Letters of Eminent Persons, addressed to David Hume. From the Papers

bequeathed by his Nephew to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 8vo. Pp. 334. Blackwood and Sons. 1849.

We are disposed to welcome every volume of genuine Letters that have any claim to be published, either from their own merits or their writers' position. “Nothing,” said Horace Walpole, * “ gives so just an idea of an age as genuine letters; nay, history waits for its last seal from them.” The complaints sometimes uttered by literary men against the avidity of the public for this kind of reading, and against the readiness of the owners of manuscript letters to gratify the public taste, are not always reasonable. A writer may properly enough require that the feelings of survivors and their personal friends shall not be wounded by the publication of his familiar correspondence. If this condition be fulfilled, no one ought to forbid the publication of that which may at some future period be deemed instructive or amusing. In the varying relations of life, who shall say what importance may not, a century hence, belong to a statement casually addressed to a friend? It is well that, when able men either write or speak, they do not remember the importance which others attach to their thoughts and words. Dr. Johnson said to Boswell in 1781, " It is now become so much the fashion to publish letters, that, in order to avoid it, I put as little into mine as I can.” Inferior as Johnson's letters were to his table-talk, it was well that he himself commonly forgot his prescribed caution, and that some scores of his letters, subsequent to his determination to write nothing worth printing, have found their way to the public. Of Johnson's we have, indeed, nothing in this volume. His dislike of Hume, founded on the latter's infidelity, breaks out in his talk with Boswell again and again. But the volume contains letters from Horace Walpole, Helvetius, Bishop Douglas, Lord Lyttleton, Mirabeau, Lady Hervey, Allan Ramsay, Turgot, D'Alembert, Diderot, Bishop Percy, and numerous other English, Scotch and French correspondents. "The editor, Mr. Burton, whose memoir of Hume we reviewed in a former volume (II. 677), rightly concluded that the letters now for the first time printed might be serviceable to the literary pursuits of others, and would afford pleasurable reading to those who are curious in biography and the familiar correspondence of great men.”. We propose to select a few passages from these letters for extract and remark.

The first letter in the collection is from Horace Walpole; it bears date July 15, 1758, and refers to Hume's criticisms on his“ Catalogue of Noble Authors, which was then for the first time published. There is more of effort and a great deal less success in this letter than is usual to this prince of letter-writers. Horace addresses Hume as “ the author of the best History of England.” The editor illustrates the sincerity of the compliment by extracting a passage from a letter written by Walpole a quarter of a century afterwards, in which he characterizes Hume, and in connection with his History, as a “ superficial mountebank." "He mounted a system in the garb of a philosophic empiric, but dispensed no drugs but what he was authorized to vend by a royal patent, and which were full of Turkish opium.” Walpole's letters contain several criticisms on the History of England, not all consistent even when written within a short time, but the prevailing tone is that of censure.

At the same time it must be remembered to the credit of Walpole, that he wrote sincerely, sensibly and kindly to Hume at the time of his quarrel with Rousseau, and warned him of the folly into which his literary friends were leading him in persuading him to “argue with a madman.” To those that have any curiosity to go into the details of the quarrel between the Historian and the French

* Correspondence, IV.

p. 194,

man, this volume will offer some interesting materials. The more the character of Rousseau is developed, the more foundation does there appear for Walpole's contempt of him as a man “possessing a bad and most ungrateful heart.” As a critic of literature, Hume did not excel; but we find him clearly on the right side against Walpole on the subject of the literary merits of Sir Philip Sidney. This is Walpole's defence of the freedom he had taken:

“I think, if my words are duly weighed, it will be found that my words are too strong, rather than my argument weak. I say, when we at this distance of time inquire what prodigious merits excited such admiration. What admiration? Why that all the learned of Europe praised him, all the poets of England lamented his death, the republic of Poland thought of him for their king. I allow Sir Philip great valour, and, from some of his performances, good sense; but, dear Sir, compare his talents with the admiration they occasioned, and that in no unlettered, no unpolished age, and can we at this distance help wondering at the vastness of his character: Allowing as much sense to Sir Philip as his warmest admirers can demand for him, surely this country has produced many men of far greater abilities, who have by no means met with a proportionate share of applause. It were a vain parade to name them. Take Bacon alone, who, I believe, of all our writers, except Newton, is most known to foreigners, and to whom Sir Philip was a puny child in genius,--how far was he from attaining an equal degree of fame and honour? To say the truth, I attribute the great admiration of Sir Philip Sidney to his having so much merit and learning for a man of his rank,

