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cy of a tailzie to the settlement of which the wide principles so announced were applied " “So much for blarney—now for business!” said Lord Byron, and we think it not impossible that it was the union of blarney and business that disgusted Hume. The passion for literary distinction, however, early awoke, and he appears to have wisely resolved on not giving a divided allegiance to the most repulsive of the Black Graces. Among the letters of Hume, for the first time published, is one of exceeding length, which it would appear was written to an eminent physician consulting him on a state of health and spirits very minutely described. He describes himself as pursuing, after the age of fifteen, a very desultory course of study—books of reasoning and philosophy, poetry and the polite authors. “Every one,” he says, “who is acquainted with the philosophers or critics knows that there is nothing yet established in either of those two sciences, and that they contain little more than endless disputes, even in the most fundamental articles.” He tells of the nausea with which he regarded law, and of a fit of laziness which prevented any study of any kind for some months. Some feelings of anxiety followed about his circumstances which looked very blue, but “he took a dose of logic to compose him,” and read the philosophers again.
“In this condition I remained for nine months, very uneasy to myself, as you may well imagine, but without growing any worse, which was a miracle. There was another particular which contributed, more than any thing, to waste my spirits and bring on me this distemper, which was, that having read many books of morality, such as Cicero, Seneca, and Plutarch, and being smit with their beautiful representation of virtue and philosophy, I undertook the improvement of my temper and will, along with my reason and understanding. I was continually sortifying myself with reflections against death, and poverty, and shame, and pain, and all the other calamities of life. These no doubt are exceedingly useful, when joined to an active life, because the occasion being presented along with the reflection, works it into the soul, and makes it take a deep impression ; but in solitude they serve to little other purpose than to waste the spirits, the force of the mind meeting with no resistance, but wasting itself in the air, like our arm when it misses its aim. This, however, I did not learn but by experience, and till I had already ruined my health, though I was not sensible of it. Some scurvy spots broke out on my fingers the first winter
I fell ill, about which I consulted a very knowing physician, who gave me some medicine that removed these symptoms, and at the same time gave me a warning against the vapors which, though I was laboring under at that time, I sancied myself so far removed from, and indeed from any other disease, except a slight scurvy, 'no.' ... his warning. At last, about April, 1730, when I was nineteen years of age, a ..". which I had noticed a little from the beginning, increased considerably; so that, though it was no uneasiness, the novelty of it made me ask advice ; it was what they call a ptyalism or wateryness in the mouth. Upon my mentioning it to my physician, he laughed at me, and told me I was now a brother, for that I had fairly got the disease of the learned. Of this he sound great difficulty to persuade me, finding in myself nothing of that lowness of spirit which those who labor under that distemper so much complain of. However, upon his advice I went under a course of bitters, and antihysteric pills, drank an English pint of claret wine every day, and rode eight or ten Scotch miles. his I continued for about seven months after.”—pp. 32, 33.
