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.
dealt with many other topics in the papers he had prepared towards his projected work on government, but there is no evidence that he ever intended to publish a separate work on that remarkable writer, and before March 1790 his strength seems to have been much wasted.  The Earl of Buchan, who had some time before gone to live in the country, was in town in February, and paid a visit to his old professor and friend.  On taking leave of him the Earl said, “My dear Doctor, I hope to see you oftener when I come to town next February,” but Smith squeezed his lordship’s hand and replied, “My dear Lord Buchan,[365] I may be alive then and perhaps half a dozen Februaries, but you never will see your old friend any more.  I find that the machine is breaking down, so that I shall be little better than a mummy”—­with a by-thought possibly to the mummies of Toulouse.  “I found a great inclination,” adds the Earl, “to visit the Doctor in his last illness, but the mummy stared me in the face and I was intimidated."[366]

During the spring months Smith got worse and weaker, and though he seemed to rally somewhat at the first approach of the warm weather, he at length sank again in June, and his condition seemed to his friends to be already hopeless.  Long and painful as his illness was, he bore it throughout not with patience merely but with a serene and even cheerful resignation.  On the 21st of June Henry Mackenzie wrote his brother-in-law, Sir J. Grant, that Edinburgh had just lost its finest woman, and in a few weeks it would in all probability lose its greatest man.  The finest woman was the beautiful Miss Burnet of Monboddo, whom Burns called “the most heavenly of all God’s works,” and the greatest man was Adam Smith.  “He is now,” says Mackenzie, “past all hopes of recovery, with which about three weeks ago we had flattered ourselves.”

A week later Smellie, the printer, wrote Smith’s young friend, Patrick Clason, in London:  “Poor Smith! we must soon lose him, and the moment in which he departs will give a heart-pang to thousands.  Mr. Smith’s spirits are flat, and I am afraid the exertions he sometimes makes to please his friends do him no good.  His intellect as well as his senses are clear and distinct.  He wishes to be cheerful, but nature is omnipotent.  His body is extremely emaciated, and his stomach cannot admit of sufficient nourishment; but, like a man, he is perfectly patient and resigned."[367]

In all his own weakness he was still thoughtful of the care of his friends, and one of his last acts was to commend to the good offices of the Duke of Buccleugh the children of his old friend and physician, Cullen, who died only a few months before himself.  “In many respects,” says Lord Buchan, “Adam Smith was a chaste disciple of Epicurus as that philosopher is properly understood, and Smith’s last act resembled that of Epicurus leaving as a legacy to his friend and patron the children of his Metrodorus, the excellent Cullen."[368]

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Life of Adam Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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