Изображения страниц

sition may appear, it is certainly true, that the real progress is not always the most natural. It may have been determined by particular accidents, which are not likely again to occur, and which cannot be considered as forming any part of that general provision which nature has made for the improvement of the race.

In order to make some amends for the length (I am afraid I may add for the tediousness) of this section, I shall subjoin to it an original letter of Mr. Hume's, addressed to Mr. Smith, soon after the publication of his Theory. It is strongly marked with that easy and affectionate pleasantry which distinguished Mr. Hume's epistolary correspondence, and is entitled to a place in this Mémoir, on account of its connexion with an important event of Mr. Smith's life, which soon after removed him into a new scene, and influenced to a considerable degree, the subsequent course of his studies. The letter is dated from London, 12th April

, 1759. “I give you thanks for the agreeable present of your Theory. Wedderburn and I made presents of our copies to such of our acquaintances as we thought good judges, and proper to spread the reputation of the book. I sent one to the Duke of Argyle, to Lord Lyttleton, Horace Walpole, Soame Jennyns, and Burke, an Irish gentleman, who wrote lately a very pretty treatise on the Sublime. Millar desired my permission to send one in your name to Dr. Warburton. I have delayed writing to you till I could tell you something of the success of the book, and could prognosticate with some probability, whether it should be finally damned to oblivion, or should be registered in the temple of immortality. Though it has been published only a few weeks, I think there appear already such strong symptoms, that I can almost venture to foretel its fate. It is in short this

But I have been interrupted in my letter by a foolish and impertinent visit of one who has lately come from Scotland. He tells me that the University of Glasgow intended to declare Rouet's office vacant, upon his going abroad with Lord Hope. I ques


tion not but you will have our friend Ferguson in your eye, in case another project for procuring him a place in the University of Edinburgh should fail

. Ferguson has very much polished and improved his treatise on Refinement,* and with some amendments it will make an admirable book, and discovers an elegant and a singular genius. The Epigoniad, I hope, will do ; but it is somewhat up-hill work. As I doubt not but you consult the reviews sometimes at present, you will see in the Critical Review a letter upon that poem; and I desire you to employ your conjectures in finding out the author. Let me see a sample of your skill in knowing hands by your guessing at the person. I am afraid of Lord Kames's Law Tracts. A man might as well think of making a fine sauce by a mixture of wormwood and aloes, as an agreeable composition by joining metaphysics and Scotch law. However, the book, I believe, has merit; though few people will take the pains of diving into it. But, to return to your book, and its success in this town, I must tell youA plague of interruptions ! I ordered myself to be denied; and yet here is one that has broke in upon me again. He is a man of letters, and we have had a good deal of literary conversation. You told me that you was curious of literary anecdotes, and therefore I shall inform you of a few that have come to my knowledge. I believe I have mentioned to you already Helvetius's book de l'Esprit. It is worth your reading, not for its philosophy, which I do not highly value, but for its agreeable composition. I had a letter from him a few days ago, wherein he tells me that my name was much oftener in the manuscript, but that the Censor of books at Paris obliged him to strike it out. Voltaire has lately published a small work called Candide, ou l'Optimisme. I shall give you a detail of it

But what is all this to my book ? say you.—My dear Mr. Smith, have patience : Compose yourself to tranquillity: Show yourself a philosopher in practice as well as profession:

[ocr errors]

* Published afterwards under the title of “ An Essay on the History of Civil So. " ciety."

Think on the emptiness, and rashness, and futility of the common judgments of men: How little they are regulated by reason in any subject, much more in philosophical subjects, which so far exceed the comprehension of the vulgar.

