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What Was 'The Common

Arrangement? An Inquiry Into


John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading
ofPlato
M.F. Burnyeat

I also read, in 1813, the first six dialogues (in the common arrangement)
of Plato, from the Euthyphron to the Theaetetus inclusive; which last
dialogue, I venture to think, would have been better omitted, as it was
totally impossible I should understand it.

There is much to intrigue the reader in this snippet from John Stuart
Mill's Autobiography. What intrigues me here is Mill's talk of 'the com-
mon arrangement'.

It would be interesting to know, first, which other Platonic dialogues the


seven-year old boy was set to read besides the two he names. The
twentieth-century reader of Mill's Autobiography has long had to hand a
complete Greek language edition which provides an answer: John
Bumet's authoritative Oxford Classical Text of Plato (1900-1906). This
follows the arrangement into nine groups of four, called 'tetralogies',
which was canonized in ancient times by Thrasyllus, Platonist philoso-
pher and astrologer to the Emperor Tiberius.1 The first six dialogues in

1 The source for Thrasyllus and his arrangement is Diogenes Laertius HI 56-61.

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52 M.F.Burnyeat

Volume I of the OCT are Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Cratylus,


Theaetetus. What more natural than to suppose that this gives us the
remaining four dialogues on the boy's reading list?
Readers of the magnificent Collected Works of John Stuart Mill are in
fact told that these are the six dialogues he studied.2 The only hint of a
problem comes in Appendix B to Vol. I, entitled 'Mill's Early Reading
(1809-22)'. Here we are informed, in the entry on Mill's first encounter
with Plato, 'It is not known what ed. he read'.3 The problem is obvious.
If we do not know what edition he read in 1813, how can we be sure
which the unnamed dialogues were? The only way forward is to inquire
what editions were available.4 We shall discover that the answer is: Not
many.
It seems reasonable to assume, as an initial working hypothesis, that
the phrase 'the first six dialogues' implies an edition of all Plato's works,
in Greek. A Greek text is needed, because Mill goes on to describe the
difficulty of coping with the language without a Greek-English lexicon,
which in those days did not exist. Never mind that many old editions
(including the Bipont of 1781-7) print a Latin translation as well as the
Greek; Mill explains that he did not start Latin until he was 7.5 So I began
by examining all the complete Greek-language editions of Plato in the
British Library and the University Libraries of Oxford and Cambridge,
together with collected translations into Latin, English, French, German,

2 By F.E. Sparshott in his splendidly knowledgeable Introduction to Mill's dealings


with classical topics written for Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Vol. XI: Essays on
Philosophy and the Classics, ed. J.M. Robson (Toronto & London 1978), xix n.54; by
the editorial footnote to the passage quoted above, Vol. I: Autobiography and Literary
Essays, edd. John M. Robson & Jack Stillinger (Toronto & London 1981), 9; and in
Appendix B to Vol. I, 'Mill's Early Reading, 1809-22', 553-4. But see note 4 below.
3 Collected Works, Vol. 1,553
4 This is indeed what Prof. Sparshott did. He writes (private communication) that,
rather than rely on Burner's OCT, he looked among the Plato editions he had to
hand for the one closest in date to the writing of the first draft of the Autobiography
(1853). This was Stallbaum's single volume Tauchnitz of 1850 (see Appendix I
below). Although it does not follow the Thrasyllan arrangement, the table of
comparative pagination at the end gives pride of place to the Aldine, which does
follow the Thrasyllan order. The Thrasyllan order is in any case the only arrange-
ment to survive into the modern world with a semblance of ancient authority.
5 'In my eighth year': Collected Works, Vol. 1,9,12.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 53

and Italian; translations may also indicate the prevailing sense of order.
Subsequent visits to a number of other libraries did little to enlarge the
list.6 It is most unlikely that further efforts would change the picture.7
The results of this research, detailed in Appendix I below, demon-
strate that in 1813 the Thrasyllan arrangement was anything but com-
mon. It had not been used in collected Greek-language editions of Plato
since the sixteenth century. Nor was the Thrasyllan arrangement at all
'common' in 1853, when Mill wrote the first draft of his Autobiography.
The first collected edition in Greek after 1556 to return to Thrasyllus, and
the first in any language since Bembo's Italian translation of 1601, was
the Teubner of C.F. Hermann (1851-53), which carries a title announcing
the fact: Platonis dialogi secundum Thrasylli tetralogias dispositi? Only then
did the Thrasyllan arrangement start coming back into favour.
This finding rules out a further possibility. In principle, it was open
to James Mill, if for some reason he preferred the Thrasyllan order, to
impose it on his son by prescribing the first six Thrasyllan dialogues, in
that sequence, from whatever edition(s) he gave his son to read. But that

6 The libraries where I did find a few extras were Columbia University (the richest of
all in editions of Plato), Harvard, Princeton, Pittsburgh, and Trinity College Dublin.
I also checked the published catalogues of University College London, of the old
Scottish universities (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews), of the French
Bibliotheque Nationale, and the Union Catalogue of libraries in the U.S.A. It soon
dawned on to me that bibliography is not an exact science. Dates of publication for
what looks like the same edition sometimes seem to vary from library to library; an
editor like Stallbaum, who edited and re-edited Plato over many years, can be hard
to keep track of. That said, my two Appendices are as accurate as I can make them.
7 Thus Frank B. Evans ffl, 'Platonic Scholarship in Eighteenth-Century England',
Modem Philology 41 (1943-44) 103-110, researched the most pertinent period from
partially different sources and identified nothing that my methods missed. For
Ficinus' translation up to 1600 I have relied on James Hankins, Plato in the Italian
Renaissance (Leiden, New York, Copenhagen & Cologne, 1990), Vol. Π, 738-85. He
lists all European printed editions with a Latin translation up to 1600 and beyond,
so he omits Greek-only editions and translations into modern languages; nor does
he report on my central concern, the order of dialogues. Nonetheless, he gave me
useful information as well as a check on some of my findings.
8 Hermann's Preface does not explain why he chose to resurrect the Thrasyllan order.
In his Geschichte und System der platonischen Philosophie (Heidelberg 1839), 358, he
remarks that no ancient order has more justification than another, and that it may
be merely chance that Thrasyllus influenced most of the MSS and early editions (cf.
n.20 below).

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54 M.F. Burnyeat

cannot be what the Autobiography records if even in 1853 the Thrasyllan


order was far from 'common'. Another arrangement must be found.
We know in advance that the arrangement must start with Euthyphro
and proceed to Theaetetus without passing through Gorgias, Protagoras or
Republic, which John Stuart's Autobiography says he first read at age
12-13.9 There is one, and only one, non-Thrasyllan arrangement that
meets this requirement.10 In the total history of the printing of Plato, it is
easily the most common (in the sense of frequent) arrangement. It also
gave us the Stephanus page numbering which still serves as the common
(in the sense of shared) system for referring to particular passages in the
corpus.
The arrangement I am speaking of was pioneered in Serranus' edition
of 1578. It was designed to rebut the charge that Plato's teaching (unlike
Aristotle's) lacks the order one expects of a philosopher.11 Serranus (Jean
de Serres) was assisted by Stephanus (Henri fistienne), who served both
as printer and as joint editor. The edition became known as the
Stephanus edition. The fame of Stephanus, and the authority attributed
to him, was such that the order of TILS' edition was copied by others: first
by the Frankfurt edition of 1602,12 then by the Bipont of 1781-87, and
frequently thereafter. Serranus left his mark even on editions that did
not follow his order. From the Bipont onwards, Greek language editions
have regularly printed the so-called Stephanus page numbers in their
margin, regardless of how the dialogues are arranged; this is how the

9 Collected Works, Vol. I, 25; cf. 568.


10 Cousin's French translation of 1822-40 (referred to by J5. Mill at Collected Works,
Vol. XI, 42, note, as so much better than Thomas Taylor's English translation) meets
the requirement, with Theaetetus in fifth place; but it is French only, not Greek, and
it postdates the year 1813.
11 As Serranus explains in the Introduction he wrote for the'verae solidaeque philoso-
phise studioso lectori'. Then, after some intervening matter, he proudly displays his
table of contents under the heading 'Catalogue dialogorum Platonis, iuxta novae
huius distributionis seriem'. 'Novae' contrasts with the then prevailing Thrasyllan
arrangement, and perhaps also with Ficinus' order; for discussion of whether there
might be more to Ficinus' arrangement than the order in which he did the translat-
ing, see Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. 1,308-311.
12 A new printing of the Lyons-Geneva edition of 1590, but with the Serranus-
Stephanus order instead of Ficinus'. Yale University has a copy once owned by
Bishop Berkeley: Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. Π, 786.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 55

common system of reference came about. Major translations (Schleier-


macher, Jowett) did the same, with the result that today the Stephanus
numbers are universal.13
The Bipont edition, moreover, being the only complete Greek text of
Plato produced in the eighteenth century, is prima facie the most likely
collected edition to be at hand in James Mill's study; it was this edition,
for example, that Shelley owned and used.14
Serranus arranged the dialogues into six thematic groups or 'syzy-
gies'. His first syzygy coincides with Thrasyllus' first tetralogy: Euthy-
phro, Apology, Cnto, Phaedo. Next in order come Theages, Erastai (also
known as Amatores or Lovers, Anterastai or Rivals), Theaetetus.15 Could it
be that the dialogues John Stuart Mill read in Greek, without a lexicon,
at the age of seven, were the following: Euthyphro, Apology, Cnto, Phaedo,
Theages, Erastai, Theaetetus?
The suggestion has one advantage. I have long wondered whether
little John Stuart could really have found the Cratylus more comprehen-
sible than the Theaetetus (in singling out Theaetetus as better omitted, Mill
implies he did get something out of the preceding dialogues). On the
Serranus-Stephanus arrangement, two short Socratic dialogues, Theages
and Erastai,16 replace the Cratylus, to give a neat contrast in comprehen-
sibility between the Theaetetus and the rest. The disadvantage, of course,

13 See Appendices, where the presence of Stephanus numbers is marked by 'S'. The
Bipont included the Stephanus letters (marking sections a to e) as well as the page
numbers, but this took longer to become standard practice (cf. Stallbaum's 1850
edition, iv-v). Hermann, Geschichte und System, 562 n.2, is clear that it was not
intrinsic merit, but the authority of Stephanus (plus the support of the Bipont) that
promoted Serranus' arrangement, which now 'allgemein bekannt geworden ist';
this last is practically German for 'It has become the common arrangement'.
14 For the evidence, see James A. Notopoulos, The Platonism of Shelley: A Study of
Platonism and the Poetic Mind (Durham, NC 1949), 41-2, n. 52.
15 Readers can verify this, without making a special trip to the library, by looking at
the Thrasyllus-Stephanus concordance printed at the beginning of each volume of
Burnet's OCT.
16 Both now generally considered inauthentic, Theages with more reason than Erastai:
see A.E. Taylor, Plato: The Man and his Work (London 1926), 529-34. They are first
marked 'Incerti Auctoris' in Stallbaum's edition of 1821-5. An up-to-date English
translation may now be found in John M. Cooper, ed., Plato: Complete Works
(Indianapolis 1997).