• Rarus enim ferme sensus communis in illâ

Fortunâ.' “Indeed, Sir, if your good sense and philosophy did not raise you above being blinded, I should suspect that you had conceived still more undeserved esteem, from the same surprise, for another author, who is the only one that, by being compared with Sir Philip Sidney, could make me think the latter a very great man. I have already thrown in a note to illustrate my argument, and to excuse myself to some gentlemen, who thought that I had not paid attention enough to Sir Philip's ‘Defence of Poesy;' but whether one or two particular tracts are a little better or not than I have represented his general writings, it does not affect the scope of my reasoning, the whole result of which is, as I said, that he was not a great man in proportion to his fame."--Pp. 2-4.

Horace Walpole's depreciatory estimate of Sidney has recently undergone the searching criticism of Mr. Hallam, who has shewn that the probability is that Walpole had never read the “Arcadia,” which he yet ventured to decry as" a tedious, lamentable, pedantic pastoral romance." As to Sidney's title to his fame, he justly observes that the suffrage of Europe in an age of heroes was a decisive proof that Sidney himself overtopped those sons of Anak.

The next topic handled by Walpole in this letter is one of great interestthe character of Lord Falkland, of whom scarcely any English writer (Walpole excepted), whether historian or critic, from Clarendon downwards, has made mention without paying homage to his virtues and fine intellectual gifts. Hume had in his History followed Clarendon in his estimate of Falkland. Walpole, in his Royal and Noble Authors, undertook the office of ikonoclast. The taste of his attempted character of Falkland is perhaps on a level with its accuracy. According to his misplaced sneer, Falkland was simply "a virtuous, well-meaning man, with a moderate understanding, who got knocked on the head early in the civil war, because it hoded ill.There was a delicacy, not to say fastidiousness, about Lord Falkland which unfitted him for public life; notwithstanding his fine intellectual powers, and moral qualities not less admirable, his influence was little felt by those with whom he acted. Driven from the patriotic ranks by what he regarded as the violent and dangerous counsels of the leaders of Parliament, he found himself unable to approve of the counsels of the Sovereign to whom he had devoted himself; he mourned over the woes of his unhappy country with a touching grief, and his heart was broken before his body was slain at Newbury. It must be a master-hand that can adequately portray Cary Lord Falkland. In his intellectual qualities he resembled Lord Halifax, though he wanted his polished wit; but he had a much more earnest spirit. A distinguished living writer who, all will agree, is capable of doing full justice to the qualities of Lord Falkland, has, it is to be regretted, passed the subject by in his recently published History; but in a review of Mr. Hallam’s great historical work which appeared in the Edinburgh Review more than twenty years ago, he gave a brief outline of his view of the character which is well worth attention. *

In reply to Hume's strictures, Walpole is moderate in his tone, and quite free from the bad taste that disfigures this portion of his “Noble Authors." There is, indeed, considerable force in the remarks that follow on the dangerousness to liberty of a King who proves victorious in a civil war. But philosophical reflections like these seldom visit the minds of men when their passions are roused by a severe conflict.

“When the King originally, and the patriots subsequently, had drawn upon their country all the violences of a civil war, it might be just abstractedly, but I think was not right for the consequences it might have, to consider that the King was become the party aggrieved. I cannot but be of opinion that assisting an oppressed King is in reality helping him to tyranny. It is the nature of man and power not to be content with being restored to their due and former rights. And however illegal and tyrannous the conduct of a victorious Parliament may be, I should think it more likely to come to its rational senses than a victorious King. Perhaps mine are principles rather than arguments. On the coolest examination of myself and of the history of these times, I think I should have been one of the last to have had recourse to arms, because an encroaching prince can never take such strides as a triumphant one; but I should have been one of the last, too, to lay them down, for the reasons I have given you.”—P. 4.