The letter continues with an account of symptoms which seem exceedingly like those of perfect health. He gets fat, walks sixteen miles a day, has put together the materials of many volumes, but is not satisfied with any words which present themselves. The letter is in Hume's handwriting, and does not appear to have been ever sent. It is scarcely of the value that Mr. Burton ascribes to it; and is most remarkable for the exhibition of a turn of mind perceptible, we think, in all Hume's writings, of at the same moment seeking to pursue two inconsistent trains of thought —calling on his physician to treat him as a man in perfect health and in the deepest disease—making this, in short, like every other subject, rather a sort of play of the intellect than the serious inquiry of a person really alarmed for his health. This view of the matter is not rendered less probable by the fact that there is no evidence of the statement having been sent to any physician; and, indeed, we cannot but think the evidence on which Mr. Burton thinks it probable that it was meant to be sent to Dr. Cheyne, is very slight. It occurred to Mr. Burton when he first read the letter, that it was for “Arbuthnot, whose fine genius was just then flickering in the socket,” the case was intended. Further consideration made Mr. Burton think that Cheyne was the favored correspondent. This notion arises from the circumstance
that Cheyne was a Scotsman—that in one of his books is an account of the case of a Scottish gentleman resident in Hume's neighborhood, which accident might direct Hume's attention to the book, and make him wish for Cheyne's advice. Internal evidence fixes Hume's letter to about the year 1734; and Mr. Burton looked over a book of Cheyne's—“Natural Method of curing Diseases of the Body and the Mind,” published in 1742—in some hopes of finding Hume's case mentioned in it. Nothing is said of it there. We think it almost certain that Hume's letter was never sent, and we are far from sure that the history of the symptoms of a dyspeptic patient is not a romance drawn up with little more regard to actual fact than his essays describing “The Stoic, or the Man of Action and Virtue’—“The Epicurean, or the Man of Elegance and Pleasure"—and so on. This, perhaps, had he published it, would have been called “The Valetudinarian, or the Man who cannot live without a Physician.” If Hume's was more than a passing fear of ill-health, or a student's whimsical essay on an imaginary state of facts, he fortunately was too poor to indulge himself in the luxury of medical advice. He could not afford to be sick. His means were, however, too slender to have him live without making an effort for their improvement; and he made a feeble trial of mercantile life. In 1734, he went to Bristol, with some introductions to eminent merchants ; but after a few months he retired to France, determining “to make frugality supply the deficiency of fortune, to maintain unimpaired his independency, and to regard every object as contemptible, except the improvement of his talents in literature.” He returned from France in 1737, and in 1738 published his first work —“The Treatise on Human Nature.” Hume describes the work as having fallen dead-born from the press. This was not exactly the case. The screams of the infant were heard by some of the reviewers of that day, and it was dealt with severely in a publication still to be found in the dust and lumber of old libraries, called “ The Works of the Learned.” Nothing is so likely to try the temper of a philosopher as reading a review ; and we advise any men who have Celtic blood in their veins never to read what we may say of their works—not that we think our honored publisher in as much danger from the excited feelings of any redhaired brother whom we may think it ne
cessary to sacrifice according to the most approved rites of our infernal magic," as poor Jacob Robinson was, when one of his tribe dealt with David, on his return home after his sojourn in partibus infidelium, with his little pack of prohibited and plague tainted goods, consisting, for the most part, of old clothes from the shop of Benedict Spinoza—(“I be the Jew that uses the Christians well”)—looking as good as new, and with trimmings and tinsel of the most approved patterns from the manufactory of Bayle and Co. The philosopher rushed in anger to the bookseller's. The bookseller thought he had an irresistible case. “No one, sir, but the old gentleman who wrote it, will ever read that article. I am sure I won't. I'd advise you, sir, not to say a word about it.” All would not do. “He kept poor Jacob Robinson, in the paroxysm of his anger, at his sword's point, trembling behind the counter lest a period should be put to the life of a sober critic by a raving philosopher.f Hume was not often thus discomposed. He sought an introduction to Butler; but a letter which Kames gave him he had no opportunity of presenting till after Butler had become a bishop, and then he shrunk from giving it. We regret that they did not meet.f. He wished to have Butler's opinion of his book, “My own I dare not trust to; it is so variable, I know not how to fix it. Sometimes it elevates me above the clouds —at other times it depresses me with doubts and fears; so that whatever be my success, I cannot be entirely disappointed.” Some allowance is to be made for the formal courtesy of the period in fixing the value of the language used in Hume's correspondence. Robertson and others have been unfairly judged by those who have not taken this into consideration. This phraseology never misled the persons to whom it was used; and to us it does not appear, that, in any fair interpretation of a gentleman's conduct in the daily intercourse of life, this gives the slightest ground for the charge of infidelity, which has been daringly ascribed to the moderate party among the Edinburgh clergy of the period. Nothing whatever can be gained to the cause of truth by shutting out discussion, and that it should be carried on with the utmost courtesy secures not alone due attention to the statements of an antagonist, but the more important advantage of our own views being put forward without the disturbing influences of passion, or the temptation of appealing to any other test than that of pure intellect employed on its appropriate subjects. The temper in which Hume received from Dr. Blair Campbell's “Dissertation on Miracles,” is highly creditable to him.