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56 M.F. Burnyeat

is that Theaetetus is seventh on the list, not sixth. So my next question was
whether to propose that the Autobiography suffered a lapse of memory.
Should Mill have written 'the first seven dialogues'?
This is quite possible. A letter about his educational progress which
Mill wrote to Sir Samuel Bentham in 1819, only six years after the event
I am interested in, provides evidence that even at the age of 13 Mill could
not always be certain what exactly he had read in earlier years:

In the year 1814,1 read Thucydides, and Anacreon, and I believe the
Electro of Sophocles ... The Greek which I read in the year 1815 was, I
think,...17

He was 47 when he first drafted his Autobiography. A small lapse of


memory would be only human.
Before accepting this conclusion, we should consider alternatives to
my initial hypothesis that Mill read his Plato in a complete collection of
the dialogues. Collections that bring together one, two, or three dia-
logues can be disregarded; they do not establish a clear order. I looked
for collections and series large enough to indicate a definite ordering.
The results of this further research are detailed in Appendix II. Just one
(incomplete) series of dialogues meets the bill: that of J.F. Fischer (1758-
1779), first founder of the philological study of Plato. For whatever
reason, in the years leading up to 1813 he and he alone was attached to
the Thrasyllan order.18
I say 'for whatever reason' because Fischer does not explain why he
returned to sixteenth-century practice. That he hoped to edit all Plato for
school use is evident from his first volume, which starts with the ancient
lives of Plato and other matter that only makes sense as the lead-in to a
complete edition. The Preface explains why he chose to bring it out in
instalments: he doubted he could get a patron to finance the printing of
all the works at once. In the Preface to the second volume he expresses
pleasure that his decision to revert to the Thrasyllan order means that he
now has to edit Cratylus and Theaetetus, which share the Socratic spirit
of the dialogues he first edited twelve years earlier. That is all. But his

17 Collected Works, Vol. ΧΠ: The Earlier Letters of John Stuart Mill (1812-1848), ed. Francis
E. Mineka (Toronto & London 1963), 7; Mill's italics.
18 Hermann, Geschichte und System, 359, notes that Fischer has gone back to 'die alte
Tetralogien'.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 57

scarcely controlled venom against Stephanus' editorial procedures, ap-


parent in all his prefaces,19 inclines me to think that he went back to
Thrasyllus mainly for the negative reason that it was not the Stephanus
ordering.
The only hint of a positive reason is his respect for the Aldine, because
it was done from manuscripts he did not have access to. Having fixed
on the Aldine as the basis from which to start establishing the text — a
sensible move because, as he explains, previous editors too often spent
time emending as 'corruptions' what were merely misprints in earlier
editions — he may have thought it a good idea to follow its ordering
rather than any more recent rival. He may even have thought that it
reproduced the ancient manuscript order.20
We now have two possible candidates. How to choose between them?
First, some doubts about Fischer being widely available in England in
1813. Do school editions cross frontiers that easily?21 (a) Thomas Taylor
in 1804 lists the works he consulted while preparing his translation of all
Plato: one of them is Fischer's second volume (Cratylus and Theaetetus),
but he does not mention any of the others.22 (b) The Cambridge Univer-

19 And in the appendix to his first volume, 'Defensio locorum quorundam platoni-
corum ab emendandi libidine Henr. Stephani aliorumque' (591-639).
20 If so, he was not far wrong. According to Henri Alline, Histoire du texte de Platon
(Paris 1915), 124,176-8, the archetype of our medieval MSS did follow a tetralogical
order, though with some variation from Thrasyllus.
21 Here I transcribe, with gratitude, a private communication from Christopher Stray:
'It depends on the editions, the frontiers and the period! Approach to latin (U.S.A.
early 30s) was adapted for the UK and was a market leader in the early 30s and 40s
here. But that was very unusual indeed. Most schoolbooks are nationally specific;
and some in the earlier nineteenth century were school-specific (a matter of pride)
[for an example, see n.77 below — MFB]. But in 1813, the continental blockade
presented an additional barricade to imports; especially for books in the humanities,
more likely to offend officialdom as prone to carry radical ideas. Booksellers' lists
of 1816 were full of the German classical editions of the previous decade, suddenly
available.' Again, 'B.H. Kennedy's Revised Latin Primer (1888) never had a US
edition because he refused to allow changes to be made in syntactical terminology
to conform to US practice. Otherwise his new order of cases might have spread to
American schools'.
22 The Works of Plato (London 1804), Vol. I, cviii. For other editions he mentions, see
n.48 below.

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58 M.F.Burnyeat

sity Library lacks Fischer's first volume,23 while the Bodleian at Oxford
has none at all. (c) Few Colleges of the ancient English universities have
Fischer: in Cambridge, Trinity has his first four volumes, St John's has
the 1783 edition of the first, while in Oxford Worcester College has his
second volume, Magdalen his first (1783 edition), second, third and
fourth. That is all. (d) St Andrews and Edinburgh have only the first
volume in the 1783 version, while University College London, Glasgow
and Aberdeen have none.24 (e) The British Library lacks the fourth now
and had none in 1813.25 (f) Inquiries at some of our oldest schools (Eton
College, The King's School Canterbury, Shrewsbury, Westminster
School, Winchester College) found no trace of Fischer.26 So far as Britain
is concerned, his series was definitely not a best-seller.27
Second, if Fischer made it into James Mill's household, why does he
not feature in George Grote's 3-volume study Plato and the Other Com-

23 Moreover, the volumes it has were clearly not bought at the time of publication, for
they are all bound together in two sets of covers (one with a non-Cambridge coat
of arms), each combining publications from different years; they could have been
accessed any time prior to 1978.
24 Catalogus librorum in bibliotheca universitatis Andreanae secundum literarum ordinem
dispositus (Andreapoli 1826), Catalogue of the Printed Books in the Library of the
University of Edinburgh, 3 vols. (Edinburgh 1918-23), Catalogue of Books in the General
Library and in the South Library at University College London (London 1879), Catalogus
impressorum librorum in bibliotheca universitatisglasguensis secundum literarum ordinem
dispositus ... labore et studio Archibald! Arthur (Glasgow 1791), Catalogue of the General
Library of the University of Aberdeen (Aberdeen 1874).
25 No record of Fischer either in Librorum impressorum qui in Museo Britannico adservan-
tur catalogus, 2 vols. (London 1787) or in Librorum impressorum qui in Museo Britannico
adservantur, 7 vols. (London 1813-19; the entry for Plato is in vol. 5, dated 1817). Both
the third volume of Fischer's series, and the 1783 re-edited version of the first, came
with the King's Library in 1823 (see below). The 1813-19 catalogue shows a number
of additions to the Plato collection, including the Dublin collection of 1702, Forster
(1745), Routh (1784) — all introduced below — and volumes 2 and 4 of Heindorf's
series (listed in Appendix B); the absence of Fischer is not due to sluggish buying.
26 For this information I am indebted to Ian McAuslan, Janet Taylor, James Lawson,
Jonathan Katz, and Stephen Anderson respectively.
27 Outside Britain, I found Fischer's first volume at Princeton and his second at
Harvard; the National Union Catalogue lists other US libraries where these are
found, but none with volumes 3,4 or 5. None at all at Columbia or Trinity College
Dublin. But the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris has them all.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 59

panions ofSokrates (1865)? In his youth Grote had been deeply influenced
by James Mill, and he was a close friend of John Stuart MUl. The three
campaigned together as leading members of the reformist group known
as the Philosophical Radicals. They were in constant, intimate contact.
Yet when Grote came to write his great work, which has much to say
about rival views over the centuries on the ordering of the dialogues,
Fischer is not mentioned. It is Hermann who stands up for the Thrasyllan
arrangement against Serranus and others.28 I doubt that even Grote,
indefatigable scholar that he was, ever set eyes on a text edited by
Fischer.
The best guide in this matter is surely the phrase I began from: 'the
common arrangement'. Not only is the Serranus-Stephanus arrange-
ment statistically the most common (frequent). It is also, as explained,
the basis for the common (shared) system of referencing the Platonic
corpus. Mill in 1853 expected the readers of his Autobiography to under-
stand which dialogues he was referring to when he spoke of the first six
'in the common arrangement'. He could hardly assume that his readers
would know about Fischer or Hermann, let alone that they would have
their editions to hand. I submit that the Autobiography is indeed mistaken.
In 1813 Mill read seven dialogues, not six: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito,
Phaedo, Theages, Erastai, Theaetetus.
This will be confirmed in the next section, where I try to discover
which edition he read these dialogues in. As already mentioned, the
Bipont is prima facie the most likely complete Greek-language Plato for
James Mill to have to hand. That follows the Stephanus order. So does
the 1602 Frankfurt edition, which I can prove James Mill acquired. Read
on.

28 George Grote, Plato and the Other Companions ofSokrates (London 18753), Vol. I, chaps.
4-5. The sole occurrence of Fischer's name is in a note on p.132, where Grote quotes
Wyttenbach, writing in 1776, to illustrate the general lack of interest in and study
of Plato before the nineteenth century. The quotation is cited as coming from
'Wyttenbach, Bibliofheca Critica, vol. i, 28. Review of Fischer's edition of Plato's
Philebus and Symposion'. Grote will also have seen Fischer referred to in Her-
mann's book (n.18 above).

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60 M.F. Burnyeat

II

When John Stuart Mill in his Autobiography tells the story of his boyhood
reading of Plato, it is a public communication, not a private reference to
books in the author's home, past or present. If you wonder why, when
he was writing it, this lifelong lover of Plato did not check his memory
of 'the first six dialogues' by consulting his text of Plato, the reason may
be that by 1853 the edition he habitually used was the 1826 London
edition of Immanuel Bekker's text (1816-23), which follows neither
Thrasyllus nor Stephanus, but the novel (and controversial) ordering of
Friedrich Schleiermacher. Mill thought to specify the 'common arrange-
ment' because by then he was reading his Plato in the uncommon
Schleiermacher order reproduced by Bekker. 'Common' means, in part,
'not the Schleiermacher-Bekker arrangement'. More on this shortly. The
immediate point is that the relevant dialogues, as Bekker prints them,
are scattered among four separate volumes,29 which it would be tedious
to check when concentrating on getting a first draft down on paper.
It is virtually certain that Bekker's London edition was the one that
Mill used for the abridged translation of a series of Platonic dialogues
which he published in a radical magazine, the Monthly Repository, in
1834-5.30 He had good reason to use it. Bekker's edition of 1816-23 was
the first critical edition of the Greek text of Plato, based on a collation of
nearly 80 MSS (which he still treated more or less equally, without
principled criteria for choosing between their variant readings). For the
London edition of 1826, Bekker's new Greek text and his rich 'apparatus
criticus' of alternative readings were further supported by explanatory
annotations and critical comments selected from numerous earlier schol-
ars.31 The result was a vast improvement on anything previously avail-

29 Thus Euthyphro, Apology, Crito are in Vol. II (with Parmenides between the first two!),
Theaetetus in Vol. Ill, Phaedo in Vol. V, Theages and Erastai in Vol. VI. There is,
however, a Bekker-Stephanus concordance at Vol. I, ix-x.
30 Collected Works, Vol. XI, 37-238; the virtual certainty is due to Sparshott's Introduc-
tion (see n.2 above), xvii-xx.
31 See the full title in Appendix 1. Who made the selection? The Preface 'Lectori' speaks
of Bekker in the third person, but it is unsigned, and I can find no hint anywhere
else in the work. However, the British Library Catalogue seems to know: 'Edited by
G. Burges'. Burges contributed to the Bonn's Classical Library English translation
of 1848-54 (see Appendix 1).

