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Preface and Dedication to William Hamilton’s Poems on Several Occasions - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 3 Essays on Philosophical Subjects 
Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W. P. D. Wightman and J. C. Bryce, vol. III of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982).
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Preface and Dedication to William Hamilton’s Poems on Several Occasions
Adam Smith’s first published writing was an unsigned preface to Poems on Several Occasions (Glasgow: Printed and sold by Robert and Andrew Foulis, M.D.CC.XLVIII), a small octavo volume of work by the Jacobite poet William Hamilton, later laird of Bangour, who had gone into exile in France after the defeat of his cause at Culloden in April 1746. The authorship of the preface is attested by a statement from the poet’s intimate friend Andrew Lumisden to George Chalmers, preserved in the Chalmers–Laing manuscript notes on Scots poets in Edinburgh University Library.1 There is no evidence that Smith helped to edit the poems, but it seems unlikely that he was called in merely to write a short foreword. His enlistment was probably due to Henry Home (later Lord Kames), at whose instance he had just begun delivering his first course of lectures on rhetoric and belles–lettres at Edinburgh and who had been the poet’s literary mentor since the early 1720s.
The advertisement of the book in the Glasgow Courant for 23 January 1749 suggests that the date on the title–page was premature. A second issue, with preliminary pages reset, appeared in 1749, and a reprint with some corrections and bearing the poet’s name in 1758—the ‘Second Edition’. Hamilton had died in 1754; and in 1755 William Crawford, the ‘friend’ mentioned in the preface, to whom Hamilton had long been in the habit of entrusting his poems and whose granddaughter Elizabeth Dalrymple became Hamilton’s second wife in July 1752, also died. When the second edition of the poems was being prepared the poet’s brother–in–law (Sir) John Dalrymple wrote from Edinburgh, on 1 December 1757, to Robert Foulis:
I have changed my mind about the Dedication to Mr Hamilton’s Poems. I would have had it stand ‘the friend of William Hamilton’, but I assent to your opinion to have something more to express Mr. Crawfurd’s Character. I know none so able to do this as my friend Mr. Smith; I beg it therefore earnestly that he will write the Inscription and with all the elegance and all the feelingness which he, above the rest of mankind, is able to express. This is a thing that touches me very nearly, and therefore I beg a particular answer as to what he says to it. The many happy and the many flattering hours which he has spent with Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Crawfurd makes me think that he will account his usual indolence a crime upon this occasion. I beg you will make my excuse for not wryting him this night about this. I consider wryting to you upon this head to be wryting to him.2
The close network of friendships involved makes it unthinkable that Adam Smith could have refused this request, and the 1758 Dedication is here included as his. Neither it nor the Preface was reprinted in the much fuller collection of Hamilton’s poems—containing more than twice the number in the 1748 volume—published in Edinburgh in 1760; but the foreword to this, by David Rae (later Lord Eskgrove) echoes some of Smith’s phrases.
Hamilton’s poems appeared in various miscellanies from 1724 onwards and twenty–two of the 1748 thirty–nine had already been published. The long poem Contemplation; or, The triumph of love, finished in 1739, was issued in Edinburgh in February 1747 as a fourpenny pamphlet, abridged and (it seems) pirated; only the 1760 version is complete. Of it the most perceptive appreciation came from another Glasgow professor, William Richardson of the Chair of Humanity, in The Lounger No. 42, 19 November 1785. As Smith hints, Hamilton excelled particularly in the ‘imitation’ and free translation or adaptation of originals as diverse as Pindar, Anacreon, Sophocles, Virgil, Horace (Odes and Epistles), Shakespeare, Racine. He was the first to render Homer into English blank verse: the Glaucus and Diomed episode from Iliad, vi. His best–known poem is the imitation–ballad The Braes of Yarrow, which in turn inspired imitations by Wordsworth.
Text reproduced: Preface, from Poems 1748 and 1758, p.v (1749 has six spelling variants); Dedication, from Poems 1758, pp.iii–iv.
PREFACE TO WILLIAM HAMILTON’S POEMS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS (1748)
No writings of this kind ever had a better claim to the indulgence of the public, than the following poems; as this collection is published not only without the author’s consent, but without his knowledge, and therefore in justice to him, the editors must take upon themselves any faults or imperfections that may be found in it.
It is hoped, that the many beauties of language and sentiment which appear in this little volume, and the fine genius the author every where discovers, will make it acceptable to every reader of taste, and will in some measure attone for our presumption in presenting the publick with poems, of which none have had the author’s finishing hand, and many of them only first essays in his early youth.
One inducement to print them, was to draw from the author a more perfect edition, when he returns to this country, and if our faulty attempt shall be the occasion of producing a work that may be an honour to this part of the kingdom, we shall glory in what we have done.
