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but push on our inquiries till we arrive at the original and ultimate principle. We would not willingly stop before we are acquainted with that energy in the cause by which it operates on its effect; and how must we be disappointed, when we learn that this connection, tie, or energy lies merely in ourselves, and is nothing but that determination of the mind which is acquired by custom, and causes us to make a transition from an object to its usual attendant, and from the impression of one to the lively idea of the other? Such a discovery not only cuts off all hope of ever attaining satisfaction, but even prevents our very wishes; since it appears, that when we say we desire to know the ultimate and operating principle, as something which resides in the external object, we either contradict ourselves, or talk without a meaning—The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought
upon and heated my brain, that I am ready
to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall l return ? Whose favor shall I court, and whose anger must I dread 7 What beings surround me 7 and on whom have I any influence, or who have an influence on me? I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.”
We have transcribed these passages, as we think it important to show that Hume regarded his own studies as exhibiting, not human nature as it actually exists, but rather the skeleton of man's nature. In a letter to Hutcheson he expresses himself in much the same way. Hutcheson had complained of Hume's book not having any warmth in the cause of virtue, “a warmth which he thought all good men would relish, and which would not displease amid abstract inquiries.” Hume says—
“I must own this has not happened by chance, but is the effect of a reasoning either good or bad. There are different ways of examining the mind, as well as the body. One may consider it either as an anatomist or as a painter; either to discover its most secret springs and principles, or to describe the grace and beauty of its actions. I imagine it impossible to conjoin these two views. Where you pull off the skin, and display all the minute parts, there appears something trivial, even in the noblest attitudes and most vigorous actions; nor can you ever render the object
* Human Nature, book i. part 4, sec. 7.
gracesul or engaging, but by clothing the parts again with skin and flesh, and presenting only their bare outside. An anatomist, however, can give very good advice to a painter or statuary. And, in like manner, I am persuaded that a metaphysician may be very helpful to a moralist, though I cannot easily conceive these two characters united in the same work.”—Vol. i. p. 112.
Hume had expressed, in a letter to Lord Kames, an unwillingness to return to his own country, without what he called some “settlement in life;” and it was probably not without reluctance that after the publication of the Treatise on Human Nature, he went to live with his mother and brother for a few years in Berwickshire. He says that he there recovered the knowledge of Greek. Mr. Burton tells us of some unsuccessful attempts he made to be appointed a tutor, or “governor,” as it was then called, to some young man of fortune, and he accepted a more delicate office, which attached him to the household of an insane nobleman. The Marquis of Annandale had been found a lunatic from the 12th of
December, 1744—a few months after which date Hume engaged with him on the doubtful footing of a companion, receiving for his services three hundred a year. The engagement lasted but for a year, and there was a vexatious disposition to withhold part of the stipulated salary. At a later period of his life the marquis became calmer than ! when Hume lived with him; for it is still remembered that he used to walk about the neighborhood of Highgate with a keeper before him, and a footman behind. The latter would now and then tap him on the shoulder, and hand him his snuff box. During Hume's reign his imbecility was more active. Hume copied some of his epigrams, which he said were not inferior to Rousseau's, though the versification was but middling. The marquis also wrote a novel, of which, to gratify him, thirty copies were printed; he being led to believe that thousands were circulated. Hume thought he had got him off the publication scheme, by leading him to believe that Lord Marchmont and Lord Bolingbroke had seen the manuscript, and were against its being printed. He, poor fellow, got suspicious, and replied in a tone that startled David into compliance with an insane wish, which, were it evidence of lunacy, would affect many now at large. “Pardie je crois que ces messieurs veulent etre les seules Seigneurs d' Angleterre qui
eussent de l'esprit, mais jë leur montrerai ce que le petit A peut faire aussi.” Mr. Burton feels that his reader is not unlikely to resent Hume's accepting what seems to be so humble an appointment; and he presses on our consideration the peculiar circumstances of Scotland—now the most industrious and far the best educated part of the empire, and with the greatest means of advancing its abundant population—but in which they were at that period, to use Hume's own words, hut “two ranks of men—gentlemen with some fortune and education, and the meanest starving poor.” We own that we do not quite agree with our author in regarding the of. fice, under the circumstances in which it was accepted, altogether so humbling as he seems to think. The invitation which he accepted proceeded from Lord Annandale himself, and was suggested by his admiration of Hume's essays. Hume's early letters show that there was the strongest and