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listened to the birds in the branches, sometimes observed the fish playing in the stream, and anon cast his eyes upon the pastures and mountains filled with animals, of which some were biting the herbage, and some sleeping among the bushes.
This singularity of his humour made him much observed. One of the sages, in whose conversation he had formerly delighted, followed him secretly, in hope of discovering the cause of his disquiet. Rasselas, who knew not that any one was near him, having for some time fixed his eyes upon the goats that were browsing among the rocks, began to compare their condition with his own.
“What,” said he, “makes the difference between man and all the rest of the animal creation ? Every beast that strays beside me has the same corporal necessities with myself: he is hungry and crops the grass, he is thirsty and drinks the stream; his thirst and hunger are appeased, he is satisfied and sleeps : he rises again and is hungry; he is again fed and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty, like him; but when thirst and hunger cease I am not at rest: I am, like him, pained with want; but am not, like him, satisfied with fulness. The intermediate hours are tedious and gloomy; I long again to be hungry, that I may again quicken my attention. The birds peck the berries or the corn, and fly away to the groves, where they sit in seeming happiness on the branches, and waste their lives in tuning one unvaried series of sounds. I likewise can call the lutanist and the singer, but the sounds that pleased me yesterday weary me to-day, and will grow yet more wearisome to-morrow. I can discover within me no power of perception which is not ylutted with its proper pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted. Man surely has some latent sense for which this place affords no gratification, or he has some desires distinct from sense, which must be satisfied before he can be happy."
After this he lifted up his head, and seeing the moon rising, walked towards the palace. As he passed through the fields, and saw the animals around him, “ Ye,” said he, “ are happy, and need not envy me that walk thus among you, burdened with myself; nor do I, ye gentle beings, envy your felicity, for it is not the felicity of man. I have many distresses from which ye are free; I fear pain when I do not feel it; I sometimes shrink at evils recollected, and sometimes start at evils anticipated : surely the equity of Providence has balanced peculiar sufferings with peculiar enjoyments.”
With observations like these the prince amused himself as he returned, uttering them with a plaintive voice, yet with a look that discovered him to feel some complacence in his own perspicacity, and to receive some solace of the miseries of life from consciousness of the delicacy with which he felt, and the eloquence with which he bewailed them. He mingled cheerfully in the diversions of the evening, and all rejoiced to find that his heart was lightened.
David HUME, the son of a Scottish gentleman of good family but small fortune, was born in Edinburgh in the year 1711. Losing his father in very early life, he was brought up under the care of his mother, and manifested even in boybood great devotion to study and an absorbing attachment to literature. Hence, when he arrived at manhood he was unwilling to embark in any business or profession, but resolved to make letters his sole pursuit. His means, however, were contracted ; and in order, therefore, to live more economically, he withdrew to France, where he resided for about three years. On his return to England, in 1739, he published his Treatise on Human Nature, the first fruits of his literary labours. This work excited little attention, and brought the author neither fame nor profit. He was more successful with his Essays, published in 1742, which soon obtained a considerable amount of popular favour. In 1745 he was a candidate for the Professorship of Moral Philosophy in the University. of Edinburgh, but lost his election, owing to the suspicions of infidelity which had already begun to attach themselves to his name. For two years he was in attendance, as secretary, on General St. Clair, and accompanied him on his. military embassy to the Courts of Vienna and Turin. Having subsequently taken up his abode in Edinburgh, he was in 1752 made librarian to the Faculty of Advocates; and it was perhaps this position, giving him access to valuable historical works and records, which led him to undertake his History of Eng. land. Of this work the first volume, containing the reigns of James I. and Charles I., appeared in 1754 ; and the second volume, which carried the history down to the Revolution, was published in 1756. The Tudor period was next published ; and in 1761 he completed his work by supplying what remained, from the earliest period to the accession of Henry VII. His literary reputation was now fully established, and, besides receiving a pension from the Crown, he was invited by the Earl of Hertford to accept the post of secretary to the embassy at Paris. He resided in that city till 1766, when he returned to England, and in the following year was appointed Under-Secretary of State; an
office which he held till 1769, when the resignation of General Conway, the minister to whom he owed his appointment, led to his surrendering it. The closing years of his life were spent in Edinburgh, in the enjoyment of opulence and literary ease, and the society of the many eminent men whose presence gave lustre and intellectual activity to the Athens of the North.
