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terrupted; but I rather wished than hoped to obtain Mr Deyverdun for the companion of my Italian tour. An unhappy though honourable passion drove him from his German court; and the attractions of hope and curiosity were fortified by the expectation of my speedy return to England. During four successive summers he passed several weeks or months at Beri. ton, and our free conversations, on every topic that could interest the heart or understanding, would have reconciled me to a desert or a prison. In the winter months of London my sphere of knowledge and action was somewhat enlarged by the many new acquaintance which I had contracted in the militia and abroad ; and I must regret, as more than an acquaintance, Mr Godfrey Clarke of Derbyshire, an amiable and worthy young man, who was snatched away by an untimely death. A weekly convivial meeting was established by myself and other travellers, under the name of the Roman Club.*
The renewal, or perhaps the improvement, of my English life was embittered by the alteration of my own feelings. At the age of twenty-one I was, in my proper station of a youth, delivered from the yoke of education, and delighted with the comparative state of liberty and affluence. My filial obedience was natural and easy; and in the gay prospect of futurity, my ambition did not extend beyond the enjoyment of my books, my leisure, and my patrimonial estate, undisturbed by the cares of a family and the duties of a profession. But in the militia I was armed with power; in my travels I was exempt
• The members were lord Mountstuart, (now marquis of Bute,) colonel Edmonstone, W. Weddal, rev. Mr Palgrave, earl of Berkley, Godfrey Clarke, (member for Derbyshire,) Holroyd, (lord Sheffield,) major Ridley, Thomas Charles Bigge, sir William Guise, sir John Aubrey, the late earl of Abingdon, hon. Peregrine Bertie, rev. Mr Cleaver, hon. John Damer, hon. George Damer, (late earl of Dorches. ter,) sir Thomas Gascoygne, sir John Hort, E. Gibbon.
from control ; and as I approached, as I gradually passed my thirtieth year, I began to feel the desire of being master in my own house. The most gentle authority will sometimes frown without reason, the most cheerful submission will sometimes murmur without cause ; and such is the law of our imperfect nature, that we must either command or obey—that our personal liberty is supported by the obsequiousness of our own dependents. While so many of my acquaintance were married or in parliament, or advancing with a rapid step in the various roads of honour and fortune, I stood alone, immovable and insignificant; for after the monthly meeting of 1770, I had even withdrawn myself from the militia by the resignation of an empty and barren commission. My temper is not susceptible of envy, and the view of successful merit has always excited my warmest applause. The miseries of a vacant life were never known to a man whose hours were insufficient for the inexhaustible pleasure of study. But I lamented that at the proper age I had not ernbraced the lucra. tive pursuits of the law or of trade, the chances of civil office or India adventure, or even the fat slumbers of the church; and my repentance became more lively as the loss of time was more irretrievable. Experience shewed me the use of grafting my private consequence on the importance of a great professional body, the benefits of those firm connections which are connected by hope and interest, by gratitude and emulation, by the mutual exchange of service and favours. From the emoluments of a profession I might have derived an ample fortune, or a competent income, instead of being stinted to the same narrow allowance, to be increased only by an event which I sincerely deprecated. The progress and the know. ledge of our domestic disorders aggravated my anxiety, and I began to apprehend that I might be left in my old age without the fruits either of industry or in. heritance.
In the first summer after my return, whilst I enjoyed at Beriton the society of my friend Deyverdun, our daily conversations expatiated over the field of ancient and inodern literature, and we freely discussed my studies, my first Essay, and my future projects. The Decline and Fall of Rome I still contemplated at an awful distance: but the two historical designs which had balanced my choice were submitted to his taste; and in the parallel between the revolutions of Florence and Switzerland, our common partiality for a country which was his by birth, and mine by adoption, inclined the scale in favour of the latter. ACcording to the plan which was soon conceived and digested, I embraced a period of two hundred years, from the association of the three peasants of the Alps to the plentitude and prosperity of the Helvetic body in the sixteenth century. I should have described the deliverance and victory of the Swiss, who have never shed the blood of their tyrants but in a field of battle; the laws and manners of the confederate states; the splendid trophies of the Austrian, Burgundian, and Italian wars; and the wisdom of a nation who, after some sallies of martial adventure, has been content to guard the blessings of peace with the sword of freedom.
