Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary
By David Hume
DAVID HUME’S greatness was recognized in his own time, as it is today, but the writings that made Hume famous are not, by and large, the same ones that support his reputation now. Leaving aside his Enquiries, which were widely read then as now, Hume is known today chiefly through his Treatise of Human Nature and his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. The Treatise was scarcely read at all during Hume’s lifetime, however, and the Dialogues was not published until after his death. Conversely, most readers today pay little attention to Hume’s various books of essays and to his History of England, but these are the works that were read avidly by his contemporaries. If one is to get a balanced view of Hume’s thought, it is necessary to study both groups of writings. If we should neglect the essays or the History, then our view of Hume’s aims and achievements is likely to be as incomplete as that of his contemporaries who failed to read the Treatise or the Dialogues.… [From the Foreword by Eugene F. Miller]
Eugene F. Miller, ed.
First Pub. Date
Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc. Liberty Fund, Inc.
Publication date details: Part I: 1742. Part II ( Political Discourses): 1752. Combined: 1777. Includes Political Discourses (1752), "My Own Life," by David Hume, and a letter by Adam Smith.
Portions of this edited edition are under copyright. Picture of David Hume courtesy of The Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection at Duke University.
- Foreword, by Eugene F. Miller
- Editors Note, by Eugene F. Miller
- Note to the Revised Edition
- My Own Life, by David Hume
- Letter from Adam Smith, L.L.D. to William Strahan, Esq.
- Part I, Essay I, OF THE DELICACY OF TASTE AND PASSION
- Part I, Essay II, OF THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS
- Part I, Essay III, THAT POLITICS MAY BE REDUCED TO A SCIENCE
- Part I, Essay IV, OF THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT
- Part I, Essay V, OF THE ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT
- Part I, Essay VI, OF THE INDEPENDENCY OF PARLIAMENT
- Part I, Essay VII, WHETHER THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT INCLINES MORE TO ABSOLUTE MONARCHY, OR TO A REPUBLIC
- Part I, Essay VIII, OF PARTIES IN GENERAL
- Part I, Essay IX, OF THE PARTIES OF GREAT BRITAIN
- Part I, Essay X, OF SUPERSTITION AND ENTHUSIASM
- Part I, Essay XI, OF THE DIGNITY OR MEANNESS OF HUMAN NATURE
- Part I, Essay XII, OF CIVIL LIBERTY
- Part I, Essay XIII, OF ELOQUENCE
- Part I, Essay XIV, OF THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES
- Part I, Essay XV, THE EPICUREAN
- Part I, Essay XVI, THE STOIC
- Part I, Essay XVII, THE PLATONIST
- Part I, Essay XVIII, THE SCEPTIC
- Part I, Essay XIX, OF POLYGAMY AND DIVORCES
- Part I, Essay XX, OF SIMPLICITY AND REFINEMENT IN WRITING
- Part I, Essay XXI, OF NATIONAL CHARACTERS
- Part I, Essay XXII, OF TRAGEDY
- Part I, Essay XXIII, OF THE STANDARD OF TASTE
- Part II, Essay I, OF COMMERCE
- Part II, Essay II, OF REFINEMENT IN THE ARTS
- Part II, Essay III, OF MONEY
- Part II, Essay IV, OF INTEREST
- Part II, Essay V, OF THE BALANCE OF TRADE
- Part II, Essay VI, OF THE JEALOUSY OF TRADE
- Part II, Essay VII, OF THE BALANCE OF POWER
- Part II, Essay VIII, OF TAXES
- Part II, Essay IX, OF PUBLIC CREDIT
- Part II, Essay X, OF SOME REMARKABLE CUSTOMS
- Part II, Essay XI, OF THE POPULOUSNESS OF ANCIENT NATIONS
- Part II, Essay XII, OF THE ORIGINAL CONTRACT
- Part II, Essay XIII, OF PASSIVE OBEDIENCE
- Part II, Essay XIV, OF THE COALITION OF PARTIES
- Part II, Essay XV, OF THE PROTESTANT SUCCESSION
- Part II, Essay XVI, IDEA OF A PERFECT COMMONWEALTH
- Part III, Essay I, OF ESSAY-WRITING
- Part III, Essay II, OF MORAL PREJUDICES
- Part III, Essay III, OF THE MIDDLE STATION OF LIFE
- Part III, Essay IV, OF IMPUDENCE AND MODESTY
- Part III, Essay V, OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE
- Part III, Essay VI, OF THE STUDY OF HISTORY
- Part III, Essay VII, OF AVARICE
- Part III, Essay VIII, A CHARACTER OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE
- Part III, Essay IX, OF SUICIDE
- Part III, Essay X, OF THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL
- Variant Readings
Good offices: acts of good, voluntarily tendered.
