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Autobiography Unknown Binding – 1875

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  • Unknown Binding: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company (1875)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0008C281O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
IT seems proper that I should prefix to the following biographical sketch, some mention of the reasons which have made me thick it desirable that I should leave behind me such a memorial of so uneventful a life as mine. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By "nedster" on 30 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback
John Stuart Mill was one of the most influential political writers of his era. Many issues interested him which we imagine to be purely modern concerns: feminisim, animal rights, political corruption, state education, and the problems of the urban poor.
Mill's main aim to is to chart the progress of his thinking from his boyhood until the end of the his life. His autobiography gives a broad survey of his ideas and opinions about philosophy, politics, and economics (although I recommend his books, such as 'Utilitarianism' and 'On Liberty' for a closer insight into his powerful beliefs.)
Apart from being a greater writer and (briefly) politician, Mill had a fascinating personal life. He was born in 1806, son of the philosopher and historian James Mill, and when he was only three years old his father started teaching him Greek. Throughout his childhood, John Stuart Mill was kept from other children of his own age and never allowed to participate in physical games and activities, and was instead put through a harsh and exacting regime of intellectual activities by his bad-tempered and demanding father. Mill says this left him emotionally sterile, but it certainly prepared him for becoming a thinker.
At 20, he had a nervous breakdown when he began to believe that he could never change the world for the better, and only reading the Romantic poets pulled him from his depression.
A few years later, he fell in love with Harriet Taylor, a married woman. He carried on a secret and unconsumated affair with her for nearly a decade, until her husband died, and he was able to marry her.Mill believed that Harriet, who he loved deeply and sincerely, was a far greater genius than him, and contributed more than he did to most of his writings. However, the marriage ended in tragedy, and Mill's only consolation was her daughter, who founded the organised Sufragettes movement.
Mill was a great man, and had an enthralling life. This is an excellent autobiography.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The content is fine - see the other reviews.

There is an irritating fault on the Kindle version. The size of the fonts is not consistent with that in other books. Each time one reads this one, one has to increase the font size, then decrease it before reading a different book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A classic worthy of being called a classic 15 Nov. 2006
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is so wonderful on so many different levels that to give it a review at all would be a disservice. My recommendation is not on whether or not to read it but instead on how to read it. I suggest a quiet room, comfortable chair or couch, cup of coffee and a few hours of uninterrupted reading time. After completing the book, rest and repeat as desired.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Mill-mental history and due credit as biography 10 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mill meets his opening promise to track his astounding and slightly disturbing early education, moral/intellectual development, and allotment of credit to those who shaped his ideas. Mill chooses not to share many narrative details of his colorful life, but instead focuses on the plethora of theories that shaped one of the greatest minds of his century. At times references to obscure works or persons can be tiresome as he "gives credit" to them. Mill's relationhsips with his wife and father and his embracing of poetry after a corrosively reasoned childhood education are the most fascinating facets of the work.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"The Econony of Melancholy" 6 Nov. 2006
By Magellan - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mill's remarkable childhood education prepared him to be one of the leading intellectuals of his day (far surpassing his father, James Mill, who was no slouch, but not in his son's league) but while I admire his erudition and achievements, one has to wonder if the deep depression he fell into in his mid-20s had something to do with that.

Mill's contributions are better remembered than many of the other famous British intellectuals of the period--such as Herbert Spencer--whose particularly invidious version of the theory of Social Darwinism is best left languishing in obscurity. Who today remembers the prolific Spencer, whose collected works run to over 20 large volumes?

Mill is frank about his depression and how debilitating it was, and what a struggle it was to pull through it. But with the help of his best friend, he pulled out of it and went on to write many important works in philosophy, logic, political science, and economics.

Mill's I.Q. was certainly very high (estimated by psychologist Katherine Cox using a modified ratio I.Q. method to be at least 200), but very likely his father's misguided efforts to produce a prodigy and homegrown, British Wunderkind (to compete with the legendary "Infant of Lubeck," no doubt :-)) were the cause of his long, serious depression.

Mill's text on econonics, which was called Political Economy back in those days (also the title of his book, if I remember right), was the longest running and most successful college text of all time, being used for the next 50 years until the 1920s when the "New Economics" of the day, championed by the field of microeconomics and the theory of the firm, made a more modern, updated text necessary.

For me the most interesting part of the book was Mill's theory of history, with positive periods of creative cultural development being followed by periods of negation and dissolution. Mill summarizes it as follows (I think I'm remembering the quote more or less accurately): "During the positive periods mankind adopts with conviction some positive creed, claiming jurisdiction for all their actions proceeding from it, and possessing more or less of the truth and adaptation to the needs of humanity; when a period follows of negation and dissolution, during which mankind loses its old beliefs, of a general and authoritative character, except the belief that the old are false." Mills theory has parallels to the earlier Hegel's historical dialectic and later to Oswald Spengler's theory, and to later 20th century historian Arnold Toynbee's idea of "challenge and response."

For another more literary (and probably more interesting) take on depression by another British intellectual, you might try Richard Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (not to be confused with the African explorer by the same name). After all, anyone who says that "Giraffes live for love," not to mention palm trees, can't be all bad. :-)
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Mind is not enough 31 Oct. 2004
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
Format: Paperback
John Stuart Mill was raised by his father to be his intellectual heir, and a great genius. There is something moving about the care taken by the father to teach his wunderkind son all that he knew. The father was with Jeremy Bentham the guiding spirit of the philosophical movement Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism was a mechanical kind of philosophy which thought it possible to measure the goodness of action by measuring the amount of pleasure against the amount of pain. Mill followed the path his father set out from him, adopted his father's values and social conscience and was already by the tender age of twenty a distinguished intellectual figure. But then he asked himself the question if the realization of all his social schemes and all the grand social ideals would bring him happiness. And he understood that it would not. He understood in other words that all this focus on outward good and action, on mechanical measures for human life was missing some vital component in life and in himself. Mill went into a great depression. What brought him out was the reading of the poetry of Wordsworth and the understanding that there is a dimension of feeling, a dimension of the inner life which is somehow more important than all the social thought. This did not mean that Mill abandoned the path of social reform but rather that he changed its direction. Part of this change had to do with his meeting his relationship with Harriet Taylor, his embracing in a certain sense of liberal ideas on the role of women in society. Mill found himself and continued on his intellectual path, a path which would lead him to produce one of the masterpieces of modern political thought, "On Liberty ".
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mill's education 16 Mar. 2011
By Erez Davidi - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should have been called The Education of John Stuart Mill. Mill's autobiography is mostly about Mill's education which made him one of the greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century. Mill also discuses, in length, the influences he was subjected to during the years. I found the book to be interesting and rather revealing. Mill was educated almost completely by his dad. Just to give an example of how demanding his dad was, Mill started learning classic Greek by the age of three. By around the age of twelve he already taught his younger brothers and sisters. Like every great thinker, Mill suffered from a severe depression, where he lost all interest in life. Mill thought the reasons for his depression were the neglect of his emotions and feelings by his dad, who didn't regard "feeling" as something important that needs to be developed. Another interesting thing to note is the development of Mill thinking along the years.

In conclusion, this book is recommended to people who are rather familiar with Mill's work and would like to expand their knowledge of Mill's education and how his thinking evolved during the years.
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