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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/387

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

the study of mental phenomena into more close and vital relations with the surrounding universe than had been possible with the older metaphysical views. James Mill was the author of the ablest exposition of this doctrine that had yet appeared; and his son, therefore, through his father's early and able teaching, had the rarest advantages for pursuing the inquiry and occupying the field. But another and a younger man came into that field, and took possession of it. At the age of thirty-five, Mr. Herbert Spencer published his "Principles of Psychology," of which Mr. Mill himself says, "it is one of the finest examples we possess of the psychological method in its full power." Subsequent criticism has strengthened this judgment, and assigned to that work an unrivaled position in the original psychological literature of Its time. Mr. J. S. Mill's greatest work upon mind is undoubtedly bis polemical criticism of Sir William Hamilton; but, after this was published, and the works of Spencer and Mill were left to their influence upon the British public, Prof. Masson, in a lecture before the Royal Institution, gave expression to the growing conviction concerning Spencer, that, "if any individual influence is visibly encroaching on Mill's in this country, it is his."

What, now, was the secret by which Mr. Spencer was enabled to beat Mr. Mill in the field where he was most at home, and had every apparent advantage? It was simply the difference in the education of the two men. Both were examples of great native power of mind; both were educated by their fathers, and neither went to the universities. But while Mill was sent back in childhood to the world of two thousand years ago, and spent his force in learning half a dozen languages, and in loading himself down with the erudition of antiquity, Mr. Spencer was content with his English, left antiquity to itself, and entered in childhood into the sphere of modern thought. Mr. Mill had spent his energies on his splendid scholastic preparation, and could give only the remnant of his powers to the profounder intellectual movement of his own time. Mr. Spencer broke freshly into the study of Nature and science, unperverted by ancient ideas, and unincumbered by antiquated learning, and was thus enabled to make those extensive modern acquisitions by which he has attained such power over the thought of his own time. While Mr. Mill was drilling with the school-logic, which calls for no original thought, Mr. Spencer was making discoveries in experimental science, and forming his own opinions on the basis of the most recent knowledge; and while, in the study of mind, Mr. Mill sunk into little better than a mere commentator on his father's ideas, Mr. Spencer took up the great question from his own independent point of view, and has given his contemporaries, perhaps, the most original contribution of the century to the science of mind. Wherever the two men are brought into comparison, the enormous advantage of Spencer, through his mastery of scientific thought, is confessedly apparent. Mr. Mill wrote a formal work upon the woman question, as he might have written it two thousand years ago, and as if science had contributed nothing that is valuable in its elucidation: Mr. Spencer has lately crossed the field, treating the psychology of the sexes incidentally, and, as a contemporary remarks, his brief sketch makes the "Subjection of Woman" appear "obsolete and antediluvian" in comparison with it.

The question that Mr. Mill put to the students, "Why not both?" finds thus a sufficient answer in his own career. "Both" are impossible; and Mr. Mill gave himself to the past, at the expense of the future.