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  1. About this site
  2. Hume, David (1711-1776) (DNB00)
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Critique of Pure Reason. Unified Edition, translated by Werner Pluhar.

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Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics, edited and translated by Gary Hatfield. Mall, R. Nuyen, A. Palmquist, Stephen. Brulington: Ashgate Publishing, Penelhum, Terence. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, London: MacMillan, San Diego: Austin Hill Press, Russell, Paul.

Russel, Paul. New York: Oxford University Press, Strawson, Galen. Stroud, B. London: Routledge, Wolff, R. Wood, Allen. Zangwill, Nick. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Export Citation. User Account Log in Register Help. Search Close Advanced Search Help. Show Summary Details. More options …. Open Theology. Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles.

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Open Access. Online ISSN I told him, that though I was sensible how very much he was weakened, and that appearances were in many respects very bad, yet his cheerfulness was still so great, the spirit of life seemed still to be so very strong in him, that I could not help entertaining some faint hopes. When I lie down in the evening, I feel myself weaker than when I rose in the morning; and when I rise in the morning, weaker than when I lay down Edition: current; Page: [ xxxvii ] in the evening.

I am sensible, besides, that some of my vital parts are affected, so that I must soon die. I have done everything of consequence which I ever meant to do, and I could at no time expect to leave my relations and friends in a better situation than that in which I am now likely to leave them: I, therefore, have all reason to die contented. Allow me a little time, that I may see how the Public receives the alterations. There will be no end of such excuses; so, honest friend, please step into the boat.

If I live a few years longer, I may have the satisfaction of seeing the downfal of some of the prevailing systems of superstition. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for so long a term?

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Get into the boat this instant, you lazy, loitering rogue. But, though Mr. Hume always talked of his approaching dissolution with great cheerfulness, he never affected to make any parade of his magnanimity. He never mentioned the subject but when the conversation naturally led to it, and never dwelt longer upon it than the course of the conversation happened to require: it was a subject indeed which occurred pretty frequently, in consequence of the inquiries which his friends, who came to see him, Edition: current; Page: [ xxxviii ] naturally made concerning the state of his health.

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The conversation which I mentioned above, and which passed on Thursday the 8th of August, was the last, except one, that I ever had with him. He had now become so very weak, that the company of his most intimate friends fatigued him; for his cheerfulness was still so great, his complaisance and social disposition were still so entire, that when any friend was with him, he could not help talking more, and with greater exertion, than suited the weakness of his body. Hume has passed his time pretty easily, but is much weaker. He sits up, goes down stairs once a day, and amuses himself with reading, but seldom sees any body.

Hume, David (1711-1776) (DNB00)

He finds, that even the conversation of his most intimate friends fatigues and oppresses him; and it is happy that he does not need it, for he is quite free from anxiety, impatience, or low spirits, and passes his time very well with the assistance of amusing books. I received the day after a letter from Mr. Hume himself, of which the following is an extract. I cannot submit to your coming over here on my account, as it is possible for me to see you so small a part of the day, but Doctor Black can better inform you concerning the degree of strength which may from time to time remain with me.

Hume expired.

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The near approach of his death became evident in the night between Thursday and Friday, when his disease became excessive, and soon weakened him so much, that he could no longer rise out of his bed. He continued to the last perfectly sensible, and free from much pain or feelings of distress. He never dropped the smallest expression of impatience; but when he had occasion to speak to the people about him, always did it with affection and tenderness.

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I thought it improper to write to bring you over, especially as I heard that he had dictated a letter to you, desiring you not to come. When he became very weak, it cost him an effort to speak, and he died in such a happy composure of mind, that nothing could exceed it. Thus died our most excellent, and never to be forgotten friend; concerning whose philosophical opinions men will, no doubt, judge variously, every one approving, or condemning them, according as they happen to coincide or disagree with his own; but concerning whose character and conduct there can scarce be a difference of opinion.

His temper, indeed, seemed to be more happily balanced, if I may be allowed such an expression, than that perhaps of any other man I have ever known.

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Even in the lowest state of his fortune, his great and necessary frugality never hindered him from exercising, upon proper occasions, acts both of charity and generosity. It was a frugality founded not upon avarice, but upon the love of independency. The extreme gentleness of his nature never weakened either the firmness of his mind, or the steadiness of his resolutions.

