Mill’s statement that “poetry is overheard” is often read as a definition of the lyric in miniature and is associated with social retreat. Yet Mill saw his encounter with the Wordsworthian lyric as a corrective to utilitarian social theory, and as a supplement to Adam Smith’s theory of sympathy. Mill suggests that the writings of James Mill and Jeremy Bentham overlook the bond connecting individuals to one another. He reconceives communal aspects of feeling by drawing on Wordsworth’s poetry as the fulfillment of Smith’s affective account of social relations, a development which anticipates affect theory.
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© by Journal of the History of Ideas.
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