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Johnson was very communicative and entertaining, and did me the honour to address most of his discourse to me. I had the assurance to dispute with him on the subject of human malignity, and wondered to hear a man, who, by his actions, shows so much benevolence, maintain that the human heart is naturally malevolent, and that all the benevolence we see in the few who are good, is acquired by reason and religion. You may believe I entirely disagreed with him, being, as you know, fully persuaded that benevolence, or the love of our fellow creatures, is as much a part of our nature as self love, and that it cannot be suppressed or extinguished without great violence from the force of other passions. I told him I suspected him of these bad notions from some of his Ramblers, and had accused him to you; but that you persuaded me I had mistaken his sense. To which he answered, that if he had betrayed such sentiments in the Ramblers, it was not with design; for that he believed the doctrine of human malevolence, though a true one, is not a useful one, and ought not to be published to the world. Is there any truth that would not be useful, or that should not be known?
You hurt me to the heart, by the doubtful manner in which you answered my question concerning my poor friend. O, Miss Carter! how unsatisfactory is every connexion we can form in this life, unless we can look forward to the delightful hope of perpetuating it beyond the grave, and of sharing together a happiness with out end or interruption! But I think there was always a difference in our opinions concerning the innocence of errour. My own has been much staggered by the reve rence I have for yours on all subjects of this kind; and I have now no firm and settled opinion about it. The merit of faith, if you confine the sense of the word to mere belief, always appeared to me a point of great difficulty. I wish you would give me your thoughts at large on the subject; particularly I would ask wherein the merit of belief consists? how far is it voluntary? and also, whether you do not think it possible for demonstrable truths to be proposed to a mind incapable of perceiving the demonstration, though willing to receive truth, and this, exclusive of the cases of lunacy and folly. Incapacity must of course be innocent: and there are circumstances which I believe may render a person of sound understanding, incapable of sound reasoning on some one subject; and these circumstances may not be matter of choice, but necessity: as for example, the strong bias of education and early prejudices. Experience shows us how very difficult it is to get the better of these; and the question with me is, whether it is even possible to some minds to get the better of them. When I see the strange absurdities the human mind is capable of, and the infinite variety of opinions that prevail amongst men, I shudder at the thought of condemning any person for his opinion; and yet, when I consider that opinion is that which governs all our actions, it should seem that opinion alone constitutes the man good or bad; and that, on the due regulation of our opinions depends all our virtue, or our guilt. In short, I am lost and bewildered in the question, and want your guiding hand to lead me into truth.
Methinks these little romantick tendernesses, these fond memorials,' are as natural, and almost as pleasing, to friendship as to love. Are you, I wonder, superiour to all these unphilosophical indulgences of fancy? or do the woman and the poetess still keep their ground against the philosopher? I believe the last is true, and I should be sorry to find it otherwise. If I had not observed a few dear, comfortable signs of human weakness in you, my love would never have got the better of my reverence for you. What is the meaning, I wonder, that imperfections are so attractive? and that our hearts recoil against gigantick and unnatural excellence? It must be because perfection is unnatural, and because the sweetest charms and most endearing ties of society arise from mutual indulgence to each other's failings. I have been reading Leland, and had begun by Miss 's desire to write remarks on it as I went along; but having seen hers, and your answer, I conceived it useless for me to go on, and have broken off in the middle, finished the book, and sent it home. I am much pleased with the work, though I have often wished that the scheme of it had allowed a larger scope to the answers in defence of Christianity, as his references would engage one in a dreadful long course of reading; such a one as I am sure I shall never attempt. In general, I think Dr. L. writes with candour and moderation, though I cannot acquit him of deviating a little from it in some few passages. Perhaps I am particularly nice in this respect. All reasoners ought to be perfectly dispassionate, and ready to allow all the force of the arguments they are to confute. But more especially those who argue in behalf
of Christianity, ought carefully to preserve the spirit of it in their manner of expressing themselves. I have so much honour for the Christian clergy, that I had much rather hear them railed at, than hear them rail. And I must say that I am often grievously offended with the generality of them, for their method of treating all who differ from them in opinion.