His constant pleasantry was the genuine effusion of good-nature and good-humour, tempered with delicacy and modesty, and without even the slightest tincture of malignity, so frequently the disagreeable source of what is called wit in other men. It never was the meaning of his raillery to mortify; and therefore, far from offending, it seldom failed to please and delight, even those who were the objects of it. To his friends, who were frequently the objects of it, there was not perhaps any one of all his great and amiable qualities, which contributed more Edition: current; Page: [ xl ] to endear his conversation.

And that gaiety of temper, so agreeable in society, but which is so often accompanied with frivolous and superficial qualities, was in him certainly attended with the most severe application, the most extensive learning, the greatest depth of thought and a capacity in every respect the most comprehensive. Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.

The curiosity , entertained by all civilized nations, of enquiring into the exploits and adventures of their ancestors, commonly excites a regret that the history of remote ages should always be so much involved in obscurity, uncertainty, and contradiction. Ingenious men, possessed of leisure, are apt to push their researches beyond the period, in which literary monuments are framed or preserved; without reflecting, that the history of past events is immediately lost or disfigured, when intrusted to memory and oral tradition, and that the adventures of barbarous nations, even if they were recorded, could afford little or no entertainment to men born in a more cultivated age.

The convulsions of a civilized state usually compose the most instructive and most interesting part of its history; but the sudden, violent, and unprepared revolutions, incident to Barbarians, are so much guided by caprice, and terminate so often in cruelty that they disgust us by Edition: current; Page: [ 4 ] the uniformity of their appearance; and it is rather fortunate for letters that they are buried in silence and oblivion.

The only certain means, by which nations can indulge their curiosity in researches concerning their remote origin, is to consider the language, manners, and customs of their ancestors, and to compare them with those of the neighbouring nations. The fables, which are commonly employed to supply the place of true history, ought entirely to be disregarded; or if any exception be admitted to this general rule, it can only be in favour of the ancient Grecian fictions, which are so celebrated and so agreeable, that they will ever be the objects of the attention of mankind.

Neglecting, therefore, all traditions or rather tales concerning the more early history of Britain, we shall only consider the state of the inhabitants, as it appeared to the Romans on their invasion of this country: We shall briefly run over the events, which attended the conquest made by that empire, as belonging more to Roman than British story: We shall hasten through the obscure and uninteresting period of Saxon annals: And shall reserve a more full narration for those times, when the truth is both so well ascertained and so complete as to promise entertainment and instruction to the reader.

All ancient writers agree in representing the first inhabitants of Britain as a tribe of the Gauls or Celtae, who peopled that island from the neighbouring continent. Their language was the same, their manners, their government, their superstition; varied only by those small differences, which time or a communication with the bordering nations must necessarily introduce.

The inhabitants of Gaul, especially in those parts which lie contiguous to Italy, had acquired, from a commerce with their southern neighbours, some refinement in the arts, which gradually diffused themselves northwards, and spread but a very faint light over this island. The Greek and Roman navigators or merchants for there were scarcely any other travellers in those ages brought back the most shocking accounts of the ferocity of the people, which they magnified, as usual, in order to excite the admiration of their countrymen. The south-east parts, however, of Britain, had already, before the age of Caesar, made the first and most requisite step toward a civil settlement; and the Britons, by tillage and agriculture, had there encreased to a great multitude.

The Britons were divided into many small nations or tribes; and being a military people, whose sole property was their arms and their cattle, it was impossible, after they had acquired a relish of liberty, for their princes or chieftains to establish any despotic authority over them. Their governments, though monarchical, b were free, as well as those of all the Celtic nations; and the common people seem even to have enjoyed more liberty among them, c than among the nations of Gaul, d from whom they were descended.

Each state was divided into factions within itself. The religion of the Britons was one of the most considerable parts of their government; and the Druids, who were their priests, possessed great authority among them. Besides ministering at the altar, and directing all religious duties, they presided over the education of youth; they enjoyed an immunity from wars and taxes; they possessed both the civil and criminal jurisdiction; they decided all controversies among states as well as among private persons, and whoever refused to submit to their decree was exposed to the most severe penalties.

The sentence of excommunication was pronounced against him: He was forbidden access to the sacrifices or public worship: He was debarred all intercourse with his fellow-citizens, even in the common affairs of life: His company was universally shunned, as profane and dangerous: He was refused the protection of law: f And death itself became an acceptable relief from the misery and infamy to which he was exposed.

