Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER LXXIX.: Last Corrections of the History: Smith's Wealth of Nations: Gibbon's Decline and Fall. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER LXXIX.: Last Corrections of the History: Smith's Wealth of Nations: Gibbon's Decline and Fall. - 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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Last Corrections of the History: Smith's Wealth of Nations: Gibbon's Decline and Fall.
11 of Feby., 1776.
Last Monday, I sent to the Newcastle Waggon the four first Volumes corrected of my History. They are directed to Mr. Cadell. You will see by the Margins, that I have not been idle: And as the Corrections have cost me a great deal of care and Attention, I am anxious that the Books be safely deliver’d. They may arrive about three Weeks hence; about which time, if Mr. Cadell does not receive them, I beg, that he would take the trouble of enquiring about them; and as soon as they come to hand, let me know of it by a Line. The other Volumes will be ready, whenever the Press demands them; of which you will be so good as to inform me in time.
I hope you will employ one of your most careful Compositors in this Edition: For as it is the last, which, at my Age and in my State of Health1 , I can hope to see, I wish to leave it correct. I think that it will not be prudent in you, to make this Edition more numerous than the former one.
I wonder what Smith means by not publishing2 . I am glad to see my Friend Gibbon advertised3 : I am confident it will be a very good Book; though I am at a Loss to conceive where he finds materials for a Volume from Trajan to Constantine4 . Be so good as to make my Compliments to him: The Book has not yet arrived here.
I am Dear Sir Very sincerely Your most obedient humble Servant
David Hume5 .
Note 1. Hume had written to Adam Smith three days earlier:—‘By all accounts you intend to settle with us this spring; yet we hear no more of it. What is the reason? Your chamber in my house is always unoccupied. I am always at home. I expect you to land here. I have been, am, and shall be probably in an indifferent state of health. I weighed myself t‘other day, and find I have fallen five complete stones. If you delay much longer, I shall probably disappear altogether.’ Burton's Hume, ii. 483.
Note 2. In the letter from which the extract in the last note is taken Hume said:—‘I am as lazy a correspondent as you, yet my anxiety about you makes me write. By all accounts your book has been printed long ago; yet it has never been so much as advertised. What is the reason? If you wait till the fate of America be decided, you may wait long.’ So early as 1770 Smith seems to have thought of publishing his great work, for Hume wrote to him on Feb. 6 of that year, hearing that he was going up to London:—‘How can you so much as entertain a thought of publishing a book full of reason, sense, and learning to those wicked abandoned madmen?’ Burton's Hume, ii. 433. It is announced in the London Chronicle for Saturday, March 9, ‘This day was published elegantly printed in 2 vols. 4to. price £1 16s. in boards, An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. By Adam Smith, LL.D. & F.R.S. Formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow. Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell in the Strand.’ Adam Smith, it will be noticed, here gives the full additions to his name. When seventeen years earlier he was publishing his Theory of Moral Sentiments, he wrote to Strahan:—‘In the titles both of the Theory and Dissertation call me simply Adam Smith, without any addition either before or behind.’ Original Letters of Adam Smith, published in the New York Evening Post, April 30, 1887.
Note 3. Gibbon wrote to Holroyd on Jan. 18 of this year:—‘We proceed triumphantly with the Roman Empire, and shall certainly make our appearance before the end of next month.’ Gibbon's Misc. Works, ii. 142. In the London Chronicle for Tuesday, Feb. 20, it is announced as ‘published this day, elegantly printed in quarto, price one guinea in boards.’ Horace Walpole had received his copy before Feb. 14. Letters, vi. 307. Writing to Mason on Feb. 18, he said:—‘Lo, there is just appeared a truly classic work; a history, not majestic like Livy, nor compressed like Tacitus; not stamped with character like Clarendon; perhaps not so deep as Robertson's Scotland, but a thousand degrees above his Charles; not pointed like Voltaire, but as accurate as he is inexact; modest as he is tranchant, and sly as Montesquieu without being so recherché. The style is as smooth as a Flemish picture, and the muscles are concealed and only for natural uses, not exaggerated like Michael Angelo's to show the painter's skill in anatomy; nor composed of the limbs of clowns of different nations, like Dr. Johnson's heterogeneous monsters. This book is Mr. Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He is son of a foolish Alderman, is a Member of Parliament, and called a whimsical one, because he votes variously as his opinion leads him; and his first production was in French, in which language he shines too. I know him a little, never suspected the extent of his talents, for he is perfectly modest, or I want penetration, which I know too, but I intend to know him a great deal more.’ Ib. 310. Five years later Walpole described how Gibbon had quarrelled with him, because he would not give him incense enough about his second volume. He continues:—‘I well knew his vanity, even about his ridiculous face and person, but thought he had too much sense to avow it so palpably. The History is admirably written ... but the style is far less sedulously enamelled than the first volume, and there is flattery to the Scots that would choke anything but Scots, who can gobble feathers as readily as thistles. David Hume and Adam Smith are legislators and sages, but the homage is intended for his patron, Lord Loughborough. So much for literature and its fops.’ Ib.. vii. 505.
Note 4. The first edition was in quarto, each volume containing as much as two volumes of the octavo edition.
Note 5. On March 18 Hume wrote to his brother historian that letter of which Gibbon said that ‘it overpaid the labour of ten years.’ Gibbon's Misc. Works, i. 224. See ante, p. 258, n. 8.