A Blupete Biography Page

Hume's Life, Part 2 to the Life & Works of
David Hume

David Hume was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1711; he died there in 1776. Hume's widowed mother5 devoted herself to the education of "several young children." She came from an influential family, her father being Sir David Falconer, President of the College of Justice. The family, if not David, had thoughts that David should choose the law as a profession. I am not sure what concrete steps Hume took in this direction; but, at some point, he gave it up and moved in with his brother. At the age of 23, in March of 1734, Hume left Scotland for Bristol visiting London on the way. He had determined to attach himself to a merchant located at Bristol and to learn something of the business world. This venture, for whatever reason, did not work out; for, within a matter of months we see where Hume left Bristol and traveled to France.6 "There," Hume writes, "I laid that plan of life which I have steadily and successfully pursued. I resolved to make a very rigid frugality to supply my deficiency of fortune, to maintain unimpaired my independency, and to regard every object as contemptible except the improvement of my talents in literature."

Hume was to stay three years in France during which time he was to work on his first book, A Treatise of Human Nature. During September of 1737, Hume returned from France and passed 16 months at London polishing and publishing his work;7 after which, he went home, "Ninewells, near Berwick," there, to languish at his family's "fair domain."8 He sought employment at the university at Edinburgh (Professorship of Moral Philosophy) and though he had powerful support, he did not get the job "on account of his well-known sentiments on religious subjects."9

In 1752, after a failed attempt (once again) to gain a university position (a chair in logic at Glasgow) Hume was appointed the Keeper of the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. Hume's connections included General Sinclair to whom, for a period of time, during the 1740s, he was secretary at the military embassies at Vienna and Turin (northern Italy).10 In 1763 he went to the embassy at Paris as Lord Hertford's secretary, a place at which Hume as Charge d'affaires stayed after Hertford went off to govern Ireland in 1765. Though "entirely unmoved by the raptures of Paris," Hume moved in the highest of circles. "In the gay and fashionable circles of Paris his fame, station, and agreeable bearing, secured him so hearty a welcome that ladies and princes, wits and philosophers, vied in their attentions." On his return to England, in 1766, Hume was appointed by Lord Hertford's brother, General Conway, as an Under-Secretary of State, a position in the Home Office. However, on account of failing health, Hume was obliged to give up his Home Office position after about a year. After a short stay at Bath, in order to take of its healing waters, he returned to Edinburgh to spend his last few years; he died there on the 25th of August, 1776; and, was buried in the Calton Hill cemetery.

Hume never married and as a bachelor led a peripatetic life. At Scotland with his family he enjoyed a "sophisticated, gregarious and bucolic intellectual life ... Hume valued friendship as one of the highest virtues, and conversation and claret as two of the major props of civilized living."11 Hume described himself as "a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions."12

Though, in his day, Hume was better known as a historian, he is, today, remembered as a philosopher. Hume's philosophical work, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, was written in 1748. It was a follow up to an earlier work, a more esoteric effort, a less popular work, A Treatise of Human Nature.13 In addition, in 1752, Hume wrote Political Discourses. In 1755, he wrote The Natural History of Religion; and, then, between the years 1754-62, he set forth his six volume, History of England; which, though despite its errors of fact,14 was the standard work for many years.15

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Peter Landry

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2011