Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/10

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Smith
Smith
4

for three months. He was probably overworked and solitary. The Scottish students were regarded with dislike at Oxford, and the only friend mentioned is John Douglas (1721–1807) [q. v.], also a Fifeshire man, and afterwards bishop of Salisbury. Smith returned to Kirkcaldy in 1746. He was acquainted with Henry Home, lord Kames [q. v.], and, at Kames's suggestion, gave a course of lectures upon English literature in 1748–9. These were afterwards burnt by his own direction; but they had been seen by Hugh Blair [q. v.], who acknowledges in his own lectures that he had taken ‘some ideas’ from them, and was thought to have taken them too freely. Smith, as appears from various allusions in his writings, held the ordinary opinions of the leading critics of his time. He preferred Racine to Shakespeare, and specially admired Swift, Dryden, Pope, and Gray. He told a contributor to the ‘Bee’ that he had never been able to make a rhyme, but could compose blank verse ‘as fast as he could speak.’ He naturally shared Johnson's contempt for blank verse. When Boswell reported this coincidence, Johnson replied, ‘Had I known that he loved rhyme so much … I should have hugged him.’ Smith probably edited the edition of the poems of William Hamilton (1704–1754) [q. v.] of Bangour, published at this time (Rae, pp. 49–51). Smith repeated his literary lectures for three winters, and gave also some lectures upon economic topics. These are known only from a quotation by Dugald Stewart, which shows that he was strongly opposed to government interference with ‘the natural course of things.’ Smith appears to have made 100l. by a course of lectures (Burton, Hume, ii. 46), and his reputation presumably led to his unanimous election to the chair of logic at Glasgow on 9 Jan. 1751. He began his official lectures in October. They were chiefly devoted to ‘rhetoric and belles-lettres.’ He also acted as substitute for Craigie, the professor of moral philosophy, who was sent to Lisbon for his health, and died in the following November. Upon Craigie's death, Smith was transferred to the chair of moral philosophy (29 April 1752). He was supported by his friend William Cullen [q. v.], also professor at Glasgow, and both of them desired that David Hume might succeed to the chair of logic; but Smith admits that this would be against public opinion. Smith's new professorship seems to have been superior in point of money to the old one. There was an endowment of about 70l. a year; the fees amounted to about 100l.; and Smith had a house in the college, where his mother and his cousin, Jane Douglas, lived with him. He moved to two other houses in succession during his professorship; but they were demolished with the old college buildings.

There were some three hundred students in the college, of whom about eighty or ninety attended the moral philosophy class. Most of them were preparing for the ministry, and about a third were Irish presbyterians. Smith gave lectures during the session at 7.30 A.M., followed by an ‘examination’ at eleven, besides some private lectures. John Millar (1735–1801) [q. v.] describes his course to Dugald Stewart. It included four topics: natural theology, ethics, containing the substance of his ‘Moral Sentiments,’ the theory of those political institutions which are founded upon ‘justice,’ that is, of jurisprudence, a treatise upon which is promised, though it was never completed, at the end of the ‘Moral Sentiments;’ and of the political institutions founded upon ‘expediency,’ a topic which corresponds to the ‘Wealth of Nations.’ Millar says that his manner, ‘though not graceful, was plain and unaffected;’ that he spoke at first with hesitation, but warmed up as he proceeded, especially when in view of possible controversy, and then spoke with great animation and power of illustration. He used, according to the elder Alison (Sinclair, Old Times and Distant Places, p. 9), to watch some particular student of expressive countenance, and be guided by such hearer's attentiveness or listlessness. The lectures became famous, especially after Smith's publication of the ‘Moral Sentiments.’ Lord Shelburne sent his younger brother Thomas to study under Smith, and Voltaire's friend, Theodore Tronchin, a physician at Geneva, sent a son for the same purpose in 1761.

Smith, as Mr. Rae shows from the college records, took a very active part in business during his professorship. He was employed to conduct various legal matters, such as a controversy with Balliol over the Snell exhibitions. He was ‘quæstor’ or treasurer from 1758 to 1764, and curator of the chambers let to students; he was dean of faculty from 1760 to 1762; and in 1762 was appointed vice-rector, in which capacity he had to preside over all college meetings. The number of quarrels among the professors, of which Reid complains upon succeeding Smith, shows that this position was no sinecure. Smith was a patron of James Watt, who was enabled by the college to set up as mathematical-instrument maker in Glasgow in spite of the trade privileges of the town; he advised Robert Foulis [q. v.] when start-