in the postscript to this first letter she invites him to Paris. Hume's replies to these letters are those of a man greatly gratified; but the correspondence soon languishes, and would probably have died away after the first expression of mutual admiration, if it were not that she became interested for Rousseau, and wrote to Hume about him at the same period that he was pressed on Hume's notice by another friend—the exiled Earl Marischal of Scotland, who was banished for the rebellion of 1715, and was then governor of Neufchâtel. In 1715, he must have been a mere boy; and when he wrote to Hume he had become a foreigner to such an extent as to find a disficulty in writing English. He was a singularly good-natured man, and he thought to have served both Hume and Rousseau by promoting the unfortunate acquaintance which was probably the most vexatious circumstance in all Hume's life. But to dwell on Rousseau now would be to anticipate. Hume arrived in France on the 14th of October, 1763. It is scarce surprising that he was received with great distinction. Of English literature, the French at the time absolutely knew nothing, except through the representations of Voltaire. Shakspeare, judged of by their canons of criticism, was a barbarian of some genius, considering his age and country. Milton was something, but not much better. In the literature of England, however, there was much of promise. The only admirable things that had been done were by Addison, whose drama of Cato atoned, by its studious regularity, for the insults offered by Shakspeare to all true taste, and whose Campaign was, in spite of its subject, recognized as a great national epic. Addison's rank in society was one of the reasons why his literary claims were freely admitted; and this same feeling now operated favorably for Hume. That a great philosopher should have been born in Edinburgh, an obscure town, the name of which no one in Paris could pronounce or spell, was itself little short of a miracle. That such a man should, in their own walk, be able to take the lead of the Voltaires and Diderots, enhanced the wonder; and that he should appear in the best society as an equal, and not resting on any doubtful claims of literary merit—claims which might be as capriciously denied as admit: ted—was one of those things that could not often occur, and its occurrence was therefore the more readily greeted. Previ

ous even to Hume's arrival in France, he had received several letters describing the actual adoration with which he seemed to be regarded by that strange people. Lord Elibank writes to him (May 11, 1763): “No author ever yet attained to that degree of reputation in his own lifetime that you are now in possession of at Paris.” In a letter srom Andrew Stuart to Sir William Johnstone (16th December, 1762), he says:—

“Tell Hume he is so much worshipped here, that he must be void of all passions, if he does not immediately take post for Paris. In most houses where 1 am acquainted here, one of the first questions is, do you know Monsieur Hume, whom we all admire so much I dined yesterday at Helvetius’s, where this same Monsieur Hume interrupted our conversation very much.”

In a letter to Smith, Hume himself describes the honors he had received:—

“MY DEAR SM1th–I have been three days at Paris, and two at Fontainbleau, and have every where met with the most extraordinary honors, which the most exorbitant vanity could wish or desire. The compliments of dukes and marischals of France, and soreign ambassadors, go for nothing with me at resent. I retain a relish for no kind of flattery ut that which comes from the ladies. All the courtiers, who stood around when I was introduced to Madame de Pompadour, assured me that she was never heard to say so much to any man; and her brother, to whom she introduced me, .* ... But I forget already that I am to scorn all the civilities of men. However, even Madame Pompadour's civilities were, if possible, exceeded by those of the Duchesse de Choiseul, the wife of the favorite and prime minister, and one of the ladies of the most distinguished merit in France. Not contented with the many obliging things she said to me on my first introduction, she sent to call me from the other end of the room, in order to repeat them, and to enter into a short conversation with me; and not contented with that, she sent the Danish ambassador after me, to assure me that what she said was not from politeness, but that she seriously desired to be in friendship 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 3. imagine it 7) 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 savor; 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 few years ago at Edinburgh, who now receive me with such applauses at Paris.”

* Some words obliterated.

