On Liberty - with full text by John Stuart Mill (Annotated) (Illustrated)

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No early portrait of Mill as a young man exists and we must try to reconstruct his appearance from the few descriptions by contemporaries. Carlyle, first meeting him in , described him as 'a slender, rather tall and elegant youth, with a small clear Roman-nosed face, two small earnestly-smiling eyes; modest, remarkably gifted with pre- cision of utterance, enthusiastic, yet lucid, calm; not a great, yet a distinctly gifted and amiable youth'. If, however, after his thirtieth year Mill was permanently handicapped by ill health, and though he may even never have fully recovered from the nervous breakdown of ten years before, he appears to have been naturally endowed with a splendid constitution, which enabled him not only to overcome these handicaps but to continue to perform an amount of work and to remain even during acute illness capable of an amount of physical exertion which sometimes seem scarcely credible.

The story of his education is too well known to need retelling even in outline. On the basis of the full account of this education which we possess, he has, in a recent study of child geniuses, 19 been awarded the highest intelligence quotient of all recorded instances of specially precocious children; but, as the author of that study rightly suggests, this may well be merely the result of our knowing so much more about Mill's childhood performances than about those of most others.

Indeed, astounding as the speed is with which he passed as a child through a course of education which normally lasts into early manhood, and amazing as are his powers of retention and the discipline of orderly thought and exposition which he acquired, there is little sign of origin- ality or creative powers in his early years. His own modest estimate of his innate capacities indeed may be nearer the truth.

In the Auto- biography he represents his father's educational experiment as con- clusive precisely because in 'natural gifts I am rather below than above par; what I could do, could assuredly be done by any boy or girl of average capacity and healthy physical constitution: and if I have accomplished anything, I owe it, among other fortunate circumstances, to the fact that through the early training bestowed upon me by my father, I started, I may fairly say, with an advantage of a quarter of a century over my con- temporaries.

The description given of him at the age of eighteen 30 HARRIET TAYLOR AND HER CIRCLE or nineteen by his friend John Roebuck is probably very just; he writes that when he first met Mill he found that: 'although possessed of much learning, and thoroughly acquainted with the state of the political world, [he] was, as might have been expected, the mere exponent of other men's ideas, these men being his father and Bentham; and that he was utterly ignorant of what is called society; that of the world, as it worked around him, he knew nothing; and above all, of woman he was as a child.

He had never played with boys; in his life he had never known any, and we, in fact, who were now his associates, were the first companions he had ever mixed with. That one of the main causes of the acute dejection, from which he emerged only gradually over a period of years, was, in addition to over- work, the struggle to emancipate himself from the complete intellectual sway which his father had held over him, one may readily believe without subscribing to the full to the psycho-analytical interpretation given of it recently in an interesting study.

It is taken from the manuscript of an early draft, quite possibly the same which we shall later find Mill discussing with his wife in , which was in the possession of the late Professor Jacob H. Hollander and is presumably still among his library: 'But in respect to what I am here concerned with — the moral agencies which acted on myself — it must be mentioned as a most shameful one that my father's older children neither loved him nor with any warmth of affection anyone else.

But my mother with the very best intentions only knew how to pass her life in drudging for them. I thus grew up in the absence of love and in the presence of fear; and many and indelible are the effects of this bringing up in the stunting of my moral growth. I had no one to whom I desired to express everything which I felt and the only person I was in communication with to whom I looked up, I had too much fear of to make the communication to him of any act or feeling ever a matter of frank impulse or spontaneous inclination.

To have been through childhood under the constant rule of a strong will certainly is not favourable to strength of will. I was so much accustomed to be told what to do either in the form of direct command or of rebuke for not doing it that I acquired the habit of leaving my responsibility as a moral agent to rest on my father and my conscience never speaking to me except by his voice. Yet it is doubtful whether the harsh judgment expressed in it, very probably written during the period of his estrangement from his mother following his marriage, truly represents his feelings as a young man.

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There is some testimony to the contrary by contemporaries, and even though the unfavourable comments evoked by the Autobiography may have led them to overemphasize this point, they agree too well to be dismissed. Solly, who had been a classmate of John's younger brother James at University College and in the summer of had spent a week with the Mills at their cottage at Mickleham, near Dorking in Surrey, says that 'John Mill always seemed to me a great favourite with his family.

He was evidently very fond of his mother and sisters, and they of him; and he frequently manifested a sunny brightness and gaiety of heart and behaviour which were singularly fascinating. Crompton, another member of the same class at University College, records his impressions from similar visits in almost the same words: 'In these days John was devotedly attached to his mother and exuberant in his playful tokens of affection.

Towards his father he was deferential, never venturing to controvert him in argument nor taking a prominent part in the conversation in his presence. At the time of which we are speaking he shared that home with eight younger brothers and sisters, ranging down to George who must have been nearly twenty years his junior.

His position was not made easier by the fact that since , when he had entered the offices of the East India Company, his father had become also his official superior with whom he must have been in constant close contact after, in and at the age of twenty-two, he had himself been promoted to a senior position. He could expect no sympathy from the older man for the many new impressions and ideas which he readily absorbed in those years and which led him more and more away from the utilitarian faith.