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 61

able. It is no surprise to find that this was the edition that Mill's friend
George Grote chiefly used when preparing his Plato.32
This, then, will be the edition about which Mill wrote,
An English bookseller, by the aid of a German scholar, recently pro-
duced an excellent edition of Plato; the want of sale for which, by the
way, is said to have been the cause of his insolvency.33

A copy of this truly excellent work is the only edition of Plato preserved
in what remains of Mill's library at Somerville College, Oxford.34 If the
Bipont was in James Mill's library when he died in 1836, John Stuart
would have no reason to hang on to it.
It is certain that some of the 11 volumes of the Bipont edition made
their way into the father's library. The difficulty is to determine which
parts were there by 1813. The evidence needs to be reviewed slowly and
carefully.

32 So says the label inside the front cover of Vol. I of Grote's personal copy of Bekker,
annotated in his hand and now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
33 Collected Works, Vol. XI, 39. The bookseller, as well as the publisher and printer, was
A.J. Valpy, also responsible for the Delphin Classics and The Classical Journal. The
frontispiece to the Bekker edition says 'Sumptibus Priestley', which indicates that
Priestley put up the money, which Valpy was presumably unable to repay. Eleven
years later, in 1837, Valpy sold his firm and stock to Longmans: more on that below,
n.80.
34 On the end pages of each Bekker volume Mill lists (with occasional comments of his
own) the pages where he has underlined a passage that struck him as worthy of
note. A likely occasion for this rather systematic annotation is when he re-read the
whole of Plato as preparation for his 1866 review of Grote's Plato (cf. CW Vol. XI,
xxxviii). But why, in that case, do the pages of the Phaedo in Vol. V of his Bekker
remain uncut? (No puzzle about the uncut state of the Spuria in Vol. IX, and the
Phaedo was not among his 1834-5 translations.) On Nov. 10* 1865 he writes to Grote
that he is 'reading once more quite through some of the most important of the
dialogues I read last spring: Phaedon, Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophistes, Politikos,
etc.' (Collected Works, Vol. XVI: The Later Letters 1849-1873, edd. Francis E. Mineka &
Dwight N. Lindley [Toronto 1972], 1116). So he read the Phaedo, but not in Bekker.
I guess that he took advantage of the fuller and more up-to-date notes in Geddes'
recently published commentary: The Phaedo of Plato, edited with Introduction and
Notes by W.D. Geddes (London & Edinburgh 1863).

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62 M.F. Burnyeat

There are records showing that between 1794 and 1796, when he was
a student at Edinburgh University, James Mill borrowed the works of
Plato with passionate frequency from the Theological Library:
2 Jan 1794 - Plato's Reb. Vol. 1 & 2° octo.
16 April 1795 - Platonis Opera Fol.
17 Jun 1795 - Platonis Op.
29 July 1795 - Plato
14 Dec 1795,25 Jan 1796,14 Mar 1796,27 Apr 1796 - Plato's Works.35
The first of these entries is hard to decipher, but seems to refer to
Massey's 2-volume edition of the Republic (Cambridge 1713), which is
mentioned in the Theological Library Catalogue. The remaining entries
must refer to the one collected Worte of Plato featured in this Catalogue,
the Basel folio edition of 1556. We may infer that James Mill did not yet
possess a collected Plato of his own. Instead, he spent months poring
over a sixteenth-century Greek-only edition belonging to the library.
Borrowers could only take out one book at a time, for a maximum of six
weeks. The young James Mill must indeed have made 'a dead set at
Plato'36 to persevere with his study.
A man with such a passion for Plato (quite unusual at the time) is
surely going to buy a complete edition as soon as he can. Old books were
not then the expensive luxury they are today. Eventually he acquired the
Frankfurt edition of 1602 and at least some of the 11-volume Bipont
edition. The evidence for this is to be found in four of James Mill's
Common Place Books, now in the London Library. The varied material
(drafts, jottings, etc.) they contain includes a number of excerpts from
Plato, some explicitly referenced to the Bipont, others referenced in a
way that can only be to the Frankfurt edition. The problem is that the
entries cannot be dated. Since they are distributed at different places in
the books, with numerous blank pages in between, there is no reason
even to think they were written in sequential order. CPB I and III do
provide a terminus a quo: they are exercise books of the kind sold at

35 For these details, more precise than those given by Alexander Bain, James Mill: A
Biography (London 1882), 18-9,1 am indebted to David Robinson, who kindly looked
at the entries for me and sent me a copy of the relevant page of the Catalogue of the
Theological Library in the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh 1829).
36 Bain's phrase, James Mill, 19.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 63

stationers for keeping accounts (CPB ΙΠ was originally used for that
purpose by Mill), and the paper is watermarked 1805. But CPB IV has
no watermark, while CPB Π is irrelevant to this inquiry because it is a
collection of scraps cut out from newspapers, etc.37 That terminus a quo is
the only guide we have.
The Platonic quotations (for which I have supplied Stephanus num-
bers) may be divided into 4 groups:
(i) An excerpt from Gorgias 508de is referenced to the Bipont edition
Vol. 4, p. 134 (CPB ΠΙ, 213).
(ii) A number of excerpts from Republic Books V-VHI are referenced
to the Bipont edition Vol. 7:472e-473b to p. 51 (CPB 1,114), 473b
to p. 52 (CPB 1,167), 565d to p. 228 (CPB 1,167), 527de to p. 154
(CPB ΙΠ, 36), 506b to p. 114 (CPB ΠΙ, 112), 506c to p. 114 again —
a slip for p. 115 (CPB ΠΙ, 147).
(iii) Two excerpts from Republic Books I-FV are referenced by page
number alone, without mention of the edition: 351d to p. 588,
420b to p. 631 (both CPB 1,52). A third excerpt, from 335c, is cited
simply as 'Platonis i de Repub. near the middle' (CPB 1,165).
(iv) A number of excerpts from other dialogues are referenced by
page number alone: Apology 39d to p. 30 (CPB I, 8), Theaetetus
172cd to p. 126 (CPB 1,138), 150e to p. Ill, 151cd to p. 112 (both
CPB ΙΠ, 98), Meno Side to p. 415 (CPB ΙΠ, 98), Alcibiades 1119b
to p. 439 (CPB ΠΙ, 140), Phaedrus 246b to p. 1221 (CPB IV, 42).

The references by page number alone cannot possibly be to the Bipont


edition, in which each volume has its own pagination and there is no
such thing as 'p. 1221'. But Phaedrus 246b does occur on p. 1221 of the
1602 Frankfurt edition, and every other reference by page number alone
— including the Republic references of group (iii) — fits this edition to a

37 The information about watermarks comes from Robert Anthony Perm, James Mill's
Political Thought, (Diss., London 1972), Vol. Π, 335,368,379. A revised version of this
thesis was published (its second, bibliographical volume replaced by a more concise
Appendix) as James Mill's Political Thought (New York & London 1987), the Preface
to which announces an edition of the Common Place Books to be published in 1987.
It seems that the author's death intervened and the edition has not appeared. I am
grateful to the London Library for allowing me to consult the originals.

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64 M.F. Burnyeat

T. I claim these references as conclusive proof that, some time after he


left university, James Mill acquired the Frankfurt edition.38
Now consider the Republic references in groups (ii) and (iii). They
strongly suggest that Mill is reading Books V-VUI in the Bipont, but
Books I-IV in the Frankfurt edition. The obvious explanation is that at
the time of writing he possessed Volume 7 of the Bipont, which contains
Republic V-X, but not Vol. 6, which contains Books I-TV. This in turn
means that the Gorgias reference in group (i) guarantees no more than
that Mill possessed Vol. 4 as well as Vol. 7 of the Bipont. It is Vols. 1-2 he
would need to set his son to read the Bipont's text of the first seven
dialogues in the common (Stephanus) arrangement. But the group (iv)
references show James Mill reading Apology and Theaetetus in the 1602
Frankfurt edition, which was the first (as already noted) to copy the
Serranus-Stephanus arrangement, as well as the last collected edition
before the Bipont came out over a century later. Why not suppose that
it was the Frankfurt in which he made his son read the first seven
dialogues in the common arrangement?
There is reason to think James Mill would avoid doing this if he could.
To explain why, I turn to his own writing on Plato, which needs first to
be set in its historical context. In 1804, the question of how to arrange the
dialogues suddenly came to the fore. Two new arrangements were
proposed, both of them intended to do better than Serranus at fixing a
philosophically satisfactory order.
In his Introduction to the first complete translation of Plato into
German (1804-28), Friedrich Schleiermacher claimed to have discovered
the 'natural' (hence chronological) order in which to arrange the dia-
logues. They were written in a sequence designed to prepare the reader
stage by stage to embrace a philosophy premeditated by their author,
beginning Phaedrus, Lysis, Protagoras, and climaxing with the Timaeus.

38 Thus Fenn is premature when he speaks (in the 1987 book, p. 5 n.15) of the Bipont
as 'the edition Mill used'. A 1-volume Platonis opera was formerly among the books
from John Stuart Mill's library presented to Somerville College by Helen Taylor: it
is recorded on the removal firm's list of the books they delivered to the College on
Sept. 6, 1905, though not on a librarian's list dated 1944. I imagine this was his
father's 1602 Frankfurt edition. The alternative is to suppose that John Stuart
acquired the 1839 edition of Baiter, Orelli and Winckelmann or Stallbaum's 1850
Tauchnitz. Neither is as useful as the Bekker he already owned, but there are
occasions when it is convenient to have all Plato in a single large volume.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 65

This would be the order of understanding in the sense of the order in


which a learner should come to understand the philosophy of Plato.
In his Introduction to the first complete translation of Plato into
English (1804), which came adorned with lengthy annotations of an
elaborately Neo-Platonizing, mystical tendency, Thomas Taylor pro-
posed an order designed to imitate the order of the universe. In the
universe (if you are a Platonist) wholes precede parts, and universals
particulars. So,

... I have placed those dialogues first which rank as wholes, or have the
relation of a system, and afterwards those in which these systems are
branched out into particulars.39

Taylor starts with Alcibiades I (the preparatory dialogue which came first
in the Neo-Platonic curriculum), and continues: Republic, Laws, Epinomis,
Timaeus, Critias, Parmenides (read Neo-Platonically as Plato's theology),
Sophist, and so on. This would be the order of understanding in the sense
of the order in which Ά fully initiated Platonist would present the truth
revealed by the Master.
Different as they are, Schleiermacher and Taylor have in common
their attachment to the idea (traditional since antiquity) that the Timaeus
is in some sense the canonical statement of Plato's philosophy. James
Mill admired Plato, but loathed the Timaeus.
He did not read German,40 but he thought that a good English Plato
was much to be desired. Taylor's translation left him deeply disap-
pointed. In two long, scornful reviews of the work,41 Mill excoriated both

39 Taylor, Vol. I, ciii.


40 Bain, James Mill, 464.
41 Taylor's Translation of Plato', Literary Journal 3 (1804), 449-61 and 577-89; 'Taylor's
Plato', Edinburgh Review 14 (1809), 187-211. (Both are to be reprinted in Apdron 34.2
[2001], with an introduction by myself.) The earlier review is signed 'M.'; the second
is anonymous. Since Mill was the editor of the Literary Journal throughout its
existence and a regular contributor, and since the two reviews are plainly from the
same author, it is safe to ascribe both to his pen. The second review was first credited
to him in an elegant note by Ronald B. Levinson, 'Concerning James Mill', Modern
Language Notes 40 (1925) 379-80. Perm's survey of Mill's many anonymous writings
(n.37 above) confirmed his authorship of both; in the same year the same result was
reached, through a somewhat different approach, by A.L. Lazenby, James Mill: The
Formation of a Scottish Emigre (Diss., University of Sussex 1972). More recently, John

