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DAVID HUME TO MATTHEW SHARP, ESQ.
Edinburgh, 25th Feb. 1754. I HAVE enclosed this letter under one to my friend Mr. Blacklock", who has retired to Dumfries, and proposes to reside there for some time. His character and situation are, no doubt, known to you, and challenge the greatest regard from every one who has either good taste or sentiments of humanity. He has printed a collection of poems, which his friends are endeavouring to turn to the best account for him. Had he published them in the common way, their merit would have recommended them sufficiently to common sale; but, in that case, the greatest part of the profit would have redounded to the booksellers. His friends, therefore, take copies from him, and distribute them among their acquaintances. The poems, if I have the smallest judgment, are, many of them, extremely beautiful, and all of them remarkable for correctness and propriety. Every man of taste, from the merit of the performance, would be inclined to purchase them; every benevolent man, from the situation of the author, would wish to encourage him : and as for those who have neither taste nor benevolence, they should be forced, by importunity, to do good against their will. I must, therefore, recommend it to you to send for a cargo of these poems, which the author's great modesty will prevent
* The celebrated blind poet, whose amiable disposition and uncommon vacity rendered him a general favourite.
him from offering to you, and to engage your acquaintance to purchase them.
But, dear sir, I would fain go further. I would fain presume upon our friendship (which now begins to be ancient between us) and recommend to your civilities a man who does honour to his country by his talents, and disgraces it by the little encouragement he has hitherto inet with. He is a man of very extensive knowledge, and of singular good dispositions; and his poetical, though very much to be admired, is the least part of his merit. He is very well qualified to instruct youth, by his acquaintance both with the languages and sciences; and possesses so many arts of supplying the want of sight, that the imperfection would be no hinderance. Perhaps he may entertain some such project in Dumfries, and be assured you could not do your friends a more real service than by recommending them to him. Whatever scheme he may choose to embrace, I was desirous you should be prepossest in his favour, and be willing to lend him your countenance and protection, which, I am sensible, would be of great advantage to him.
Since I saw you, I have not been idle. I have endeavoured to make some use of the library *, which was entrusted to me, and have employed myself in a composition of British history, bes ginning with the union of the two crowns. 1 have finished the reign of James and Charles, and will soon send them to the press. I have
* The Advocates' Library, in which, for a time, Mr. Hume held a situation,
the impudence to pretend that I am of no party, and have no bias. Lord Elibank says that I am a moderate Whig, and Mr. Wallace, that I am a candid Tory.
I was extremely sorry that I could not recommend your friend to director Hume, as Mr. Cummin desired me. I have never exchanged a word with that gentleman since I carried Jemmy Kirkpatrick to him, and our acquaintance has entirely dropped. I am, dear sir, your most affectionate friend and humble servant,
DAVID HUME TO DR. ADAM SMITH.
I GIVE you thanks for the agreeable present of your Theory (“ The Theory of Moral Sentiments"). 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 Jenyns, 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 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
appears already such strong symptoms, that I can almost venture to foretell its fate. It is in short this But I have been interrupted in my letter by a foolish impertinent visit of one who has lately come from Scotland. He tells me that the university of Glasgow intend to declare Ro. net's office vacant, upon his going abroad with Lord Hope. I question not but you will have our friend Ferguson in your eye, in case another project for procuring him a place in the university of Edinburgb should fail. Ferguson has very much polished and improved his Treatise on Re. finement, 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. afraid of Lord Kame's Law Tracts. 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 you A plague of interruption! 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
I am A man
a great deal of literary conversation. You told me that you were 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 ? you say. My dear Mr. Smith, have patience : compose yourself to tranquillity : show yourself a philosopher in practice as well as profession. 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
Castiges trutina ; nec te quæsiveris extra. A wise man's kingdom is his own breast; or, if he 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