For a time we feel in his correspondence with some of his contemporaries, particularly in his letters to John Sterling and Adolphe d'Eichthal, how he suffered from the intellectual isolation in which he has been led and how he longed for a real companion with whom he could fully share his new interests. But, although this is the one period in his life when he went out of his j. There is a significant letter to John Sterling which bears quoting at some length since it better than any other document describes his emotional state not long before he met Harriet Taylor. Do not suppose me to mean that I am conscious at present of any tendency to mis- anthropy — although among the various states of mind, some of them extremely painful ones, through which I have passed through the last three years, something distantly approach- ing misanthropy was one.

At present I believe that my sym- pathies with society, which were never strong, are, on the whole, stronger than they ever were. By loneliness I mean the absence of that feeling which has accompanied me through the greater part of my life, that which one fellow traveller, or one fellow-soldier, has towards another — the feeling of being engaged in the pursuit of a common object, and of mutually cheering one another on, and helping one another in an arduous undertaking. This, which after all is one of the strongest ties of individual sympathy, is at present, so far as I am concerned, suspended at least, if not entirely broken off.

There is now no human being with whom I can associate on terms of equality who acknowledges a common object with me, or with whom I can co-operate even in any practical undertaking, without the feeling that I am only using a man, whose purposes are different, as an instrument for the furtherance of my own.

Idem s entire de republica, was thought, by one of the best men who ever lived, to be the strongest bond of friendship : for republica I would read 'all the great objects of life', where all the parties concerned have at hearts any great objects at all.


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I do not see how there can be other- wise that idem velle, idem nolle, which is necessary to perfect friendship. Unsettled though Mill's mind was in these years, they were never- theless one of the periods of his greatest productivity and perhaps that of his most original thought. Indeed it seems that most of the ideas which he later developed in his major works were first conceived during the few years following his recoveryform the period of dejection. It was in 1 that Macaulay's famous attack on James Mill's Essay on Govern- ment, perhaps together with some of the early works of Auguste Comte which John Mill read at the same time, started the train of thought which led to his characteristic ideas on Logic on which he began to work at the beginning of the following year.

About the same time he wrote his first and most original work on economic theory, the Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy. He also continued to steep himself in the history of the French Revolution on which he had started to work when, early in , he had reviewed Walter Scott's Life of Napoleon and which a few years later still seemed his favourite topic of conversation. Taylor; and for some time thereafter French affairs greatly occupied his attention until they were partly superseded by the even more direct concern with the Reform Bill agitation at home into which he threw much of his energy.

Fox who brought Mill to Mrs. To the dinner-party at the home of the Taylors at which the introduction was effected not only Mill but the whole 'Trijackia' was invited, that is, he and his closest friends of the preceding years, John Roebuck and George John Graham. In the Autobiography Mill says that 'it was years after my introduction to Mrs.

Taylor before my acquaintance with her became at all intimate or confidential'. There are no dated documents before the birth of Mrs. Taylor's last child, Helen, on 27 July , and if it were not for one curious fact one would be inclined to assign the few undated early letters referring to Mill to a date after this.

There exists, however, a note by Eliza Flower to Mrs. Taylor's closest friend was already so familiar with the similarity of her and Mill's views as to believe without justification that the article must be by either of them. These early letters are all connected with a certain Monsieur Desainteville, a Frenchman living in London and occasionally contributing to the Monthly Repository?

The earliest extant letter by Mrs. Taylor to Mill refers to him. Desainteville the first intelligence of which I got from your two notes which I received together yesterday: how unkind and neglectful we must have appeared? Pray express to him my sympathy and best wishes. Taylor has seen him and found him better than he expected : what a terrible state of emotion he must have suffered so to have reduced him.

In haste yours very truly H. Taylor B. Desainteville to John Taylor, early f : 9 Desainte- ville en acceptant avec plaisir l'invitation de Monsieur Taylor croit devoir l'informer que M. Bontemps connait parfaite- ment Mill et que ce dernier ne serait pas a la table de M. Taylor Tun des convives les moins interessants pour M.

Si Monsieur Taylor n'y voit aucun inconvenient, Desainteville le prier d'inviter Mill a diner avec nous, ce serait en outre le vrai moyen de scellerjoliment la reconcilia- tion qui s'est opere entre Monsieurs Taylor et Mill. We have no knowledge why a reconciliation between John Taylor and Mill should have been necessary at so early a date.

If we correctly interpret the reference to the 'Nouvelle Foret' in the following undated note by Mill, it would appear that at the beginning of August , when he returned from a walking tour in Hampshire, West Sussex, and the Isle of Wight, ending up in the New Forest, 11 he found a letter from Mrs.

