Life of Adam Smith eBook

John Rae (educator)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 551 pages of information about Life of Adam Smith.

Its name was the Oyster Club, and it may be thought from that circumstance that those great philosophers did not spurn the delights of more ordinary mortals.  But probably no three men could be found who cared less for the pleasures of the table.  Hutton was an abstainer; Black a vegetarian, his usual fare being “some bread, a few prunes, and a measured quantity of milk diluted with water”; and as for Smith, his only weakness seems to have been for lump sugar, according to an anecdote preserved by Scott, which, trivial though it be, may be repeated here, under the shelter of the great novelist’s example and of Smith’s own biographical principle that nothing about a great man is too minute not to be worth knowing.

Scott, speaking apparently as an eye-witness, says:  “We shall never forget one particular evening when he (Smith) put an elderly maiden lady who presided at the tea-table to sore confusion by neglecting utterly her invitation to be seated, and walking round and round the circle, stopping ever and anon to steal a lump from the sugar basin, which the venerable spinster was at length constrained to place on her own knee, as the only method of securing it from his uneconomical depredations.  His appearance mumping the eternal sugar was something indescribable.”  It is probably the same story Robert Chambers gives in his Traditions of Edinburgh, and he makes the scene Smith’s own parlour, and the elderly spinster his cousin, Miss Jean Douglas.  It may have been so, for Scott, as a school companion of young David Douglas, would very likely have been occasionally at Panmure House.


[284] Nicholson’s edition of Wealth of Nations, p. 8.

[285] Bonar’s Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith, p. viii.

[286] Smellie’s Life of Smith, p. 297.

[287] Quarterly Review, xxxvi. 200.

[288] Sir J. Sinclair’s Correspondence, i. 389.

[289] Stewart’s Works, x. 73.

[290] Stewart’s Life of Reid, sec. iii.

[291] Sinclair’s Old Times and Distant Places, p. 7.

[292] Stewart’s Life of Reid, sec. iii.

[293] Black’s Works, I. xxxii.

[294] Transactions, R.S.E., v. 98.



Soon after Smith settled in Edinburgh he received from his old French friends, the Duchesse d’Enville and her son the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, a presentation copy of a new edition of their ancestor’s Maximes, accompanied by the following letter from the Duke himself, in which he informs Smith of the interesting circumstance that, in spite of the way his famous ancestor is mentioned in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, he had himself at one time undertaken a translation of that work, and only abandoned the task when he found himself anticipated by the publication of the translation by Abbe Blavet in 1774.  It is a little curious that a disciple of Quesnay, a regular frequenter of Mirabeau’s economic dinners, should take no notice in his letter of Smith’s greater work, so lately published.

Project Gutenberg
Life of Adam Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook