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has anticipated many of those metaphysical arguments, on which the basis of the sceptical philosophy has been attacked; and the world has, perhaps, yet to learn how far the great system of the German philosophers is under obligations to this powerful thinker.?
Before he put his “ Inquiry into the Human Mind,” to press, Reid desired, through Blair's interposition, to subject the manuscript to Hume's inspection. Fearing that this work might too closely follow the Warburton school, Hume met the application with the rather petulant remark: “I wish that the parsons would confine themselves to their old occupation of worrying one another, and leave philosophers to argue with temper, moderation, and good manners.” But, after inspecting the manuscript, he thus addressed its author:
By Dr. Blair's means, I have been favoured with the perusal of your performance, which I have read with great pleasure and attention. It is certainly very rare that a piece so deeply philosophical is wrote with so much spirit, and affords so much entertainment to the reader; though I must still regret the disadvantages under which I read it, as I never had the whole performance at once before me, and could not be able fully to compare one part with another. To this reason, chiefly, I ascribed some obscurities, which, in spite of your short analysis, or abstract, still seem to hang over your system ; for I must do you the justice to own that, when I enter into your ideas, no man appears to express himself with
When are the public to be in possession of Sir William Hamilton's edition of Reid? I have had the privilege of seeing the proof sheets of this work, so far as it had proceeded, before ill health bad, for a time, interrupted the labours of the professor of logic. The quantity of learning and deep thought concentrated in the commentary, is such as, perhaps, but one man in this country could have brought together; and the natural feeling suggested on the perusal was, regret that so much of these qualities had been expended in notes and illustrative essays, instead of being published in a separate work.
greater perspicuity than you do; a talent which, above all others, is requisite in that species of literature which you have cultivated. There are some objections, which I would willingly propose, to the chapter “Of sight,” did I not suspect that they proceed from my not sufficiently understanding it; and I am the more confirmed in this suspicion, as Dr. Blair tells me that the former objections I made, had been derived chiefly from that cause. I shall therefore forbear till the whole can be before me, and shall not at present propose any further difficulties to your reasonings. I shall only say that, if you have been able to clear up these abstruse and important subjects, instead of being mortified, I shail be so vain as to pretend to a share of the praise ; and shall think that my errors, by having at least some coherence, had led you to make a more strict review of my principles, which were the common ones, and to perceive their futility.
As I was desirous to be of some use to you, I kept a watchful
eye all along over your style; but it is really so correct, and so good English, that I found not any thing worth the remarking. There is only one passage in this chapter, where you make use of the phrase, hinder to do, instead of hinder from doing, which is the English one ; but I could not find the passage when I sought for it. You may judge how unexceptionable the whole appeared to me, when I could remark so small a blemish. I beg my compliments to my friendly adversaries, Dr. Campbell, and Dr. Gerard, and also to Dr. Gregory, whom I suspect to be of the same disposition, though he has not openly declared himself such.
This letter called forth the following answer, valuable as an acknowledgment of the services which the Scottish school of philosophy owed to Hume.
DR. REID to HUME.
King's College, 18th March, 1763. Sir,—On Monday last, Mr. John Farquhar brought me your letter of February 25th, enclosed in one from Dr. Blair. I thought myself very happy in having the means of obtaining at second-hand, through the friendship of Dr. Blair, your opinion of my performance: and you have been pleased to communicate it directly in so polite and friendly a manner, as merits great acknowledgments on my part. Your keeping a watchful eye over my style, with a view to be of use to me, is an instance of candour and generosity to an antagonist, which would affect me very sensibly, although I had no personal concern in it, and I shall always be proud to follow so amiable an example. Your judgment of the style, indeed, gives me great consolation, as I was very diffident of myself in regard to English, and have been indebted to Drs. Campbell and Gerard for many corrections of that kind.
i Stewart's Life of Reid.
