Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dedication of On Liberty

I have to dispose of well over half my books. As I riffle through them in desperate search for things I do not need (hah! reason not the need!)I come across stuff, such as this, which the more learned among you will of course know, but I have just read for the first time with amazement and pleasure. It is moving because it manages to marry the scholar's objectivity with a widower's extreme tenderness. It is the dedication at the beginning of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. The essay was published in 1859.

"TO the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings- the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward- I dedicate this volume. Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to me; but the work as it stands has had, in a very insufficient degree, the inestimable advantage of her revision; some of the most important portions having been reserved for a more careful re-examination, which they are now never destined to receive. Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom."

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