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LETTER XCVII.: David Hume the Nephew: the Publication of the Dialogues. - 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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David Hume the Nephew: the Publication of the Dialogues.
I was favoured with yours of the 3d instant, to which you should have had a return sooner, if I had not thought it necessary to write my son at Glasgow, and to wait his return, as he was very materially concerned in the purport of yours; and tho a young man, only just past 20, is able to come to a sound and rational determination, which tho not yet absolutely fixed upon, seems to be contrary to my oppinion, which contrariety is perhaps partly owing to the difference betwixt old age and young and to different tempers.
My oppinion was that he should delay the publication of the dialogues on Natural Religion till the end of the two years, after this that he had a title by his uncles settlement upon your not publication of them1 ; otherways it carried the appearance of being too forward, and of more than he was called upon in duty; and if a clamour rose against it, he would have a difficult task to support himself, almost in the commencement of his manhood. What weighs with him is, that his publishing as early as he had the power, would look more like obedience, than a voluntary deed, and of judgement; and as such exculpate him in the eyes of the world; as well as that the publick being in expectation of the publication would receive it much better than some time after, when it might be almost forgotten. As it is a question of great importance, and the young man will not be here from Glasgow, till near two months after this, he will advise with his uncles2 , and his own friends, and will then inform you, whether he accepts of your offer of the immediate surrender of your title; and in which case may possibly desire from you a more formal resignation, if such is requisite, after what you have wrote me3 .
We will be both obliged to you, of takeing the charge of keeping the copy sent you, as well as of the printed Essays, tho I am possesed of the original of the first, which it seems has not been correctly copyed being taken in a hurry, and among the last things done by my brothers orders, and somewhat under his eye4 .
I received from Mr. Balfour5 the 20 copys of the life you ordered, long before your letter, and am much obliged to you for your attention as to that point, but cannot but be still of oppinion, that its being desired by my brother, to be prefixed, excluded every other prior mode of publication, and left no other, in the power of any other person, whatever reasons might weigh with them. but since Mr. Smith saw it in a different light, I submit, and am more difident as to my own oppinion6 .
As I never saw the printed Essays, being sealed up and directed by himself for you and consequently cannot judge of their merit, but as they were totaly left to your disposal and judgement, and no earnestness being shown that they should see the light, I am satisfied they be suppressed, since it is your oppinion, and am obliged to you, for asking my concurrence, as a favour no way entitled to by Sir
Your most humble Servt
March 13th, 1777.
The writer of the two following curious letters was James Hutton, the Secretary to the Society of Moravians. He was the son of a Dr. Hutton, a clergyman of the Church of England who resigned his Church preferment on account of a scruple about taking the oaths. ‘James was bred a bookseller, and opened a shop by Temple Bar, whence he went to Moravia, to fetch himself a wife of that nation and religion; but this is not the age for booksellers to make fortunes by the sale of Bibles, Prayer Books, &c.; and as Mr. Hutton would do little else, that business would not do; and he betook himself to one which it seems did, that of a Moravian Leader.’ Thicknesse's Memoirs, i. 26, quoted in Nichols's Lit. Anec. viii. 447. ‘He was,’ says Nichols, Ib. iii. 436, ‘highly esteemed by the two first characters for rank and virtue in the British nation.’ ‘The two first characters,’ of course, were George III. and Queen Charlotte. Nichols quotes a letter by George Steevens, which appeared in the St. James's Chronicle on Dec. 17, 1776, dated ‘Q—'s Palace,’ and signed ‘Current Report.’ It says:—‘Politicians from this place inform us that a new Favourite has lately engrossed the K—'s attention.... It is no less a person than the old deaf Moravian, James Hutton, who was formerly a bookseller, and lived near Temple Bar, famous for his refusing to sell Tom Brown's Works and Clarke On the Trinity.... I am sure that a conversation between the King and Hutton must be exceedingly entertaining. Hutton is so deaf that a speaking trumpet will scarce make him hear; and the King talks so fast that an ordinary converser cannot possibly keep pace with him. Hutton's asthma makes him subject to frequent pauses and interruptions.’