In attempting to throw some new light upon these abstruse subjects, I wish to preserve the due mean betwixt confidence and despair. But whether I have any success in this attempt or not, I shall always avow myself your disciple in metaphysics. I have learned more from your writings in this kind, than from all others put together.
Your system appears to me not only coherent in all its parts, but likewise justly deduced from principles commonly received among philosophers ; principles which I never thought of calling in question, until the conclusions you draw from them in the “ Treatise of Human Nature ” made me suspect them. If these principles are solid, your system must stand; and whether they are or not, can better be judged after you have brought to light the whole system that grows out of them, than when the greater part of it was wrapped up in clouds and darkness. I agree with you, therefore, that if this system shall ever be demolished, you have a just claim to a great share of the praise, both because you have made it a distinct and determinate mark to be aimed at, and have furnished proper artillery for the purpose.
When you have seen the whole of my performance, I shall take it as a very great favour to have your opinion upon it, from which I make no doubt of receiving light, whether I receive conviction or no.
Your friendly adversaries, Drs. Campbell and Gerard, as well as Dr. Gregory, return their compliments to you respectfully. A little philosophical society here, of which all the three are members, is much indebted to you for its entertainment. would, although we are all good Christians, be more acceptable
and correspondence with me. There is not a courtier in France, who would not have been transported with joy, to have had the half of these obliging things said to him by either of these great ladies; but what may appear more extraordinary, both of them, as far as I could conjecture, have read with some care all my writings that have been translated into French,—that is, almost all my writings. The king said nothing particular to me, when I was introduced to him ; and (can you imagine it) I was become so silly, as to be a little mortified by it, till they told me, that he never says any thing to any body the first time he sees them. The Dauphin, as I am told from all hands, declares himself on every occasion very strongly in my favour; and many people assure me, that I have reason to be proud of his judgment, even were he an individual. I have scarce seen any of the geniuses of Paris, who, I think, have in general great merit, as men of letters. But every body is forward to tell me the high panegyrics I receive from them; and you may believe that
approbation which has procured me all these civilities from the courtiers.
“I know you are ready to ask me, my dear friend, if all this does not make me very happy: No, I feel little or no difference. As this is the first letter I write to my friends at home, I have amused myself
, (and I hope I have amused you,) by giving you a very abridged account of these transactions. But can I ever forget, that it is the very same species, that would scarce show me common civilities a very few years ago at Edinburgh, who now receive me with such applauses at Paris ? I assure you, I internal satisfaction from the very amiable manners
| A word or two obliterated.
and character of the family in which I live, (I mean Lord and Lady Hertford, and Lord Beauchamp,) than from all these external vanities; and it is that domestic enjoyment which must be considered as the agreeable circumstance in my situation. During the two last days, in particular, that I have been at Fontainbleau I have suffered (the expression is not improper) as much flattery as almost any man has ever done in the same time. But there are few days in my life, when I have been in good health, that I would not rather pass over again. Mr. Neville, our minister, an honest, worthy English gentleman, who carried me about, was astonished at the civilities I met with; and has assured me, that on his return, he will not fail to inform the king of England and the English ministry of all these particulars. But enough of all these follies. You see I trust to your friendship, that you will forgive me; and to your discretion, that you will keep my secret.
“I had almost forgot, in these effusions, shall I say of my misanthropy or my vanity, to mention the subject which first put my pen
hand. The Baron d'Holbach, whom I saw at Paris, told me, that there was one under his eye that was translating your * Theory of Moral Sentiments;' and desired me to inform you of it. Mr. Fitzmaurice, your old friend, interests himself strongly in this undertaking. Both of them wish to know, if you propose to make any alterations on the work, and desire you to inform me of your intentions in that particular. Please direct to me under cover to the Earl of Hertford at Northumberland House, London. Letters so directed will be sent to us at Paris. I desire my compli
A translation was published in 1764, by M. A. Eidous ; there was another in 1774, by Blavet.