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LETTER XIII.: The early History, and the Accession of George III. - 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 early History, and the Accession of George III.
[November or December, 1760.]1.
You gave me a sensible Satisfaction by writing to me; and tho I am a little lazy myself in writing (I mean, Letters: For as to other kinds of writing, your Press can witness for me, that I am not lazy) there is nothing gives me greater Pleasure than hearing from my Friends, among whom I shall be always fond of ranking Mr. Strahan. You have probably heard from Mr. Millar, that I am wholly engrossd in finishing my History2. ; and have been so above a twelvemonth. If I keep my Health, which is very good and equal to any Fatigue, I shall be able to visit you in eight or nine Months; and then you may expect to have a very troublesome Dun upon you, in making Demands of a regular Visit of your Devil3. ; and I shall be able to cure you of some Indolence, which as our Friend opposite Catherine Street in the Strand4. complains to me, is growing upon you. If this Indolence comes from Riches, I hope also to cure it another way, by gaining your Money at Whist; tho’ really the Person abovementiond is a Proof that Indolence is no immediate or necessary Effect of Riches: So that I fancy it is born with you; and that there is no hopes of curing you. However, it will give me some Satisfaction to come to you in case of any Negligence, and first scold you and then gain your Money, in order to punish you.
I am sorry, both on your Account and Mr. Rose's5. , for whom I have a great Regard, that it shoud be absolutely impossible for me, till my present Undertaking is finishd, to have any hand in what he proposes to me. If I had leizure, I shoud certainly comply with his Request: He only disobliges me in mentioning any other Acknowlegement, than his being sensible of my Inclination to oblige him.
Is this new Reign to be the Augustan Age6. ? or have the Parsons got entire Possession of the young Prince7. ? I hear that they brag much of their Acquisition; but he seems by his Speech to be a great Admirer of his Cousin of Prussia8. , who surely is no Favourer or Favourite of theirs9. . I wonder how Kings dare be so free: They ought to leave that to their Betters; to Men who have no Dependance on the Mob, or the Leaders of the Mob. As to poor Kings they are obligd sometimes to retract and to deny their Writings.
I was glad to observe what our King says, that Faction is at an End and Party Distinctions abolish’d10. . You may infer from this, that I think I have kept clear of Party in my History; that I think I have been much injurd when any thing of that Nature has been imputed to me, and that I now hope the public Ear will be more open to Truth: But it will be a long time first; and I despair of ever seeing it11. .
I beg my compliments to Mrs. Strahan, and all your Family, and am Dear Sir with great Sincerity,
Your most obedient Servant
[1.]Note 1. The reference below to the King's Speech shows that this letter was written shortly after Nov. 18, 1760.
[2.]Note 2. Hume was finishing the last part of his History, the first as it now stands—The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Cœsar to the Accession of Henry VII. On July 28, 1759, he had written to Adam Smith:—’I signed yesterday an agreement with Mr. Millar, where I mention that I proposed to write The History of England from the beginning till the accession of Henry VII; and he engages to give me £1400 for the copy. This is the first previous agreement ever I made with a bookseller. I shall execute this work at leisure, without fatiguing myself by such ardent application as I have hitherto employed.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 60. Francis Horner records:—’I have heard from very good authority that when Hume was engaged in the composition of his History, he generally worked thirteen hours a day.’ Horner's Memoirs, i. 175. It was published at the end of 1761.‘The copy-money given me by the booksellers,’ writes Hume in his Autobiography,‘much exceeded anything formerly known in England. I was become not only independent, but opulent.’ Horace Walpole wrote of these volumes on Dec. 8, 1761 (Letters, iii. 465):—’I not only know what has been written, but what would be written. Our story is so exhausted that, to make it new, they really make it new. Mr. Hume has exalted Edward the Second and depressed Edward the Third. The next historian, I suppose, will make James the First a hero and geld Charles the Second.’
[3.]Note 3. On June 29 of the following year, 1761, Hume wrote from Ninewells that he was‘so far on his road to London.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 90. That he was in London as late as Sept. 2 is shown by a letter in his Private Correspondence, p. 4. He went up, no doubt, to carry his two new volumes through the press. The Devil was the printer's devil, or messenger who would bring the proofs. See Boswell's Johnson, iv. 99, for‘a very respectable author who married a printer's devil.’
[4.]Note 4. Our friend was Andrew Millar. His first shop, when he started business in a very small way, was close to St. Clement's Church. Nichols, Lit. Anec. vi. 443. He had afterwards moved to the shop that had been occupied by‘Jacob Tonson, the friend and bookseller of Dryden, at “Shakspeare's Head, over against Catherine Street in the Strand,” now No. 141 (since rebuilt). Millar was a Scotchman, and distinguished his house by the sign of “Buchanan's Head.”’ Cunningham's Hand-Book of London, ed. 1850, p. 475.
