Life of Adam Smith
by John Rae
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[80] Burton's Life of Hume, i. 417.

[81] Carlyle's Autobiography, p. 275.

[82] Burton's Scot Abroad, ii. 340.

[83] Minutes of Select Society, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Scots Magazine, xix. 163.

[86] Burton's Scot Abroad, ii. 343.

[87] Scots Magazine for year 1755, p. 126.

[88] Lord Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, vi. 32.

[89] Scots Magazine, xxvi. 229.

[90] The Bee for June 1791.

[91] Tytler's Life of Lord Kames, i. 233.

[92] Life of John Home, p. 24.

[93] Burton's Scot Abroad, ii. 343.

[94] Douglas's Select Works, p. 23.

[95] The Bee for 1791.

[96] Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 16.

[97] Professor of Logic.

[98] Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 45.

[99] Fraser's The Lennox, p. xliv.

[100] Carlyle Correspondence, Edinburgh University Library.

[101] Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. i.

[102] "Memoirs of Black," Transactions, R.S.E., v. 113.

[103] Carlyle Correspondence, Edinburgh University.

[104] Small, Sketch of A. Ferguson, p. 23.

[105] Kames, Sketches of Man, Book II. chap. ix.

[106] Campbell's Lives of the Lord Chancellors, vi. 28.



1759. Aet. 36

Smith enjoyed a very high Scotch reputation long before his name was known to the great public by any contribution to literature. But in 1759 he gave his Theory of Moral Sentiments to the press, and took his place, by almost immediate and universal recognition, in the first rank of contemporary writers. The book is an essay supporting and illustrating the doctrine that moral approbation and disapprobation are in the last analysis expressions of sympathy with the feelings of an imaginary and impartial spectator, and its substance had already been given from year to year in his ordinary lectures to his students, though after the publication he thought it no longer necessary to dwell at the same length on this branch of his course, giving more time, no doubt, to jurisprudence and political economy. The book was published in London by Andrew Millar in two vols. 8vo. It was from the first well received, its ingenuity, eloquence, and great copiousness of effective illustration being universally acknowledged and admired. Smith sent a copy to Hume in London, and received the following reply, which contains some interesting particulars of the reception of the book there:—

LONDON, 12th April 1759.

DEAR SIR—I give you thanks for the agreeable present of your Theory. Wedderburn and I made presents of our copies to such of our acquaintances as we thought good judges and proper to spread the reputation of the book. I sent one to the Duke of Argyle, to Lord Lyttelton, Horace Walpole, Soame Jenyns, and Burke, an Irish gentleman who wrote lately a very pretty treatise on the Sublime. Millar desired my permission to send one in your name to Dr. Warburton.

I have delayed writing you till I could tell you something of the success of the book, and could prognosticate with some probability whether it should be finally damned to oblivion or should be registered in the temple of immortality. Though it has been published only a few weeks, I think there appear already such strong symptoms that I can almost venture to foretell its fate. It is, in short, this—

But I have been interrupted in my letter by a foolish impertinent visit of one who has lately come from Scotland. He tells me that the University of Glasgow intend to declare Rouet's office vacant upon his going abroad with Lord Hope. I question not but you will have our friend Ferguson in your eye, in case another project for procuring him a place in the University of Edinburgh should fail. Ferguson has very much polished and improved his Treatise on Refinement, and with some amendments it will make an admirable book, and discovers an elegant and singular genius. The Epigoniad, I hope, will do, but it is somewhat uphill work. As I doubt not but you consult the Reviews sometimes at present, you will see in The Critical Review a letter upon that poem; and I desire you to employ your conjectures in finding out the author. Let me see a sample of your skill in knowing hints by guessing at the person.

I am afraid of Kames's Law Tracts. The man might as well think of making a fine sauce by a mixture of wormwood and aloes as an agreeable combination by joining metaphysics and Scottish law. However, the book, I believe, has merit, though few people ever take the pains of inquiring into it. But to return to your book and its success in this town. I must tell you—

A plague to interruptions! I ordered myself to be denied, and yet here is one that has broke in upon me again. He is a man of letters, and we have had a good deal of literary conversation. You told me that you was curious of literary anecdotes, and therefore I shall inform you of a few that have come to my knowledge. I believe I have mentioned to you already Helvetius's book De l'Esprit. It is worth your reading, not for its philosophy, which I do not highly value, but for its agreeable composition. I had a letter from him a few days ago, wherein he tells me that my name was much oftener in the manuscript, but that the censor of books at Paris obliged him to strike it out.

Voltaire has lately published a small work called Candide, ou l'Optimisme. I shall give you a detail of it. But what is all this to my book, say you? My dear Mr. Smith, have patience; compose yourself to tranquillity. Show yourself a philosopher in practice as well as profession. Think on the impotence and rashness and futility of the common judgments of men, how little they are regulated by reason on any subject, much more on philosophical subjects, which so far exceed the comprehension of the vulgar—

Non, si quid turbida Roma Elevet, accedas: examenve improbum in ilia Castiges trutina: nec te quaesiveris extra.

A wise man's kingdom is his own heart; or, if he ever looks farther, it will only be to the judgment of a select few, who are free from prejudices and capable of examining; his work. Nothing, indeed, can be a stronger presumption of falsehood than the approbation of the multitude; and Phocion, you know, always suspected himself of some blunder when he was attended with the applause of the populace.

Supposing, therefore, that you have duly prepared yourself for the worst by all these reflections, I proceed to tell you the melancholy news that your book has been very unfortunate, for the public seem disposed to applaud it extremely. It was looked for by the foolish people with some impatience; and the mob of literati are beginning already to be very loud in its praises. Three bishops called yesterday at Millar's shop in order to buy copies, and to ask questions about the author. The Bishop of Peterborough said he had passed the evening in a company where he heard it extolled above all books in the world. The Duke of Argyle is more decisive than he used to be in its favour. I suppose he either considers it as an exotic, or thinks the author will be very serviceable to him in the Glasgow elections. Lord Lyttelton says that Robertson and Smith and Bower[107] are the glories of English literature. Oswald protests he does not know whether he has reaped more instruction or entertainment from it, but you may easily judge what reliance can be placed on his judgment. He has been engaged all his life in public business, and he never sees any faults in his friends. Millar exults and brags that two-thirds of the edition are already sold, and that he is now sure of success. You see what a son of the earth that is, to value books only by the profit they bring him. In that view, I believe, it may prove a very good book.

Charles Townshend, who passes for the cleverest fellow in England, is so much taken with the performance that he said to Oswald he would put the Duke of Buccleugh under the author's care, and would make it worth his while to accept of that charge. As soon as I heard this I called on him twice with a view of talking with him about the matter, and of convincing him of the propriety of sending that young gentleman to Glasgow, for I could not hope that he could offer you any terms which would tempt you to renounce your professorship; but I missed him. Mr. Townshend passes for being a little uncertain in his resolutions, so perhaps you need not build much on his sally.

In recompense for so many mortifying things, which nothing but truth could have extorted from me, and which I could easily have multiplied to a greater number, I doubt not but you are so good a Christian as to return good for evil, and to flatter my vanity by telling me that all the godly in Scotland abuse me for my account of John Knox and the Reformation. I suppose you are glad to see my paper end, and that I am obliged to conclude with—Your humble servant.[108]

On the 28th of July Hume again writes from London on the same subject:—

I am very well acquainted with Bourke,[109] who was much taken with your book. He got your direction from me with a view of writing to you and thanking you for your present, for I made it pass in your name. I wonder he has not done it. He is now in Ireland. I am not acquainted with Jenyns,[110] but he spoke very highly of the book to Oswald, who is his brother in the Board of Trade. Millar showed me a few days ago a letter from Lord Fitzmaurice,[111] where he tells him that he has carried over a few copies to the Hague for presents. Mr. York[112] was very much taken with it, as well as several others who had read it.

I am told that you are preparing a new edition, and propose to make some additions and alterations in order to obviate objections. I shall use the freedom to propose one; which, if it appears to be of any weight, you may have in your eye. I wish you had more particularly and fully proved that all kinds of sympathy are agreeable. This is the hinge of your system, and yet you only mention the matter cursorily on p. 20. Now it would appear that there is a disagreeable sympathy as well as an agreeable. And, indeed, as the sympathetic passion is a reflex image of the principal, it must partake of its qualities, and be painful when that is so. Indeed, when we converse with a man with whom we can entirely sympathise, that is when there is a warm and intimate friendship, the cordial openness of such a commerce overbears the pain of a disagreeable sympathy, and renders the whole movement agreeable, but in ordinary cases this cannot have place. A man tired and disgusted with everything, always ennuie, sickly, complaining, embarrassed, such a one throws an evident damp on company, which I suppose would be accounted for by sympathy, and yet is disagreeable.

