I should say indeed, that Mr. Mill’s general characteristic, emotionally considered, was an unusual predominance of the higher sentiments,—a predominance which tended, perhaps, both in theory and practice, to subordinate the lower nature unduly. That rapid advance of age which has been conspicuous for some years past, and which doubtless prepared the way for his somewhat premature death, may, I think, be regarded as the outcome of a theory of life which made learning and working the occupations too exclusively considered. But when we ask to what ends he acted out this theory, and in so doing too little regarded his bodily welfare, we see that even here the excess, if such we call it, was a noble one. Extreme desire to further human welfare was that to which he sacrificed himself.
His botanical studies.
If we would have a just idea of any man’s character, we should view it from as many points, and under as many aspects, as we can. The side-lights thrown by the lesser occupations of a life are often very strong, and bring out its less obvious parts into startling prominence. Much especially is to be learned of character by taking into consideration the employment of times of leisure or relaxation; the occupation of such hours being due almost solely to the natural bent of the individual, without the interfering action of necessity or expediency. Most men, perhaps especially eminent men, have a “hobby",—some absorbing object, the pursuit of which forms the most natural avocation of their mind, and to which they turn with the certainty of at least satisfaction, if not of exquisite pleasure. The man who follows any branch of natural science in this way is almost always especially happy in its prosecution; and his mental powers are refreshed and invigorated for the more serious and engrossing if less congenial occupation of his life. Mr. Mill’s hobby was practical field botany; surely in all ways one very well suited to him.
Of the tens of thousands who are acquainted with the philosophical writings of Mr. Mill, there are probably few beyond the circle of his personal friends who are aware that he was also an author in a modest way on botanical subjects, and a keen searcher after wild plants. His short communications on botany were chiefly if not entirely published in a monthly magazine called “The Phytologist,” edited, from its commencement in 1841, by the late George Luxford, till his death, in 1854, and afterwards conducted by Mr. A. Irvine of Chelsea, an intimate friend of Mr. Mill’s, till its discontinuance in 1863. In the early numbers of this periodical especially will be found frequent notes and short papers on the facts of plant distribution brought to light by Mr. Mill during his botanical rambles. His excursions were chiefly in the county of Surrey, and especially in the neighborhood of Guildford and the beautiful