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66 M.F. Burnyeat

the incompetence of Taylor's translation and his highlighting of the


Timaeus ('that part of the writings of Plato, which affords the greatest
delight to Mr. Taylor, and his companions').42 It is clear that more is
involved than Taylor's defective knowledge of Greek. What is at stake
is the fundamentals of how Plato should be read. If we contrast the
arrangements of Thrasyllus and Serranus with the arrangements of
Schleiermacher and Taylor, we see that either of the former would start
the boy off with Socrates in debate, challenging the accepted common-
places of his time. He would come to share his father's admiration for
the Socratic method of inquiry. We know from the Autobiography that he
did.43 Whether John Stuart began with the Serranus-Stephanus order, as
I have argued, or with the Thrasyllan, the contrast with Schleiermacher's
and Taylor's recent alternatives should underscore the ideological purity
of the education James Mill designed for his son.
We can also surmise that John Stuart Mill would be more aware than
most of his contemporaries of alternatives to 'the common arrangement'.
To him, 'common' would mean not only 'not the Schleiermacher-Bekker
arrangement', but 'not Taylor's either'.44 But the more immediate issue
is whether James Mill's reviews of Taylor provide evidence as to what
Plato he had on his bookshelf in 1813.
The earlier review starts by lamenting that so little has been done in
Britain to make Plato and other ancient authors accessible to a wider
public, or even to those who know Greek. To illustrate the latter point,
Mill continues,

Glucker has detected a minute misquotation from a key passage of Cicero in both
reviews, which shows that when writing the second review Mill had the first in front
of him and copied the Cicero from it: John Glucker, 'The Two Plato's of Victorian
Britain', in K.A. Algra, P.W. van der Horst & D.T. Runia, eds., Polyhistor: Studies in
the History and Historiography of Ancient Philosophy (Leiden 1996), 396-400 with n.37.
42 Taylor's Plato', Edinburgh Review, 207
43 Collected Works, Vol. 1,25
44 The introduction to his Plato translations (n.30 above) contains several echoes of his
father's first review of Taylor. For an extra twist, consider the possibility that by
1853 Grote might have made Mill aware of Hermann's return to Thrasyllus in the
Teubner. Then a phrase like 'the common arrangement' would also serve to exclude
the Thrasyllan order for the benefit of Mill's more learned readers.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 67

Of many of the Greek authors it is impossible to procure a convenient


and well printed copy. The best editions which we yet possess of some
of the most valuable of the Greek classics, were executed in the infancy
of the art of printing; and in respect of type and paper, and even in
accuracy, more especially of pointing [i.e. punctuation], are wonder-
fully inferior to what might now be provided. (449; italics mine)

It is above all Plato, 'an author whom one would have naturally expected
to be so general a favourite', who deserves better treatment —

Yet only two complete editions, that of Serranus, and that of Ficinus,
both of them very ancient, have yet been given of his works. (449-50)

This is a most peculiar remark. My first reaction was that it cannot


mean what a present-day classicist would take it to mean, that only two
Greek-language complete editions have been published. There had been
many more than two such editions—among them the 1556 Basel edition
which Mill had so assiduously studied in his undergraduate days. This
he can hardly have forgotten, still less the 1602 Frankfurt edition, which
we shall see he had probably acquired by 1804. Secondly, Ficinus pro-
duced no Greek-language edition, only his famous Latin translation.
What Mill must mean (I thought) is that there had only been two
complete translations to make Plato available to those without Greek, that
of Ficinus (reprinted most recently in the Bipont) and the 'nova interpre-
tatio' of Serranus—both in Latin.
That is nearly true. There had in fact been three complete translations
of Plato, all of them into Latin: after Ficinus (1482) came Cornarius (1561),
and then Serranus (1578). While none of these appear in the Catalogue
of the Theological Library, the main Edinburgh University Library Cata-
logue lists Ficinus and Serranus, but not Cornarius.45
But on second thoughts this cannot be the solution. The passage
quoted from is all about the obstacles that confront those who would
read Plato in Greek. Mill continues:

45 Borrowing from the Main Library had been permitted since 1737, on payment (if
you were a student) of a deposit of two shillings and six pence: David Cuthbertson,
The Edinburgh University Library: an account of its origin with a description of its rarer
books and manuscripts (Edinburgh 1910), 11.

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68 M.F.Burnyeat

Of the imperfections of these editions [Serranus and Ficinus] in various


other respects, we shall not at present speak; but their typography, if
we may judge from our own experience, must have been felt as a serious
inconvenience by every Greek scholar. (450)

For 'typography' read 'ligatures', those baroque contractions of letter


groups, or even whole words, which abound in early modern printed
Greek and make it largely illegible to the unpractised eye.46 Stephanus
spared no expense to provide Serranus' edition with typographical
equipment (supellex typographical) worthy of Plato.47 The resulting Greek
text is a nightmare for the modern reader, however good one's knowl-
edge of Greek. And not only the modern reader. Look up 'ligature' in
the Oxford English Dictionary and you find the following quoted from
1693: "These Ligatures have been a long time Thorns in the Eyes of all
that first learn Greek'. The typography Stephanus chose for the accom-
panying Latin text is not so bad, but contracted word-endings abound,
and it is word-endings that are crucial for construing the syntax. I would
add that the 1556 Basel Greek-only edition is as foul a read as one could
fear to meet. (See Figure 1.) Mill's complaints about typography can be
explained, in whole or part, by his student experience at Edinburgh.
The same applies to his next remark:

Select dialogues have to be sure been published more than once in a


very good stile; among which are particularly to be distinguished the
five edited by Mr. Foster [sc. Forster]; and the two by Dr. Routh,
president of Magdalen college, Oxford. (Ibid.)

Forster's Platonis dialogi quinque (1745) was in the Theological Library at


Edinburgh. Both Forster and Routh's Platonis Euthydemus et Gorgias
(Oxford 1784) were in the main Library.48 There are still ligatures in these
two volumes, but in moderation, and the print is large and clear.

46 For a helpful introduction to this bewildering practice, see William H. Ingram, "The
Ligatures of Early Printed Greek', Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 7 (1966) 371-89.
47 As he explains in his own Preface 'lectori φιλοπλάτωνι', printed after Serranus'
address to Queen Elizabeth Of England, France, and Ireland, etc.' and before
Serranus' Introduction.
48 Forster's selection contained five dialogues because he conceived Erastai as a
prologue to the first tetralogy. The misspelling of his name could be a slip of memory

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 69

S<m<fb\i ϊχ ιχοπν μίζΐ,π4&.ξξΐον·ζ« τολίρfyxsf;ίτκχτ'ρ «αΛ.τά βΐτη/f « «ίτκ τ vAafir Λα


^

<ritf xof J ty τ irt i ( r f u f "^ηή^,·^.υχΗί ·Λ 2 ( / ira


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Figure 1

Yet this is no help with the phrase Only two complete editions'. The
main Library at Edinburgh possesses inter alia the Aldine (1513), the
Ficinus translation (1517 and 1557), the Basel 1534 edition, Serranus, and
the Bipont. Young Mill can hardly have taken much notice of its re-
sources. Why should he? He was interested in Plato, not Platonic schol-
arship. Eight years later, when writing his review of Taylor — in haste,
no doubt, because journalism is his living — he has neither the means
nor the time to check his facts.49 But we shall see that by 1804 he had
probably acquired the 1602 Frankfurt edition. The title page reads,
Divini Platonis opera omnia quae exstant. Marsilio Ficino interprete.
Graecus contextus qu m diligentissime cum emendatioribus exem-
plaribus collatus est: Latina interpretatio quam-plurimis superiorum
editionum mendis expurgata. Argumentis perpetuis, & commentariis
quibusdam eiusdem Marsilii Ficini, iisque nunc mult emendati s
qu m antehac editis, totum opus explanatum est atque illustratum.
Adiectus est INDEX rerum omnium locupletissimus. Francofurti,
Apud Claudium Marnium, & haeredes loanrds Aubrii. M, DCII.

by Mill rather than a misprint. Routh's work is again singled out for praise by J.S.
Mill at Collected Works XI, 39. Did James Mill come to own a copy, or was the son (in
this as in other points) echoing the father's review? James Mill was not reading the
Apology in Forster's Very good stile' at the time he wrote the excerpt in CPB I. Both
Forster and Routh are included in Thomas Taylor's acknowledgements (The Works
of Plato, n.22 above), along with Fischer's second volume, Massey's Republic, and
some other items.
49 The review appeared in number 8 of the Literary Journal, dated 1 May 1804, and
number 10, dated 1 June 1804; 1804 is the year Taylor's translation was published.

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70 M.F.Burnyeat

No-one is credited for preparing the Greek text. Is it possible that James
Mill believed that Ficinus was responsible for the Greek as well as the
Latin translation? The translation was constantly being reissued (often
with revisions), so why not suppose that the case was the same with the
Greek — that Ficinus had edited it first, then Serranus published a rival
version of both Greek and Latin, and now any copy of Plato derives from
one or the other of these, 'the only two complete editions'?
To my surprise and pleasure, I found confirmation of this conjecture
in a fifth Common Place Book, held in the John Stuart Mill-Harriet Taylor
collection at the British Library of Political and Economic Science (the
Library of the London School of Economics). Again, there is little guid-
ance as to daring.50 But two entries are doubly referenced:
(v) An approving summary of Protagoras 347b-348a (against people
who like to talk at parties about rival interpretations of some poem or
play) is referenced to the Bipont edition Vol. 3 and to 'Ficini p. 241' (CPB
V, 123). A quotation written out in Greek from Gorgias 513c is referenced
to the Bipont edition Vol. 4,144 and to 'Ficini p. 350' (CPB V, 221). Both
references to Ficinus fit the 1602 Frankfurt edition. There can be little
doubt, I submit, that James Mill did think Ficinus prepared the Greek
text in that edition. In fact, it was Stephanus.51 The 1602 Frankfurt was
where Stephanus made Serranus' arrangement his own.
Group (v) also adds to our knowledge of Mill's bookshelf, since it
shows him in possession of Vol. 3 of the Bipont, containing Euthydemus,
Protagoras, Hippias Minor, Cratylus. Now compare groups (i) and (iv). We
see him reading the Meno in the Frankfurt, but the Gorgias in Vol. 4 of the
Bipont, which however also contains the Meno (plus Ion and Philebus). I
am inclined to think that the Meno entry in group (iv) was written before
he acquired Vol. 4, which suggests that James Mill bought the Bipont

50 Perm, Dissertation, Vol. Π, 384, concludes from various indications that the material
in CPB V ranges from 1800 to the last years of James Mill's life.
51 So Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 786. He does not explain how he knows,
but I take his word for it. Apart from the ordering of dialogues (n.12 above), the sole
difference between the 1590 Lyons-Geneva edition and the 1602 Frankfurt is that
the former has an extra page (not recorded by Hankins): after the title page, identical
in both, comes one headed 'Typographus candido lectori salutem', in which the
writer, without revealing his name, enthuses about the greatness of Plato. Stephanus
was certainly a typographus as well as a scholar.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 71

piecemeal. The probability of this hypothesis is increased when we


compare group (iii) with a bit more of the fifth Common Place Book:
(vi) CPB V, 62 begins as a series of jottings: 'Description of the
instruments of education in political virtue — iii p. 116'; "The laws of
education—119'; 'All the members of the society —120'. These all make
sense once one realizes that they refer to the Great Speech of Protagoras
in Plato's Protagoras. The content so briefly summarized is appropriate
if the page references are to the Bipont, Vol. 3. Then Mill starts writing
out his thought in full:

The misfortune of the English universities is their being a part of the


ecclesiastical establishment. With a fixed creed and fixed forms, the
object of an ecclesiastical establishment is — to keep the human mind
where it is. The object of a system of education should be to advance
the human mind.

