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LETTER LVI.: Hume's Suppressed Essays. - 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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Hume's Suppressed Essays.
I have called on Dr. Millar and he on me; but have never met with him, because tho’ this place be not large1 , I live in a manner out of Town, and am very seldom in it2 . My Sister3 also has been dangerously ill of late, which has kept me more out of Company. But I am told by a Friend, that Dr. Millar said to him, there was a Bookseller in London, who had advertisd a new Book, containing, among other things, two of my suppress’d Essays. These I suppose are two Essays of mine, one on Suicide another on the Immortality of the Soul, which were printed by Andrew Millar about seventeen Years ago, and which from my abundant Prudence I suppress’d and woud not now wish to have revivd. I know not if you were acquainted with this Transaction. It was this: I intended to print four Dissertations, the natural History of Religion, on the Passions, on Tragedy, and on the metaphisical Principles of Geometry. I sent them up to Mr. Millar; but before the last was printed, I happend to meet with Lord Stanhope4 , who was in this Country, and he convincd me, that either there was some Defect in the Argument or in its perspicuity; I forget which; and I wrote to Mr. Millar, that I woud not print that Essay5 ; but upon his remonstrating that the other Essays woud not make a Volume, I sent him up these two, which I had never intended to have publishd. They were printed; but it was no sooner done than I repented; and Mr. Millar and I agreed to suppress them at common Charges, and I wrote a new Essay on the Standard of Taste, to supply their place. Mr. Millar assurd me very earnestly that all the Copies were suppress’d, except one which he sent to Sir Andrew Mitchel6 , in whose Custody I thought it safe. But I have since found that there either was some Infidelity or Negligence in the case; For on Mr. Morehead's Death7 , there was found a Copy, which his Nephew deliverd up to me. But there have other Copies got abroad; and from one of these, some rascally Bookseller is, it seems, printing this Edition8 . I am not extremely alarmd at this Event, but if threatening him woud prevent it, I woud willingly employ that means. I am afraid all will be in vain; but if you know him, be as good as try what can be done; and also learn from what hand he had the Copy. I believe an Injunction in Chancery might be got against him; but then I must acknowledge myself the Author and this Expedient woud make a Noise and render the Affair more public. In a post or two, I may perhaps get you more particular Intelligence of the Booksellers Name.
I am extremely obligd to you for the Pains you take about correcting my Sheets; and you see that I almost always profit by it.
Jany. 25, 1772.
Note 1. Robert Chambers, in his Traditions of Edinburgh, ed. 1825, i. 21, speaking of this time says, on the authority of ‘an ancient native of Edinburgh, that people all knew each other by sight. The appearance of a new face upon the streets was at once remarked, and numbers busied themselves in finding out who and what the stranger was.’
Note 2. He had not yet moved into his new house, which was outside the town. See post, p. 250, n. 3. Perhaps he spent most of his time there looking after the workmen. On Oct 2, 1770, he had written that he could not leave Edinburgh, as he was building a house. ‘By being present, I have already prevented two capital mistakes which the mason was falling into; and I shall be apprehensive of his falling into more, were I to be at a distance.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 436.
Note 3. Hume writing to a friend in 1753 says:—‘About seven months ago I got a house of my own, and completed a regular family; consisting of a head, viz. myself, and two inferior members, a maid and a cat. My sister has since joined me, and keeps me company. With frugality I can reach, I find, cleanliness, warmth, light, plenty, and contentment. What would you have more? Independence? I have it in a supreme degree. Honour? that is not altogether wanting. Grace? that will come in time. A wife? that is none of the indispensable requisites of life. Books? that is one of them; and I have more than I can use.’ Burton's Hume, i. 377.
