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notwithstanding the originality wbich can invent new systems, or the eloquence which can adorn them.
In the summer of 1766, Mr. Huine went to Edinburgh, with the intention of spending the rest of his days there, in philosophical retirement, and in the enjoyment of what might be deemed, for a philosopher, a very high state of affluence, as he now possessed a revenue of 1000l. a year, including a peusion of 5001. from government; but in 1767 he was invited to succeed Mr. Burke as under secretary of state to Gen. Conway.
. Our author accordingly repaired to London, and entered on his office. Whether he possessed talents eminently adapted to this situation, it would now be superfluous to inquire ; certain it is, that the state papers of those times evince no extraordinary marks of splendid abilities. In January, 1768, the General retired, and Hume followed his example.” p. 181.
• From this time, to the period of his death, his life presents nothing worthy of notice ; for his migrations from Edinburgh to London, and back again, ceased to be interesting in the history of literature, and were so devoid of incident, as not to entitle them to attention. In Spring, 1775, he was struck with a disorder in his bowels, which at first gave him no alarm : but, a twelvemonth afterwards, proved mortal. It is impossible not to admire and envy the serenity of his mind at the very time he felt the malady to be incurable.' p. 291.
The account of the closing part of Hume's life has long been very well known to the public; but we are inclined to print it once more, as exhibiting what would probably be admitted, and even cited, by infidels, as an example of the noblest and most magnanimous deportment in the prospect of death, that it is possible for any of their class to maintain ; an example indeed which very few of them ever, in their serious moments, dare promise themselves to equal, though they may, like Mr. Ritchie, deem it in the highest degree enviable. It may be taken as quite their apostolic specimen, standing parallel in their history to the instance of St. Paul in the records of the Christians, “ I have fought a good fight,” &c. Mr. Hume had visited Bath, but was returnirg to Scotland, under an increase of his fatal malady. At this period, however,
• His cheerfulness never forsook him. He wrote letters to his literary friends, informing them of his intention to be at Edinburgh on a certain day, and inviting them to dine with him on the day following. It was a kind of farewell dinner ; and among those who came to partake of the hospitality of the dying historian, were Lord Elibank, Dr. Smith, Dr. Blair, Dr. Black, Professor Fergusson, and John Home.
* At his return to Edinburgh, Mr. Hume, though extremely debilitated by disease, went abroad at times in a sedan chair, and called on his friends ; but his ghastly looks indicated the rapid approach of death. He diverted himself with correcting his works for a new edition, with reading books of amusement, with the conversation of his friends, and sometimes in the evening with a party at his favourite game of whist. His facetiousness led him to indulge occasionally in the bagatelle. Among other verbal legacies, in making which he amused himself, the following whimsical one has been related. The author of Douglas is said to have a mortal aversion to port wine, and to have had frequent disputes with the historian about the manner of spelling his name. Both these circumstances were often the subjects of Mr. Hume's raillery ; and he verbally bequeathed to the poet a quantity of port wine, on condition that he should always drink a bottle at a sitting, and give a receipt for it under the signature of John Hume.
• Dr. Smith has recorded an instance of Mr. Hume's sportive disposition ; and it also shews 'the placidity of his mind, notwithstand. ing the prospect of speedy dissolution. Colonel Edmonstone came to take leave of him ; and, on his way home, he could not forbear writing Hume a letter, bidding him once more an eternal adieu, and applying to luim the French verses in which the Abbé Chaulieu, in expectation of his ouin death, laments his approaching separation from his friend the Marquis de la Fare. Dr. Smith happened to enter the room while Mr. Hume was reading the letter ; and in the course of the conversation it gave rise to, Mr. Hume expressed the satisfaction he had in leaving his friends, and his brother's family in particular, in prosperous circumstances. This, he said, he felt so sensibly, that when he was reading, a few days before, Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead, he could not, among all the excuses which are alleged to Charon for not entering readily into his boat, find one that fitted him. He had no house to finish; he had no daughter to provide for ; he had no enemies upon whom, he wished to revenge him. self. “I could not well imagine," said he," what excuse I could make to Charon, in order to obtain a little delay. I have done every thing of consequence which I ever meant to do. I could at no time expect to leave my relations and friends in a better situation than that in which I am now likely to leave them : I therefore have all reason to die contented."