It is always thought a difficult problem to account for the pleasure from the tears and grief and sympathy of tragedy, which would not be the case if all sympathy was agreeable. An hospital would be a more entertaining place than a ball. I am afraid that on p. 99 and 111 this proposition has escaped you, or rather is interwoven with your reasoning. In that place you say expressly, "It is painful to go along with grief, and we always enter into it with reluctance." It will probably be requisite for you to modify or explain this sentiment, and reconcile it to your system.[113]

Burke, who was thus reported by Hume to have been so much taken with the book, reviewed it most favourably in the Annual Register, and not only recognised Smith's theory as a new and ingenious one, but accepted it as being "in all its essential parts just and founded on truth and nature." "The author," he says, "seeks for the foundation of the just, the fit, the proper, the decent, in our most common and most allowed passions, and making approbation and disapprobation the tests of virtue and vice, and showing that these are founded on sympathy, he raises from this simple truth one of the most beautiful fabrics of moral theory that has perhaps ever appeared. The illustrations are numerous and happy, and show the author to be a man of uncommon observation. His language is easy and spirited, and puts things before you in the fullest light; it is rather painting than writing."[114] One of the most interesting characteristics of the book, from a biographical point of view, is that mentioned by this reviewer; it certainly shows the author to have been a man of uncommon observation, not only of his own mental states, but of the life and ways of men about him; as Mackintosh remarks, the book has a high value for "the variety of explanations of life and manners which embellish" it, apart altogether from the thesis it is written to prove.[115]

Charles Townshend adhered to his purpose about Smith with much more steadiness than Hume felt able to give him credit for. Townshend, it need perhaps hardly be said, was the brilliant but flighty young statesman to whom we owe the beginnings of our difficulties with America. He was the colonial minister who first awoke the question of "colonial rights," by depriving the colonists of the appointment of their own judges, and he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who imposed the tea duty in 1767 which actually provoked the rebellion. "A man," says Horace Walpole, "endowed with every great talent, who must have been the greatest man of his age if he had only common sincerity, common steadiness, and common sense." "In truth," said Burke, "he was the delight and ornament of this house, and the charm of every private society which he honoured with his presence. Perhaps there never arose in this country nor in any other a man of a more pointed and finished wit, and (when his passions were not concerned) of a more refined and exquisite and penetrating judgment." He had in 1754 married the Countess of Dalkeith, daughter and co-heiress of the famous Duke of Argyle and Greenwich, and widow of the eldest son of the Duke of Buccleugh. She had been left with two sons by her first husband, of whom the eldest had succeeded his grandfather as Duke of Buccleugh in 1751, and was now at Eton under the tutorship of Mr. Hallam, father of the historian. On leaving Eton he was to travel abroad with a tutor for some time, and it was for this post of tutor to the Duke abroad that Townshend, after reading the Theory of Moral Sentiments, had set his heart on engaging its author.

Townshend bore, as Hume hints, a bad character for changeability. He was popularly nicknamed the Weathercock, and a squib of the day once reported that Mr. Townshend was ill of a pain in his side, but regretted that it was not said on which side. But he stood firmly to his project about Smith; paid him a visit in Glasgow that very summer, saw much of him, invited him to Dalkeith House, arranged with him about the selection and despatch of a number of books for the young Duke's study, and seems to have arrived at a general understanding with Smith that the latter should accept the tutorship when the time came. Townshend of course delighted the Glasgow professors during this visit, as he delighted everybody, but he seems in turn to have been delighted with them, for William Hunter wrote Cullen a little later in the same year that Townshend had come back from Scotland passing the highest encomiums on everybody. Smith seems to have acted as his chief cicerone in Glasgow, as appears from one of the trivial incidents which were all that the contemporary writers of Smith's obituary notices seemed able to learn of his life. He was showing Townshend the tannery, one of the spectacles of Glasgow at the time—"an amazing sight," Pennant calls it—and walked in his absent way right into the tanpit, from which, however, he was immediately rescued without any harm.

In September 1759, on the death of Mr. Townshend's brother, Smith wrote him the following letter:—[116]

SIR—It gives me great concern that the first letter I ever have done myself the honour to write to you should be upon so melancholy an occasion. As your Brother was generally known here, he is universally regretted, and your friends are sorry that, amidst the public rejoicings and prosperity, your family should have occasion to be in mourning. Everybody here remembers you with the greatest admiration and affection, and nothing that concerns you is indifferent to them, and there are more people who sympathise with you than you are aware of. It would be the greatest pedantry to offer any topics of consolation to you who are naturally so firm and so manly. As your Brother dyed in the service of his country, you have the best and the noblest consolation: That since it has pleased God to deprive you of the satisfaction you might have expected from the continuance of his life, it has at least been so ordered that y^e manner of his death does you honour.

You left Scotland so much sooner than you proposed, when I had the pleasure of seeing you at Glasgow, that I had not an opportunity of making you a visit at Dalkieth (sic), as I intended, before you should return to London.

I sent about a fortnight ago the books which you ordered for the Duke of Buccleugh to Mr. Campbell at Edinburgh.[117] I paid for them, according to your orders, as soon as they were ready. I send you enclosed a list of them, with the prices discharged on the back. You will compare with the books when they arrive. Mr. Campbell will further them to London. I should have wrote to you of this a fortnight ago, but my natural dilatoriness prevented me.—I ever am, with the greatest esteem and regard, your most obliged and most obedient humble servant,


COLLEGE OF GLASGOW, 17th September 1759.

The second edition of the Theory, which Hume was anticipating immediately in 1759, did not appear till 1761, and it contained none of the alterations or additions he expected; but the Dissertation on the Origin of Languages was for the first time published along with it. The reason for the omission of the other additions is difficult to discover, for the author had not only prepared them, but gone the length of placing them in the printer's hands in 1760, as appears from the following letter. They did not appear either in the third edition in 1767, or the fourth in 1774, or the fifth in 1781; nor till the sixth, which was published, with considerable additions and corrections, immediately before the author's death in 1790. The earlier editions were published at 6s., and the 1790 edition at 12s. This was the last edition published in the author's lifetime, and it has been many times republished in the century that has elapsed since. This is the letter just referred to:—

DEAR STRAHAN—I sent up to Mr. Millar four or five Posts ago the same additions which I had formerly sent to you, with a good many corrections and improvements which occurred to me since. If there are any typographical errors remaining in the last edition which had escaped me, I hope you will correct them. In other respects I could wish it was printed pretty exactly according to the copy which I delivered to you. A man, says the Spanish proverb, had better be a cuckold and know nothing of the matter, than not be a cuckold and believe himself to be one. And in the same manner, say I, an author had sometimes better be in the wrong and believe himself in the right, than be in the right and believe or even suspect himself to be in the wrong. To desire you to read my book over and mark all the corrections you would wish me to make upon a sheet of paper and send it to me, would, I fear, be giving you too much trouble. If, however, you could induce yourself to take this trouble, you would oblige me greatly; I know how much I shall be benefitted, and I shall at the same time preserve the pretious right of private judgment, for the sake of which our forefathers kicked out the Pope and the Pretender. I believe you to be much more infallible than the Pope, but as I am a Protestant, my conscience makes me scruple to submit to any unscriptural authority.

Apropos to the Pope and the Pretender, have you read Hook's Memoirs?[118] I have been ill these ten days, otherwise I should have written to you sooner, but I sat up the day before yesterday in my bed and read them thro' with infinite satisfaction, tho' they are by no means well written. The substance of what is in them I knew before, tho' not in such detail. I am afraid they are published at an unlucky time, and may throw a damp upon our militia. Nothing, however, appears to me more excusable than the disaffection of Scotland at that time. The Union was a measure from which infinite good has been derived to this country. The Prospect of that good, however, must then have appeared very remote and very uncertain. The immediate effect of it was to hurt the interest of every single order of men in the country. The dignity of the nobility was undone by it. The greater part of the gentry who had been accustomed to represent their own country in its own Parliament were cut out for ever from all hopes of representing it in a British Parliament. Even the merchants seemed to suffer at first. The trade to the Plantations was, indeed, opened to them. But that was a trade which they knew nothing about; the trade they were acquainted with, that to France, Holland, and the Baltic, was laid under new embar(r)assments, which almost totally annihilated the two first and most important branches of it. The Clergy, too, who were then far from insignificant, were alarmed about the Church. No wonder if at that time all orders of men conspired in cursing a measure so hurtful to their immediate interest. The views of their Posterity are now very different; but those views could be seen by but few of our forefathers, by those few in but a confused and imperfect manner.

It will give me the greatest satisfaction to hear from you. I pray you write to me soon. Remember me to the Franklins. I hope I shall have the grace to write to the youngest by next post to thank him, in the name both of the College and of myself, for his very agreeable present. Remember me likewise to Mr. Griffiths. I am greatly obliged to him for the very handsom character he gave of my book in his review.—I ever am, dear Strahan, most faithfully and sincerely yours,


GLASGOW, 4th April 1760.[119]

The Franklins mentioned in this letter are Benjamin Franklin and his son, who had spent six weeks in Scotland in the spring of the previous year—"six weeks," said Franklin, "of the densest happiness I have met with in any part of my life." We know from Dr. Carlyle that during this visit Franklin met Smith one evening at supper at Robertson's in Edinburgh, but it seems from this letter highly probable that he had gone through to Glasgow, and possibly stayed with Smith at the College. Why otherwise should the younger, or, as Smith says, youngest, Franklin have thought of making a presentation to Glasgow College, or Smith of thanking him not merely in the name of the College, but in his own? Strahan was one of Franklin's most intimate private friends. They took a pride in one another as old compositors who had risen in the world; and Smith had no doubt heard of, and perhaps from, the Franklins in some of Strahan's previous letters.

The Mr. Griffiths to whom Smith desires to be remembered was the editor of the Monthly Review, in which a favourable notice of his book had appeared in the preceding July.


[107] Burton thinks with great probability that this junction of names was meant as a sarcasm on Lord Lyttelton's taste.

[108] Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 55.

[109] Edmund Burke.

[110] Soame Jenyns.

[111] Afterwards the Earl of Shelburne, the statesman.

[112] Probably Charles Yorke, afterwards Lord Chancellor Morden.

[113] Burton's Hume, ii. 59.

[114] Annual Register, 1776, p. 485.

[115] Mackintosh, Miscellaneous Works, i. 151.

[116] Buccleuch MSS., Dalkeith Palace.

[117] Mr. Campbell was the Duke's law-agent.

[118] The Secret History of Colonel Hooke's Negotiations in Scotland in Favour of the Pretender in 1707, written by himself. London, 1760.

[119] Bonar's Catalogue of Adam Smith's Library, p. x.



