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FROM THE PAPERS BEQUEATHED BY HIS NEPHEW TO THE
ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH ; AND OTHER
BY JOHN HILL BURTON, Esq.
WILLIAM TAIT, 107, PRINCE'S STREET.
DA VI D H U M E.
1756-1759. ÆT. 45-48.
The second volume of the History of the Stuarts — His Apologies for his
Treatment of Religion - The Four Dissertations — The Two Suppressed Dissertations - Resigns his Office of Librarian — Home's Douglas Commences the History of the Tudors — Wilkie's Epigoniad — Hume's Nationalism Warburton — Colonel Edmonstoune — Dr. Robertson Negotiations as to Ferguson's Chair -- Hume goes to London – Writes letters of Fictitious and Extravagant News - Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments — Publication of the History of the House of Tudor - General View of the Constitutional Principles of the History.
We have now followed the personal history of David Hume through nearly twenty years of authorship. We have seen him approach the tribunal of public opinion with the strongest internal assurance of success, and in a form so different from that of his predecessors, as a high reliance on his own powers could alone have prompted. Baffled in the first, and in the second, and in the third attempt, he still persevered; and while the coldness of each reception showed him that his last effort bad proved a failure, it never extinguished the fire of literary ardour which he felt burning within him, or quenched the hope, that it would one day blaze forth before the world. It is only towards the termination of this long period of laborious authorship that we find the
philosopher's early visions of intellectual greatness beginning to be fulfilled. At the period at which we have now arrived, his name was famous over Europe. It was a fame that, once spread abroad, was not soon to die; for those to whom his name was first made known in his new popular work, speedily discovered that, in his earliest neglected effort, he had laid the foundation of a still surer claim on their admiration, and justified the sagacity with which, in the pride and strength of youthful genius, he had thrown its first fruits before the world unaided and unadvised.
The year 1756 seems to have been in a great measure devoted by Hume to the printing of the second volume of his History, to which the following letters to Millar refer. A great part of the correspondence with this sagacious publisher relates to minute business arrangements. It is presumed, that the reader may wish to see some specimens of the manner in which Hume transacted such matters, but that he will not care to have the whole of the arrangements between the author and publisher laid before him. A few specimens of the business part of the letters are accordingly selected, while those portions which have any general interest, literary, philosophical, or political, are given in full. The reader will see, perhaps, with some surprise, that he was very anxious to subject his style to the critical eye of Mallet. We shall hereafter have to disclose some curious features of his literary intercourse with this extraordinary person.
HUME to ANDREW MILLAR.
“ Edinburgh, 22d September, 1756. “Mr. Strahan, in a few days, will have finished the printing this volume; and I hope you will find leisure,
before the hurry of winter, to peruse it, and to write me your remarks on it. I fancy you will publish about the middle of November. I must desire you to take the trouble of distributing a few copies to my friends in London, and of sending me a few copies here. The whole will be fifteen copies.
“Notwithstanding Mr. Mallet's impertinence in not answering my letter, (for it deserves no better a name,) if you can engage him from yourself to mark on the perusal such slips of language as he thinks I have fallen into in this volume, it will be a great obligation to me: I mean that I shall lie under an obligation to you; for I would not willingly owe any to him. I am, dear sir, your most humble servant.
“Edinburgh, 4th December, 1756. "DEAR ŞIR,—I have two of yours before me, and should have answered them sooner, had not Mr. Dalrymple told me that he would come to a resolution, in a few days, about the method of printing his volume. As soon as he does so, I shall write you.
“I am certainly very well satisfied with your sale, which I hope continues. Lord Lyttelton's objection is not well grounded; I have not contradicted that story betwixt Shaftesbury and Clifford: I have only omitted it. It stands only on Burnet's authority, who is very careless and inaccurate. I believe I could convince both you and him that it was without foundation. I am very glad that Mr. Mallet has marked those expressions which appeared Scotticisms. You could not do me a greater pleasure than to procure me a list of them. I beg of you to employ all your interest with him to that purpose. I am very anxious to see them soon, that I may examine them at leisure, and
1 MS. R.S.E.