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38.: From EDMUND BURKE - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 6 Correspondence of Adam Smith 
Correspondence of Adam Smith, ed. E. C. Mossner and I. S. Ross, vol. VI of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987).
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From EDMUND BURKE
MS., James M. and Marie–Louise Osborn Collection, Yale University Libr.; Burke Corr. i. 129–30.
Wimple Street, Cavendish Square, Westminster, 10 Sept. 1759
I am quite ashamed that the first Letter I have the honour of writing to you should be an apology for my conduct. It ought to be entirely taken up with my thanks to you for the satisfaction I received from your very agreeable and instructive work, but I cannot do that pleasing act of Justice without apologising at the same time for not having done it much earlier. When I received the Theory of Moral Sentiments from Mr Hume, I ran through it with great eagerness; I was immediately after hurried out of Town, and involved ever since in a Variety of troublesome affairs.1 My resolution was to defer my acknowledgements until I had read your book with proper care and attention; to do otherwise with so well studied a piece would be to treat it with great injustice. It was indeed an attention extremely well bestowed and abundantly repaid. I am not only pleased with the ingenuity of your Theory; I am convinced of its solidity and Truth; and I do not know that it ever cost me less trouble to admit so many things to which I had been a stranger before.2 I have ever thought that the old Systems of morality were too contracted and that this Science could never stand well upon any narrower Basis than the whole of Human Nature. All the writers who have treated this Subject before you were like those Gothic Architects who were fond of turning great Vaults upon a single slender Pillar; There is art in this, and there is a degree of ingenuity without doubt; but it is not sensible, and it cannot long be pleasing. A theory like yours founded on the Nature of man, which is always the same, will last, when those that are founded on his opinions, which are always changing, will and must be forgotten. I own I am particularly pleased with those easy and happy illustrations from common Life and manners in which your work abounds more than any other that I know by far. They are indeed the fittest to explain those natural movements of the mind with which every Science relating to our Nature ought to begin. But one sees, that nothing is less used, than what lies directly in our way. Philosophers therefore very frequently miss a thousand things that might be of infinite advantage, though the rude Swain treads daily on them with his clouted Shoon.3 It seems to require that infantine simplicity which despises nothing, to make a good Philosopher, as well as to make a good Christian. Besides so much powerful reasoning as your Book contains, there is so much elegant Painting of the manners and passions, that it is highly valuable even on that account. The stile is every where lively and elegant, and what is, I think equally important in a work of that kind, it is well varied; it is often sublime too, particularly in that fine Picture of the Stoic Philosophy towards the end of your first part which is dressed out in all the grandeur and Pomp that becomes that magnificent delusion. I have mentioned something of what affected me as Beauties in your work. I will take the Liberty to mention too what appeared to me as a sort of Fault. You are in some few Places, what Mr Locke is in most of his writings, rather a little too diffuse. This is however a fault of the generous kind, and infinitely preferable to the dry sterile manner, which those of dull imaginations are apt to fall into. To another I should apologise for a freedom of this Nature.
My delay on this occasion may I am afraid make it improper for me to ask any favour from you. But there is one, I have too much at heart not to sacrifice any propriety to attain it. It is, that whenever you come to Town, I may have the honour of being made personally known to you.4 I shall take the Liberty of putting this office on our friend Mr. Hume who has already so much obliged me by giving me your Book. I am Sir with the truest esteem for your Work and your Character
your most obliged and obedient Servant
[1 ]See Letter 36 from Hume, dated 28 July 1759; Hume thought Burke was in Ireland at this time but there is no other evidence of this.
[2 ]Burke’s review of the book in the Annual Register for 1759 praises particularly Smith’s originality: ‘this author has struck out a new, and at the same time a perfectly natural road of speculation on this subject . . . We conceive, that here the theory is in all its essential parts just, and founded on truth and nature. The author seeks for the foundation of the just, the fit, the proper, the decent, in our most common and most allowed passions; and making approbation and disapprobation the tests of virtue and vice, and shewing that those are founded on sympathy, he raises from this simple truth, one of the most beautiful fabrics of moral theory, that has perhaps ever appeared.’
[3 ]Comus, ll. 634–5. Burke uses the quotation in a similar way in his Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies (Works, Bohn edn. i. 489).
[4 ]Smith and Burke do not appear to have met until 1777.