The letters of Helvetius are characteristic and interesting. Thus candidly did the amiable philosopher speak of the persecution he suffered, and its effects on his own mind :

“La persécution est un peu affoiblie, mais elle a laissé une certaine sauvagerie dans mon âme. Je ne hais pas les hommes mais je les fuis.”—P. 12.

From Lady Hervey there are a few letters which well sustain her reputation as a letter-writer. One of Hume's correspondents was his countryman, Allan Ramsay, the son of the poet, himself a painter, and, as his letters prove, a man of refined taste, a classical scholar, and, above all, a man of wit. We have some interesting letters, too, from Sir James Macdonald, an amiable young man, cut off at Rome in the 25th year of his age. It was of him that Boswell told Johnson—" a young man of most distinguished merit, who united the highest reputation at Eton and Oxford with the patriarchal spirit of a great Highland chieftain.” In a letter dated London, May 18, 1765, in which he addresses Hume as “My dear Philosopher," there is a striking account of the riots of the silk-weavers in the metropolis, which forms a valuable supplement to the narrative of the same transaction addressed two days after by Horace Walpole to the Earl of Hertford. The circumstances impress us with the feebleness of the executive Government in the early days of George III.

" Another very extraordinary event is the riot which the silk-weavers have made for some days past. They got a Bill passed in the House of Commons to prevent more effectually the importation of foreign silks, which the Duke of Bedford threw out in the House of Lords. The next day, above ten thousand of these people came down to the House, desiring redress, with drums beating and colours flying. They attacked the Duke of Bedford in his chariot, and threw 80 large a stone at him, that if he had not put up his hand, and saved his head by having his thumb cut to the bone, he must have been killed. He behaved with great resolution, and got free of them, since which time he has remained blockaded in his own house, and defended by the troops. Yesterday the same number of weavers assembled again at the House of Lords, where the horse

* See Macaulay's Critical and Historical Essays, I. 160, 161.

and foot-guards were to secure the entry of the Peers. The mob were ranged before the soldiers, and their colours were playing in the faces of his Majesty's troops. The degree of security with which these people commit felony, seems to me the most formidable circumstance in the whole: they carry in their whole deportment so much tranquillity and ease, that they do not seem apprised of the illegality of their proceedings. It is really serious to see the Legislature of this country intimidated by such a rabble; and to see the House of Lords send for Justice Fielding, to hear him prove for how many reasons he ought not to do his duty. The Duke of Bedford is still in danger of his life if he goes out of his house, and we expect to see the same number of people assembled every day, till something more vigorous is done than any one has yet chosen to propose. Pp. 55, 56.

We have read with considerable pleasure the letters in this volume of Turgot and D'Alembert, which are rich in biographical allusions. We must, however, close this brief notice of the volume; and we do it with a letter of Turgot's, dated July 3, 1768,- first extracting a passage from Mr. Burton's sensible and modest Preface:

“The glimpses into the social life of the French people anterior to the first political storm, afforded by the letters of their great authors and statesmen, may give curious and pleasant occupation to meditative minds. Much as the actual events of sixty years have done to obliterate the recollection of the faint tremours by which it was preceded, it is not without some exciting curiosity that, through the bitter little feuds and jealousies of the coteries, their magnified trifles, and their selfish devotion to the personal and the present, there is found to lurk a feeling of insecurity and uneasiness, as if the approach of some mysterious future were felt, though not seen,--a consciousness to which only the manly and far-seeing mind of Turgot could give complete utterance, by predicting, as we find him doing, that society was then hurrying on to some frightful convulsion.” P. iy. We subjoin the letter alluded to, in a translation :

“Paris, July 3, 1768. “ If my departure would allow me a few moments, I would say a word or two in defence of my ideas on the perfectibility and the future perfecting of our poor species. For the little disorders which occur beneath our eyes, do not stagger me in the least ; and I have more reason than the superintendent of the Jesuits for saying, Alios ventos, alias tempestates vidimus. Your Government is far from being free from blemish. There is not, however, any blessing in the universe of which the same might not be said, and your Government is not the most easy of all to amend in a trice. Good government here will not be established without a crisis, and its crisis will be attended with confusion. But must we accuse light and liberty for making us pass through this disorder in order to introduce a happier era Clearly not. They occasion some evil, while we are passing on to the better time; but do they occasion more than tyranny and superstition, which would destroy them, and which vainly strive to do this by the consideration that when things are at a certain point they are either quite useless or cri, minal, or both? You, certainly, are not of this way of thinking, more than I am. The people engrossed with their wants, the great engrossed with their pleasures, have no time to learn wisdom and to extricate themselves from their prejudices; but the effect of the progress of knowledge is, that in order to possess good sense we need not be learned, and that the people accept as truths things of which at present they are with difficulty convinced. Adieu, Sir, for I am pressed for time, and can only assure you of the regard with which I have the honour to be your very humble and obedient servant."

