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On his arrival in London, our author found his health so much improved by exercise and the change of air, that he was able to continue his journey to Bath, where he derived fo much benefit from the waters, that even he himself began to entertain a flight hope of his recovery. But the symptoms returning with their accustomed violence, and his malady increasing, he found it neceffary to fet out for Scotland. His cheerfulness, however, never forsook him. He wrote letters to his literary friends, informing them of his intention to be at Edinburgh on a certain day, and inviting them to dine with him on the day following. It was a kind of farewell dinner, and among those who caine to partake of the hospitality of the dying historian, were Lord Elibank, Dr. Smith, Dr. Blair, Dr. Black, Professor Ferguson, and John Home.
After his return to Edinburgh, Mr. Hume, though extremely debilitated by disease, went abroad at times in a sedan chair, and called on his friends; but his ghastly looks indicated the rapid approach of death. He diverted himself with correcting his works for a new edition, with reading books of amusement, with the conversation of his friends, and sometimes in the evening with a party at his favourite game of whist. His facetiousness led him to indulge occasionally in the bagatelle. Among other verbal legacies, in making which he amused himself, the following whimsical one has been related. The author of Douglas is said to have a mortal aversion to port wine, and to have had fre
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Dr. Smith has recorded an instance of Mr. Hume's sportive difpofition, and it also shews the placidity of his mind, notwithstanding the prospect of speedy diffolution. Colonel Edmondstone came to take leave of him; and on his way home, he could not forbear writing Hume a letter, bidding him once more an eternal adieu, and applying to him the French verses in which the Abbé Chaulieu, in expectation of his own death, laments his approaching separation from his friend the Marquis de la Fare. Dr. Smith happened to enter the room while Mr. Hume was reading the letter ; and in the course of the conversation it gave rise to, Hume expressed the satisfaction he had of leaving his friends, and his brother's family in particular, in prosperous circumstances. This, he said, he felt so sensibly, that when he was reading, a few days before, Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead, he could not, among all the excuses which are alleged to Charon for not entering readily into his boat, find one that fitted him. He had no house to finish; he had no daughter to provide for ; he had no enemies upon whom he wished to revenge himself. “ I could not well imagine,” said he, “what exa
cuse I could make to Charon, in order to obtain a little delay. I have done every thing of consequence which I ever meant to do, and I could at no time expect to leave my relations and friends in a better situation than that in which I am now likely to leave them: I therefore have all reason to die contented.”
He then diverted himself, continues Dr. Smith, with inventing several jocular excuses which he supposed he might make to Charon, and with imagin.' ing the very surly answers which it might suit the character of Charon to return to them. “Upon further consideration,” said he, “ I thought I might fay to him, good Charon, I have been correcting my works for a new edition. Allow me a little time, that I may see how the public receives the alterations.” But Charon would answer, “ When you see the effect of these, you will be for making other alterations. There will be no end of such excuses; so, honest friend, please step into the boat.” But I might still
But I might still urge, “ Have a little patience, good Charon, I have been endeavouring to open
eyes of the public. If I live a few years longer, I may have the fatisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of the prevailing fyftems of superstition.” But Charon would the lose all temper and decency: “ You loitering rogue, that will not happen these many hundred years. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for so long a term? Get into the boat this instant, you lazy loitering rogue.”
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The hour of his departure had now arrived. His decline being gradual, he was, in his last moments, perfectly sensible, and free from pain. He shewed not the slightest indication of impatience or fretfulness, but conversed with the people around him in a tone of mildness and affection; and his whole conduct evinced a happy composure of mind. On Sunday, the 25th of August 1776, about four o'clock in the afternoon, this great and amiable man expired. He was buried in a rocky spot, which he had purchased in the Calton burying ground; and, agreeably to his will, a plain monument was afterwards erected on the place of his interment.
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After Mr. Hume's death, his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion were, according to the direcsons he had left, published under the superintendence of Dr. Adam Smith, and now form part of his collected Essays. Two tracts, ascribed to him, were afterwards published at London; the one on Suicide, and the other on the Immortality of the Soul. These essays, though the mode of writing and of reasoning might induce one to suppose them genuine, have never been acknowledged by his friends, and are believed to be fpurious.
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The private character of Mr. Hume is universally acknowledged to have been unexceptionable: but notwithstanding the culogium he sometimes beftows on the equanimity of his own temper, it is known, that he felt the attacks on his literary reputation with exquisite fenfibility; and although he
persevered in the resolution of writing no answers to his antagonists, except in the single case of the quarrel with Rousseau, he did not always receive the criticisms of others with the apathy he professes. The severe animadversions of Mr. Gray, in his Letters published by Mason, are said to have given him much concern ; and his behaviour to Mr. Tytler, the vindicator of Queen Mary, had something like illiberality in it. Such, indeed, was the antipathy which subsisted between him and the last named gentleman, that they would not sit in company together, and the appearance of the one caused the immediate departure of the other.
There is a vein of sportive humour and a playfulness of fancy in the epistolary correspondence of our author. Dr. Robertson used frequently to say, that in Mr. Hume's gaiety there was fomething which approached to infantine, and that he had found the same thing so often exemplified in the circle of his other friends, that he was almost disposed to consider it as characteristical of genius *. But the best and justest account of Mr. Hume is that given by himself in the conclusion of his biographic narrative, so often alluded to in the course of this work. “ To conclude historically,” says he, “ with my own character, I am, or rather was (for that is the style I must now use in speaking of myself, which emboldens me the more to speak my sentiments,) I
* Professor Stewart's Life of Dr. Robertson ; a work to which I am indebted for several letters by Mr. Hume.