Thus, the bands of government, which were naturally Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] loose among that rude and turbulent people, were happily corroborated by the terrors of their superstition. No species of superstition was ever more terrible than that of the Druids. Besides the severe penalties, which it was in the power of the ecclesiastics to inflict in this world, they inculcated the eternal transmigration of souls; and thereby extended their authority as far as the fears of their timorous votaries. They practised their rites in dark groves or other secret recesses; g and in order to throw a greater mystery over their religion, they communicated their doctrines only to the initiated, and strictly forbad the committing of them to writing, lest they should at any time be exposed to the examination of the profane vulgar.

Human sacrifices were practised among them: The spoils of war were often devoted to their divinities; and they punished with the severest tortures whoever dared to secrete any part of the consecrated offering: These treasures they kept in woods and forests, secured by no other guard than the terrors of their religion; h and this steddy conquest over human avidity may be regarded as more signal than their prompting men to the most extraordinary and most violent efforts. No idolatrous worship ever attained such an ascendant over mankind as that of the ancient Gauls and Britons; and the Romans, after their conquest, finding it impossible to reconcile those nations to the laws and institutions of their masters, while it maintained its authority, were at last obliged to abolish it by penal statutes; a violence, which had never in any other instance been practised by those tolerating conquerors.

The britons had long remained in this rude but independent state, when Caesar, having over-run all Gaul by his victories, first cast his eye on their island. He was not allured either by its riches or its renown; but being ambitious of carrying the Roman arms into a new world, then mostly unknown, he took advantage of a short interval in his Gaulic wars, and made an Edition: current; Page: [ 7 ] invasion on Britain.

The natives, informed of his intention, were sensible of the unequal contest, and endeavoured to appease him by submissions, which, however, retarded not the execution of his design. After some resistance, he landed, as is supposed, at Deal; and having obtained several advantages over the Britons and obliged them to promise hostages for their future obedience, Anno ante C.

The Britons, relieved from the terror of his arms, neglected the performance of their stipulations; and that haughty conqueror resolved next summer to chastise them for this breach of treaty. He landed with a greater force; and though he found a more regular resistance from the Britons, who had united under Cassivelaunus, one of their petty princes; he discomfited them in every action. He advanced into the country; passed the Thames in the face of the enemy; took and burned the capital of Cassivelaunus; established his ally, Mandubratius, in the sovereignty of the Trinobantes; and having obliged the inhabitants to make him new submissions, he again returned with his army into Gaul, and left the authority of the Romans more nominal than real in this island.

The civil wars, which ensued, and which prepared the way for the establishment of monarchy in Rome, saved the Britons from that yoke, which was ready to be imposed upon them. Augustus, the successor of Caesar, content with the victory obtained over the liberties of his own country, was little ambitious of acquiring fame by foreign wars; and being apprehensive lest the same unlimited extent of dominion, which had subverted the republic, might also overwhelm the empire, he recommended it to his successors never to enlarge the territories of the Romans.

Tiberius, jealous of the fame, which might be acquired by his generals, made this advice of Augustus a pretence for his inactivity. Without seeking any more justifiable reasons of hostility than were employed by the Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] late Europeans in subjecting the Africans and Americans, A.

Claudius himself, finding matters sufficiently prepared for his reception, made a journey into Britain; and received the submission of several British states, the Cantii, Atrebates, Regni, and Trinobantes, who inhabited the southeast parts of the island, and whom their possessions and more cultivated manner of life rendered willing to purchase peace at the expence of their liberty. The other Britons, under the command of Caractacus, still maintained an obstinate resistance, and the Romans made little progress against them; till Ostorius Scapula was sent over to command their armies.

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This general advanced the Roman conquests over the Britons; pierced into the country of the Silures, a warlike nation, who inhabited the banks of the Severne; defeated Caractacus in a great battle; took him prisoner, and sent him to Rome, where his magnanimous behaviour procured him better treatment than those conquerors usually bestowed on captive princes. Notwithstanding these misfortunes, the Britons were not subdued; and this island was regarded by the ambitious Romans as a field in which military honour might still be acquired.

Under the reign of Nero, A. Suetonius Paulinus was invested with the command, and prepared to signalize his name by victories over those barbarians. Finding that the island of Mona, now Anglesey, was the chief seat of the Druids, he resolved to attack it, and to subject a place, which was the center of their superstition, and which afforded protection to all their baffled forces.