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Mill, John Stuart

Mill, John Stuart (1806-73), philosopher, son of James Mill (q.v.), was born in London. Up to his 15th year he was educated entirely by his father, who aimed at training him to be the exponent of his own political and philosophical views. Between the ages of three and eight he was taken through some of the principal Greek authors, and four years later he was launched on a course of logic and political economy. After spending part of the years 1820-21 in France with the family of Sir Samuel Bentham, he studied law with John Austin; but the project of a career at the bar was abandoned on his obtaining a clerkship in the India House (1823). The reading of Dumont's Traite de Legislation, a summary of Jeremy Bentham's views, formed, as Mill himself says, an "epoch in his life" and led to the establishment of a "Utilitarian Society" which met at the bouse of the sage himself; but at the meetings of the Speculative Debating Society (founded in 1825) he was brought into contact with philosophical Liberals of a different school - Maurice, Sterling, and other ardent youths whose ideas had been moulded by the teaching of Coleridge - and to their influence was mainly due the great mental crisis through .which he now passed. The partial change which now took place in his views is observable in Thoughts on Poetry (1833), inspired by a study of Wordsworth and Shelley, and the articles on Bentham (1838) and Coleridge (1840) in the London and Westminster. But, although he was thus led to modify the doctrines in which he had been brought up, he never abandoned them. About 1837 he became acquainted with the system of Comte, and Comte's sociological method has greatly influenced the sixth book of the Logic (1843). The Principles of Political Economy (1848), which had been preceded by Essays on Unsettled Questions in Political Economy, written in 1831, was hailed as the last word on economic science, but the growth of the historical school has completely reversed the verdict. To the ensuing period belong Liberty (1859) and Representative Government (1861); the former, an eloquent plea on behalf of individualism, was written, as were many of his works, in co-operation with his wife (previously Mrs. Taylor), who had died in the preceding year. Utilitarianism was published in 1863, and the Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy in 1865. During Mill's brief career in Parliament as member for Westminster (1865-68) his earnestness and sincerity were generally recognised. He incurred much hostility, however, by his support of Mr. Bradlaugh's candidature at Northampton, and by his activity against Governor Eyre owing to his ruthless suppression of the Jamaica insurrection. The last five years of his life were passed in retirement at Avignon with his stepdaughter, Miss Helen Taylor. The Suljection of Women was published in 1869, and after his death appeared the Autobiography (1873), and Three Essays on Religion (1874),'which indicated a certain reaction against his earlier Agnosticism.