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  • DAVID STACK (a1)

This article surveys the fiercely contested posthumous assessments of John Stuart Mill in the newspaper and periodical press, in the months following his death in May 1873, and elicits the broader intellectual context. Judgements made in the immediate wake of Mill's death influence biographers and historians to this day and provide an illuminating aperture into the politics and shifting ideological forces of the period. The article considers how Mill's failure to control his posthumous reputation demonstrates both the inextricable intertwining of politics and character in the 1870s, and the difficulties his allies faced. In particular, it shows the sharp division between Mill's middle and working class admirers; the use of James Mill's name as a rebuke to his son; the redefinition of Malthusianism in the 1870s; and how publication of Mill's Autobiography damaged his reputation. Finally, the article considers the relative absence of both theological and Darwinian critiques of Mill.

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Department of History, University of Reading, RG6
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1 G. J. Holyoake, John Stuart Mill: as some of the working classes knew him. An answer to a letter circulated by ‘The author of the article in the “Times” on Mr. Mill's death' (London, 1873), p. 9.

2 H. R. Fox Bourne, ‘A sketch of his life’ in Fox Bourne et al., John Stuart Mill: his life and works. Twelve sketches by Herbert Spencer, Henry Fawcett, Frederic Harrison, and other distinguished authors (New York, NY, 1873) pp. 28–9.

3 On the concept of the ‘good death’, see P. Jalland, Death in the Victorian family (Oxford, 1996).

4 In addition, ‘A knot of locals waited respectfully at the cemetery gate’. R. Reeves, John Stuart Mill: Victorian firebrand (London, 2007), p. 480.

5 Pall Mall Gazette, 6 June 1873; Times, 10 May 1873.

6 According to Collini: ‘A full survey of the mutations of Mill's reputation in these years would fill several Toronto-sized volumes by itself.’ S. Collini, ‘From sectarian radical to national possession: John Stuart Mill in English culture, 1873–1945’, in M. Laine, ed., A cultivated mind: essays on J. S. Mill presented to John M. Robson (Toronto, 1991), pp. 242–72, at p. 244.

7 Ibid., p. 266.

8 Ibid., p. 248.

9 I. Berlin, John Stuart Mill and the ends of life (London, 1962); Reeves, John Stuart Mill.

10 As the Edinburgh Review put it: ‘Contrary to ordinary experience, Mill's passions certainly became more intemperate and intolerant as he advanced in life’. Anon. [Henry Reeve], Autobiography’, Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, 139, (1874), pp. 91129, at p. 128.

11 J. S. Mill, Autobiography (London, 1989), p. 206.

12 Ibid., p. 219; Holyoake, Mill, p. 12.

13 Anon. [Herbert Cowell], Liberty, equality, fraternity: Mr. John Stuart Mill’, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 114, (1873), pp. 347–62, at p. 348.

14 Anon., Liberty, equality, fraternity: John Stuart Mill’, Quarterly Review, 135, (1873), pp. 178201, at p. 182.

15 N. Capaldi, John Stuart Mill: a biography (Cambridge, 2004), p. ix.

16 On the convoluted and sporadic process of writing and re-drafting Mill's autobiography, see Levi A. W., ‘The writing of Mill's autobiography’, Ethics, 61, (1951), pp. 284–96.

17 The Will of Mr. John Stuart Mill’, Glasgow Herald, 1 Sept. 1873.

18 Capaldi, John Stuart Mill, p. xiii.

19 See Collini S., ‘The idea of “character” in Victorian thought’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 35, (1985), pp. 2950, and S. Collini, Public moralists: political thought and intellectual life in Britain, 1850–1930 (Oxford, 1991).

20 Even Punch joined in the eulogies with its poem ‘John Stuart Mill’ praising Mill's moral character, Punch, or The London Charivari, 24 May 1873, pp. 216–17.

21 ‘John Stuart Mill’, Examiner, 10 May 1873; ‘Death of John Stuart Mill’, Graphic, 10 May 1873.

22 ‘Death of John Stuart Mill’, Northern Echo, 10 May 1873; ‘John Stuart Mill’, Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 11 May 1873.

23 ‘Mr. John Stuart Mill’, Liverpool Mercury, 10 May 1873.