Taylor telling him that they must not meet again. Elle m'a ecrit — il suffit : bien que je ne dissimul pas c'est pour me dire un eternel adieu. Cette adieu, qu'elle ne croie pas que je Taccepte jamais. Sa route et la mienne sont separe, elle l'a dit: mais elles peuvent, elles doivent, se recontrer. A quelque' epoque, dans quelque' endroit, que ce puisse etre, elle me trouvera toujours ce que j'ai ete, ce que je suis encore. Elle sera obeie, par les motifs qu'elle donne — elle le serait quand meme elle se serait bornee a me communiquer ses volontes.

Lui obeir est pour moi une necessite. Elle ne refusera pas, j'espere, l'offrande de ces petites fleurs, que j'apportee pour elle du fond de la Nouvelle-Foret. Donnez-les lui s'il le faut, de votre part. A few weeks later, however, normal relations between them seem to have been re-established. At least on 1 September Mill wrote to John Taylor the only letter exchanged between the two men which has been preserved. Jules Bastide and Hippolyte Dussard, 14 distinguished members of the republican party in France, have been compelled to fly their country for a time in consequence of the affair of the fifth and sixth of June.

They were not conspirators, for there was no conspiracy, but when they found the troops and the people at blows, they took the side of the people. I am particularly desirous of bringing them into contact with the better members of the Political Union, that they might not suppose our men of action to be all of them like the Revells 15 and Murphys whom they saw and heard on Wednesday last.

Yourself and Mr. Fox are [the? But I do not like to give them a letter of introduction to you without first ascertaining whether it would be agreeable to yourself. Will you therefore oblige me with a line, to say, if possible, that you will allow me to tell them to call upon you, or other- wise] 16 to say that you would rather not.

I have not men- tioned the matter to them, nor shall I do so until I have the pleasure of hearing from you. Ever truly yours J. Apparently Mr. Taylor at once sent an invitation to the two Frenchmen, who were, however, unable to accept it, and a little later M. Desainteville asked Mrs. Taylor to renew it. Desainteville to H. Le volume des oeuvres de Platon que je vous ai prete lui appar- tient et je vous serai infinitement oblige, si vous n'en faites plus usage, de me l'envoyer, afin de le restituer a qui de droit. Mill me parait extremement heureux de la cordialite avec laquelle M.

Taylor, qu'il estime beaucoup, l'a recu et j'en ressens moi-meme la plus vive satisfaction. II me dit que MM. Taylor d'inviter ces messieurs avec Mill a prendre le the jeudi prochain chez vous?


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Je me fais un veritable plaisir de vous envoyer ci-joint le dernier numero de St. Fox avec des observations sur lui qui me font bien plaisir. J'ai l'honneur d'etre, madame, V. Desainteville During and the years immediately following the one common interest in which we can follow Mill's and Mrs. Taylor's activities are their contributions to Fox's Monthly Repository. This journal Fox had bought in , perhaps with financial help from Mr. Taylor, after he had already been editing it for three years, and for a time Mrs.

Taylor lent the help of her pen to assist him in the effort of turning it from a denominational organ into a general literary and political periodical. Practically all her known publications appeared in the Monthly Re- pository for , and in the following year Mill also became a regular contributor and at the same time entered a new field as a critic of poetry. Taylor's contributions 18 of include her three printed poems, probably written some time before and already mentioned, six reviews of books and one small essay.

It cannot be said that there is anything very remarkable about her prose compositions of this time. Taylor, like the others well written and expressing strong radical sentiments, appeared in July and Septem- ber, 21 and in November followed one more, of a translation 22 of B. Sarrans' Louis Philippe and the Revolution of 18 JO in which one is inclined to detect signs of Mill's hand, though it may be that merely his writings on the subject had served as a model.

The review ends: 'There can be no doubt that the state of things in France is again slowly tending towards a great moral or physical revolution. That the former may suffice, all friends of humanity must desire; but, should that force of itself be insufficient to produce agreement between the spirit of the government and the spirit of the time, they will not be true friends of humanity who shall not welcome any power which, by means of some evil, may work the regeneration of the people who head the political regeneration of Europe.

As needful is it to be kept in mind by nations, as by individuals, Aide toi, le del fatdera. Taylor's last known contribution to the Monthly Repository, in December, is a pleasant little essay on the rival attractions of 'The Seasons' of which the only noteworthy passage is perhaps the startling assertion that 'flowers are Utilitarians in the largest sense.

Their very life is supported by administering to the life of others — producers and distributors, but consumers only of what, unused, would be noxious. When, early in , Fox had first urged him to con- tribute he had committed himself no further than to a guarded half- promise that whenever he had anything suitable he would be glad to let Fox have it for the Monthly Repository.

Before that time he had appeared to his friends as a dis- tinctly unpoetical nature 28 and in his account of his discovery of Words- worth he himself explains Wordsworth's appeal to him by the fact that Wordsworth was 'the poet of unpoetical natures'. I did cultivate this taste as well as a taste for paintings and sculpture and did read with enthusiasm her favourite poets, especially the one whom she placed far above all others, Shelley.

Mill then described the popular enthusiasm for him as 'a mere popular delusion'. He holds that poetry is the "delineation of the deeper and more secret workings of human emotions". Taylor took a direct part; and, although it saw the light of print only in recent times, it was destined to play some role in the development of a major poet. Robert Browning had some years before, when still a boy, made the acquaintance of W.