Then comes the following enigmatic note:

A sign of bad education — the existence of many instruments. Plato VI


299.

This has to be a reference to Republic 404d-405a, as printed in the Bipont


Vol. 6. Mill has now acquired the first volume of the Bipont Republic,
which group (iii) shows he did not possess before. Clearly, when his
trawling of the bookshops52 turns up a new volume of the Bipont, he
snaps it up at once. Desirable though it was, he had to buy it piecemeal.
Published in 1781-7, it had long been out of print.
Back now to John Stuart Mill's reading in 1813. I propose that we
should be guided by his father's strong views on typography. The 1602
Frankfurt edition is as densely ligatured as the Basel edition James Mill
struggled with at Edinburgh. (See Figure 2.) I promised to show he had
probably acquired the Frankfurt by 1804. The evidence is the review
itself.
When Mill comes to compare Taylor's translation with the Greek, he
picks passages from a dialogue not to be found in either Forster or Routh:
the Theaetetus. From here on (581-90), the confrontation between Mill and

52 Independently evidenced by his son's report (Collected Works, Vol. 1,125) that James
Mill was a great collector of 'manuals on the school logic'.

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72 M.F. Burnyeat

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Figure 2

Taylor is direct. Only the Greek text lies between them. Mill triumphs on
every point, large or small. The question to ask is this: When he reads
the Theaetetus, is he at home or in a library? If he is at home, his text is
likely to be the very text from which the three Theaetetus excerpts of
group (iv) were copied — the Frankfurt edition of 1602.
I shall argue that he is at home. My evidence is the second review,
published five years later in 1809, which shows the enthusiasm that takes
over when he finds himself in a good library.
The second review is quite different from the first. The author's cir-
cumstances have changed little since 1804. He is a young Scot in London;
not wealthy, still unknown, and now with a wife and family to support on
what he can earn from journalism. Yet he feels entitled to make the lofty
remark that, when it comes to translations of Plato, the Germans, French
and Italians are much better off than the British (138); the only decent
renderings we have are the nine dialogues that Floyer Sydenham contrib-
uted to Taylor's project (201). This is not empty posturing. It is backed up
by verbatim quotations from the Latin translations of Ficinus and Ser-
ranus, from the Italian of Bembo (1601), and the French of Grou (1770) —
all deftly marshalled to show up Taylor's incompetence (201-4). Since
Mill includes the Germans, the remark suggests that he has come to know
o/Schleiermacher's ongoing translation, even if he cannot read it.
Another feature of the 1809 review is its interest in textual variants:

Plato, though one of the Greek writers that has come down to us in the
least mutilated condition, is one of those, to which the hand of modern
criticism has done the least service; and a multitude of errors, the
production of careless transcribers, many of which might easily be
rectified, still interrupt the student, and impair both his pleasure and
instruction. If we may speak from our own experience, we should
imagine that every reader of Plato corrects his own copy for himself;

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 73

and that it is only after he has thus brought his author to speak his own
language, that his conversations with him attain their maximum of
delight. (191)

Remark again the confident, lofty tone. But as before, Mill can back it up.
He quotes (206) Stephanus' marginal note to Protagoras 331d 1, to correct
'the common readings' assumed by the translations of Ficinus, Serranus,
and Taylor. Mill is quite right that the text as it stood was nonsense; with
a slight emendation, the argument runs smooth.53 All this is an admirable
display of scholarship; for its day, remarkable.54 The Protagoras is in Vol.
3 of the Bipont, with Stephanus' notes printed at the end. We have seen
that eventually he did acquire Vol. 3. Should we suppose that he had got
it by 1809?
Not yet. The citing of so many old translations, including that of
Serranus, makes it far more likely that Mill is now in a library, with the
original Stephanus-Serranus edition in front of him and various transla-
tions spread out nearby.55 The British Museum Library was open to the
public from 1759.56 But in 1809 it contained neither Bembo nor Grou,
though it did have Ficinus and the Serranus-Stephanus edition.57 It now

53 The 'common readings' at issue here come from the MSS now designated BT: δ μη.
As Mill points out, this makes philosophical nonsense: '"scribendo εστίν ο τι," says
he [sc. Stephanus], "vel εστίν β"'. In today's OCT Burnet prints εστίν οπή ('corr.
Coisl.'), which is a trivial variant on Stephanus' second alternative. The Bipont prints
δ μη, yet the 'Variae lectiones' section at the end (Vol. 3,358) quotes the relevant part
of Stephanus' note. In the 1826 London edition of Bekker, Stephanus' note is
transcribed more fully, and supplemented with a note by Heindorf which attributes
οπή to Schleiermacher. In Schleiermacher's first edition, Vol. I, p. 397, this is an
emendation 'eben so leicht als unentbehrlich'; the second edition, Vol. I, p. 408, is
able to assign the correction to two of the MSS collated by Bekker.
54 In 1818 James Mill thought about applying for the Chair of Greek at Glasgow: Bain,
James Mill, 166-8. In the end, he preferred the India Office.
55 J.S. Mill remarks in his Autobiography, 'in those days [1828] there was no public or
subscription library from which works of reference could be taken home' (Collected
Works, Vol. 1,134-5; Mill originally wrote 'there was no institution like the London
Library' — that opened in 1841).
56 Edward Miller, That Noble Cabinet: A History of the British Museum (London 1973),
61-6
57 My evidence is the two catalogues cited n.25 above.

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74 M.F. Burnyeat

contains a fine 3-volume copy of the 1742-43 reprint of Bembo's Italian


translation, but not the 1601 original. The Protagoras is the dialogue for
which Mill cites Bembo and Grou. This was in the third part of Bembo
1601, the only part to be found in the Cambridge University Library —
but it was not acquired until 1931. The Bodleian at Oxford has the second
part, but no more. The reprint of 1742-43 is even more of a rarity; I have
found only two other copies in Britain (St John's College, Cambridge,
and Worcester College, Oxford). Where on earth could James Mill have
come across Bembo?
The answer lies in the history of the British Library's copy of the
reprint. There can be little doubt that it came from the library of Joseph
Smith, British Consul at Venice (where Bembo was published) and a
notable collector of early editions of the classics. It is listed both in the
catalogue (dated 1773) of one of the London booksellers who disposed
of Smith's books after his death58 and in a catalogue of the King's Library
published before 1823, the year when the magnificent collection built up
by George III was given to the British Museum by George IV.59 George
ΙΠ, who formed the King's Library, had started by purchasing Smith's
collection in 1763, and continued to buy regularly at sales.60 Meanwhile,
Smith continued collecting until his death in 1773, by which time (as the
bookseller's catalogue shows) there was a second, valuable library to
buy. It is George Hi's books that now fill the central glass-cased column
(from ground level to roof) of the great modern building to which the
British Library has recently moved, and it is in that column that the
1742-43 Bembo is housed. But in 1809 all those books were still in George
Ill's care at his London home, Buckingham House (later rebuilt as
Buckingham Palace). The King's Library was always open to genuine
scholars, even those of radical opinions.61 There is a pleasing probability
that the royal residence was where James Mill found Bembo and did the

58 Bibliotheca Smithiana, pars altera: a catalogue of the remaining part of the curious
and valuable library of Joseph Smith esq., His Majesty's Consul at Venice, lately
deceased, and of many other collections lately purchased (London 1773). Bembo is
item 2152: 'Opere di Platone de Bembo, 3 torn, gilt, £1. Is.' The bookseller was James
Robson.
59 Frederick Augusta Barnard, Bibliothecae Regiae Catalogus, 10 vols. (London 1820)
60 Elaine M. Paine, The King's Library (British Library publication, London 1989), 6-7
61 Paine, The King's Library, 12

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 75

research for his second review of Taylor.62 And if Mill was in a library,
no light is shed on his bookshelf at home.
Back then to the first review. Whereas the second review controverts
Taylor's translation of passages in Protagoras, Timaeus, and Parmenides,
the first focusses exclusively on the Theaetetus. Given the scholarly
breadth of the second review, in such striking contrast to the first, it is
likely that Mill wrote the first review at home, from his own resources.
That implies he had a text of the Theaetetus to hand. Which text could it
be?
By now the answer should be obvious: the Frankfurt edition to which
the Common Place Books reference their extracts from the Theaetetus. He
had acquired it by 1804.63 For this much progress we may be grateful.
The next question is whether the Frankfurt would be suitable for his son
to read in 1813.
Definitely not. Recall Mill's complaint about the typography of the
old editions he had worked with. The 1602 Frankfurt edition is a large
cumbrous folio volume as dense with ligatures as the Basel edition he
studied at university. Would Mill, if he could help it, inflict such a text
on a 7-year old boy — even a very talented boy with four years experi-
ence of ancient Greek behind him? Would he not want, if he could, to
save his son from the 'serious inconvenience' he had endured himself (at
a much older age)?
Either that, or he would try to get his son used to ligatures from the
start. Habiruation is an alternative way to minimize pain. Let his son join
the select band of those 'to whom intellectual exercises have ... by habit
been rendered delightful'.64 Fortunately, we have a list of the works that
John Stuart read in Greek between the ages of 3 and 12, and some
evidence about the editions his father put before him. I have inspected

62 Of the other translations mentioned by Mill, the King's Library had Ficinus and
Serranus, but not Grou (1770). Nor did the British Museum Library yet possess Grou
(n.57 above), as it does today. Perhaps Mill owned or borrowed a copy.
63 The Greek quotations in the review match the Frankfurt text, but diverge occasion-
ally in their punctuation. Given Mill's remark (above, p. 67) about 'pointing', I
would attribute the divergences to his editorial intervention: e.g., it is unnecessary,
almost amateurish, to place commas both before and after προσανατριψάμενος at
Theaet 169c 2 (586).
64 James Mill, Essay on Education, in Terence Ball ed., James Mill: Political Writings
(Cambridge 1992), 141, with the word 'not' omitted.