24 Sidgwick H., ‘John Stuart Mill’, The Academy: A Record of Literature, Learning, Science and Art, 15 May 1873.

25 Holyoake, Mill, p. 14.

26 A. Chessell, The life and times of Abraham Hayward, QC. Victorian essayist: ‘One of the two best read men in England’ (London, 2009), pp. 23, 25.

27 A. Hayward, The art of dining; or, gastronomy and gastronomers (London, 1852), was based upon two articles written for the Quarterly Review in 1835 and 1836. A. Hayward, ‘Whist and whist-players’ was included in Hayward's Selected essays, in two volumes (London, 1878), ii, pp. 404–63, but originally appeared in Fraser's Magazine in April 1869.

28 Hayward, Art of dining, pp. 126–8. Hayward's 1869 eulogy to the late Lady Palmerston, which celebrated her as the last grande dame: whose ‘memory will endure, indissolubly blended with one of the most brilliant episodes of the social life of England’, captured the temperamental differences that predicated Hayward's attitude towards Mill. A. Hayward, Lady Palmerston: a biographical sketch. Reprinted, by permission, from The ‘Times’ of September 15, 1869 (June 1872), pp. 20–1.

29 Times, 10 May 1873.

30 The full poem, entitled Ode to the goddess Ceres, was a parody of country gentlemen who favoured the interests of landlords over ‘cheap eating’. It appeared in [T. Moore], Odes upon cash, corn, Catholics, and other matters. Selected from the columns of The Times journal (London, 1828), pp. 14–17. The collection contained a more direct attack on the Benthamites, and a more explicit allusion to Mill as a birth controller in Moore's ‘Ode to the sublime porte’. Odes, pp. 83–4.

31 Himes N., ‘The place of John Stuart Mill and of Robert Owen in the history of English neo-Malthusianism’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 42, (1928), pp. 627–40.

32 See T. Falconer, Note upon a paper circulated by Abraham Hayward, Esq., of the Inner Temple, one of Her Majesty's counsel (London, 1845).

33 Place's handbills are reproduced in P. Schwartz, The new political economy of J. S. Mill (Durham, NC, 1972), pp. 245–52. The most recent work exploring Mill's attitudes is Peart S. and Levy D., ‘Darwin's unpublished letter at the Bradlaugh–Besant trial: a question of divided expert judgment’, European Journal of Political Economy, 24, (2008), pp. 343–53.

34 Greg W. R., ‘On the failure of “natural selection” in the case of man’, Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, 78, (1868), pp. 353–62.

35 W. R. Greg, The enigmas of life (London, 1872), pp. 59, 81n.

36 Reeves, John Stuart Mill, pp. 404–8.

37 F. Galton, Hereditary genius: an inquiry into its laws and consequences (London, 1869), p. 179.

38 Brooke was a liberal Anglican clergyman who would later become chaplain to Queen Victoria, before seceding from the Church of England in favour of Unitarianism.

39 W. D. Christie, John Stuart Mill and Mr Abraham Hayward, Q.C.: a reply about Mill to a letter to the Rev. Stopford Brooke, privately circulated and actually published (London, 1873), pp. 8–9. Hayward was not himself necessarily illiberal on questions of marriage, see A. Hayward, Remarks on the law regarding marriage with the sister of a deceased wife (London, 1845), in which he developed a pragmatic and humane argument against scriptural objections and, what he saw as, unwarranted prudery.

40 J. Morley, The life of William Ewart Gladstone, 3 vols. (London, 1903), ii, pp. 543–4.

41 Christie, Mill and Hayward, pp. 4–8, 30, 36.

42 Ibid., pp. 32, 34, 9–12, 19.

43 Ibid., pp. 13–19.

44 ‘All Mr. Mill's friends were perfectly convinced of his purity. I can tell of a reunion of some dozen of his friends of both sexes, freely discussing the matter: there was no difference of opinion among them; one gentleman, a close friend from boyhood and his close friend until death, dwelt with fervour on Mr. Mill's whole life of purity, the moral enthusiasm of his nature, and its fearlessness and simplicity. All agreed. One lively lady of well-known powers of conversation made an amusing diversion, saying, “Yes, we know it is Platonic, but that almost makes it worse. I do hate these Platonic attachments”’, Christie, Mill and Hayward, p. 17.

