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Hume
Hume
219

regrets his great mistake in attempting so vast an undertaking at five-and-twenty, and says that he has not patience to review the book (Burton, i. 98, 337). Although a comparatively small part of the book is ‘recast’ in his ‘Essays,’ the mention of the ‘Considerations previous to Geometry,’ &c., intended for the ‘Four Dissertations,’ shows that he had still thoughts of carrying on the task in 1755. The same doctrines, he says (ib. i. 98), may still succeed if better expressed. His remarkable essays upon theology excited the remonstrances of his friends. Meanwhile, he had succeeded conspicuously by the essays upon political and economical theories; and a sceptic in philosophy may naturally turn to the firmer ground of empirical fact (see Mr. Grose in Hume's Works, iii. 75–7). He had so early as 1747, upon receiving the proposal to accompany St. Clair's mission to Turin, spoken of certain ‘historical projects’ to which he could devote himself if he had leisure, and which would, he thought, be facilitated by the information to be gained from the public men with whom he would be associated. But besides this, a change in his circumstances gave opportunity and motive for a new direction of his energies. Hume had lived with his brother and sister till 1751, when the brother married. Hume thereupon resolved to set up house with his sister, and after thinking of Berwick they decided upon Edinburgh. Hume moved ‘from the country to the town, the true scene for a man of letters.’ Hume tells a friend (Burton, i. 342) that he has ‘50l. a year, a hundred pounds worth of books, great store of linen and fine clothes, and near 100l. in his pocket.’ His sister added 30l. a year and ‘an equal love of order and frugality.’ They settled in ‘Riddell's Land, in the Lawnmarket, near the West Bow,’ and in 1753 (ib. i. 380), in ‘Jack's Land’ in the Canongate, ‘land’ meaning one of the lofty compound houses in Edinburgh. During the following winter (1751–2) he endeavoured to succeed Adam Smith in the chair of logic at Glasgow, Smith having become professor of moral philosophy. It is said, though the evidence is only traditional (ib. i. 351), and difficult to reconcile with dates, that Burke, then a young law-student of about twenty-three, was also a candidate. The clergy opposed Hume violently, but his friends would have succeeded if the Duke of Argyll had ‘given him the least countenance’ (ib. i. 370). Directly afterwards (28 Jan. 1752) he was appointed keeper of the library by the Faculty of Advocates, in succession to Thomas Ruddiman [q.v.] . Although attacked for his free-thinking, he was, he says, earnestly supported by the ladies (ib. i. 370). The salary was only 40l. a year; but the library, though then numbering only thirty thousand volumes, was the largest in Scotland, and contained a good collection of British history. Hume was thus enabled to devote himself to his ‘historic projects,’ which for some years to come absorbed his whole energies. He told Adam Smith (24 Sept. 1752) that he had once thought of beginning with the reign of Henry VII, but had afterwards decided upon the reign of James I, when the constitutional struggle still in progress had clearly manifested itself. He has begun, he says, ‘with great ardour and pleasure.’ Burton notes that his correspondence becomes scantier during the composition of his history. The first volume (containing the reigns of Charles I and James I) was published at the end of 1754, having been begun early in 1752. Its reception disappointed him; only forty-five copies were sold in twelve months. (The author of the ‘Supplement’ to Hume's life ascribes this ill-success to a manœuvre of his publisher, Millar.) His only encouragement was in two messages from the primates of England and Ireland, Herring and Stone, who told him not to be disappointed. But for the war, he declares, he would have retired to France permanently and changed his name. He ‘picked up courage,’ however, and the second volume, from the death of Charles to the revolution of 1688, ‘succeeded better, and helped to buoy up its unfortunate brother.’ According to Mr. Hill's calculation, he received 400l. for the first edition of the first volume, 700l. for the second, and eight hundred guineas for the copyright of the two (Hill, p. 15). In 1759 he published two volumes containing the history of the house of Tudor, and the last two in 1761 containing the period from Julius Cæsar to Henry VII. Millar bought the copyright of the last two volumes for 1,400l. (Burton, ii. 61). His writings had now succeeded so well that his ‘copy-money’ exceeded anything previously known in England. He became ‘not only independent but opulent.’

Hume, as appears sufficiently from the above dates, gave himself no time for such research as would now be thought necessary. He became more superficial as he receded further into periods with which he had little sympathy, and was studying merely for the nonce. His literary ability, however, made the book incomparably superior to the diluted party pamphlets or painful compilations which had hitherto passed for history; nor could the author of the ‘Political Discourses’ fail to give proofs of sagacity in occasional reflections. His brief remarks upon the social