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METAPHYSICAL AND ETHICAL WRITERS. .
the country, who, to one hundred thousand, would at one time have added eighty thousand men at the least, and all animated by principle, by enthusiasm, and by vengeance ; motives which secured them to the cause in a very different manner from some of those allies whom we subsidized with millions. This ally (or rather this principal in the war), by the confession of the regicide himself, was more formidable to him than all his other foes united. Warring there, we should have led our arms to the capital
Defeated, we could not fail (proper precautions taken) of a sure retreat. Stationary, and only supporting the royalists, an impenetrable barrier, an impregnable rampart, would have been formed between enemy and his naval power.
We are probably the only nation who have declined to act against an enemy, when it might have been done, in hiş own country; and who, having an armed, a powerful, and a long victorious ally in that country, declined all effectual co-operation and suffered him to perish for want of support. On the plan of a war in France, every advantage that our allies might obtain would be doubtful in its effect. Disasters on the one side might have a fair chance of being compensated by victories on the other. Had we brought the main of our force to bear upon that quarter, all the operations of the British and imperial crowns would have been combined. The war would have had system, correspondence, and a certain connection. But, as the war has been pursued, the operations of the two crowns have not the smallest degree of. mutual bearing or relation.
METAPHYSICAL AND ETHICAL WRITERS.
THE most remarkable metaphysical and speculative works which had appeared in England since Locke's Essay were, Dr. Samuel Clarke's Sermons on the Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, 1705, in which he expounded his famous à priori argument for the existence of a God; Berkeley's Theory of Vision, 1709; his Principles of Human Knowledge, 1710, in which he announced his argument against the existence of matter ; his Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous, 1713; his Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher, 1732; his Analyst, 1734 ; the Earl of Shaftesbury's Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, and Times, first pub
1 These prophetic views are very similar to those that were urged twelve years later in a memorable article in the Edinburgh Review, by a great living orator. (See No. XXV., Don Cevallos on the French Usurpation of Spain.) VOL. II.
lished in the form in which we now have them in 1713, after the author's death ; Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices Public Benefits, 1714 ; Dr. Francis Hutcheson's Inquiry into the Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, 1725 ; Andrew Baxter's Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul, 1730; Bishop Butler's Sermons preached at the Rolls Chapel, 1726; and his Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, 1736. David Hume, who was born in 1711, and died in 1776, and who has gained the highest place in two very distinct fields of intellectual and literary enterprise, commenced his literary life by the publication of his Treatise on Human Nature, in 1739. The work, which, as he has himself stated, was projected before he left college, and written and published not long after, fell, to use his own words, “ dead-born from the press”; nor did the speculations it contained attract much more attention when republished ten years after in another form under the title of Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding; but they eventually proved perhaps more exciting and productive, at least for a time, both in this and in other countries, than any other metaphysical views that had been promulgated in modern times. Hume's Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals appeared in 1752, his Natural History of Religion in 1755; and with the latter publication he may be regarded as having concluded the exposition of his sceptical philosophy. Among the most distinguished writers on mind and morals that appeared after Hume within the first quarter of a century of the reign of George III. may be mentioned Hartley, whose Observations on Man, in which he unfolded his hypothesis of the association of ideas, were published in 1749 ; Lord Kames (Henry Home), whose Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion were published in 1752; Adam Smith, whose Theory of Moral Sentiments was published in 1759; Reid, whose Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense was published in 1764 ; Abraham Tucker (calling himself Edward Search, Esq.), the first part of whose Light of Nature Pursued was published in 1768, the second in 1778, after the author's death ; and Priestley, whose new edition of Hartley's work, with an Introductory Dissertation, was published in 1775; his Examination of Dr. Reid's Inquiry, the same year; and his Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, in 1777. We may add to the list Campbell's very able Dissertation on Miracles, in answer to Hume, which appeared
in 1763 ; and Beattie's Essay on Truth, noticed in a former page, which appeared in 1770, and was also, as everybody knows, an attack
upon the philosophy of the great sceptic.
HISTORICAL WRITERS. – HUME. ROBERTSON. GIBBON.
In the latter part of his literary career Hume struck into altogether another line, and the subtle and daring metaphysician suddenly came before the world in the new character of an historian. He appears, indeed, to have nearly abandoned metaphysics very soon after the publication of his Philosophical Essays. In a letter to his friend Sir Gilbert Elliott, which, though without date, seems from its contents, according to Mr. Stewart, to have been written about 1750 or 1751, he says, “ I am sorry that our correspondence should lead us into these abstract speculations. I have thought, and read, and composed very little on such questions of late. Morals, politics, and literature have employed all my time.”] The first volume of his History of Great Britain, containing the Reigns of James I. and Charles I., was published, in quarto, at Edinburgh, in 1754; the second, containing the Commonwealth and the Reigns of Charles II. and James II., at London, in 1757.2 According to his own account the former was received with “ one cry of reproach, disapprobation, and even detestation ” ; and after the first ebullitions of the fury of his assailants were over, he adds, “what was still more mortifying, the book seemed to sink into oblivion : Mr. Miller told me that in a twelvemonth he sold only forty-five copies of it.” He was so bitterly disappointed, that, he tells us, had not the war been at that time breaking out between France and England, he had certainly retired to some provincial town of the former kingdom, changed his name, and never more returned to his native country. However, after a little time, in the impracticability of
1 Dissertation on the Progress of Metaphysical, Ethical, and Political Philosophy, prefixed to Encyclopædia Britannica, p. 206, note 3. But we do not understand how Mr. Stewart infers from this letter that Hume had abandoned all his metaphysical researches long before the publication of his Essays. His Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding, which are those of which Mr. Stewart is speaking, were first published in 1749.