What brought us at first to think of this little undertaking was the concern some of the author’s friends express’d to us, at the imperfect edition of his noble poem of Contemplation lately published from an incorrect manuscript; this determin’d us to give an edition of it, less unworthy of the author, and to join to it every little piece of his that had been printed at different times; and we prevailed likewise on a friend of his, tho’ with some difficulty, to give us a small number of pieces that had never before been printed, some of which had been handed about in manuscript, and might have been printed with the transcribers errors by others. It is owing to the delicacy of this friend of the author’s, that this edition is not enriched with many original poems, and some beautiful translations from Pindar and other ancient poets, both Greek and Roman, that are in his possession, but which he would not permit to be published.
Glasgow, December 21. 1748.
DEDICATION TO WILLIAM HAMILTON’S POEMS ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS (1758)
TO THE MEMORY OF MR. WILLIAM CRAUFURD, MERCHANT IN GLASGOW, THE FRIEND OF MR. HAMILTON,
WHO to that exact frugality, that downright probity and plainness of manners so suitable to his profession, joined a love of learning and of all the ingenious arts, an openness of hand and a generosity of heart that was free both from vanity and from weakness, and a magnanimity that could support, under the prospect of approaching and unavoidable death, the most torturing pains of body with an unalterable chearfulness of temper, and without once interrupting, even to his last hour, the most manly and the most vigorous activity in a vast variety of business;
This Edition of the Works of a Gentleman for whom he, who was candid and penetrating, circumspect and sincere, always expressed the highest and the most affectionate esteem, is inscribed by the Editors, as the only monument which it is in their power to raise of their veneration and of their regret.
Dugald Stewart: Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D.
‘I hate biography’ was the confession of Dugald Stewart (1753–1828) in a letter of 1797, but it appears that of the three pieces of this kind which he wrote for presentation to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the one on Adam Smith was most to his taste (Works, ed. Hamilton, x. lxxv, n.1). Indeed, as a member of Smith’s circle, and like him a Scots professor of moral philosophy, inheriting and transmitting the same intellectual tradition, Stewart was a logical choice as a memorialist of Smith, and he must have felt some affinity for this project.
The first news of it comes in a letter of 10 August 1790 to Smith’s heir, David Douglas, in which John Millar, distinguished Professor of Civil Law at Glasgow University, and a former pupil of Smith, welcomes the idea of publishing the posthumous essays (EPS), and states: ‘It will give me the greatest pleasure to contribute any hints to Mr Stuart with regard to Mr Smiths professorial talents, or any other particular you mention, while he remained at Glasgow’ (Glasgow University Library, MS. Gen. 1035/178). True to his word, Millar sent ‘some particulars about Dr. Smith’ to Stewart in December of the same year, and on 17 August 1792 the latter reported to the publisher Thomas Cadell as follows: ‘Mr Smith’s papers with the Account of his life will be ready for the press the beginning of next winter’ (National Library of Scotland, MS. 5319, f. 34). Cadell offered terms for the book to Henry Mackenzie, one of the ‘privy council’ advising Douglas about the publication, on 21 December 1792 (GUL, MS. Gen. 1035/177), and Stewart wrote to Cadell on 13 March of the following year to say that he had finished the ‘Account’ and was ready to send it to the press ‘immediately’. (In fact, he read it at meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 21 January and 18 March 1793.) In the same letter to Cadell, Stewart mentions that neither the RSE Transactions nor EPS is likely to appear ‘this Season’, and he asks if a separate publication could be considered: ‘more especially, as [my papers] have Swelled to Such a Size, that I suspect they must be printed in an abridged form in the Transactions’ (NLS, MS. 5319, ff. 35–6).
As matters turned out, the first edition of the ‘Account’ was published in the third volume of the RSE Transactions (1794), and when EPS was published in 1795, under the editorship of Joseph Black and James Hutton, Smith’s literary executors, the ‘Account’ was printed as the first piece, with some minor changes from the RSE text. In 1810, Stewart withdrew from active teaching at Edinburgh University because of failing health, and among other projects undertook the revision of his RSE papers for publication as Biographical Memoirs of Adam Smith, William Robertson, and Thomas Reid (1811).
In the preface to this book, the author stated his belief that for Smith and Reid he had nearly exhausted all the information available, and that he had been induced to connect ‘with the slender thread of [his] narration a variety of speculative discussions and illustration’ (vi). These provide a useful commentary on some of Smith’s ideas, and include such valuable material as Millar’s description of Smith’s course of lectures at Glasgow (I.16–22). Also, discussing Smith’s thought in relation to that of the French economists, Stewart presented a fragment of a paper written by Smith in 1755, in which some of his leading ideas are outlined (IV.25). Stewart’s version of both documents is all that has survived, the originals perhaps being destroyed with Stewart’s own papers by his son when suffering from paranoia (Works, viii. x–xi; x. iii). In the preface to the Memoirs, Stewart further states that he left the text of the ‘Account of Smith’ as it was (i.e. in 1794–5), ‘with the exception of some trifling verbal corrections’, and added to it notes that were ‘entirely new’ (vii).
