John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor: Their Friendship and Subsequent Marriage

London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951/1969; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951/1969, 320 pp.


“The literary portrait which in the Autobiography John Stuart Mill has drawn for us of the woman who ultimately became his wife creates a strong wish to know more about her. If Harriet Taylor, to give her the name which she bore during the greater part of her life, was anything like what Mill wished us to believe, we should have to regard her as one of the most remarkable women who ever lived. Even if merely her influence on Mill was as great as he asserts, we should have to think of her as one of the major figures who shaped opinion during the later Victorian era. Yet until now it has been solely Mill’s account on which we have had to rely in forming an estimate; and the very extravagance of the language he employed in her praise has generally produced more disbelief than conviction. It is natural to dismiss as the product of an extraordinary if not singular delusion a description which represents her as more a poet than Carlyle, more a thinker than Mill himself and as the only equal to his father in ‘the power of influencing by mere force of mind and character the convictions and purposes of others and in the strenuous exertion of that power to promote freedom and progress.'”