Hume's income was considerably increased by a pension procured for him by the interest of Lord Hertford; and the hope of becoming secretary to the embassy added to his comforts, as it gave the near expectation of a thousand a year additional, and—

“Puts me,” he says to Ferguson, “on the road to all the great foreign enjoyments. Yet I am sensible that I set out too late, and that I am misplaced ; and I wish, twice or thrice a day, for my easy-chair and my retreat in James's Court. Never think, dear Ferguson, that as long as you are master of your own fireside and your own time, you can be unhappy, or that any other circumstance can make an addition to your enjoyment.” . . . “I know nothing that is necessary to happiness but cordiality, and the talent of finding diversion in all places. I remember, some where, a man's being told that he was too nice, because he could not dine on a ragout, and must have cold mutton.”

In a letter to Robertson, Hume, who appears to have been always occupied in kindnesses to his friends, tells him of a translator or translatrix, a Madame Belot, who had done his “House of Tudor,” and was ready to do Robertson's or any other man's work. Hume praises her handicraft, but Grimm tells us of some strange blunders. Hume alludes somewhere to the Polish aristocracy, and Madame renders this “une aristocratie polie.” Poor thing ! Mr.

* A word or two obliterated.

Burton quotes a sentence from a French journal which tells of her in a year or two aster, when she was living with the President Mesnieres, in a relation which, though not that of marriage, seems to have been recognized as one not utterly humbling. The president's taste is, however, called in question for his choice as “Cette dame est peu jeune ; elle est laide, seche et d'un esprit triste et mélancolique.”

“Do you ask me,” adds Hume, in the letter which mentions Madame Belot, “about my course of life? I can only say, that I eat nothing but ambrosia, drink nothing but nectar, breathe nothing but incense, and tread on nothing but flowers | Every man I meet, and, still more, every lady, o think they were wanting in the most indispensable duty, if they did not make a long and elaborate harangue in my praise. What happened last week, when I had the honor of being presented to the D–n's children, at Versailles, is one of the most curious scenes I have ever yet passed through. The Duc de Berry, the eldest, a boy of ten years old, stepped forth, and told me how many friends and admirers l had in this country, and that he reckoned himself in the number, from the pleasure he had received from the reading of many passages in my works. When he had finished, his brother, the Count de P. [Provence, afterwards Louis XVIII.,] who is two years younger, be: gan his discourse, and informed me that I had been long and impatiently expected in France; and that he himself expected soon to have great satisfaction from the reading of my fine history. But what is more curious; when I was carried thence to the Count D’A. [D'Artois, afterwards Charles X.,] who is but four years of age, I heard him mimble something which, though he had forgot in the way, I conjectured, from some scattered words, to have been also a panegyric dictated to him. Nothing could more surprise my friends, the Parisian philosophers, than this incident. It is conjectured that this honor was paid me by express orders from the D., who, indeed, is not on any occasion sparing in my praise.

“All this attention and panegyric was at first oppressive to me; but now it sits more easy. I have recovered, in some measure, the use of the language, and am falling into friendships which are very agreeable ; much more so than silly, distant admiration. They now begin to banter me, and tell droll stories of me, which they have either observed themselves, or have heard from others; so that you see I am beginning to be at home.”

It is not surprising that Hume loved Paris. In a letter to Blair he tells of a masquerade to which he went with Lord Hertford :