I am grieved to hear that you have suffered so much with the headach; for though you have learnt, from your friend Epictetus, to talk of the headach as if it were no evil, I, who hold all that stuff in mortal contempt, and who know you, with all your stoical airs, to be made of nothing better than flesh and blood, like my own, am not at all comforted by any of your jargon, nor yet, by your desiring me not to concern myself about you. Till I have learnt the art of converting my heart into a flint, of your master Epictetus, who has not yet been able to teach it you, I must and will concern myself about you. And I expect you, like an honest Christian, to concern yourself about me, and to be very glad to hear that I am wonderfully amended; and that my spirits have been pure well for this week past, notwithstanding a great cold, which has given me numberless pains, and prevented my enjoying the fine weather as much as I wished. I find myself almost as philosophical as you, about all illnesses that do not affect my spirits, and am quite thankful and happy with a hundred headachs, as long as they hold up and enable me to be agree
How much am I, and how much are the Miss Burrowses obliged to you, for the very valuable and delightful acquisition you have made for us in Mrs. Montague's acquaintance. We all congratulated each other, as on a piece of high preferment, when she was so kind to invite us to dinner the other day; as we looked upon it as a happy token of her inclination to admit us to something like intimacy. I begin to love her so much that I am quite frightened at it, being conscious my own insignificance will probably always keep me at a distance that is not at all convenient for loving. We had no other company at dinner, except Mr. a very clever, agreeable man. I want to know some thing about his inside. Did you ever dissect his heart? or is it like another gentleman's, of whom Mrs. M. said, that to look into his heart, would be to spoil one's own pleasure; like a child that breaks his plaything to see the inside of it.
The abbé Raynal dined at Mrs. Boscawen's, at Glanvilla, about ten days ago, and she was so obliging to ask Mrs. A. Burrows and me to meet him in the afternoon. I was exceedingly entertained, and not a little amazed, notwithstanding all I had heard about him, by the unceasing torrent of wit and stories, not unmixed with good sense, which flowed from him. He had held on at the same rate from one at noon, when he arrived at Glanvilla, and we heard that he went the same evening to Mrs. Montague's, in Hill-street, and kept on his speed till one in the morning. In the hour and half I was in his company, he uttered as much as would have made him an agreeable companion for a week, had he allowed time for answers. You see such a person can only be pleasing as a thing to wonder at once or twice. His conversation was, however, perfectly inoffensive, which is more than his writings promise. His vivacity, and the vehemence of his action (which, however, had not any visible connexion with his discourse) were amusing to me, who am little accustomed to foreigners. Mrs. Boscawen is a very good neighbour to us here, and a most delightful companion every where. I never knew her in finer spirits than of late. One could not but make a comparison much to her advantage, between the overwhelming display of the abbe's talents, and that natural, polite, and easy flow of wit and humour which enlivens her conversation.
I suppose you have read (for every body has) "Pursuits of Literature;" and have felt the same indignation I did at the author, for making a she dog of Mrs. Montague; and the same contempt for his taste, his spleen, envy, and nonsense, in that line which displays them all.
"Her yelp, though feeble, and her sandals blue."
A she dog in sandals is not more absurd than a feeble yelp applied to one of the ablest as well as most ingenious criticisms that ever was written. Indisposed as I was against the author, by this and some other instances of ill nature, I cannot but acknowledge that some of his notes and prefaces testify a laudable zeal on the right side, both in politicks and religion, which should mollify our resentment against his scurrility and indecency.
The correspondence with Richardson, on the subject of filial obedience, which, at the age of three and twenty, Miss Mulso had the spirit to enter
upon, does her the highest credit. Though a warm admirer of the genius of that celebrated novelist, she was sensible of his great deficiencies; his total want of learning; of enlargement of mind; and the spirit of philosophy. Her objections to his system of parental authority are stated with a clearness and energy which would do honour to the most practised writer and thinker.
