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Hume
Hume
224

July, and rapidly became weaker, although retaining his cheerfulness to the last. He died with great composure on 25 Aug. 1776, and was buried in the cemetery on Calton Hill.

According to the anonymous author of ‘A Supplement to the Life of David Hume,’ a hostile crowd gathered at the funeral, and the grave had to be watched for eight nights. Hume's autobiography, with a letter from Adam Smith upon his last illness, was published in 1777. It gave great offence by dwelling upon Hume's perfect calmness in meeting death. The facts, indeed, are established beyond all doubt by the testimony of Smith, John Home, his physicians, Dr. Black and Cullen. Bishop (George) Horne [q.v.] wrote an insolent letter to Adam Smith, by ‘one of the people called Christians,’ and attempts were made to throw doubts upon the calmness of his last days. The most authentic, according to Dr. McCosh (Hist. of Scottish Philosophy), was a story told by an anonymous, but apparently respectable, old woman in a stage-coach, who said that she had been Hume's nurse, and that he had been much depressed, although he had tried to be cheerful to his friends and to her (Lives of R. and J. A. Haldane, 1855, p.560). It is not, indeed, impossible that a man dying of cancer may have been sometimes out of spirits; but perhaps it is more likely that the old lady lied.

Hume had made a will on 4 Jan. 1776, leaving most of his property to his brother, or, in the event of his brother's previous death, to his nephew David, 1,200l. to his sister, and a few legacies, including 200l. apiece to d'Alembert and Adam Ferguson. He also left 100l. to rebuild a bridge near Ninewells, with a condition guarding against injury to a romantic old quarry, which he had formerly admired. He left some wine to John Home under a facetious condition, with a final expression of affection. He made Adam Smith his literary executor, with ~200l. for his trouble. Smith was to have full power over all his writings except the ‘Dialogues on Natural Religion,’ which he ordered to be published. As Smith made some difficulties, he afterwards (7 Aug.) left the dialogues to Strahan, desiring that they should be published within two years of his death. Finally, if not published by Strahan, they were to revert to his nephew David, whom he desired to publish them. As Strahan finally declined, they were published by the nephew in 1779 (see correspondence in Hill, pp.351-64).

Adam Smith, in his letter upon Hume's last illness, declared that his friend ‘approached’ as nearly to the ‘character of a perfectly wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty would permit.’ Blair endorses this rather bold assertion (Hill, p.xl). He was certainly not without a share of frailty. His devotion to literary excellence was clearly alloyed by excessive desire for recognition. His disappointments, as he says, truly never ‘soured’ him; but they probably led him to confine his revision to those portions of his ‘Treatise’ which could be made effective. In fact, the fragment actually revised succeeded in rousing the attention of Kant, as of inferior writers, and so far justified the manoeuvre. (That Kant had never read the ‘Treatise’ seems to be clear from the reference to Hume in the introduction to the ‘Kritik der reinen Vernunft,’ § 6, where he assumes that Hume had not considered the à priori synthesis implied in pure mathematics.) If he wrote for fame, he never wrote for the moment. His works were the products of conscientious labour, and were most carefully revised. He was never tired of correcting his essays and history, excising ‘Scotticisms’ and whig sentiments, and polishing his style (see list of corrections of the history in Ritchie, pp.350-68). A list of ‘Scotticisms’ prepared by Hume was added to some copies of the ‘Political Discourses,’ and perhaps issued separately (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iv. 225, 272). In his personal relations he was a warm and constant friend. His official superiors, Hertford and Conway, became as warmly attached to him as his large circle of Scottish intimates. Blair, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Adam Ferguson, Kames, John Home, Robertson, Adam Smith, and others less known remained his firm friends through life. All who have mentioned him speak warmly of his amiability. He was energetic in such literary and other services as he could render to his friends. He would have provided for Rousseau had Rousseau been providable for. He was enthusiastic to excess when his friends wrote books; no jealousy disturbed his eager admiration of Robertson, Adam Smith, or Gibbon; he praised the history of Robert Henry [q.v.] when Gilbert Stuart wished to ‘annihilate’ it (Burton, ii. 470); he believed that John Home combined the excellences of Shakespeare and Racine; he believed even in Wilkie's ‘Epigoniad;’ he helped Blacklock even when Blacklock had shrunk from him; and endeavoured to serve Smollett, who in his gratitude called him ‘one of the best men, and undoubtedly the best writer, of the age.’ He took the criticisms of Reid and George Campbell with a friendliness which produced their respectful acknowledgments.