* See “The Sacrifice of the Red-haired Christian,” in the first edition of Thalaba.
f Dr. Kenrick. London Revieur, vol. v. p. 200. Anno. 1777.
# That Hume was not without some distrust of that part of his speculations which relates to miracles, is exceedingly probable. Just before the publication of his book on Human Nature, he writes to Lord Kames :-‘‘ I enclose some reasonings concerning miracles which I once thought of publishing with the rest, but which I am afraid will give too much offence, even as the world is disposed at present. . . . . 1 beg of you to show it to nobody, except Mr. Hamilton, if he pleases, and let me know at your leisure that you ave received it, read it, and burnt it. Your thoughts and mine agree with respect to Dr. Butler, and I would be glad to be introduced to him. I am at present mutilating my work—that i., cutting off its nobler parts—that is, endeavoring it shall give as little offence as possible, before which I could not prete d to put it into the doctor's hands. This is a piece of cowardice for which I blame myself, though I believe none of my friends will blame me. I was resolved not to be an enthusiast in philosophy while I was blaming other, philosophers' enthusiasms ”. Surely this looks like a feeling that on the subject of miracles his doctrine was unsound. He modifies the other parts of his work so as to fit them for Butler's eye ; but he omits altogether the Essay on Miracles. That essay, as afterwards published, contained nothing in the argumentative part so stated, as that it might not be shown to Butler. Hume's argument is by anticipation answered in the Analogy, or, at least, the elements of an answer are given. It is a poor pretence to say the suppression arose from courtesy to Dr. Butler. The only thing likely to offend him or any right judging person is the paltry subterfuge with which the essay closes, in which he affects to patronize Christianity. The mean sneers and the tricks of ambiguous language —suggesting in sarcastic allusion what the writer will not say in direct words—a style borrowed from the French, and in Hume's case wholly unrelieved by any thing like wit—are, indeed, plague spots. The single excuse for this style was the state of the laws in most countries in Europe, and certainly in Scotland, which made such publications liable to prosecution. There can be no reasonable doubt, we think, that all subjects should be open to the sreest discussion. And this we believe, on a fair interpretation of decided cases, to be the law of England : but all doubt on a subject of such moment should be removed. In our notion of the law, (in which, however, we differ from a writer who, under the name of Joh N SEARCH, brought the subject some years ago before the public, with arguments of great force,) any real danger of a successful prosecution in England would arise from a jury regarding those passages of mock reverence as an intended insult. This would bring the case within another principle.
We quote it in connection with his “Treatise on Human Nature,” because it incidentally tells us something of the origin of that work. He writes to Campbell—
“It may perhaps amuse you to learn the first hint which suggested to me that argument which you have so strenuously attacked. I was walking in the cloisters of the Jesuit's College of La Flèche, a town in which I passed two years of my youth, and engaged in a conversation with a Jesuit of some parts and learning, who was relating to me, and urging some nonsensical miracle performed lately in their convent, when I was tempted to dispute against him ; and as my head was full of the topics of my Treatise of Human Nature, which I was at that time composing, this argument immediately occurred to me, and I thought it very much gravelled my companion; but at last he observed to me, that it was impossible for that argument to have any solidity, because it operated equally against the Gospel as the Catholic miracles;—which observation I thought proper to admit as a sufficient answer. I believe you will allow, that the freedom at least of this reasoning makes it somewhat extraordinary to have been the produce of a convent of Jesuits, though perhaps you may think the sophistry of it savors plainly of the place of its birth.
“This same Jesuit's College of La Flèche,” adds Mr. Burton, “is familiar to the philosophical reader as the seminary in which Des Cartes was educated. The place which Hume had just left, has been seen to be associated with the birth and residence of a distinguished opponent of the Cartesian theory. We now find him persecting his work in that academic solitude, where Des Cartes himself was educated, and where he formed his theory of commencing with the doubt of previous dogmatic opinions, and framing for himself a new fabric of belief. The coincidence is surely worthy of reflective association, and it is perhaps not the least striking instance of Hume's unimaginative nature, that in none of his works, printed or manuscript, do we find an allusion to the circumstance, that while framing his own theories, he trod the same pavement that had upwards of a century earlier borne the weight of one whose same and influence on human thought was so much of the same character as he himself panted to attain.”