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76 M.F. Burnyeat

all the editions mentioned in Vol. I of the Collected Works of John Stuart
Mill, Appendix B: 'Mill's Early Reading (1809-22)', with special attention
to cases where Somerville College Library can provide evidence about
the edition Mill probably read. 'Probably read' means either that a copy
of that edition is now in what remains of Mill's library in Somerville, or
that there are records65 of its once having been part of the collection. My
findings are indexed to the numeration used in Appendix B; as there,
'SC' refers to the Somerville collection. I report the density of ligatures
on the following, rough scale:
'nil' = no contractions at all;
'minimal' = nothing but the compendia for ου and στ to which
many present-day readers of Bekker's Aristotelis Opera have been
able to adjust, and which were thought fit for the general public
who read James Mill's reviews of Taylor in the Literary Journal and
Edinburgh Review?6
'light' = these plus a few simple contractions of e.g. καί, σθ, σσ;
'medium' = some harder contractions added to the foregoing;
'heavy' = unrestrained use of all manner of abbreviations.
Here is the list:
1. Aesop. Heavy: Aesopi Phrygis fabulae, graece et latine, cum aliis
opusculis (Planudes Collection) (Basel: Heruagius, 1544).67 SC.
2,4,5. Xenophon. Either (a) light: Xenophontis opera, 9 vols. (Glasgow:
Foulis, 1768), or (b) nil: Xenophontis quae exstant opera, graece et
latine, ex editionibus Schneiden et Zeunii, 12 vols. (Edinburgh:
Laing, 1811). Both formerly SC.68

65 From the various lists cited n.68 below.


66 Contracted ου is a feature of Mill's own handwritten Greek in the Common Place
Books.
67 So says Appendix B (except that 'Planudes' is misprinted 'Pladunes'), but it is
unclear on what basis, for the book is bound without its first twenty pages (including
the title page). For what follows I have checked, and where necessary corrected, the
Appendix's description of the editions it cites.
68 Appendix B notes that (a) is on a librarian's list of SC books made in the 1930s. (It

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 77

3. Herodotus. Either (a) light: Herodoti Halicarnassensis historia, ex


editione Jacobi Gronovii (Glasgow: Foulis, 1761), or (b) nil:
Herodotus, graece et latine, edd. Wesseling & Reiz (Edinburgh:
Laing, 1806). Both formerly SC.
6. Diogenes Laertius. Nil: De vitis, dogmatibus et apophthegmatibus
darorum philosophorum libri x, ... Latinam Ambrosii versionem
complevit & emendavit Marcus Meibomius ... Aeg. Menagii...
Observationes, 2 vols. (Amsterdam: Wetstenius, 1692). SC.
7. Lucian. Medium to heavy: Luciani Samosatensis opera, cum nova
versione Tiber. Hemsterhusii, & Ιο. Matthiae Gesneri. Edd.
Hemsterhusius & Reitzius. 4 vols. (Amsterdam: Westenius,
1743-46). SC.
8. Isocrates. Heavy: Opera omnia, graece et latine, ed. Athanasius
Auger (Paris: Didot, 1782). SC.
10., Thucydides. Either (a) minimal: Thucydidis, Olori Fil, de bello
peloponnesiaco, ad editionem Car. Andr. Duckeri ... auxit
Carolus Ludovicus Baverus, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Schwickert, 1790-
1804), or (b) minimal: edd. Baverus & Beckerus (Glasgow:
Foulis, 1759). Both formerly SC.
25. Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Heavy (though clearly printed):
Oionysii Halicarnassei scripta quae extant, omnia, et historica, et
rhetorica (Greek and Latin), 2 vols. (Frankfurt: Weschel Heirs,
1586).69

has proved impossible to track down, even in Glasgow University Library. But no
Foulis edition listed below merits a classification worse than 'light', and already
their Xenophontis de Socrate commentarii; item Socratis Apologia of 1761 is 'light'). I
found (b) on a similar list dated 1944 (n.38 above), headed 'List of books from the
library of John Stuart Mill presented to Somerville College by Miss Helen Taylor,
1905'. The removal firm's inventory (also n.38 above) mentions a ΙΟ-volume Xeno-
phon, which is probably (b) with a couple of volumes missing. There is no trace
today of the 1930s list cited in Appendix B. But this is the place for me to thank the
Librarian of Somerville College and her staff for their patience and help during my
many visits to view the collection.
69 Appendix B identifies the edition (not even formerly SC) from Mill's (only some-
times accurate) page references in "The History of Rome, by John Stuart Mill, aged
6 and a half, printed in Collected Works, Vol. I, Appendix A 'Juvenilia', 541-8.

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78 M.F. Burnyeat

49. Homer, Iliad. Medium, but printing nice and clear: Ίλιάς και
'Οδύσσεια (Oxford: Typographicus Academicus, 1800). SC.
61. Anacreon. Medium: Anacreon Teius, poeta lyricus, summa cura
& diligentia ... Emendatus (Greek and Latin), ed. Josua Barnes
(Cambridge: Jeffery, 1705). SC.
63,93. Euripides. Minimal: Euripidis tragoediae quae supersunt, ed. Sa-
muel Musgrave (Glasgow: Foulis; Edinburgh: Laing; London:
Bremner, 1797). Formerly SC.
77. Theocritus. Either (a) medium: Theocriti, Moschi, Bionis, Simmii
quae extant (Greek and Latin), ed. D. Heinsius (Heidelberg:
Cornmelinian, 1604), or (b) minimal: Theocriti Idyllia, ex recen-
sione Valkenaerii cum scholiis selectis scholarum in usum edita,
ed. F.C.W. Jacobs (Gothae: Ettinger, 1789). Both formerly SC.
78. Pindar. Minimal: Omnia Pindari quae extant, cum interpretatione
latina, 2 vols. (Glasgow: Foulis, 1744). SC.
95. The Greek Anthology. Minimal: Anthologia graeca, ex recensione
Brunckii. Indices et commentarium adiecit Friedrich Jacobs, 13
vols. (Leipzig: Dyck, 1794-1814). SC.
106. Aristotle, Rhetoric. Medium, with crabbed small print: Aristotelis
de rhetorica seu arte dicendi libri tres (Greek and Latin), ed. Theo-
dorus Goulston (London: Griffin, 1619). SC.
129. Aristotle, Organon. Medium to heavy: Aristotelis stagintae pen-
pateticorum pnncipis organum (Greek and Latin), ed. lulius Pacius,
2nd edn. (Frankfurt: Weschel Heirs, 1597) or 3rd edn. (Geneva: ex
typis Vignonianis, 1605), which is harder to read. Both SC.

On the whole, the editions James Mill found for his son to read were
easy on the eye. Of the editions I judged heavy or verging on the heavy,
he only read 'part' of Lucian,70 'a little' of Isocrates and of Dionysius of
Halicarnassus.71 The heavier Aristotle texts were not set until he was 10
and 12 years of age respectively, with years of reading Greek behind him.

70 Who became a favourite with him later in a different edition: see Appendix B, No.
160.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 79

Earlier, it would seem, each time James Mill presents his son with a
heavily ligatured edition, perhaps hoping to get him habituated, the
result is disappointment. The boy struggles to read the text, and they
soon give up. Of that author, only 'a little' or 'a part' gets read. By
contrast, when he has a reasonably clear text before him, his progress is
amazing. How many people alive today can claim to have reread the
whole of Thucydides at the age of II?72
The difficulty with the story I have just told is No. 1 on the list: Aesop.
Speaking of his very first reading in Greek, at around age 3, Mill says,

I faintly remember going through Aesop's Fables, the first Greek book
which I read.73

The edition in the Somerville collection74 certainly has annotations in his


childish hand on two pages of the text. But the edition is heavily li-
gatured, horrible to read. We should go carefully.
The early annotations are two. One is at p. 31, where he twice alters
the contraction 'Xarhus' in the facing Latin translation to 'Xanthus'. But
we saw that he did not start learning Latin (and simultaneously teaching
it to his little sister) until age 7. That is a more likely time for the
annotation.
The second annotation is at p. 64, where he underlines a sentence in
the Greek and writes in the margin, 'See page 1 Rolin [sic] hist of Greece'.
Charles Rollin, The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyri-
ans, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians turns up
as No. 27 in Appendix B, under the heading Ί810-13. Aet. 4-7'. This gives
a terminus a quo for the second annotation: between age 4 and 7, not at
S.75 There are also further annotations in the volume, 'probably in his

71 References at Appendix B, Nos. 7,8,25. Mill read Dionysius of Halicarnassus when


he was 6 and a half, before Plato; Lucian and Isocrates before May 1813, hence
possibly (but not certainly) before Plato. See Collected Works, Vol. 1,542,553-5.
72 References at Appendix B, No. 10.
73 Collected Works, Vol. 1,9
74 For doubts about its identity, see n.67 above.
75 Unfortunately, it does not explain the reason for the annotation. The sentence
underlined gives Aesop's clever interpretation of a grave inscription consisting of
nothing but the letters ΑΒΔΟΕΘΧ, namely, 'Give back to king Dionysus the treasure

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80 M.F.Burnyeat

later, more mature hand'.76 This confirms that John Stuart Mill was sent
back more than once to this author and his improving morals.
Now the important point. Mill's faint memory is of reading Aesop's
Fables. But pages 31 and 64 have no fable to tell. They belong to the
popular romance called The Life of Aesop (here presented in the recensio
vulgata put together by Maximus Planudes around 1300) — Xanthus is
the philosopher who owns Aesop as his slave, but Aesop always proves
wiser and cleverer than his learned master. The tale is not nearly as
suitable for a three-year old as the better known Fables. But it would go
down well later on, when the boy could do what I did, use the legible
Latin version as a guide to the more illegible bits of Greek. It would be
for the Life and the other opuscula of the title that James Mill found the
book worth buying. The Fables were available in plenty of other, more
readable editions.77 It might even be that, just as the Fables was his first
Greek reading task, so the Latin (rather than the Greek) version of the
Life was an early exercise in his second ancient language.
Be that as it may, I contend that by the time his son was 7 and ready
to be introduced to Plato, James Mill would know that the fewer the
ligatures, the better his pupil would thrive. In those days one did not
always have a choice, but Plato was the author he cared most about. If
a ligature-free edition could be found, he would get it at once. It is not
only the Frankfurt edition that offends by this criterion. All collected
editions of Plato prior to the Bipont are rebarbatively ligatured: much
worse than anything in the list just given of his early reading in Greek.
If we are looking for a suitable collected edition, the one plausible
candidate is the Bipont.78 Its Greek typography is entirely free of liga-

you found here'. Nothing relevant to this appears on p. 1 of Rollin or on the first
page of the final part of his work, where the history of 'the Grecians' starts — at least
not in the several editions I have looked at. But Rollin went through many editions,
with numerous engraved illustrations, especially of monuments. My guess is that
the annotation refers to a picture of a grave with inscription.
76 Appendix B, 552
77 Example: Aesopi Fabulae Graeco-Latinae ... ad usum Juventutis Regiae Scholae
Etonensis accommodate (Eton 1796), which has contracted ου only. This is one of a
series of editions of Aesop put out by Eton College between 1741 and 1831: the Fables
was a book regularly given to boys who won a prize for merit. That virtually
guarantees the availability of second-hand copies in the bookshops.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 81

i, iav τε Ικβάλλιιν Ικ της χόλιως, Ιάν τι,


το ίσχατον , airoxrcTvai. και ούτω SiixxcTfSai, πχντων i)ij
αΐιτχιςόνίςιν, ως i fi( λίγος, b Si 3ή Ιμο(, όστις πολλάκις
μιν ifitj fi]p»)r«i, ούίΐν 3ί κώλυα και (τι λίγ(ί$χΓ ου φημι, ω
ΙΚαλλίκλας, το r ifTtt at liri χίβρης οΛίκως, Λΐ'σχιςόν τ
vero accufandum effe & fe ipfura, et filium, & amicum, Π
quid iniufte fuerit perpetratutn, atque ad id utendum eile
rhetorics, afTerebam. Et quae tu Polum verecundia addu-
ftum putabas concefliiTe, vera utique erant: videlicet in-
iuriam facere, quanto turpius eil quam fuilinere, tantoeiTe
Figure 3

hires. (See Figure 3.) The boy's only problem would be to construe the
words he could so easily read.
To complete the argument, we should revisit the alternatives to a
collected edition as detailed in Appendix II. Only two feature both
Euthyphro and Theaetetus: (a) Fischer (in his first two volumes or the fifth,
combined volume), who has Theaetetus sixth in the Thrasyllan order, and
(b) a Dublin collection of 1738 which has Theaetetus seventh in the
Stephanus order. The latter can be eliminated. As the first book brought
out by the Dublin University Press, and the first Greek text to be
published in Ireland, it is a prestige product, a specimen of fine printing,
its Greek typography as full of ligatures as the Serranus edition it
emulates. Even if Mill owned a copy, he would prefer not to inflict it on
his son in 1813.
So, once again, we are faced with a choice between Fischer and the
Bipont. Fischer's typography retains some contractions, but on my scale
they are minimal: a bright little boy would have no trouble. The consid-
erations against Fischer are the same as before: the rarity of his series in
Britain, his absence from Grote's Plato, and the difficulty of supposing
that John Stuart Mill would expect the readers of his Autobiography to

78 In theory, Beck's ligature-free Tauchnitz edition would do instead. Vol. 1, containing


the first seven dialogues in the Stephanus order, came out in 1813. But it is unlikely
to have reached Britain in time, during the blockade (n.21 above). Nicholas Horsfall,
'Classical Studies in England 1810-1825', Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 15
(1974) 449-71, quotes (469-71) letters by various hands to the Rev. Peter Elmsley
about the difficulty of getting books into and out of Germany in the period 1813-4.

