Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Home, Henry
HOME, HENRY, Lord Kames (1696–1782), Scottish judge, son of George Home of Kames, Berwickshire, a country gentleman of small fortune, was born at Kames in 1696. His mother was a daughter of Mr. Walkinshaw of Barrowfield, and granddaughter of Robert Baillie (1599–1662) [q. v.], principal of the university of Glasgow. He was educated at home under a private tutor named Wingate, who taught him little, and about 1712 was bound by indenture to a writer of the signet at Edinburgh. After an interview with Sir Hew Dalrymple, then president of the court of session, to whose house he had been sent one evening on business, Home determined to become an advocate. He thereupon set to work to repair the defects of his early education, and having applied himself to the study of mathematics, natural philosophy, logic, ethics, and metaphysics, as well as law, was called to the Scottish bar on 19 Jan. 1724. At first he was not very successful. In 1728, however, he published his ‘Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session from 1716 to 1728,’ a carefully executed work, which drew attention to Home's abilities. From this time his progress was assured. On the death of Patrick Campbell of Monzie, Home was appointed an ordinary lord of session, and took his seat on the bench on 6 Feb. 1752 with the title of Lord Kames. In 1755 he became a member of the board of trustees for the encouragement of fisheries, arts, and manufactures of Scotland, and was shortly afterwards chosen one of the commissioners for the annexed estates. On 15 April 1763 he also became one of the lords of the justiciary court in the place of Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto, promoted to the post of lord justice clerk. Home sat on the bench for over thirty years, exercising his judicial functions, in spite of his increasing infirmities, until within a few days of his death. On the day the court rose for the Christmas vacation, 1782, he took an affectionate farewell of each of his brethren, and on leaving the court-room cried in his usual familiar tone, ‘Fare ye a'weel, ye bitches!’ He died on 27 Dec. 1782, aged 86, and was buried in the churchyard of the parish of Kincardine, Perthshire, where an immense white marble monument was erected to his memory.
Kames was an ingenious and voluminous writer, with a considerable knowledge of law and a great taste for metaphysics. His style, however, is crabbed and wanting in variety, while his learning is frequently superficial and inaccurate. Dr. Johnson formed a poor opinion of him. When Boswell, boasting of the advancement of literature in Scotland, exclaimed, ‘But, sir, we have Lord Kames,’ Johnson replied, ‘You have Lord Kames. Keep him, ha, ha, ha! We don't envy you him’ (Boswell, Johnson, ii. 53). His ‘Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion,’ though written with the object of combating some of Hume's doctrines, raised suspicions of his own orthodoxy, and a formal charge of heresy was brought against him before the presbytery of Edinburgh, which was, however, dismissed. Dugald Stewart considered that Kames's ‘Elements of Criticism’ possessed, ‘in spite of its numerous defects both in point of taste and of philosophy, infinite merits’ (‘First Preliminary Dissertation,’ Encyclop. Brit., 8th edit., i. 222). Johnson styled it ‘a pretty essay … though much of it is chimerical,’ and Goldsmith flippantly said that it was ‘easier to write that book than to read it’ (Boswell, Life of Johnson, i. 393–4, ii. 90).
‘As a judge,’ Tytler observed, ‘his opinions and decrees were dictated by an acute understanding, an ardent feeling of justice, and a perfect acquaintance with the jurisprudence of his country’ (Memoirs, i. 208). Tytler ascribes his severity in criminal cases to his innate abhorrence of vice (ib. ii. 2). In person Kames was extremely tall and thin, and his countenance, ‘though not handsome, was animated and intelligent,’ and kindly in expression (ib. ii. 329). His vivacity was always great, and he even indulged in practical jokes. His humour was coarse, and his language on the bench often unseemly. Sir Walter Scott makes an allusion to this peculiarity of Kames in the first chapter of ‘Redgauntlet,’ and Cockburn relates that when Kames ‘tried Matthew Hay, with whom he used to play at chess, for murder at Ayr in September 1780, he exclaimed when the verdict of guilty was returned, “That's checkmate for you, Matthew!”’—an anecdote which was wrongly fathered on Braxfield by Lockhart in the first edition of his ‘Life’ of Scott (Cockburn, Memorials, 1856, p. 117). During the vacations Kames occupied much of his time in superintending the operations of his farm servants, ‘directing and even aiding their labours’ (Memoirs, i. 155). As an amateur agriculturist he acquired considerable reputation, and his ‘Gentleman Farmer’ was a valuable addition to the general stock of agricultural knowledge. He improved with notable success that portion of the moss of Kincardine which formed part of the Blair Drummond estate (Encyclopædia Britannica, 3rd edit., xii. 389–97). At Blair Drummond also he formed a winter garden on an original plan.
