Dating Mill’s Marginalia

At long last, after three years’ absence, I was very pleased to return earlier this month to Somerville College, where I found the Mill Library serenely unchanged by either global pandemic or international conflict.  Resuming my photographic collection of marginal data, I progressed from the east to the west side of the library’s south-facing window, thereby moving from the last remnants of ancient Greece into Mill’s collection of comparatively modern and to-him contemporary English literature.  Over five days, under the benign glare of new studio lights, I took over 5500 photos of over 2500 pages in over 100 volumes, about which more in future postings.

I also joined Drs. Anne Manuel and Helen McCabe and Professors Menaka Philips and Roger Crisp in presenting at the Annual John Stuart Mill Seminar.  Here, a heady mix of the evolving history of the management of the Mill collection, Mill’s complex relationship with a variety of pre-Marxian socialisms, his more recent role as “essential” (and also too-simplistic) referent for all things liberal, and an overview of ten newly acquired letters (most unknown to and therefore unpublished in the Collected Works) written by Mill between the 1830s and 1860s, was leavened by tea, biscuits, and cake.

My own presentation concerned Mill’s marginalia in his friend, George Grote’s History of Greece (1846-56).  Comparing the individual pages featuring marginalia in Mill’s first-edition personal copy with the corresponding pages of all subsequent editions through the 1862 “new” edition, as well as the text of each of Mill’s annotations with the letters he wrote home to an ailing Harriet during his 1854-55 trip to Italy and Greece, I was able to approximate when and in what spirit Mill contributed his handwritten additions to Grote’s already-lengthy text.  My findings, summarized in the following bullet points, reveal that Mill must have read and annotated volumes I-XI at least twice:

  • Firstly, after their 1st edition publication, [almost certainly prior to their review], and definitely before any revised editions
    • Vol. I & II: March 1846 – [April 1846] January 1849
    • Vol. III & IV: April 1847 – [June 1847] January 1849
    • Vol. V & VI: December 1848 – [March 1849] March 1851
    • Vol. VII-VIII: February 1850 – [March 1850] December 1851
    • Vol. IX-XI: February 1852 – [October 1853] March 1856
  • Secondly, after Mill’s trip to Italy Greece (December 1854 – June 1855), and before Grote’s proofs for the November 1862 edition

Incidentally, volume XII need only have been read once, after the March 1856 1st edition, since it appeared after Mill had returned from his trip (to which none of the marginalia in volume XII refers).  In any case, in contrast to the earlier volumes, which feature nearly 150 textual emendations made in response to Mill’s generously offered editorial advice, Grote made no changes to his final volume in response to Mill’s marginalia, which he may or may not have ever seen.

Those interested in the data behind these findings may wish to read the new Critical Introduction to Grote’s History of Greece, co-authored by myself and my most recent RA, Riley Hines and forthcoming on Mill Marginalia Online in April (we hope).  In the meantime, expect more marginal news in this space.

– Albert D. Pionke, Project Director