JOHN STUART MILL IN LOVE by Josephine Kamm

JOHN STUART MILL IN LOVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This curiously misnamed volume is only partly about Mill in love; mostly it is about the women who loved, guided, and lived through him. Most important is Harriet Taylor Mill, his platonic mistress of eighteen years, subsequently his wife, and throughout a dominant intelligence edging his often timid liberalism toward her more radical edge, writing herself what she could not inspire him to say. Helen Taylor, her daughter, succeeds at Harriet's death to reign as Mill's major domo and intellectual genie. Mill as MP shares with Helen a passion for women's suffrage (Kamm's topic in the also ineptly named Rapiers and Battleaxes), but streaked as he is with nasty spite, sometimes does more harm than good. Other women figure in his life: Sarah Austin his ""liebe muterlein"" finally spurned, and his mother (another Harriet) and sisters treated with resolute shabbiness--in all a little phalanx of ladies whose lives and best hopes went to shore up John Stuart's voracious, tottering ego, product of the educational experiments of utilitarian James Mill, the father nobody ever called dad. The account ends with senile Helen carried off after Mill's death by her niece Mary and Mary's apparently lesbian companion to become a happy, plump old lady at the Torquay seaside, showing finally that Mill was not half so interesting or appealing as the generations of women who sustained him. Kamm's account is no substitute for Packe's biography or Hayek's collection of the correspondence, but with its emphasis on women it is a valuable adjunct, although Kamm's feminism is dodgy and she still thinks she must name her study after a famous man.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Atheneum