This passage appears in the author's "The Liberal Triumvirate of England" in Modern Leaders: Beings a Series of Biographical Sketches, which Sheldon & Company (N.Y.) published in 1872. Scanning, HTML conversion, and proofreading were carried out by GPL, who added links to materials in VW, added the subtitles, and changed titles of books from McCarthy's quotation marks to text with emphasis.
His physical constitution, intellectual peculiarities, temperament, habits — all seemed to mark out Mr. Mill as a man destined to close his career, as he had so long conducted it — in almost absolute seclusion. He is a silent, shy, shrinking man, of feeble frame and lonely ways. Until the general election of three years back, Mr. Mill was to his countrymen but as an oracle — as a voice — almost as a myth. The influence of his writings was immense. Personally he was but a name. He never came into any public place; he knew nobody. When the promoters of the movement to return him to Parliament came to canvass the Westminster electors, the great difficulty they had to contend with was, tha three out of every four of the honest traders and shopkeepers had never heard of him; and the few who knew anything of his books had a vague impression that the author was dead years before. The very men who formed the executive of his committee could not say that they knew him, even by sight. Half in jest, half for a serious purpose, some of the Tories sent abroad over Westminster an awful report that there was no such man in existence as John Stuart Mill. "Did you ever see him?" was the bewildering question constantly put to this or that earnest canvasser, and invariably answered with an apologetic negative. I believe the services of my friend Dr. Chapman, editor of the Westminster Review, were brought into pressing requisition, because he was one of the very few who really could boast a personal acquaintance with Stuart Mill. The day when the latter first entered the House of Commons was the first time he and Bright ever saw each other. I believe Cobden and Mill never met. Mill had no university acquaintances — he had never been to any university. He had no school friends — he had never been to a school. Perhaps the best educated man of his time in England, he owes his education to the personal care and teaching of his distinguished father, James Mill, who would have been illustrious if his son had not overshadowed his fame. Assuredly, to know James Mill intimately was, if I may thus apply Leigh Hunt's saying, in itself a liberal education. Following his father's steps at the India House, John Mill worked there methodically and quietly, until he rose to the highest position his father had occupied; and then he resigned his office, declined an offer of a seat at the Indian Council Board, subsequently made by Lord Stanley, and lapsed wholly into private life. Of late he rarely met even his close and early friends. Some estrangement, not necessary to dwell on, had taken place, I believe, between him and his old friend Thomas Carlyle, and I suppose they ceased to meet. After the death of the wife whom he so loved and revered, Mill lived almost always at Avignon, in the south of France, where she died, and where he raised a monument over her remains, which he visits and tends with a romantic devotion and constancy worthy of a Roland.
Only a profound sense of duty could drag such a man from his scholarly and sacred seclusion into the stress and storm of a parliamentary life. But it was urged upoa Mill that he could do good to the popular cause by going into Parliament; and he is not a man to think anything of his personal preference in such a case. He accepted the contest and won. [112-13]
- John Stuart Mill as a speaker in Parliament
- Mill as Member of the Triumvirate of the English Liberal Party
McCarthy, Justin. "The Liberal Triumvirate of England." Modern Leaders: Being a Series of Biographical Sketches. N. Y.: Sheldon & Company, 1872. pp. 106-15.
Last modified 30 March 2006