“We went both unmasked ; and we had scarce entered the room when a lady, in mask, came up to me and exclaimed:—‘Ha / Monsieur Hume, vous faites bien de venir ici a risage découvert. Que vous serez bien comblé ce soir d'honnétetés et de politesses 1 Vous rerrez, par des preuves pent équiroques, jusqu’à quel oint vous étes chéri en France.’ This proogue was not a little encouraging ; but, as we advanced through the hall, it is difficult to imagine the caresses, civilities, and panegyrics which poured on me from all sides. You would have thought that every one had taken advantage of his mask to speak his mind with impunity. I could observe that the ladies were rather the most liberal on this occasion. But what gave me chief pleasure was to find that most of the eulogiums bestowed on me, turned on personal character, my naivéte, and simplicity of manners, the candor and mildness of my disposition, &c.—Non sunt mihi cornea fibra. I shall not deny that my heart felt a sensible satisfaction from this general ef. fusion of good will ; and Lord Hertford was much pleased, and even surprised, though he said, he thought that he had known before upon what footing I had stood with the good company of Paris.” There is an amusing chapter in Mr. Burton's book on the society of Paris, at the time of Hume's visit, but no attempt to describe that society has been perfectly successful. It can only approach to be felt after continued study of the thousand me. moirs of the day. The books from which we can learn most of it, and all we can learn is very imperfect, are, Grimm, Marmontel, and Madame du Deffand, and, in her way, Madame de Genlis. The mystery of fashion is impenetrable. Madame du Geoffrin, the star described as of most splendor in the Parisian heaven, had no claim of rank; she was the daughter of a valet de chambre, and the widow of a manufacturer; she brought round her artists, and authors, and celebrities of all kinds; D'Alembert, Helvetius, Marmontel, and Raynal were sure to be met with her on her public days, and Rousseau, when at rare intervals he ventured from his solitude. Her manners were natural and goodnatured; she believed, and acted on the belief, that if it were not for the rich, the poor could not live at all; and she patronized all manner of artists and artisans. At her parties, politics were carefully and even anxiously excluded. In spite of her patronage of the philosophers, she was suspected by them of some concealed religion—“Elle avait un apartement dans un couvent de religieuses et une tribune a l'Eglise des Capucins—mais avec autant de

mystère que les femmes galantes de ce temps-lä avaient des petites maisons.” Madame de Bocage did what she could to rival Madame Geoffrin, but failed; she was rich—she was beautiful, or was said to be so—her rank was unimpeachable, but she had one fault, and that was fatal—she wrote poetry; the Columbiade and the Amazones are, or were, epics, and the guests who appeared at her parties feared to be examined in them, and had not courage to submit to the test. Madame du Deffand declared war against Hume from the first. He went to Madame De Boufflers' parties, and she was jealous, as this was treason to her. There is a letter of her's to Walpole, from which a sentence is worth transcribing; it is lively, and will give some notion of the heartlessness, as well as the wit of these strange people.

“Vous me suites un grand plaisir de m'apprendre que David Hume, va en Ecosse ; je suis bien aise que vous ne soyez plus à portee de le voir, et moi ravie de l'assurance de ne le revoir jamais. Wous me demanderez ce qu'il m'a fait? Il m'a deplu. Haissant les idoles je déteste leurs prétres et leurs adorateurs. Pour d'idoles, vous n'en verrez pas chez moi; vous y pourrez voir quelquefois de leurs adorateurs, mais qui sont plus hypocrites que devots; leur culte est exterieur ; les pratiques, les cérémonies de cette religion sont des soupers, des musiques, des operas, des comedies, &c.”

With Madame du Deffand's circle Hume's relations became those of active hostility—the hostility being all on the lady's side—in consequence of her quarrel with Mademoiselle De L'Espinasse. Mademoiselle was young, and was a sort of companion, it would seem, to Madame, who was blind, and read with her young friend's eyes. The young friend soon discovered she had a soul of her own, and Madame du Deffand's guests came an hour earlier than the time fixed for her parties, to enjoy the society of Mademoiselle, who was exceedingly lively; a good deal pockmarked, however; and whose charms were most successful in the twilight. At six o'clock in the evening, madame entered her apartments one day, and found that mademoiselle had been all the time engaged in conversation, high and deep, with D'Alembert and others of the philosophers— this was treason, and Mademciselle was banished.

