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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 already beginning 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 the books in the world. The duke of Argyle is more decisive than he uses to be in its favour. I suppose he either considers it 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 easiiy judge what reliance can be put on his judgment, wbo 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 good book,
Charles Townshend, 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. Townshend passes for being a little uncer. tain in his resolutions ; so perhaps you need not build much on this sally.
In recompense 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,
DAVID HUME TO THE COUNTESS DE
Compeigne, 14th July, 1764. I SHALL venture to say, dear madam, that no letter, which even you have ever wrote, conveyed more satisfaction than did that with which you favoured me. What pleasure to receive VOL. VI.
testimonies and assurances of good will from a person whom we highly value, and whose sentiments are of such importance to us! You could not possibly have done an action more charitable than to speak to me in so friendly a manner. You have thereby supplied me for a long time with matter for the most agreeable musing : and I shall henceforth, I hope, bid defiance to all returns of diffidence and jealousy. I confess with shame that I am but too subject to this sentiment, even in friendship. I never doubt of my friend's probity or honour; but often of his attachment to me, and sometimes, as I have afterwards found, without reason.
If such was my disposition even in youth, you may judge that, having arrived at a time of life when I can less expect to please, I must be more subject to inroads of suspicion. Common sense requires that I should keep at a distance from all attachments that can imply passion. But it must surely be the height of folly, to lay myself at the mercy of a person whose situation seems calcuJated to inspire doubt, and who, being so little at her own disposal, could not be able, even if willing, to seek such remedies as might appease that tormenting sentiment.
Should I meet with one, in any future time (for to be sure I know of none such at present), who was endowed with graces and charms beyond all expression, whose character and understanding were equally an object of esteem, as her person was of tenderness; I ought to fly her company, to avoid all connexion with her, even such as might bear the name of friendship; and to endeavour to forget her as soon as possible. I know not if it would be prudent even to bid her adieu : surely, it would be highly imprudent to receive from her any testimonies of friendship and regard. But who, in that situation, could have resolution to reject them? Who would not drink up the poison with joy and satisfaction ?
But let us return, dear madam, from imagi. pary suppositions to our real selves. I am much pleased that your leisure allows you to betake yourself to your old occupation of reading ; and that your relish for it still remains entire. I have frequently, in the course of my life, met with interruptions, from business and dissipation; yet always returned to my closet with pleasure, I have no other prospect for easing the burthen of old age than in these enjoyments; and if I sometimes join the chimerical project of relaxing the severities of study, by the society of a person dear to me, and who could have indulgence for me, I consider it a pleasing dream, in which I can repose no confidence. My only comfort is, that I am myself a person free as the air we breathe, and that, wherever such a blessing might present itself, I could there fix my habitation.
You tell me, that, though you are still exposed to the attacks of melancholy, it is of the softer kind, and such as you would not desire to be rid of. I shall not, any further than you allow me, indulge my conjectures. You were offended at my former ones, and I wish they may be false. But it is impossible for my thoughts not to return often to a subject in which am so deeply inte. rested. If there are any obstacles to your happi.
ness, I should wish they were of a nature that could be removed ; and that they admitted of some other remedy than the one you sometimes mention, on which I cannot think without terror. I feel the reflection this instant, as the stroke of a poniard at my heart; and the tear at present starts in my eye when it recurs to me. Is it necessary that my sympathy too should furnish you with arms against me ?
But I perceive, dear madam, or shall I say my. amiable pupil, that while I am answering the second part of your letter, I have entirely forgot the first; which yet surely is not of a nature wholly indifferent to me.
It gives me a sensible uneasiness that my friend's performance has not gained your approbation. I am more sorry on his account, than because you condemn my judgment, which I am sensible may easily be warped by friendship and partiality. I acknowledge too, that most of your objections, and indeed all of them are well founded. I could add some others, which a more frequent perusal of the piece has suggested to me. I always disliked the character of Glenal. von, as being that of such a finished and black villain as either is not in nature, or requires very little genius in the poet to have imagined. Such a personage seems only to be a gross artifice in the writer, when the plot requires an incident, which he knows not how to introduce naturally. Gle. nalyon is a kind of Diabolus ex machina ; more blamable than the Deus ex machina, which the ancient critics condemned as an unartificial manner of unravelling a plot. But though I allow.