Note 4. Philip, second Earl Stanhope. ‘He had great talents, but fitter for speculation than for practical objects of action. He made himself one of the best—Lalande used to say the best—mathematicians in England of his day, and was likewise deeply skilled in other branches of science and philosophy. The Greek language was as familiar to him as the English; he was said to know every line of Homer by heart. In public life, on the contrary, he was shy, ungainly, and embarrassed. So plain was he in his dress and deportment, that on going down to the House of Lords to take his seat, after a long absence on the Continent, the door-keeper could not believe he was a peer, and pushed him aside, saying, “Honest man, you have no business in this place.” “I am sorry, indeed,” replied the Earl, “if honest men have no business here.” Mahon's History of England, ed. 1838, iii. 242. Horace Walpole wrote on March 4, 1745:—‘Earl Stanhope has at last lifted up his eyes from Euclid, and directed them to matrimony.’ Letters, i. 344.
Note 5. This Essay must have been destroyed by Hume.
Note 6. See ante, p. 181, n. 25. Hume wrote to Millar on May 27, 1756:—‘I have no objection to Mr. Mitchels having a copy of the Dissertations.’ M. S. R. S. E.
Note 7. The death of William Morehead, Esq., in Cavendish Square, on June 12, 1766, is recorded in the Gent. Mag. for that year, p. 295. He may have been the man mentioned by Hume.
Note 8. Hume wrote to Millar on June 12, 1755:—‘There are four short Dissertations which I have kept some years by me, in order to polish them as much as possible. One of them is that which Allan Ramsay mentioned to you. [The Natural History of Religion.] Another, of the Passions; a third, of Tragedy; a fourth, Some Considerations previous to Geometry and Natural Philosophy.’ Burton's Hume, i. 421. ‘In 1783,’ says Dr. Burton, Ib. ii. 13, ‘a work was published in London called Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul, ascribed to the late David Hume, Esq., never before published; with remarks intended as an antidote to the poison contained in these performances, by the Editor. The editor and his antidote are now both forgotten; but the style of Hume and his method of thinking were at once recognised in these Essays, and they have been incorporated with the general edition of his works.... That Hume wrote these Essays, and intended to publish them, is thus an incident in his life which ought not to be passed over; but it is also part of his history that he repented of the act at the last available moment, and suppressed the publication.’ Dr. Burton says that ‘many copies of the first edition bear marks of having been mutilated. In a copy which I possess,’ he adds, ‘after p. 200, the end of the third Dissertation, there are four strips of paper, the remains of half a sheet, cut away. This occurs in signature K, and signature L begins with the fourth dissertation.’ (For signature see ante, p. 152, n. 6.) On April 23, 1764, Hume wrote to Millar from Paris:—‘I never see Mr. Wilkes here but at chapel, where he is a most regular, and devout, and edifying, and pious attendant; I take him to be entirely regenerate. He told me last Sunday, that you had given him a copy of my Dissertations, with the two which I had suppressed; and that he, foreseeing danger from the sale of his library, had wrote to you to find out that copy, and to tear out the two obnoxious dissertations. Pray how stands that fact? It was imprudent in you to intrust him with that copy: it was very prudent in him to use that precaution. Yet I do not naturally suspect you of imprudence, nor him of prudence. I must hear a little farther before I pronounce.’ Millar wrote back on June 5:—‘I take Mr. Wilkes to be the same man he was,—acting a part. He has forgot the story of the two Dissertations. The fact is, upon importunity, I lent to him the only copy I preserved, and for years never could recollect he had it, till his books came to be sold ; upon this I went immediately to the gentleman that directed the sale, told him the fact, and reclaimed the two Dissertations which were my property. Mr. Coates, who was the person, immediately delivered me the volume; and so soon as I got home, I tore them out and burnt them, that I might not lend them to any for the future. Two days after, Mr. Coates sent me a note for the volume, as Mr. Wilkes had desired it should be sent him to Paris; I returned the volume, but told him the two Dissertations I had torn out of the volume and burnt, being my property. This is the truth of the matter, and nothing but the truth. It was certainly imprudent for me to lend them to him.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 202. Wilkes wrote to Earl Temple that Cotes had sold his books in 1764 for £427. Grenville Papers, iv. 16. Cotes, who was his agent, seems to have robbed him. Ib. p. 3, note.