According to Mme. D’Arblay, ‘Hutton considered all mankind as his brethren, and himself therefore as every one's equal; alike in his readiness to serve them, and in the frankness with which he demanded their services in return. His desire to make acquaintance with everybody to whom any species of celebrity was attached was insatiable, and was dauntless. He approached them without fear, and accosted them without introduction. But the genuine kindness of his smile made way for him wherever there was heart and observation.... So coarse was his large, brown, slouching surtout; so rough and blowsy was the old mop-like wig that wrapt up his head, that but for the perfectly serene mildness of his features, and the venerability of his hoary eye-brows, he might at all times have passed for some constable or watchman, who had mistaken the day for the night, and was prowling into the mansions of gentlemen instead of public-houses, to take a survey that all was in order.’ His sect, she adds, was looked upon ‘as dark and mystic.’ One day, on visiting her father's house, he said he had just come from the King, to whom he had spoken with praise of Dr. Burney [Mme. D‘Arblay's father] and of Dr. Burney's Tours. “Openly and plainly, as one honest man should talk to another, I said it outright to my Sovereign Lord the King—who is as honest a man himself as any in his own three kingdoms. God bless him!” Mrs. Burney said that the Doctor was very happy to have had a friend to speak of him so favourably before the King. “Madam,” cried the good man with warmth, “I will speak of him before my God! And that is doing much more.”’ Memoirs of Dr. Burney, i. 251, 291.
Hannah More says that ‘at the royal breakfast-table, to which he had the honour of being occasionally admitted, the King said to him one morning, “Hutton, is it true that you Moravians marry without any previous knowledge of each other?” “Yes, may it please your Majesty,” returned Hutton. “Our marriages are quite royal.”’ Memoirs of H. More, i. 318. According to Boswell, ‘there was much agreeable intercourse’ between Hutton and Johnson. Boswell's Johnson, iv. 410. ‘One of Hutton's female missionaries for North America replied to Dr. Johnson, who asked her if she was not fearful of her health in those cold countries, “Why, Sir, I am devoted to the service of my Saviour; and whether that may be best and most usefully carried on here, or on the coast of Labrador, ‘tis Mr. Hutton's business to settle. I will do my part either in a brick-house or a snow-house, with equal alacrity, for you know ‘tis the same thing with regard to my own soul.”’ Piozzi's British Synonomy, ii. 120.
It was Hutton who arranged the meeting in 1740 between John Wesley and Count Zinzendorf, the head of the Moravians, when an attempt was made at a reconciliation between the Methodists and the Moravians. The two great leaders met in Gray's Inn Walks, and conversed in Latin, but conversed in vain. Hutton was one of those men, says Southey, ‘who made Wesley perceive that all errors of opinion were not necessarily injurious to the individual by whom they were entertained; but that men who went by different ways might meet in heaven.’ Life of Wesley, ed. 1846, i. 299, 304. Southey gives some extracts from a Moravian Hymn-Book printed for James Hutton in 1746. ‘The most characteristic parts are,’ he says, ‘too shocking to be inserted.’ The following lines he gives ‘as a specimen of their silliness that may be read without offence:’—
In his old age Hutton had the happiness, wrote Miss Burney, ‘to fall into the hands of two ladies of fortune and fashion, who live very much at their ease together, and who call him father, and treat him with the tenderness of children. How singularly he merits this singular happy fortune! so good, so active, so noble as he is in all exertions for the benefit of others, and so utterly inattentive to his own interest.’ Mme. D‘Arblay's Diary, v. 267.
[James Hutton to William Strahan.]
Note 1. See ante, p. 345.
Note 2. His uncles on the mother's side, for Hume had only one brother. His only sister died unmarried.
Note 3. The Dialogues were not published till 1779, so that the young man, it should seem, yielded to his father's advice. For the publication of the Essays see ante, p. 232, n. 8.
Note 4. This copy, thus hurriedly taken, is the one mentioned in the following letter:â€”
â€™Edinburgh, 15 of Aug. 1776.
â€™My dear Smith,
â€™I have ordered a new Copy of my Dialogues to be made besides that which will be sent to Mr. Strahan, and to be kept by my Nephew. If you will permit me, I shall order a third Copy to be made, and consigned to your (sic). It will bind you to nothing, but will serve as a Security. On revising them (which I have not done these 15 Years) I find that nothing can be more cautiously and more artfully written. You had certainly forgotten them. Will you permit me to leave you the Property of the Copy, in case they should not be published in five years after my Decease? Be so good as to write me an answer soon. My State of Health does not permit me to wait Months for it.
â€™Yours affectionately,â€˜David Hume.â€™
M. S. R. S. E.
It was this letter, for which the dying man required a speedy answer, that, to save Adam Smith â€˜the sum of one penny sterling,â€™ he sent by the carrier (ante, p. 344, n. 3).
Note 5. See ante, p. 2, n. 2.
Note 6. Hume's Autobiography was published separately this year in a small duodecimo volume, with Adam Smith's Letter as a Supplement. It is mentioned in the Gent. Mag. for March.