Forgot your password?  

Resources for students & teachers

John Rae (educator)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 458 pages of information about Life of Adam Smith.

[251] Stewart’s Works, x. 87.

[252] Cockburn’s Memorials of My Own Time, p. 174.

[253] See Dowell’s Taxation, ii. 169.

[254] See below, pp. 350, 352.

CHAPTER XIX

THE DEATH OF HUME

1776

After the publication of his book in the beginning of March, Smith still dallied in London, without taking any steps to carry out his plan of going to see Hume in Edinburgh and bring him up to London.  But some hope seems to have been entertained of Hume coming up even without Smith’s persuasion and escort.  John Home, who was in London and was in correspondence with him, thought so, but he at length received a direct negative to the idea in a letter from Hume himself, written on the 12th of April; and then Smith and John Home set out together immediately for the northern capital, but when the coach stopped at Morpeth, whom should they see standing in the door of the inn but Colin, their friend’s servant?  Hume had determined to undertake the journey to London after all to consult Sir John Pringle, and was now so far on his way.  John Home thereupon accompanied Hume back to London, but Smith, having heard of his mother being taken ill, and being anxious about her, as she was now over eighty years old, continued his journey on to Kirkcaldy.  At Morpeth, however, he and Hume had time to discuss the question of the publication, in the event of Hume’s death, of certain of his unpublished works.  Hume had already on the 4th of January 1776 made Smith his literary executor by will, leaving him full power over all his papers except the Dialogues on Natural Religion, which he explicitly desired him to publish.  It was years since this work had been written, but its publication had been deferred in submission to the representations of Sir Gilbert Elliot and other friends as to the annoying clamour it was sure to excite.  Its author, however, had never ceased to cherish a peculiar paternal pride in the work, and now that his serious illness forced him to face the possibility of its extinction, he resolved at last to save it from that fate, clamour or no clamour.  If he lived, he would publish it himself; if he died, he charged his executor to do so.

But this was a duty for which Smith had no mind.  He was opposed to the publication of these Dialogues on general grounds and under any editorship whatever, as will appear in the course of the correspondence which follows, but he had also personal scruples against editing them, of the same character as those which had already so long prevented their author himself from publishing them.  He shrank from the public clamour in which it would involve him, and the injury it might do to his prospects of preferment from the Crown.  When he met Hume at Morpeth accordingly he laid his mind fully before his friend, and the result was that Hume agreed to leave the whole question of publication or no publication absolutely to Smith’s discretion, and on reaching London sent Smith a formal letter of authority empowering him to deal with the Dialogues as he judged best.

Follow Us on Facebook