Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XVII: French Works for Translation into English. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER XVII: French Works for Translation into English. - 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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French Works for Translation into English.
I have long expected to hear from you and to learn your Sentiments of English Politics1. , according to the Promise you made me on parting: Perhaps, you have as long expected to hear from me; and thus while we stand upon Ceremony, our Correspondence is never likely to begin. But I have now broke the Ice, and it will be your Fault, if our Commerce of Letters does not continue.
I have been on the Watch this Winter for any publication, which might answer in an English Translation, and have even fix’d a Correspondence with one of the Licencers of the Press to give me early Intelligence; but there has nothing appeard, which I thought woud answer, except Voltaire's Treatise of Toleration, of which only a very few stolen copies came here, and it was impossible for me to procure one2.
Are you acquainted with the Merit of Madame Riccoboni's Novels? She is the Author of Lady Juliette Catesby, and others which have been very well receivd both in France and England; and are indeed wrote with great Elegance and Decency3. . She has just now in the Press a Novel4. , wrote upon English Manners, from which great Success is expected. Woud you think it worthy of being translated? I coud get from her some Sheets of it, which I woud send you by a Courier5. , and which woud secure you the Property: The rest I woud send by any Traveller, of whom Numbers set out every day6. .
As she is a Woman of Merit, but poor, any small Present, proportiond to the Success of the Work, I shall only mention in general, and shall leave the Amount of it to your own Discretion afterwards.
Please to direct to me, under Cover to the Earl of Hertford, and send your Letters to Northumberland House in the Strand.
I am Dear Sir Your affectionate Friend and humble Servant
Paris, 20 March, 1764.
P.S.—Pray inform me, if you can, of the Reason of this continued low Price of Stocks7. : They say, that Money is as scarce in private Transactions. But what is the Reason of that, after the Peace has been establishd for above a twelve month?
Since I wrote the above, I have procurd the two first printed Sheets, from Made Riccoboni. They will secure you the Property, if you think proper to have them translated, which I think they very much deserve. The whole will make two small Volumes.
These are the proof Sheets corrected. The Translator must follow the Corrections on the Margins. What do you think of a French Edition also of the Original?
[1.]Note 1. Two days earlier Hume, writing to Millar, had asked him to send to him‘a copy of this new Book burnd by Order of the House of Commons.’ M.S.R.S.E. Very likely he had heard of the book from the Earl of Hertford, to whom Horace Walpole had written on Feb. 24:—’The events of the week have been a complaint made by Lord Lyttelton in your House of a book called Droit le Roy; a tract written in the highest strain of prerogative, and drawn from all the old obsolete law-books on that question. The ministers met this complaint with much affected indignation, and even, on the complaint being communicated to us, took it up themselves; and both Houses have ordered the book to be burned by the hangman.’ Letters, iv. 198.
[2.]Note 2. Voltaire's Traité sur la Tolérance à l’Occasion de la Mort de Jean Calas was published at the end of 1763. Voltaire, in his letters written in December of that year, tells of the difficulties he had in getting it introduced from Switzerland into France. On Dec. 13 he wrote to D’Alembert:—’Vous ne savez pas combien il est difficile de faire parvenir de gros paquets par la poste…. L’éditeur a pris, pour envoyer à Paris ses ballots, une route si détournée et si longue, qu’ils n’arriveront pas à Paris cette année.’ In a postscript he adds:—’Les pauvres Cramer [his publishers at Geneva] ont été obligés de faire faire à leurs paquets le tour de l’Europe, pour arriver à Paris.’ Œuvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819—25, lxii. 252—4. On Dec. 31 he writes:—’deux paquets adressés à M. Damilaville sont restés entre les griffes des vautours. Il faut que le vôtre n’ait point échappé à leur barbarie, puisque je n’ai aucune nouvelle de vous; tout cela m’embarrasse. Je vois qu’on ne tolère ni la Tolérance ni les tolérans.’ Ib. p. 259. On Feb. 13, 1764, he writes:—’Le petit livret de la Tolérance a déjà fait au moins quelque bien. Il a tiré un pauvre diable des galères, et un autre de prison. Leur crime était d’avoir entendu en plein champ la parole de Dieu prêchée par un ministre huguenot. Ils ont bien promis de n’entendre de sermon de leur vie.’ Ib. p. 270. Later on he described the treatise as‘le catéchisme de quiconque a du bon sens et de l’équité.’ Ib. lxiv. 315.
[3.]Note 3. Mme. Riccoboni was born in 1714 and died in 1792. She belonged to a family of good position which was ruined by sharing in Law's speculations. For a short time she was on the stage, where she met with but moderate success. Her husband who died in 1772 was an actor, and belonged to a family of actors. Among her novels were Les lettres de Fanny Butler, Les lettres de Julie Catesby, and L’histoire de Miss Jenny. Her last days were passed in great poverty. Nouv. Biog. Gén. xlii. 153. She was a correspondent of Garrick. Writing to him on May 15, 1765, she says:—’J’ai reçu hier par un libraire de Paris des compliments très-honnêtes d’une Madame Broock ou Brock, je ne m’en souviens plus. C’est la traductrice de Milady Catesby: elle écrit qu’elle en est à la quatrième édition. Cela est fort différent de Monsieur Becket, qui s’est ruiné avec Miss Jenny. Cette dame me fait demander la permission de m’envoyer ses ouvrages. J’avais dessein de lui faire tenir les miens; mais Monsieur Hume ne la connaissait point, et s’avisa de donner cette malheureuse Jenny à Monsieur Becket, qui en a fait un garde-boutique, un fond de magasin pour ses arrière-neveux.’ Garrick Corresp. ii. 436. In the list of books in the Gent. Mag. for April and May 1760, p. 251, I find‘Letters from Lady Catesby to Lady Henrietta Campley. From the French. Price three shillings. Dodsley.’ According to the Dict. of Nat. Biog. vi. 420, this book soon reached a sixth edition. Mrs. Frances Brooke, the translator, was the author of The Siege of Sinope. She pressed Johnson to look over this play till at last he told her that she must correct it herself.‘“But, Sir,” said she, “I have no time. I have already so many irons in the fire.” “Why, then, Madam,” said he, “the best thing I can advise you to do is to put your tragedy along with your irons.”’ Hannah More's Memoirs, i. 200.
[4.]Note 4. L’histoire de Miss Jenny Revel, écrite et envoyée par elle à Milady Comtesse de Roscommon. In the translation, The History of Miss Jenny Salisbury, addressed to the Countess of Roscommon.
[5.]Note 5. No doubt one of the couriers or messengers going between the French Embassy and London. See post, p. 45.
[6.]Note 6. Horace Walpole, writing from Paris on Sept. 22, 1765, says (Letters, iv. 407):—’There are swarms of English here, but most of them are going to my great satisfaction.’
[7.]Note 7. Hume wrote to Millar on April 8, 1762:—’I was extremely obliged to you for advancing the money in order to enable me to take part in the last subscription. I shall certainly keep it till the Peace, which seems now to be in a tolerable good way; and then I shall be a considerable gainer.’ M. S. R. S. E. On Aug. 30 of the same year Robert Wood, the author of The Ruins of Palmyra and for some time an Under-Secretary of State, wrote to Hume:—'shan’t we see you next winter with a pair of quartos? You must make haste to put them into the funds, for scrip rises fast. Ramsay and little Hall talk of nothing else but their paper riches. We consider every shilling we put in as eighteen-pence the moment it goes to the Alley’ [’Change Alley]. Letters of Eminent Persons to David Hume, p. 263. On Nov. 22 following, Hume wrote from Edinburgh to Millar:—’The Stocks are now very high; but I suppose will not come to their full height this twelvemonth, and till then I fancy you will not think it prudent in me to sell out.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 140. On Sept. 3, 1764, he wrote to Millar from Paris:—’The lowness of stocks surely proceeds not from any apprehension of war; never was a general peace established in Europe with more likelihood of its continuance; but I fancy your stocks are become at last too weighty, to the conviction of all the world. What must happen if we go on at the same rate during another war?’ Ib. p. 232. Millar replied early in 1765:—’It is generally believed that Mr. Grenville is a good manager of the finances and in general means well; as a proof of it, our stocks have been creeping up daily, and it is now generally believed that 3 per cent. will soon come to par if affairs continue peaceable.’ Ib. p. 265. In Feb. 1762, the 3 per cent. consols were as low as 62, Gent. Mag. 1762, p. 96: by November they had risen to 86. Ib. p. 554. On March 2o, 1764, the day on which Hume wrote, they were at 85. Ib. 1764, p. 148. In March 1737, during the long peace of Walpole's ministry, Sir John Barnard in a motion for the reduction of interest said:—’Every one knows that even those public securities which bear an interest of 3 per cent. only now sell at a premium in‘Change Alley.’ Parl. Hist. x. 74.