Page images

his observations. But there is one, in which it is impossible to disagree with him. "I have said, and I abide by "it," cries the little hero, "that the fault of most books is, "their being too large." On reviewing what I have written, I really cannot see there is occasion to add another


Had I not chosen, for reasons best known to myself, thus to make my appearance incog. I would certainly have sat for my picture, and have tried to cast a look at my title page, as lively and good humoured as that of Mr. Hume himself. My bookseller, indeed, told me, it would have been a much more creditable way of doing the thing; "and then you know, sir," said he, "we could have "charged the other sixpence."

[ocr errors]





You have been lately employed in embalming a philosopher: his body, I believe I must say; for concerning the other part of him, neither you nor he seem to have entertained an idea, sleeping or waking. Else, it surely might have claimed a little of your care and attention; and one would think, the belief of the soul's existence and immortality could do no harm, if it did no good, in a Theory of Moral Sentiments. But every gentleman understands his own business best.

Will you do an unknown correspondent the honour, sir, to accept a few plain remarks, in a free and easy way, upon the curious letter to Mr. STRAHAN, in which this ever-memorable operation of embalming is performed? Our philosopher's account of his own life will likewise be considered, as we go along.

Trust me, good Doctor, I am no bigot, enthusiast, or enemy to human learning-Et ego in Arcadia-1 have made many a hearty meal, in private, upon Cicero and Virgil, as well as Mr. Hume". Few persons (though perhaps, as Mr. Hume says upon a like occasion, “I

a Life, p. 5.

[ocr errors]

"ought not to judge on that subject") have a quicker relish for the productions of genius, and the beauties of composition. It is therefore as little in my intention, as it is in my power, to prejudice the literary character of your friend. From some of his writings I have received great pleasure, and have ever esteemed his History of England to have been a noble effort of Matter and Motion. But when a man takes it into his head to do mischief, you must be sensible, sir, the public has always reason to lament his being a clever fellow.

I hope it will not be deemed vanity in me likewise to say, that I have in my composition a large proportion of that which our inimitable Shakspeare styles, the milk of human kindness. I never knew what envy or hatred was; and am ready, at all times, to praise, wherever I can do it in honour and conscience. David, I doubt not, was, as you affirm, a social agreeable person, of a convivial turn, told a good story, and played well at "his favourite game " of whist. " I know not that John the Painter did the same. But there is no absurdity in the supposition. If he did not, he might have done it-Doctor, be not offended-I mean no harm. I would only infer thus much, that I could not, on that account, bring myself absolutely to approve his odd fancy of firing all the dock-yards in the kingdom.

Concerning the philosophical opinions of Mr. Hume you observe, that "men will, no doubt, judge vari"ously." They are certainly at liberty so to do, because the author himself did the same. Sometimes, to be sure, he esteemed them ingenious, deep, subtile, elegant, and calculated to diffuse his literary fame to the ends of the world. But, at other times, he judged very differently; very much so, indeed. "I dine," says he, "I play a "game at backgammon, I converse, and am merry with

[blocks in formation]

"my friends; and when, after three or four hours' amuse"ment, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, so strained, and so ridiculous, that I can"not find in my heart to enter into them any farther d" Now, sir, if you will only give me leave to judge, before dinner, of Mr. Hume's philosophy, as he judged of it after dinner, we shall have no farther dispute upon that subject. I could indeed wish, if it were possible, to have a scheme of thought which would bear contemplating at any time of the day; because, otherwise, a person must be at the expense of maintaining a brace of these metaphysical hobbyhorses, one to mount in the morning, and the other in the afternoon.

[ocr errors]

After all, sir, friend as I am to freedom of opinions (and no one living can be more so), I am rather sorry, methinks, that men should judge so variously of Mr. Hume's philosophical speculations. For since the design of them is to banish out of the world every idea of truth and comfort, salvation and immortality, a future state, and the providence and even existence of God, it seems a pity, that we cannot be all of a mind about them, though we might have formerly liked to hear the author crack a joke over a bottle in his life-time. And I could have been well pleased to have been informed by you, sir, that, before his death, he had ceased to number among his happy effusions tracts of this kind and tendency.

[ocr errors]

For-(let me come a little closer to you, Doctor, if you please, upon this subject-Do not be under any apprehensions-my name does not begin with a B-). Are you sure, and can you make us sure, that there really exist

Treatise on Human Nature, i. 467. In the Postscript to this Letter, a view will be exhibited of the HUMIAN system, taken exactly as it appeared to its author at six o'clock in the evening.

no such things as a God, and a future state of rewards and punishments? If so, all is well. Let us then, in our last hours, read Lucian, and play at whist, and droll upon Charon and his boat; let us die as foolish and insensible, as much like our brother philosophers, the calves of the field and the asses of the desert, as we can, for the life of us. But-if such things be-as they most certainly are—is it right in you, sir, to hold up to our view, as "perfectly wise and virtuous," the character and conduct of one, who seems to have been possessed with an incurable antipathy to all that is called religion, and who strained every nerve to explode, suppress, and extirpate the spirit of it among men, that its very name, if he could effect it, might no more be had in remembrance? Are we, do you imagine, to be reconciled to a character of this sort, and fall in love with it, because its owner was good company, and knew how to manage his cards? Low as the age is fallen, I will venture to hope, it has grace enough yet left to resent such usage as this.

You endeavour to entertain us with some pleasant conceits that were supposed by Mr. Hume to pass between himself and old Charon. The philosopher tells the old gentleman, that "he had been endeavouring to open the

eyes of the public;" that he was "correcting his "works for a new edition," from which great things were to be expected; in short, "if he could but live a few years longer," and that was the only reason why he would wish to do so, "he might have the satisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of the prevailing systems of "superstitions."


We all know, sir, what the word Superstition denotes, in Mr. Hume's vocabulary, and against what religion his shafts are levelled, under that name. But, Doctor,



е e Life, &c. p. 47, et seq. f Ibid. p. 62.

Ibid. p. 50.

« EelmineJätka »