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Introduction

Recalling his father's educational practice (and theory), John Stuart Mill says: "I recollect . . . his indignation at my using the common expression that something was true in theory but required correction in practice; and how, after making me vainly stive to define the word theory, he explained its meaning, and shewed the fallacy of the vulgar form of speech which I had used; leaving me fully persuaded that in being unable to give a correct definition of Theory, and in speaking of it as something that might be at variance with practice, I had shewn unparalleled ignorance."[1] This lesson was administered in Mill's twelfth or thirteenth year, and, despite his general acceptance of James Mill's authority, he continued to tease out its implications for the rest of his life: it might be said, for example, that his great System of Logic is an extended analysis of theory and practice. And how comforting it would be to say that he resolved the problem, for which of us is not more at ease—in Zion and elsewhere— if our practice can be shown to fit into a sweet theoretical niche.

So, in editing Mill's works, from the beginning and it seems forever, we have sought that comfort. But it was and is not to be ours, as the following discussion will demonstrate, and I hope justify.

Mill properly qualifies as a polymath, and therefore presents special challenges to editors, not least because his works are of special concern to people of very different interests.[2] He also, if one may be forgiven


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the word, is polygeneric, and therefore produces even more editorial problems.

Mill's longest works went through many revised editions, as did, with fewer changes, his shorter monographs. Even in these apparently benign cases, decisions about the proper treatment of lightly revised texts may be less than ideal for heavily revised ones. His major periodical essays were published in a collection that went from two to three volumes in his lifetime, and to four volumes posthumously; the revisions of these essays vary in scope and kind, almost as much as in subject matter, and there are manuscript texts for only two of them. Most of his essays, however, were not republished and, apart from those portions of some of them that were used in other works, have single versions. Furthermore, he wrote (and kept a record of) over 1700 despatches for the East India Company during his twenty-five years in the Examiner's Office; these are anomalous with any other of his writings, and there is no carefully thought-out guide to editing such materials. And, not to labour the matter, there are, of course, private and public letters, a few journals, and many speeches (debating, public, and parliamentary), all of which might be thought to call for special treatment. Finally, there are comparatively few manuscripts of any kind, except, of course, for the material he did not himself publish, such as letters, journals, and the India Office despatches (a few of which were printed in Blue Books). The mix is not as before—or ever again.

The mode moderne, however, calls for at least an appearance of consistency in bringing together a writer's works into a single edition, and so we in the Collected Works of J. S. Mill (twenty-five to date, with five more to come) have adopted principles and methods that we have applied as closely as seemed practicable and wise for each title.[3] Saving the newspaper writings for a late stage tested our will and our skill in ways that we did and did not foresee. In the four volumes those writings occupy, we have included everything of Mill's that appeared in a daily or weekly newspaper, with minor exceptions mentioned below. The articles span more than fifty years, from 1822 when Mill was sixteen years old, until 1873, the year of his death; the subjects range from abstract economics (with which he began) and practical economics (with which he ended), through French and British politics, reviews of music and theatre, Irish land reform, to domestic cruelty, with glances at what seems like everything else lit by the nineteenth-century sun or obscured by its fog.

Not questioning the importance of including these items in the Collected Works—though in some ways a heretic, as will become evident, I am not seeking martyrdom by preaching such a dangerous doctrine anywhere,


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let alone in the holy land—I still can admit that individually they are comparatively unimportant. Mill did not reprint them (again with minor exceptions to be mentioned below), undoubtedly judging them to fall within the area of proscription he defines in his own collection of essays, Dissertations and Discussions. Those excluded from the volumes, he says, "were either of too little value at any time, or what value they might have was too exclusively temporary, or the thoughts they contained were inextricably mixed up with comments, now totally uninteresting, on passing events, or on some book not generally known; or lastly, any utility they may have possessed has since been superseded by other and more mature writings of the author."[4] While recognizing Mill's wisdom in many matters, we are not disposed to heed him here. At the very least, the bulk of these materials gives them very considerable significance.

There was, of course, a recognition in Mill's time by people as diverse as Newman, Carlyle, Bulwer-Lytton and Disraeli, that newspapers were becoming extremely important in determining public opinion, and that the determination of public opinion was increasing in importance with the growing power of democracy. Let me cite only Disraeli: "Opinion is now supreme, and Opinion speaks in print. The representation of the Press is far more complete than the representation of Parliament."[5] The campaign against the "taxes on knowledge" gained much of its force from the general belief that the "people" needed the information, political, scientific, economic, artistic, and so on, that could most easily and quickly be transmitted through the daily and weekly press. Indeed, from the sixteenth century to the present, one abiding belief has been the importance to civility and utility of freedom of access through the press to opinions and facts of all kinds. The great campaigns of the nineteenth century used the press effectively and constantly, and though newspapers' significance for scholars of many persuasions has come to be recognized only in the last quarter century, there has been since then an ever-increasing use of newspapers as historical sources for opinion as well as fact.

That Mill was as aware as anyone else in his time of the surge of importance and interest is demonstrated by his heavy participation in what could not fancifully be called the "newspaper movement."[6] Indeed, he identified his times as "this age of newspapers."[7] Not all is well in such an age (it is also an "age of transition" to something better), as Mill makes clear in several places. For example, praising his friend W. B. Adams ("Junius Redivivus"), he comments that, in the circumstances, "all he has written, perhaps all he will ever have the inclination or patience to write, will be ephemeral. . . ."[8] More vividly: "The Spartan in the story, who, for the crime of using two words where one would have


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sufficed, was sentenced to read from beginning to end the history of Guicciardini, and at the end of a few pages begged to commute his punishment for the galleys, would have prayed to exchange it for death if he had been condemned to read a file of English newspapers five years old."[9]

Nonetheless, especially in his early years he thought the times were ripe for the kind of education in and stimulation of reform that he could encourage through the ephemeral press. The anonymity it provided gave him the opportunity, so often seized in British life, for authoritative judgments in a favourable context: that is, the authority for the judgments was attached to the newspaper itself, and the principal readers of any newspaper then were those who accepted its general political orientation. Mill was frequently, it should be mentioned, a member of a dedicated team: his leading articles and news reports, for instance, reflect his often intimate connections with the editors, particularly in the 1820s with John Black of the Morning Chronicle and in the 1830s with Albany Fonblanque of the Examiner. And his reviews are not seldom imbued with enthusiasm for his allies' endeavours. Although Mill's later journalism, while still polemical, in general shows more care in developing an authority based on argument than on statement (partly, one may guess, because the anonymity was less guarded, or even absent, because the tone of the newspapers in which he was writing had altered, and because he was both more skilful and more committed to a balanced tone), his opinions then gained from the increased prestige of the big dailies with large circulation. In any case, malgré their ephemerality, newspapers provided Mill early and late with a platform he considered worth mounting, as the bulk of our volumes will all too readily testify.