45 Ibid., pp. 5, 27.

46 Calpaldi, Mill, p. 116.

47 Christie, Mill and Hayward, p. 30. Alexander Bain still felt obliged to rebut the birth control insinuations nine years later. See A. Bain, John Stuart Mill: a criticism with personal recollections (London, 1882), pp. 89–90.

48 Manchester Guardian, 5 June 1873.

49 ‘The “Mill” Memorial’, Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 8 June 1873.

50 The Church Herald asked ‘what can the Earl of Derby and, above all, the Marquis of Salisbury, possibly be thinking about’? Church Herald, 21 May 1873. A list of subscribers appeared in The Times, 3 June 1873.

51 Graphic, 29 Nov. 1873; Belfast News-letter, 20 Dec. 1873; ‘The JSM Memorial’, Birmingham Daily Post, 28 July 1873; ‘Scraps’, Graphic, 5 July 1873.

52 Lloyd's Weekly, 8 June 1873.

53 ‘The Mill Memorial Committee’, Examiner, 7 June 1873.

54 ‘The Mill Memorial Committee’, Pall Mall Gazette, 6 June 1873.

55 Lloyd's Weekly, 8 June 1873.

56 Holyoake, Mill, p. 11.

57 Claeys G., ‘Justice, independence, and industrial democracy: the development of John Stuart Mill”s view of socialism’, Journal of Politics, 49, (1987), pp. 122–47, at p. 141.

58 ‘The Mill Memorial Committee’, Examiner, 7 June 1873; Holyoake, Mill, pp. 11–12, at p. 11n; M. Marston The life of John Stuart Mill, politician and philosopher, critic and metaphysician, with a record of his claims upon the regards of the people as a philanthropist and friend (London, 1873), p. 14.

59 Marston, Life of Mill, p. 3.

60 The extent of Marston's literary output is not easy to verify. The title page of his Life of Mill refers to him as the ‘author of The Lives of “Lord Palmerston,” “Louis Napoleon,” “Bulwer Lytton,” & c’. His publisher F. Farrah, of The Strand, also listed The true life and crimes of Napoleon III; life and labours of Ernest Jones, poet, politician, and patriot; life of Lord Brougham; and Life of Lord Palmerston, the Tory in disguise, the false friend of Poland, the betrayer of Hungary, the deadly opponent of Circassia, the arch-foe of the Roman Republic, and the admirer of Louis Napoleon. But only a life of Lytton, attributed to a Mansfield Marsdon, appears in the British Library Catalogue.

61 Marston, Life of Mill, pp. 12–14.

62 Holyoake, Mill, p. 11n.

63 ‘The Mill Memorial Committee’, Examiner, 7 June 1873.

64 Holyoake, Mill, pp. 17–26.

65 Emphasis added. Marston, Life of Mill, p. 13.

66 Fox Bourne, ‘Sketch’, in Fox Bourne et al., Twelve sketches, pp. 5–29, at p. 12.

67 M. Garrett Fawcett, ‘His influence as a practical politician’, in Fox Bourne et al., Twelve sketches, pp. 81–7, at p. 86.

68 H. Spencer, ‘His moral character’, in Fox Bourne et al., Twelve sketches, pp. 38–42.

69 Disraeli, in his third novel, The young duke (1831), made reference to a ‘young First Principles’, the writer of an article on India. In this there was an element of literary licence in a wilful mixing of Mill and his father, who remained a controversial figure long after his son had been accepted as a mainstream thinker. Liverpool Echo, ‘Mr. John Stuart Mill’, 10 May 1873.

70 Mrs [Harriet] Grote, The personal life of George Grote: compiled from family documents, private memoranda, and original letters to and from various friends (London, 1873).

71 Anon., George Grote’, Quarterly Review, 135, (1873), pp. 98137, at p. 106.

72 Anon., Life of George Grote’, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 113, (1873), p. 380; Anon., Grote’, Quarterly Review, pp. 98, 105, 106.

