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قراءة كتاب Life and Correspondence of David Hume, Volume I (of 2)

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Life and Correspondence of David Hume, Volume I (of 2)

Life and Correspondence of David Hume, Volume I (of 2)

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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class="x-ebookmaker-pageno" title="[x]"/>desirous to apply them to a legitimate literary purpose, who might enjoy their confidence. Having for some time indulged in a project of writing a life of Hume, postponed from time to time, on account of the imperfect character of the materials at my disposal, I applied to the Council of the Royal Society for access to the Hume papers; and after having considered my application with that deliberation which their duty to the public as custodiers of these documents seemed to require, they acceded to my request. The ordinary form of returning thanks for the privilege of using papers in the possession of private parties, appears not to be applicable to this occasion; and I look on the concession of the Council as conferring on me an honour, which is felt to be all the greater, that it was bestowed in the conscientious discharge of a public duty.

The Hume papers, besides a manuscript of the "Dialogues on Natural Religion," and of a portion of the History, fill seven quarto volumes of various thickness, and two thin folios. In having so large a mass of private and confidential correspondence committed to their charge, the Council naturally felt that they would be neglecting their duty, if they did not keep in view the possibility that there might be in the collection, allusions to the domestic conduct or private affairs of persons whose relations are still living; and that good taste, and a kind consideration for private feelings should prevent the accidental publication of such passages. On inspection, less of this description of matter was found than so large a mass of private

documents might be supposed to contain. There is no passage which I have felt any inclination to print, as being likely to afford interest to the reader, of which the use has been denied me; and I can therefore say that I have had in all respects full and unlimited access to this valuable collection. Before leaving this matter, I take the opportunity of returning my thanks for the kind and polite attention I have received from those gentlemen of the Council, on whom the arrangements for my getting access to these papers, imposed no little labour and sacrifice of valuable time.

A rumour has obtained currency regarding the contents of these papers, which seems to demand notice on the present occasion.

It is stated in The Quarterly Review,[xi:1] that "those who have examined the Hume papers—which we know only by report—speak highly of their interest, but add, that they furnish painful disclosures concerning the opinions then prevailing amongst the clergy of the northern metropolis: distinguished ministers of the gospel encouraging the scoffs of their familiar friend, the author of 'the Essay upon Miracles;' and echoing the blasphemies of their associate, the author of the 'Essay upon Suicide!'" I have the pleasing task of removing the painful feelings which, as this writer justly observes, must attend the belief in such a rumour, by saying that I could not find it

justified by a single sentence in the letters of the Scottish clergy contained in these papers, or in any other documents that have passed under my eye. I make this statement as an act of simple justice to the memory of men to whose character, being a member of a different church, I have no partisan attachment: and I may add that, in the whole course of my pretty extensive researches in connexion with Hume and his friends, I found no reason for believing that letters containing evidence of any such frightful duplicity ever existed.

Among these papers, a variety of letters, chiefly from eminent foreigners, though interesting in themselves, were entitled to no place in the body of this work, as illustrative of the life and character of Hume. These I had intended to print in an appendix, believing that, though not directly connected with my own project, the lovers of literature would not readily excuse me for neglecting the opportunity afforded by my access to these papers, for adding to the stock of the letters of celebrated men. But the work, according to its original scope and design, continuing to increase under my hands, I found that if it contained the documents specially referred to in the text, its bulk would be sufficiently extended, and I have determined to let the other papers here alluded to follow in a separate volume, which will contain letters to Hume from D'Alembert, Turgot, Diderot, Helvétius, Franklin, Walpole, and other distinguished persons.

The reader will find that many original documents

printed in this collection have been obtained from other sources than the Hume papers. My acknowledgments are particularly due to the Earl of Minto, for the liberality with which he allowed me the uncontrolled use of the large and valuable collection of correspondence between Hume and Sir Gilbert Elliot. For the letters in the Kilravock collection I am indebted to Cosmo Innes, Esq., sheriff of Morayshire; and I obtained access to those addressed to Colonel Edmondstoune, through the polite intervention of George Dundas, Esq., sheriff of Selkirkshire. I am obliged to the kindness of Lord Murray for much assistance in obtaining materials and information for this work; and to Robert Chambers, Esq., who has been accustomed from time to time, to preserve such letters and other documents connected with Scottish biography, as came under his notice, I have to offer my thanks for the whole of his collections regarding Hume, which he generously transferred to me.

In the use of printed books, where the Advocates' Library, to which I have professional access, has failed me, I have found the facilities for consulting the select and well arranged collection of the Writers to the Signet of great service.

I owe acknowledgments to many friends for useful advice in the conduct of the work. To one especially, who, after having long occupied a distinguished place in the literature of his country, permits his friends still to enjoy the social exercise of those intellectual qualities that have delighted the world, I am indebted for such critical counsel as no other could have given,

and few would have had the considerate kindness to bestow, were they able.

Of the two portraits engraved for this work, that which will, probably, most strikingly attract attention, is taken from a bust, of coarse and unartistic workmanship, but bearing all the marks of a genuine likeness. It was moulded by a country artist, at the desire of Hume's esteemed friend, Professor Ferguson; and I am under obligations to his son, Sir Adam, for the privilege of using it on this occasion, and to Sir George Mackenzie, for having kindly mentioned its existence, and exerted himself in its recovery, after it had been long lost sight of. The medallion, from which the other portrait is taken, is in the possession of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq., by whom I was presented with the engraved plate, from which the fac simile of a letter, addressed by Hume to his collateral ancestor, is printed.

*** It may be right to explain, that the two sizes of type, used in this work, were first adopted with the design of presenting all letters addressed to Hume, all extracts, and all letters from him with which the public is already familiar, in the smaller type, in order that the reader coming to a document with which he is already acquainted, might see at once where it ends. This arrangement was accidentally broken through,

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