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You have very good cause to be satisfied with the success of your History, as far as it can be judged of from a few weeks' publication. I have not heard of one who does not praise it warmly; and were I to enumerate all those whose suffrages I have either heard in its favour, or been told of, i should fill my letter with a list of names. Mallet told me that he was sure there was no Englishman capable of composing such a work. The town will have it that you was educated at Oxford, thinking it impossible for a mere untravelled Scotsman to produce such language. In short, you may depend on the success of your work, and that your name is known very much to your advantage.
I am diverting myself with the notion how much you will profit by the applause of my enemies in Scotland. Had you and I been such fools as to have given way to jealousy, to have entertained animosity and malignity against each other, and to have rent all our acquaintance into parties, what a noble amusement we should have exhibited to the blockheads, which now they are likely to be disappointed of. All the people whose friendship or judgment either of us value, are friends to both, and will be pleased with the success of both, as we will be with that of each other. I declare to
I have not of a long time had a more sensible pleasure than the good reception of your History has given me within this fortnight.
25th January, 1759. I am nearly printed out, and shall be sure to send you a copy by the stage-coach, or some other conveyance. I beg of you to make remarks as you go along. It would have been much better had we communicated before printing, which was always my desire, and was most suitable to the friendship which always did, and I hope always will, subsist between us.
I speak this chiefly on my own account. For though I had the perusal of your sheets before I printed, I was not able to derive sufficient benefits from them, or indeed to make any alteration by their assistance. There still remain, I fear, many errors, of which you could have convinced
if we had canvassed the matter in conversation. Perhaps I might also have been sometimes no less fortunate VOL. II.
with you. Particularly I could almost undertake to convince you, that the Earl of Murray's conduct with the Duke of Norfolk was no way dishonourable.
Dr. Blair tells me that Prince Edward is reading you, and is charmed. I hear the same of the Princess and Prince of Wales. But what will really give you pleasure, I lent my copy to Elliot during the holidays, who thinks it one of the finest performances he ever read; and though he expected much, he finds more. He remarked, however, (which is also my opinion,) that in the beginning, before your pen was sufficiently accustomed to the historic style, you employed too many digressions and reflections. This was also somewhat my own case, which I have corrected in my new edition.
Millar was proposing to publish me about the middle of March ; but I shall communicate to him your desire, even though I think it entirely groundless, as you will likewise think, after you have read my volume. He has very needlessly delayed your publication till the 1st of February, at the desire of the Edinburgh booksellers, who could no way be affected by a publication in London. I was exceedingly sorry not to be able to comply with your desire, when you expressed your wish that I should not write this period. I could not write downward. For when you find occasion, by new discoveries, to correct your opinion with regard to facts which passed in Queen Elizabeth's days, who, that has not the best opportunities of informing himself, could venture to relate any recent transactions ? I must, therefore, have abandoned altogether this scheme of the English history, in which I had proceeded so far, if I had not acted as I did. You will see what light and force this History of the Tudors bestows on that of the Stuarts. Had I been prudent, I should have begun with it. I care not to boast, but I will venture to say, that I have now effectually stopped the mouths of all those villanous Whigs who railed at me.
You are so kind as to ask me about my coming down. I can yet answer nothing. I have the strangest reluctance to change places. I lived several years happy with my brother at Ninewells; and had not his marriage changed a little the state of the family, I believe I should have lived and died there. I used every expedient to evade this journey to
London; yet it is now uncertain whether I shall ever leave it. I have had some invitations, and some intentions, of taking a trip to Paris ; but I believe it will be safer for me not to go thither, for I might probably settle there for life. No one was ever endowed with so great a portion of the vis inertiae. But as I live here very privately, and avoid as much as possible (and it is easily possible) all connexion with the great, I believe I should be better in Edinburgh.
London, 8th February, 1759. As to the “ Age of Leo the Tenth," it was Warton himself who intended to write it; but he has not wrote it, and probably never will. If I understand your hint, I should conjecture, that you had some thoughts of taking up the subject. But how can you acquire knowledge of the great works of sculpture, architecture, and painting, by which that age was chiefly distinguished? Are you versed in all the anecdotes of the Italian literature? These questions I heard proposed in a company of literati, when I inquired concerning this design of Warton. They applied their remarks to that gentleman, who yet, they say, has travelled. I wish they do not, all of them, fall more fully on you. However, you must not be idle. May I venture to suggest to you the Ancient History, particularly that of Greece? I think Rollin's success might encourage you ; nor need you be in the least intimidated by his merit. That author has no other merit but a certain facility and sweetness of narration; but has loaded his work with silly puerilities.
I forgot to tell you, that two days ago I was in the House of Commons, where an English gentleman came to me, and told me that he had lately sent to a grocer's shop for a pound of raisins, which he received wrapped up in a paper that he showed me.
How would you have turned pale at the sight! It was a leaf of your History, and the very character of Queen Elizabeth, which you had laboured so finely, little thinking it would so soon come to so disgraceful an end. I happened a little after to see Millar, and told him the story; hundred and fifty disposed of here; two hundred sent to London. As the author is my very good friend and acquaintance, I should be much pleased to bring you to an understanding together. If the bad success on the first edition has not discouraged you, I would engage him to make you proposals for that purpose. He will correct all the blemishes remarked. I should not be displeased that you read to Dr. Warburton, the paragraph in the first page of my letter, with regard to himself. The hopes of getting an answer, might probably engage him to give us something farther of the same kind; which, at least, saves you the expense of advertising. I see the doctor likes a literary squabble.
“I would be glad to know, how near you think you are to a new edition of my History, and whether you intend a duodecimo edition of these philosophical pieces. I am,” &c. ?
DAVID HUME to DR. CLEPHANE.
“Edinburgh, 30 Sept. 1757. “ DEAR DOCTOR, I am charmed to find you so punctual a correspondent. I always knew you to be a good friend, though I was afraid that I had lost
you, and that you had joined that great multitude who abused me, and reproached me with Paganism, and Jacobitism, and many other wretched isms, of which I am only guilty of a part.
“I believe a man, when he is once an author, is an author for life; for I am now very busily engaged in writing another volume of history, and have crept backwards to the reign of Henry the Seventh. I wish indeed that I had begun there; for, by that means, I should have been able, without making any digression,
I MS. R.S.E.
by the plain course of the narration, to have shown how absolute the authority was which the English kings then possessed, and that the Stuarts did little or nothing more than continue matters in the former track, which the people were determined no longer to admit. By this means I should have escaped the reproach of the most terrible ism of them all, that of Jacobitism. I shall certainly be in London next summer; and probably to remain there during life; at least, if I can settle myself to my mind, which I beg you to have an eye to. A room in a sober, discreet family, who would not be averse to admit a sober, discreet, virtuous, frugal, regular, quiet, good-natured man of a bad character,—such a room, I say, would suit me extremely, especially if I could take most of my meals in the family; and more especially still, if it was not far distant from Dr. Clephane’s. I shall then be able, dear doctor, to spend £150 a-year, which is the sum upon which, I remember, you formerly undertook me. But I would not have you reckon upon probabilities, as you then called them, for I am resolved to write no more. I shall read and correct, and chat and be idle, the rest of my life.
“I must now make room for Sir Harry, who smiles at the sum at which I have set up my rest. I am,” &c.
Among the officers of the Scottish Royal Regiment who served in the expedition to Port L'Orient, and afterwards continued in terms of familiar acquaintance with Hume, was captain, afterwards Colonel Edmondstoune, of Newton in Perthshire. His letters, which were preserved by Hume, and will occasionally be
1 Scots Magazine for 1802, p. 978.