Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER III.: Bargaining with Millar the bookseller. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER III.: Bargaining with Millar the bookseller. - 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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Bargaining with Millar the bookseller.
I have wrote apart a Letter, which you may send to Mr. Millar: I shall here add a Word to Yourself; and ask a little of your Advice. Some time ago, I wrote to Mr. Millar, that if he was inclin’d to purchase the full Property of these two Volumes of History, I wou’d part with it, if he wou’d make me a proper Offer. He desir’d me to name my Terms. I ask’d 800 Guineas1 ; but have not yet receiv’d an answer from him. I own to you, that the Demand may appear large; but if Mr. Millar and I reason upon the same Principles it will not appear unreasonable. I think History the most popular kind of writing of any2. , the Period I treat of the most interesting, and my Performance will I hope rise in Credit every day. We have so little, or rather nothing of this kind that has the least Appearance either of Impartiality3 or Eloquence, that I cannot doubt but in the long run it will have a considerable Success. Now I was offerd 800 Pounds for the first Edition alone by Baillie Hamilton; and he propos’d to have reasonable Profits after paying me that Sum: I cannot think but all the subsequent Editions must be at least equal in Value to the first alone. This is the View in which the Affair appeard to me: If it appears to you in the same Light, I doubt not but you will express your Mind to him. If you think my Demand unreasonable, I shall be oblig’d to you for telling me so, and for giving me your Reasons. For tho’ it is not probable, that I shall fall much, if any thing, of that Demand: Yet if I see it impracticable for me to obtain it, I shall endeavor to contrive some other Method, by which I may adjust Matters with Mr. Millar in case of a second Edition. It is chiefly in order to avoid the Trouble and Perplexity of such Schemes that I desire at once to part with all the Property.
I am Dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant
15 Feby., 1757.
P.S.—You will certainly like my Friend's Play4 . It was acted here with vast Success. And reads as well as it acts. Mr. Millar woud tell you the Accident, which occasiond many copies of the Dissertations to be sold without the Dedication5 . It has given me some Vexation. However there is no Remedy.
Note 1. Hume, as I have shewn (ante, p. 3), had sold only the copyright of the first edition of the first volume to the Edinburgh booksellers. The first edition of the second volume he had sold to Millar, for £700, it seems. Writing to him on Sept. 3 of this year about the History of England under the Tudors, which at that time he thought would be comprised in one somewhat bulky volume, he says:—’I am willing to engage with you for the same price, viz. seven hundred pounds, payable three months after the publication.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 37. What he now wishes to sell is the copyright of the first two volumes of the House of Stuart. As Hamilton and Balfour had agreed to pay £1200 for three volumes it may be assumed that they paid £400 for one. For the second volume, if my supposition is right, Hume received £700. If he was paid 800 guineas, i. e. £840 for the entire property in the two volumes, his total payment for the House of Stuart amounted to £1940. Robertson was offered by Hamilton and Balfour £500 for one edition of his History of Scotland. Burton's Hume, ii. 42. For his Charles V he was to receive from Cadell and Strahan £3400, with £400 more in case of a second edition. Robertson to Strahan, May 27, 1768. Barker MSS. See post, Letter of June 21, 1770, for Hume's complaint of Hamilton's extravagance.
[2.]Note 2. Addison, Bolingbroke, and Johnson had pointed out the inferiority of English historians. Hume wrote in 1753:—’You know that there is no post of honour in the English Parnassus more vacant than that of history.’ Burton's Hume, i. 378. Gibbon (Misc. Works, i. 122) writing of the year 1759 says:—’The old reproach that no British altars had been raised to the Muse of history was recently disproved by the first performances of Robertson and Hume.’ Though Hume complained of the slow sale of his own History, yet he wrote in 1769:—’People now heed the theatre almost as little as the pulpit. History now is the favourite reading, and our friend [Robertson] the favourite historian.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 421. Robertson's History of Scotland went through fourteen editions in thirty four years. Stewart's Life of Robertson, p. 326.‘The first impression of Gibbon's Decline and Fall was exhausted in a few days; a second and third edition were scarcely adequate to the demand.’ Gibbon's Works, i. 223. See post, Letter of Aug. 1770, where Hume says:—’I believe this is the historical age and this the historical nation.’
Note 3. Horace Walpole, Whig though he was, wrote of Hume's first volume (Letters, ii. 428):—’It is called Jacobite, but in my opinion is only not George-Abite: where others abuse the Stuarts he laughs at them: I am sure he does not spare their ministers.’ This was before Hume had made, as he tells us in his Autobiography,‘above a hundred alterations in the reigns of the two first Stuarts, all of them invariably to the Tory side.’ Rousseau wrote in August, 1762:—’M. Hume est le plus vrai philosophe que je connaisse, et le seul historien qui jamais ait écrit avec impartialité. Il n’a pas plus aimé la vérité que moi, j’ose le croire; mais j’ai mis quelquefois de la passion dans mes recherches, et lui n’a mis dans les siennes que ses lumières et son beau génie.’ Hume's Private Corres. p. 25. Voltaire begins a brief notice of Hume's History by saying :—’Jamais le public n’a mieux senti qu’il n’appartient qu’aux philosophes d’écrire l’histoire.’ He continues:—’M. Hume, dans son histoire, ne paraltni parlementaire, ni royaliste, ni anglican, ni presbytérien; on ne découvre en lui que l’homme équitable.’ He ends :—’La fureur des partis a long-temps privé l’Angleterre d’une bonne histoire comme d’un bon gouvernement. Ce qu’un tory écrivait était nié par les whigs, démentis à leur tour par les torys…. dans le nouvel historien on découvre un esprit supérieur à sa matière, qui parle des faiblesses, des erreurs et des barbaries, comme un médecin parle des maladies épidémiques.’ Œuvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819–25, xxv. 517.
Note 4. Douglas.‘The play had unbounded success for a great many nights in Edinburgh…. The town was in an uproar of exultation that a Scotchman had written a tragedy of the first rate, and that its merit was first submitted to their judgment.’ Dr. A. Carlyle's Auto. p. 311.
Note 5. Hume wrote to Millar on Jan. 20, 1757, that some of the poet's friends‘were seized with an apprehension that the dedication of my Dissertations to him would hurt that party in the Church with which he had always been connected, and would involve him, and them of consequence, in the suspicion of infidelity.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 18. A little later he wrote to Mr. Mure:—’Pray whether do you pity or blame me most with regard to this dedication of my Dissertations to my friend, the poet? I am sure I never executed anything which was either more elegant in the composition or more generous in the intention; yet such an alarm seized some fools here (men of very good sense, but fools in that particular), that they assailed both him and me with the utmost violence, and engaged us to change our intention. I wrote to Millar to suppress that dedication; two posts after I retracted that order. Can anything be more unlucky than that in the interval of these four days he should have opened his sale, and disposed of 800 copies without that dedication, whence I imagined my friend would reap some advantage, and myself so much honour?’ Ib. ii. 21. In the Dedication Hume addressing Home says:—’You possess the true theatric Genius of Shakespeare and Otway, refined from the unhappy Barbarism of the one and Licentiousness of the other.’