A king is vested with power over his subjects, that he may maintain order amongst them, and provide for their safety and welfare. Parents have a natural authority over their children, that they may guide their steps during their infancy and youth, whilst their reason is too weak to be trusted with the direction of their own actions. But though this motive to obedience ceases when the children are grown up, and endowed, as it may happen, with stronger reason than their parents; yet then, love and gratitude take place, and oblige them to the same observance and submission to the will of their parents, in all cases except where a higher duty interferes, or where the sacrifice they are expected to make is greater than any degree of gratitude can require. For though gratitude may demand that those who, under God, were the authors of my life, and, who provided for its support when I was incapable of doing it myself, should have a proper control over me, and that in all reasonable instances, my will should submit to theirs; yet you must allow that to suffer me to live, yet bid me destroy all the peace and happiness of my life, is to exact a much harder obedience; an obedience which no human creature can have a right to exact from another. Yet this was not all that was exacted from Clarissa by her father and family. She was not only commanded to sacrifice her happiness, but her innocence. The marriage they would have forced her to, would not only have plunged her into misery but guilt; a guilt no less black than that of solemn perjury before the altar of God. Can it then be made a doubt whether she had a natural right to refuse her obedience in this case, and, when brutal force was designed, to use every method her own prudence could suggest to get out of their power. Had she not a right to disclaim an authority which was made use of, not according to its true end, to promote her happiness, but to make her miserable; not to lead her to good, but to drag her to sin and perdition? If then, what she did was just and reasonable, why is she represented as continually afflicting her soul with remorse and fear, on account of this one action of self defence, and suffering as much horrour and dread from her father's diabolical curse, as if he had really the power of disposing of her happiness in the next world as well as in this! Why is Clarissa, who is drawn as a woman of so good an understanding, and who reasons so justly on all other subjects, to be so superstitious and weak in her apprehensions of parental authority? She is so fettered by prejudice that she does not allow her reason to examine how far her conduct is to be justified or blamed; but implicitly joins with her father to condemn herself, when neither reason nor religion condemns her. Does not this, in some measure, call in question the foundation of her other virtues, which, if not grounded on reason, but on blind prejudice and superstition, lose all their value? The enemies of virtue are too ready to accuse its followers of superstition, of laying themselves under restraints, which God and nature never imposed on them. I would therefore have those characters, which are drawn as patterns of virtue, keep clear of superstition; and show that the precepts of religion are most agreeable to reason and nature, and productive of our happiness, even in this world. Will you forgive me, dear sir, for making this objection to a character which is otherwise unexceptionable, and which is calculated to promote religion and virtue more than any fiction that ever appeared in the world? I dare say that you will be able to convince me, that I have considered this part of the character in a wrong light; at least, if you take the pains to try, you will convince me that you do not think my opinion below your notice; and that you have more regard for me than I can any way deserve, but by the sincere esteem and affectionate value, with which I am good Mr. Richardson's obliged humble servant,
FROM AIKIN'S ANNUAL REVIEW,
Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Honourable Henry Home of Kames, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and one of the Lords Commissioners of Justiciary in Scotland: containing Sketches of the Progress of Literature and general Improvement in Scotland during the greater Part of the eighteenth Century.
2 vols. 4to.
THE literary labours and publick life of lord Kames, were sufficiently distinguished to render him a fit subject of biographical memorial. Independently also of his personal claims, his connexions with men of literature in Scotland were so extensive, and subsisted during such a length of time, that the narration of his life must necessarily include no inconsiderable portion of interesting anecdote relative to the period in which he flourished. His present biographer is well qualified to render justice to his subject, by his knowledge of the character which he undertakes to delineate; the similarity of many of his pursuits; the extent of his literary information; and his acquaintance with many of the principal persons whom his subject incidentally brings to the notice of his readers. We are, therefore, in taking up these volumes, less alarmed than in many similar instances at the length to which they are expanded.
Henry Home was born at Kames, in the county of Berwick, in the year 1696, of an honourable, but not opulent family. To his early education, which was private, he does not appear to have been indebted for much proficiency. With a slender stock of learning, acquired under a tutor of apparently narrow attainments, he was, about the year 1712, bound by indenture to attend the office of a writer to the Signet in Edinburgh. An accidental introduction to sir Hugh Dalrymple, then president of the court of session, impressed him strongly with the idea of the otium cum dignitate to be attained by honourable and active perseverance in the higher departments of the legal profession. He therefore determined to abandon the more limited occupation of a writer, and to qualify himself for the functions of an advocate before the supreme courts.
He now began to apply himself with great diligence to remedy the defects of his domestick education, resuming the study of the Greek and Latin languages, and adding that of the French and Italian, together with the cultivation of various scientifick pursuits, which he carried on at the same time with the study of the law. His favourite pursuits appear, however, to have been of a metaphysical nature. In 1723, he was engaged in a correspondence with Andrew Baxter, the well known author of "An Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul," and of" Matho, sive cosmotheoria puerilis," who was then employed in superintending the education of the son of a gentleman in the neighbourhood of Kames. The correspondence related to topicks both physical and metaphysical, and was protracted by the perseverance of Home to a length which exhausted the patience of Baxter, who could feel little pleasure in carrying on a controversy with an adversary at that time deficient even in elementary infor mation relative to the subject of debate.