apparently the best-founded expectations of his recovery. The office was one which the conduct of Lord Annandale's agent, whom Hume thought dishonest, and who feared the effect of such a mind as Hume's on Lord Annandale's, rendered intolerable; but this was scarcely to be anticipated. In fact it was the most respect. able channel of subsistence open to a man whose habits were not active. “The only form in which a man poor and well-born could retain the rank of a gentleman, if he did not obtain one of the learned professions, was by obtaining a commission in the army, or a government civil appointment.” David lived to have both, but probably would have had neither had he not added to his little fortune by such means as at this period offered. Mr. Burton gives some amusing accounts of the difficulty which a gentleman then found to make out the means of life at all in Scotland. In Erskine's Institute of the law of Scotland, a government situation is regarded as the sole way of advancing a young man of respectable connections. It is said there that it is “his guardian's duty to advance a yearly sum far beyond the interest of his patrimony, that he may appear suitably to his quality, while he is unprovided of any office under government by which he can live decently.” “Goldsmith,” says Mr. Burton, “found a Scotch peer keeping a glove shop; and in the case of Lord Mordington, who had been arrested for debt, the bailiff made affi
davit, that when he “arrested said lord he was so mean in his apparel, as having a worn-out suit of clothes and a dirty shirt on, and but sixpence in his pocket, he could not suppose him to be a peer of Great Britain, and of inadvertency arrested him.’ (Fortescue's Reports, 165.) This family was peculiarly celebrated—Lady Mordington having raised the question, whether a Scottish peeress who kept a tavern, was protected, by privilege of peerage, from being amenable to the laws against keeping disorderly houses.” Mr. Burton does not state what we learn from the notes to the “Excursion,” that the trade of a travelling merchant—by Southerns often called a pedlar—was a favorite occupation in such circumstances. “A young man going from any part of Scotland to England, of purpose to carry the pack, was considered as going to lead the life and acquire the fortune of a gentleman.” When, after twenty years' absence in that honorable employment, he returned with his acquisitions to his native country, he was regarded as a gentlemaw to all intents and purposes.”f This, to say the truth, is the mode of life we should have ourselves liked best of all that seemed to be then open to a young man in Hume's circumstances; but for this, David was already getting too fat,
and we think he chose wisely in preferring what we hope was to be called the place of private secretary; for if so, it would suggest a much pleasanter account of some execrable verses found in David's handwriting, than that which Mr. Burton gives, who supposes them to be the philosopher's own handiwork. Seventy-five pounds of Hume's salary remained unpaid. On this subject some unmeaning sentimentality had been uttered, as if Hume, in determining to enforce it at law, was acting shabbily. This is worse than nonsense. Hume's chief, if not only object, in this sacrifice of his time and comforts, is the salary promised; and is he to make a present of it, or any part of it, to the estate of an insane nobleman? In the course of the next year he became, at the invitation of General St. Clair, “secretary to his expedition, which was at first meant against Canada, but ended in an incursion on the coast of France.” “The office,” says David, “is very genteel—ten shillings a day, perquisites, and no expenses.” Hume was not only secretary to the general, but acted as judge-advocate. In the course of the same year he returned to Ninewells, to remain but for a short time, as he was again invited by the general to attend him as secretary in his military embassy to Vienna and Turin. David now wore the uniform of an officer, and was introduced at court as aid-de-camp to the general. At Turin the late Lord Charlemont became acquainted with him, and from Hardy's Memoir of Charlemont's Life, we transcribe a sentence :
“Nature, I believe, never formed any man more unlike his real character than David Hume. The powers of physiognomy were baffled by his countenance; neither could the most skillful in that science pretend to discover the smallest trace of the faculties of his mind in the unmeaning features of his visage. His face was broad and fat, his mouth wide, and without any other expression than that of imbecility. His eyes, vacant and spiritless, and the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle-eating alderman, than of a refined philosopher. His speech, in English, was rendered ridiculous by the broadest Scotch accent, and his French was, is possible, still more laughable; so that wisdom, most certainly, never disguised herself before in so uncouth a garb. Though now near fifty years old [Hume was but thirty-seven, he was healthy and strong; but his health and strength, far from being advantageous to his figure, instead of manly comeliness, had only the appearance of rusti
city. His wearing a uniform added greatly to his natural awkwardness, for he wore it like a grocer of the trained bands. St. Clair was a lieutenant-general, and was sent to the courts of Vienna and Turin, as a military envoy, to see that their quota of troops was surnished by the Austrians and Piedmontese. It was, therefore, thought necessary that his secretary should appear to be an officer, and Hume was accordingly disguised in scarlet.”—Hardy's Charlemont, vol. i. p. 15.
