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But an unfortunate disposition to doubt of every thing seemed interwoven with the nature of Hume; and never was there, I am convinced, a more thorough and sincere sceptic. He seemed not to be certain even of his own present existence, and could not therefore be expected to entertain any settled opinion respecting his future state. Once I asked him what he thought of the immortality of the soul? “ Why troth, man," said he, “ it is so pretty and so comfortable a theory, that I wish I could be convinced of its truth, but I canna help doubting.”
Hume's fashion at Paris, when he was there as secretary to Lord Hertford, was truly ridiculous; and nothing ever marked, in a more striking manner, the wbimsical genius of the French. No man, from his manners, was surely less formed for their society, or less likely to meet with their approbation; but that flimsy philosophy which pervades and deadens even their most licentious novels was then the folly of the day. Free thinking and English frocks were the fashion, and the Anglomania was the ton du pais. Lord Holland, though far better calculated than Hume to please in France, was also an instance of this singular predilection. Being about this time on a visit to Paris, the French concluded that an Englishman of his reputation must be a philosopher, and must be admired. It was customary with him to doze after dinner; and one day, at a great entertainment, he happended to fall asleep: “Le voilà !” says a mar, quis, pulling his neighbour by his sleeve; “ Le toilà, qui pense !" But the madness for Hume was far more singular and extravagant. From what has been already said of him, it is apparent that his conversation to strangers, and particnlarly to Frenchmen, could be little delightful, and still more particularly, one would suppose, to French women. And yet no lady's toilet was complete without Hume's attendance. At the opera, his broad unmeaning face was usually seen entre deux jolis minois. The ladies in France give the ton, and the ton was deism ; a species of philosophy ill suited to the softer sex, in whose delicate frame weakness is interesting, and timidity a charm. But the women in France were deists, as with us they were charioteers. The tenets of the new philosophy were à portée de tout le monde ; and the perusal of a wanton novel, such, for example, as Thérèse Philosophe, was amply sufficient to render any fine gentleman, or any fine lady, an accomplished, nay, a learned deist. How my friend Hume was able to endure the encounter of these French female Titans, I know not. In England, either bis philosophic pride, or his conviction that infidelity was ill suited to women, made him perfectly averse from the initiation of ladies into the mysteries of his doctrine. I never saw him so much displeased, or so much disconcerted, as by the petulance of Mrs. Mallet, the conceited wife of Bolingbroke's editor. This lady, who was not acquainted with Hume, meeting him one night at an assembly, boldly accosted him in these words :-“ Mr. Hume, give me leave to introduce myself to you: we deists ought to know each other.”-“Madam,” replied he, “ I am no deist. I do not style myself so, neither do I desire to be known by that appellation.”
Nothing ever gave Hume more real vexation than the strictures made upon his history in the House of Lords by the great Lord Chatham. Soon after that speech I met Hume, and ironi. cally wisbed him joy of the high honour that had been done bim. “ Zounds, man,” said he, with more peevishness than I had ever seen him express, “he's a Goth! he's a Vandal!” Indeed, his history is as dangerous in politics as his essays are in religion; and it is somewhat extraordinary, that the same man who labours to free the mind from what he supposes are religious prejudices, should as zealously endeavour to shackle it with the servile ideas of despotism. But he loved the Stuart family, and his history is of course their apology. All his prepossessions, however, could never induce him absolutely to falsify his history; and though he endeavoured to soften the failings of his favourites, even in their actions, yet it is on the characters which he gives to them that he principally depends for their vindication : and from hence frequently proceeds, in the course of his history, this singular incongruity, that it is morally impossible that a man possessed of the character which the historian delineates should, in certain circumstances, have acted the part which the same historian narrates and assigns to him. But now to return to his philosophical principles, which certainly constitute the discriminative feature of his cha. racter. The practice of combating received opinions had one unhappy, though not unusual,
effect on his mind. He grew fond of paradoxes, which his abilities enabled him successfully to support; and his understanding was far warped and bent by this unfortunate predilection, that he had well nigh lost that best faculty of the mind, the almost intuitive perception of truth. His sceptical turn made him doubt, and consequently dispute every thing; yet was he a fair and pleasant disputant. He heard with patience, and answered without acrimony. Neither was his conversation at any time offensive, even to his more scrupulous companions ; his good sense and good nature prevented his saying any thing that was likely to shock; and it was not till he was provoked to argument that, in mixed companies, he entered into his favourite topics. Where indeed, as was the case with me, his regard for any individual rendered him desirous of making a proselyte, his efforts were great, and anxiously incessant.
DR. FRANKLIN. In one point of view the name of Franklin must be considered as standing higher than any of the others which illustrated the eighteenth century. Distinguished as a statesman, he was equally great as a philosopher; thus uniting in himself a rare degree of excellence in both those pursuits, to excel in either of which is deemed the highest praise. Nor was his preeminence, in the one pursuit, of that doubtful kind which derives its value from such an uncommon conjunction, His efforts in each were sufficient to have made VOL. II.
him greatly famous, bad he done nothing in the other. We regard De Witt's mathematical tracts as a curiosity, and even admire them, when we reflect that the author was a distinguished patriot, and a sufferer in the cause of his country. But Franklin would have been entitled to the glory of a first rate discoverer in science-one who had largely extended the bounds of human knowledge-although he had not stood second to Washington alone in gaining for human liberty the most splendid and guiltless of its triumphs. It is hardly a less rare, certainly not a less glorious felicity, that, much as has been given to the world of this great man's works, each successive publication increases our esteem for his virtues, and our admiration of his understanding.
The distinguishing feature of his understanding was great soundness and sagacity, combined with extraordinary quickness and penetration. He possessed also a strong and lively imagina. tion, which gave his speculations, as well as his conduct, a singularly original turn. The peculiar charm of his writings, and his great merit also in action, consisted of the clearness with which he saw his object—and the bold and steady pursuit of it, by the surest and the shortest road. He never suffered himself, in conduct, to be turned aside by the seductions of interest or vanity, or to be scared by hesitation and fear, or to be misled by the arts of his adversaries. Neither did he, in discussion, ever go out of his way in search of ornament, or stop short from dread of the consequences. He never could be caught, in short, acting absurdly, or writing non