He married in 1741 Agatha, younger daughter of James Drummond, of Blair Drummond, Perthshire. His wife succeeded in 1766 to the estate of Blair Drummond. Their only son, George Home-Drummond, married, on 11 Oct. 1782, Janet, daughter of the Rev. John Jardine, D.D., an Edinburgh minister, and died on 28 Oct. 1819, leaving issue. The present possessor of the estate is Charles Stirling-Home-Drummond-Moray, who possesses a portrait by D. Martin of his great-grandfather, Lord Kames (cf. Cat. Loan Exhibition of Scottish National Portraits, Edinburgh, 1884, No. 509). An engraving from an original drawing of Kames by D. Martin, then in the possession of A. F. Tytler, lord Woodhouselee, forms the frontispiece to the first volume of the ‘Memoirs’ (1814), and two etchings of Kames will be found in the first volume of Kay's ‘Original Portraits’ (Nos. 5 and 132). There is also a portrait of Kames by an unknown artist in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Catalogue, No. 34*). Kames contributed three papers to ‘Essays and Observations Physical and Literary, read before the Philosophical Society in Edinburgh,’ 1771 (i. 1–78, iii. 68–79, 80–99), and was the author of the following works: 1. ‘Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session from 1716 to 1728,’ Edinb., 1728, fol. 2. ‘Essays upon several Subjects in Law, scil. Jus tertii, Beneficium Cedendarum actionum, Vinco Vincentem. Prescription,’ anon., Edinburgh, 1732, 8vo. 3. ‘The Decisions of the Court of Session from its first institution to the present time. Abridged and digested under proper heads in form of a Dictionary. Collected from a great number of Manuscripts never before published, as well as the Printed Decisions,’ Edinb., 1741, fol., 2 vols.; second edition, ditto. Vols. iii. and iv. were compiled by Alexander Fraser Tytler, an edition of which appeared in 1797, Edinb., fol.; and a ‘Supplement to Volumes Third and Fourth of the Dictionary of Decisions, containing all the omitted cases, abridged and digested under proper heads,’ by T. M'Grugor, was published anonymously in 1804, Edinb., fol. 4. ‘Essays upon several Subjects concerning British Antiquities, viz. I. Introduction of the Feudal Law into Scotland. II. Constitution of Parliament. III. Honour, Dignity. IV. Succession or Descent. With an Appendix upon Hereditary and Indefeasible Right. Composed anno mdccxlv.,’ anon., Edinb. 1747, 8vo; the second edition, London, 1749, 8vo; the third edition, with additions and alterations, Edinb., 1763, 12mo; another edition, Edinb., 1797, 12mo. 5. ‘Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, in two parts,’ anon., Edinb., 1751, 8vo; the second edition, with alterations and additions, London, 1758, 12mo; the third edition, published later, is not anonymous; translated into German, Leipzig, 1772, 8vo. 6. ‘Principles of the Law of Scotland,’ Edinb., 1754, 8vo, two vols. 7. ‘Objections against the Essays on Morality and Natural Religion Examined,’ anon., Edinb., 1756, 8vo. 8. ‘Statute Law of Scotland,’ abridged, with historical notes, Edinb., 1757, 8vo; second edition, Edinb., 1779, 8vo. 9. ‘Historical Law-Tracts,’ anon., Edinb., 1758, 8vo, two vols.; second edition, London, 1761, 8vo; third edition, with additions and corrections, Edinb., 1776, 8vo; fourth edition, with additions, 1792, 8vo. The essays on criminal law and property contained in the above were translated into French by M. A. Bouchaud, Paris, 1766, 12mo. 10. ‘Principles of Equity,’ anon., Edinb., 1760, fol.; second edition, corrected and enlarged, Edinb., 1767, fol.; third edition, Edinb., 1778, 8vo, two vols.; a new edition, Edinb., 1825, 8vo. 11. ‘Introduction to the Art of Thinking,’ &c., 1761, 12mo; frequently reprinted. 