In the same year Mr. Home, who seems to have felt a strong passion for metaphysical controversy, entered the lists with Dr. S. Clarke, whose books, on the being and attributes of God, at that time attracted much of the publick notice. Clarke "answered the objections of his correspondent briefly, but pointedly, and with the most perfect good temper; yet in such a strain, as to prompt to no further continuance of the controversy."
Mr. Home was called to the bar in 1724. His powers of oratory were not shining, and the first circumstance which brought him into notice,
was the publication, in 1728, of a folio volume of "Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session," from 1716 to that period, which are stated by lord Woodhouselee, a competent authority, to be executed with great judgment. By the solidity of his legal knowledge, and the ingenuity and success of his pleadings, though unadorned by any graces of external manner, Mr. Home now rapidly rose to great eminence at the bar.
In 1732, he published a small volume under the title of "Essays upon several Subjects in Law," &c. suggested in the course of his practice as a counsel, an analysis of which is furnished by lord Woodhouselee.
Mr. Home was at this time connected, in habits of close intimacy, with the principal persons of literary eminence who inhabited or frequented the Scotch metropolis, who furnished lord Woodhouselee with an entertaining chapter of anecdotes. The most remarkable of these is the celebrated David Hume, whose acquaintance with Mr. Home seems to have commenced about the year 1737, at the time when the former was engaged in the publication of his first work, the "Treatise of Human Nature."
In 1741, Mr. Home was married to miss Agatha Drummond, a younger daughter of James Drummond, Esq. of Blair, in the county of Perth, a lady who is characterized as possessing an excellent understanding, and most amiable temper. The following extract describes the mode of domestick life now adopted by him.
But with this laudable attention to economy, Mr. Home's mode of living was consistent with every rational enjoyment of social and polished life. He had accustomed himself, from his earliest years, to a regular distribution of his time; and, in the hours dedicated to serious occupation, it was no light matter that ever made him depart from his ordinary arrangements. The day was devoted chiefly to professional duties. He had always been in the habit of rising early; in summer between five and six o'clock; in winter, generally, two hours before daybreak. This time was spent in preparation for the ordinary business of the court; in reading his briefs; or in dictating to an amanuensis. The forenoon was passed in the court of session, which, at that time, commonly rose soon after midday; thus allowing an hour or two before dinner for a walk with a friend. In town, he rarely either gave or accepted of invitations to dinner, as the afternoon was required for business and study. If the labours of the day were early accomplished, and time was left for a party at cards before supper, he joined the ladies in the drawing room, and partook, with great satisfaction, in a game of whist, which he played well; though not always with perfect forbearance, if matched with an unskilful partner. Yet even these little sallies of temper were amusing, and seasoned with so much good humour, that they rather pleased than offended the person who was their object. At other times, he was not unfrequently seen of an evening at the theatre, the concert, or assembly room; and, possessing, to a wonderful degree, the power of discharging his mind of every thing that was not in consonance with his present occupations, he partook, with the keenest relish, in the amusements of the gay circle which surrounded him. It was delightful to see the man of business and the philosopher mingling, not only with complacence, but with ease, in the light and trivial conversation of the beau monde, and rivaling, in animation and vivacity, the sprightliest of the votaries of fashion, whose professed object is pleasure, and the enjoyment of the passing hour. The evening was generally closed by a small domestick party, where a few of his intimate friends assembled, for the most part without invitation, found a plain but elegant little supper; and where, enlivened often by some of Mrs. Home's female acquaintance, the hours were passed in the most rational enjoyment of sensible and spirited conversation, and easy, social mirth, till after midnight. Such was the tenour of Mr. Home's life, while engaged in the most extensive business as a barrister; and such, with little variation in the distribution of his time, it continued to be, after his promotion to the bench.
The seasons of vacation were usually spent in the country, in an intermixture of literary studies, and rural and agricultural pursuits, to which Mr. Home was attached in a degree which furnished matter of some sur