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tise on Human Nature " were published within two years of each other. Hume's essay is forgotten, or holds a doubtsu! place in such books as record the shiftings of opinion on topics of metaphysical inquiry. It certainly is not read; while there probably is no man who at all seriously thinks of his own present duties or future existence, to whom Butler's work is not a frequent study; and yet, when the “Analogy" was first published, not only does Butler in his preface represent the prevalent opinion “of persons of discernment” to be against the truth of Christianity, but, what is more strange, his own book was looked upon with jealous and distrustful eyes. Even Gray, the poet, spoke of it with dislike and apprehension. “He dissuaded me,” says Nichols, “from reading ‘Butler's Analogy,’ and said he had given the same advice to Mason.” The true inference is, we think, that when the decencies of society are not invaded, no interruption whatever should be given to the publication of any work. The dull will fall, “swayed by the impulse of their own dead weight.” Undoubtedly, prosecutions, whether in the civil or ecclesiastical courts, do nothing but mischief. David Hume was born at Edinburgh, on the 26th of April, (old style,) 1711. His father's family was, he tells us, a branch of the Earl of Home's. His mother was daughter of Sir David Falconer, a successful advocate, compiler of books on Scottish law, and finally President of the Court of Session. Falconer was of a respectable family, and one of his sons succeeded, in the year 1727, to the title of Lord Halkerton. The father of Hume died while David was still an infant, leaving to his eldest son, Joseph, the lands of Ninewells, which had been for many generations in that branch of the family of Hume, or Home. The future historian, and Catherine, the sister, with whom at an after period Hume lived, were slenderly provided for. David had the feeling of family pride in more than its due strength. It is a feeling with which we do not fall out, for its tendency, in any rightly constituted mind, seems to be to lead the individual to regard rather his tribe than himself; and we think it—on the whole, if a prejudice—one that encourages the generous affections. In a letter to Alexander Home, of Whitfield, he tells him of Ninewells having been the scene of many a foray in the days of old. He has to trace the name of his paternal estate through the mazes of a spelling that
would desy less diligent inquirers. In Hall's Chronicle, he finds a statement that the Earl of Surrey, in an inroad upon the Merse, made during the reign of Henry the Eighth, after the battle of Flodden, destroyed, among others, the towers of “East Nisgate and Winwalls. The names,” adds Hume, “you see, are somewhat disfigured ; but I cannot doubt but he means Nisbett and Ninewels—the situation of the places leads us to that conjecture.” Ninewells, however, is not often mentioned in the records of such invasions, for the very sufficient reason that it lay near Berwick, “and our ancestors,” says Hume, “paid contributions to the governors of that place, and abstained from hostilities, and were prevented [protected j from ravages.” It would almost seem that the historian is scarcely pleased with his ancestors for thus securing themselves from plunder, and thereby losing such distinction as is implied by names occurring in the records of the barbarities of older times. The historian tells that the early spelling of the name was Hume, which is that which represents the pronunciation. About the time of the Restoration, HoME became the
way of writing it. The name often occurs in Rymer’s “Foedera,” and is always spelt
Hume. There is no doubt of the connection of the family with that of the Earl of Home ; and on one occasion, if it were
not that they were near relations, and that
a feudal lord had a right to do what he
pleased with his own, we should think that
a brother of the Earl's pressed the privi
leges of kindred too far. The incident is
given in Law’s “Memorials.”
“December, 1683—About the close of the month, the Earl himself being from home, the Lairds of Hilton and Nynhools [Nineholes or Ninewells] came to make a visit to the Earl of Home his house, and went to dice and cards with Mr. William Home, the Earl's brother. Some sharp words fell amongst them at their game, which was not noticed, as it seemed to them ; yet when the two gentlemen were gone to their bed-chambers, the foresaid Mr. William comes up with his sword, and stabs [Johnston of] Hilton with nine deadly wounds on his bed, that he dies immediately; and wounds [Hume of] Ninehools mortally, so that it was thought he would not live, and immediately took horse and fled to England.”
Law does not tell the whole story. A feature which he omits is supplied by Lord Fountainhills: “William Home made his escape to England on Hilton's horse.”
