Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER LXVI.: Brydone's Travels: Hume's Continuators: Tristram Shandy: Andrew Stuart. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER LXVI.: Brydone's Travels: Hume's Continuators: Tristram Shandy: Andrew Stuart. - 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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Brydone's Travels: Hume's Continuators: Tristram Shandy: Andrew Stuart.
30 Jany, 1773.
I find you must reprint all that Note about the Northumberland House-hold Book. The Alterations I make are very little material; but being requir’d in a very obliging manner by Dr. Piercy, and, I suppose, by the Family1 , I could not now refuse them, without giving them great Offence, which I wish to avoid.
I have likewise sent you one Addition to the Errata. The Passage at present is Nonsense, tho’ I find it has escap’d me in three Editions, notwithstanding it was printed right at first2 . Be so good as to insert it in its proper place; as I suppose the Errata is not printed.
I never, that I remember, mention’d to Capn Braidon any particular Sum which he might expect3 , as I receivd his Manuscript in Parcels and coud form no Estimate of its Bulk. His Journey over Mount Etna is the most curious part of it; and I wish it be not anticipated by a late German Work which is translated, but I have not read it4 . I recommended to Mr. Braidon to obliterate some Levities, too much in the Shandean Style5 , which he promis’d to do. I do hope with these Corrections, it will be thought a good readable Book and curious6 .
Considering the Treatment I have met with7 , it woud have been very silly for me at my Years to continue writing any more; and still more blameable to warp my Principles and Sentiments in conformity to the Prejudices of a stupid, factious Nation, with whom I am heartily disgusted8 . I wish my Continuators9 good Success; tho’ I believe they have sence enough not to care whether they meet with it or not. Macpherson has Style and Spirit; but is hot-headed, and consequently without Judgement10 . The Knight11 has Spirit, but no Style, and still less Judgement than the other. I shoud think Dr. Douglas12 , if he woud undertake it, a better hand than either. Or what think you of Andrew Stuart13 ? For as to any Englishman, that Nation is so sunk in Stupidity and Barbarism and Faction that you may as well think of Lapland14 for an Author. The best Book, that has been writ by any Englishman these thirty Years (for Dr. Franklyn is an American) is Tristram Shandy, bad as it is15 . A Remark which may astonish you; but which you will find true on Reflection16 .
I admire very much this Work of Andrew Stuart17 ; tho I was at first exceedingly alarmd at the Imprudence of the Attempt. I am less so, after perusing it; tho still it appears imprudent, according to the vulgar Rule of estimating these Matters.
I woud have you publish this new Edition as soon as it is ready; and rather submit to some Loss than allow the Book to be any longer discredited by that abominable Edition18 , which has given you and me so much Vexation, and has been one Cause why I have thrown my Pen aside for ever.
Believe me ever Yours
Note 1. The Duke of Northumberland had little concern in the matter, for he was not a Percy, but a Smithson. He had married the great-grand-daughter of the eleventh and last Earl of Northumberland. Horace Walpole wrote on Feb. 25, 1750:—‘Sir Hugh Smithson and Sir Charles Windham are Earls of Northumberland and Egremont, with vast estates; the former title, revived for the blood of Percy, has the misfortune of being coupled with the blood of a man that either let or drove coaches—such was Sir Hugh's grandfather!’ Letters, ii. 196. The name of Sir Hugh Smithson I have often read on the list of benefactors to the poor in the parish church of Tottenham High Cross. The district in that parish ridiculously called Northumberland Park, for there neither is nor ever was a park, takes its name from a house which belonged to the Smithsons.
Note 2. This passage is, I think, the following, in which Hume describes Lewis XIV's liberality in rewarding literary merit:—‘Besides pensions conferred on learned men throughout all Europe, his academies were directed by rules and supported by salaries: A generosity which does great honour to his memory; and in the eyes of all the ingenuous part of mankind will be esteemed an atonement for many of the errors of his reign.’ Ed. 1773, viii. 330. Ingenuous is a misprint for ingenious. In the first edition I find ingenious, but in the quarto edition of 1770 ingenuous.
Note 3. Strahan had written to Hume on Jan. 25:—‘I have at length agreed, but after much difficulty with Capt. Brydon. You had raised his Expectations so very high, and so much beyond the real Worth of the Book, which will hardly make two Octavo Volumes very loosely printed, that he could not be satisfied with the very utmost the Size and Nature of the Book would admit of. You spoil all young Authors by leading them to expect Prices only due to Veterans in Literature, and Men of established Reputation.’ M. S. R. S. E.
Note 4. Travels through Sicily and part of Italy, by Baron Riedesel. Translated from the German by John Forster. London, 1773.
Note 5. Johnson the year before, speaking of a book of travels, had said that it was an imitation of Sterne. Boswell's Johnson, ii. 175.
Note 6. As an example of Brydone's style I will quote the following story:—’do you remember old Huet—the greatest of all originals? One day, as he passed the statue of Jupiter in the Capitol, he pulled off his hat, and made him a bow. A Jacobite gentleman who observed it asked him, why he paid so much respect to that old gentleman. “For the same reason,” replied Huet, “that you pay so much to the Pretender. Besides,” added he, “I think there is rather a greater probability that his turn will come round again than that of your hero. I shall therefore endeavour to keep well with him, and hope he will never forget that I took notice of him in the time of his adversity.”’ Vol. i. p. 158.
