Caroline Fox.

Memories of old friends : being extracts from the journals of Caroline Fox of Penjerrick, Cornwall from 1835 to 1871 (Volume 2) online

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our time, and altogether a model of the consistency of a
statesman, as distinguished from that of a fanatic.

You have been a little premature in saying anything to
a bookseller about my Logic, for no bookseller is likely to
hear anything about it from me for many months. I
have it all to rewrite completely, and now, here is Sterling
persuading me that 1 must read all manner of German
logic, which, though it goes much against the grain with


me, I can in no sort gainsay. So you are not likely to
see much of my writing for some time to come, except
such scribble as this.

All send love to all. Pray write soon. — Yours always,

J. S. Mill.

John Stuart Mill to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, March 12, 1841.
My dear Friend, — I feel somewhat ashamed at
having allowed two months to elapse since your last
letter, especially when I consider the enclosure which it
contained, respecting which, however, I sent you a
message by one of my sisters (a verbal message, which
she doubtless transmuted into a written one) which a
little lightens the weight on my conscience. As there is
a good side to everything bad (and not solely to the mis-
fortunes of one's friends, as La Rochefoucault would have
it), this tardiness on my part has had one good effect, viz.,
that on reading your little poem once more, after a con-
siderable interval, I am able to say, with greater delibera-
tion than I could have said at the time, that I think your
verses not only good, but so good, that it is no small
credit to have done so well on so extremely hackneyed a
subject ; the great simple elemental powers and constituents
of the universe have, however, inexhaustible capabilities,
when any one is suthciently fitted, by nature, and cultiva-
tion for poetry, to have felt them as realities, that which
a poet alone does habitually or frequently, which the
majority of mankind never do at all, and which we of
the middle rank, perhaps, have the amazement of being
able to do at some rare instants, when all familiar things
stand before us like spectres from another world, not how-



ever like phantoms, but like the real things of which the
phantoms alone are present to us, or appear so in our
common everyday state. That is truly a revelation of
the seen, not of the unseen, and tills one with what
Wordsworth must have been feeling when he wrote the
line "filled with the joy of troubled thoughts."

I cannot undertake to criticise your poem, for I have no
turn for that species of criticism, but there seems to me
enough of melody in it, to justify your writing in verse,
which I think nobody should do who has not music in his
ear as well as "soul." Therefore if it were at all neces-
sary, I would add my exhortation to that which you have
no doubt received from much more competent and equally
friendly judges — Sterling, for instance — to persevere. You
have got over the mechanical difficulties, which are the
great hindrance to those who have feelings and ideas from
writing good poetry — therefore go on and prosper.

I congratulate you on having Dr. Calvert with you.
Sterling you may or may not have, for I had a letter from
him yesterday, dated at Clifton on Thursday, and he had
said if he went at all, it would be on Wednesday. It
would be a pleasure to us all to think of him as in the
midst of you.

I have been doing nothing worth telling you tor a long
time, for I cannot count among such things the rather
tiresome business of reading German books of logic. It
is true, I have diversified that occupation by reading
Euripides, about whom there would be much to say if
one had time and room. Have you ever read any of the
great Athenian dramatists ? I had read but little of them
before now, and that little at long intervals, so that I had
no very just, and nothing like a complete, impression of
them, yet nothing upon earth can be more interesting


than to form to oneself a correct and living picture of the
sentiments, the mode of taking life and of viewing it, of
that most accomplished people. To me that is the chief
interest of Greek poetic literature, for to suppose that any
modern mind can be satisfied with it as a literature, or
that it can, in an equal degree with much inferior modern
works of art (provided these be really genuine emanations
from sincere minds) satisfy the requirements of the more
deeply feeling, more introspective, and (above even that)
more genial character which Christianity and chivalry and
many things in addition to these have impressed upon
the nations of Europe, it is, it I may judge from myself,
quite out of the question. Still, we have immeasurably
much to win back as well as many hitherto undreamed-of
conquests to make; and the twentieth and thirtieth cen-
turies may be indebted for something to the third century
before Christ, as well as to the three immediately after

This is a long letter, full of nothing, but the next shall
be better.