1761. Aet. 38

Smith visited London for the first time in September 1761, when Hume and probably others of his Scotch friends happened to be already there. He had not visited London in the course of his seven years' residence at Oxford, for, as Mr. Rogers reports, the Balliol Buttery Books show him never to have left Oxford at all during that time, and he had not visited London in the course of the first ten years he spent in Glasgow, otherwise the University would be certain to have preserved some record of it. For Glasgow University had much business to transact in London at that period, and would be certain to have commissioned Smith, if he was known to be going there, to transact some of that business for it. It never did so, however, till 1761. But in that year, on the 16th of June, the Senate having learned Smith's purpose of going to London, authorise him to get the accounts of the ordinary revenue of the College and the subdeanery for crops 1755, 1756, 1757, and 1758 cleared with the Treasury (that public office being then always in deep arrears with its work); to meet with Mr. Joshua Sharpe and settle his accounts with respect to the lands given to the College by Dr. Williams (the Dr. Williams of Williams's Library); to inquire into the state of the division of Snell's estate as to Coleburn farm, and the affair of the Prebends of Lincoln; and to get all particulars about the L500 costs in the Snell lawsuit with Balliol, which had to be paid to the University. Those documents were delivered, on the 27th of August, to Smith in praesentia, and then on the 15th of October, after his return, he reported what he had done, and produced a certificate, signed by the Secretary to the Treasury, finding that the University had in the four years specified and the years preceding expended above their revenue the sum of L2631:6:5-11/12. I mention all these details with the view of showing that during Smith's residence in Glasgow the University had a variety of important and difficult business to transact in London, which they would be always glad to get one of their own number to attend to personally on the spot, and that as Smith was never asked to transact any of this business for them except in 1761, it may almost with certainty be inferred that he never was in London on any other occasion during his connection with that University.

Now this journey to London in 1761 is memorable because it constituted the economic "road to Damascus" for a future Prime Minister of England. It was during this journey, I believe, that Smith had Lord Shelburne for his travelling companion, and converted the young statesman to free trade. In 1795 Shelburne (then become Marquis of Lansdowne) writes Dugald Stewart: "I owe to a journey I made with Mr. Smith from Edinburgh to London the difference between light and darkness through the best part of my life. The novelty of his principles, added to my youth and prejudices, made me unable to comprehend them at the time, but he urged them with so much benevolence, as well as eloquence, that they took a certain hold which, though it did not develop itself so as to arrive at full conviction for some few years after, I can truly say has constituted ever since the happiness of my life, as well as the source of any little consideration I may have enjoyed in it."[120]

Shelburne was the first English statesman, except perhaps Burke, who grasped and advocated free trade as a broad political principle; and though his biographer, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, attributes his conversion to Morellet, it is plain from the letter to Stewart that Morellet had only watered, it was Smith that sowed.

It is important, therefore, to fix if possible the date of this interesting journey. It occurred, Lord Shelburne says, in his own youth, and the only journeys to London Smith made during the period which with any reasonable stretching may be called Shelburne's youth, were made in 1761, 1763, and 1773. Now we have no positive knowledge of Shelburne being in Scotland any of these years, but in 1761 his brother, the Hon. Thomas Fitzmaurice, who had been studying under Smith in Glasgow, and living in Smith's house, left Glasgow for Oxford; and Shelburne, who, since his father's death that very year, was taking, as we know from his correspondence with Sir William Blackstone on the subject, a very responsible concern in his younger brother's education and welfare, may very probably have gone to Scotland to attend him back. This circumstance seems to turn the balance in favour of 1761 and against the other two dates.

It is almost certain that the journey was not in 1773, for Shelburne would hardly have thought of himself as so young at that date, six years after he had been Secretary of State, and besides he had probably cast off his prejudices by that time, and was already (as we shall presently find) receiving instruction from Smith on colonial policy in 1767; and whether it was 1761 or 1763, it in either case shows at what a long period before the appearance of the Wealth of Nations Smith was advocating those broad principles which struck Shelburne at the time for their "novelty," and were only fully comprehended and accepted by him a few years afterwards.

Of Smith's visit to London on this occasion we know almost no particulars, but I think the notorious incident of his altercation with Johnson at the house of Strahan the printer must be referred to this visit. The story was told by Robertson to Boswell and Allan Ramsay, the painter, one evening in 1778, when they were dining together at the painter's house, and Johnson was expected as one of the guests. Before the doctor arrived the conversation happened to turn on him, and Robertson said, "He and I have always been very gracious. The first time I met him was one evening at Strahan's, when he had just had an unlucky altercation with Adam Smith, to whom he had been so rough that Strahan, after Smith was gone, had remonstrated, and told him that I was coming soon, and that he was uneasy to think that he might behave in the same way to me. 'No, no, sir,' said Johnson, 'I warrant you Robertson and I shall do very well.' Accordingly he was gentle and good-humoured and gracious with me the whole evening, and he has been so on every occasion that we have met since. I have often said laughing that I have been in a great measure indebted to Smith for my good reception."[121]

Now this incident must have occurred years before 1778, the date of Ramsay's dinner-party at which it was related, for Robertson speaks of having met Johnson many times between; and it probably occurred before 1763, because in 1763 Boswell mentions in his journal having told Johnson one evening that Smith had in his lectures in Glasgow expressed the strongest preference for rhyme over blank verse, and Johnson alludes in his reply to an unfriendly meeting he had once had with Smith. "Sir," said he, "I was once in company with Smith, and we did not take to each other, but had I known that he loved rhyme so much as you tell me he does I should have hugged him."[122] This answer seems to imply that the meeting was not quite recent—not in 1763—and if it occurred before 1763, it must have been in 1761.

It was, no doubt, this unhappy altercation that gave rise to the legendary anecdote which has obtained an immortality it ill deserved, but which cannot be passed over here, because it has been given to the world by three independent authorities of such importance as Sir Walter Scott, Lord Jeffrey, and Bishop Wilberforce. Scott communicates the anecdote to Croker for his edition of Boswell's Johnson, as it was told him by Professor John Millar of Glasgow, who had it from Smith himself the night the affair happened. Wilberforce gives it ostensibly as it was heard by his father from Smith's lips; and Jeffrey, in reviewing Wilberforce's book in the Edinburgh Review, says he heard the story, in substantially the same form as Wilberforce tells it, nearly fifty years before, "from the mouth of one of a party into which Mr. Smith came immediately after the collision."

The story, as told by Scott, is in this wise:[123] "Mr. Boswell has chosen to omit (in his account of Johnson's visit to Glasgow), for reasons which will be presently obvious, that Johnson and Adam Smith met at Glasgow; but I have been assured by Professor John Millar that they did so, and that Smith, leaving the party in which he had met Johnson, happened to come to another company where Millar was. Knowing that Smith had been in Johnson's society, they were anxious to know what had passed, and the more so as Dr. Smith's temper seemed much ruffled. At first Smith would only answer, 'He's a brute; he's a brute;' but on closer examination it appeared that Johnson no sooner saw Smith than he attacked him for some point of his famous letter on the death of Hume. Smith vindicated the truth of his statement. 'What did Johnson say?' was the universal inquiry. 'Why, he said,' replied Smith, with the deepest impression of resentment, 'he said, You lie.' 'And what did you reply?' 'I said, You are a son of a ——!' On such terms did these two great moralists meet and part, and such was the classical dialogue between two great teachers of philosophy."

Wilberforce's version is identical with Scott's, except that it commits the absurdity of making Smith tell not the story itself, but the story of his first telling it. "'Some of our friends,' said Adam Smith, 'were anxious that we should meet, and a party was arranged for the purpose in the course of the evening. I was soon after entering another society, and perhaps with a manner a little confused. "Have you met Dr. Johnson?" my friends exclaimed. "Yes, I have." "And what passed between you?"'" and so on. All this at any rate is legendary outgrowth on the very face of it, and nonsensical even for that. But even the story itself, as told so circumstantially by Scott, is demonstrably mythical in most of its circumstances. Johnson was never in Glasgow except one day, the 29th of October 1773, and in October 1773 Smith was in London, and as we know from an incidental parenthesis in the Wealth of Nations,[124] engaged in the composition of that great work. Hume, again, did not die till 1776, so that there were better and more "obvious reasons" than Scott imagined for Boswell's omitting mention of a meeting between Johnson and Smith at Glasgow which never took place, and a collision between them about a famous letter which was not then written. Time, place, and subject are all alike wrong, but these Scott might think but the mortal parts of the story, and he sometimes varied them in the telling himself. Moore heard him tell it at his own table at Abbotsford somewhat differently from the version he gave to Croker.[125] But when so much is plainly the insensible creation of the imagination, what reliance can be placed on the remainder? All we know is that apparently at their very first meeting those two philosophers did, in Strahan's house in London in September 1761, have a personal altercation of an outrageous character, at which, if not the very words reported by Scott, then words quite as strong must manifestly have passed between them; that their host declared Johnson to be entirely in the wrong, and that Smith withdrew from the company, and would very possibly go, as the story relates, to another company, his Scotch friends at the British Coffee-House in Cockspur Street, then the great Scotch resort,—a house which was kept by the sister of his friend Bishop Douglas, which was frequented much by Wedderburn, John Home, and others, and to which Smith's own letters used to be addressed.

One thing remains to be said: if the world has never been able to suffer this little morsel of scandal to be forgotten, the two principals in the feud themselves were able to forget it entirely. Smith was at a later period in the habit of meeting Johnson constantly at the table of common friends in London, and was elected in 1775 a member of Johnson's famous club, which would of course have been impossible—and indeed in so small a society never have been thought of—had the slightest remnant of animosity continued on either side. Johnson, it is true, was still occasionally rude to Smith, as he was occasionally rude to every other member of the club; and certainly Smith never established with him anything of the cordial personal friendship he enjoyed with Burke, Gibbon, or Reynolds; but their common membership in the Literary Club is proof of the complete burial of their earlier quarrel.


