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OF THE FRENCH EDITORS.
The name and writings of Mr Hume have been long since well known throughout Europe. At the same time, his personal acquaintance have remarked, in the candour and simplicity of his manners, that impartiality and ingenuousness of disposition which distinguishes his character, and is sufficiently indicated in his writings.
He hath exerted those great talents he received from nature, and the acquisitions he made by study, in the search of truth, and promoting the good of mankind; never wasting his time, or sacrificing his repose, in literary or personal disputes. He hath seen his writings frequently censured with bitterness, by fanaticism, ignorance, and the spirit of party, without ever giving an answer to his adversaries.
Even those who have attacked his works with the greatest violence, have always respected his personal character. His love of peace is so well known, that the criticisms written against his pieces, have been often brought him by their respective authors, for him to revise and correct them. At one time, in particular, a performance of this kind was shown to him, in which he had been treated in a very rude and even injurious manner; on remarking which to the author, the latter struck out the exceptionable passages, blushing and wondering at the force of that polemic spirit which had carried him imperceptibly away beyond the bounds of truth and decency.
It was with great reluctance that a man, possessed of such pacific dispositions, could be brought to consent to the publication of the following piece. He was very sensible that the quarrels among men of letters are a scandal to philosophy; nor was any person in the world less formed for giving occasion to a scandal, so consolatory to blockheads. But the circumstances were such as to draw him into it, in spite of his inclinations.
All the world knows that Mr Rousseau, proscribed in almost every country where he resided, determined at length to take refuge in England ; and that Mr Hume, affected by his situation, and his misfortunes, undertoook to bring him over, and to provide for him a peaceful, safe, and convenient asylum. But very few persons are privy to the zeal, activity, and even delicacy, with which Mr Hume conferred this act of benevolence. What an affectionate attachment he had contracted for this new friend, which humanity had given him! with what address he endeavoured to anticipate his desires, without offending his pride! in short, with what address he strove to justify, in the eyes of others, the singularities of Mr Rousseau, and to defend his character against those who were not disposed to think so favourably of him as he did himself.
Even at the time when Mr Hume was employed in doing Mr Rousseau the most essential service, he received from him the most insolent and abusive letter. The more such a stroke was unexpected, the more it was cruel and affecting. Mr Hume wrote an account of this extraordinary adventure to his friends at Paris, and expressed himself in his letters with all that indignation which so strange a proceed. ing must excite. He thought himself under no obligation to keep terms with a man, who, after having received from him the most certain and constant marks of friendship, could reproach him, without any reason, as false, treacherous, and as the most wicked of mankind.
In the mean time, the dispute between these two celebrated personages did not fail to make a noise. The complaints of Mr Hume soon came to the knowledge of the public, which at first hardly believed it possible that Mr Rousseau could be guilty of that excessive ingratitude laid to his charge. Even Mr Hume's friends were fearful, lest, in the first effusions of sensibility, he was not carried too far, and had not mistaken for wilful crimes of the heart, the vagaries of the imagination, or the deceptions of the understanding. He judged it necessary, therefore to explain the affair, by writing a precise narrative of all that passed between him and Mr Rousseau, from their first connection to their rupture. This narrative he sent to his friends, some of whom advised him to print it, alleging, that as Mr Rousseau's accusations were become public, the proofs of his justification ought to be so too. Mr Hume did not give into these arguments, choosing rather to run the risk of being unjustly censured, than to resolve on making himself a public party in an affair so contrary to his disposition and character. A new incident, however, at length overcame his reluctance. Mr Rousseau had addressed a letter to a bookseller at Paris, in which he directly accuses Mr Hume of having entered into a league with his enemies to betray and defame him; and in which he boldly defies Mr Hume to print the papers he had in his hands. This letter was communicated to several persons in Paris, was translated into English, and the translation printed in the public papers in London. An accusation and defiance so very public could not be suffered to pass without reply, while any long