- Manus hæc inimica tyrannis
Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem. My judgment, as well as my enthusiasm, was satisfied with the glorious theme; and the assistance of Deyverdun seemed to remove an inseparable obstacle. The French or Latin memorials, of which I was not ignorant, are inconsiderable in number and weight; but in the perfect acquaintance of my friend with the German language I found the key of a more valuable collection. The most necessary books were procured; he translated, for my use, the folio volume of Schilling, a copious and contemporary relation of the war of Burgundy; we read and marked the most interesting parts of the great chronicle of Tschudi; and by his labour, or that of an inferior assistant, large extracts were made from the History of Lauffer and the
Dictionary of Lew; yet such was the distance and delay, that two years elapsed in these preparatory steps; and it was late in the third summer (1767) before I entered, with these slender materials, on the more agreeable task of composition. A specimen of my History, the first book, was read the following winter in a literary seciety of foreigners in London ; and as the author was unknown, I listened, without observation, to the free strictures, and unfavourable sentence, of my judges.* The momentary sensation was painful; but their condemnation was ratified by my cooler thoughts. I delivered my imperfect sheets
* Mr Tlume seems to have a different opinion of this work.
From Mr Hume to Mr Gibbon.
It is but a few days ago since M. Deyverdun put your manuscript into my hands, and I have perused it with great pleasure and satisfaction. I have only one objection, derived from the language in which it is written. Why do you compose in French, and carry faggots into the wood, as Horace says with regard to Romans who wrote in Greek? I grant that you have a like motive to those Romans, and adopt a language much more generally diffused than your native tongue. But have you not remarked the fate of those two ancient languages in following ages ? The Latin, though then less celebrated, and confined to more narrow limits, has in some measure outlived the Greek, and is now more generally understood by men of letters. Let the French, therefore, triumph in the present diffusion of their tongue. Our solid and increasing establishments in Ame. rica, where weneed less dread the inundation of barbarians, promise a superior stability and duration to the English language.
Your use of the French tongue has also led you into a style more poetical and figurative, and more highly coloured, than our language seems to admit of in historical productions: for such is the practice of French writers, particu. larly the more recent ones, who illuminate their pictures more than custom will permit us. On the whole, your history, in my opinion, is written with spirit and judgment : and I exhort you very earnestly to continue it. The objections that occurred to me on reading it were so frivolous, to the flames, * and for ever renounced a design in which some expense, much labour, and more time, had been so vainly consumed. I cannot regret the loss of a slight and superficial essay; for such the work must have been in the hands of a stranger, uninformed by the scholars and statesmen, and remote from the libraries and archives, of the Swiss republics. My ancient habits, and the presence of Deyverdun, encouraged ine to write in French for the continent of Europe ; but I was conscious myself that my style, above prose and below poetry, degenerated into a verbose and turgid declamation. Perhaps I may impute the failure to the injudicious choice of a foreign language. Perhaps I may suspect that the language itself is ill adapted to sustain the vigour ahd dignity of an important narrative. But if France, so rich in literary merit, had produced a great original historian, his genius would have formed and fixed the idiom to the proper tone, the peculiar mode of historical eloquence.
It was in search of some liberal and lucrative employment that my friend Deyverdun had visited England. His remittances from home were scanty and precarious. My purse was always open, but it was often empty; and I bitterly felt the want of riches and power, which might have enabled me to correct the errors of his fortune. His wishes and qualification solicited the station of the travelling
that I shall not trouble you with thein, and should, I believe, have a difficulty to recollect them. I am, with great esteem,
Your most obedient
and most humble servant, 24th of Oct. 1767.
David HUME. * He neglected to burn them. He left at Sheffield-place the introduction, or first book, in forty-three pages folio, written in a very small hand, besides a considerable number of notcs. Mr Hume's opinion, expressed in the letter in the last note, perhaps may justify the publication of it. S.