Fox and the Misses Flower. This article is lost. But Mill also freely annotated his copy 35 on the margin, marking 'all the passages where the meaning is so imperfectly expressed as not to be easily understood', and summed up his opinion on the flyleaf. Some of these marginal notes are in a different hand, which is almost certainly Harriet Taylor's, and though the notes which can be ascribed to her with any confidence do not go beyond short exclamations like 'most beautiful' and 'deeply true', there can be little doubt that she and Mill fully discussed the poem before Mill returned the annotated copy to Fox with the remark that 'On the whole the observations are not flattering to the author — perhaps too strong in the expression to be shown to him'.

Although Mill's critique has been printed in the standard Life of Robert Browning, it has never been included in any publication concerning Mill and therefore may be given a place here 37 : 1 'With considerable poetic powers, the writer seems to me possessed with a more intense and morbid self-consciousness than I ever knew in any sane human being. I should think it a sincere confession, though a most unlovable state, if the "Pauline" were not evidently a mere phantom. All about her is full of inconsistency — he neither loves her nor fancies he loves her, yet insists upon talking love to her.

If she existed and loved him, he treats her most ungenerously and unfeel- ingly. All his aspirings and yearnings and regrets point to other things, never to her; then he pays her off toward the end by a piece of flum- mery amounting to the modest request that she will love him and live with him and give herself up to him without his loving her — moyennant quoi he will think her and call her everything that is handsome, and he promises her that she shall find it mighty pleasant.

Then he leaves off by saying that he knows he shall have changed his mind by to-morrow, and "despite these intents which seem so fair," but that having been thus visited once no doubt she will be again — and is therefore "in per- fect joy", bad luck to him! That, he evidently had not yet got into. The self- seeking and self-worshipping state is well described — beyond that, I should think the writer has made, as yet, only the next step, viz. I even question whether part even of that self-disdain is not assumed. He is evidently dissatisfied, and feels part of the badness of his state; he does not write as if it were purged out of him.

If he once could muster a hearty hatred of his selfishness it would go : as it is, he feels only the lack of good, not the positive evil. He feels not remorse, but only disappointment; a mind in that state can only be regenerated by some new passion, and I know not what to wish for him but that he may meet with a real Pauline. That at this time Mill's interests were inspired and shared by Mrs. Taylor we may also feel assured from the closeness of their contacts.

At least by the spring of Mill seems to have been spending most of his free time at the new home of the Taylors at 1 7 Kent Terrace, Park Road, on the western edge of Regent's Park, to which they had moved from the City at some time during the preceding winter. In reply to W. Fox's mentioning that he had hoped to meet Mill there on a certain Wednesday, Mill explained: J. Fox, ig May Had I known of your going I would have gone. Taylor was staying and there exist a few notes by her to him which may conjecturally be assigned to this period.

O my own love, whatever it may or may not be to you, you need never regret for a moment what has already brought such increase of happiness and can in no possible way increase evil. If it is right to change the 'smallest chance' into a l distant certainty' it w d surely show want of intellect rather than use of it to [breaks off before end of page], H.

I am taking as much care of your robin as if it were your own sweet self. If I do not succeed in making this live I shall think it is not possible to tame a full grown one. It is very well but so was the other for two days. Adieu darling. How very nice next month will be. I am quite impatient for it. These letters may or may not belong to the summer of when the relation was evidently approaching a new crisis. We can watch some of the developments in Mill's letters to Carlyle, whom he had promised to visit at Craigenputtock during his month's vacation in September.

In a letter of 2 August he for the first time hinted mysteri- ously that this visit would remain in some measure uncertain 'because the only contingency which would prevent it may happen at any time, and will remain possible to the very last'. I was mistaken, too, when I said that if I went not to Craigenputtock I should go nowhere.

I am going to Paris; the same cause which I then thought, if it operated at all, would keep me here, now sends me there. It is a journey entirely of duty; nothing else, you will do me the justice to believe, would have kept me from Craigenputtock after what I have said and written so often; it is duty, and duty con- nected with a person to whom of all persons alive I am under the greatest obligation.

It seems that on the very day when he wrote this letter Mill must have spoken or written to Harriet Taylor more openly than before. All we have is the following note of hers to him, posted on the follow- ing day. There has never, yet, been entire confidence around us. It would be absurd only it is so painful?

It is but that the only being who has ever called forth all my faculties of affection is the only one in whose presence I ever felt constraint. You can scarcely conceive dearest what satisfaction this note of yours is to me for I have been depressed by the fear that I w d wish most altered in you, you thought quite well of, perhaps the best in your character. I am quite sure that want of energy is a defect, would be a defect if it belonged to the character, but that thank Heaven I am sure it does not.

It is such an opposite to the sort of character. In this, as in all these important matters there is no medium between the greatest, all, and none — anything less than all being insufficient. There might be just as well none. Then to wish? It is false that 'your strength is not equal to the circum- stances in which you have placed' yourself.

