Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/229

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Hume
Hume
223

curing of the pension was part of a diabolical scheme against his honour. On the day after leaving Paris Rousseau heard Hume mutter in his sleep, 'with extreme vehemence,' `Je tiens J. J. Rousseau.' Just before the journey to Wootton some suspicion occurred to Rousseau about a letter, or, as Hume thought, about a small manoeuvre of Davenport's intended to save his pocket (Burton, ii. 314). Rousseau became moody. He saw Hume's eyes fixed upon him with an expression that made him tremble. He would have suffocated but for an effusion of feeling. Bursting into tears he embraced Hume, tenderly declaring that if Hume were not the best he must have been the blackest of men. Hume patted him on the back, according to his own account (ib.), returning the tears and embraces, and, according to Rousseau, only saying 'Quoi done, mon cher monsieur!'

The absurdity of the whole story—memorable only on account of the actors—shows sufficiently that Rousseau was under an illusion characteristic of partial sanity. Voltaire, d'Alembert, and Hume were, he thought, in a conspiracy against him, the purpose of which he never sought to explain. Hume was enraged, called Rousseau an 'atrocious villain,' then doubted whether he were an 'arrant villain or an arrant madman,' and thought that he would be forced to publish an account. He then decided (Private Corr. pp.182-207) to write an account to be published only in the event of an attack upon him by Rousseau. He wrote, however, indiscreetly to Holbach and other friends at Paris. Adam Smith, Mme. de Boufflers, and Turgot, all exhorted him at first to the more magnanimous course of silence. At last a kind of meeting was held by his French friends, including d'Alembert and Turgot, who decided (with Adam Smith's consent) that a narrative, without needless bitterness, should be made public. Thus urged Hume consented. The narrative was printed at the end of the year in a French version by Suard, and an English soon afterwards by Hume. Hume proposed to deposit the letters in the British Museum; the trustees declined, and they now belong to the Royal Society at Edinburgh. Walpole also published a narrative, and many pamphlets appeared. Hume had the excuse that it is unpleasant to be attacked by a popular man of genius, even if insane, and he knew that Rousseau was writing his Confessions.' He had undoubtedly acted throughout with his usual strenuous good nature till the quarrel upset his temper. When, in the spring of 1767, Rousseau applied for his pension, Hume obtained an order for the payment, and when Rousseau finally returned to France in May, exerted himself to obtain protection for the fugitive through Turgot and others. Rousseau afterwards attributed his own conduct to the foggy climate of England.

In 1766 Hume returned to Edinburgh, but early in 1767 accepted an offer from Conway to become under-secretary. He held the appointment till 20 Jan. 1768, when Conway was succeeded by Lord Weymouth, and afterwards stayed on in London, where he amused himself by correcting his history. He finally returned to Edinburgh about August 1769 (Burton, ii. 431), having resisted many entreaties to settle in Paris. He was now 'very opulent' (he had 1,000l. a year), 'healthy, and, though somewhat stricken in years, with the prospect of enjoying long my ease and of seeing the increase of my reputation.' The king increased his pension, expressing a desire that he would continue his history, and offering to provide materials and allow the inspection of records (Private Corr. pp.250, 261), but Hume never proceeded further. He was living among his old friends, attended the Poker Club, and was popular in the society for his playfulness and simplicity. He talked good English in broad Scottish accent. Some trifling anecdotes are preserved of his good nature to women and children, and of humorous allusions to his opinions. He had grown very fat, and was once rescued by an old woman from a bog into which he had fallen on condition of repeating the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. He built a house for himself in the new town in the street afterwards called St. David's Street, leading out of St. Andrew's Square. He settled there in 1772 (Hill, p.251). His sister still kept house for him, and he took a keen interest in the education of his brother's children.

In the spring of 1775 appeared symptoms of the disease 'a disorder in the bowels' of which his mother died. Dr. Norman Moore thinks that it was a cancerous growth in the liver (ib. p.322). It gradually became worse, and in his autobiography, dated 18 April 1776, he says that he expects 'a speedy dissolution.' He had suffered little pain, his spirits and love of study were unaffected, and though his reputation gave signs of 'breaking out at last with additional lustre,' he did not regret the loss of a few years of infirmities.' 'It is difficult,' he adds, `to be more detached from life than I am at present.' Directly after this he was persuaded to make a journey to London and Bath, in which he was accompanied by John Home, who kept an interesting diary, first published in H. Mackenzie's 'Life of John Home.' He returned to Scotland, after some apparent improvement had disappeared, in