[5.]Note 5. Perhaps Dr. William Rose, of Chiswick,‘the eminent schoolmaster and critic, and one of Andrew Millar's literary counsellors. He was largely concerned in the Monthly Review.’ Nichols, Lit. Anec. iii. 386.
[6.]Note 6. George III began to reign on Oct. 25, 1760.‘The accession of George the Third to the throne of these Kingdoms,’ wrote Boswell,‘opened a new and brighter prospect to men of literary merit, who had been honoured with no mark of royal favour in the preceding reign.’ Boswell's Johnson, i. 372. For Hume it was indeed the Augustan age. In 1765 he was appointed Secretary to the Embassy at Paris, having for nearly two years performed the duties of that office (ante, Auto.), and in 1767 he was made one of the Under-Secretaries of State. In 1765 a pension of £400 a year was settled on him. Burton's Hume, ii. 289. In 1751 his income was only £50 a year, while he had‘a hundred pounds’ worth of books, great store of linens and fine clothes, and near £100 in his pocket.’ Ib. i. 342.‘In 1769 I returned to Edinburgh,’ he writes,‘very opulent, for I possessed a revenue of £1000 a year.’ Ante, Auto. Johnson received a pension of £300 a year, Beattie of £200, and Home of £300 with an appointment. Adam Smith was made a Commissioner of Customs, and Robert Burns a gauger. The hack-partisan, Shebbeare, who had written himself into the pillory under George II, wrote himself into a pension under George III.’ Boswell's Johnson, ii. 112, n. 3. Gray, Goldsmith, Shenstone, Smollett, Sterne and Cowper lived and died unpensioned.
[7.]Note 7.‘Nov. 4, 1760. The Archbishop [Secker] has such hopes of the young King that he is never out of the circle. He trod upon the Duke's [Duke of Cumberland] foot on Sunday in the haste of his zeal; the Duke said to him, “My Lord, if your Grace is in such a hurry to make your court that is the way.”’ Walpole's Letters, iii. 359.‘Nov. 24, 1760. The Archbishop, who is never out of the drawing-room, has great hopes from the King's goodness that he shall make something of him, that is something bad of him.’Ib. p. 365.
[8.]Note 8.‘My good brother and ally the King of Prussia [Frederick the Great], although surrounded with numerous armies of enemies, has with a magnanimity and perseverance almost beyond example not only withstood their various attacks, but has obtained very considerable victories over them.’ King's Speech on opening Parliament, Nov. 18, 1760. Parl. Hist. xv. 983. Horace Walpole, writing six days later about his forthcoming Anecdotes of Painting, says (Letters, iii. 365):—’It neither flatters the King of Prussia nor Prince Ferdinand …; how should it please?’
[9.]Note 9. Johnson, writing in 1756 of the general toleration of religion granted by Frederick, says:—’It is the great taint of his character that he has given reason to doubt whether this toleration is the effect of charity or indifference, whether he means to support good men of every religion, or considers all religions as equally good.’ Johnson's Works, vi. 443. Voltaire, describing the life at Potsdam, says:—Il n’entrait jamais dans le palais ni femmes ni prêtres. En un mot Frédéric vivait sans cour, sans conseil, et sans culte.’ (Œuvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819–25, lxiv. 210. In La Loi Naturelle (written about 1751) Voltaire writes:—
[10.]Note 10.‘That happy extinction of divisions and that union and good harmony which continue to prevail amongst my subjects afford me the most agreeable prospects.’Parl. Hist. xv. 985. Horace Walpole, writing three weeks later, says:—’I have a maxim that “the extinction of party is the origin of faction.”’ Letters, iii. 370. In 1783 Boswell and Johnson were discussing how it was that‘this has been a very factious reign.’ Boswell's Johnson, iv. 200.
[11.]Note 11. In 1756 Hume wrote to Dr. Clephane:—’With regard to politics and the character of princes and great men I think I am very moderate. My views of things are more conformable to Whig principles, my representations of persons to Tory prejudices. Nothing can so much prove that men commonly regard more persons than things as to find that I am commonly numbered among the Tories.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 11. On May 15, 1761, he wrote to the Countess De Boufflers:—’The spirit of faction which prevails in this country, and which is a natural attendant on civil liberty, carries everything to extremes on the one side as well as on the other; and I have the satisfaction to find that my performance has alternately given displeasure to both parties.’ Priv. Corresp. p. 2. See ante in his Autobiography for the alterations made by him in his History of the Stuarts‘invariably to the Tory side.’ The student who reflects on the light that has of late years been thrown on the history of England under the Stuarts will smile at Hume's self-complacency when he writes:—’I have been very busy in adding the Authorities to the Volumes of the Stuarts…. I fancy that I shall be able to put my account of that Period of English History beyond controversy.’ Letter of Dec. 18, 1759. M. S. R. S. E. In his Autobiography, written shortly before his death, he says:—’I see many symptoms of my literary reputation's breaking out at last with additional lustre.’