Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
John Stuart Mill (1806–1873)
Mill, John Stuart, Autobiography of (1873). The reader who for the first time learns how John Stuart Mill was brought up by his father, James Mill, will perhaps wonder how the scholar ever survived so arduous a régime, so early imposed. Starting Greek at the age of three, he had read many works in that language before he began Latin in his eighth year. Numerous histories occupied a large part of the interval until his twelfth year, when he began logic, to which he added political economy a year later. Brought up by his father to think that nothing was known of the manner in which the world came into existence, he says of himself in this book that he had not thrown off religious belief, he had never had it, a circumstance which lends all the greater interest to views which he was elsewhere to express in ‘The Utility of Religion and Theism.’ He records the formation of the Utilitarian Society (whence the term Utilitarian passed into general use, though Mill had borrowed it from Galt’s ‘Annals of the Parish’), by himself and a group of other young men who took Utility as their standard in ethics and politics. Later he helped to found the Westminster Review as a Radical offset to the Edinburgh and Quarterly, then in the heyday of their power. At that time he and his fellow-workers based their political faith on representative government and complete freedom of discussion. His intercourse for twenty years with the lady who was afterwards, on the death of her first husband, to become his wife, was a source of profound intellectual stimulus to him and modified his views on religion, ethics, political economy and every subject which occupied his mind. It is interesting to note that the man who wrote a classic treatise ‘On Liberty’ could also epitomise in these words his own and his most intimate fellow-workers’ views. “While we repudiated with the greatest energy that tyranny of society over the individual which most Socialistic systems are supposed to involve, we yet looked forward to a time when society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they who do not work shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusively their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to.” The most poignant section of a pathetically interesting self-revelation is Mill’s lament for the loss of his wife. “Her memory is to me a religion, and her approbation the standard by which, summing up as it does all worthiness, I endeavour to regulate my life.”  1

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