.JamEs MILL has a rightful claim to a place in English bio- graphy—for his History of British India, for the work that he did in bringing within the sphere of practical politics many most important political and social reforms, and because he was the father and educator of John Stuart Mill, a greater man than himself. That place might, indeed, have been adequately filled by a biography of less extent than 450 closely-printed pages. Bat—if we may adapt the Turkish gentleman's reply to Mr. Curzon, when he apologised for making him- self a bore—no harm is done, for the writer is one, and the reader is another ; and we are free to take or to leave what we please of the abundance of minute details of fact, ani elaborate estimates of character, which Pro- fessor Bain has spread before us, and in the array of which it is but just to him to say that he is no less candid and impartial in admitting the less favourable aspects of his subject -than in narrating everything that is creditable to the man whom he has deemed worthy of such a labour of love as this Life must have been.
For the average height of the Grampians at James Mill's birthplace, for the number of stone arches of Northwater Bridge, and of the doors and windows of the cottage in which he was not born, and for many other such matters, we must refer our readers to the biography itself. We will content ourselves with saying that the parentage and early life of James Mill were in many respects like those of Thomas Carlyle, as, indeed, of
• Tames WU: a Biography. By Alexander Bain, LL.D. London : Longmans, Green, and Co.12. many other self-made men. The father of James Mill was a country shoemaker, who usually employed two or three men. His mother was a farmer's daughter, proud of her family in former generations, and resolved, in spite of the anger of her neighbours, to bring up her eldest son—born in 1773—to be a gentleman—" to be called Mr. Mill, and his wife Mrs. Mill." He neither assisted in his father's trade nor took any part in
field work, but was allowed to devote himself to study ; and he said, in after-life, that it was the darling object, even of his infant years, to attain a name for wisdom and knowledge. He was sent to the Montrose Grammar School, and thence, in his eighteenth year, he went to Edinburgh University, by the aid of a neighbouring laird, Sir John Stuart, and of Lady Jane Stuart, who desired both to train him for the Church, and also to engage him in the education of their only daughter, who was three years younger than himself. That after completing his University studies he became a licensed minister of the Church, and did actually preach, is clearly ascertained by Professor Baia, though his son, John Mill, was in doubt of the fact. Indeed, Sir David Brewster said to Dr. Bain, "I've heard him preach, and no great han' he made o't." He acted as private tutor in various families between 1790 and 1802, though spending part of his time at home with his father and mother ; and at the begin- ning of the latter year, being now twenty-nine years old, he went to London, probably travelling with his friend and patron, Sir John Stuart, then in Parliament. From London, shortly after his arrival, he writes to his old friend, Dr. Thomson, Professor of Chemistry in Edinburgh :—
" I am extremely ambitions to remain here, which I feel to be 80 much the best scene for a man of letters, that you can have no notion of it till you be upon the spot. You get an ardour and a spirit of adventurousness which you can never get an idea of among our over- cautious countrymen at home. Here everybody applauds the most romantic scheme you can form. In Scotland everybody represses you, if you but propose to step out of the beaten track You may make E500 a year by your pen, and as much by a class. I have mentioned to several people my idea of aclass of Jurisprudence, who have assured me that it could not fail to succeed."
In this spirit, at once aspiring and prudent, James Mill entered on what was the real work of his life. As contributor or as editor, he became thenceforth one of the most important supports of the periodical literature of the day ; and while he soon secured an income sufficient to enable him to marry, he took no small share in forming and directing that public opinion which, during the next thirty years, was to effect so many and • great social and political reforms. A few years later he be- came not only the personal friend of Bentham, but the ablest and the most faithful of his English disciples and expositors. And for the rest of his career he was one of the foremost and most resolute and uncompromising of those men who "kept pegging away" against a phalanx of social, legal, and political abuses, of the strength of which the present generation has no experience, and probably little conception. It would be impossible to recount what these men—and Mill among them—in or out of Parliament, did for the liberty of the press, the abolition of slavery, re- ligious toleration, popular education, prison discipline, and legal and Parliamentary reform. And though there was more truth than Dr. Bain admits in the assertions of Mill's friends that he argued with cynicism and asperity, and that his sympathy with the oppressed was founded on his hatred of the oppressors, it is but fair to remember that it is only with the few very noble-minded men that such hard and rough work as his does not narrow the mind and embitter the feelings :—" For us was thy back so bent, for us were thy straight limbs and fingers so deformed ; thou wert our conscript, on whom the lot fell, and fighting our battles wert so marred." In 1819, Mill was appointed an Assistant in the Examiner's Office in the India House, and in that office he continued till his death in 1836. And he, no doubt, did his official work at the India House well : he was a man to do everything well which he put his hand to. But this was not the real in- terest of his life, but rather the material means for enabling him to work more freely and thoroughly at that other work we have described. Besides his numerous occasional writings,
he published independent and, in more than one sense, " self. contained " books. His Analysis of the Human Mind is a mas- terly deduction of all that can be deduced, and a great deal which cannot, from the two facts of sensation and association. His History of British India—the work of eleven years' labour—is still, in many respects, our standard history. We smile at the elaborate argument by which the author, with characteristic
maintains that not to have been in India was an essential quali- fication for understanding and writing its history. We have access to sources of information not existing or not open in Mill's day ; but for those portions of his subject as to which his materials were complete—for an account of the formation and growth of the East India Company, of its early career of conquest, organisation, and administration—nothing can be better. And though the Edinburgh Review found some faults of grammar in the composition, it has much vigorous writing, and the author's power of condensing volumes into pages may not unfairly be compared with that of Gibbon.