12. ‘Elements of Criticism, in three vols.,’ Edinb., 1762, 8vo; the second edition, with additions, &c., Edinb., 1763, 8vo, three vols.; the third edition, with additions, &c., Edinb., 1765, 8vo, two vols.; the fourth edition, with additions, Edinb., 1769, 8vo, 2 vols.; the fifth edition, Edinb., 1774, 8vo, two vols.; the sixth edition, with the author's last corrections and additions, Edinb., 1785, 8vo, two vols.; the seventh edition, &c. (with portrait), Edinb., 1788, 8vo, two vols.; the eighth edition, Edinb., 1807, 8vo, two vols.; translated into German, Leipzig, 1763–6, 8vo; ditto, 1772, 8vo; abridged by A. Jamieson, London, 1823, 8vo; ‘An Abridgment of “Elements of Criticism” …, third edition,’ edited by John Frost, &c., Philadelphia, 1833, 12mo. 13. ‘Progress of Flax-husbandry in Scotland,’ anon., Edinb., 1766, 8vo. 14. ‘Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session from the year 1730 to the year 1752,’ anon., Edinb., 1766, fol. 15. ‘An Historical Dissertation concerning the Antiquity of the English Constitution,’ Edinb., 1768, 8vo. 16. ‘Sketches of the History of Man,’ anon., Edinb., 1774, 4to, two vols.; considerably improved in a second edition, Edinb., 1778, 8vo, four vols.; another edition, Dublin, 1774–75, 12mo, four vols.; third edition, Dublin, 1779, 8vo, two vols.; considerably enlarged by the last additions and corrections of the author, Edinb., 1788, 8vo, four vols.; another edition, Basil, 1796, 8vo, four vols.; another edition, Glasgow, 1802, 12mo, four vols.; another edition, Edinb., 1813, 8vo. A portion of book i. was published in Philadelphia under the title of ‘Six Sketches on the History of Man,’ &c., 1776, 8vo. 17. ‘The Gentleman Farmer; being an attempt to Improve Agriculture by subjecting it to the test of Rational Principles,’ Edinb., 1776, 8vo; the second edition, with … additions, Edinb., 1779, 8vo; fourth edition, Edinb., 1798, 8vo; the sixth edition, ‘to which is added a supplement containing An Account of the Present State of Agriculture and of the Improvements recently introduced,’ Edinb., 1815, 8vo. 18. ‘Elucidations respecting the Common and Statute Law of Scotland,’ Edinb., 1777, 8vo; a new edition, Edinb., 1800, 8vo. 19. ‘Select Decisions of the Court of Session from the year 1752 to the year 1768; collected by a Member of the Court,’ Edinb., 1780, fol. 20. ‘Loose Hints upon Education, chiefly concerning the Culture of the Heart,’ Edinb., 1781, 8vo; second edition, enlarged, Edinb., 1782, 8vo. 21. ‘An Essay on the Hereditary and Indefeasible Right of Kings; composed in the year 1745,’ Edinb., 1797, 8vo.
[Tytler's Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Hon. Henry Home of Kames (these volumes contain several letters from Hume, Dr. Franklin, Mrs. Montagu, and others to Kames); Smellie's Literary and Characteristical Lives, pp. 119–48; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, pp. 515–17; Boswell's Life of Johnson, edited by G. B. Hill; Kay's Original Portraits, i. 14–16, 323–4; Chalmers's Biog. Dict., xviii. 101–8; Anderson's Scottish Nation, ii. 486–8 (with portrait); Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, ii. 274–8 (with portrait); British Critic, 1808, xxx. 23–41, 149–70, Scots Mag. 1782 xliv. 670, 1801 lxiii. 451–7; European Mag. 1790, xviii. 323–4 (with portrait); Burke's Landed Gentry, 1879, i. 481–2; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Halkett and Laing's Dict. of Anon. and Pseud. Lit.; Advocates' Library Cat.; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 225, 377, 3rd ser. x. 30, 7th ser. viii. 228, 254, 397.]