Would you let yourself 'drift with the tide whether it flow or ebb' if in one case every wave took you further from me? Would you not put what strength you have into resisting it? Tell me — for if you would not, how happens it that you will to love me or any? The most horrible feeling I ever know is when for moments the fear comes over me that nothing which you say of yourself is to be absolutely relied on — that you are not sure even of your strongest feelings.

Tell me again that it is not. If it were certain that 'whatever one thinks best the other will think best' it is plain there could be no unhappiness — if that were certain want of energy could not be felt, could not be an evil, unless both wanted energy — the only evil there could be for me is that you should not think my best your best — or should not agree in my opinion of my best. Of what must have preceded this we get a glimpse from a letter by Mill to Fox, written on the next day, in which he suggests that he might transfer to Fox's Monthly Repository the paper on Poetry which he had thought of putting at the head of the review of Tennyson.

I shall see her on Monday myself, and then I shall speak of the matter to her. It seems that as the outcome of long discussions Mr. Taylor had been persuaded to agree to an experimental separation from his wife for six months, and in the course of September Mrs. Taylor left for Paris. Mill followed her there on the 10th of October for a stay of somewhat over six weeks. One of the letters which he wrote thence to Fox has been preserved and must be quoted in full.

Fox, Paris, 5 or 6 November : 50 I could have filled a long letter to you with the occurrences and feelings and thoughts of any one day since I have been here — this fortnight seems an age in mere duration, and is an age in what it has done for us two. It has brought years of experi- ence to us — good and happy experience most of it.

We never could have been so near, so perfectly intimate, in any former circumstances — we never could have been together as we have been in innumerable smaller relations and concerns — we never should have spoken of all things, in all frames of mind, with so much freedom and unreserve. I am astonished when I think how much has been restrained, how much untold, unshewn and uncommunicated till now — how much which by the mere fact of its being spoken, has disappeared — so many real unlikenesses, so many more false impressions of unlikeness, most of which have only been revealed to me since they have ceased to exist or those which still exist have ceased to be felt painfully.

I never j. There will never again I believe be any obstacle to our being together entirely, from the slightest doubt that the experiment would succeed with respect to ourselves — not, as she used to say, for a short time, but for our natural lives. And yet — all the other obstacles or rather the one obstacle being as great as ever — our futurity is still perfectly uncertain. She has decided nothing except what has always been decided — not to renounce the liberty of sight — and it does not seem likely that anything will be decided until the end of the six months, if even then finally.

For me, I am certain that whatever she decides will be wisest and rightest, even if she decides what was so repugnant to me at first — to remain here alone — it is repugnant to me still — but I can now see that perhaps it will be best — the future will decide that.

When will you write again — she shewed me your letter — it is beautiful in you to write so to any one, but who could write otherwise to her? I am happy, but not so happy as when the future appeared surer. I had written thus far before receiving your letter, and I am glad of it. I have now taken a larger sheet and copied the above unto it. You seem to think that she was decided, and is now un- decided — that the state of feeling which led to the separation has been as you say 'interrupted' and is to be 'recommenced'.

Now this is an incorrect and so far a lower idea of her than the true one — she never had decided upon anything except not to give up either the feeling, or the power of communica- tion with me — unless she did so it was Mr. Taylor's wish, and seemed to be necessary to his comfort that she should live apart from him.

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When the separation had actually taken place the result did as you say seem certain — not because we had willed to make it so, but because it seemed the necessary consequence of the new circumstances if the feelings of all continued the same. I never felt sure of what was to be after the six months, but I felt an immense increase of the chances in my favour.

When I came here, I expected to find her no more decided than she had always been about what would be best for all, but not to find her as for the first time I did, doubtful about what would be best for our own happiness — under the influence of that fact and of the painful feelings it excited, I wrote to you. That doubt, thank heaven, lasted but a short time — if I had delayed my letter two days longer I should never have sent it.

If Mr. Taylor feels as you believe he does, he has been very far from telling her 'all he feels' ; for his last letter to her, which came by the same post as this of yours the first she has ever shewed me is in quite another tone. He is most entirely mistaken in all the facts. Because her letters to Mr. Taylor express the strong affection she has always felt, and he is no longer seeing, every day, proof of her far stronger feeling for another, he thinks the affection has come back — he might have seen it quite as plainly before ; only he refused to believe it.

Her affection for him, which has always been the principle, is now the sole obstacle to our being together — for the present there seems absolutely no prospect of that obstacle's being got over. That can never be unless the alternative were entire giving up. I believe he is quite right in his impression that the worst for him which is to be expected at the end of the six months is her remaining permanently here. She will, if it is in human power to do so, make him understand the exact state of her feelings, and will as at present minded, give him the choice of every possible arrangement except entire giving-up, with the strong wish that her remaining here may be his choice; with a full under- standing however that the agreement whatever it be, is to be no longer binding than while it is found endurable.