Her exile was a triumph. Mademoiselle set up for herself—won philosophers, and artists, and poets, as many as she could, away from their allegiance to that elder throne. Her friends supplied her with a house and appurtenances of all kinds, and a pension from the king was obtained for her. D'Alembert visited her—the blind old lady soon learned the astounding fact, and the philosopher had to choose between madame and mademoiselle. He paid the compliment to youth, if not to beauty, and he had his reward. Not long after his secession, he became dangerously ill, and mademoiselle nursed him. D'Alembert was removed to her house, and whatever was her love for the philosopher, her peace of mind was disturbed by the jealousies of some for whom she was supposed to entertain feelings of a warmer nature. She died early; and vexation occasioned by his connexion with her, broke the spirit and probably hastened the death of D'Alembert. With D'Alembert and with Turgot, Hume had relations of more intimate friendship than with any others of the distinguished natives of France, in whose company he then lived. D'Alembert is mentioned with kindliness in his will. We have mentioned that Hume's opinions on the mechanism of the human mind, and of the evidence of our individual consciousness being insufficient to prove the actual existence of an external world—did not affect his habitual belief or conduct. He was in every thing favorably distinguished from the philosophical society, among whom he found himself in Paris. Romilly has preserved a conversation of Diderot's, who said to him—“Je vous dirai un trait de Hume, mais il vous sera un peu scandaleux peut etre car vous Anglais vous croyez un peu en Dieu ; pour nous autres nous n'y croyons gueres. Hume dina avec une grande compagnie chez le Baron d'Holbach. Il etait assis a coté du Baron ; on parla de la religion naturelle. Pour les Athées, disait Hume, je ne crois pas qu'il en existe; je n'en ai jamais vu. Wous avez été un peu malheureux repondit l'autre, vous voici à table avec dix-sept pour la premiere sois.” Mr. Burton gives us one or two of the letters of invitation to Hume, to French parties—one is amusing:—“M. L'Abbé Georgel fait un million de compliments a M. Hume. He makes great account of his works—admires her wit, and loves her person.” We fancy it would take some time to persuade Monsieur L’Abbé, that this was not very good English. Hume's pense!” “No lady's toilet was complete with. out Hume's attendance. At the opera his broad unmeaning face was usually seen entre deus jolis minois. The ladies in France give the ton, and the ton was deism ; a species of

interest was solicited in the disposal of church patronage. He is requested by Madame Helvetius, to procure an abbaye for her friend M. Macdonalt, “ of an illustrious Irish family;” and is told by another lady,

making a similar request, that the clergy will

feel more pleasure in obliging him, than in

performing the duties of their office. Lord

Charlemont again met Hume on this visit

to Paris—and again gives us an account of him. The passage is well worth looking

at by those who have an opportunity, in

Hardy’s “Life of Lord Charlemont.” Its

substance is, we believe, given by Mr. Burton, but broken into such fractions, as best fit it with the respective parts of his work.

Its effect is in this way lessened—Lord

Charlemont's narrative was written a considerable time after this meeting with Hume in Paris; and he speaks also of intercourse with him in London. On the whole, his recollections are favorable to Hume. Hume was, it would appear, in the habit of showing him his essays, as he was preparing them for the press, and was asked by Lord Charlemont whether he did not think the diffusion of his views on the subject of religio nwould not diminish the happiness of mankind, and whether he did not think the curb of religion a necessary restraint. Hume's answer was—“The objections are not without weight, but error can never produce good, and truth ought to take place of all considerations.”

“One day,” says Charlemout, “that he visited me in London, he came into my room laughing, ‘What has put you into this good humor, Hume 7’—“Why, man, I have just heard the best thing said to me I ever heard. I was complaining that I had written many volumes throughout which there were but few pages that contained any reprehensible matter, and yet, for those few pages, I was abused and torn to pieces. “You put me in mind,” said an honest fellow in the company, whose name I do not know, ‘of a notary public, who, having been condemned to be hanged for forgery, lamented the hardship of his case, that having written many thousand inoffensive sheets, he should be hanged for one line.”

[merged small][ocr errors]

hilosophy ill suited to the softer sex, in whose §. frame weakness is interesting, and timidity a charm. But the women in France were deists, as with us they were charioteers. The tenets of the new philosophy were d portée de tout le monde, and the perusal of a wanton novel, such, for example, as Therese Philosophe, was amply sufficient to render any fine gentleman or any fine lady, an accomplished, nay, a learned deist. How my friend Hume was able to endure the encounter of these French female Titans I know not. In England, either his philosophic pride, or his conviction that infidelity was ill-suited to women, made him persectly averse from the initiation of ladies into the mysteries of his doctrine. I never saw him so much displeased, or so much disconcerted, as by the petulance of Mrs. Mallet, the conceited wife of Bolingbroke's editor. This lady, who was not acquainted with Hume, meeting him one night at an assembly, boldly accosted him in these words: ‘Mr. Hume, give me leave to introduce myself to you ; we deists ought to know each other.’ ‘Madame,’ replied he, ‘I am no deist. I do not style myself so, neither do I desire to be known by that appellation.’”—Hardy's Life of Charlemont. Vol I. p. 235.

