Stewart, Dugald (DNB00)
STEWART, DUGALD (1753–1828), philosopher, born at Edinburgh on 22 Nov. 1753 in a house attached to the professorship of mathematics, and forming part of the old college buildings, was son of Matthew Stewart (1717–1785) [q. v.] by Marjory, only child of Archibald Stewart of Catrine. Dugald Stewart was sent to the Edinburgh high school in 1761, where he was, in 1764–5, under Alexander Adam [q. v.], then assistant to the rector. Under Adam he is said to have acquired a taste for the classics, and especially for Latin poetry, which he always retained. He was entered as a student of humanity at the university in the session of 1765–6, and completed the usual course in the three following sessions, passing through the Greek class in his second session, the logic class in the third and fourth, and in the fourth attending also the class of natural philosophy under James Russell. He became a good mathematician, and was specially impressed by the teaching of Dr. John Stevenson, professor of logic from 1730 to 1775; and of Adam Ferguson [q. v.], professor of moral philosophy. Reid's ‘Inquiry’ (1764) had been warmly received by both professors, and was mentioned with ‘high encomiums’ by Russell (Stewart, Works, x. 261). Stewart was therefore prepared to accept Reid as the true philosophical prophet. He had thought of obtaining an appointment as an engineer in the service of the East India Company, but afterwards inclined to taking orders in the church of England. He went to Glasgow partly in the hope of going to Oxford as one of the Snell exhibitioners; and partly in order to attend the lectures of Reid, who held the Glasgow chair of moral philosophy. He remained there during the session of 1771–2. He belonged to a literary society at Glasgow, and read before it a paper upon dreaming, afterwards inserted in his ‘Elements’ (Works, ii. 289–305, 490). Its publication there led also to his first acquaintance with Thomas Brown (1778–1820) [q. v.] Stewart read this and other papers to the Speculative Society of Edinburgh, of which he was an active member from 1772 to 1775. At Glasgow he acquired the personal friendship of his master, Reid, and boarded in the same house with Archibald Alison (1757–1839) [q. v.], who became a lifelong friend, and dedicated the ‘Essays on Taste’ to him in 1790.
In the autumn of 1772 he was recalled to Edinburgh to take charge of mathematical classes. The elder Stewart was failing, and in 1775 the son was associated with him in his professorship, and thenceforth discharged all the duties of the chair. He is said to have been a very successful teacher. He groaned, however, when he had the prospect of teaching Euclid for the thirteenth time. In the session of 1778–9 Stewart undertook to lecture for Adam Ferguson, who had a temporary appointment in America. He had to give a course upon morality, besides lecturing three hours daily upon mathematics, and giving for the first time a course upon astronomy. He lectured from notes, arranging his ideas while walking in the garden. He afterwards wrote for publication quickly, but altered much while his works were in the press. These early lectures were very successful, and by some hearers preferred to his later efforts. He had to rise at 3 A.M. on five days of the week, and was so exhausted by his labours that he had to be lifted into his carriage for a journey.
In 1783 Stewart visited Paris with his friend, Lord Ancrum (afterwards sixth Marquis of Lothian). On his return he married Helen, daughter of Neil Bannatyne of Glasgow. In 1785 he was transferred to the chair of moral philosophy, upon the resignation of Adam Ferguson. He speedily obtained an influence such as has been enjoyed by few British philosophers. He was, after Reid's death, the only writer of recognised authority upon philosophical topics in the island; and during the exclusion of British subjects from the continent by the war many young men of position were sent to Edinburgh instead of making the ‘grand tour.’ His character and his eloquence commanded respect, and Edinburgh continued during his life to be scarcely inferior to London as a centre of intellectual activity. His class, during his twenty-four years of active work, increased from 102 in 1785–6 to 196 in 1807–8 and 150 in 1808–9. He also gave summer courses on moral philosophy for a few years, and occasionally lectured for his colleagues upon mathematics, natural philosophy, and logic.
Stewart during the early years of his professorship spent his summers at Catrine on the water of Ayr, in a house inherited from his mother. Burns's farm, Mossgiel, was in the neighbourhood, and the poet was introduced to the philosopher in 1786 [see under Burns, Robert]. Stewart gave an interesting account of their intercourse to Currie, who published it in his life of Burns (also in Stewart's Works, vol. x. pp. cxl, &c.). The erection of a cotton mill at Catrine in 1782 diminished the charm of the place.