She has seen and approved all that precedes, therefore it is as much her letter as mine. So now you know the whole state of the case. She is on the whole far happier than I have ever known her, and quite well physically though far from strong — I have many anxious thoughts of how she is to bear the being again alone with so little of hope to sustain her. I am so con- vinced of all I have written above, that if the final decision were already made whatever it might be I am certain that the fact of Mr.

Can I do anything for you here — see anyone, or bring over anything for you — I shall leave Paris probably Friday week. Yours J. A small slip of paper which was probably enclosed with this letter carried a note from Mrs. Taylor to Fox and Eliza Flower: 52 I had written to you dearest friends both, — as you are — but now that I have seen that letter of yours, I cannot send mine. It is sad to be misunderstood by you — as I have been before — but it will not be always so — my own dear friends. He tells you quite truly our state — all at least which he attempts to tell — but there is so much more might be said — there has been so much more pain than I thought I was capable of, but also O how much more happiness.

O this being seeming as tho God had willed to show the type of the possible elevation of humanity. Why do you not write to me my dearest Lizzie? You must come here — it is a most beautiful paradise. O how happy we might all be in it. You will see it with me, bless you! When Mill returned to London about 20 November he at once saw Fox and a few days later again wrote to him. Have you seen Mr. I shall be anxious to know your impression when you shall have seen him in his present state. It seems he had written to her again since I left Paris — she writes 'I had yesterday one of those letters from Mr.

I have written exactly what I think, without reserve. From another letter by Mill to Fox written within a week of this 55 we learn that Mill still did not expect to remain in England and for this reason felt unable to pursue a suggestion of taking a share in the control of the Examiner, which was in difficulties. At the same time, in a very full report to Carlyle on conditions in Paris, 56 which the latter intended to visit, Mill expressed the hope of seeing him there in the following summer.

It seems however that Mrs.

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Taylor returned to England long before the end of the six months and probably even before the end of The understanding seems to have been that while Mr. Perhaps it was to this date that Mrs. Taylor referred when, some twenty years later, she gave a foreign visitor emphatically to understand that since the beginning of her friendship with Mill she had been to neither of the two men more than a Seelenfreundin. The principles at issue are not touched upon in any of the early letters which have survived, but we have two manuscript essays which they wrote for each other at a very early date.

Since Mill's and an earlier draft of Harriet Taylor's are on paper watermarked '' and a later version of hers on paper watermarked '' we shall probably not go far wrong in attributing them to the latter year. Mill's is much the longer and may be given first. It tends to confirm his claim in the Autobiography that contrary to what an uninformed person would probably suspect, this was not one of the subjects on which he was mainly indebted to her for his ideas.

He says there that 'it might be supposed, for instance, that in 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 learnt from her. This was so far from being the fact, that those con- victions were among the earliest results of the application of my mind to political subjects, and the strength with which I held them was, 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. Such as that exposition can be made without her to suggest and to decide, it is given in these pages : she, herself, has not refused to put into writing for me, what she has thought and felt on the same subject, and there I shall be taught, all perhaps which I have, and certainly all which I have not, found out for myself. In the investigation of truth, as in all else, 'it is not good for man to be alone'.

And more than all, in what concerns the relations of Man with Woman, the law which is to be observed by both should surely be made by both; not, as hitherto, by the stronger only. How easy would it be for either me or you, to resolve this question for ourselves alone! All popular morality is, as I once said to you, a compro- mise among conflicting natures; each renouncing a certain portion of what its own desires call for, in order to avoid the evils of a perpetual warfare with all the rest.

That is the best popular morality, which attains this general pacification with the least sacrifice of the happiness of the higher natures; who are the greatest, indeed the only real, sufferers by the com- promise; for they are called upon to give up what would really make them happy; while others are commonly re- quired only to restrain desires the gratification of which 58 ON MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE would bring no real happiness. In the adjustment, moreover, of the compromise, the higher natures count only in propor- tion to their number, how small!

If all persons were like these, or even would be guided by these, morality would be very different from what it must now be ; or rather it would not exist at all as morality, since moral- ity and inclination would coincide. If all resembled you, my lovely friend, it would be idle to prescribe rules for them : By following their own impulses under the guidance of their own judgment, they would find more happiness, and would confer more, than by obeying any moral principles or maxims whatever; since these cannot possibly be adapted beforehand to every peculiarity of circumstance which can be taken into account by a sound and vigorous intellect worked by a strong will, and guided by what Carlyle calls 'an open loving heart'.

Where there exists a genuine and strong desire to do that which is most for the happiness of all, general rules are merely aids to prudence, in the choice of means ; not peremptory obligations. It is easy enough to settle to moral bearings of our ques- tion upon such characters. The highest natures are of course impassioned natures ; to such, marriage is but one continued act of self-sacrifice where strong affection is not; every tie therefore which restrains them from seeking out and uniting themselves with some one whom they can perfectly love, is a yoke to which they cannot be subjected without oppression: and to such a person when found, they would, natural super- stition apart, scorn to be united by any other tie than free and voluntary choice.