The result of Hume's campaign with Sir John Sinclair was, that after two years he found himself possessed of a fortune, “which,” says he, “I called independent, though most of my friends were inclined to smile when I said so ; in short, I was now master of near a thousand pounds.” On his return from Italy, he re-published parts of his old “Treatise of Human Nature " in some new shape. It never succeeded in any ; and he was provoked at finding the theologians, who, he expected, would kick and cuff it into notice, otherwise, and probably much better employed. He went down to live in the country with his brother, and then composed one or two more essays, which had more success. “I found,” he says, “by Warburton's railing, that the books were beginning to be esteemed in good company. However, I had a fixed resolution, which I inflexibly maintained, never to reply to any body.” Quite right, David; if an opponent says any thing unanswerable, always let him have his own way. That same Dr. Warburton, the attorney bishop, is likely to have a good deal the best of it, as there is no one quality of mind in which he is not very much your superior. An unlucky squeeze of his hard hand might crush that poor Human Nature of yours out of existence. In 1751, Hume went to live in Edinburgh. In 1752, he published at Edinburgh his Political Discourses; and in the same year at London, his “Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals,” “which,” he says, “in my opinion, (who ought not to judge on that subject,) is, of all my writings, historical, philosophical, or literary, incomparably the best. It came unmarked and undiscovered into the world.” In that year he became “Keeper of the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh”—an office of which the emolument was but forty pounds a year, but which gave him a great command of books. Some disputes with the curators of the library, as to the purchase of books, made him think of resigning the office. However, the convenience of the command of books was of great moment to Hume, who had now commenced his history of the House of Stuart, and his pride was satisfied by declining any longer to receive the salary, and transferring it to Blacklock, the blind poet, whose works are, we do not well know why, still included in every reprint of those collections which are called, by a strange misnomer, the British Poets. When Hume had the means of proving that he did not retain the office for the sake of the salary, the curators and he agreed better. At the end of 1754, appeared the first part of his great work, a quarto volume of four hundred and seventythree pages—“The History of Great Britain, Volume I., containing the reigns of James I., and Charles I.” His own account of this event, and its effect on him, cannot be omitted :—
“I was, l own, sanguine in my expectations of the success of this work. I thought that I was the only historian that had at once neglected present power, interest, and authority, and the cry of popular prejudices; and, as the subject was suited to every capacity, I expected proportional applause. But miserable was my disappointment: I was assailed by one cry of reproach, disapprobation, and even detestation: English, Scotch, and Irish, Whig and Tory, churchman and sectary, freethinker and religionist, patriot and courtier, united in their rage against the man who had presumed to shed a generous tear for the fate of Charles I. and the Earl of Strafford; and after the first ebullitions of their fury were over, what was still more mortifying, the book seemed to sink into oblivion. Mr. Millar told me, that in a twelvemonth he sold only forty-five copies of it. I scarcely, indeed, heard of one man in the three kingdoms, considerable for rank or letters, that could endure the book. I must only except the primate of England, Dr. Herring, and the primate of Ireland, Dr. Stone, which seem two odd exceptions. These dignified prelates separately sent me messages not to be discouraged.
“I was, however, l confess, discouraged : and had not the war at that time been breaking out between France and England, I had certainly retired to some provincial town of the former kingdom, have changed my name, and never more have returned to my native country; but as this scheme was not now practicable, and the subsequent volume was considerably advanced, I resolved to pick up courage and to persevere.”—Own Life.
