BOOKS: Stunning Biography from a Happy Author; John Stuart Mill - Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves. Atlantic Books. Pounds 30

The Birmingham Post (England), December 1, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

BOOKS: Stunning Biography from a Happy Author; John Stuart Mill - Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves. Atlantic Books. Pounds 30


Byline: Reviewed by IAN CAWOOD

In EH Carr's What is History? he writes: "First, know your historian." So, unfamiliar with the name of the author of this new biography of JS Mill, I did a bit of lazy research.

Yes, reader, I googled him. To my astonishment it produced all sorts of odd things, leading me to wonder how many Richard Reeves there really were. He was described on a number of fairly reliable sites as an economist, a writer and speaker, an academic at the University of London, and, most alarmingly, as a "happiness guru" (whatever that is). I pursued this last one a bit further and found that Reeves was one of the group who tried "Making Slough Happy" back in 2005 on BBC2 and wrote a book called Happy Mondays - putting the pleasure back into work.

Now this all seemed very familiar, and rather worrying, and as I dug further my worst fears seemed confirmed. He is a "futurologist", has worked for The Work Foundation and The Talent Foundation, runs his own consultancy firm and he is a policy advisor to New Labour.

Of course, none of this had told me anything about why he had just written a 500 page biography of John Stuart Mill. What would a "happiness guru" want with a liberal, feminist logician like Mill? If I'm feeling cynical I would write "because no major biography of such a famous figure is in print and lots of very zeitgesity people have been quoting him recently (Gordon Brown, David Cameron, David Milliband, Victoria Beckham - sorry, I made the last one up.)".

But, in fact, having read the book, I got a very different answer.

This is a stunning achievement: a biography of a man famous for his austerity and high-minded detachment for the grubby business of life that is absolutely compelling.

Product of a hothouse education by his Scottish father who forbade the young Mill any contact with other children, John Stuart Mill could read Greek and Latin by the age of eight. Unsurprisingly, he had a nervous breakdown at the age of 20 and found it difficult to relate to people until late in his life.

He overcame this diffidence with his pen and became - through sheer, exhaustive reading, debate and reflective consideration - the leading exponent of British Liberalism.

His unshakeable commitment to freedom of speech and the elimination of economic oppression made him a very modern man, Reeves reveals.

He believed that only the elimination of barriers to opportunity, self-expression and dignity could bring about a truly free society, so he supported campaigns to regulate gambling, drinking and prostitution and recognised that the gulf between the rich and poor made both nervous.

Perhaps he didn't fully escape the standards of his age in every respect.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

BOOKS: Stunning Biography from a Happy Author; John Stuart Mill - Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves. Atlantic Books. Pounds 30
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.