Touched with contempt: affected by another’s undervaluing or scorn.
Pungent: piercing, sharp.
Sensibility: quickness of perception; a disposition to being easily or strongly affected; delicacy.
Nobler arts: the liberal arts or sciences. “Arts that respect the mind were ever reputed nobler than those that serve the body”—Ben Jonson (quoted in Samuel Johnson’s
Dictionary, under “Art”).
Relish: taste; delight in; power of perceiving excellence.
Incommodious: inconvenient; vexatious.
Melancholy: pensiveness; quietly serious thoughtfulness, sadness, or longing.
Nice: accurate in judgment to minute exactness; superfluously exact.
Vacancy: emptiness; sense of longing.
Want: need; deficiency.
Sensibly: quickly; keenly.
Bottle companion: drinking friend.
Entertain jealousy: regard with suspicious fear, vigilance, or caution.
Levity: inconstancy or changeableness; unsteadiness; trifling gaiety.
Artifice: trickery; fraud; stratagem.
Faction: tumult, discord, or dissention, especially as arising from disputes among civil or religious parties.
Proscription: a sentence of death and confiscation of one’s property.
Païs conquis: conquered lands.
Enow: the plural of
A woman from the stews: a prostitute.
Pro aris & focis: in defense of our altars and our fires.
Soldan: sultan; the supreme ruler of one or another of the great Mohammedan powers or countries of the Middle Ages.
Mamalukes: members of the military body, originally composed of Caucasian slaves, that seized the throne of Egypt in 1254 and continued to form the ruling class in that country during the eighteenth century.
Prætorian bands: the bodyguards of the emperors of ancient Rome.
Prodigal: lavish; wasteful.
In no stead: to no advantage.
Palliate: to cover with excuse; to extenuate or soften by favorable representations.
Appellation: name or title.
Peculiar: appropriate; belonging to any one with exclusion of others.
Tyes: ties; bonds or obligations.
Factitious: made by art, in opposition to what is made by nature.
Courts: jurisdictions; authorities.
Temerity: great boldness; rashness.
Ecclesiastical preferments: places of honor or profit in the church.
In his closet: in privacy or retirement.
Euthanasia: easy death.
Extirpating: rooting out; eradicating.
Aliment: nourishment; food.
Contrariety: opposition; inconsistency; a quality or position destructive of its opposites.
Discover: show; exhibit.
Christendom: the collective body of Christianity; the regions in which the inhabitants profess the Christian religion.
Generous: daring; vigorous; liberal.
Counterpoise: counterweight; equivalence of force in the opposite side.
Pernicious: mischievous in the highest degree; destructive.
Unaccountable: not explicable; not to be solved by reason; not reducible to rule.
Credulity: easiness of belief; a readiness to credit.
Sublunary: earthly; of this world.
Raptures: violent seizures; violence of any pleasing passion; uncommon heat of imagination.
Transports: raptures; ecstasy.
Illapses: sudden attacks; emissions or entrances of one thing into another.
Votaries: those devoted, as by a vow, to any particular service, worship, study, or state of life.
Remissness: carelessness; negligence; lack of ardor; inattention.
The Romish church: the Roman Catholic church.
Sectaries: persons who divide from public establishment and join with those distinguished by some particular whims; followers of a particular sect.
Regular: methodical; strict; orderly.
Infirmity: weakness; failing; disease or malady.
Abject: mean; worthless; base; groveling.
Prerogative: exclusive or peculiar privilege or right; preeminence; superiority.
Divines: ministers or priests; theologians.
Subjoin: to add afterward.
Tincture: color or taste superadded by something.
Just: exact; accurate; orderly.
Canvassed: examined; debated or discussed.
Chaste: pure; uncorrupt.
Adulterate: corrupted with some foreign mixture.
Give a propriety to: to justify.
Nicety: minute accuracy of thought; exact discrimination; subtlety.
Chimæra: a vain and wild fancy, as remote from reality as the existence of the poetical Chimera, a monster feigned to have the head of a lion, the belly of a goat, and the tail of a dragon.
Stop: obstruction; hindrance; check.
Rant: high-sounding language unsupported by dignity of thought.
Foppery: foolish ostentation; idle affectation; impertinence.
Enthusiasm: heat of imagination; elevation of fancy.
Odoriferous: fragrant; sweetly scented.
Debauch: fit of intemperance; excess.
Wanton: frolicsome; gay; sportive; airy.
Calumny: slander; false charges; groundless accusations.
Ravished: enraptured; ecstatic; overcome by a pleasing violence.