73 J. F. Stephen, Liberty, equality, fraternity; and three brief essays (Chicago, IL, 1991).

74 See also M. Garrett Fawcett, Mr. Fitzjames Stephen on the position of women (London, 1873), and L. W. Becker, Liberty, equality, fraternity: a reply to Mr. Fitzjames Stephen's strictures on Mr. J. S. Mill's Subjection of women (London, 1874).

75 Morley J., ‘Mr. Mill's doctrine of liberty’, Fortnightly Review, 80, (1873), pp. 234–56.

76 Anon., Liberty, equality, fraternity: John Stuart Mill’, Quarterly Review, 135, (1873), pp. 178201, at p. 179.

77 Anon. [Cowell], Liberty, equality, fraternity’, Blackwood's, pp. 347, 354, 352, 358.

78 ‘Special correspondence’, Leeds Mercury, 7 Nov. 1873.

79 Anon. [A. Hayward], John Stuart Mill’, Fraser's Magazine, 8, (1873,) pp. 663–81, at p. 664.

80 ‘The lessons of Mr. Mill's autobiography’, Pall Mall Gazette, 12 Dec. 1873; Capaldi, Mill, p. 363.

81 Anon. [Hare J.], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Westminster Review, 45, (1874), pp. 122–59, at pp. 157–8n; ‘Special correspondence’, Leeds Mercury, 30 Dec. 1873.

82 Examiner, 3 Jan. 1874.

83 British Quarterly quoted in the Glasgow Herald, 17 Jan. 1874.

84 ‘Mr. Mill's autobiography’, Pall Mall Gazette, 13 Nov. 1873; ‘The lessons of Mill's autobiography’, Pall Mall Gazette, 12 Dec. 1873.

85 Morley J., ‘John Stuart Mill’, Fortnightly Review, 15, (1874), pp. 120, at p. 16, pp. 3–4.

86 Quoted in P. F. Bicknell, ‘John Stuart Mill’, Popular Science Monthly, Nov. 1906, pp. 451–7, at p. 452.

87 [Hayward], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Fraser's Magazine, p. 664.

88 Mill to Harriet Taylor, 23 Jan. 1854, in F. E. Mineka and D. N. Lindley, eds., The later letters of John Stuart Mill (4 vols., Toronto, 1972–2005), i, pp. 137–9, letter 120.

89 [Hayward], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Fraser's Magazine, p. 664.

90 Morley, ‘Mill’, Fortnightly Review, 7; [Hare], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Westminster Review, p. 157.

91 ‘Mr. Mill's autobiography’, Daily News, 18 Oct. 1873.

92 ‘Lessons’, Pall Mall Gazette, 12 Dec. 1873.

93 British Quarterly quoted in Glasgow Herald, 17 Jan. 1874.

94 [Hayward], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Fraser's Magazine, pp. 671, 664.

95 British Quarterly quoted in Glasgow Herald, 17 Jan. 1874.

96 ‘Mill and Miller’, Punch, or The London Charivari, 29 Nov. 1873.

97 Morley, ‘Mill’, Fortnightly Review, pp. 2, 8, 17.

98 Mill, Autobiography, p. 25.

99 ‘Magazines’, Graphic, 13 Dec. 1873.

100 [Hayward], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Fraser's Magazine, pp. 673, 674, 675.

101 [Hare], ‘John Stuart Mill’, Westminster Review, p. 157.

102 ‘Mr. Mill's autobiography’, Pall Mall Gazette, 13 Nov. 1873; ‘Mr. Mill's autobiography’, Daily News.

103 ‘A fair exchange’, Manchester Times, 11 Apr. 1874.

104 Mill, as he puts it in chapter ii, was ‘brought up without any religious belief, in the ordinary acceptation of the term’.

105 ‘The Rev. H. T. Howowat on “the past year”’, Liverpool Mercury, 29 Dec. 1873.

106 Pall Mall Gazette, 11 May 1874.

107 Church Herald, 14 May 1873.

108 See, for example, Figaro. A political, literary, and critical journal, 24 May 1873.

109 ‘The late Mr J. S. Mill’, Record, 19 May 1873; ‘The Mill testimonial’, Church Herald, 25 June 1873.

110 L. C. Raeder, John Stuart Mill and the religion of humanity (Columbia, MS, 2002), pp. 19, 55. Raeder was, in part, influenced by the similar, and equally mistaken, argument made by Joseph Hamburger in chapter 4, ‘Candor or concealment’, of J. Hamburger, John Stuart Mill on liberty and control (Princeton, NJ, 1999), pp.55–85.

