Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XC.: Hume's Life and Dialogues on Natural Religion. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER XC.: Hume's Life and Dialogues on Natural Religion. - 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 Life and Dialogues on Natural Religion.
My dear Strahan,
By a codicil to the will of our late most valuable friend Mr. Hume the care of his manuscripts is left to you. Both from his will and from his conversation I understand that there are only two which he meant should be published, an account of his own life, and Dialogues concerning natural religion. The latter, tho’ finely written, I could have wished had remained in manuscript to be communicated only to a few people. When you read the work you will see my reasons without my giving you the trouble of reading them in a Letter. But he has ordered it otherwise. In case of their not being published within three years after his decease he has left the property of them to his nephew. Upon my objecting to this clause as unnecessary and improper, he wrote [to] me by his Nephew's hand in the following terms. There is no man in whom I have a greater confidence than Mr. Strahan; yet have I left the property of that manuscript to my nephew David in case by any accident they [it] should not be published within three years after my decease. The only accident I could foresee was one to Mr. Strahan's life; and without this clause my nephew would [could] have had no right to publish it. Be so good as to inform Mr. Strahan of this circumstance.’ Thus far his letter which was dated on the 23d of August. He dyed on the 25 at 4 o‘clock afternoon. I once had persuaded him to leave it entirely to my discretion either to publish them at what time I thought proper, or not to publish them at all. Had he continued of this mind the manuscript should have been most carefully preserved and upon my decease restored to his family: but it never should have been published in my lifetime. When you have read it you will perhaps think it not unreasonable to consult some prudent friend about what you ought to do.
I propose to add to his Life a very well authenticated account of his behaviour during his last illness. I must however beg that his Life and those Dialogues may not be published together, as you resolved for many reasons to have no concern in the publication of the [those] Dialogues. His Life I think ought to be prefixed to the next edition of his former works, upon which he has made many very proper corrections chiefly in what concerns the Language. If this Edition is published while I am [you are] at London, I shall revise the sheets, and authenticate its being according to his last corrections. I promised him that I would do so.
If my mother's health will permit me to leave her, I shall be in London by the beginning of November. I shall write to Mr. Home to take my lodgings, as soon as I return to Fife, which will be on Monday or Tuesday next. The Duke of Buccleugh1 leaves this on Sunday. Direct for me at Kirkaldy, Fifeshire, where I shall remain all the rest of the season.
I ever am, my dear Strahan, Most faithfully yours
5 Sept., 1776.
Let me hear from you soon2 .
[William Strahan to Adam Smith.]
Note 1. Hume, writing to Adam Smith on April 12, 1759, says:—‘Charles Townsend, who passes for the cleverest fellow in England, is so taken with the performance [Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments], that he said to Oswald he would put the Duke of Buccleugh under the author's care, and would make it worth his while to accept of that charge.’ Stewart's Life of Adam Smith, ed. 1811, p. 58. In the beginning of 1764 Adam Smith accepted the charge of accompanying the young nobleman on his travels. Ib. p. 63. He returned in October 1766. Ib. p. 73. He was now staying at the Duke's house at Dalkeith.
.Note 2. The draft of this letter so far as the end of the last paragraph but one is among the Hume papers belonging to the Royal Society. The letter itself, which is in the possession of Mr. W. C. Ford of Washington, United States, was published, with some other of Adam Smith's letters, in the New York Evening Post of April 30, 1887. I have to thank my friend Professor Thorold Rogers for drawing my attention to this publication. The few words in which the letter as printed differs from the draft I have enclosed in brackets.