Stewart's wife died in 1787. He spent the summers of 1788 and 1789 in France, where he made the acquaintance of many eminent men, including Suard, Morellet, Prévost of Geneva, Degérando, and Raynal. He sympathised strongly with the early revolutionary movement, and did not give up his hopes of a satisfactory issue even at the outbreak of the war and the beginning of the Terror (see Letters in Appendix A to Life). On 26 July 1790 he married Helen D'Arcy (1765–1838), third daughter of the Hon. George Cranstoun, and sister of Scott's friend, the Countess Purgstall, and of George Cranstoun, lord Corehouse [q. v.] Her mother was Maria, daughter of Thomas Brisbane of Brisbane, Ayrshire. She was a woman of cultivated intellect and great social charm. Burns sent a song by her, ‘The tears I shed must ever fall,’ to Johnson's ‘Museum,’ adding to it the first four lines of the last stanza. A set of verses attributed to her in Stenhouse's ‘Notes to Johnson's “Museum”’—‘Returning spring with lessening ray’—has less merit. Stewart submitted all his writings to her judgment, and she helped materially to make his house the centre of the best society in Edinburgh. His liberal opinions, however, gave some offence to the dominant party. Jeffrey was apparently forbidden by his father to attend the lectures of so dangerous a teacher (Cockburn, Jeffrey, i. 51). Though the young whigs regarded him as the especial glory of their party, Cockburn (Memorials, p. 103) says that for some years he was not cordially received elsewhere.
In a chapter of his first book, published in 1792, he had, in the course of remarks upon the use of abstract principles in politics, referred approvingly to some of the French ‘philosophes’ (Works, ii. 219 &c.). Though his remarks were very moderate, two of the lords of session (W. Craig and A. Abercromby), who, he says, ‘spent three evenings a week at my house,’ suggested to him that he ought, in an ‘open and manly manner,’ to retract every word he had said on behalf of French philosophy. Stewart, while repudiating any sympathy with revolutionary excesses, declared that he had nothing to retract. He gave a separate course of lectures on political economy, principally following Adam Smith, but with some reference to general politics, in 1800. In 1805 he took an active part in support of John Leslie (1766–1832) [q. v.], who, upon becoming professor of mathematics, was attacked for approving Hume's theory of causation. The whigs took Leslie's side; and Stewart published a pamphlet, and spoke in the general assembly in a ‘fine spirit,’ according to Cockburn (Memorials, p. 200), ‘of scorn and eloquence.’ In a letter to Horner soon afterwards, he expresses his hope that the Scottish universities will be less ‘priest-ridden’ hereafter, and says that the fall of Lord Melville, which was becoming probable, would be ‘synonymous with the emancipation and salvation of Scotland.’ When the whigs came into power in 1806, Stewart was appointed to the writership of the Edinburgh ‘Gazette,’ a sinecure of 300l. a year. He held it for life, and it was continued to his family after his death. In the summer he accompanied Lord Lauderdale, who, like his pupil, Lord Henry Petty, held office under the new government, on his diplomatic mission to Paris.
Stewart's health, never very strong, had been failing, and he was much affected by the death of a son in 1809. He requested Brown to act as his substitute in the following session, and finally retired from lecturing. Brown, at the end of the session, was appointed his coadjutor, but was to undertake the whole duty. Stewart canvassed the town council, and used all his influence to obtain his appointment, though he was afterwards greatly dissatisfied with Brown's teaching.
From 1809 Stewart lived in retirement at Kinneil House, Linlithgowshire, lent to him by the Duke of Hamilton. He occupied himself in preparing the substance of his lectures for publication. Upon Brown's death, in 1820, Stewart became again the sole professor. Though invited by some of his friends to lecture, he felt himself too infirm to discharge the duties, and resigned on 20 June. He approved of the candidature of his friend Macvey Napier, and afterwards of Sir William Hamilton. He was unable to take an active part in canvassing, and the election was carried by the tories in favour of John Wilson, ‘Christopher North.’
