Delight Springs

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rambling freely with Mill

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, was a committed walker. His journal conveys extensive, detailed accounts of nearly his every step (it seems) in the British Isles from 1827-1832. They must have been thrilling walks, though I must confess they're less than thrilling merely to read about.
To the right there were rich meadows and gentlemen’s houses between the river and the hills. This continued for some time, with the exception that the hills on the left approached the river, and then receded when the hills on the right approached it, forming a fine line of beech wood, to which the last gleams of the setting sun gave a rich yellow colour. We here left the punt in which we had ascended thus far, and took the towing path on the Oxfordshire side. The hills on the right now receded and appeared gradually to drop down, while on the left they grew high and steep, and came close to the river, leaving scarcely room for a pretty house and small pleasure ground between the river and the steep part of the ascent. Near the end of these hills are the villages of Goring and Streatley, the former on the north, the latter on the south side of the river: we crossed by a ferry, and took up our abode at the upper extremity of Streatley, which is a very neat village, and the main street of which, by a gentle declivity, ascends the chalk hill.
We might have wished for something a little racier from the guy who declared, among other things,
I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.
This is surely an example of how much better a single image of natural and civilized beauty can be, than a few thousand of even the most accurately measured words. 
He was a crusader for social justice and the rights of minorities and women. (What do you suppose he'd say about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law?) He was Bertrand Russell's godfather and William James's hero. Must walk his walk.

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