Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER I.: The History of England under the Stuarts. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER I.: The History of England under the Stuarts. - David Hume, Letters of David Hume to William Strahan 
Letters of David Hume to William Strahan, ed. G. Birkbeck Hill (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888).
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The History of England under the Stuarts.
I am entirely of your opinion, that Mr. Balfour's ill humor on this Occasion has no manner of Foundation. Mr. Millar seems to me to have all along us’d him very well; Only, I thought the Price offerd for the large Paper Copies a little too low; and I see you have rais’d it. He has disoblig’d me very much at present, by spreading about a Story, that, when we made our Bargain for the first Volume, I had promis’d he shoud have the second at the same Price. This was demanded, and positively refus’d by me: I only said, that I was not accustomd lightly to change the People whom I dealt with; but that I woud not bind myself. Accordingly, when all the Articles of our Bargain, even the most trivial, were written over, I woud not allow this to be inserted. Baillie1 Hamilton, who is a very honest Man, remembers and acknowleges this Fact. Indeed, it was very lucky I had that Precaution: For if I had entangled myself in such a Bargain, I never shoud have wrote a second Volume which I coud not hope ever to see succeed in their Management2 . I am very well pleas’d with the State of the Sale; and hope it is the Prognostic of good Success. I certainly deserve the Approbation of the Public, from my Care and Disinterestedness, however deficient in other Particulars. I shall regard myself as much oblig’d to you, if you inform me of all the Objections, which you hear made by Men of Sense, who are impartial, or even who are not: For it is good to hear what is said on all Sides. It was unlucky, that I did not publish the two Volumes together: Fools will be, apt to say, that I am become more whiggish in this Volume: As if the Cause of Charles the 1 and James the 2 were the same, because they were of the same Family3. . But such Remarks as these, every one, who ventures on the Public, must be contented to endure4. . Truth will prevail at last; and if I have been able to embellish her with any Degree of Eloquence, it will not be long before she prevail.
I am Dr Sir Your most obedient Servant
EDINBURGH, 30 of November, .
P.S.—It is easy for me to see, that Mr. Millar has certainly offerd to take from Baillie Hamilton 900 copies at nine Shillings5 . He never woud have offerd seven at the beginning. It was a strange Infatuation in the Baillie to refuse it.
Note 1.‘Baillie, Bailie. A magistrate second in rank, in a royal borough; an alderman.’ Jamieson's Dict. of the Scottish Language.
Note 2. In November 1754 he published The History of Great Britain. Volume I. Containing the reigns of James I, and Charles I. quarto. Price 14s. in boards; in November 1756 the second volume from the death of Charles I, to the Revolution; in March 1759 The History of England under the House of Tudor. 2 vols. quarto. Price £1 in boards; and in November 1761 The History of England from the invasion of Julius Cœsar to the accession of Henry VII. 2 vols. quarto. He had at one time intended to carry down the first instalment of his work beyond the Revolution. In a letter written in 1753 he says:—‘My work divides into three very moderate volumes: one to end with the death of Charles the First; the second at the Revolution; the third at the Accession; for I dare come no nearer the present times.’ Burton's Hume, i. 378. The following curious letter in my possession, written by Gavin Hamilton, of the firm of Hamilton, Balfour & Neill, Edinburgh booksellers, shews that a year later Hume intended to make the Treaty of Utrecht the conclusion of his work. No doubt he resolved to stop there to avoid the necessity of describing the Jacobite plot which was formed by some of Anne's ministers, and was baffled by her sudden death. Such a matter was of too delicate a nature to have much attraction for a man whose love of tranquillity grew far more rapidly even than his years.
‘Edinbr., 29 Janry, 1754. ‘My dear Willie,
‘in any important step I make, in bussines, I should rekon my self very much out of my duty to you as on of my sincerest freinds if I did not un bosome my self, lett this serve for preamble to what I am going to say.
‘I have within these ten days concluded a bargain that is rekoned very bold by every body that hears of it, and some think it rash, because they never heard of the like pass here; tho’ at the same time I remain very well content with my bargain.
‘John Balfour and I have agread to pay 1200£ sterling of coppy money, for a single impression of a book,‘tis the history of great britain composed by David Hume our scots authour. I print 2000 and have right to print no more, the calcul will stand thus, to print 3 quarto volls which it will make, will cost with advertisements and incidents about 320 per voll: the book will sell at 15/bound or ten shillings to Bk. Sellers in sheets, but lett us rekon the London coppies only producing 9 shilling, then 2000 coppies will yeald about 920£ sterling per voll after deducing 320£ for printing and 400£ to the authour which is not payable very soon, there remains of proffit for our selves about 200£ per voll, which we are content to putt up with as we are perswaded that this first impression will be short while in hands, and this is the next question, how do you know that? all I can say to you in the bounds of a very short letter is that we have been at due pains to inform our selves of the merit of the work and are well satisfyed one that head that it is the prittyest thing ever was attempted in the English History, the three volls contians three grand periods, the first from the union of the Crowns to the death of the king, the 2d voll from the death of the king to the Revolution, and the last till the treaty of Utrecht, the facts are well vouched and thrown together into a light as to give the treu character of the times, it is neither whig nor tory but truely imparshal.
‘I am with sincerity, yours‘GAVIN HAMIltON.’ ‘To Mr. William Strachan Printer in New street near Fleet street London.’
Whether this bookseller was related to Burns's Gavin Hamilton I have not been able to ascertain.
It is clear from Hume's letter to Strahan that the bargain, as described by Hamilton, was never completed. To the Edinburgh firm he sold only the right of publishing the first edition of the first volume. The second volume was brought out by Andrew Millar, the great London bookseller, who became at length the owner of the entire copyright of the whole History. Writing to Millar on April 12, 1755, Hume had said:—Baillie Hamilton is a very honest Man, and far from being interested. But he is passionate and even wrong headed to a degree.’ On May 27, 1756, he wrote:—’I agree that the edition be 1750.’ M.S.R.S.E.
[3.]Note 3. In his letter to Millar of April 12, 1755 he had said:—’I have always said to all my acquaintaince that if the first Volume bore a little of a Tory aspect, the second wou’d probably be as grateful to the opposite Party. The two first Princes of the House of Stuart were certainly more excusable than the two second. The constitution was in their time very ambiguous and undetermin’d, and their Parliaments were, in many respects, refractory and obstinate: But Charles the 2nd knew, that he had succeeded to a very limited Monarchy: His long Parliament was indulgent to him, and even consisted almost entirely of Royalists; yet he could not be quiet, nor contented with a legal Authority. I need not mention the Oppressions in Scotland nor the absurd conduct of K. James the 2nd. These are obvious and glaring Points. Upon the whole, I wish the two Volumes had been published together. Neither one Party nor the other would, in that Case, have had the least Pretext of reproaching me with Partiality.’—M.S.R.S.E.
[4.]Note 4. Both in his Autobiography and in his correspondence he shews that he had but little of this kind of endurance.
Note 5. These must have been the unsold copies of the first volume.