Transported: put in ecstasy; ravished with pleasure.
Emergence: an emergency; any sudden occasion or pressing necessity.
Aurora: The goddess who opens the gates of the day; poetically, the morning.
Lassitude: weariness; fatigue.
Pile: an edifice; a building.
At adventures: by chance; without any rational scheme.
Scholastic: adherent of a school; one who is needlessly subtle.
Palpable: perceptible by the touch; plain; easily perceptible.
Mortify: to subdue.
Nerves: the organs of sensation passing from the brain to all parts of the body.
Voluptuous: given to excess of pleasure.
Phthisis: a consumption, or wasting of the body, arising from any one of several causes, such as an ulcerated state of the lungs.
Municipal laws: the civil or positive laws of a state, as distinguished from laws of nature and laws of nations.
Humour: temper of mind; disposition.
Establishment: standing; income.
Waterman: a ferryman; a boatman.
Copious: not confined; diffuse.
Toilettes: the receptions of visitors by a lady during the concluding stages of her process of dressing; very fashionable in the eighteenth century.
Arcadia: a mountainous district in the southern peninsula of Greece, taken in literature as an ideal region of rural contentment.
Conceit: pleasant fancy; gaity of imagination; acuteness; pleasant thought.
Vulgar: those with common or untrained minds, as distinguished here from “men of sense.”
The Franks: from the third century &ad; onward, a generic name for the Germanic tribes that established themselves in western Europe; a western European.
Numbers: verses; poetry.
Dolce peccante: sweet sinning.
Wrought: produced; worked.
Remark: to observe; to distinguish; to point out.
Habitudes: states with regard to something else; relations.
Specious: pleasing to the view; plausible.
Pathetic: affecting the passions; moving.
Victuals: provision of food; stores for the support of life.
Complaisance: the act of yielding to the desire or demand of another; submission.
Entrench on: encroach or trespass upon.
Engrossed: seized; appropriated.
Porter: a kind of beer, dark brown in color and bitter in taste, which originally was drunk chiefly by porters and the lower class of laborers.
Subject: that which can be drawn upon or utilized; means of doing something.
Recruits: resupplies; replenishes.
Bias: regular course; inclination.
Ortolans: small birds accounted very delicious.
Dearness: high price.
Specie: coined money.
Numerary: of or pertaining to a number or numbers.
Tell out: count out.
Offer: price bid.
Repletion: the state of being over full.
Recruits: new supplies.
Absentees: proprietors who live elsewhere.
Finds surety: gives a pledge, bond, guarantee, or security for the fulfillment of an undertaking.
Repine: to be vexed or discontented by something.
Factors: agents for another; those who transact business for another in mercantile affairs.
Romance: a fable or tale, as distinguished from an authentic history.
Jealousy of: zeal in guarding.
Barred: Hume’s meaning is “would have barred.”
Scritoire: a type of large cabinet with drawers and the convenience of a table to write upon; a bureau.
Boxes: a box under the driver’s seat on a coach; hence, in general, the seat on which the driver sits.
Projectors: those who form visionary or impracticable schemes or designs.
Exchequer: the court to which are brought all the revenues belonging to the crown.
Trepan: to catch; to ensnare.
Bugbear: a frightful object; a walking specter, imagined to be seen—generally used in the eighteenth century for a false terror to frighten babes.
Irrefragable: not to be refuted; superior to argumental opposition.
Pupillage: state of being still like a pupil.
Straitened: reduced to hardship or privation.
Raree-shows: (formed in imitation of the foreign way of pronouncing
rare shows): shows carried in boxes.
Paralogism: a false argument.
They had: they would have.
Repine: fret; vex oneself; be discontented.
Event: the consequence of an action; the conclusion; the upshot.
Prepossessions: preoccupations; preconceived opinions or prejudices.
Antiquated: obsolete; out of date.
Sacerdotal: priestly; here, the papal office.
Casting: deciding; decisive.
Session: the right to sit or occupy a seat.
Break: to dismiss; to deprive of a commission or rank.
Aphorisms: principles or precepts expressed in a few words.
Belles Lettres: polite, refined, or elegant literature.
Affect: to be fond of or pleased with.
Parterre: the part of the floor of a theater behind the orchestra.
Phisiognomy: physiognomy; the face or countenance, especially viewed as an index to the mind and character.
Put a Violence upon: to apply severe or undue constraint to some natural process or habit so as to prevent its free development or exercise.
Subscribing: attesting by writing one’s name.
Arrant: bad in a high degree; notorious; complete; manifest.
Brings: leads by degrees; makes liable to anything.
Fairly: completely; plainly; suitably.
Sophisticated: adulterated; corrupted with something spurious; not genuine.