The booksellers were better able to pay for metaphysics in the days of David Hume than they have been since. If it be regarded as literally true that the Treatise on Human Nature fell dead-born, we do not well see how John Noone, Hume's ill-starred publisher, was to get the fifty pounds which he paid David for the first edition, not to exceed a thousand copies. The author was, in addition, to receive twelve bound copies of the book, a number more than sufficient to supply the whole demand. The book
consisted of two volumes, and included
Book the first, “ of the Understanding;” Book the second, “of the Passions;” to which was afterwards added a third volume, containing Book the third, “ of Virtue and Vice in general.” This publication, re-cast several times during Hume's life, contains the germ of all his writings on subjects of metaphysics or morals. The system of Hume is in its principles identical with that of Locke and Berkeley, and it is in its application to subjects with which it is in reality unconnected—and from such application Hume did not abstain —that the charge of sophistry can be fairly made against it. The understanding, to use the language of this school, can have no ideas—certainly can communicate none— which are not ultimately referable to sensation. This has, we think, been demonstrated by Locke; but this surely is nothing more than to examine the structure of what may be called the material mind: and to affirm from such analysis any thing whatever of its faculties in exercise—of its power, or of its want of power—would be as idle as to examine the dust of the earth for the purpose of denying that of it man's body could have been framed, or to use the anatomist's knife to find the residence of the vital principle. Did even the intellect constitute man's whole inward being, and were the understanding the seat of the affections and the moral nature—which Hume did not assert, and which we believe to be untrue— we think absolutely nothing in the slightest degree favorable to infidelity could be deduced from such concession: and some mischief has arisen from what we regard as the very common mistake, that in his philosophical principles is to be found the root of Hume's unbelief. We have little doubt that the true history of his state of mind on such subjects arose chiefly from the universal profligacy of the society in which he lived when in France, and in London too, where, we must remark, “religion was at the time set up as a principal object of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisal, for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.” To determine the boundaries of the human faculties was with Hume, as with more successful investigators, the object of inquiry; and we think he differs from other inquirers rather in the form in
Butler's Preface to Analogy.
which his propositions—varied in every successive edition of his essays—are stated, than essentially. Even in that boldest of all his views—the statement that we but learn the relation of cause and effect by experience, and that experience never shows us more than the facts of antecedence and sequence—when he says that from antecedence and sequence, however constant and even invariable our observation may represent the succession, causation cannot be with certainty inferred, we really see nothing that is not implied in almost every investigation in which a scientific man can be engaged, for Hume cannot be supposed consistently to deny the relation of cause and effect as an idea, when that very idea is what he is examining. In the very strongest possible statement of Hume's theory of this relation being one, not in things themselves, but in our mode of viewing them, and in its utmost consequence, it comes but to this, that without man's perceptions there is no external world to man. Nothing can be more painful than the dull pleasantries of Hume on what he calls superstition; which, however, has no peculiar concern with his argument, for his skepticism would affect it only in common with every thing else—i. e. would not affect it at all; and the wish to get his book into good company, as he would call it, seems to have been among the motives for these passages so interwoven with the context of his work, though not with the argument, that they are quite inseparable from it, and indeed render ambiguous, without considerable attention, much of what he says. It is not at present easy, without a command of the several editions of Hume's writings, to determine in what degree they have been altered, or even which of the essays, as they now are arranged, were contained in a volume which he published in the year 1742, entitled “Essays, Moral and Political,” which had a very considerable sale, and which Hume tells us Butler every where recommended. Hume was a vain man, and never was man possessed so wholly by the demon that suggests literary distinction as the governing motive of a student's life. There is something almost sublime in the sense of desolation and dreariness in which the solitary student who had—fortunately but for a season—by abstruse research, stolen from his own nature all the natural man,” ex
* “And haply by abstruse research to steal From my own nature all the natural man.” Colenid GE.
