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  • Wishart, Baxter and Hume's Letter from a Gentleman
  • Paul Russell (bio)
Paul Russell

Paul Russell is at the Department of Philosophy, 1866 Main Mall E-370, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC V6T 1Z1 Canada. email:

Received August 1996
Revised January 1997


. I am grateful to George Davie, David Raphael, Ian Ross, Alistair Sinclair, and especially Don Garrett, James Moore and Walter Ross, for their comments and help. I would also like to thank Sandy Stewart and two anonymous Hume Studies referees for their critical comments and suggestions. Work on this paper has been done while I held Fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities at Edinburgh University (1991 and 1996).

1. David Hume, A Letter from a Gentleman to his friend in Edinburgh [1745], edited by E. C. Mossner and J. V. Price (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1967) [abbreviated as LG]. Other references to Hume's writings are to A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd ed. revised by P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978) [T]; Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 3rd ed. revised by P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975) [EHU, EPM]; The Letters of David Hume, 2 vols., edited by J.Y.T. Greig (Clarendon Press, 1932) [HL]; New Letters of David Hume, edited by R. Klibansky and E. C. Mossner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954) [NHL].

2. Andrew Baxter, An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul; wherein the Immateriality of the Soul is evinced, from the Principles of Reason and Philosophy, 2nd edition, 2 vols. (London: Andrew Millar, 1737 [reprinted by Routledge/Thoemmes, 1990]). Hereafter abbreviated as Human Soul.

3. The standard accounts of this episode are Ernest Campbell Mossner, The Life of David Hume, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), chapter 12, and Mossner and Price, introduction to LG. For recent criticism of these accounts, and more detail on the "affair" at Edinburgh, see M. A. Stewart, The Kirk and the Infidel (Lancaster: Lancaster University Publications Office, 1995). Also helpful on this episode are Richard B. Sher, "Professors of virtue: The social history of the Edinburgh moral philosophy chair in the early eighteenth century," in Studies in the Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment, edited by M. A. Stewart (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 87-126; and Roger L. Emerson, "The 'affair' at Edinburgh and the 'project' at Glasgow," in Hume and Hume's Connexions, edited by M. A. Stewart and John P. Wright (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), 1-22.

4. Hume's remarks suggest that it is possible that the Specimen and the Charge were produced as separate papers (LG 3; 18-19). He states, however, that the Sum is intended "to contain the Substance of the whole," and he implies that he is dealing with just one accuser (LG 32-33). A letter written by Thomas Hay—who was very active in the campaign against Hume—also suggests that there was more than one pamphlet involved in the case against Hume. (Hay to Lord Tweeddale, 1 June, 1745: Nat. Lib. Scot., Ms. 7066, fo.85) Different interpretations, however, can be put on Hay's remarks. See Mossner and Price, LG xiv; and Stewart, Kirk and Infidel, 18.

5. The teaching responsibilities of the Professor of Moral Philosophy included "pneumatics," covering a number of issues relevant to metaphysics and natural religion.

6. Kames seems to have been closely involved in the publication of the Letter. See Hume's remarks in his letter to Kames dated 13 June 1745 (NHL 15). It is quite possible that Hume's reply was modified or "edited" by his friends in Edinburgh before it was published. (I will cite evidence below that makes clear that the substance of the Letter nevertheless comes directly from Hume's hand.)

7. Pringle had been on leave since 1742 when he went to Flanders as a physician with the British forces. He was not a distinguished philosopher, but he was a distinguished physician and scientist.

8. It is significant that Mossner and Price do not regard Hume's letter of 13 June to Kames as...


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