“ He then diverted himself," continues Dr. Smith, “ with inventing several jocular excuses, which he supposed he might make to Charon, and in imagining the very surly answers which it might suit the character of Charon to return to them.-" Upon further consideration,” said he, " I thought I might say to him, " Good Charon, I have been correcting my works for a new edition. Allow me a little time, that I may see how the public receives the alterations.” But Charon would answer, “ When you see the effect of these, you will be for making other alterations. There will be no end of such excuses ; so, honest friend, please step into the boat.” But I might still urge, “ Have a little patience, good Charon : I have been endeavouring to open the eyes of the public. If I live a few years longer, I may have the satisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of
the prevailing systems of superstition.” But Charon would then lose all , temper and decency: “ You loitering rogue, that will not happen these many hundred years. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for so long a term? Get into the boat this instant, you lazy, loitering rogue.”;
The hour of his departure had now arrived. His decline being gradual, he was, in his last moments, perfectly sensible, and free from pain. He shewed not the slightest indication of impatience or fietfulness, but conwversed with the people around him, in a tone of mildness and affection ; and his whole conduct evinced a happy composure of mind. On Sunday, the 25th of August, 1776, about four o'clock in the afternoon, this great and amiable man expired.' .pp. 298,—301..
On this most remarkable exhibition we think there was room, for the biographer to have made several observations; as,
First, supposing a certainty of the final cessation of conscious existence at death, this indifference to life, if it was not affected (which indeed we suspect it to have been in part), was an absurd undervaluation of a possession which almost all rational creatures, that have not been extremely miserable, have held most dear, and which is in its own nature most precious. To be a conscious agent, exerting a rich combination of wonderful faculties, to feel an infinite variety of pleasurable sensations and emotions, to contemplate all nature, to extend an intellectual presence to indefinite ages of the past and future, to possess a perennial spring of ideas, to run infinite lengths of inquiry, with the delight of exercise and feetness, even when not with the satisfaction of full attainment, and to be a lord over inanimate matter, compelling it to an action and an use altogether foreign to its nature to be all this, is a state so stupendously different from that of being simply a piece of clay, that to be quite easy and complacent in the immediate prospect of passing from the one to the other, is a total inversion of all reasonable estimates of things; it is a renunciation, we do not say of sound philosophy, but of common sense. The certainty that the loss will not be felt after it has taken place, will but little soothe a man of unperverled mind in considering what it is that he is going to lose.
2. The jocularity of the philosopher was contrary to good taste. Supposing that the expected loss were not, according to a grand law of nature, a cause for melancholy and desperation, but that the contentment were rational; yet the approaching transformation was at all events to be regarded as a very grave and very strange event, and therefore jocularity was totally incongruous with the anticipation of such an event : a grave and solemn feeling was the only one that could be in unison with the contemplation of such a change. There was, in this instance, the same incongruity which we should impute to a writer who should mingle buffoonery in a solemn crisis of the drama, or with the most momentous event of a history. To be in harmony with his situation, in his own view of that situation, the expressions of the dying philosopher were required to be dignified; and if they were in any degree vivacious, the vivacity ought to have been rendered graceful by being accompanied with the noblest effort of the intellect of which the efforts were going to cease for ever. The low yixacity of · which we have been reading, seems but like the quickening
corruption of a mind whose faculty of perception is putrifying and dissolving even before the body.-It is true that good men), of a high order, have been known to utter pleasantries in their last hours. But these have been pleasantries of a fine ethereal quality, the scintillations of animated hope, the high pulsations of mental health, the involuntary movements of a spirit feeling itself free even in the grasp of death, the natural springs and boundings of faculties on the point of obtaining a still much greater and a boundless liberty. These had no resemblance to the low and laboured jokes of our philosopher; jokes so laboured as to give strong cause for suspicion, after all, that they were of the same nature, and for the same purpose, as the expedient of a boy on passing through some gloomy place in the night, who whistles to lessen bis fear, or to persuade his companion that he does not feel it.