With kindest regards to your delightful circle. — Yours
ever, J. S. Mill.

John Stuart Mill to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, May 6, 1841.

My dear Friend, — I will be more prompt this time
in contributing my part towards keeping the thread of
our correspondence unbroken.

I am glad that you do not write only poetry, for in
these days one composes in verse (I don't mean / do, for
I don't write verses at all), for oneself rather than for the
public, as is generally the case in an age chiefly charac-


terised by earnest practical endeavour. There is a deep-
rooted tendency almost everywhere, but above all in this
England of ours, to fancy that what is written in verse is
not meant in earnest, nor should be understood as serious
at all (for really the common talk about being moral and
so forth means only that poetry is to treat with respect
whatever people are used to profess respect for, and
amounts to no more than a parallel precept not to play
at any indecent or irreverent games). Prose is after all
the language of business, and therefore is the language
to do good by in an age when men's minds are forcibly
drawn to external effort — when they feel called to what
my friends the Saint-Simonians not blasphemously call
" continuing the work of creation," i.e., co-operating as
instruments of Providence in bringing order out of dis-
order. True, this is only a part of the mission of man-
kind, and the time will come again when its due rank
will be assigned to contemplation, and the calm culture
of reverence and love. Then poetry will resume her
equality with prose — an equality like every healthy
equality, resolvable into reciprocal superiority. But that
time is not yet, and the crowning glory of Wordsworth is
that he has borne witness to it and kept alive its traditions
in an age which but for him would have lost sight of it
entirely, and even poetical minds would with us have
gone off into the heresy of the poetical critics of the
present day in France, who hold that poetry is above all
and pre-eminently a social thing.

You ask my opinion on the punishment cf death. I
am afraid I cannot quite go with you as to the abstract
right, for if your unqualified denial of that right were
true, would it not be criminal to slay a human being even
in the strictest self-defence, if he were attempting to kill


or subject to the most deadly outrages yourself or those
dearest to you? I do not know whether the principles of
your Society go this length : mine do not, and therefore
I do hold that society has, or rather that man has a right
to take away life when without doing so he cannot pro-
tect rights of his own as sacred as the " divine right to
live." But I would confine the right of inflicting death
to cases in which it was certain that no other punishment
or means of prevention would have the effect of protect-
ing the innocent against atrocious crimes, and I very
much doubt whether any such cases exist. I have, there-
fore, always been favourable to the entire abolition of
capital punishment, though I confess I do not attach
much importance to it in the case of the worst criminals of
all, towards whom the nature of the punishment hardly
ever operates on juries or prosecutors as a motive to for-

Perhaps this view will afford you matter to confute in
your essay, but indeed it is so trite that you have no
doubt anticipated it.

There is nothing of mine in the Edinburgh this time,
nor is it likely there will be till I have finished my book
— the big book I mean, the Logic. I think I told you
that the first draft was finished last autumn. I have
now got to work on the rewriting, and have just com-
pleted, tolerably to my own satisfaction, the first of the
six books into which it will be divided. I don't suppose
many people will read anything so scholastic, especially
as I do not profess to upset the schools, but to rebuild
them, and unluckily everybody who cares about such
subjects nowadays is of a different school from me. But
that is the concern of a higher power than mine ; my
concern is to bring out of me what is in me, although


the world should not find, even after many days, that what
is cast on the waters is wholesome bread ; nay, even
although (worst of all) it may happen to be, in reality,
only bread made of sawdust.

So you are really to have Sterling always with you. I
congratulate you heartily — there is no place where I
would rather wish him — except with me. Carlyle is in
the country roaming about, at least 1 have not heard of
his being yet returned. I quite agree with you as to his
lectures. That little book contains almost all his best
ideas in a particularly attractive shape, and with many
explanations which he has not given elsewhere, or has
given only by way of allusion.

With kindest regards to Mr. and Mrs. Fox, and your
sisters, and to all relations whom I have the good fortune
to know (except those at Perran, whom I trust soon
to see), believe me, ever yours,

(in no merely polite sense),

J. S. Mill.

John Stuart Mill to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, yi//j' 24, 1841.
My dear Friend, — Have you not thought that I was
dead, or gone mad, or had "left my home," like the
"unfortunate gentlem.en " who are advertised (or as
Dickens expresses it, 'tized) in every day's newspaper,
for none of my friends have heard of me for months past ;
not even Sterling, who of all men living had the strongest
claim not to be so treated? But I meditate an ample
reparation to him — so far as a long letter can be so —
and in the meantime I steal a moment to pay to you a
small instalment of the debt which is due to you.


I suppose the most interesting subject to you, as to
most other people at this particular moment, is politics, —
and in the first place I must say that your (or let me
venture to say our) Falmouth is a noble little place for
having turned out its Tory, and elected two Liberals, at
the very time when it had received from the Liberal
Government so severe a blow as the removal of the
packets. If there had been many more such places the
Tories would not have been, for another ten years, where
they will be in half as many weeks. I cannot say, how-
ever, that the result of the elections has disappointed me.
The remarkable thing is, that the Corn Law question, as
such, should have told for so little, either one way or the
other. I expected that it would give us all the manu-
facturing places, instead of which we have lost ground,
even there ! while it has not prevented us from turning
out Tories from many small and purely agricultural
towns. Now the only explanation which is possible of
these facts, is one whicli retiects some light on tlie causes
of the general result. The people of Leeds, Wigan,
&c., cannot be indifferent to the Corn question ; Tory, or
Liberal, it is a matter of life and death to them ; and they
know it. If they had thought that question depended
on the result of the present elections, they must have
returned Liberals ; but their feeling was, that the Whigs
cannot carry the Corn question, and that it will be as
easily, if not more easily, extorted from the Tories. And
the agriculturists think the same — most likely we should
have lost as many counties at the next general election
even if the Corn question had not been stirred.

The truth is, and everybody I meet with who knows
the country says so, — the people had ceased to hope any-
thing from the Whigs 5 and the general feeling among


reformers was either indifference, or desire for a change.
If they had not proposed, even at the last moment, these
measures, they would have been in a miserable minority
in the new Parliament. As it is, their conduct has to
some extent reanimated radical feeling, which will now
again resume its upward movement, and the Whigs, having
put themselves really at the head of the popular party,
will have an opportunity, which there seems considerable
probability that they will use, of making themselves again
popular. For my part, they have quite converted me to
them ; not only by the courage and determination they
have shown (though somewhat too late), but by the
thorough understanding they have shown of so great a
subject.. Their speeches in the great debates were really
the speeches of philosophers.

I most entirely agree with you about the Sugar ques-
tion, and I was delighted to see that the anti-slavery
party in the country generally did not follow the aberra-
tions of their Parliamentary leaders. This part of the
subject is admirably argued in an article in the Edinburgh.
Review, just published.

Have you yet resumed your speculations on Capital
Punishment ? As for me, I have been quite absorbed in
my Logic, w^hich indeed it is necessary I should lose no
time about, on pain of missing the next publishing season
— when I hope to publish that, and my reprint too.

With kindest regards to all your family (and apologies
for so meagre a letter), believe me, yours ever,