[120] Stewart's Life of Smith; Works, ed. Hamilton, vol. x. p. 95.

[121] Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, iii. 331.

[122] Ibid. i. 427.

[123] Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, v. 369.

[124] Book IV. chap. vii.

[125] Russell's Life of Moore, p. 338.



1763. Aet. 40

In 1763 the Rev. William Ward of Broughton, chaplain to the Marquis of Rockingham, was bringing out his Essay on Grammar, which Sir William Hamilton thought "perhaps the most philosophical essay on the English language extant," and sent an abstract of it to Smith through a common friend, Mr. George Baird, to whom Smith wrote the following letter on the subject:—[126]

GLASGOW, 7th February 1763.

DEAR SIR—I have read over the contents of your Friend's work with very great pleasure; and heartily wish it was in my power to give, or to procure him all the encouragement which his ingenuity and industry deserve. I think myself greatly obliged to him for the very obliging notice he has been pleased to take of me, and should be glad to contribute anything in my power to compleating his design. I approve greatly of his plan for a Rational Grammar, and am convinced that a work of this kind, executed with his abilities and industry, may prove not only the best system of grammar, but the best system of logic in any language, as well as the best history of the natural progress of the human mind in forming the most important abstractions upon which all reasoning depends. From the short abstract which Mr. Ward has been so good as to send me, it is impossible for me to form any very decisive judgment concerning the propriety of every part of his method, particularly of some of his divisions. If I was to treat the same subject, I should endeavour to begin with the consideration of verbs; these being in my apprehension the original parts of speech, first invented to express in one word a compleat event; I should then have endeavoured to show how the subject was divided to form the attribute, and afterwards how the object was distinguished from both; and in this manner I should have tried to investigate the origin and use of all the different parts of speech and of all their different modifications, considered as necessary to express the different qualifications and relations of any single event. Mr. Ward, however, may have excellent reasons for following his own method; and perhaps if I was engaged in the same task I should find it necessary to follow the same; things frequently appearing in a very different light when taken in a general view, which is the only view I can pretend to have taken of them, and when considered in detail.

Mr. Ward, when he mentions the definitions which different authors have given of nouns substantive, takes no notice of that of the Abbe Girard, the author of the book called Les Vrais Principes de la Langue Francoise, which made me think it might be possible that he had not seen it. It is the book which first set me a thinking upon these subjects, and I have received more instruction from it than from any other I have yet seen upon them. If Mr. Ward has not seen it, I have it at his service. The grammatical articles, too, in the French Encyclopedie have given me a good deal of entertainment. Very probably Mr. Ward has seen both these works, and as he may have considered the subject more than I have done, may think less of them. Remember me to Mrs. Baird and Mr. Oswald, and believe me to be, with great truth, dear sir, sincerely yours,


Shortly after the date of this letter, Smith, who was now probably beginning to see the approach of the day when he would lay down his Glasgow professorship in order to superintend the studies of the young Duke of Buccleugh, writes David Hume, pressing for his long-promised visit to the West. The occasion of the letter is to introduce a young gentleman of whom I know nothing, but who was doubtless one of the English students who were attracted to Glasgow by Smith's rising fame. He was possibly the first Earl of Carnarvon, of whose uncle, Nicholas Herbert, Smith told Rogers the story that he had read over once a list of the Eton boys and repeated it four years afterwards to his nephew, then Lord Porchester. Smith said he knew him well. The letter is as follows:—

MY DEAR HUME—This letter will be presented to you by Mr. Henry Herbert, a young gentleman who is very well acquainted with your works, and upon that account extremely desirous of being introduced to the authour. As I am convinced that you will find him extremely agreeable, I shall make no apology for introducing him. He proposes to stay a few days in Edinburgh while the company are there, and would be glad to have the liberty of calling upon you sometimes when it suits your conveniency to receive him. If you indulge him in this, both he and I will think ourselves infinitely obliged to you.

You have been long promising us a visit at Glasgow, and I have made Mr. Herbert promise to endeavour to bring you along with him. Though you have resisted all my sollicitations, I hope you will not resist his. I hope I need not tell you that it will give me the greatest pleasure to see you.—I ever am, my dear friend, most affectionately and sincerely yours,


GLASGOW, 22nd February 1763.[127]

To that letter Hume returned the following answer:—

DEAR SMITH—I was obliged to you both for your kind letter and for the opportunity which you afforded me of making acquaintance with Mr. Herbert, who appears to me a very promising young man. I set up a chaise in May next, which will give me the liberty of travelling about, and you may be sure a journey to Glasgow will be one of the first I shall undertake. I intend to require with great strictness an account how you have been employing your Leisure, and I desire you to be ready for that purpose. Wo be to you if the Ballance be against you. Your friends here will also expect that I should bring you with me. It seems to me very long since I saw you.—Most sincerely,


EDINBURGH, 28th March 1763.[128]

This long-meditated visit was apparently never accomplished, the chaise, notwithstanding. Only a few months more pass and the scene completely changes; the two friends are one after the other transported suddenly to France on new vocations, and their first meeting now was in Paris.

Hume writes Smith from Edinburgh on the 9th of August 1763 intimating his appointment as Secretary to the English Embassy at Paris, and bidding him adieu. "I am a little hurried," he says, "in my preparations, but I could not depart without bidding you adieu, my good friend, and without acquainting you with the reasons of so sudden a movement. I have not great expectations of revisiting this country soon, but I hope it will not be impossible; but we may meet abroad, which will be a great satisfaction to me."[129]

Smith's reply has not been preserved, but it seems to have contained among other things a condemnation, in Smith's most decisive style, of the recent proceedings of his friend Lord Shelburne in connection with various intrigues and negotiations set agoing by the Court and Lord Bute with the view of increasing the power of the Crown in English politics. That appears from a letter Hume writes Smith from London on 13th September, wanting information about his new chief's eldest son, Lord Beauchamp, regarding whom he had once heard Smith mention something told by "that severe critic Mr. Herbert," and to whom Hume was now to act in the capacity of tutor in conjunction with his official duties as Secretary of Legation. Then after relating the story of Bute's negotiations with Pitt through Shelburne, and stating that Lord Shelburne resigned because he found himself obnoxious on account of his share in that negotiation, he says: "I see you are much incensed with that nobleman, but he always speaks of you with regard. I hear that your pupil, Mr. Fitzmaurice, makes a very good figure at Paris."[130]

Smith was always a stout Whig, strongly opposed to any attempt to increase the power of the Crown, and cordially denounced Bute and all his works. He was delighted with the famous No. 45 of the North Briton, published in the April of this very year 1763, and after reading it exclaimed to Dr. Carlyle, "Bravo! this fellow (Wilkes) will either be hanged in six months, or he will get Lord Bute impeached."[131] Shelburne after his resignation in September voted against the Court in the Wilkes affair, but up till then, at any rate, his public conduct could not be viewed by a man of Smith's political principles with anything but the most absolute condemnation, and the condemnation would be all the stronger because, from personal intercourse with his lordship, Smith knew that he was really a man of liberal mind and reforming spirit, from whom he had a right to look for better things.

When Hume arrived in France the first letter he wrote to any of his friends at home was to Smith. He had been only a week in the country, and describes his first experiences of the curious transformation he then suddenly underwent: from being the object of attack and reproach and persecution for half a lifetime among the honest citizens of Edinburgh, he had become the idol of extravagant worship among the great and powerful at the Court of France.

"During the last days in particular," he says, "that I have been at Fontainebleau I have suffered (the expression is not improper) as much flattery as almost any man has ever done in the same time, but there are few days in my life when I have been in good health that I would not rather pass over again.

"I had almost forgot in this effusion, shall I say, of my misanthropy or my vanity to mention the subject which first put my pen in my hand. The Baron d'Holbach, whom I saw at Paris, told me that there was one under his eye that was translating your Theory of Moral Sentiments, and desired me to inform you of it. Mr. Fitzmaurice, your old friend,[132] interests himself strongly in this undertaking. Both of them wish to know if you propose to make any alteration on the work, and desire you to inform me of your intentions in that particular."[133]

Hume's hope of their "not impossible" meeting in Paris was destined to be gratified sooner than he could have conjectured. A few days before Smith received this letter from Hume he had received likewise the following letter from Charles Townshend, intimating that the time had now come for the Duke of Buccleugh to go abroad, and renewing to Smith the offer of the post of travelling tutor to his Grace:—

Dear Sir—The time now drawing near when the Duke of Buccleugh intends to go abroad, I take the liberty of renewing the subject to you: that if you should still have the same disposition to travel with Him I may have the satisfaction of informing Lady Dalkeith and His Grace of it, and of congratulating them upon an event which I know that they, as well as myself, have so much at heart. The Duke is now at Eton: He will remain there until Christmass. He will then spend some short time in London, that he may be presented at Court, and not pass instantaneously from school to a foreign country; but it were to be wished He should not be long in Town, exposed to the habits and companions of London, before his mind has been more formed and better guarded by education and experience.

I do not enter at this moment upon the subject of establishment, because if you have no objection to the situation, I know we cannot differ about the terms. On the contrary, you will find me more sollicitous than yourself to make the connection with Buccleugh as satisfactory and advantageous to you as I am persuaded it will be essentially beneficial to him.