Grimm's account is more lively; but the statement is in substance the same :

“Ce qu'il y a encore de plaisant, c'est que toutes les jolies femmes se le sont arraché, et que le gros philosophe Ecossais sest plu dans leur société. C'est un excellent homme, que David Hume ; il est naturellement serein, il entend finement, il dit quelquefois avac sel, quoiqu’il parle peu; mais il est lourd, il n'a ni chaleur, ni grâce, ni agrément dans l'esprit, ni rien qui soit propre à s'allier au ramage de ces charmantes petites machines qu'on appelle jolies femmes. O que nous somines un drôle de peuple!”

Madame D'Epinay is still more amusing:—

“Le célèbre David Hume, grand et gros historiographe d’Angleterre, connu et estimé parses écrits, n'a pas autant de talens pour ce genre d'amusemens auquel toutes nos jolies femmes l’avoient décidé propre. Il fit son début chez Madame de T–– ; on lui avoit destiné le rôle d’un Sultan assis entre deux esclaves, employant toute son eloquence pour s'en faire aimer; les trouvant inexorables, is devoit chercher le sujet de leurs peines, et de leur résistance: on le place sur in sopha entre les deux plus jolies femmes de Paris, illes regarde attentivement, il se frappe le ventre et les genoux à plusieurs reprises, et ne trouve

jamais autre chose à leur dire que: ‘Eh bien / mes demoiselles... Eh bien / vous voild donc. Eh bien / vous voilà...rous voilà ici ?” Cette phrase dura un quart d'heure, sans qu'il pút en sortir, une d'elles se leva d' impatience: Ah! dit elle, je m'en etois bien doutée, cet homme n'est bon qu'à manger du veau ! Depuis ce temps il est relegué au rôle de spectateur, et n'en est pas moins fété et ... C'est en vérité une chose plaisante que le rôle qu'il joue ici; malheureusement pour lui ou plutót pour la dignité philosophique, car, pour lui, il paroit s'accommoder fort de ce train de vie; il n’y avoit aucune manie dominante dans ce pays lorsqu'il y est arrivé; on l’a regardé comme une trouvaille dans cette circonstance, et l'effervescence de nos jeunes tétes s'est tourné de son cóté. Toutes les jolies femmes s'en sont emparées; ill est de tous les soupers fins, et il n'est point de bonne sete sans sui.” —Memoires et Correspondance de Madame D'Epinay, Vol. iii. p. 284.”

Hume's popularity was such as to have provoked Walpole into more than his usual waspishness. In one letter he describes him as treated “with public veneration.” In another, he speaks of the tone of conversation in Paris, as “solemn, pedantic, and seldom animated but by a dispute. Mr. Hume, who very gratefully admires the tone of Paris, having never known any other tone, said, with great surprise—“Why, what do you like, if you hate both disputes and whist " " To another correspondent, he says that “laughing is out of fashion at Paris. They have no time to laugh.There is God and the king to be pulled down first, and men and women, one and all, are devoutly employed in demolition. . . Mr. Hume is the only thing in the world which they believe implicitly, which they nust do, for I defy them to understand any language that he speaks.”

This was in 1765–In the next year marvellous was the change in Horace's tone. Rousseau, the vainest and the maddest of men, every now and then appeared in the salons of Paris, in his Armenian dress, complaining of kings and people. He was in that early stage of insanity in which the sufferer, viewing every thing around him in reference. to himself alone, weaves all into evidence of conspiracy. The case is so common that we believe it is one of the most ordinary incidents of insanity; in fact a regular stage in the disease. This was the hour for Walpole, and a play of small wit was directed against the savage philosopher. A letter with the name of the King of Prussia, inviting the persecuted Jean Jacques to his court, to live as a bro

« VorigeDoorgaan »