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82 M.F. Burnyeat

take 'the common arrangement' to refer to the Thrasyllan order. Besides,


within 5 or 6 years after 1813 James Mill had equipped himself with the
means to make his son read Gorgias, Protagoras, and Republic. None of
these were edited by Fischer. In theory, Mill could get by with 2 volumes
of Heindorf's series (1802-10) for the Gorgias and Protagoras, and
Massey's Republic (1713).79 But the Common Place Books show him
reading (eventually) the Gorgias, the Protagoras, and all the Republic in
Vols. 3-4 and 6-7 of the Bipont. I conclude that James Mill never did
manage to acquire all 11 volumes of the complete Bipont edition of Plato.
He bought individual volumes as he found them: fairly early on, Vols. 4
and 7 (for Gorgias and Republic V-X); later, but in any case before 1818 (in
time to make his son read the Protagoras and begin the Republic at the
beginning), Vols. 3 and 6.
But did he find Vols. 1-2 in time to get his son started on Plato in 1813?
All I can say with confidence is that he will have wanted to do so, and
for the boy's sake, I hope that he succeeded. For otherwise he will have
made do with the miserable old Frankfurt edition of 1602. Either text
would introduce John Stuart to the first seven dialogues in the common
(Stephanus) arrangement, 'from the Euthyphron to the Theaetetus inclu-
sive'. But the Bipont's limpid print would have a much better chance of
making the son, like the father, the life-long lover of Plato we know he
became.

Ill

Finally, a speculation to bring this inquiry to a happy end. Since the


Frankfurt edition in the Mill household was (to cite the phrase James Mill
used in 1804) 'seriously inconvenient' to read, we can well imagine that
both father and son (now aged 20) were delighted when the London
edition of Bekker came out in 1826. They were keen to purchase a
readable copy of the complete works of Plato. They may even have been
able to get it cheap, as a result of the 'want of sale' to which John Stuart
Mill refers in the passage quoted earlier.80

79 Massey is as moderate with ligatures as Forster and Routh, but not so clearly
printed. Heindorf is ligature-free.
80 Frances Miller kindly looked at the Valpy papers in the Longman archive at Reading

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 83

This will be the copy from which John Stuart's translations were
made, the one now in the remains of his library at Somerville College,
Oxford. But eventually a second Bekker came into the Mill household.
For this you need to go to the Library of University College London
(originally the University of London), founded in 1826 by James Mill,
George Grote, and other reformers: the very year that Bekker's edition
came out in London. There you will find a copy of Bekker, handsomely
bound with the arms of the East India College, Haileybury, stamped in
gold on the sides. On the evidence of the bookplates inside, and from
annotations by various hands on points of Greek much too elementary
for James Mill, the 11-volume set had been in the East India College
Library for general use. Yet in 1835 the College presented it to James Mill
on the occasion of his retirement from the East India Office, where he
had worked since 1819.81 The dedicatory inscription reads: 'Colleg:
Anglo-Ind:/ Jacobo B. Mill,/ In Omnibus/ Hujusce Collegii Studiis/
Felicissime Versato,/ Et Mores Indorum/ Atque Instituta/ Singulari
Acumine/ Ac Diligentiä/ Perscrutato,/ Honoris Causa/ i.s. Jeremie
Prof./ Dec. MDCCCXXXV J.H. Batten.'82 It is written in ink on a plain
white paper rectangle pasted on top of the East India College bookplate.
It is hardly normal to honour someone with a used book, marred by
student scribbles. I presume that James Mill was asked what he wanted

University, and sent me copies of relevant documents. The list of agreements and
deeds relating to Messrs Longman's purchase of Valpy's stock in 1837 mentions a
Plato, but it is not Bekker. It is
Plato's Four Dialogues: theCrito, Hippias, Alcibiades and Sisyphus. With English
notes and examination questions ... Heindorf's valuable notes are subjoined in
English. Sold by Longman & Co. ... and other booksellers, London. Printed by
A.J. Valpy. No editor or date named, but the Cambridge University Library
catalogue knows both: G. Burges, 1831.
This seems to be good evidence that by 1837 Valpy's stock of Bekker had gone. I
shall give evidence below that it had gone by 1835 or even earlier. But the Valpy
archive is silent on the question.
81 In the Office of India Correspondence, where by 1826 he was Assistant Examiner
(second in the Office); in 1830 he became Examiner, chief of the Office (Bain, James
Mttl, 185).
82 'i.s.' means 'in situ'; according to Anthony Farrington, The Records of the East India
College, Haileybury, and Other Institutions (London 1976), 104-5, the Rev. James
Amiraux Jeremie was Professor of Classical and General Literature 1830-1850, and
the Rev. Joseph Hallett Batten, F.R.S. was Principal of the College 1815-1837.

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84 M.F.Burnyeat

as a retirement present, and the Bekker Plato was his answer. Why that
copy? The edition must have sold out; there were no mint copies in the
bookshops. Why another copy anyway? My first assumption was that the
copy previously bought would be in John Stuart's home, where he had
been using it for the Plato translations he published in 1834-35.83 But then
I discovered that John Stuart lived in the family home until he married
in 1851. The explanation has to be that James Mill had a country cottage
near Dorking, as well as a spacious house in London; as head of the India
Office, he was no longer poor.84 Every dwelling, small as well as large,
needs its complete Plato, in readable Greek.
After James Mill died in 1836, the second Bekker remained with the
family until 1862,85 when it was presented to University College London
by 'Miss Harriet Isabelle Mill, by Desire of her Brother James Bentham
Mill Esq. dec.d' (so reads the University College label for recording
donations, glued to the top of the first page of print in every volume).
Harriet Isabelle and James Bentham Mill were, respectively, the fourth
and fifth of James Mill's nine children.86 James Bentham Mill died,
according to the donation label, on 15 August 1862.87 John Stuart Mill,
the eldest, lived on until 1873. The happy ending is that both his and his
father's copy of that 'excellent edition' are still with us, visible reminders
of their shared love of Plato.

83 See n.30 above.


84 Michael St. John Packe, The Life of John Stuart Mill (London 1954), 104-5,348-57
85 The first evidently went with John Stuart Mill when he married Harriet Taylor and
set up house on his own. That is how it came to be included in the collection of Mill's
books given to Somerville College in 1905 (not 1906, as stated in Appendix B, 552,
note) by Harriet's daughter, Helen Taylor (nn. 38 and 68 above).
86 Bain, James Mill, 61 n
87 Since the Library at University College does not normally record the day and month
of a donation as well as the year, the date on the label, '15 Augt: 1862', will be the
date of his death, not of his sister's donation.

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 85

This completes my story. It is for readers to decide how much of it, if


any, to believe.88

All Souls College


Oxford OX1 4AL
U.K.

Appendix I

The first seven dialogues in collected editions of Plato (more or less complete):
U82-1900
This Appendix lists all the (more or less) complete collected Greek
language editions of the dialogues of Plato that I have been able to
examine in the British Library, the university libraries of Oxford and
Cambridge, and elsewhere (n.6 above), together with collected (more or
less complete) translations into Latin, English, French, German, and
Italian. The first seven dialogues are given in square brackets at the end
of each entry. The following abbreviations are used:

'[Thrasyllus]' for the order Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Craty-


lus, Theaetetus,
'[Ficinus]' for the order Hipparchus, Erastai, Theages, Meno, Alci-
biades I, Alcibiades Π, Minos,

This paper, which will also appear for different audiences in Philologus and in
Utilitas, began as a footnote to a wider study of the role of Plato in the lives of the
Mills, George Grote, and Benjamin Jowett: "The Past in the Present: Plato as Educator
of Nineteenth Century Britain', in Philosophers on Education, ed. Arnelie Oksenberg
Rorty (London 1998) 353-373.1 am indebted to many people in different countries
for information, advice, help, and suggestions. Besides those thanked in the appro-
priate note, I should mention David Blank, Abigail Burnyeat, William M. Calder HI,
Walter Cavini, Stephen Cretney, Richard Davies, Kyriakos Demetriou, Nicholas
Denyer, S.J. Eliot, Robert Franklin, John Glucker, Peter Lewis, Wolfgang Mann, F.E.
Sparshott, Robert B. Todd, and above all the indefatigable Christopher Stray. I am
grateful also to the Codrington Library at All Souls College, which allowed me to
borrow and keep in my rooms, not only as many volumes as I wished of The Collected
Works of John Stuart Mill, but also its fine collection of sixteenth and seventeenth
century editions of Plato.