The Duke of Buccleugh has lately made great progress both in his knowledge of ancient languages and in his general taste for composition. With these improvements his amusement from reading and his love of instruction have naturally increased. He has sufficient talents: a very manly temper, and an integrity of heart and reverence for truth, which in a person of his rank and fortune are the firmest foundation of weight in life and uniform greatness. If it should be agreeable to you to finish his education, and mould these excellent materials into a settled character, I make no doubt but he will return to his family and country the very man our fondest hopes have fancied him.

I go to Town next Friday, and should be obliged to you for your answer to this letter.—I am, with sincere affection and esteem, dear sir, your most faithful and most obedient humble servant,


Lady Dalkeith presents her compliments to you.

ADDERBURY, 25th October 1763.[134]

Smith accepted the offer. The terms were a salary of L300 a year, with travelling expenses while abroad, and a pension of L300 a year for life afterwards. He was thus to have twice his Glasgow income, and to have it assured till death. The pension was no doubt a principal inducement to a Scotch professor in those days to take such a post, for a Scotch professor had then no resource in his old age except the price he happened to receive for his chair from his successor in the event of his resignation; and we find several of them—Professors Moor and Robert Simson of Glasgow among others—much harassed with pecuniary cares in their last years. Smith's remuneration was liberal, but nothing beyond what was usual in such situations at the time. Dr. John Moore, who gave up his medical practice in Glasgow a few years later to be tutor to the young Duke of Hamilton, got also L300 a year while actively employed in the tutorship and a pension of L100 a year afterwards.[135] Professor Rouet, who, as already mentioned, sacrificed his chair in Glasgow for his tutorial appointment, is said to have received a pension of L500 a year from Lord Hopetoun, in addition to a pension of L50 he received, in consideration of previous services of the same kind, from Sir John Maxwell; and Professor Adam Ferguson, who was appointed tutor to the Earl of Chesterfield on Smith's recommendation, had L400 a year while on duty, and a pension of L200 a year, which he lived to enjoy for forty years after, receiving from first to last nearly L9000 for his two years' work. Smith did almost as well, for with the pension, which he drew for twenty-four years, he got altogether more than L8000 for his three years' service.

This residence abroad for a few years with a competent tutor was then a common substitute for a university education. The Duke of Buccleugh, for example, was never sent to a university after he came back from his travels with Smith, but married almost immediately on his return, and entered directly into the active duties of life. It was generally thought that travel really supplied a more liberal education and a better preparation for life for a young man of the world than residence at a university; and it is not uninteresting to recall here how strongly Smith disagrees with that opinion in the Wealth of Nations, while admitting that some excuse could be found for it in the low state of learning into which the English universities had suffered themselves to fall:—

"In England it becomes every day more and more the custom to send young people to travel in foreign countries immediately upon their leaving school, and without sending them to any university. Our young people, it is said, generally return home much improved by their travels. A young man who goes abroad at seventeen or eighteen, and returns home at one-and-twenty, returns three or four years older than he was when he went abroad; and at that age it is very difficult not to improve a good deal in three or four years. In the course of his travels he generally acquires some knowledge of one or two foreign languages; a knowledge, however, which is seldom sufficient to enable him either to speak or write them with propriety. In other respects he commonly returns home more conceited, more unprincipled, more dissipated, and more incapable of any serious application, either to study or to business, than he could well have become in so short a time had he lived at home. By travelling so very young, by spending in the most frivolous dissipation the most precious years of his life, at a distance from the inspection and controul of his parents and relations, every useful habit which the earlier parts of his education might have had some tendency to form in him, instead of being riveted and confirmed, is almost necessarily either weakened or effaced. Nothing but the discredit into which the universities are allowing themselves to fall could ever have brought into repute so very absurd a practice as that of travelling at this early period of life. By sending his son abroad, a father delivers himself, at least for some time, from so disagreeable an object as a son unemployed, neglected and going to ruin before his eyes."[136]

Smith must have written Townshend accepting the situation almost immediately on receiving the offer of it, and he at the same time applied to the University authorities for leave of absence for part of the session. He does not as yet resign his chair, nor does he make in his application any formal mention of the nature of the business that required his absence; he merely asks for their sanction to some highly characteristic arrangements which he desired to make in connection with the conduct of his class by a substitute. On the 8th of November 1763, according to the Faculty Records, "Dr. Smith represented that some interesting business would probably require his leaving the College some time this winter, and made the following proposals and request to the meeting:-?

"1st, That if he should be obliged to leave the College without finishing his usual course of lectures, he should pay back to all his students the fees which he shall have received from them; and that if any of them should refuse to accept of such fees, he should in that case pay them to the University.

"2nd, That whatever part of the usual course of lectures he should leave unfinished should be given gratis to the students, by a person to be appointed by the University, with such salary as they shall think proper, which salary is to be paid by Dr. Smith.

"The Faculty accept of the above proposals, and hereby unanimously grant Dr. Smith leave of absence for three months of this session if his business shall require, and at such time as he shall find it necessary."

The reason he asks in the first instance only for this temporary and provisional arrangement is no doubt to be found in the fact that the precise date for the beginning of the tutorship was not yet determined. As it might very possibly be fixed upon suddenly and involve a somewhat rapid call for his services, the precaution of obtaining beforehand a three months' leave of absence would enable him to remain in constant readiness to answer that call whenever it might come, without in the meanwhile requiring him to give up his duties to his Glasgow class prematurely; and it would at the same time allow ample time to the University to make more permanent arrangements before the temporary provision expired. The call when it came did come rather suddenly. Up till the middle of December Smith never received any manner of answer from Townshend, and the matter was not settled till after the Christmas holidays. For on the 12th of December 1763 Smith writes Hume, who was now in Paris:—

MY DEAR HUME—The day before I received your last letter I had the honour of a letter from Charles Townshend, renewing in the most obliging manner his former proposal that I should travel with the Duke of Buccleugh, and informing me that his Grace was to leave Eton at Christmas, and would go abroad very soon after that. I accepted the proposal, but at the same time expressed to Mr. Townshend the difficulties I should have in leaving the University before the beginning of April, and begged to know if my attendance upon his Grace would be necessary before that time. I have yet received no answer to that letter, which, I suppose, is owing to this, that his Grace is not yet come from Eton, and that nothing is yet settled with regard to the time of his going abroad. I delayed answering your letter till I should be able to inform you at what time I should have the pleasure of seeing you....—I ever am, my dearest friend, most faithfully yours,


After the Duke reached London, however, at the Christmas recess, it seems to have been quickly settled to send him out on his travels without more delay, and on the 8th of January 1764 Smith intimated to the Faculty of Glasgow College that he was soon to leave that city under the permission granted him by the Dean of Faculty's meeting of the 8th of November, and that he had returned to the students all the fees he had received that session. He likewise acquainted the meeting that he proposed to pay his salary as paid by the College for one half-year, commencing the 10th of October previous, to the person who should teach his class for the remainder of the session. Mr. Thomas Young, student of divinity, was, on Smith's recommendation, chosen for this purpose. A committee was appointed to receive from Smith the private library of the Moral Philosophy class; next day at a meeting of Senatus he was paid the balance due to him on his accounts as Quaestor, and was entrusted with a copy of Foulis's large Homer, which they asked him to carry to London and deliver, in their name, to Sir James Gray, as a present to his Sicilian majesty, who had shown them some favour; and the Senate-room of Glasgow knew him no more.

His parting with his students was not quite so simple. They made some difficulty, as he seems to have anticipated, about taking back the fees they had paid him for his class, and he was obliged to resort almost to force before he succeeded in getting them to do so. The curious scene is described by Alexander Fraser Tytler (Lord Woodhouselee) in his Life of Lord Kames: "After concluding his last lecture, and publicly announcing from the chair that he was now taking a final leave of his auditors, acquainting them at the same time with the arrangements he had made, to the best of his power, for their benefit, he drew from his pocket the several fees of the students, wrapped up in separate paper parcels, and beginning to call up each man by his name, he delivered to the first who was called the money into his hand. The young man peremptorily refused to accept it, declaring that the instruction and pleasure he had already received was much more than he either had repaid or ever could compensate, and a general cry was heard from every one in the room to the same effect. But Mr. Smith was not to be bent from his purpose. After warmly expressing his feelings of gratitude and the strong sense he had of the regard shown to him by his young friends, he told them this was a matter betwixt him and his own mind, and that he could not rest satisfied unless he performed what he deemed right and proper. 'You must not refuse me this satisfaction; nay, by heavens, gentlemen, you shall not;' and seizing by the coat the young man who stood next him, he thrust the money into his pocket and then pushed him from him. The rest saw it was in vain to contest the matter, and were obliged to let him have his own way."[138]

This is a signal proof of the scrupulous delicacy of Smith's honour; he had firmly determined not to touch a shilling of this money, and if the students had persisted in refusing it he intended, as we have seen, to give it to the funds of the University. Many may think his delicacy even excessive, for it is common enough for a professor's class to be conducted by a substitute in the absence, through ill-health or other causes, of the professor himself, and nobody thinks the students suffer any such injury by the arrangement as to call for even a reduction of the fees. What Smith would have done had his absence been due to ill-health one cannot say, but as his engagement with the students for a session's lectures was broken off by his own spontaneous acceptance of an office of profit, he felt he could not honourably retain the wages when he had failed to implement the engagement,—a thing which a barrister in large practice does without scruple every day.

The same sense of right led Smith to resign his chair. He did not do so till he reached France, but he manifestly contemplated doing it from the first, for he only made arrangements for paying his substitute till the end of the first half of the session, by which time he would expect his successor to have entered on office, as indeed actually happened, for Reid came there in the beginning of June. Moreover, his resignation was evidently an understood thing at the University long before it was really sent in, for a good deal of intriguing had already been going on for the place. The Lord Privy Seal (the Hon. James Stuart Mackenzie, Lord Bute's brother), who was Scotch Minister, writes Baron Mure on the 2nd February 1764, a fortnight before Smith resigned, asking whether it was true the University were to appoint Dr. Wight to succeed Smith, and mentions incidentally having had some conversation with Smith himself (apparently in London) on the subject, particularly with regard to the possible claims of Mr. Young, his substitute, to the appointment.

It was not always necessary—nor, indeed, does it seem to have been the more usual practice—for a Scotch professor to resign his chair on accepting a temporary place like a travelling tutorship. Adam Ferguson fought the point successfully with the Edinburgh Town Council when he left England as tutor to Lord Chesterfield; and Dalzel, when Professor of Greek in Edinburgh, went to live at Oxford as tutor to Lord Maitland; but we have already seen, in connection with the case of Professor Rouet, that Smith held strong views against the encouragement of absenteeism and the growth of any feeling that the University was there for the convenience of the professors, instead of the professors being there for the service of the University.

Under these circumstances it was natural for Smith to resign his chair on his acceptance of the tutorship; and although he only sent the letter of resignation after his arrival in France, it is perhaps more convenient to print it here in its natural connection with Glasgow University affairs than to defer it to its more strictly chronological place in the chapter describing his French travels. The letter is addressed "To the Right Hon. Thomas Miller, Esq., His Majesty's Advocate for Scotland," Lord Rector of Glasgow University at the time; and it runs as follows:

MY LORD—I take this first opportunity after my arrival in this place, which was not till yesterday, to resign my office into the hands of your lordship, of the Dean of Faculty, of the Principal of the College, and of all my other most respectable and worthy colleagues. Into your and their hands, therefor, I do hereby resign my office of Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow and in the College thereof, with all the emoluments, privileges, and advantages which belong to it. I reserve, however, my right to the salary for the current half year, which commenced at the 10th of October for one part of my salary and at Martinmas last for another; and I desire that this salary may be paid to the gentleman who does that part of my duty which I was obliged to leave undone, in the manner agreed on between my very worthy colleagues and me before we parted. I never was more anxious for the good of the College than at this moment; and I sincerely wish that whoever is my successor may not only do credit to the office by his abilities, but be a comfort to the very excellent men with whom he is likely to spend his life, by the probity of his heart and the goodness of his temper.—I have the honour to be, my lord, your lordship's most obedient and most faithful servant,


PARIS, 14th February 1764.[139]

The Senate accepted his resignation on the 1st of March, and expressed their regret at his loss in the following terms: "The University cannot help at the same time expressing their sincere regret at the removal of Dr. Smith, whose distinguished probity and amiable qualities procured him the esteem and affection of his colleagues; whose uncommon genius, great abilities, and extensive learning did so much honour to this society; his elegant and ingenious Theory of Moral Sentiments having recommended him to the esteem of men of taste and literature throughout Europe. His happy talents in illustrating abstracted subjects, and faithful assiduity in communicating useful knowledge, distinguished him as a professor, and at once afforded the greatest pleasure and the most important instruction to the youth under his care."


[126] Nichol's Literary Illustrations, iii. 515.

[127] Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.

[128] Ibid. Printed by Burton.

[129] Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 157.

[130] Ibid., ii. 163.

[131] Carlyle's Autobiography, p. 431.

[132] See above, p. 58.

[133] Burton's Life of Hume, ii. 168.

[134] Original in possession of Professor Cunningham, Belfast.

[135] Caldwell Papers, i. 192.

[136] Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. i. art. ii.

[137] Fraser's Scotts of Buccleuch, ii. 403.

[138] Tytler's Kames, i. 278.

[139] Glasgow University Records.



Smith joined his pupil in London in the end of January 1764, and they set out together for France in the beginning of February. They remained abroad two years and a half—ten days in Paris, eighteen months in Toulouse, two months travelling in the South of France, two months in Geneva, and ten months in Paris again. Smith kept no journal and wrote as few letters as possible, but we are able from various sources to fill in some of the outlines of their course of travel.

At Dover they were joined by Sir James Macdonald of Sleat, a young baronet who had been at Eton College with the Duke of Buccleugh, and who had been living in France almost right on since the re-establishment of peace. Sir James was heir of the old Lords of the Isles, and son of the lady who, with her factor Kingsburgh, harboured Prince Charlie and Flora Macdonald in Skye; and he was himself then filling the world of letters in Paris and London alike with astonishment at the extent of his knowledge and the variety of his intellectual gifts. Walpole, indeed, said that when he grew older he would choose to know less, but to Grimm he seemed the same marvel of parts as he seemed to Hume. He accompanied Smith and the Duke to Paris, where they arrived (as we know from Smith's letter to the Rector of Glasgow University) on the 13th of February.

In Paris they did not remain long—not more than ten days at most, for it took at that period six days to go from Paris to Toulouse, and they were in Toulouse on the 4th of March. Smith does not appear during this short stay in Paris to have made the personal acquaintance of any of the eminent men of letters whom he afterwards knew so well, for he never mentions any of them in his subsequent letters to Hume from Toulouse, though he occasionally mentions Englishmen whose acquaintance he first made at that time. He probably could not as yet speak French, for even to the last he could only speak it very imperfectly. Most of their time in Paris seems, therefore, to have been spent with Hume and Sir James Macdonald and Lord Beauchamp, who was Hume's pupil and Sir James's chief friend. Paris, moreover, was merely a halting-place for the present; their immediate destination was Toulouse, at that time a favourite resort of the English. It was the second city of the kingdom, and wore still much of the style of an ancient capital. It was the seat of an archbishopric, of a university, of a parliament, of modern academies of science and art which made some ado with their annual Jeux Floraux, and the nobility of the province still had their town houses there, and lived in them all winter. The society was more varied and refined than anywhere else in France out of Paris.

Among the English residents was a cousin of David Hume, who had entered the Gallican Church, and was then Vicar-General of the diocese of Toulouse, the Abbe Seignelay Colbert. Smith brought a letter from Hume to the Abbe, and the Abbe writes Hume in reply on the 4th of March, thanking him for having introduced Smith, who, he says, appeared to be all that was said of him in the letter. "He has only just arrived," the Abbe proceeds, "and I have only seen him for an instant. I am very sorry that they have not found the Archbishop here. He went some six weeks ago to Montpellier, whence he will soon go to Paris. He told me he had a great desire to make your acquaintance. I fear that my long black cassock will frighten the Duke of Buccleugh, but apart from that I should omit nothing to make his stay in this town as agreeable and useful as possible."[140] He writes again on the 22nd of April, after having a month's experience of his new friends: "Mr. Smith is a sublime man. His heart and his mind are equally admirable. Messrs. Malcolm and Mr. Urquhart of Cromartie are now here. The Duke, his pupil, is a very amiable spirit, and does his exercises well, and is making progress in French. If any English or Scotch people ask your advice where to go for their studies, you could recommend Toulouse. There is a very good academy and much society, and some very distinguished people to be seen here." In a subsequent letter he says, "There are many English people here, and the district suits them well."[141]

This Abbe Colbert, who was Smith's chief guide and friend in the South of France, was the eldest son of Mr. Cuthbert of Castlehill in Inverness-shire, and was therefore head of the old Highland family to which Colbert, the famous minister of Louis XIV., was so anxious to trace his descent. That minister had himself gone the length of petitioning the Scotch Privy Council for a birth-brieve, or certificate, to attest his descent from the Castlehill family, and the petition was refused through the influence of the Duke of Lauderdale. But his successor, the Marquis de Seignelay, found the Scotch Parliament more accommodating in 1686 than the Scotch Privy Council had been, and obtained the birth-brieve in an Act of that year, which was passed, as it states, in order that "this illustrious and noble family of Colbert may be restored to us their friends and to their native country," and which declared that the family came from the south of Scotland, took their name from St. Cuthbert (pronounced, says the Act, by the Scotch Culbert, though "soaftened" by the French into Colbert), and received their arms for their valour in the battle of Harlaw.

The link between the Scotch Cuthberts and the French Colberts, thus attested by Act of Parliament, may or may not be fabulous, but it was a link of gold to many members of the family of Castlehill, who emigrated to France, and were advanced into high positions through the interest of their French connections. One of these was the present Abbe, who had come over in 1750 a boy of fourteen, was now at twenty-eight Vicar-General of Toulouse, and was in 1781 made Bishop of Rodez. As Bishop he distinguished himself by the work he did for the improvement of agriculture and industry in his diocese, and, as member of the States General in 1789, he became the hero of the hour in Paris and was carried shoulder-high through the streets for proposing the union of the clergy with the Third Estate. When the Civil Constitution of the clergy was declared he refused to submit, and returning to this country, spent the remainder of his days here as Secretary to Louis XVIII.

It would appear from the Abbe's first letter that Smith had either brought with him from Paris an introduction to the Archbishop of Toulouse, or that Hume had asked his cousin to give him one. This Archbishop—who was so desirous to make Hume's acquaintance—was the celebrated Lomenie de Brienne, afterwards Cardinal and Minister of France, who was thought at this time, Walpole says, to be the ablest man in the Gallican Church, and was pronounced by Hume to be the only man in France capable of restoring the greatness of the kingdom. When he obtained the opportunity he signally falsified Hume's prognostication, and did much to precipitate the Revolution by his incapacity. Smith must no doubt have met him occasionally during his protracted sojourn at Toulouse, though we have no evidence that he did, and the Archbishop was rather notorious for his absence from his see. If he did meet his Grace he would have found him as advanced an economist as himself, for having been a college friend of Turgot and Morellet at the Sorbonne, he became a strong advocate of their new economic principles, and succeeded in getting the principle of free trade in corn adopted by the States of Languedoc. Whether they were personally acquainted or not, the Archbishop does not appear to have cherished any profound regard for Smith, for when he was Minister of France he refused his friend Morellet the trifling sum of a hundred francs, which the Abbe asked to pay for the printing of his translation of the Wealth of Nations.