Note 7. He had been appointed to high offices, and had retired on a pension of £400 a year, with a request from the King that he would continue his History (ante, p. 55). He had been paid for it, as he boasted, at a higher rate than any previous writer (ante, p. 33, n. 2), and for its continuation he was told that the booksellers were ready to give him whatever sum he chose to name (ante, p. 54). These unmanly complaints are in striking contrast with Johnson's contentment. ‘I asked him,’ writes Boswell, ‘if he was not dissatisfied with having so small a share of wealth, and none of those distinctions in the state which are the objects of ambition. He had only a pension of three hundred a year. Why was he not in such circumstances as to keep his coach? Why had.he not some considerable office? JOHNSON. “Sir, I have never complained of the world; nor do I think that I have reason to complain. It is rather to be wondered at that I have so much.”’ Boswell's Johnson, iv. 116.
Note 8. Three years later Hume wrote to Gibbon, on reading the first volume of the Decline and Fall:—‘Whether I consider the dignity of your style, the depth of your matter, or the extensiveness of your learning, I must regard the work as equally the object of esteem; and I own, that if I had not previously had the happiness of your personal acquaintance, such a performance from an Englishman in our age would have given me some surprise. You may smile at this sentiment, but as it seems to me that your countrymen, for almost a whole generation, have given themselves up to barbarous and absurd faction, and have totally neglected all polite letters, I no longer expected any valuable production ever to come from them.’ The high position that Hume held among men of learning is shown by what Gibbon has recorded:—‘A letter from Mr. Hume overpaid the labour of ten years.’ Misc. Works, i. 224.
Note 9. Strahan had written to Hume on Jan. 25:—‘After what you now tell me I altogether despair of seeing a continuation of your History from yourself; but I have some notion it may be done by some other hand; perhaps Sir John Dalrymple or Mr. Macpherson.’ M. S. R. S. E. The latter volumes of Smollett's History have been so generally taken by the booksellers as a continuation of Hume, that it is commonly believed that he was, as an historian, merely his ‘continuator.’ He had however published his Complete History of England from the descent of Julius Cæsar to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748, before Hume had done more than bring out the History of England under the Stuarts. Hume however had completed his work before Smollett, with the help of William Guthrie, published the five concluding volumes which carried down his History to the year 1765. On March 12, 1759, Hume wrote to Dr. Robertson, whose History of Scotland had just been published:—‘A plague take you! Here I sat near the historical summit of Parnassus, immediately under Dr. Smollett; and you have the impudence to squeeze yourself by me, and place yourself directly under his feet.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 53. This was not Hume's real opinion. He knew his superiority as an historian to Smollett, who in fourteen months had written the history of eighteen centuries. Writing to Millar on April 6, 1758, Hume said:—‘I am afraid that the extraordinary run upon Dr. Smollett has a little hurt your sales. But these things are only temporary.’ M. S. R. S. E.
Note 10. Hume wrote to Adam Smith on April 10, 1773:—‘Have you seen Macpherson's Homer? It is hard to tell whether the attempt or the execution be worse. I hear he is employed by the booksellers to continue my History. But, in my opinion, of all men of parts he has the most anti-historical head in the universe.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 467. See ante, p. 36, n. 1, and post, Letter of Nov. 13, 1775.
Note 11. Sir John Dalrymple of Cranston was more than a knight; he was a baronet. See ante, p. 180, n. 22, for Johnson's criticism of his Memoirs. He ridiculed his style also when he and Boswell were on their way to his house, where they had been invited to dine and spend the night. They had loitered so much that they could not, they saw, arrive in time for dinner. ‘When I talked,’ writes Boswell, ‘of the grievous disappointment it must have been to him that we did not come to the feast that he had prepared for us, (for he told us he had killed a seven-year old sheep on purpose,) my friend got into a merry mood, and jocularly said, “I dare say, Sir, he has been very sadly distressed: Nay, we do not know but the consequence may have been fatal. Let me try to describe his situation in his own historical style:... —“Dinner being ready, he wondered that his guests were not yet come. His wonder was soon succeeded by impatience. He walked about the room in anxious agitation; sometimes he looked at his watch, sometimes he looked out at the window with an eager gaze of expectation, and revolved in his mind the various accidents of human life. His family beheld him with mute concern. ‘Surely (said he with a sigh) they will not fail me.’ The mind of man can bear a certain pressure; but there is a point when it can bear no more. A rope was in his view; and he died a Roman death.”’ Ib. v. 403. There is a hit at him in the Parl. Hist. xvii. 963, in the report of the proceedings in the Lords on the question of literary property on Feb. 7, 1774. He was heard as counsel for the defendants, ‘and spoke for two hours and a half, and seemed to exhaust in this one speech all the knowledge, metaphysical, legal, chemical, and political he possesses.’
