-sighted criticism. The chapter of the "Political Economy" which has had a greater influence on opinion than all the rest, that on "The Probable Future of the Laboring Classes," is entirely due to her: in the first draft of the book, that chapter did not exist.
She pointed out the need of a chapter, and the extreme imperfection of the book without it: she was the cause of my writing it; and the more general part of the chapter--the statement and discussion of the two opposite theories respecting the proper condition of the laboring classes--was wholly an exposition of her thoughts, often in words taken from her own lips.
The purely scientific part of the "Political Economy" I did not learn from her; but it was chiefly her influence that gave to the book that general tone by which it is distinguished from all previous expositions of "Political Economy" that had any pretension to being scientific, and which has made it so useful to conciliating minds which those previous expositions had repelled.
* * * * * * *
What was abstract and purely scientific was generally mine; the properly human element came from her: in all that concerned the application of philosophy to the exigencies of human society and progress, I was her pupil, alike in boldness of speculation and cautiousness of practical judgment. For, on the one hand, I was much more courageous and farsighted than without her I should have been, in anticipation of an order of things to come, in which many of the limited generalizations now so often confounded with universal principles will cease to be applicable. Those parts of my writings, and especially of the "Political Economy," which contemplate possibilities in the future such as, when affirmed by socialists, have in general been fiercely denied by political economists, would, but for her, either have been absent, or the suggestions would have been made much more timidly and in a more qualified form. But while she thus rendered me bolder in speculation on human affairs, her practical turn of mind, and her almost unerring estimate of practical obstacles, repressed in me all tendencies that were really visionary.
Her mind invested all ideas in a concrete shape, and formed itself a conception of how they would actually work: and her knowledge of the existing feelings and conduct of mankind was so seldom at fault, that the weak point in any unworkable suggestion seldom escaped her.
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During the two years which immediately preceded the cessation of my official life, my wife and I were working together at the "Liberty." I had first planned and written it as a short essay in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-four. None of my writings have been either so carefully composed, or so sedulously corrected as this. After it had been written as usual, twice over, we kept it by us, bringing it out from time to time, and going through it "de novo," reading, weighing and criticizing every sentence. Its final revision was to have been a work of the winter of Eighteen Hundred Fifty-eight and Fifty-nine, the first after my retirement, which we had arranged to pass in the South of Europe. That hope and every other were frustrated by the most unexpected and bitter calamity of her death, at Avignon, on our way to Montpellier, from a sudden attack of pulmonary congestion.
Since then I have sought for such alleviation as my state admitted of, by the mode of life which most enabled me to feel her still near me. I bought a cottage as close as possible to the place where she is buried, and there her daughter (my fellow-sufferer and now my chief comfort) and I live constantly during a great portion of the year. My objects in life are solely those which were hers; my pursuits and occupations those in which she shared or sympathized--which are indissolubly associated with her. Her memory is to me a religion, and her approbation the standard by which, summing up as it does all worthiness, I endeavor to regulate my life.
After my irreparable loss, one of my earliest cares was to print and publish the treatise, so much of which was the work of her whom I had lost, and consecrate it to her memory. I have made no alterations or additions to it, nor shall I ever. Though it wants the last touch of her hand, no substitute for that touch shall ever be attempted by mine.
The "Liberty" was more directly and literally our joint production than anything else which bears my name, for there was not a sentence of it which was not several times gone through by us together, turned over in many ways, and carefully weeded of any faults, either in thought or expression, that we detected in it. It is in consequence of this that, although it never underwent her final revision, it far surpasses, as a mere specimen of composition, anything which has proceeded from me either before or since. With regard to the thoughts, it is difficult to identify any particular part or element as being more hers than all the rest. The whole mood of thinking, of which the book was the expression, was emphatically hers.
But I also was so thoroughly imbued with it that the same thoughts naturally occurred to us both. That I was thus penetrated with it, however, I owe in a great degree to her. There was a moment in my mental progress when I might easily have fallen into a tendency towards over-government, both social and political; as there was also a moment when, by reaction from a contrary excess, I might have become a less thorough radical and democrat than I am. In both these points as in many others, she benefited me as much by keeping me right where I was right, as by leading me to new truths, and ridding me of errors.
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Mrs. Mill died suddenly, at Avignon, France, while on a journey with Mr. Mill. There she was buried.
The stricken husband and daughter rented a cottage in the village, to be near the grave of the beloved dead. They intended to remain only a few weeks, but after a year they concluded they could "never be content to go away and leave the spot consecrated by her death," unlike Robert Browning, who left Florence forever on the death of his wife, not having the inclination or the fortitude even to visit her grave.
Mill finally bought the Avignon cottage, refitted it, brought over from England all his books and intimate belongings, and Avignon was his home for fifteen years--the rest of his life.
Mill always referred to Helen Taylor as "my wife's daughter," and the daughter called him "Pater." The love between these two was most tender and beautiful. The man could surely never have survived the shock of his wife's death had it not been for Helen. She it was who fitted up the cottage, and went to England bringing over his books, manuscripts and papers, luring him on to live by many little devices of her ready wit. She built a portico all around the cottage, and in Winter this was enclosed in glass. Helen called it, "Father's semi-circumgyratory," and if he failed to pace this portico forty times backward and forward each forenoon, she would take him gently by the arm and firmly insist that he should fill the prescription. They resumed their studies of botany, and Helen organized classes which went with them on their little excursions.
In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-five, Mill was induced to stand for Parliament for Westminster. The move was made by London friends in the hope of winning him back to England. He agreed to the proposition on condition that he should not be called upon to canvass for votes or take any part in the campaign.
He was elected by a safe majority, and proved a power for good in the House of Commons. The Speaker once remarked, "The presence of Mr. Mill in this body I perceive has elevated the tone of debate." This sounds like the remark of Wendell Phillips when Dogmatism was hot on the heels of the Sage of Concord: "If Emerson goes to Hell, his presence there will surely change the climate."
Yet when Mill ran for re-election he was defeated, it having leaked out that he was an "infidel," since he upheld Charles Bradlaugh in his position that the affirmation of a man who does not believe in the Bible should be accepted as freely as the oath of one who does. In passing it is worth while to note that the courts of Christendom have now accepted the view of Bradlaugh and of Mill on this point.
The best resume of Mill's philosophy is to be found in Taine's "English Literature," a fact to which Mill himself attested.
The dedication of "On Liberty," printed as a preface to this "Little Journey," rivals in worth the wonderful little classic of Ernest Renan to his sister, Henriette.
Mill died at Avignon in Eighteen Hundred Seventy-three, his last days soothed by the tender ministrations of the daughter Helen. His body, according to his wish, was buried in his wife's grave, and so the dust of the lovers lies mingled.
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