But will the morality which suits the highest natures, in this matter, be also best for all inferior natures? My convic- tion is that it will : but this can be only a happy accident. If all, or even most persons, in the choice of a companion of the other sex, were led by any real aspiration towards, or sense of, the happiness which such companionship in its best shape is capable of giving to the best natures, there would never have been any reason why law or opinion should have set any limits to the most unbounded freedom of uniting and separating: nor is it probable that popular morality would ever, in a civilized or refined people, have imposed any restraint upon that freedom.

There can, I think, be no doubt that for a long time the indissolubility of marriage acted powerfully to elevate the social position of women. The state of things to which in almost all countries it succeeded, was one in which the power of repudiation existed on one side but not on both : in which the stronger might cast away the weaker, but the weaker could not fly from the stronger.

To a woman of impassioned character, the difference between this and what now exists, is not worth much ; for she would wish to be repudiated, rather than to remain united only because she could not be got rid of. But the aspirations of most women are less high.

They would wish to retain any bond of union they have ever had with a man to whom they do not prefer any other, and for whom they have that inferior kind of affection which habits of intimacy frequently produce. Now, assuming what may be assumed of the greater number of men, that they are attracted to women solely by sensuality, or at best by a transitory taste ; it is not deniable, that the irrevocable vow gave to women, when the passing gust had blown over, a permanent hold upon the men who would otherwise have cast them off.

She obtained also, what is often far more precious to her, the certainty of not being separated from the children. Now if this be all that human life has for women, it is little enough: and any woman who feels herself capable of great happiness, and whose aspirations have not been artificially checked, will claim to be set free from only this, to seek for more.

But women in general, as I have already remarked, are more easily contented, and this I believe to be the cause of the general aversion of women to the idea of facilitating divorce.

John Stuart Mill (1806—1873)

These things once obtained, the indissolubility of marriage renders them sure of keeping. And most women, either because these things give them all the happiness they are capable of, or from the arti- ficial barriers which curb all spontaneous movements to seek their greatest felicity, are generally more anxious not to peril the good they have than to go in search of a greater. These considerations are nothing to an impassioned char- acter ; but there is something in them, for the characters from which they emanate — is not that so?

The only conclusion, however, which can be drawn from them, is one for which there would exist ample grounds even if the law of marriage as it now exists were perfection. The means by which the condition of married women is rendered artificially desirable, are not any superiority of legal rights, for in that respect single women, especially if pos- sessed of property, have the advantage: the civil disabilities are greatest in the case of the married woman. It is not law, but education and custom which make the difference.

And the truth is, that this question of marriage cannot properly be considered by itself alone. The question is not what marriage ought to be, but a far wider question, what woman ought to be. Settle that first, and the other will settle itself. But in this question there is surely no difficulty. There is no natural inequality between the sexes; except perhaps in bodily strength; even that admits of doubt: and if bodily strength is to be the measure of superiority, mankind are no better than savages.

Every step in the progress of civilization has tended to diminish the deference paid to bodily strength, until now when that quality confers scarcely any advantages except its natural ones : the strong man has little or no power to employ his strength as a means of acquiring any other advantage over the weaker in body. If nature has not made men and women unequal, still less ought the law to make them so. It does not follow that a woman should actually support herself because she should be capable of doing so: in the natural course of events she will not. It is not desirable to burthen the labour market with a double number of com- petitors.

Except in the class of actual j. We have all heard the vulgar talk that the proper employ- ment of a wife are household superintendance, and the edu- cation of her children. As for household superintendance, if nothing be meant but merely seeing that servants do their duty, that is not an occupation ; every women that is capable of doing it at all can do it without devoting anything like half an hour every day to that purpose peculiarly. Then as to the education of children : if by that term be meant, instructing them in particular arts or particular branches of knowledge, it is absurd to impose that upon mothers : absurd in two ways : absurd to set one-half of the adult human race to perform each on a small scale, what a much smaller number of teachers would accomplish for all, by devoting themselves exclusively to it; and absurd to set all mothers doing that for which some persons must be fitter than others, and for which average mothers cannot possibly be so fit as persons trained to the profession.

Here again, when the means do not exist for hiring teachers, the mother is the natural teacher: but no special provision needs to be made for that case. What she knows, she will be able to teach to her children if necessary: but to erect such teaching into her occupation whether she can better employ herself or not, is absurd. But to impose upon mothers what hired teachers can do, is mere squander- ing of the glorious existence of a woman fit for a woman's highest destiny.

With regard to such things, her part is to see that they are rightly done, not to do them. Such will naturally be the occupations of a woman who has fulfilled what seems to be considered as the end of her exis- tence and attained what is really its happiest state, by uniting herself to a man whom she loves. Marriage, on whatever footing it might be placed, would be wholly a matter of choice, not, as for a woman it now is, something approaching to a matter of necessity; something, at least, which every woman is under strong arti- ficial motives to desire, and which if she attain not, her life is considered to be a failure.

These suppositions being made: and it being no longer any advantage to a woman to be married, merely for the sake of being married: why should any woman cling to the indis- solubility of marriage, as if it could be for the good of one party that it should continue when the other party desires that it should be dissolved? It is not denied by anyone that there are numerous cases in which the happiness of both parties would be greatly pro- moted by a dissolution of marriage.

No one but a sensualist would desire to retain a merely animal connexion with a person of the other sex, unless perfectly assured of being preferred by that person, above all other persons in the world. This certainty never can be quite perfect under the law of marriage as it now exists: it would be nearly absolute, if the tie were merely voluntary.

Those who marry after taking great pains about the matter, generally do but buy their disappointment dearer. Nor does this evil seem to be remediable. A woman is allowed to give herself away for life, at an age at which she is not allowed to dispose of the most inconsiderable landed estate: what then? To direct the immature judgment, there is the advice of parents and guardians: a precious security! However paradoxical it may sound to the ears of those who are reputed to have grown wise as wine grows good, by keep- ings it is yet true, that A, an average person can better know what is for his own happiness, than B, an average person can know what is for A's happiness.

Foolish people will say, that being interested in the subject is a dis- qualification: strange that they should not distinguish be- tween being interested in a cause as a party before a judge, i. The parties them- selves are only interested in doing what is most for their happiness; but their relatives may have all sorts of selfish interests to promote by inducing them to marry or not to marry. The first choice, therefore, is made under very compli- cated disadvantages. The reasons, then, are most potent for allowing a subsequent change.

It is proper to state as strongly as possible the arguments which may be advanced in support of this view in question. Repeated trials for happiness, and repeated failures, have the most mischievous effects on all minds. On the com- moner natures the effects produced are not the less deplor- able. If this principle of morality were observed, how many of the difficulties of the subject we are considering would be smoothed down!

There is yet another argument which may be urged against facility of divorce. It is this. That weight however is not so great as it appears. My belief is that- — in a tolerably moral state of society, the first choice would almost always, especially where it had produced 73 ON MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE children, be adhered to, unless in case of such uncongeniality of disposition as rendered it positively uncomfortable to one or both of the parties to live together, or in case of a strong passion conceived by one of them for a third person.

Now in either of these cases I can conceive no argument strong enough to convince me, that the first connexion ought to be forcibly preserved. I see not why opinion should not act as great efficacy, to enforce the true rules of morality in these matters, as the false. The arguments, therefore, in favour of the indissolubility of marriage, are as nothing in comparison with the far more potent arguments for leaving this like the other relations voluntarily contracted by human beings, to depend for its continuance upon the wishes of the contracting parties.

When women are merely slaves, to give them a permanent hold upon their masters was a first step towards their evolu- tion. She is now ripe for equality. But it is absurd to talk of equality while mar- riage is an indissoluble tie. But this nominal equality is not real equality. The stronger is always able to relieve himself wholly or in great measure, from as much of the obligation as he finds burthensome: the weaker cannot. The husband can ill- use his wife, neglect her, and seek other women, not perhaps altogether with impunity, but what are the penalties which opinion imposes on him compared with those which fall upon the wife who even with that provocation retaliates upon her husband?

It is true perhaps that if divorce were permitted, opinion would with like injustice, try the wife who resorted to that remedy by a harder measure? But this would be of less consequence: Once separated she would be comparatively independent of opinion : but so long as she is forcibly united to one of those who make the opinion, she must to a great extent be its slave. Several scraps or drafts of Harriet Taylor on the same subject have been preserved of which the following is the most complete and may well be the one which in fulfilment of her promise she gave to Mill.

Women are educated for one single object, to gain their living by marrying — some poor souls get it without the churchgoing. It's the same way — they do not seem to be a bit worse than their honoured sisters. To be married is the object of their existence and that object being gained they do really cease to exist as to anything worth calling life or any useful purpose.

One observes very few marriages where there is any real sympathy or enjoyment or companionship be- tween the parties. The woman knows what her power is and gains by it what she has been tought to consider 'proper' to her state. The woman who w d gain power by such means is unfit for power, still they do lose? I should think that years hence none of the follies of their ancestors will so excite wonder and contempt as the fact of legislative restraints as to matters of feeling — or rather in the expression of feeling. The Turks' is the only consistent mode.

I have no doubt that when the whole community is really educated, tho' the present laws of marriage were to continue they would be perfectly disregarded, because no one would marry.

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Would not the best plan be divorce which could be attained by any without any reason assigned, and at small expence, but which could only be finally pronounced after a long period? Mill : Texts, Commentaries. John Stuart Mill. Alan Ryan's provocative introduction lays out the central issues debated by John Stuart Mill's many interpreters; in addition, it assesses Mill's historical significance and provides a brief account of his life.

In recent years, scholars have increasingly focused on the connectionbetween On Liberty and Mill's other writings. This Norton CriticalEdition brings together three major essays that illustrate Mill'sliberal political philosophy over the course of his life: "The Spiritof the Age" , On Liberty , and The Subjection of Women Related excerpts from John Stuart Mill's Autobiography ,published posthumously are also included.

Each text is accompanied byexplanatory annotations. Thecontemporary perspectives of R.

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