In the same year as the Memoirs appeared, Stewart published an edition of Smith’s Works (1811–12), incorporating in the fifth volume the Memoirs text of the ‘Account’, but omitting at the conclusion two paragraphs describing EPS, and one dealing with the preference of Smith and his circle for the plain style of ‘Mr’ rather than the honorific ‘Doctor’. In a letter to ?William Davies, Cadell’s partner, dated 26 July 1810, Stewart suggests that since Smith’s Works are to be printed in London, they should be put ‘into the hands of some corrector’ whose accuracy can be relied on, ‘desiring him to follow the text of the last Editions published before Mr Smith’s death’. Stewart will correct EPS himself, and he asks that the ‘Account of Smith’ be printed last, ‘as I have some Slight alterations to make on it, and intend to add a few paragraphs to some of the Sections’. Stewart continues that ‘in a Week or two I propose to begin to print the 4to Edition of Lives [i.e. Memoirs]’, presumably in Edinburgh under his own eye (NLS, MS. 5319, ff.39–40).
Subsequently, Stewart’s Works (1854–60) were themselves edited by Sir William Hamilton (1788–1856) at the end of his life, and the ‘Account of Smith’ found its place in the tenth volume (1858). The advertisement to this volume, written by John Veitch (1829–94), states that the memoirs of Smith, Robertson, and Reid were ‘printed under . . . Hamilton’s revision and superintendence, from private copies belonging to [Stewart] which contained a few manuscript additions by him’ (x. vii). One such ‘private copy’ survives in Edinburgh University Library (MS. Df. 4. 52*), consisting of an EPS text of the ‘Account of Smith’ with marginal corrections in Stewart’s hand (pp. 46, 57, 63) and indicators for notes, followed by Notes A to I of the present edition, all in Stewart’s hand save that of Note D, which is in that of an amanuensis. Stewart must have worked on this ‘private copy’ after 1821, because Note E refers to Morellet’s Mémoires published in that year.
All the ‘last additions’ of the EUL ‘private copy’ are incorporated in Hamilton’s text of the ‘Account of Smith’, with the trifling exception of the ‘la’ in ‘la Rochefoucauld’ (303, below), and it is tempting to use the 1858 edition as the copy–text for our present purpose. However, in his Memoir of Hamilton (1869), John Veitch prints letters indicating that Hamilton was fatally ill during the editing of Stewart’s Works, and was assisted by a Miss Petre, formerly governess to his daughter (362–3). Indeed, Hamilton died before the tenth volume appeared and its publication was supervised by Veitch. In view of these facts, it has been thought best to make the 1811 Memoirs version of the ‘Account of Smith’ the copy–text for this edition, as the one containing the fullest amount of biographical material directly authorized by Stewart himself, also as the text he personally revised for publication. A letter of 1798 by Stewart makes the claim, at least, that he read proof carefully: ‘The very great alterations and corrections which I have been in the habit of making during the time that the printing of my books was going on, put it out of my power to let anything out of my hands till it has undergone the very last revisal’ (Works, x. xxxi, n.4.).
Within each section of the text paragraphs have been numbered to facilitate references and citations. Asterisks and daggers point Stewart’s notes, and the signal 5 after a note indicates that it comes from Hamilton’s 1858 edition. Superscript letters refer the reader to textual notes preserving substantive readings from the editions of 1794 and 1795, identified as 1 and 2. The author’s last additions of the EUL ‘private copy’ mentioned above are identified by that very phrase. The modern convention for indicating quotations has been adopted, and translations of Latin quotations have been supplied, in some cases from Stewart’s Works edited by Hamilton. The present editor’s notes are numbered consecutively, with material added by him placed within round brackets, and the General Editors’ notes are placed within square brackets.
Whereas Smith ‘considered every species of note as a blemish or imperfection; indicating, either an idle accumulation of superfluous particulars, or a want of skill and comprehension in the general design’ (Stewart, Works, x.169–70), Stewart followed the practice of Robertson in placing discursive notes at the end of the text. For the sake of convenience, these endnotes have been retained below, with the ‘last additions’, principally D and E, duly identified.
List of the Editions of ‘Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D.’
[1 ]Laing MSS., 359: quoted by Nelson S. Bushnell, William Hamilton of Bangour, Jacobite and Poet (1957), 132, n.17.
[2 ]W. J. Duncan, Notices and Documents illustrative of the Literary History of Glasgow (Maitland Club: Glasgow, 1831), 23–4, taken from the Foulis Press papers.