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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
الصفحة رقم: 6

Edward I. met the Scottish nobility, when he professed himself to be the arbiter of the disputes between Bruce and Baliol. In his notices of these spots, in connexion with the historical events which he describes, he betrays no symptom of having passed many of his youthful days in their vicinity, but is as cold and general as when he describes Agincourt or Marston Moor; and it may safely be said, that in none of his historical or philosophical writings does any expression used by him, unless in those cases where a Scoticism has escaped his vigilance, betray either the district or the country of his origin.[9:1]

Hume tells us, in his short autobiography, "My family was not rich, and being myself a younger brother, my patrimony, according to the mode of my country, was of course very slender. My father, who passed for a man of parts, died when I was an infant, leaving me, with an elder brother and a sister, under the care of our mother, a woman of singular merit, who, though young and handsome, devoted herself entirely to the rearing and education of her children." He says no more of his education, than that he "passed through the ordinary course of education with success." In a document which will be immediately quoted at length, we find him speaking of having received the usual college education of Scotland, which terminates when the student is fourteen or fifteen years old. It is probable that he studied at the University of Edinburgh, in the matriculation book of which the name of

"David Home" appears, as intrant of the class of William Scott, Professor of Greek, on 27th February, 1723. Holding the year to commence on 1st January, which was then the practice in Scotland, though not in England, he would be at that time nearly twelve years old. The name does not appear in any of the subsequent matriculation lists: it was probably not then the practice for the student to be entered more than once, at the commencement of his curriculum; and neither the name of Hume, nor of Home, occurs in the list of graduates.

Of his method of studying, and of his habits of life, after he left the university, as of his literary aspirations and projects, we fortunately possess some curious notices in his correspondence. The earliest letter written by Hume, known to be extant, is in a scroll which has been apparently preserved by himself. It is addressed to Michael Ramsay, with whom it will be seen, from the letters quoted in the course of this work, that the friendship formed, when both were young, remained uninterrupted and vigorous during their mature years. I have been unable to discover any thing of the history of this Michael Ramsay, beyond what may be gathered from the internal evidence supplied by the correspondence. He must have been destined for the English Church, but he appears not to have taken orders; as in a letter from Hume, which, though undated, must have been written at an advanced period of both their lives, he is addressed "Michael Ramsay, Esq." Writing on 5th June, 1764, he says to Hume, "I continue in the old wandering way in which I have passed so much of my life, and in which it is likely I shall end it." He appears to have had many connexions well to do in the world, and to have died before the year 1779,

leaving his papers in the possession of a nephew having his own Christian name of Michael; which was also, it may be observed, the name of the Chevalier Ramsay, of whom Hume's correspondent was perhaps a relation.[12:1]

Hume to Michael Ramsay.

"July 4, 1727.

"Dr M.—I received all the books you writ of, and your Milton among the rest. When I saw it, I

perceived there was a difference betwixt preaching and practising: you accuse me of niceness, and yet practise it most egregiously yourself. What was the necessity of sending your Milton, which I knew you were so fond of? Why, I lent your's and can't get it. But would you not, in the same manner, have lent your own? Yes. Then, why this ceremony and good breeding? I write all this to show you how easily any action may be brought to bear the countenance of a fault. You may justify yourself very well, by saying it was kindness; and I am satisfied with it, and thank you for it. So, in the same manner, I may justify myself from your reproofs. You say that I would not send in my papers, because they were not polished nor brought to any form: which you say is nicety. But was it not reasonable? Would you have me send in my loose incorrect thoughts? Were such worth the transcribing? All the progress that I made is but drawing the outlines, on loose bits of paper: here a hint of a passion; there a phenomenon in the mind accounted for: in another the alteration of these accounts; sometimes a remark upon an author I have been reading; and none of them worth to any body, and I believe scarce to myself. The only design I had of mentioning any of them at all, was to see what you would have said of your own, whether they were of the same kind, and if you would send any; and I have got my end, for you have given a most satisfactory reason for not communicating them, by promising they shall be told vivâ voce—a much better way indeed, and in which I promise myself much satisfaction; for the free conversation of a friend is what I would prefer to any entertainment. Just now I am entirely confined to myself and library for diversion since we parted.

——ea sola voluptus,
Solamenque mali—[14:1]

And indeed to me they are not a small one: for I take no more of them than I please; for I hate task-reading, and I diversify them at pleasure—sometimes a philosopher, sometimes a poet—which change is not unpleasant nor disserviceable neither; for what will more surely engrave upon my mind a Tusculan disputation of Cicero's De Ægritudine Lenienda, than an eclogue or georgick of Virgil's? The philosopher's wise man and the poet's husbandman agree in peace of mind, in a liberty and independency on fortune, and contempt of riches, power, and glory. Every thing is placid and quiet in both: nothing perturbed or disordered.

At secura quies, et nescia fallere vita——
Speluncæ, vivique laci; at frigida Tempe,
Mugitusque boum, mollesque sub arbore somnos
Non absint.[14:2]

"These lines will, in my opinion, come nothing short of the instruction of the finest sentence in Cicero: and is more to me, as Virgil's life is more the subject of my ambition, being what I can apprehend to be

more within my