Note 12. Dr. John Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, whom Goldsmith in Retaliation describes as ‘The scourge of impostors, the terror of quacks.’ See Boswell's Johnson, i. 228, 407. In Samuel Rogers's Table Talk, p. 106, it is recorded that ‘Hume told Cadell, the bookseller, that he had a great desire to be introduced to as many of the persons who had written against him as could be collected. Accordingly, Dr. Douglas, Dr. Adams, etc., were invited by Cadell to dine at his house, in order to meet Hume. They came; and Dr. Price, who was of the party, assured me that they were all delighted with David.’ Dr. Douglas had edited the Correspondence of the second Earl of Clarendon and of his brother the Earl of Rochester, etc. Hume wrote to Millar on Oct. 27, 1760:—‘I am very much pleased with what you tell me, that the Clarendon Papers have fallen into Dr. Douglas's hands, especially as Dr. Robertson tells me he intends to publish them.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 87.
Note 13. See ante, p. 239, n. 9. Hume suggests none but Scotchmen. Even Goldsmith is not mentioned, though he was not an Englishman and ‘a factious barbarian,’ and though his ‘History,’ if we may trust Johnson, ‘is better than the verbiage of Robertson, or the foppery of Dalrymple.’ Boswell's Johnson, ii. 236.
Note 14. See ante, p. 63, for a letter in which Horace Walpole, writing of the Scotch, says:—Do not let us be run down and brazened out of all our virtue, genius, sense, and taste by Laplanders and Bœotians, who never produced one original writer in verse or prose.’ Letters, vii. 511. At the time when Hume wrote of England that ‘you may as well think of Lapland for an author,’ there certainly was a dearth of eminent writers who were Englishmen by birth. In the previous ten years had died Churchill, Young, Sterne, Chatterton and Gray. Johnson, Warburton, Blackstone, Horace Walpole, and Lord Chesterfield were living, but the fame of the last two chiefly rests on their Letters which were not as yet published. Cowper, Crabbe, Gibbon, Jeremy Bentham, and Miss Burney had begun to publish before another ten years had run out. Wordsworth and Coleridge, though born, were still too young even ‘to lisp in numbers.’ Burke, Goldsmith, and R. B. Sheridan, who brought out his first play two years later, must be excluded as they were Irish by origin. Scotland boasted of Hume, Boswell, Adam Smith, Robertson, Beattie, Blair, Henry, Henry Mackenzie, Reid, the Dalrymples, Ferguson, Kames and Monboddo; but many of these, instead of lasting as ‘northern lights,’ have turned out to be ‘mere farthing candles’ (Boswell's Johnson, v. 57). Smollett had been dead rather more than a year, Burns was a boy of fourteen, and Scott an infant.
Note 15. Johnson said of Sterne's great work:—‘Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last.’ Boswell's Johnson, ii. 449. Horace Walpole spoke of it as ‘a very insipid and tedious performance’; ‘the dregs of nonsense, which have universally met the contempt they deserve.’ Letters, iii. 298, 382. Goldsmith in the Citizen of the World (Letter 74) called the author ‘a bawdy block-head.’ Speaking of him to Johnson, he said he was ‘a very dull fellow’; to which Johnson replied, ‘Why, no, Sir.’ Boswell's Johnson, ii. 222. Voltaire looked on Sterne as ‘le second Rabelais d’Angleterre’; Swift being the first. Elig;uvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819–25, xxxiv. 513.
Note 16. The exception of Franklin has a somewhat comical effect when we call to mind that in ‘these thirty years’ had been published Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison, Tom Jones and Amelia, the great Dictionary, the Rambler and Rasselas, Collins's Odes, and all Gray's Poems. It is highly probable however that Hume, who was a thorough Frenchman in his love of paying pretty compliments, thought that this passage would be shown to Franklin. Strahan had added as a postscript to his last letter, which Hume had just received:—’dr. Franklin, who sits at my elbow, desires to be affectionately remembered to you and to your worthy sister, who was so kind to him.’ M. S. R. S. E.
Note 17. Andrew Stuart's Letters to Lord Mansfield. See ante, p. 239, n. 9. Hume on Feb. 24 of this year, advising Adam Smith to buy this work, says:—‘They have, they say, met with vast success in London. Andrew has eased his own mind, and no bad effects are to follow. Lord Mansfield is determined absolutely to neglect them.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 466. ‘Dr. Johnson maintained that this publication would not give any uneasiness to the Judge. “For (said he) either he acted honestly, or he meant to do injustice. If he acted honestly, his own consciousness will protect him; if he meant to do injustice, he will be glad to see the man who attacks him so much vexed!”’ Boswell's Johnson, ii. 475.
Note 18. See ante, p. 141, n. 7.
Note 19. Hume is so full of his own affairs that he forgets to congratulate Strahan on the following piece of family news in a letter dated Jan. 25:—‘My son George is now Vicar of Islington, with an income of between £300 and £400 a year; a populous and increasing parish, within half an hour's walk of my own house. The purchase however cost a good deal of money, though less than these things usually come to.’ M. S. R. S. E. It was to George Strahan's vicarage that ‘Johnson went sometimes for the benefit of good air.’ Boswell's Johnson, iv. 271.