During Smith's first six months at Toulouse he does not seem to have seen the Archbishop, or to have seen much of anybody, as the following letter shows. Indeed he found the place extremely dull, the life he led in Glasgow having been, he says, dissipation itself in comparison. They had not received the letters of recommendation they had expected from the Duc de Choiseul, and for society they were as yet practically confined to the Abbe Colbert and the English residents. For a diversion Smith contemplates an excursion to Bordeaux, and suggests a visit for a month from Sir James Macdonald, for the sake not only of his agreeable society, but of the service "his influence and example" would render the Duke. Personally he had, to mitigate his solitude, taken a measure no less important than effectual—he had begun to write a book—the Wealth of Nations—"to pass away the time. You may believe I have very little to do."

They had arrived in Toulouse on the 3rd or 4th of March, but it is the 5th of July before Smith thinks of writing Hume; at least the following letter reads as if it were the first since they parted:—

MY DEAREST FRIEND—The Duke of Buccleugh proposes soon to set out for Bordeaux, where he intends to stay a fortnight or more. I should be much obliged to you if you could send us recommendations to the Duke of Richelieu, the Marquis de Lorges, and the Intendant of the Province. Mr. Townshend assured me that the Duc de Choiseul was to recommend us to all the people of fashion here and everywhere else in France. We have heard nothing, however, of these recommendations, and have had our way to make as well as we could by the help of the Abbe, who is a stranger here almost as much as we. The Progress indeed we have made is not very great. The Duke is acquainted with no Frenchman whatever. I cannot cultivate the acquaintance of the few with whom I am acquainted, as I cannot bring them to our house, and am not always at liberty to go to theirs. The life which I led at Glasgow was a pleasurable dissipated life in comparison of that which I lead here at Present. I have begun to write a book in order to pass away the time. You may believe I have very little to do. If Sir James would come and spend a month with us in his travels, it would not only be a great satisfaction to me, but he might by his influence and example be of great service to the Duke. Mention these matters, however, to nobody but to him. Remember me in the most respectful manner to Lord Beauchamp and to Dr. Trail,[142] and believe me, my dear friend, ever yours,


TOULOUSE, 5th July 1764.[143]

The trip to Bordeaux was taken probably in August, and in the company of Abbe Colbert. At Bordeaux they fell in with Colonel Barre, the furious orator, whose invective made even Charles Townshend quail, but who was now over on a visit to his French kinsfolk, and making the hearts of these simple people glad with his natural kindnesses. He seems to have been much with Smith and his party during their stay in Bordeaux, and to have accompanied them back to Toulouse. For he writes Hume on the 4th of September from the latter town, and says: "I thank you for your last letter from Paris, which I received just as Smith and his eleve and L'Abbe Colbert were sitting down to dine with me at Bordeaux. The latter is a very honest fellow and deserves to be a bishop; make him one if you can.... Why will you triumph and talk of platte couture? You have friends on both sides. Smith agrees with me in thinking that you are turned soft by the delices of the French Court, and that you don't write in that nervous manner you was remarkable for in the more northern climates. Besides, what is still worse, you take your politics from your Elliots, Rigbys, and Selwyns."[144]

Smith was already acquainted with Barre before he left Scotland, where the colonel, for services rendered to Lord Shelburne, held the lucrative post of Governor of Stirling Castle; and now he could not go sight-seeing in a French town under two better guides than Barre and Colbert—a Frenchman who had become an English politician, and an Englishman who had become a French ecclesiastic. He seems to have been struck with the contrast between the condition of the working class in Bordeaux and their condition in Toulouse, as he had already been struck with the same contrast between Glasgow and Edinburgh. In Bordeaux they were in general industrious, sober, and thriving; in Toulouse and the rest of the parliament towns they were idle and poor; and the reason was that Bordeaux was a commercial town, the entrepot of the wine trade of a rich wine district, while Toulouse and the rest were merely residential towns, employing little capital more than was necessary to supply their own consumption. The common people were always better off in a town like Bordeaux, where they lived on capital, than in a town like Toulouse, where they lived on revenue.[145] But while he speaks as if he thought the people of Bordeaux more sober as well as more industrious than the people of Toulouse, he looked upon the inhabitants of the southern provinces of France generally as among the soberest people in Europe, and ascribes their sobriety to the cheapness of their liquor. "People are seldom guilty of excess," he says, "in what is their daily fare." He tells that when a French regiment came from some of the northern provinces of France, where wine was somewhat dear, to be quartered in the southern, where wine was very cheap, the soldiers were at first debauched by the cheapness and novelty of good wine; but after a few months' residence the greater part of them became as sober as the rest of the inhabitants. And he thinks the same effect might occur in this country from a reduction of the wine, malt, and ale duties.[146]

Besides seeing the places, they visited some of the notabilities, to whom the Earl of Hertford had sent them the letters of introduction for which Smith had asked through Hume. The governor of the province was away from home at the time, however; but Smith hoped to see him on a second visit to Bordeaux he was presently to pay to meet his pupil's younger brother on his way round from Paris to Toulouse. But they found the Duke of Richelieu at home, and the gallant old field-marshal, the hero of a hundred fights and a thousand scandals, seems to have received them with great civility and even distinction. Smith used to have much to say ever afterwards of this famous and ill-famed man.

The excursion to Bordeaux in August was so agreeable that they made another—probably in September—up to the fashionable watering-place Bagneres de Bigorre, and in October, when Smith wrote the following letter to Hume, they were on the eve of the second visit to Bordeaux of which I have spoken, and even contemplating after that a visit to Montpellier, when the States of Languedoc—the local assembly of the province—met there in the end of November.

TOULOUSE, 21st October 1764.

MY DEAR HUME—I take this opportunity of Mr. Cook's going to Paris to return to you, and thro' you to the Ambassador, my very sincere and hearty thanks for the very honourable manner in which he was so good as to mention me to the Duke of Richelieu in the letter of recommendation which you sent us. There was, indeed, one small mistake in it. He called me Robinson instead of Smith. I took upon me to correct this mistake myself before the Duke delivered the letter. We were all treated by the Marechal with the utmost Politeness and attention, particularly the Duke, whom he distinguished in a very proper manner. The Intendant was not at Bordeaux, but we shall soon have an opportunity of delivering his letter, as we propose to return to that place in order to meet my Lord's Brother.

Mr. Cook[147] goes to Caen to wait upon Mr. Scot, and to attend him from that place to Toulouse. He will pass by Paris, and I must beg the favour of you that as soon as you understand he is in town you will be so good as to call upon him and carry him to the Ambassador's, as well as to any other place where he would chuse to go. I must beg the same favour of Sir James. Mr. Cook will let you know when he comes to town. I have great reason to entertain the most favourable opinion of Mr. Scot, and I flatter myself his company will be both useful and agreeable to his Brother. Our expedition to Bordeaux and another we have made since to Bagneres has made a great change upon the Duke. He begins now to familiarise himself to French company, and I flatter myself I shall spend the rest of the time we are to live together not only in Peace and contentment, but in gayetty and amusement.

When Mr. Scot joins us we propose to go to see the meeting of the States of Languedoc at Montpelier. Could you promise us recommendations to the Comte d'Eu, to the Archbishop of Narbonne, and to the Intendant? These expeditions, I find, are of the greatest service to my Lord.—I ever am, my dear friend, most, faithfully yours,


A few days after the date of that letter Smith writes Hume again, introducing one of the English residents in Toulouse, Mr. Urquhart of Cromartie, as Abbe Colbert describes him in one of his letters, a descendant therefore probably of Sir Thomas. The letter is of no importance, but it shows at least Smith's hearty liking for a good fellow.

MY DEAR FRIEND—This letter will be delivered to you by Mr. Urquhart, the only man I ever knew who had a better temper than yourself. You will find him most perfectly amiable. I recommend him in the most earnest manner to your advice and protection. He is not a man of letters, and is just a plain, sensible, agreeable man of no pretensions of any kind, but whom you will love every day better and better.—My dear friend, most faithfully yours,


TOULOUSE, 4th November 1764.[149]

Smith and his two pupils made their proposed expedition to Montpellier during the sittings of the States, for we find them visited there by Horne Tooke,[150] then still parson of Brentford, who had been on a tour in Italy, and stayed some time in Montpellier on his way back. Tooke, it may be said here, was no admirer of Smith; he thought the Theory of Moral Sentiments nonsense, and the Wealth of Nations written for a wicked purpose,[151] and this is the only occasion on which they are known to have met.