J. S. Mill.


John Stuart JSlill to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, April i, 1842.
My dear Friend, — I am really ashamed to think of the
time which has elapsed since I wrote to you, or gave the
smallest indication of remembrance of a family whom I
have so much cause never to forget. I beg that you will
all of you ascribe this omission on my part to any other
cause than want of remembrance, or of frequent thought of
you, and I believe I could assign such causes as would go
far towards palliating it. Now, however, I feel impelled to
write to you by two feelings. One is the wish to condole
with you on the loss which Sterling's going abroad is to
you, and on the anxiety which, after so much longer and
more intimate knowledge of him than you had had when
I last saw you, I am sure you must feel about a life
and health so precious both to all who know him and to
the world. It is a cruel thing that the hope of his being
able to live even at Falmouth and be capable of work,
without the periodical -necessity for going abroad, should
be thus blighted when it seemed to be so fortunately
realised. I fear not so much for his bodily state as for
his spirits — it is so hard for an active mind like his to
reconcile itself to comparative idleness and to what he
considers as uselessness, only however from his inability
to persuade himself of the whole amount of the good
which his society, his correspondence, and the very exist-
ence of such a man diffuses through the world. If he
did but know the moral and even intellectual influence
which he exercises without writing or publishing anything,
he would think it quite worth living for, even if he were
never to be capable of writing again !


Do, if you have a good opportunity, tell Mrs. Sterling
how truly I sympathise with her, although I do not
intrude upon her with a direct expression of it.

My other prompting to write to you just now comes
from the approach of spring, and the remembrance of
what this second spring ought to bring, and I hope will.
Surely there is not any doubt of your all coming to
London this year ? — There seemed some shadow of an
uncertainty in one of the last letters which my sisters
showed me, but I hope it has all cleared off.

Carlyle is in Scotland owing to the almost sudden
death of Mrs. Carlyle's mother. Mrs. Carlyle was sum-
moned too late to see her mother alive. She has returned,
and seems to have suffered much. Carlyle is still there,
having many affairs to arrange. It is said (and I believe
truly) that they will now be in much more comfortable
circumstances than before. They heroically refused to
receive anything from Mrs. 'Welsh during her lifetime.

I have little to tell concerning myself — my book will
not be published till next season, for which I may thank
Murray. He kept me two months waiting for the
negative answer which I at last extorted from him, and
which it is evident could as well have been given the
very first day. I am now in treaty with Parker, and with
considerable hope of success. Does it not amuse you to
see how. I stick to the high-church booksellers. Parker
also publishes for Whewell, with whom several chapters
of my book are a controversy, but Parker very sensibly
says he does not care about that. The book is now
awaiting the verdict of a taster unknown, to whom
several chapters of his own choice have been communi-
cated ; and he gave so favourable a report on the table of
contents, that one may hope he will not do worse by the


book itself. If Parker publishes the book, he shall have
my reprint too, if he will take it, but I am afraid he will
not like anything so radical and anti-church — as much of
it is.

Do, if you have time, write to me, and tell me your
recent doings in the way of poetry or prose, together with
as much of your thoughts and feelings respecting this little
earth and this great universe as you are inclined to com-
municate, and m any case do not forget me. — Ever yours,

J. S. Mill.

John Stuart Mill to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, May 10, 1842.

Many thanks, my dear friend, for your letter and its
enclosures, and still more for the very agreeable intelli-
gence — that we may hope to see you all, and expect to see
some of you very soon.

I have had much pleasure in reading both the prose
and the verse which you sent me. I think I can honestly
give downright straightforward praise to them both. —
The poetry has both thought and music in it, and the
prose seems "to me much reflecting on these things"
to contain the real pith of the matter expressed "' simplv "
and "perspicuously," and with the kind of force which so
purely intellectual a subject required and admitted of.^
If it were shown to me as the production of a young
writer whom I knew nothing of, I should say at once
that he was of the right school, and likely to go far.

I have not time to enter upon metaphysics just now, or
I might perhaps discuss with you your curious speculation
respecting a duality in the hyper-physical part of man's
nature. Is not what you term the mind, as distinguished


from the spirit or soul, merely that spirit looking at things
as through a glass darkly, compelled in short by the con-
ditions of its terrestrial existence to see and know by
means of media, just as the mind uses the bodily organs;
for to suppose that the eye is necessary to sight seems to
me the notion of one immersed in matter. What we call
our bodily sensations, are all in the mind, and would not
necessarily or probably cease because the body perishes.
As the eye is but the window through which, not the
power by which, the mind sees, so probably the under-
standing is the bodily eye of the human spirit, which
looks through that window, or, rather, which sees (as
in Plato's cave) the camera-obscura images of things in
this life, while in another it may or might be capable of
seeing the things themselves.

