Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/770

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MY acquaintance with Mill dates from 1839, when I was a student at Marischal College, Aberdeen. In the winter of 1838-'39, John Robertson, who was then assisting in the Review, paid a short visit to his native city. I had known him when I was a child, but had not seen him for years. He asked me to meet him, and entered into free conversation about his doings in London, and about my pursuits and prospects. He gave me both advice and encouragement, and spoke a good deal about Mill, whom I had never heard of, although I may have known something of his father. On returning to London, Robertson mentioned my name to Mill. In the summer of 1839 I wrote a criticism of some points in Herschel's "Discourse on Natural Philosophy," a book that had long fascinated me, as it had done so many others. I thought Herschel occasionally weak in his metaphysics, and directed my criticism to some of those weaknesses. Robertson showed Mill this paper. He spoke favorably of the effort, but remarked to me afterward that the criticism was too severe, and that the book "always seemed to him to have the characters of a first crude attempt of a clever and instructed man in a province new to him."

In 1840 I took my M. A. degree, and began to write for periodicals. Mill had just parted with the "London and Westminster": but through Robertson, I got my first published article admitted into the "Westminster" for September; an exposition of the two scientific novelties—the electrotype and daguerreotype. In July, 1841, was published a second article entitled "The Properties of Matter," to which I owed the first notice taken of me by Mr. Grote. Both these articles did me good with Mill. In the same autumn (1841) Robertson, who was now very much at sea himself, came down to Aberdeen, and made a long stay; during which I had abundant talk with him, my early friend David Masson being also of the party. Robertson occasionally wrote to Mill, and at last incited me to write to him. I scarcely remember anything of the terms of the letter, but I have preserved his reply, dated 21st September, 1841. After my first meeting with Robertson, nearly three years previous, I assiduously perused the back numbers of the "London" and "London and Westminster" Reviews, as well as each new number as it appeared, whereby I became thoroughly familiarized with Mill's ideas, and was thus able to exchange ideas with him on his own subjects. I was engaged for the succeed-