His life of retirement and leisure was not, however, a very long one. In the year 1775 his health began to give way. Writing on the 15th of April 1776, he himself says, “I now reckon on a speedy dissolution.” Accordingly, on August 25, 1776, he died the death, not indeed of a Christian, but of a calm, virtuous, self-possessed philosopher.
The character of Hunie was in many respects an estimable one. He was not, indeed, a man of very warm feelings or affections; but he was frank, generous, and charitable, a sincere friend, a genial companion, free from all malice or jealousy, modest, simple, and large-hearted. Men like Robertson and Adam Smith esteemed and loved him. The latter, indeed, spoke of him, after his death, with pardonable exaggeration, as one who approached more nearly than any he had ever known to the character of a perfectly good and wise nan.
With all these amiable qualities, he was, unhappily, a disbeliever in revealed truth. He does not openly assail Christianity, but he denies it by implication, and in all his writings disparages its evidences and claims.
His mental constitution seems to have had an inherent bias towards scepticism, and the only aspects in which he was able to regard religion were superstition and fanaticism.
WORKS. Mention has already been made of the want of success which attended Hume's first publication, the Treatise on Human Nature. In this work the author aimed at setting forth a system of universal scepticism. The tenor of his arguments is, that nothing is or can be known-that truth is, in fact, unattainable. An attempt of this kind is its own refutation.
The Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, are much more worthy of attention. They are described by Sir James Macintosh as being “the best models in any language of the short but full, of the clear and agreeable, though deep discussion of difficult questions." - It should be mentioned that the great Bishop Butler thought very highly of these Essays, and strongly recommended them everywhere.
Another of Hume's works, and the one which he himself most highly valued, is his Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals. In this treatise he discusses the foundation of morals; and after an analysis of the various moral qualities, he arrives by an inductive process at the conclusion that “Personal Merit consists altogether in the possession of mental qualities useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others." He then resumes a consideration suggested at the outset
of his work, with respect to the general foundation of morals," whether they be derived from Reason or from Sentiment.” He contends that “ Reason must enter for a considerable share in all decisions of this kind,” but it is by the Sentiment of blame or approbation that we finally pronounce an action criminal or virtuous.
The work by which Hume is best known, and on which, therefore, his fame chiefly rests, is his History of England. High as the reputation of this work deservedly is, and popular as it must always be, it is nevertheless open to very severe criticism. It is, in the first place, a work rather of genius than of research. The author was not careful to explore many records, or to consult original authorities. Content with such materials as were then easily accessible, he wrote out of the fulness of his own thoughtful and philosophic mind. Hence, while there is much political insight and many sagacious reflections, there is very often a want of perfect historical accuracy. Nor, again, can the author be absolved from the charge of partiality, more particularly as regards the narration of the Great Civil War, and the causes out of which it sprang. He is an avowed partisan of Charles I., and hardly does justice to the motives or the merits of the great party that was arrayed in arms against him.
His sceptical turn of mind and cold indifference to religion make him also an imperfect and unsatisfactory historian of the Protestant Reformation. Even in the earlier portions of his History, where there was less to bias his judgment, he is sometimes misled by his contempt for “the Dark Ages," and his inability to recognize the adaptation to the necessities of the times of institutions that afterwards became useless or pernicious. These are serious abatements to the merit of his great work. They must always detract from its value as a historical authority, but they will never altogether destroy its popularity, or prevent it from being read with pleasure and advantage.
Besides the writings of Hume already mentioned, he was the author of a treatise on the Natural History of Religion, and of Dialogues on Natural Religion, published after his decease.
The style of Hume is easy and graceful. Gibbon speaks admiringly of its “ careless, inimitable beauties.” This phrase well describes the main characteristic of Hume's composition ; for while his language is not always correct, and is sometimes marked by Scotticisms and Gallicisms, he is one of the most agreeable, lively, and attractive of our English writers.
OF NATIONAL CHARACTERS. The vulgar are apt to carry all national characters to extremes; and, having once established it as a principle that any people are knavish, or cowardly, or ignorant, they will admit of no exception,