From Kirkpatrick Sharpe we learn a little more of this romance. William Home, after many a long year, returned to Scotland, smitten with remorse, and anxious to ask pardon for what he had done, of the family of Johnstone. A near relative of Johnstone's, a resident in Edinburgh, was, “in the dusk of the evening, called forth to the outside stairs of the house to speak with a stranger muffled in a cloak. As he proceeded along the passage, the door being open, he recognized the murderer; and, immediately drawing his sword, rushed towards him, on which the other leapt nimbly down from the stairs into the street, and was never again seen in Scotland.” Of such materials was the fabric of Hume's family pride erected. “I am not of the opinion,” says David, speaking of his descent from the chieftains whom we have described, “that these matters are altogether to be slighted. I doubt that our morals have not much improved since we began to think riches the sole thing worth regarding.” Our readers may, perhaps, fancy that the Nine-wells or Nine-holes took its name from the tragedy enacted on poor Johnstone and his fellow-sufferers, one of whom was pierced with nine wounds—no such thing —“The estate of Ninewells is so called from a cluster of springs of that number. They burst forth from a gentle declivity in front of the mansion, which has on each side a semicircular rising bank, covered with fine timber, and fall, after a short time, into the bed of the river Whitewater, which forms a boundary in front. The place is worth going to look at if it were only that it was Hume's residence in early boyhood, though never did a man look upon scenery with a less observing eye than Hume. Of imagination he cannot be regarded as wholly deficient who possesses in so high a degree as Hume did the power of animated and picturesque narrative; but the actions which he describes might as well have been “the battles of kites and crows" warring in the air, for any thing that we can ever learn from him of their locality. This is well stated by Mr. Bur
“It was not part of his mental character to find any pleasing associations in spots reo only for the warlike or adventurous achievements they had witnessed. Intellect was the material on which his genius worked : with it were all his associations and sympa. thies; and what had not been adorned by the
seats of the mind had no charm in his eye. Had he been a stranger of another land, visiting at the present, or some later day, the scenes of the Lay and of Marmion, they would, without doubt, like the land of Virgil, have it in his mind some sympathetic glow ; but the scenes illustrated solely by deeds of barbarous warfare, and by a rude illiterate minstrelsy, had nothing in them to rouse a mind which was yet far from being destitute of its own peculiar enthusiasm. He had often, in his history, to mention great historical events that had taken place in the immediate vicinity of his paternal residence, and in places to which he could o have escaped, if he did not court occasional visits. About six miles from Ninewells, stands Norham Castle. Three or four miles farther off, are Twisel-bridge, where Surrey crossed the Till to engage the Scots, and the other localities connected with the battle of Flodden. In the same neighborhood is Holiwell Haugh, where Edward I. met the Scottish nobility, when he professed himself to be the arbiter of the disputes between Bruce and Baliol. In his notices of these spots, in connexion with the historical events which he describes, he betrays no symptom of having passed many of his youthful days in their vicinity, but is as cold and general as when he describes Agincourt or Marston Moor; and it may safely be said, that in none of his historical or philosophical writings does any expression used by him, unless in those cases where a Scoticism has escaped his vigilance, betray either the district or the country of his origin.” —Vol. I. pp. 8, 9.
The name of David Home (not Hume) appears in the matriculation book of the University of Edinburgh, as entering 27th of February, 1723. There is no record of his having taken a degree.
In his seventeenth year he commenced, and scarcely commenced before he abandoned, the study of the law. “I found,” he says, “an insuperable aversion to every thing but the pursuits of philosophy and general learning, and while my friends sancied I was poring over Voet and Vennius, Cicero and Virgil were the authors I was secretly devouring.”
Mr. Burton, himself a Scottish advocate, feels surprised that Hume should, in the days in which his lot was cast, have felt disgust for the study of the law. “The advocate of that day,” he tells us, “often commenced his pleadings with a quotation from the young philosopher's favorite poet, Virgil, and then digressed into a speculative inquiry into the general of law and government; the philosophical genius of Themis long soaring sublime, until at last solding her wings she rested on some vulgar question about dry multures, or an irritancy 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 sound 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.t 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 net without some distrust of that part of his speculations which relates to miracles, is exceedingly probable. Just before the publication of his book on Hunan 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 Eu. rope, 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 Jo HN Sr. A Root, 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 sull 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 ho 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 soo of it savors plainly of the place of its
“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