2 The common accounts say 1756 ; but the copy before us, “printed for A. Mil. lar, opposite Catharine Street, in the Strand,” is dated 1757.
executing this scheme of expatriation, he resolved to pick up courage and persevere, the more especially as his second volume was considerably advanced. That, he informs us, “happened to give less displeasure to the Whigs, and was better received: it not only rose itself, but helped to buoy up its unfortunate brother.” The work, indeed, seems to have now rapidly attained extraordinary popularity. Two more volumes, comprehending the reigns of the princes of the House of Tudor, appeared in 1759; and the remaining two, completing the History, from the Invasion of Julius Cæsar to the accession of Henry VII., in 1762. And several new editions of all the volumes were called for in rapid succession. Hume makes as much an epoch in our historical as he does in our philosophical literature. His originality in the one department is as great as in the other; and the influence he has exerted upon those who have followed him in the same path has been equally extensive and powerful in both cases. His History, notwithstanding some defects which the progress of time and of knowledge is every year making more considerable, or at least enabling us better to perceive, and some others which probably would have been much the same at whatever time the work had been written, has still merits of so high a kind as a literary performance that it must ever retain its place among our few classical works in this department, of which it is as yet perhaps the greatest. In narrative clearness, grace, and spirit, at least, it is not excelled, scarcely equalled, by any other completed historical work in the language ; and it has besides the high charm, indispensable to every literary performance that is to endure, of being impressed all over with the peculiar character of the author's own mind, interesting us even
1 In a newspaper of 1764 (The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, for Wednesday, May 9), we find, besides the advertisement of a new edition of the History of the House of Tudor, in 2 vols. small paper, 4to, price 11. 5s., the following announcement, which is curious both as an evidence of the popularity of Hume's work, and as showing that a mode of publication extensively adopted in our own day is no novelty :-“ This day is published, printed on a new type and good paper, the seventh volume, in octavo, price 5s. in boards, of the Complete History of England, from Julius Cæsar to the Revolution. With Additions and Corrections. And to the last volume will be added a full and complete Index. By David Hume, Esq. *** The Proprietor, at the desire of many who wish to be possessed of this valuable and esteemed History, is induced to this Monthly Publication, which will not exceed Eight volumes ; a volume of which shall be punctually published every Month, for the benefit of those who do not choose to purchase them all at once Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand : and S. Bladon, in Paternoster Row; and to be had of all the Booksellers of Great Britain and Ireland.”
in its most prejudiced and objectionable passages (perhaps still more, indeed, in some of these than elsewhere) by his tolerant candor and gentleness of nature, his charity for all the milder vices, his unaffected indifference to many of the common objects of human passion, and his contempt for their pursuers, never waxing bitter or morose, and often impregnating his style and manner with a vein of the quietest but yet truest and richest humor. One effect which we may probably ascribe in great part to the example of Hume was the attention that immediately began to be turned to historic composition in a higher spirit than had heretofore been felt among us, and that ere long added to the possessions of the language in that department the celebrated performances of Robertson and Gibbon. Robertson's History of Scotland during the Reigns of Queen Mary and of King James VI. was published at London in 1759; his History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V., in 1769; ?nd his History of America, in 1776. Robertson's style of narration, lucid, equable, and soberly embellished, took the popular ear and taste from the first. A part of the cause of this favorable reception is slyly enough indicated by Hume, in a letter which he wrote to Robertson himself on the publication of the History of Scotland :“ The great success of your book, besides its real merit, is forwarded by its prudence, and by the deference paid to established opinions. It gains also by its being your first performance, and by its surprising the public, who are not upon their guard against it. By reason of these two circumstances justice is more readily done to its merit, which, however, is really so great, that I believe there is scarce another instance of a first performance being so near perfection.”] The applause, indeed, 'was loud and universal, from Horace Walpole to Lord Lyttelton, from Lord Mansfield to David Garrick. Nor did it fail to be reriewed in equal measure on the appearance both of his History of Charles V. and of his History of America. But, although in his own day he probably bore away the palm from Hume in the estimation of the majority, the finest judgments even then discerned, with Gibbon, that there was something higher in “ the careless inimitable graces” of the latter than in his rival's more elaborate regularity, flowing and perspicuous as it usually is ; and, as always happens, time has brought the general
i Account of the Life and Writings of Robertson, by Dugald Stewart. 2 “ Lord Lyttelton,” says Hume, in another letter, “ seems to think that since the time of St. Paul there scarce has been a better writer than Dr. Robertson.”