In January 1822 Stewart had a stroke of paralysis. His mind was not seriously affected, and he was able to prepare his work for the press, with the help of his daughter as amanuensis. He died at Edinburgh on 11 June 1828, while on a visit to a friend. Cockburn describes Stewart as slight and feeble, with a large bald forehead, bushy eyebrows, grey, intelligent eyes with very changeable expression, and flexible lips. A portrait, in his seventy-first year, painted by Wilkie, and a bust by Joseph are engraved in the collective edition of his works (vols. i. and x.) A portrait was painted by Raeburn about 1808, for A. Fraser-Tytler, lord Woodhouselee. Soon after his death a meeting was held by his friends, by whom a monument was erected upon the Calton Hill.
Stewart by his first wife had one son Matthew, who entered the army, and went to India in 1807 as aide-de-camp to Lord Minto. He rose to the rank of colonel, and retired on half-pay some years after the peace. There was a strong mutual attachment between him and his father. He had collected many of his father's papers and journals, and had prepared an account of his life and writings. He burnt them all under a delusion, due, it was supposed, to a sunstroke in India (see letter in preface to vol. viii. of Stewart's Works). Colonel Stewart died in 1851. Stewart had two children by his second wife, who died at Warrington House, Edinburgh, on 28 July 1838: a son George, who died in 1809, and a daughter Maria d'Arcy, who died unmarried in 1846.
Stewart's lectures produced an extraordinary effect in his own day. James Mill, though opposed to his philosophy, says that neither Pitt nor Fox, whose ‘most admired efforts’ he had heard, was ‘nearly so eloquent’ (Macvey Napier, Correspondence, pp. 24, 27). Cockburn speaks of the beauty of his voice and the delicacy of his ear, and adds, ‘He was the finest reader I have ever heard.’ He was forced to clear his throat by an asthmatic tendency; but there was ‘eloquence in his very spitting.’ His manner, though slightly formal, became emotional at proper moments. ‘To me his lectures were like the opening of the heavens: I felt that I had a soul’ (Memorials, pp. 22–6). Cockburn's enthusiasm was shared by others. He remarks that Stewart's high personal character was one cause of the excellence of his oratory. It was clearly one cause of his great influence with the young men who lived in his house. Among the attendants upon Stewart's lectures on political economy were Sydney Smith, Francis Horner, Lord Webb Seymour, Jeffrey, Henry Erskine, Brougham, Sir A. Alison, and Lord Palmerston. Palmerston and J. W. Ward (afterwards Lord Dudley) lived in his house; and Lord Webb Seymour, Lord Henry Petty, and Lord John Russell were pupils, though not living with him (Works, vol. x. pp. liv, lviii). All the young Edinburgh reviewers were admirers. Jeffrey, in a review of his life of Reid, gave a sceptical turn to his argument, to which Stewart replied, to Jeffrey's satisfaction it is said, in the ‘Philosophical Essays’ (ib. v. 24). Horner was apparently his most reverent admirer. Sydney Smith, at whose country parsonage he was a visitor, speaks in the highest terms of his moral and literary merits, though considering him to be a ‘humbug’ in metaphysics as compared with Thomas Brown (Lady Holland, Sydney Smith, i. 24, 102, ii. 90, 134, 388). Scott, in spite of his toryism, is as emphatic as others upon Stewart's eloquence (Autobiographical Fragment); was encouraged by Stewart's approval of his early efforts, and, according to Lockhart (ch. vi.), kept up an affectionate intercourse through life.
Stewart's influence owed so much to his personal attractiveness that its decline is not surprising. He was a transmitter of Reid's influence far more than an originator. He held, with Reid, that philosophy depended upon psychology treated as an inductive science. He expounded the doctrine ‘common-sense’ so as to represent the ‘intuitionism’ against which the Mills carried on their polemic. He repudiated, however, ontological argument still more emphatically than his master, and was a thorough nominalist. While thus approximating to the purely empirical school, he was the more anxious, as Mackintosh observes (essay on Dugald Stewart in Ethical Philosophy, 1872, pp. 210–27), to mark his disapproval of more thoroughgoing advocates. He speaks with unusual severity of Hartley, Erasmus Darwin, and their English adherents, and of the French disciples of Condillac, while really making concessions to their doctrine. He was annoyed, therefore, by finding that Thomas Brown had attacked Reid most emphatically, and followed, if he had not plagiarised from, the French ‘ideologists’ Destutt De Tracy and Laromiguière. He spoke with unusual severity of Brown, whose life and lectures had been recently published, in a note to his ‘Elements’ (Works, iv. 375 &c.). Stewart, therefore, though he constantly shows real power and psychological acuteness, represents rather the decline than the development of a system of philosophy. ‘Without derogation from his writings,’ says Mackintosh, ‘it may be said that his disciples were among his best works.’ His ‘gentle and persuasive eloquence’ stimulated many hearers, and kept up a certain interest in philosophy. Mackintosh's high eulogies upon the eloquence of his style are probably just, as is his intimation that Stewart swells his volumes too freely ‘by expedients happily used to allure the young.’ Stewart is too much a professor of philosophical deportment. His reading was wide, but his knowledge of German philosophy stopped at Leibnitz; in his ‘Dissertation’ he confessed his inability to make anything of Kant, and filled the space with secondhand notices. A curious correspondence between him and Thomas Wirgman may be found in the account of Kant's philosophy published by Wirgman in the ‘Encyclopædia Londinensis’ in 1823. Wirgman, who was an enthusiastic expounder of Kant, had vainly appealed to Stewart to study the new system (in 1813), and Stewart pathetically apologises on the ground of age and ignorance of German for not undertaking the task.