Non si quid turbida Roma
Elevet, accedas : examenve improbum in illà

Castiges trutinâ : nec te quæsiveris extra.' A wise man's kingdom is his own breast; or, if he ever looks farther, it will only be to the judgment of a select few, who are free from prejudices, and capable of examining his work. Nothing indeed can be a stronger presumption of falsehood than the approbation of the multitude; and Phocion, you know always suspected himself of some blunder, when he was attended with the applauses of the populace. “Supposing, therefore, that you have duly prepared

, yourself for the worst by all these reflections, I proceed to tell you the melancholy news, that your book has been very unfortunate ; for the public seem disposed to applaud it extremely. It was looked for by the foolish people with some impatience; and the mob of literati are beginning already to be very loud in its praises. Three Bishops called yesterday at Millar's shop in order to buy copies, and to ask questions about the author. The Bishop of Peterborough said he had passed the evening in a company where he heard it extolled above all books in the world. The Duke of Argyle is more : decisive than he uses to be in its favor. I suppose he either considers it as an exotic, or thinks the author will be serviceable to him in the Glasgow elections. Lord Lyttleton says, that Robertson and Smith and Bower are the glories of English literature. Oswald protests he does not know whether he has reaped more instruction or entertainment from it. But you may easily judge what reliance can be put on his judgment, who has been engaged all his life in public business, and who never sees any faults in his friends. Millar exults and brags that two thirds of the edition are already sold, and that he is now sure of success. You see what a son of the earth that is, to value books only by the profit they bring him. In that view, I believe it may prove a very good book.


“ Charles Townsend, who passes for the cleverest fellow in England, is so taken with the performance, 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. As soon as I heard this, I called on him twice, with a view of talking with him about the matter, and of convincing him of the propriety of sending that young Nobleman to Glasgow: For I could not hope, that he could offer you any terms which would tempt you to renounce your Professorship: But I missed him. Mr. Townsend passes for being a little uncertain in his resolutions; so perhaps you need not build much on this sally.

“In recompence for so many mortifying things, which nothing but truth could have extorted from me, and which I could easily have multiplied to a greater number, I doubt not but you are so good a Christian as to return good for evil; and to flatter my vanity by telling me, that all the godly in Scotland abuse me for my account of John Knox and the Reformation. I suppose you are glad to see my paper end, and that I am obliged to conclude with Your Humble Servant,



From the Publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, till that

of The Wealth of Nations.

AFTER the publication of the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Mr. Smith remained four years at Glasgow, discharging his official duties with unabated vigor, and with increasing reputation. During that time, the plan of his lectures underwent a considerable change. His ethical doctrines, of which he had now published so valuable a part, occupied a much smaller portion of the course than formerly: and accordingly, his attention was naturally directed to a more complete illustration of the principles of jurisprudence and of political economy.

To this last subject, his thoughts appear to have been occasionally turned from a very early period of life. It is probable, that the uninterrupted friendship he had always maintained with his old companion Mr. Oswald had some tendency to encourage him in prosecuting this branch of his studies; and the publication of Mr. Hume's political discourses in the year 1752, could not fail to confirm him in those liberal views of commercial policy which had already opened to him in the course of his own inquiries. His long residence in one of the most enlightened mercantile towns in this island, and the habits of intimacy in which he lived with the most respectable of its inhabitants, afforded him an opportunity of deriving what commercial information he stood in need of, from the best sources, and it is a circumstance no less honorable to their liberality than to his talents, that notwithstanding the reluctance so common among men of business to listen to the conclusions of mere speculation, and the direct opposition of his leading principles to all the old maxims of trade, he was able, before he quitted his situation in the University, to rank some very eminent merchants in the number of his próselytes.*

Among the students who attended his lectures, and whose minds were not previously warped by prejudice, the progress of his opinions, it may be reasonably supposed, was much more rapid. It was this class of his friends accordingly that first adopted his system with eagerness, and diffused a knowledge of its fundamental principles over this part of the kingdom.

Towards the end of 1763, Mr. Smith received an invitation from Mr. Charles Townsend to accompany the Duke of Buccleugh on his travels; and the liberal terms in which the proposal was made to him, added to the strong desire he had felt of visiting the continent of Europe, induced him to resign his office at Glasgow. With the connexion which he was led to form in consequence of this change in his situation, he had reason

* I mention this fact on the respectable authority of James Ritchie, Esq. of Glasgow.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »