Though his poetical tastes were early developed, his father apprenticed him to a jeweller.
In 1883 he was apprenticed to the trade of printer and compositor.
He was apprenticed in 1799 to Weichselberger, a glass-polisher and lookingglass maker.
Robert was sent to Liskeard grammar school, and when he was about sixteen was apprenticed to a solicitor.
After having been apprenticed to a linendraper, and for three years a clerk in a Dundee business house, he entered the Hoxton (Congregational) Theological College, and in 1804 was appointed to a Congregational chapel in Aberdeen.