If we knew Mill only from his letters, we should suppose him to have been a noble-minded, generous, and warm-hearted man in all the relations of life. From his letters to Barclay, he seems to have been no less affectionate than liberal in his arrangements for paying his father's debts, providing for his declining years, and making him happy with the rest of the family; his remon- strances with Bentham on occasion of the older man's somewhat capricious conduct are dignified and manly ; his letter of condol- ence with Lord Brougham on the death of his brother shows genuine and heartfelt sympathy; and his congratulations addressed tobis friend Dr. Thomson, on the latter's marriage—in which he says that "human happiness requires that the human heart should have something to love, that it should have one, at least, with whom it can enjoy sympathy, and in whom its confidence can be reposed "—disposes us to believe Dr. Bain, when he tells us that " the depth and tenderness of the feeling" in the "affec- tionate outpourings" of Mill's letters to his future wife "could not well be exceeded." But there was, unhappily, another side to Mill's character, which Dr. Bain candidly depicts. The traditions of his Scottish borne are that be was hard and un- feeling to his family, and ungrateful to his friends ; though his wife "was not wanting in any of the domestic virtues of an English mother, toiling hard for her children, and thoroughly obedient to her lord, the union was never happy :"-
"The one really disagreeable trait in Mill's character, and the thing that has left the most painful memories, was the way that he allowed himself to speak and behave to his wife and children before visitors. When we read his letters to friends, we see him acting the family man with the utmost propriety, patting forward his wife and children into their due place ; but he seemed to be unable to observe this part in daily intercourse."
Mill, too, in his notoriously eager desire for worldly advance-
ment, did not scruple to supplant, by an unworthy intrigue, a colleague with whom he was in daily intimacy at the India House. The story is evidently unknown to Dr. Bain, but we give it from an authentic source. In the days of the Company, the work now done by the Secretary of State for India, with the addition of the commercial business, was done by the Chair- man of the Court of Directors, subject to the veto of the Eng- lish Government through the President of the Board of Con- trol. The Chairman, annually appointed, was sometimes an experienced member of the Indian Service, understanding and caring for the interests of India, sometimes a City man, chiefly interested in keeping on good terms with the Government of the day. In 1819, when the Chairman was of the former kind, the Examiner's Office—in which the despatches relating to the judicial, financial, and commercial business were drafted—was reorganised, and Edward Strachey, a Bengal Civil Servant of experience and reputation, was made first Assistant, with a higher salary than Mill or Peacock, who came after him, and with the avowed intention that he should succeed M'Culloch, the then head f the office, when his place became vacant. Strachey, though also a friend and a follower of Bentham, cared more for the administration of justice in India than for English politics; and, with the support of the Chairmen and Directors who, like him- self, knew India, but to the distaste of those who thought only of getting on smoothly with the Government of the clay, would pertinaciously discuss with the Board of Control their altera- tions in his draft dispatches which he held to be unwise and injurious. Mill saw his opportunity ; and when a Chairman of the latter kind said that "when Mr. Strachey's drafts went to the Board it was nothing but scratch, scratch," he suggested, or allowed it to be suggested, that he was not, and would not be, guilty of such unconciliatory and inconvenient conscientious-
ness; and that his better disposition might be rewarded, and a fitter successor provided for M'Culloch, if he superseded the uncompromising Strachey. A nominally new office, therefore, of "Assistant Examiner" was created, into which Mill was put, over Strachey's head. Strachey indignantly sent in his resig-
of Indian experience, who knew the value of his services, to withdraw it He died not long after M'Culloch retired,"so that Mill would, without much waiting, have had the office, without the sacrifice of honour which he impatiently made to secure it. He made an attempt to supplant Peacock by his son John, whom he had already, with singular adroitness, converted from a clerk into a junior assistant in the office ; but in this he was not successful, and Peacock revenged himself by the witty repre- sentations of Scotch economists in his later novels. James Mill was as able, but not so good a man as his biographer holds him to have been. Self-assertion, not self-denial (as Dr. Bain oddly says), was his chief characteristic ; and he largely practised as a man what he taught as a philosopher,—that self-interest was the sole motive of human action.