Stewart's works are: 1. ‘Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind,’ vol. i. 1792 (6th edit. 1818); vol. ii. 1814 (4th edit. in 1822); vol. iii. 1827. The whole in vols. ii. iii. and iv. of ‘Works.’ 2. ‘Outlines of Moral Philosophy,’ 1793; 4th edit. in 1818 (a full syllabus of lectures, divided in the ‘Works’ into three parts, in vols. ii. vi. and viii., prefixed to corresponding lectures). The ‘Outlines’ were translated by Jouffroy in 1826. 3. ‘Account of Life and Writings of William Robertson,’ 1801 (originally in ‘Transactions’ of Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1793). 4. ‘Account of Life and Writings of Thomas Reid,’ 1802 (originally in ‘Transactions’ of Royal Society in 1802). 5. These last two, with a ‘Life’ of Adam Smith, originally in the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Society in 1793, were published together, as ‘Biographical Memoirs,’ in 1811; in vol. x. of ‘Works.’ 6. ‘A Short Statement of Facts relative to the late Election of a Mathematical Professor in the University of Edinburgh …’ 1805. A ‘Postscript’ was published in the same year. These are omitted in the ‘Works.’ 7. ‘Philosophical Essays,’ 1810; 3rd edit. 1818; vol. v. of ‘Works.’ 8. ‘Dissertation on the Progress of Philosophy and the Revival of Letters,’ pt. i. in ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana,’ 1815, and pt. ii. in same, 1821; these, with a fragment of pt. iii., then first published, form vol. i. of ‘Works.’ 9. ‘Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man,’ 1828; vol. vi. and vii. of ‘Works.’ 10. ‘Lectures on Political Economy,’ first delivered in 1800, and first published in ‘Works,’ forming vols. viii. and ix. A collective edition of the ‘Works’ was undertaken by Sir William Hamilton, on condition that they should appear ‘without note or comment.’ The first nine volumes were published from 1854 to 1856; a tenth, with a ‘Life’ of Stewart by John Veitch, in 1858; and an eleventh ‘supplementary’ volume, with index to the whole, in 1860.[Life by Veitch, as above; a Life by Matthew Stewart (his son) is in Annual Biography and Obituary for 1829, pp. 256–69, and was privately printed in 1838; Cockburn's Memorials, pp. 22–6, 103, 170, 206, 250, 369, 451–3; Macvey Napier's Correspondence, pp. 2–7, 24 &c.; Memoirs of Francis Horner, 1853, i. 29, 130, 467, 470, 474, ii. 10, 158, 166–8, 196, 308, 457; Sir H. Bulwer's Palmerston, 1871, pp. 11, 367; S. Walpole's Lord John Russell, 1889, i. 45; Life of Mackintosh, i. 46, 177, 257, 399; Dalzell's University of Edinburgh, 1862, i. 30, 53, 100, 117, 129, 153, 219, 252, ii. 343, 446, 451; Lady Holland's Sydney Smith, i. 102, 196, ii. 90, 134, 386; Sir A. Alison's Autobiography, 1883, i. 4, 19, 40, 47, 50; Lord Dudley's Letters to Copleston, pp. 3, 21, 168, 186, 326, 329; Parr's Works, vii. 542–53 (Stewart's letters to Parr); McCosh's Scottish Philosophy, 1875, pp. 162–73.]