The little provincial assembly which Smith had come to Montpellier to see was at that period, it ought to be mentioned, attracting much attention from all the thinkers and reformers of France, and was thought by many of the first of them to furnish the solution of the political question of that age. The States of Languedoc were almost the only remains of free institutions then left in France. In all the thirty-two provinces of the country except six the States had been suppressed altogether, and in five of these six they were too small to be important or vigorous; but Languedoc was a great province, containing twenty-three bishoprics and more territory than the kingdom of Belgium, and the States governed its affairs so well that its prosperity was the envy of the rest of France. They dug canals, opened harbours, drained marshes, made roads, which Arthur Young singles out for praise, and made them without the corvee under which the rest of rural France was groaning. They farmed the imperial taxes of the province themselves, to avoid the exactions of the farmers-general. They allowed the noblesse none of the exemptions so unfairly enjoyed by them elsewhere. The taille, which was a personal tax in other parts of the kingdom, was in Languedoc an equitable land tax, assessed according to a valuation periodically revised. There was not a poorhouse in the whole province, and such was its prosperity and excellent administration that it enjoyed better credit in the market than the Central Government, and the king used sometimes, in order to get more favourable terms, to borrow on the security of the States of Languedoc instead of his own.[152]

Under those circumstances it is not surprising that one of the favourite remedies for the political situation in France was the revival of the provincial assemblies and the suppression of the intendants—"Grattan's Parliament and the abolition of the Castle." Turgot, among others, favoured this solution, though he was an intendant himself. Necker had just put it into execution when the Revolution came and swept everything away. Smith himself has expressed the strongest opinion in favour of the administration of provincial affairs by a local body instead of by an intendant, and he must have witnessed with no ordinary interest the proceedings of this remarkable little assembly at Montpellier, with its 23 prelates on the right, its 23 barons on the left, and the third estate—representatives of 23 chief towns and 23 dioceses—in the centre, and on a dais in front of all, the President, the Archbishop of Narbonne. The Archbishop, to whom, it will be remembered, Smith asked, and no doubt received, a letter of introduction from Lord Hertford, was a countryman of his own, Cardinal Dillon, a prince of prelates, afterwards Minister of France; a strong champion of the rights of the States against the pretensions of the Crown, and, if we may judge from the speech with which Miss Knight heard him open the States of Languedoc in 1776, a very thorough free-trader.

With all these excursions, Smith was now evidently realising in some reasonable measure the "gayetty and amusement" he told Hume he anticipated to enjoy during the rest of his stay in the South of France. His command of the language, too, grew easier, though it never became perfect, and he not only went more into society, but was able to enjoy it better. Among those he saw most of in Toulouse were, he used to tell Stewart, the presidents and counsellors of the Parliament, who were noted, like their class in other parliament towns, for their hospitality, and noted above those of other parliament towns for keeping up the old tradition of blending their law with a love of letters. They were men, moreover, of proved patriotism and independence; in no other society would Smith be likely to hear more of the oppressed condition of the peasantry, and the necessity for thoroughgoing reforms. In those days the king's edict did not run in a province till it was registered by the local parliament, and the Parliament of Toulouse often used this privilege of theirs to check bad measures. They had in 1756 remonstrated with the king against the corvee, declaring that the condition of the peasantry of France was "a thousand times less tolerable than the condition of the slaves in America." At the very moment of Smith's first arrival in Toulouse they were all thrown in prison—or at least put under arrest in their own houses—for refusing to register the centieme denier, and Smith no doubt had that circumstance in his mind when he animadverted in the Wealth of Nations on the violence practised by the French Government to coerce its parliaments. He thought very highly of those parliaments as institutions, stating that though not very convenient courts of law, they had never been accused or even suspected of corruption, and he gives a curious reason for their incorruptibility; it was because they were not paid by salary, but by fees dependent on their diligence.

During Smith's residence in Toulouse the town was raging (as Abbe Colbert mentions in his letters to Hume) about one of the judgments of this Parliament, and for the most part, strangely enough, taking the Parliament's side. This was its judgment in the famous Calas case, to which Smith alludes in the last edition of his Theory. Jean Calas, it may be remembered, had a son who had renounced his Protestantism in order to become eligible for admission to the Toulouse bar, and then worried himself so much about his apostasy that he committed suicide in his father's house; and the father was unjustly accused before the Parliament of the town of having murdered the youth on account of his apostasy, was found guilty without a particle of proof, and then broken on the wheel and burnt on the 9th of March 1762. But the great voice of Voltaire rose against this judicial atrocity, and after three years' agitation procured a new trial before a special court of fifty masters of requests, of whom Turgot was one, on the 9th of March 1765, with the result that Calas was pronounced absolutely innocent of the crime he suffered for, and his family was awarded a compensation of 36,000 livres. The king received them at court, and all France rejoiced in their rehabilitation except their own townsfolk in Toulouse. On the 10th of April 1765—a month after the verdict—Abbe Colbert writes Hume: "The people here would surprise you with their fanaticism. In spite of all that has happened, they every man believe Calas to be guilty, and it is no use speaking to them on the subject."[153]

Smith makes use of the incident to illustrate the proposition that while unmerited praise gives no satisfaction except to the frivolous, unmerited reproach inflicts the keenest suffering even on men of exceptional endurance, because the injustice destroys the sweetness of the praise, but enormously embitters the sting of the condemnation. "The unfortunate Calas," he writes—"a man of much more than ordinary constancy (broken upon the wheel and burnt at Tholouse for the supposed murder of his own son, of which he was perfectly innocent)—seemed with his last breath to deprecate not so much the cruelty of the punishment, as the disgrace which the imputation must bring upon his memory. After he had been broke, and when just going to be thrown into the fire, the monk who attended the execution exhorted him to confess the crime for which he had been condemned. 'My father,' said Calas, 'can you bring yourself to believe that I was guilty?'"


[140] Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Lord Beauchamp was the eldest son of the English Ambassador, the Earl of Hertford, and Dr. Trail, or properly Traill, was the Ambassador's chaplain, who was made Bishop of Down and Connor soon afterwards, when Lord Hertford became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.

[143] Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.

[144] Burton's Letters of Eminent Persons to David Hume, p. 37.

[145] Wealth of Nations, Book II. chap. iii.

[146] Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. xi.

[147] The Duke's servant.

[148] Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.

[149] Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.

[150] Stephen's Life of Horne Tooke, i. 75.

[151] Samuel Rogers told this to his friend the Rev. John Mitford. See Add. MSS. 32,566.

[152] Tocqueville, State of Society in France, pp. 265, 271.

[153] Hume Correspondence, R.S.E. Library.



In the end of August Smith and his pupils left Toulouse and made what Stewart calls an extensive tour in the South of France. Of this tour no other record remains, but the Duke's aunt, Lady Mary Coke, incidentally mentions that when they were at Marseilles they visited the porcelain factory, and that the Duke bought two of the largest services ever sold there, for which he paid more than L150 sterling. They seem to have arrived in Geneva some time in October, and stayed about two months in the little republic of which, as we have seen, Smith had long been a fervent admirer. In making so considerable a sojourn at Geneva, he was no doubt influenced as a political philosopher by the desire to see something of the practical working of those republican institutions which he regarded speculatively with so much favour, to observe how the common problems of government worked themselves out on the narrow field of a commonwealth with only 24,000 inhabitants all told, which yet contrived to keep its place among the nations, to sit sometimes as arbiter between them, and to surpass them all in the art of making its people prosperous. He had the luck to observe it at an interesting moment, for it was in the thick of a constitutional crisis. The government of the republic had hitherto been vested in the hands of 200 privileged families, and the rest of the citizens were now pressing their right to a share in it, with the active assistance of Voltaire. This important struggle for the conversion of the aristocratic into the democratic republic continued all through the period of Smith's visit, and the city of Geneva, which in its usual state was described by Voltaire as "a tedious convent with some sensible people in it," was day after day at this time the animated scene of the successive acts of that political drama.

During his stay there Smith made many personal friends, both among the leading citizens of the commonwealth and among the more distinguished of the foreign visitors who generally abounded there. People went to Geneva in those days not to see the lake or the mountains, but to consult Dr. Tronchin and converse with Voltaire. Smith needed no introduction to Tronchin, who, as we have seen, held so high an opinion of his abilities that he had sent his own son all the way to Glasgow to attend his philosophical classes; and it was no doubt through Tronchin, Voltaire's chief friend in that quarter, that Smith was introduced to Voltaire. Smith told Rogers he had been in Voltaire's company on five or six different occasions, and he no doubt enjoyed, as most English visitors enjoyed, hospitable entertainment at Ferney, the beautiful little temporality of the great literary pontiff, overlooking the lake.

There was no living name before which Smith bowed with profounder veneration than the name of Voltaire, and his recollections of their intercourse on these occasions were always among those he cherished most warmly. Few memorials, however, of their conversation remain, and these are preserved by Samuel Rogers in his diary of his visit to Edinburgh the year before Smith's death. They seem to have spoken, as was very natural, of the Duke of Richelieu, the only famous Frenchman Smith had yet met, and of the political question as to the revival of the provincial assemblies or the continuance of government by royal intendants. On this question Smith said that Voltaire expressed great aversion to the States and favoured the side of the royal prerogative. Of the Duke of Richelieu Voltaire said that he was an old friend of his, but a singular character. A few years before his death his foot slipped one day at Versailles, and the old marshal said that was the first faux pas he had ever made at court. Voltaire then seems to have told anecdotes of the Duke's being bastilled and of his borrowing the Embassy plate at Vienna and never returning it, and to have passed the remark he made elsewhere that the English had only one sauce, melted butter. Smith always spoke of Voltaire with a genuine emotion of reverence. When Samuel Rogers happened to describe some clever but superficial author as "a Voltaire," Smith brought his hand down on the table with great energy and said, "Sir, there is only one Voltaire."[154] Professor Faujas Saint Fond, Professor of Geology in the Museum of Natural History in Paris, visited Smith in Edinburgh a few years before Rogers was there, and says that the animation of Smith's countenance was striking when he spoke of Voltaire, whom he had known personally, and whose memory he revered. "Reason," said Smith one day, as he showed M. Saint Fond a fine bust of Voltaire he had in his room, "reason owes him incalculable obligations. The ridicule and the sarcasm which he so plentifully bestowed upon fanatics and heretics of all sects have enabled the understanding of men to bear the light of truth, and prepared them for those inquiries to which every intelligent mind ought to aspire. He has done much more for the benefit of mankind than those grave philosophers whose books are read by a few only. The writings of Voltaire are made for all and read by all." On another occasion he observed to the same visitor, "I cannot pardon the Emperor Joseph II., who pretended to travel as a philosopher, for passing Ferney without doing homage to the historian of the Czar Peter I. From this circumstance I concluded that Joseph was but a man of inferior mind."[155]

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