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The interest taken by Hume, as by all his contemporary fellow-countrymen, in the Douglas cause, has already been noticed. As the inquiry which had taken place in France had not been long concluded, and was the object of discussion in the Court of Session, the adherents of the exiled royal house, and other Scottish families residing in Paris, naturally took such a deep interest in the proceedings, as the following letter explains.
HUME to BARON MURE.
“ Paris, 22d June, 1764. “MY DEAR BARON,—A few days ago I dined with the Duchess of Perth, which was the first time I had seen that venerable old lady, who is really a very sensible woman.
Part of our conversation was upon the Douglas affair.
“ That lady, as well as all the company, as well as every body of common sense here, shows her entire conviction of that imposture; and there was present a gentleman, an old friend of yours, a person of very good understanding and of undoubted honour, who laid
open to us a scene of such deliberate dishonesty on the part of her grace of Douglas and her partisans, as was somewhat new and surprising. I suppose it is all known to poor Andrew, whom I heartily love and pity. 'Tis certain, that the imposture is as well known to her grace and her friends, as to any body; and Hay, the Pretender's old secretary, the only man of common honesty among them, confessed to this gentleman, that he has frequently been shocked with their practices, and has run away from them to keep
Andrew Stuart, see above, p. 168.
out of the way of such infamy; though he had afterwards the weakness to yield to their solicitations. Carnegy knows the roguery as well as the rest ; though I did not hear any thing of his scruples. Lord Beauchamp and Dr. Trail, our chaplain, passed four months last summer at Rheims, where this affair was much the subject of conversation. Except one curate, they did not meet with a person, that was not convinced of the imposture. Mons. de Puysieuls,' whose country seat is in the neighbourhood, told me the same thing. Can any thing be more scandalous and more extraordinary than Frank Garden's behaviour ?? Can any thing be more scandalous and more ordinary than Burnets. I am afraid, that notwithstanding the palpable justice of your cause, it is yet uncertain whether you will prevail
. “I continue to live here in a manner amusing enough, and which gives me no time to be tired of any scene. What between public business, the company of the learned and that of the great, especially of the ladies, I find all my time filled up, and have no time to open a book, exceptit be some books newly published, which may be the subject of conversation. I am well enough pleased with this change of life, and a satiety of study had beforehand prepared the way for it : however, time runs off in one course of life as well as another, and all things appear so much alike, that I am afraid of falling into total Stoicism and indifference about every thing. For instance, I am every moment to be touching on the time when I am to receive my credential letters of secretary to the embassy, with a
1 Puisieux ?
* Francis Garden, afterwards a judge of the Court of Session, with the title of Lord Gardenstone. He was senior, and James Burnet, afterwards Lord Monboddo, was junior Scottish counsel for Mr. Douglas in the Tournelle process in France.
thousa nd a-year of appointments. The king has promised it, all the members have promised it; Lord Hertford earnestly solicits it ; the plainest common sense and justice seem to require [it]: yet have I been in this condition above six months; and I never trouble my head about the matter, and have rather laid my account that there is to be no such thing.
“Please to express my most profound respects to Mrs. Mure, and my sense of the honour she did me. If I have leisure before the carrier goes off, I shall write her, and give her some account of my adventures; but I would not show her so little mark of my attention as to write her only in a postscript. I am, dear Baron," &c.
The correspondence with Madame de Boufflers was occasionally resumed, when Hume or she was absent from Paris. How well the philosopher could upon occasion accommodate himself to the taste of a French lady of the court, the following may suffice to show.
HUME to the COMTESSE DE BOUFFLERS.
Compiegne, 6th July, 1764. We live in a kind of solitude and retirement at Compiegne; at least I do, who, having nothing but a few general acquaintance at court, and not caring to make more, have given my
almost entirely to study and retreat. You cannot imagine, madam, with what pleasure I return as it were to my natural element, and what satisfaction I enjoy in reading, and musing, and sauntering, amid the agreeable scenes that surround me. But yes, you can easily enough imagine it; you have yourself formed the same resolution ; you are determined this summer to tie the broken thread of your studies and literary amusements.
If you have been so happy as to execute your purpose
, you are almost in the
Copy in R.S.E. The original is in possession of Colonel Mure.
same state as myself, and are at present wandering along the banks of the same beautiful river, perhaps with the same books in your hand, a Racine, I suppose, or a Virgil, and despise all other pleasure and amusement. Alas! why am I not so near you, that I could see you for half an hour a day, and confer with you on these subjects ?
But this ejaculation, methinks, does not lead me directly in my purposed road, of forgetting you. It is a short digression, which is soon over: and that I may return to the right path, I shall give you some account of the state of the court; I mean the exterior face of it; for I know no more; and if I did, I am become so great a politician, that nothing should make me reveal it. The king divides his evenings every week after the following manner: one he gives to the public, when he sups at the grand convent;' two he passes with his own family; two in a society of men ; and, to make himself amends, two he passes with ladies, Madame de Grammont, usually, Madame de Mirepoix, and Madame de Beauveau. This last princess passed three evenings in this manner at the Hermitage immediately before her departure, which was on Monday last. I think her absence a great loss to that society; I am so presumptuous as to think it one to myself. I found her as obliging and as friendly as if she had never conversed with kings, and never were a politician. I really doubt much of her talent for politics. Pray what is your opinion? Is she qualified, otherwise than by having great sense and an agreeable conversation, to make progress in the road to favour? and are not these qualities rather an encumbrance to her? I have met her once or twice, with another lady, in whose favour I am much prepossessed; she seems agreeable, well behaved, judicious, a great reader; speaks as if she had sentiment, and was superior to the vulgar train of amusements. I should have been willing, notwithstanding my present love of solitude, to have cultivated an acquaintance with her, but she did not say any thing so obliging to me as to give me encouragement. Would you conjecture that I mean the Countess of Tessé ? I know not whether you are acquainted with that lady. But I shall
Perhaps an error in transcribing au grand couvert?
never have done with this idle train of conversation; and therefore, to cut things short, I kiss your hands most humbly and devoutly, and bid you adieu.'
The French and English Society of Hume’s day - Reasons of his warm
reception in France - Society in which he moved — Mixture of lettered men with the Aristocracy - Madame Geofrin Madame Du Page de Boccage — Madame Du Deffand - Mademoiselle De L'Espinasse D'Alembert - Turgot — The Prince of Conti — Notices of Hume among the Parisians - Walpole in Paris - Resumption of the Correspondence Hume undertakes the management of Elliot's sons — Reminiscences of home — Mrs. Cockburn — Adam Smith - · Madame De Boufflers and the Prince of Conti — Correspondence with Lord Elibank.
THERE were many things to make the social position he obtained in France infinitely gratifying to Hume. Even his good birth was no claim to admission on a position of liberal familiarity with the higher aristocracy of England. His descent from a line of Scottish lairds would be insufficient in the eyes of the Walpoles, Russels, and Seymours, to distinguish him from the common herd of men who could put on a laced waistcoat and powdered wig, and command decent treatment from the lackeys in their antechambers. His claims rested on his Literary rank; and the extent to which such claims might be admitted was fixed by Hereditary rank at its own discretion. It might cordially receive them one day, and repel them with cold disdain on another. In this doubtful
Private Correspondence, p. 83-85.