I do not give you this as my opinion, but as a specula-
tion, which you will take for what it is worth.

Thanks for your interest about my books. Parker has
proved genuine, and has behaved so well altogether that
I feel twice as much interest as I ever did before in the
success of the Logic, — for I should really be sorry if he
were to lose money by it. He proposes to bring it out
about Christmas. He will not publish the reprint, as he
makes a point of not publishing politics or polemics, so I
shall print it myself in time for next season, and perhaps
shall have a copy for you before that.

Give all kind remembrances from all to all, and to your
sisters special ones from me for their kind wishes respect-
ing my mental offspring. — Ever yours,

J. S. Mill.


John Stuart JSlilL to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, Thursday.
(Date illegible, probably July 1842.)

My dear Friend, — As you say you reached home "this
morning," I perceive you made no more haste than good
speed — indeed, to make the former compatible with the
latter seemed, under the aspect of affairs last night, rather
hopeless. Let me congratulate you on the fact that the
safe preservation of all of you was, under these somewhat
inauspicious circumstances, achieved. As for us, we have
none of us experienced anything unpleasant, except the
remembrance of the shortness of your visit, and the un-
certainty which as yet hangs over the next.

You might well doubt whether 1 had received your
note, for such a note surely merited some acknowledg-
ment — however, not being able to respond to it in the
only suitable manner, viz., in verse, I left it without any
response at all — feeling all the while a vast respect for
you for being able to write such good verses. But the
feelings towards myself which they express require me to
say once more how highly I value your friendship, and
how unexpectedly gratifying it is that in me, seen as you
have seen me, you have found as much to like as these
verses seem to indicate. For you have not, nor have even
those of your family, whom I have been so fortunate as
to see more of, as yet seen me as I really and naturally
am, but a me artificially made, self-conscious, egotistical,
and noisily demonstrative by having much feeling to show,
and very little time to show it in. If I had been looking
forward to living peaceably within a stone's-throw, or
even a few hours' walk or ride of you, I should have been


very different. As it is, that poor little sentence of the
poor Ashantee really expresses the spirit of all I have said
and done with regard to any of your party. Almost
from the beginning, until now, when one is to be but a
remembrance, it is difficult to refrain from even awkward
attempts to make the remembrance last for more than a
few days or weeks.

And now, till I have the opportunity of doing it myself,
will you express for me my warmest regards to your
father and mother — and for your sisters and yourself;
remember that you have not only as many additional
"blessings in disguise" as there are sisters at Kensington,
but also (unless it be peculiarly a feminine designation),
one more, namely, yours aft'ectionately,

J. S. Mill.

John Stuart Mill to Robert Barclay Fox.

India House, September (), 1842.
My dear Friend, — I can hardly justify myself for hav-
ing left you so long without direct tidings of my existence,
for I believe this is the first letter I write to you since we
parted in London at the termination of your- angel's
visit. I was not very busy, either, in the earlier part of
the time ; but of late, that is from the beginning of July,
I have been both busy and unwell — the latter to a degree
unusual with me, though without a vestige of danger,
I am now so much better as to consider myself well, but
am still busy, partly with revising my too big book, and
making it still bigger by the introduction of additional
examples and illustrations; partly by reading for an
article .on the Romans which I have promised to the
Edinburgh. To this twofold drudgery, for it is really


so, I shall have to add presently the correcting of proofs,
for part of the MS. is already in the printer's hands.

I hardly know what subject to write to you about
unless I could know what are those about whicli you
have been thinking : as for myself I have scarcely been
thinking at all except on the two subjects I have just
mentioned — Logic and the Romans. As for politics I
have almost given up thinking on the subject. Passing

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