He was born at Bridgwater, and was educated at the Independent College, Taunton, the Regent's Park College, University of Göttingen and Humboldt University, Berlin. Originally destined for the Nonconformist ministry, in 1871 he adopted a literary and philosophic career. He was Grote professor of the philosophy of mind logic at University College, London, from 1892 to 1903, when he was succeeded by Carveth Read. An adherent of the associationist school of psychology, his views had great affinity with those of Alexander Bain. His monographs, as that on pessimism, are ably and readably written, and his textbooks, of which The Human Mind (1892) is the most important, are models of sound exposition.