Cheyne [q. v.], whose 'English Malady' had just appeared—gives a curious account of his mental history (printed in Burton, i. 30-9). He explains that his reflections had led him at about the age of eighteen to glimpses of a great philosophical discovery. He abandoned the law, for which he had been intended, feeling an 'insurmountable aversion' to everything but his favourite studies. Something, however, of his legal training remained; he was not only a good man of business, but capable, as Burton testifies, of drawing sound legal documents in due form. His intellectual labours led to a breakdown of health about September 1729. He made himself worse by poring over classical works of morality. Regular diet, riding, and walking were more efficacious, and about May 1731 he acquired an appetite, and became `the most sturdy, robust, healthful-like fellow you have seen.' During the next three years he read the best English, French, and Latin literature, and began Italian. He also accumulated many volumes of philosophical notes. Finding himself still incapable of the effort necessary to put them into form, he thought that a more active life would perhaps restore his health. He doubted his ability to be a `travelling governor,' and resolved to try some mercantile pursuit as the only alternative. At the time of writing this letter (1734) he was on his way to Bristol with recommendations to some of the houses there. He soon found the new occupation `totally unsuitable,' but his health must have ceased to trouble him. He resolved to retire to some country place in France, to preserve his independence by a rigid frugality, and to devote himself exclusively to intellectual labour. He went to France about the middle of 1734, passed through Paris, and was at Rheims on 12 Sept. He afterwards moved to La Flêche in Anjou, where he spent two out of his three years' stay in France. At La Flêche was the Jesuits' college at which Descartes was educated. One of the Jesuits was expatiating upon a recent miracle, when Hume struck out the argument upon miracles in general, afterwards expounded in one of his best-known essays. In that essay he also refers to the miracles alleged to have occurred at the tomb of the Abbé Paris in 1732, just before his journey. The `Story of La Roche,' published by Henry Mackenzie, `The Man of Feeling,' in the 'Mirror' for 1779, is an imaginary incident of Hume's career at this time (John Home, Works, i. 22). The consolations of religion enjoyed by La Roche make Hume regret his doubts. Mackenzie praises the sceptic's good nature and simplicity, though hinting at the absence of some higher qualities.
In 1737 Hume left France with his `Treatise of Human Nature,' written chiefly at La Flêche. He stayed for some time in London to superintend the publication. John Noone agreed to give the author 50l. and twelve bound copies for an edition of one thousand copies of the first two volumes of the 'Treatise' (bk. i. 'Of the Understanding' and bk. ii. `Of the Passions'). These volumes appeared anonymously in January 1739. Hume thought that a country retirement would enable him to await with greater composure the explosion of this attempt 'to produce almost a total alteration of philosophy,' and soon after the publication he returned to Ninewells. He sent a copy of his book to Butler, then bishop of Bristol, whose 'Analogy' had appeared in 1736, and who had corresponded with his friend Henry Home of Kames. Hume obtained from Kames an introduction to Butler, and had called upon, him in 1738, but they never met each other (Burton, i. 64, 106). The expected explosion was disappointing. Hume says (1 June 1739) that his bookseller speaks of the success of his philosophy as 'indifferent;' and in his autobiography says that no literary attempt was ever more unfortunate. `It fell deadborn from the press.' A review appeared in the `History of the Works of the Learned' for November 1739, which Hume called `somewhat abusive' (Burton, i. 116). Though generally hostile, it concluded by saying that the work showed 'a soaring genius,' and might hereafter be compared to the crude early works of a Milton or a Raphael. An improbable story is told, probably by Kenrick, in the 'London. Review' (v. 200), after Hume's death, that Hume was so infuriated by the article as to demand satisfaction from the publisher at the sword's point. Hume was not in London for some years, and Kenrick [q. v.] is remembered chiefly for impudent falsehoods. It is, however, clear that the reception of the book was extremely mortifying to its youthful author. He continued not the less to prepare the last part dealing with morality. Wishing, he says, to `have some check upon his bookseller,' he sold the third volume to Thomas Longman, by whom it was published in 1740. A copy was sent to 'Mr. Smith,' possibly Adam Smith, then a young student at Glasgow.
Hume now settled at Ninewells. Two volumes of `Essays, Moral and Political,' appeared in 1741 and 1742. 'Most of these essays,' he says in his preface to the first volume, `were wrote with a view of being published as weekly papers, and were intended