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Twelve Sketches by

Herbert Spencer, Henry Fawcett, Frederic Harrison,
and Other Distinguished Authors

Boston: James R Osgood and Company
(Late Ticknor & Field and Fields Osgood, & Co.)




H. R. Fox Bourne

W. T. Thornton

Herbert Spencer

Henry Trimen

W. Minto

J. H. Levy

W. A. Hunter

J. E. Cairnes

Henry Fawcett

Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Frederic Harrison

W. A. Hunter



John Stuart Mill was born on the 20th of May, 1806. "I am glad," wrote
George Grote to him in 1865, with reference to a forthcoming article
on his "Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy," "to get an
opportunity of saying what I think about your 'System of Logic' and
'Essay on Liberty,' but I am still more glad to get (or perhaps to
_make_) an opportunity of saying something about your father. It has
always rankled in my thoughts that so grand and powerful a mind as his
left behind it such insufficient traces in the estimation of
successors." That regret was natural. The grand and powerful mind of
James Mill left very notable traces, however, in the philosophical
literature of his country, and in the training of the son who was to
carry on his work, and to be the most influential teacher in a new
school of thought and action, by which society is likely to be
revolutionized far more than it has been by any other agency since
the period of Erasmus and Martin Luther. James Mill was something more
than the disciple of Bentham and Ricardo. He was a profound and
original philosopher, whose depth and breadth of study were all the
more remarkable because his thoughts were developed and his knowledge
was acquired mainly by his own exertions. He had been helped out of
the humble life into which he had been born by Sir John Stuart, who
assisted him to attend the lectures of Dugald Stewart and others at
Edinburgh with a view to his becoming a minister in the Church of
Scotland. Soon finding that calling distasteful to him, he had, in or
near the year 1800, settled in London as a journalist, resolved by
ephemeral work to earn enough money to maintain him and his family in
humble ways while he spent his best energies in the more serious
pursuits to which he was devoted. His talents soon made him friends,
and the greatest of these was Jeremy Bentham.

As erroneous opinions have been current as to the relations between
Bentham and James Mill and have lately been repeated in more than one
newspaper, it may be well here to call attention to the contradiction
of them that was published by the son of the latter in "The Edinburgh
Review" for 1844. "Mr. Mill and his family," we there read, "lived
with Mr. Bentham for half of four years at Ford Abbey,"--that is,
between 1814 and 1817,--"and they passed small portions of previous
summers with him at Barrow Green. His last visit to Barrow Green was
of not more than a month's duration, and the previous ones all
together did not extend to more than six months, or seven at most.
The pecuniary benefit which Mr. Mill derived from his intimacy with
Bentham consisted in this,--that he and his family lived with him as
his guests, while he was in the country, periods amounting in all to
about two years and a half. I have no reason to think that his
hospitality was either given or accepted as pecuniary assistance, and
I will add that the obligation was not exclusively on one side.
Bentham was not then, as he was afterwards, surrounded by persons who
courted his society, and were ever ready to volunteer their services,
and, to a man of his secluded habits, it was no little advantage to
have near him such a man as Mr. Mill, to whose advice and aid he
habitually had recourse in all business transactions with the outward
world of a troublesome or irksome nature. Such as the connection was,
it was not of Mr. Mill's seeking." On the same unquestionable
authority we learn, that "Mr. Mill never in his life was in debt, and
his income, whatever it might be, always covered his expenses." It is
clear, that, from near the commencement of the present century, James
Mill and Bentham lived for many years on terms of great intimacy, in
which the poorer man was thoroughly independent, although it suited
the other to make a fair return for the services rendered to him. A
very characteristic letter is extant, dated 1814, in which James Mill
proposes that the relations between him and his "dear friend and
master" shall be to some extent altered, but only in order that their
common objects may be the more fully served. "In reflecting," he says,
"upon the duty which we owe to our principles,--to that system of
important truths of which you have the immortal honor to be the
author, but of which I am a most faithful and fervent disciple, and
hitherto, I have fancied, my master's favorite disciple,--I have
considered that there was nobody at all so likely to be your real
successor as myself. Of talents it would be easy to find many
superior. But, in the first place, I hardly know of anybody who has so
completely taken up the principles, and is so thoroughly of the same
way of thinking with yourself. In the next place, there are very few
who have so much of the necessary previous discipline, my antecedent
years having been wholly occupied in acquiring it. And, in the last
place, I am pretty sure you cannot think of any other person whose
whole life will be devoted to the propagation of the system." "There
was during the last few years of Bentham's life," said James Mill's
son, "less frequency and cordiality of intercourse than in former
years, chiefly because Bentham had acquired newer, and to him more
agreeable intimacies, but Mr. Mill's feeling never altered towards
him, nor did he ever fail, publicly or privately, in giving due honor
to Bentham's name and acknowledgment of the intellectual debt he owed
to him."

Those extracts are made, not only in justice to the memory of James
Mill, but as a help towards understanding the influences by which his
son was surrounded from his earliest years. James Mill was living in a
house at Pentonville when this son was born, and partly because of the
peculiar abilities that the boy displayed from the first, partly
because he could not afford to procure for him elsewhere such teaching
as he was able himself to give him, he took his education entirely
into his own hands. With what interest--even jealous interest, it
would seem--Bentham watched that education, appears from a pleasant
little letter addressed to him by the elder Mill in 1812. "I am not
going to die," he wrote, "notwithstanding your zeal to come in for a
legacy. However, if I were to die any time before this poor boy is a
man, one of the things that would pinch me most sorely would be the
being obliged to leave his mind unmade to the degree of excellence of
which I hope to make it. But another thing is, that the only prospect
which would lessen that pain would be the leaving him in your hands. I
therefore take your offer quite seriously, and stipulate merely that
it shall be made as soon as possible; and then we may perhaps leave
him a successor worthy of both of us." It was a bold hope, but one
destined to be fully realized. At the time of its utterance, the "poor
boy" was barely more than six years old. The intellectual powers of
which he gave such early proof were carefully, but apparently not
excessively, cultivated. Mrs. Grote, in her lately-published "Personal
Life of George Grote," has described him as he appeared in 1817, the
year in which her husband made the acquaintance of his father. "John
Stuart Mill, then a boy of about twelve years old,"--he was really
only eleven,--"was studying, with his father as sole preceptor, under
the paternal roof. Unquestionably forward for his years, and already
possessed of a competent knowledge of Greek and Latin, as well as of
some subordinate though solid attainments, John was, as a boy,
somewhat repressed by the elder Mill, and seldom took any share in the
conversation carried on by the society frequenting the house." It is
perhaps not strange that a boy of eleven, at any rate a boy who was to
become so modest a man, should not take much part in general
conversation; and Mr. Mill himself never, in referring to his father,
led his hearers to suppose that he had, as a child, been in any way
unduly repressed by him. The tender affection with which he always
cherished his father's memory in no way sanctions the belief that he
was at any time subjected to unreasonable discipline. By him his
father was only revered as the best and kindest of teachers.

There was a break in the home teaching in 1820. James Mill, after
bearing bravely with his early difficulties, had acquired so much
renown by his famous "History of India," that, in spite of its adverse
criticisms of the East-India Company, the directors of the Company in
1817 honorably bestowed upon him a post in the India House, where he
steadily and rapidly rose to a position which enabled him to pass the
later years of his life in more comfort than had hitherto been within
his reach. The new employment, however, interfered with his other
occupation as instructor to his boy; and for this reason, as well
probably as for others tending to his advancement, the lad was, in the
summer of 1820, sent to France for a year and a half.

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