111 A. R. Wallace, My life: a record of events and opinions (2 vols., London, 1905), ii, pp. 336–7; Raeder, John Stuart Mill, pp. 58–9.

112 Quoted in Christie, Mill and Hayward, p. 24.

113 Ibid., p. 22.

114 Record, 2 June 1873.

115 Christie, Mill and Hayward, pp. 25–6.

116 ‘John Stuart Mill’, Nonconformist, 14 May 1873.

117 The Freeman: A Baptist Record, and Journal of Religion, Literature, Social Science, and Politics, 16 May 1873.

118 Murray J. J., ‘John Stuart Mill’, Macmillan's Magazine, 28, (1873), pp. 348–9. The poem drew favourable comment in the provincial press, which often dwelt upon its religious depiction of Mill. Murray praised Mill for his ‘love of truth’ and questioned his non-belief. See, for example, Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 9 Aug. 1873; Derby Mercury, 6 Aug. 1873; Glasgow Herald, 5 Aug. 1873.

119 H. Maxwell, Life and times of the right honourable William Henry Smith, M.P. (2 vols., London, 1893), i, p. 141.

120 S. Mitchell, Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian feminist, journalist, reformer (London, 2004), p. 192. For Cobbe's version of the encounter see F. Power Cobbe, Life of Frances Power Cobbe, as told by herself (London, 1904), pp. 487–9.

121 Anon. [Mill J. S.], ‘The descent of man’, Pall Mall Gazette, 20 Mar. 1871.

122 H. Elliot, ed., The letters of John Stuart Mill: with a note on Mill's private life, by Mary Taylor (2 vols., London, 1910), i, pp. xxxiv, xxxvi.

123 Nature: a weekly illustrated journal of science, 28 Apr. 1870.

124 Galton, Hereditary genius, p. 179.

125 C. Darwin, The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex (2 vols., Princeton, NJ, 1981), ii, pp. 326–9, at p. 328n.

126 Darwin, Descent, i, p. 71n.

127 The similarity was noted by early reviewers; see, for example, ‘The life of Darwin’, Daily News, 19 Nov. 1887.

128 See A. Pichot, The pure society: from Darwin to Hitler (London, 2009).

129 C. Darwin to G. Darwin, 21 Oct. 1873, Darwin Correspondence Project, letter 9105,, accessed 14 Sept. 2010.

130 C. Darwin to F. Galton, 28 May 1873, in F. Darwin, ed., The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter (3 vols., London, 1887), iii, p. 178.

131 A. Desmond and J. Moore, Darwin (London, 1992), pp. 526–7.

132 A. Desmond and J. Moore, Darwin's sacred cause: race, slavery and the quest for human origins (London, 2009), pp. 349–50.

133 H. Trimen, ‘His botanical studies’, in Fox Bourne et al., Twelve sketches, pp. 43–8. Henry Trimen was a young botanist who worked in the botanical department of the British Museum. J. D. Salmon, Flora of Surrey; or, a catalogue of the flowering plants and ferns found in the county, with the localities of the rarer species (London, 1863). On George Bentham and Mill see McOuat G., ‘The logical systematist: George Bentham and his Outline of a new system of logic’, Archives of Natural History, 30, (2003), pp. 203–22.

134 ‘Considering how high an authority he [Mill] is, this pleases me much, and I think you will be pleased’, C. Darwin to C. Lyell, 20 July 1861. Darwin Correspondence Project, letter 3215, accessed 14 Sept. 2010. For Mill's commendatory note see his A system of logic, in J. M. Robson, ed., The collected works of John Stuart Mill (33 vols., Toronto, 1963–91), vii, pp. 498–9n.

135 On the working-class appeal of botany see Secord A., ‘Science in the pub: artisan botanists in early nineteenth-century Lancashire’, History of Science, 32, (1994), pp. 269315, and A. Secord, ‘Artisan Botany’, in N. Jardine, J. A. Secord, and E. C. Spary, eds., Cultures of natural history (Cambridge, 1996).

136 Marston, Life of Mill, pp. 11–12.

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