Short introductory comments accompany the related remarks, and an editor's introduction provides an overview of Utilitarianism crafted specifically to enhance accessibility for first-time readers of the essay.
Mill's first essays were written in the Traveller about a year before he entered the India House. From that time forward his literary work was uninterrupted save by attacks of illness. His industry was stupendous. He wrote articles on an infinite variety of subjects, political, metaphysical, philosophic, religious, poetical. He discovered Tennyson for his generation, he influenced the writing of Carlyle'sFrench Revolution as well as its success. And all the while he was engaged in studying and preparing for his more ambitious works, while he rose step by step at the India Office. His Essays on Unsettled Questions in Political Economy were written in 1831, although they did not appear until thirteen years later. His System of Logic, the design of which was even then fashioning itself in his brain, took thirteen years to complete, and was actually published before the Political Economy. In 1844 appeared the article on Michelet, which its author anticipated would cause some discussion, but which did not create the sensation he expected. Next year there were the "Claims of Labour" and "Guizot," and in 1847 his articles on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle. These years were very much influenced by his friendship and correspondence with Comte, a curious comradeship between men of such different temperament. In 1848 Mill published his Political Economy, to which he had given his serious study since the completion of hisLogic. His articles and reviews, though they involved a good deal of work—as, for instance, the re-perusal of the Iliad and the Odyssey in the original before reviewing Grote's Greece—were recreation to the student. The year 1856 saw him head of the Examiners' Office in the India House, and another two years brought the end of his official work, owing to the transfer of India to the Crown. In the same year his wife died. Liberty was published shortly after, as well as the Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, and no year passed without Mill making important contributions on the political, philosophical, and ethical questions of the day.
To cement together the detached fragments of a subject, never yet treated as a whole; to harmonize the true portions of discordant theories, by supplying the links of thought necessary to connect them, and by disentangling them from the errors with which they are always more or less interwoven, must necessarily require a considerable amount of original speculation. To other originality than this, the present work lays no claim. In the existing state of the cultivation of the sciences, there would be a very strong presumption against any one who should imagine that he had effected a revolution in the theory of the investigation of truth, or added any fundamentally new process to the practice of it. The improvement which remains to be effected in the methods of philosophizing (and the author believes that they have much need of improvement) can only consist in performing more systematically and accurately operations with which, at least in their elementary form, the human intellect, in some one or other of its employments, is already familiar.
Their part is to indicate wants, to be an organ for popular demands, and a place of adverse discussion for all opinions relating to public matters, both great and small; and, along with this, to check by criticism, and eventually by withdrawing their support, those high public officers who really conduct the public business, or who appoint those by whom it is conducted.
These volumes contain over 1,800 letters, most never before published, and some sixty earlier letters that have come to light since the publication of the first two volumes of correspondence. The letters have been assembled from widely dispersed collections in the libraries of fifty-eight institutions and of some thirty private collections in Britain and in other countries of the Commonwealth, Europe, and North America. In addition, many personal letters of which no originals survived have been located in contemporary periodicals or biographies of Mill's correspondence.
Neatly framing Mill’s writing career are his editorial prefaces and extensive notes to Jeremy Bentham;s Rationale of Judicial Evidence (1827) and James Mill’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1869). Both demonstrate his extraordinary powers of mind and diligence as well as his fealty. His constant avocation, field botany, is shown in his botanical writings, which open a window on an almost unknown activity that sustained and delighted him. Brief comments on two medical works hint at another interest. Two articles of which he was co-author demonstrate his work as editor of the London and Westminster Review, and a calendar of his contributions to the Political Economy Club provides yet another glimpse into his chosen activities and concerns. Published for the first time are Mill’s English and French wills, providing still further biographical detail.