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LETTER LXXXVIII.: The last Correction: Life a Burthen. - 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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The last Correction: Life a Burthen.
12 of August, 1776.
Please to make with your Pen the following Correction. In the second Volume of my philosophical Pieces, p. 245, l. 1, and 2, eraze these words, that there is such a sentiment in human nature as benevolence1 .
This, Dear Sir, is the last Correction I shall probably trouble you with: For Dr. Black has promised me, that all shall be over with me in a very little time2 : This Promise he makes by his power of Prediction, not that of Prescription. And indeed I consider it as good News: For of late, within these few weeks, my Infirmities have so multiplyed, that Life has become rather a Burthen to me3 . Adieu, then, my good and old Friend.
P.S.—My Brother will inform you of my Destination with regard to my Manuscripts.
In the same Page, 1. 4, instead of possession of it read sentiment of benevolence4
[John Home of Ninewells to William Strahan.]
Note 1. ‘Upon the whole then it seems undeniable that there is such a sentiment in human nature as benevolence; that nothing can bestow more merit on any human creature than the possession of it in an eminent degree; and that a part, at least, of its merit arises from its tendency to promote the interests of our species, and bestow happiness on human society.’ Essays and Treatises, ed. 1770, iv. 30. The correction was made. See Philosophical Works, ed. 1854, iv. 243.
Note 2. Writing to his brother on Aug. 6, Hume said:—’dr. Black says I shall not die of a dropsy, as I imagined, but of inanition and weakness. He cannot however fix with any probability the time, otherwise he would frankly tell me.... In spite of Dr. Black's caution, I venture to foretel that I shall be yours cordially and sincerely till the month of October next.’ Home's Works, i. 65. Dr. Joseph Black, the eminent chemist, was Professor of Medicine and Chemistry in the University of Edinburgh. ‘Adam Smith used to say that “no man had less nonsense in his head than Dr. Black.”’ Dict. of Nat. Biog. v. III. By Black, Smith was attended in his last illness. Stewart's Life of Adam Smith, p. 118. Boswell, writing to Temple on June 19, 1775, says:—‘I have not begun to read, but my resolution is lively, and I trust I shall have it in my power soon to give you an account of my studies: all that I can say for myself at present is, that I attend, along with John Swinton and others, a course of lectures and experiments by Dr. Black, Professor of Chemistry,—a study which Dr. Johnson recommends much.’ Letters of Boswell, p. 206. Lord Cockburn describes Black as ‘a striking and beautiful person; tall, very thin, and cadaverously pale; his hair carefully powdered, though there was little of it except what was collected into a long thin queue; his eyes dark, clear, and large, like deep pools of pure water. He wore black speckless clothes, silk stockings and silver buckles. The general frame and air were feeble and slender. The wildest boy respected Black. No lad could be irreverent towards a man so pale, so gentle, so elegant, and so illustrious. So he glided like a spirit, through our rather mischievous sportiveness, unharmed. He died seated, with a bowl of milk on his knee, of which his ceasing to live did not spill a drop.’ Cockburn's Memorials of his Time, p. 50. See Quarterly Review, No. 71, p. 197, for an account of him by Sir Walter Scott. Scott says that he owed his life to him. ‘I was,’ he writes, ‘an uncommonly healthy child, but had nearly died in consequence of my first nurse being ill of a consumption, a circumstance which she chose to conceal, though to do so was murder to both herself and me. She went privately to consult Dr. Black, who put my father on his guard. The woman was dismissed, and I was consigned to a healthy peasant, who is still [in 1808] alive to boast of her laddie being what she calls a grand gentleman.’ Lockhart's Scott, i. 19.
Note 3. On Aug. 20 Hume wrote to his old friend the Countess de Boufflers:—‘Though I am certainly within a few weeks, dear Madam, and perhaps within a few days of my own death, I could not forbear being struck with the death of the Prince of Conti, so great a loss in every particular. My reflection carried me immediately to your situation in this melancholy incident. What a difference to you in your whole plan of life! Pray write me some particulars; but in such terms that you need not care in case of decease into whose hands your letter may fall.
Note 4. Hume's friends, I am persuaded, would have maintained that there was something not unsuitable to his disposition, in his long train of corrections thus ending with ‘the sentiment of benevolence.’