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74. Sister Peg: A Pamphlet Hitherto Unknown by David Hume, edited by David Raynor, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1982. Pp. vii, 127. $24.95 (U.S.) The deceptive title of this volume promises more than its editor has in fact given us. He cannot show that there is much more than a mere possibility that Hume did in fact write this satirical political pamphlet dealing with the failure of the British Parliament to create a Scottish militia in 1760. The pamphlet has long been known to scholars, who have attributed it to Adam Ferguson rather than to David Hume and will continue to do so. Before examining Raynor' s arguments it is worth asking if their truth would materially alter our view of Hume's literary abilities , his politics or character? The short answer to this question is no. It has long been known that Hume supported the creation of a Scottish militia and that he belonged to a club dedicated to promoting its creation. And, it is even better known that he was a humorous man with a facile and facetious pen who loved a joke and was capable of writing a pamphlet imitative of John Arbuthnot ' s The History of John Bull. The author of Sister Peg was clearly a patriotic Scot who shared many of Hume's views but this is no guarantee that Hume wrote the work. Before considering Raynor ' s case to establish Hume's authorship, it will be useful to point out several things about the groups in which Hume moved and in which this pamphlet clearly originated. Between 1752 and 1760 when this satire was written, Edinburgh was agitated by a number of controversies which involved Hume and his friends, among whom were the Moderate clergymen William Robertson, John Jardine, Hugh Blair, John Home, Alexander Carlyle and Adam Ferguson. They defended Hume and Lord Kames from attacks by Presbyterian bigots. Hume and Kames returned the favour when the same bigots caused a furore over a play written by Home whose performance had been attended by 75. Carlyle and others. Hume, the Moderates and others had been involved with the promotion of James MacPherson's poetry and they had been busy in a variety of patronage and political matters both civil and ecclesiastical. By 1754 Hume was associated with some of these men not only in the Philosophical Society, in which he and Kames were officers, but also in the Select Society where the militia question was formally debated on several occasions. After 1762 Hume was to join them in smaller, more exclusive and intimate convivial clubs such as the Poker Club or the Tuesday Club. These clubmen shared a common Scottish patriotism, an interest in improvements, a politically conservative outlook and a dedication to actions to promote their various concerns among which pamphleteering was certainly included. They were also a prankish lot who elected as an officer of the Poker Club an Assassin. In 1760 they shared a sense of being somewhat embattled because of their enlightenment and dedication to politeness. This feeling was reinforced by the realities of local politics which constituted a game in which they were all avid participants but in 1760 not yet regular winners either in the church courts or as the recipients of extensive patronage. Here real success would not come to them until Lord Bute became the principal dispenser of Scottish patronage in 1761. In 1760 the Moderate clerics formed something of a clique within polite Edinburgh. They were not yet secure in positions of power and prestige and were indeed vulnerable to attacks such as those they had recently endured. They acted with a good deal of circumspection and secrecy and they sometimes joined with discrete laymen who shared their views. It is perhaps worth noting that an earlier militia pamphlet by Alexander Carlyle, The Question Relating to a Scots Militia (Edinburgh, 1760) , had been written at the request of William. Johnstone Pulteney and Adam Ferguson and was edited by William Robertson who added a paragraph to it. Carlyle concealed his identity because, "The parties here 76. were so warm at this time ... that those pamphlets, which were ascribed to clergymen, had raised a spirit...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 74-81
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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