The Voice of Harriet Taylor Mill

The Voice of Harriet Taylor Mill

Jo Ellen Jacobs
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/05/2002
ISBN: 978-0-253-10930-9
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The Voice of Harriet Taylor Mill is a work about collaboration: Harriet’s life with her lover, friends, and members of her family; Harriet’s joint work with John Stuart Mill; and the author’s interaction with the reader. Jo Ellen Jacobs explores and expands the concept of biography using Salman Rushdie’s analogy of history as a process of "chutnification." She gives Harriet’s life "shape and form—that is to say, meaning" in a way that will "possess the authentic taste of truth."

In the first chapter, the first 30 years of Harriet’s life are presented in the format of a first-person diary—one not actually written by HTM herself. The text is based on letters and historical context, but the style suggests the intimate experience of reading someone’s journal. The second chapter continues the chronological account of HTM until her death in 1858. In an interlude between the first and second chapters, Jacobs pauses to explore Harriet’s life with John Stuart Mill; and in the final chapter, she argues persuasively that Harriet and John collaborated extensively on many works, including On Liberty.

Author Bio

Jo Ellen Jacobs, Professor of Philosophy at Millikin University, is editor of The Complete Works of Harriet Taylor Mill (Indiana University Press 1998) and author of numerous articles on HTM in Presenting Women Philosophers, Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers, and Hypatia's Daughters.


“This innovative biography is a work about collaboration: Harriet Taylor Mill's life with members of her family, her friends, and her lover; Harriet's joint work with John Stuart Mill; and the author's interaction with the reader. Jo Ellen Jacobs, after exploring Mill's life, her intellectual development, and her relationship with John Stuart Mill, argues persuasively that Harriet and John collaborated extensively on many works, including On Liberty.”

“In the first third of this book, Jacobs (Millikin Univ.) presents a biography of Harriet Taylor Mill in the form of a journal. Although the exact words are not Harriet's, Jacobs provides copious footnotes to ground the entries. Next, Jacobs discusses Harriet's relationship with John Stuart Mill. Using as a springboard the concept of a collaborative self, she shows how several of their concerns and positions on various issues arise from the conditions of their shared life. Jacobs then considers the different aspects of Harriet's self, e.g., as daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother. In the final chapter, Jacobs examines Harriet's work with John, arguing for the presence of her input, particularly in Principles of Political Economy and On Liberty. Jacobs's claim that Harriet and John collaborated on much work that bears his name alone may be controversial, but even more contentious is her claim that Harriet suffered from syphilis, having been infected by her first husband, John Taylor. Jacobs's case supporting this provocative claim is strong. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduates, and graduate students. May also interest some researchers/faculty.”
 — P. R. Sailors, Southwest Missouri State University , 2003mar CHOICE

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Table of Contents



1. The Diary
on marriage and divorce
on education of women
book reviews
on Bentham
on conformity
on proverbs
on Fox's "Political and Social Anomaly"
on seasons
travel diary

What the collaborative self is not
What the collaborative self allowed
role switching
blended family
collaborative intellectual work
Reverberations of the collaborative self
connections with subjugated groups
refusal to accept either/or ways of thinking
How did they create and maintain this collaborative self?
Why did they?

2. Operatic Ensembles
After the First Death
Harriet's illness
Caroline Hardy Ley's domestic abuse
Trustee Problem
Dedication Controversy
John Taylor
Marriage to John
Mrs. Mill
Harriet as daughter
Harriet as mother
Harriet as friend
Harriet as mother, again

3. Joint Work
Why their collaboration has been discounted
Harriet and John's collaboration with others
Evidence of collaboration with each other
Collaboration on Principles of Political Economy
Collaboration on the Revision of Principles of Political Economy
Enfranchisement of Women
Collaboration on Domestic Violence
Collaboration on On Liberty

Appendix: Family Tree