presses his feelings at the close of the first book of the Treatise on Human Nature:—
“Before I launch out into those immense depths of philosophy which lie before me, I find myself inclined to stop a moment in my present station, and to ponder that voyage which I have undertaken, and which undoubtedly requires the utmost art and industry to be brought to a happy conclusion. Methinks I am like a man, who having struck on many shoals, and having narrowly escaped shipwreck in passing a small frith, has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky, weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe under these disadvantageous circumstances. My memory of past errors makes me diffident for the suture. The wretched condition, weakness, and disorder of the faculties I must employ in my inquiries, increase my apprehensions. And the impossibility of amending or correcting these faculties, reduces me almost to despair, and makes me resolve to perish on the barren rock on which I am at present, rather than venture myself upon that boundless ocean which runs out into immensity. This sudden view of my danger strikes me with melancholy; and as 'tis usual for that passion, above all others, to indulge itself, I cannot forbear feeding my despair with all those desponding reflections, which the present subject furnishes me with in such abundance. I am first affrighted and confounded with that forlorn solitude in which I am placed in my philosophy, and sancy myself some strange uncouth monster, who, not being able to mingle and unite in society, has been expelled all human commerce, and left utterly abandoned and disconsolate. Fain would I run into the crowd for shelter and warmth ; but cannot prevail with myself to mix with such deformity. I call upon others to join me, in order to make a company apart; but no one will hearken to me. Every one keeps at a distance, and dreads that storm which beats upon me from every side. I have exposed mysels to the enmity of all metaphysicians, logicians, mathematicians, and even theologians; and can I wonder at the insults I inust suffer 7 I have declared my disapprobation of their systems; and can I be surprised if they should exress a hatred of mine, and of my person 3 hen I look abroad, I foresee on every side, dispute, contradiction, anger, calumny, and detraction. . When I turn my eye inward, I find nothing but doubt and ignorance. All the world conspires to oppose and contradict me; though such is my weakness, that I feel all my opinions loosen and fall of themselves, when unsupported by the approbation of others. Every step I take is with hesitation; and every new reflection makes me dread an error and absurdity in my reasoning. For, with what confidence can I venture upon such bold enterprises, when, beside those numberless infirmities peculiar to myself. I find so many which are common to human nature ? Can I be sure
that in leaving all established opinions, I am following truth; and by what criterion shall I distinguish her even if sortune should at last guide me on her footsteps? After the most accurate and exact of my reasonings, I can give no reason way I should assent to it; and feel nothing but a strong propensity to consider objects strongly in that view, under which they appear to me.”
A passage that follows is still more melancholy. Let it never be forgotten, however, that Hume is speaking but of the aspect which things assume as the result of the decomposition of our poor intellect in a philosopher's crucible; and that he tells us that “since heaven is incapable of dispelling these clouds, it fortunately happens kind Nature herself suffices for the purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation or lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when, aster three or four hours' amusement I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any further.”
“Experience is a principle which makes us reason from causes and effects; and ’tis the same principle which convinces us of the continued existence of external objects, when absent from the senses. But though these two operations be equally natural and necessary in the human mind, yet in some circumstances they are directly contrary; nor is it possible for us to reason justly and regularly from causes and effects, and at the same time believe the continued existence of matter. How then shall we adjust those principles together? Which of them shall we prefer Or in case we prefer neither of them, but successively assent to both, as is usual among philosophers, with what confidence can we asterwards usurp that glorious title, when we thus knowingly embrace a manifest contradiction ? This contradiction would be more excusable were it compensated by any degree of solidity and satisfaction in the other parts of our reasoning. But the case is quite contrary. When we trace up the human understanding to its first principles, we find it to lead us into such sentiments as seem to turn into ridicule all our past pains and industry, and to discourage us from future inquiries. Nothing is more curiously inquired aster by the mind of man, than the causes of every phenomenon; nor are we content with knowing the immediate causes,