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86 M.F. Burnyeat

'[Stephanus]' for the order Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo,


Theages, Erastai, Theaetetus,
'[Schleiermacher]' for the order Phaedrus, Lysis, Protagoras, Laches,
Charmides, Euthyphro, Parmenides.
'(S)' records the presence of Stephanus page numbers in the margin.
Other publication details are added where they have some relevance or
interest for the inquiry.
1484, Lat. Ficinus' translation, Florence; many printings in many places thereafter, e.g.,
Venetiis 1491,1517,1556, 1571, 1581, Basileae 1532, 1539,1546, Parisiis 1518, 1533,
Lugduni 1548,1550,1557,1588,1590. [Ficinus]

1513, Gr. Omnia Platonis opera. Edd. A.P. Manutius & M. Musurus. Aldine edition, Venetiis.
[Thrasyllus]

1534, Gr. Platonis omnia opera. Cum commentariis Prodi in Timaeum & Politica. Edd. J.
Oporinus & S. Grynaeus. Basileae. [Thrasyllus]

1556, Gr. Platonis omnia opera. Ed. A. Arlenius (Preface by M. Hopperus). Basileae. [Thrasyl-
lus]

1561, Lat. Platonis opera quae ad nos extant omnia. Per lanum Comarium ... Latina lingua
conscripta. Basileae. [Thrasyllus]

1578, Gr.-Lat. Platonis opera quae extant omnia. Ex nova Joannis Serrani interpretatione,
perpetuis eiusdem notis illustrata ... Eiusdem annotationes in quosdam suae illius
interpretationis locos. Henr. Stephani de quorundam locorurn interpretatione judic-
ium, et multorum contextus Graeci emendatio. 3 vols. Genevae. [Stephanus]

1590, Gr.-Lat. Divini Platonis opera omnia quae exstant. Marsilio Ficino interprete. Lugduni.
Also Genevae. [Ficinus]

1601, Ital. Delle Opere di Platane. Tradotti in lingua volgare da D. Bembo. 4 parts. Venice.
Repr. 1742-3: Delle Opere di Platane. Cogli Argomenti, e Note del Serano. Venice.
[Thrasyllus]

1602, Gr.-Lat. Divini Platonis opera omnia quae extant. Marsilio Ficino interprete. Francofurti.
[Stephanus]

1699, Fr. Les oeuvres de Platan traduites en franfois. M. Dacier. Paris. Nouvelle edition,
corrigee et augmentee, Amsterdam 1700. [Alcibiades I, Alcibiades Π, Theages, Euthyphro,
Apology, Crito, Phaedo]

1701, Eng. The Works of Plato abridged. (Englished from Dacier.) 2 vols. London. Repr.
1719-20,1739,1749,1761,1772,1839. [As Dacier]

1770, Fr. Dialogues de Platan. Par le Traducteur de la Republique [J.N. Grou]. 2 vols.
Amsterdam. [Theaetetus, Protagoras, Hippias Major, Hippies Minor, Gorgias, Ion, Phile-
bus]

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 87

1781-87, Gr.-Lat. (S) Platonis philosophi quae exstant Graece ad editionem H. Stephani accurate
express«, cum M. Ficini interpretatione. Ed. J.V. Ember & F.C. Exter. 11 vols. Studiis
Societatis Bipontinae. Biponti. [Stephanus]
1804, Eng. The Works of Plato. Translated from the Greek; Nine of the Dialogues by the Late
Floyer Sydenham, and the Remainder by Thomas Taylor. 5 vols. London. [Alcibiades
I, Republic, Laws, Epinomis, Timaeus, Critias, Parmenides]
1804-28, Ger. (S) Platans Werke. Friedrich Schleiermacher. Berlin. 2te verbesserte Auflage
1817. [Schleiermacher]
1813-19, Gr. (S) Platonis opera. Vols. Ι-ΙΠ, 1813-16: Ex recensione Henrici Stephani passim
emendata, adjectis scholiis et nott. critt. edidit Christ. Dan. Beck. Vols. IV-Vm,
1818-19: Cum scholiis a Rhunkenio collectis ad optimorum librorum fidem accurate
edita. Ed. stereoptypa. Lipsiae (Tauchnitz). Repr. 1829. [Stephanus]
1816-23, Gr.-Lat. (S) Platonis dialogi Graece et Latine. Ex recensione I. Bekkeri. 10 vols.
Dedicated 'Friderico Schleiermachero Platonis restitutori'. Berolini. [Schleiermacher]
1819-32, Gr.-Lat. (S) Platonis quae exstant opera. Recensuit, in linguam Latinam convertit,
annotationibus explanavit, etc. Fridericus Astius. 11 vols. Lipsiae. [Protagoras, Phae-
drus, Gorgias, Phaedo, Theaetetus, Sophist, Politicus]
1821-25, Gr. (S) Platonis quae supersunt opera. Recognovit Godofredus Stallbaum. 12 vols.
Lipsiae. [Stephanus, but Theages and Erastai headed 'Incerti Auctoris']
1822-40, Fr. Oeuvres de Platan. Traduites par Victor Cousin. 13 vols. Paris. 2nd edn. 1896,
ed. Barthelomy Saint-Hilaire. [Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Theaetetus, Philebus,
Protagoras]
1826, Gr.-Lat. (S) Platonis et quae vel Platonis esseferuntur vel Platonica solent comitari scripta
Graece omnia. Recensuit ... Immanuel Bekker. Annotationibus integris Stephani,
Heindorfii, Heusdii, Wyttenbachii, Lyndavii, Boeckhiique adjiciuntur modo non
integrae Serrani, Comarii, Thompsoni, Fischeri, Gottleberi, Astii, Butmanni, et Stal-
baumi, necnon ex commentariis aliorum curiose excerpta. 11 vols. Londinii. [Schleier-
macher]
1830-33, Gr. (S) Platonis omnia. Recensuit et adnotatione critica instruxit C.E. Ch. Schneider.
3 vols. Lipsiae. [Republk only]
1833-60 (Republic 1829), Gr. (S) Platonis opera omnia. Recensuit et commentariis instruxit G.
Stallbaum. Editio auctior et emendatior. 10 vols. in 12. Gothae et Erfordiae. Repeatedly
reissued with improvements. [Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium, Gorgias, Protagoras,
Republic]
1839, Gr. (S) Plato, Opera quae feruntur omnia. Recognoverunt J.G. Baiterus, J.C. Orellius,
A.G. Winckelmannus. Turici. [Stephanus]
1841-57, Gr.-Ger. (S) Plato, Werke. Griechisch und Deutsch mit kritischen und erkl renden
Anmerkungen. 26 parts. Leipzig. [Symposium, Phaedo, Apology, Euthyphro, Crito,
Laches, Charmides]
1846-73, Gr.-Lat. (S) Platonis opera. Ex recensione R.B. Hirschigii, Vol. 11856; Vol. 2 ed. C.E.
Ch. Schneider 1846; Vol. 3 ed. Fr. D bner 1873. Parisiis, Didot. [Stephanus]

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88 M.F. Burnyeat

1848-54, Eng. Plato: Works. A new and literal version, chiefly from the text of Stallbaum. By
Henry Gary (also Henry Davis & George Burges). 6 vols. London, Bonn's Classical
Library. [Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Gorgias, Protagoras, Phaednis, Theaetetus]
1848-54, Ger. Platans sämmtliche Werke. Übersetzt von Dr. Gottlieb Friedrich Drescher. 2
vols. in 1. No more published. Giessen. [Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium, Gorgias,
Protagoras]
1850, Gr. (S) Platonis opera omnia. Uno volumine comprehensa ... emendatius edidit G.
Stallbaumius. Ed. stereotypa. Lipsiae (Tauchnitz). Repr. 1881. [Stephanus]
1850-73, Ger. (S) Platan's sämmtliche Werke. Übersetzt von Hieronymus Müller mit Einlei-
tungen begleitet von Karl Steinhart. 9 vols. Leipzig. [Ion, Hippias major, Hippias minor,
Alcibiades I, Lysis, Charmides, Laches]
1851-53, Gr. (S) Platonis dialogi secundum Thrasylli tetralogias dispositi. Ex recognitione C.F.
Hermanni. 6 vols. Lipsiae (Bibl. Teubner). [Thrasyllus]
1853-65, Ger. Platons Werke, übersetzt von L. Georgii, F. Susemihl, etc. Stuttgart. [Phaedrus,
Lysis, Symposium, Phaedo, Menexenus, Hippias Major, Apology]
1859-61, Eng. The Platonic Dialogues for English Readers. By William Whewell. 3 vols.
Cambridge. Repr. 1892. [Laches, Charmides, Lysis, Erastai, Alcibiades I, Alcibiades II,
Theages]
1861-63, Fr. Oeuvres completes de Platan. Disposees dans un ordre nouveau. Traduction
Dacier et Grou soigneusement revisees et completees par une version nouvelle de
plusieurs dialogues avec notes et arguments par E. Chauvet & A. Saisset. 10 vols.
Paris. [Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Alcibiades I, Charmides, Laches, Protagoras]
1871, Eng. (S) The Dialogues of Plato. Translated into English with Analyses and Introduc-
tions, by B. Jowett. 4 vols. Oxford. 2nd edn., revised 1875. 3rd edn. revised 1892.
[Charmides, Lysis, Laches, Protagoras, Euthydemus, Ion, Meno]
1873-83, Ital. (S) I Dialoghi di Platane. Nuovamente volgarizzati da E. Ferrai. 4 vols. (no more
published). Padua. [Hippias minor. Ion, Alcibiades I, Lysis, Charmides, Laches, Protagoras]
1875-87, Gr. (S) Plato. Opera quae feruntur omnia. Ad codices denuo collates edidit M.
Schanz. 12 vols. Lipsiae (Tauschnitz). [Thrasyllus]
1880-85, Ital. (S) Dialoghi di Platane. Tradotti da R. Bonghi. 7 vols. Rome & Turin. [Euthyphro,
Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Protagoras, Euthydemus, Cratylus]
1887-89, Gr. (S) Platonis dialogi, secundum Thrasylli tetralogias dispositi. Post C.F. Hermann
recognovit M. Wohlrab. 6 vols. Ed. stereotypa. Lipsiae (Bibl. Teubner). [Thrasyllus]
1900-06, Gr. (S) Platonis opera. Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit loannes
Burnet. Oxonii (Oxford Classical Texts). [Thrasyllus]

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John Stuart Mill's Boyhood Reading of Plato 89

Appendix II

Collections and series sufficient to indicate an order: 1500-1900


1570, Ital. Erizzo, M.S. — / Dialoghi di Platane intitolati Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo,
Timaeus. Tradotti da lingua greca in Italiana. Vinegia.
1738, Gr.-Lat. Platonis septem selecti dialogi. Juxta editionem Serrani. (Euthyphro, Apology,
Crito, Phaedo, Theages, Erastai, Theaetetus). Dublin.
1745, Gr.-Lat. Forster, N. — Platonis dialogi quinque: Erastai, Euthyphro, Apologia Socratis,
Crito, Phaedo. Oxonii. Repr. 1752,1765,1800.
1758-79, Gr. Fischer, J.F. — 1. Platonis Euthyphro, Apologia Socratis, Crito, Phaedo. Lipsiae,
1758. 2nd edn. Lipsiae, 1770. 3rd edn. ad fidem codd. MSS. Tubing., August,
aliorumque et librorum editorum veterum. Lipsiae, 1783.
2. Platonis Cratylus et Theaetetus. E recensione Henrici Stephani varietate lectionis
animadversionibusque criticis brevibus illustrati. Lipsiae, 1770.
3. Platonis Sophista, Politicus, Parmenides. E recensione Henrici Stephani animadver-
sionibus criticis illustrati. Lipsiae, 1774.
4. Platonis dialogi duo Philebus et Symposium. E recensione Henr. Stephani varietate
lectionis animadversionibusque criticis illustrati. Lipsiae, 1776.
5. Platonis Euthyphro, Apologia Socratis, Crito, Phaedo, Cratylus, Theaetetus, Sophista,
Politicus, Parmenides, Philebus, Symposium. 4 vols. Lipsiae, 1779.
1802-10, Gr. Heindorf, L.F. (S) — 1. Platonis Lysis, Charmides, Hippias Major, Phaedrus.
Berolini, 1802.
2. Platonis Gorgias et Theaetetus. Berolini, 1805.
3. Platonis Gorgias, Apologia Socratis, Hippias Major, Charmides. Berolini, 1805.
4. Platonis Cratylus, Parmenides, et Euthydemus. Berolini, 1806.
5. Platonis Phaedo, Sophistes, et Protagoras. Berolini, 1809-10.
1852, Fr. Schwäble, M. Dialogues biographiques et moraux de Platan. Traduction nouvelle.
Paris. [Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Gorgias, Alcibiades I, Alcibiades ]

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