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hand, they might not be able to discover me. But as it lay by me for some weeks afterwards, I could not forbear reviewing it; and not having my amar nuensis at hand, I was obliged, in several places, to correct it myself, rather than allow it to go to the press with inaccuracies of which I was sensible. I little dreamed that this small want of precaution would have betrayed me so soon ; but as you know that I am very indifferent about princes or presidents, ministers of the gospel or ministers of state, kings or keysars, and set at defiance all powers, human or infernal, I had no other reason for concealing myself, but in order to try the taste of the public ; whom, though I also set in some degree at defiance, I cannot sometimes forbear paying a little regard to. 1 find that frivolous composition has been better received than I had any reason to expect, and therefore cannot much complain of the injury you have done me by revealing my secret, and obliging me to acknowledge it more early than I intended. The only reason of my writing to you is, to know the printer's name, who has so far broke his engagements as to shew the manuscript; for the bookseller assured my friend to whom I entrusted it, that we might depend upon an absolute secrecy. I beg my compliments to Mrs Carlyle, and am,
Copy of passage in a Letter from Mr David Hume to Dr Blair, dated Park Place, London, 28/A March, 1769.
"The Fatal Discovery succeeded, and deserved it. It has feeling, though not equal to Douglas, in my opinion. The versification of it is not enough finished. Our friend escaped by lying concealed; but the success of all plays in this age is very feeble; and people now heed the theatre almost as little as the pulpit. History now is the favourite reading, and our other friend,* the favourite historian. Nothing can be more successful than his last production, nor more deservedly. I agree with you; it is beyond his first performance, as was indeed natural to expect. I hope, for a certain reason which I keep to myself, that he does not intend, in his third work, to go beyond his second, though I am damnably afraid he will, for the subject is much more interesting. Neither the character of Charles V., nor the incidents of his life, are very interesting; and, were it not for the first volume, the success of this work, though perfectly well writ, would not have been so shining."
* Dr Robertson.
To Mr Home.
"St Andrew's Square, September 20th, 1775.
"Of all the vices of language, the least excusable is the want of perspicuity; for, as words were instituted by men, merely for conveying their ideas to each other, the employing of words without meaning is a palpable abuse, which departs from the very original purpose and intention of language. It is also to be observed, that any ambiguity in expression is next to the having no meaning at alt; and is indeed a species of it; for while the hearer or reader is perplexed between different meanings, he can assign no determinate idea to the speaker or writer; and may, on that account, say with Ovid, "Inopem me copiafecit" For this reason, all eminent rhetoricians and grammarians, both ancient and modern, have insisted on perspicuity of language as an essential quality; without which, all ornaments of diction are vain and fruitless. Quinctilian carries the matter so far, as to condemn this expression, vidi hominem librum legentem; because, says he, legentem may construe as well with librum as hominem; though one would think, that the sense were here sufficient to prevent all ambiguity. In conformity to this way of thinking, Vaugelas, the first great grammarian of France, will not permit, that any one have recourse to the sense, in order to explain the meaning of the words; because, says he, it is the business of the words to explain the sense—not of the sense to give a determinate meaning to the words ; and this practice is reversing the order of nature; like the custom of the Romans (he might have added, the Greeks) in their saturnalia, who made the slaves the masters; for you may learn from Lucian, that the Greeks practised the same frolic during the Festival of Saturn, whom they called Xjovo;.
"Now, to apply, and to come to the use of this principle, I must observe to you, that your last letter, besides a continued want of distinctness in the form of the literal characters, has plainly transgressed the essential rule above-mentioned, of grammar and rhetoric. You say, that Coutts has complained to you of not hearing from me ;—had you said either James or Thomas, I could have understood your meaning. About two months ago, I heard that James complained of me in this respect, and I wrote to him, though then abroad, making an apology for my being one of the subscribers of a paper which gave him some offence. I was afraid he had not received mine. The letter of Thomas, I conceived to be only a circular letter, informing me of a change in the firm of the house ; and have answered it a few days ago, by giving him some directions about disposing of my money, which proved that I intended to remain a customer to the shop. It happens, therefore, luckily, that I had obviated all objections to my conduct, on both sides.
"In turning over my papers, I find a manuscript journal of the last rebellion, which is at your service. I hope Mrs Home is better, and will be able to execute her journey. Are you to be in town soon? Yours, without ambiguity, circumlocution, or mental reservation,
To Mr Home.
"Edinburgh, Sth February, 1776. "Dear. Tyrtjeus,
"It is a remark of Dr Swift's, that no man in London ever complained of his being neglected by his friends in the country. Your complaint of me is the more flattering.
"Two posts ago, I received, under a frank of General Eraser's, a pamphlet, entitled A Letter from an Officer retired. It is a very good pamphlet ; and I conjecture you to be the author. Sallust makes it a question, whether the writer or the performer of good things has the preference? and he ascribes the greater praise to the latter. It is happy for you, that you may rest your fame 011