Thursday, May 08, 2008

The individual is sovereign


'That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign' - from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, who was born in London on 20th May 1806 and died in Avignon, France, where my pictures were taken, on 8th May, 1873.

Mill wrote against repression in Ireland and as a Member of Parliament introduced the first vote on women's suffrage. He campaigned for free speech and proportional representation and against slavery. But we are most indebted to him as a defender of individual conscience and expression. He is buried alongside his wife in the cemetery of St. Veran on the outskirts of Avignon and his tomb, seen in my photos, is marked 'En hommage à John Stuart Mill Défenseur des Femmes'. The plaque has been added by Centre d'Hébergement et de Réinsertion Sociale "Stuart Mill", a refuge for women victims of violence in Paris.


Now playing Motet (Excerpta Tractati Logico-Philosophici) by Elisabeth Lutyens sung by Exaudi directed by James Weeks. Lutyens was a defender of individual conscience and expression but was not a supporter of organised feminism as this extract from Meirion and Susie Harries' excellent biography of her tells - 'Why, she asked, did people speak of 'women's music' and 'female composers' and yet stop short of implying that male homosexuals wrote 'queer music?''If women are to be butts,' she argued, 'let homosexuals be also ... and impotence or any other private sexual consideration, all of which, no doubt, affects one's work.' In 1973 she would write to The Times complaining that William Glock was labelled a supporter of Women's Lib because he had included four pieces by female composers in that season's Proms, and yet no one drew the obvious inference that he had programmed the work of no less than sixteen male homosexuals.'

More on Elisabeth Lutyens here, and listen to a podcast about her music here.
Photos (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Pliable said...

For the sake of completeness I should probably have said that Sir William Glock was married twice!

Henry Holland said...

'Why, she asked, did people speak of 'women's music' and 'female composers' and yet stop short of implying that male homosexuals wrote 'queer music?''

They did, you silly cow! How often was Tchaikovsky snidely chided for writing "effeminate" music? Hello? Britten? Tippett? Read criticism of them from the 50's and 60's, there's plenty of "Well, Britten's music is good, for one of *those* people" kinds of things.

I have to say, Pliable, your previous Path regarding her was one of your very best.