respect to religion—the strongest influencing power that animates either individuals or bodies of men—Hume was, unhappily, utterly skeptical, if we are not to use a stronger word. Through his work there was another great and insuperable fault. His acquaintance with English literature was imperfect in a degree that, in our days, must be altogether incredible. In his day, nothing seems to have been called literature except the showy publications that were addressed rather to the idle and disengaged portion of the public, than to the business mind of England. There is no country in the world in which the mind of the nation is less shown in that class of publications, which, except in accidental cases, are of little real value; nor is there any people whose men of business have been more the creators of its true literature than this same England. In the parliamentary history, in the state trials, in the law reports, in the pamphlets of the day, at almost all periods of our history of which we have any valuable records, are found masses of thought to which, in their real interest and importance, and often even in reference to the artistic skill with which arguments of great power are elaborated and exhibited, the works of our later literature bear no comparison whatever; and of all these, Hume was, except when by bare accident he looked farther than the popular works by which he was directed to his authorities, altogether ignorant. Hume thought himself a Whig, and perhaps the temper in which the French writers, whose tone he assumed, then spoke of proposed improvements in their political constitution, might have deceived him into the belief. In every government—the most tyrannical and absolute, as well as the most free—the peace of society must be the first object; and, though Hume would not admit it in words, he seems to think that whenever this is attained all is accomplished. Had Hume written the history of the Church, as he once thought of doing, woe to the poor reformers, unless indeed Rome had, in the days of her first usurpations, put forward, instead of her claim of antiquity, that of development— the dream, it would, no doubt, have seemed to him, of wandering dotage, and a symptom of approaching change.” If Hume can be said to have had any sympathies, they were altogether with things as established; and to this, rather than to any thing else, are we to ascribe what we must regard as the entirely false spirit in which his narrative of the civil wars in the reign of the second king of the House of Stuart is conceived. The language of every early document whatever of our history, that can be brought to bear on the subject, proves that the claims of the popular party were not, as Hume would represent them, encroachments on the prerogative, but that the king of England was a limited power. The extent of his power was defined by the fact, that he could as king only act through responsible officers, no one of whom could, without a violation of law, exceed his proper duties. That the power of an English king had its legal limits, was expressed in the maxim so often strangely perverted into a meaning directly opposite to what was meant to be conveyed by it—The king can do no wrong. From our early history we do not think that with all the confusion of occasional civil wars, and the loose language of documents drawn up without particular reference to a point not in dispute, any case can be plausibly made by the advocates of the doctrine that arbitrary power in the monarch was consistent with the constitution of government in England. The doubt with respect to the rightful limits of the prerogative arose, we think, chies. ly from the arrogant claims of the House of Tudor, and were suggested by the anomalous position in which the crown, and a great and influential portion of its subjects, were placed by the king's being declared Head of the Church, before the meaning of that new title, or the claims depending on it, were practically reduced to an assertion, that the clergy owed undivided allegiance to the state, and were subject to the same jurisdiction as the laity.” To the accession of the family of Stuart, and to the false no. tions which James, brought up under the laws of another country, from the first took of his position, we ascribe the contest between the crown and people being placed by any one on the grounds which Hume endeavored to take. All the notions which James brought with him from Scotland were essentially and in first principles opposed to the theory and the practice of the English constitution. All his notions were referable to the civil law; and the effort to engraft on the English law and forms of government those of a system
* See Newman's o on “Development” of Christian Doctrine-1845.
* See Strype's Life of Parker.
essentially and in every thing different, and to simplify despotism, was a thing not very easily borne. It was ease enough for Hume to make a plausible case for the Stuart kings, on the supposition that the names of king and parliament had the same meaning in England as in countries where the laws and mode of government were essentially different; and while we are willing to believe that the usurpations of the Stuarts arose from their never having fairly considered the true points of difference, it seems to us demonstrable that a practical change wholly unjustified was sought to be made by them, which it was an absolute duty in the people of England to resist. James's talents had enabled him to systematize into a sort of theory his notions of kingly government, and when the vanity of an author was added to that of a monarch, it is no. wonder that he deceived himself. It is a sad delusion when the feeling of loyalty degenerates into a baseless superstition, and the claim of a divine right is stated, as it was then stated by James, for the purpose of extending the power of the crown beyond any thing known by the name of kingly power in the government which he was called on by Providence to administer. To assert in argument, from the facts of a man being king, and of God, who rules in the affairs of men, having called him to that high trust, the further consequence that such man has a right to enlarge the powers committed to him whenever opportunity offers, is, we think, not only a doctrine wholly untenable, but offensive in the highest degree to those whose feeling of religion and loyalty are least questionable. Hume has been accused of a dishonest perversion of facts on evidence that, whereever it has been examined, has wholly failed. Of this we shall hereafter give proofs, to our own mind entirely decisive.—Hume's history has faults enough without the aggravation of intentional misstatement; but it has beauties of narrative more than sufficient, where the reader is sufficiently guarded against the errors which we have indicated, to redeem many of its imputed faults, and the book is calculated to give more instruction, as well as more pleasure, than any other single account of the same period. It cannot supply, and no book can, the place of the original authorities; but it certainly is, in every respect whatever, in which they can be fairly compared, superior “to the orderly and solid works” of Turner,