3. Such a manner of meeting death was inconsistent with the scepticism, to which Hume was always found to avow his adherence. For that scepticism necessarily acknowledged a possibility and a chance that the religion which he bad scorned, might, notwithstanding, be found true, and might, in the moment after his death, glare upon him with all its terrors. But how dreadful to'a reflecting mind would have been the smallest chance of meeting such a vision ! Yet the philosopher could be cracking his heavy jokes, and Dr. Smith could be much diverted at the sport.
4. To a man who solemnly believes the truth of revelation, and therefore the threatenings of divine vengeance against the despisers of it, this scene will present as mournful a spectacle as perhaps the sun ever shone upon. We have beheld a man of great talents and invincible perseverance, entering on his career with the profession of an impartial inquiry after truth, met at every stage and step by the evidences and expostulations of religion and the claims of his Creator, but devoting his labours to the pursuit of fame and the promotion of impiety, at length acquiring and accomplishing, as he declared himself, all he had intended and desired, and descending toward the close of life amidst tranquillity, widelyextending reputation, and the homage of the great and the learned. We behold him appointed soon to appear before that Judge to whom he had never alluded but with malice or contempt; yet preserving to appearance an entire selfcomplacency, idly jesting about his approaching dissolution, and mingling with the insane sport his references to the fall of “superstition," a term of which the meaning is hardly ever dubious when expressed by such men. We behold him at last carried off, and we seem to hear, the following moment, from the darkness in which he vanishes, the shriek of surprise
and terror, and the overpowering accents of the messenger of vengeance. On the whole globe there probably was not acting, at the time, so mournful a tragedy as that, of which the friends of Hume were the spectators, without being aware that it was any tragedy at all.
If that barbarous old Charon would have permitted a century or two more of life, it is probable that Hume, would have been severely mortified in viewing the effect of his writings against "superstition,” an effect so much less than his vanity no doubt secretly anticipated. Indeed his strictly philosophical works seem likely to fall into utter neglect. The biographer justly observes, that, though very acute, they are not very lucid or systematical in point of reasoniog; and they have none of that eloquence, which sometimes continues to interest the general reader in works that are becoming superannuated in the schools of philosophy. Many of his shorter essays will always be read with much advantage ; but his History, we need not say, is the basis of his permanent reputation; and, it will perpetuate the moral, as well as the intellectual cast of his mind; it will shew a man indifferent to the welfare of mankind, contemptuous of the sublime feelings of moral and religious heroism, incapable himself of all grand and affecting senti. ments, and constantly cherishing a consummate arrogance, though often under the semblance and language of philosophic moderation.
As to Mr. Ritchie, we have already expressed respect for his understanding; but we cannot feel that the volume before us gives him any claims to the public gratitude. Art. II. A Concise View of the Succession of Sacred Literature, in a
Chronological Arrangement of Authors and their Works, from the Invention of Alphabetical Characters to the Year of our Lord 345. By Adam Clarke, A. M. 12mo. pp. xiv. 312. Price 5s.6d.; royal,
78,6d. bds. Lomas, Butterworth, Baynes. 1807. MR. Clarke surprises us with the variety and magnitude of w his labours. With that maturity of judgement, the result of long experience, which always directs his attention to objects of great utility, he unites the ardour even of youth in the execution of his designs. Amidst incessant engagements, he appears to the public as if he had only to remain in his study to write for their instruction. But a short time ago, we had to inform our readers of the completion of the author's Bibliographical Dictionary *, the most comprehensive performance of its kind in the English language; and we have now to announce the first volume of a publication, highly interesting to the cul
* Vide Ecl. Rev. Vol. III. pp. 396406. * Vol. IV.