Notes and Comments on Passages of Scripture. By John Kentish. Third

Edition. London--Simpkin, Marshall and Co. 8vo. Pp. 486. ALTHOUGH each of the former editions of this instructive volume has received on its appearance our hearty commendation, we cannot refrain from offering a welcome to this third and improved edition. In reference, pro



bably, to a remark which we ventured to make in a notice of the second edition, the author has prefixed this Advertisement:

“This edition is a reprint of the second; with no other changes than what the desire of greater accuracy has suggested. The writer begs leave to state that certain articles in the first impression were afterwards left out, not because he doubted of the justness of his criticism, but solely because he deemed them less important and interesting than those which supply their places.”

As might be expected from the learning and accuracy of the author, the alterations now made are neither numerous nor very important. We extract an interesting note on Acts i. 5, To whom also he shewed himself alive, after his passion, by many infallible proofs :

“It is a curious, and may be no unprofitable, inquiry, where our Lord chiefly was, and how occupied, in the interval between his rising from the grave and his ascension: The LENGTH of the interval should first be noticed. This, according to Luke, was ‘forty days. Nor are the concluding verses of our evangelist's Gospel at variance with this statement: they evidently form a distinct section, and give a very brief and general account of our Saviour's final parting from his disciples. I cannot be of opinion that the author represents Christ's resurrection and ascension as having taken place on the same day. Luke further tells us that the space of time between these two events, was passed in repeated conversations of Jesus with his apostles, and in his affording them all possible means of judging of his identity. Their interviews would be frequent-perhaps almost daily : but then, from the nature of the case, they must have been strictly private. It was his express direction, after he had risen again, that his attend. ants should repair to Galilee. He had been there during a large part of his life, and he would be now sheltered there, amidst a number of devoted friends, from the observation of those of his adversaries who were intent upon destroying him. Is it, however, a fact that, at the time here referred to, his enemies shewed any concern to discover where he was? I leave the Romans out of the question : they were merely the executioners of the vengeance of the Jews. Even the rulers of his own nation were inactive, after the report made to them by the soldiers. Nor did they take measures against any of the apostles, until Peter and John had wrought a notable miracle, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead. When, therefore, I consider these facts, when I recollect the supineness of the Jewish magistracy and priesthood at this juncture, a supineness which attests the reality of our Lord's resurrection—and when I further take into the account the nature of his recorded appearances just after that event, his seclusion at Jerusalem, and his resort to Galilee, I can scarcely think that a miracle was requisite for his safety.”—Pp. 238—210.

The Saint's Tragedy; or the True Story of Elizabeth of Hungary, Landgra

vine of Hungary, Saint of the Romish Calendar. By Charles Kingsley, Jun., Rector of Eversley With a Preface by Professor Maurice. Parker, West Strand.

This Play belongs much more to ecclesiastical than to dramatic literature, and in that character alone it falls under our notice. Indeed, it is not so much a drama as a series of dramatic scenes. The incidents of the life of the Saint are faithfully taken from her well-known history. Her marriage to the Landgrave, his death as a crusader, her sacrifice of her children and other intense sufferings, under the heavy yoke of her merciless director, the monk Conrad, to whom she is a most submissive slave, her death in the odour of sanctity, and finally her canonization, are given without any of the changes or conflicts or uncertainties out of which the dramatic interest arises. Such a subject, it might be thought, would rather become a Romanist than a Protestant poet. And yet whatever of interest there is in the piece, springs out of a contrast which only a Protestant could have exhibited, namely, the human passions and affections crushed by the tyrannous and spurious devotion to which she falls a victim.

The legendary history of the middle ages is full of such characters; but the

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