Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXV.: Hume's Quarrel with Rousseau. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
LETTER XXV.: Hume's Quarrel with Rousseau. - David Hume, Letters of David Hume to William Strahan 
Letters of David Hume to William Strahan, ed. G. Birkbeck Hill (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
Hume's Quarrel with Rousseau.
[London, July 15, 1766.]
All I can say of Sir David Dalrymple is that he is now a Lord of the Session, and passes by the Name of Lord Hales or New-hales, I know not which1. . He is a godly Man; feareth the Lord and escheweth Evil, And works out his Salvation with Fear and Trembling2. . None of the Books Sir David publishes are of his writing: They are all historical Manuscripts, of little or no Consequence3. . I go to Woburn4. for three or four days.
[1.]Note 1. The fifteen Scotch judges, or Lords of Session,‘have,’ writes Boswell,‘both in and out of Court the title of Lords from the name of their estates.’ Boswell's Johnson, ii. 291, n. 6. Lord Cock-burn, writing in 1852, says:—’This assumption of two names, one official and one personal, and being addressed by the one and subscribing by the other, is wearing out, and will soon disappear.’ Cock-burn's Jeffrey, i. 365. Dalrymple took the title of Lord Hailes. His grandfather, who had bought the family mansion, then lately erected, had given it the name of New Hailes, to distinguish it, no doubt, from some older house. See Scotland and Scotsmen, i. 411 note. Boswell informed Johnson of‘Sir David's eminent character for learning and religion.’ Johnson thereupon ’drank a bumper to him, “as a man of worth, a scholar, and a wit.” “I have,” said he, “never heard of him except from you; but let him know my opinion of him; for as he does not shew himself much in the world, he should have the praise of the few who hear of him.”’ Boswell's Johnson, i. 432, 451. When Johnson visited Scotland he met Dalrymple and was highly pleased with him. Ib. v. 48. Later on he revised at his request the proofs of his Annals of Scotland, which he described as‘a new mode of history…. The exactness of his dates raises my wonder.’ Ib. ii. 383.
[2.]Note 2. Hume, in his Scriptural phrases, apparently has in mind Job ii. 3, and Philippians ii. 12. Dalrymple was one of‘the malicious fellows,’ who, as Curators of the Advocates’ Library, had‘struck out of the catalogue, and removed from the shelves as indecent books, and unworthy of a place in a learned library,’ three French works which Hume, when Librarian, had purchased. See ante, my note on Hume's Autobiography.
[3.]Note 3. ’dr. Johnson had last night [Aug. 15, 1773] looked into Lord Hailes's Remarks on the History of Scotland. Dr. Robertson and I said it was a pity Lord Hailes did not write greater things. His Lordship had not then published his Annals of Scotland.’ Boswell's Johnson, v. 38. Hume wrote from London to Sir Gilbert Elliot, on July 5, 1768:—’I have seen a book newly printed at Edinburgh, called Philosophical Essays; it has no manner of sense in it, but is wrote with tolerable neatness of style; whence I conjecture it to be our friend, Sir David's.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 414. Elliot having informed him that James Balfour was the author, Hume replied:—’I thought Sir David had been the only Christian that could write English on the other side of the Tweed.’ Ib. p. 418.
[4.]Note 4. Hume wrote to Dr. Blair on July 15, 1766:—’I go in a few hours to Woburn’ [the seat of the Duke of Bedford]. Burton's Hume, ii. 345. He had been introduced by the Countess de Boufflers to the Duke and Duchess,‘who have,’ he wrote,‘been essentially obliged to her in their family concerns. She wrote the Duke about a fortnight ago that the time was now come, and the only time that probably ever would come, of his shewing his friendship to her by assisting me in my applications [to be made Secretary to the Embassy]; and she would rest on this sole circumstance all his professions of regard to her. He received her letter while in the country, but he wrote her back that he would immediately hasten to town, and if he had any credit with the King or Ministry, her solicitations should be complied with.’ Ib. p. 279. Hume, in his last illness, complained to John Home of the design of the Whigs to ruin him as an author.‘Amongst many instances of this he told me one which was new to me. The Duke of Bedford (who afterwards conceived a great affection for him) by the suggestions of some of his party friends ordered his son, Lord Tavistock, not to read his History of England.’ Ib. ii. 500.
[5.]Note 5. So early as the summer of 1762, Hume touched with pity for Rousseau,‘who was obliged to fly France on account of some passages in his Emile, had offered him a retreat in his own house, so long as he should please to partake of it.’ At the same time he tried to procure him a pension from George III.‘It would,’ he wrote to Gilbert Elliot,‘be a signal victory over the French worth a hundred of our Mindens1, to protect and encourage a man of genius whom they had persecuted2.’ At this same time Rousseau was writing to the Countess de Boufflers:—’Ainsi successivement on me refusera partout l’air et l’eau…. Dans l’état où je suis, il ne me reste qu’à me laisser chasser de frontière en frontière, jusqu’à ce que je ne puisse plus aller. Alors le dernier fera de moi ce qu’il lui plaira3.’ To Hume he wrote on Feb. 19, 1763 from Motiers Travers, where he was under the protection of the exiled Earl Marischal of Scotland:—’Que ne puis-je espérer de nous voir un jour rassemblés avec Milord dans votre commune patrie, qui deviendrait la mienne! Je bénirais dans une société si douce les malheurs par lesquels j’y fus conduit, et je croirais n’avoir commencé de vivre que du jour qu’elle aurait commencé. Puissé-je voir cet heureux jour plus désiré qu’espéré! Avec quel transport je m’écrierais, en touchant l’heureuse terre où sont nés David Hume et le Maréchal d’Écosse,
[6.]Note 6. Hume writing to Blair on July 15, 1766, expresses himself in almost the same words. He writes:—’To-day I received a letter from Rousseau, which is perfect frenzy. It would make a good eighteen-penny pamphlet; and I fancy he intends to publish it…. I own that I was very anxious about this affair, but this letter has totally relieved me.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 345–6. Rousseau thus describes his letter to Lord Marischal:—’Je voudrais vous envoyer copie des lettres, mais c’est un livre pour la grosseur.’ Œuvres de Rousseau, xxiv. 382.
[7.]Note 7. How little his mind was at ease is shewn by the very long account of the affair which he wrote on this same 15th of July to the Countess De Boufflers. In it he says:—’I must now, my dear friend, apply to you for consolation and advice in this affair, which both distresses and perplexes me…. It is extremely dangerous for me to be entirely silent. He is at present composing a book, in which it is very likely he may fall on me with some atrocious lie…. My present intention therefore is to write a narrative of the whole affair…. But is it not very hard that I should be put to all this trouble, and undergo all this vexation, merely on account of my singular friendship and attention to this most atrocious scélérat? … I know that I shall have Mme. de Barbantane's sympathy and compassion if she be at Paris.’ Hume's Private Corres. p. 181.