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Hume, David (1711-1776), philosopher and historian
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Letter from J.H. Stirling to Henry Sidgwick

Thanks HS for sending him his book The Methods of Ethics, and says that he will 'take it up and read it from time to time'. Refers to the attitude of Hume and Hegel to ethics, and also refers to Begriff and [Alt]. States that he fears that he shall not be able to take the same interest 'in these Mills and Bains and Spencers, etc.' as Sidgwick does. Has no doubt, however, that he will gain much from the matter and form of his book.

Stirling, James Hutchison (1820-1909) philosopher

Letter from Henry Sidgwick to F. W. H. Myers

Asks for information concerning Myers' coming to Cambridge, 'The Prospects of Poetry' and 'The Probabilities of Medicine etc etc'. Declares that they have much to discuss, Sidgwick having failed to write due to the unrealised expectation of seeing Myers at Rugby. Reports that he has to teach history that term, 'no successor having turned up to Pearson: and Cambridge breeding no historian'; they are 'thinking of taking some healthy young resident and locking him up with a Hume'; it is 'rather a disgrace to us that we all take so small an interest in the human race'.

Asks if he has seen Noel 'in the Dark Blue [a literary journal]'. Suggests that he may have been ashamed to send it to Myers, as 'some of the polemic is almost personal'. Declares that it is very well written, 'except the polemical part', and states that he writes better prose than verse. Reports that Noel nearly quarrelled with him 'for reluctantly avowing that [he] did not consider him an equal of Swinburne.' States that Noel 'thinks that the Verbal School (S[winburne?] Rossetti, etc - non sine te) have been found out'. Refers to the Edinburgh of July, and the Contemporary [Review] of October as having evidence to support this theory. States that Noel also thinks that 'Buchanan and R.N are going to be chaired instead by a mutable but at length appreciative public.' Refers to 'a certain Mutual Admiration league' between Noel and Symonds. Believes that Symonds's poetry could be successful, 'if he could only impassion himself about a good subject.'

Asks Myers to send his last epic. Tells him to read Noel's article. Sends his regards to Myers' mother. Announces that his second correspondence circular is soon to appear. Reports that Miss Clough is in Cambridge, that the house is 'getting on', and that there will be five [women] there that term.

Letter from Lascelles Abercrombie to R. C. Trevelyan

Yewbarrow, Grange over Sands. - Very glad to hear the "Annual [of New Poetry]" seems likely 'to be a going concern'; the suggested date makes it possible that Abercrombie may be able to write something, but he is going to Leeds to try and get munitions work which may 'hamper [his] fictive faculties'. Asks whether Bob has read Hume's "Treatise on Human Nature"; it is a 'great book' which he himself is in the middle of. The question of whether [Edward] Thomas will be included in the "Annual" remains: Abercrombie is seeing Gordon [Bottomley] this afternoon and will 'extract from him his definite opinion'; Abercrombie himself thinks that Thomas should be included, as his poems are certainly good enough, and he is apparently having difficulty getting them published elsewhere. Is also writing to Wilfrid [Gibson] to get his opinion; will tell him to send his own poems to Bob, and get [H. O.] Meredith and [Robert] Frost to send theirs too. Hopes [Henry?] Ainley will 'do his bit properly about Mrs Lear' [Gordon Bottomley's play "King Lear's Wife"]; appears he likes the play, but supposes he is 'water to rely on'.

Letter from W. K. Clifford to Frederick Pollock

Exeter.—Asks about his legs, and responds to his remarks on Green and Grose’s edition of Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature. Lucy has been to Aberdeen to try and save her sister from going into an Anglican convent.



Exeter Sp. 11/74

My dear old Cripple

You don’t say how far you have got in the mending of your legs—which, although a mere finite empirical relation, finds its meaning in a Welt-sehnsucht {1} or eternal dissatisfaction:—“neither delighteth He in any man’s legs.” {2} What you say about the Green Grosery {3} is quite true as far as I can make out; but there are also according to Appleton (“Strauss as a Theologian,” last Contemp. but one) {4} certain delicate nuances in the Hegelian thought-and-speech-habit, which we with our utter want of tact and the finer sensibilities do not appreciate. They seem to me to consist in saying one thing when you deliberately mean another; but this is doubtless only my gross empirical way of putting it, and an example of the utter want κ.τ.λ. I hope you have seen Sidgwick’s remarks on them (I think in the Academy); he points out that to prove Hume insufficient is not to do much in the present day. It should I think be brought out clearly that if we pay attention only to the scientific or empirical school, the theory of consciousness and its relation to the nervous system has progressed in exactly the same way as any other scientific theory; that no position once gained has ever been lost, and that each investigator has been able to say “I don’t know” of the questions which lay beyond him without at all imperilling his own conclusions. Green for instance points out that Hume has no complete theory of the object, which is of course a very complex thing from the subjective point of view, because of the mixture of association and symbolic substitution in it; and in fact I suppose this piece of work has not yet been satisfactorily done. But it seems merely perverse to say that the scientific method is a wrong one because there is yet something for it to do; and to find fault with Hume for the omission is like blaming Newton for not including Maxwell’s Electricity in the Principia.

Lucy has been to Aberdeen to try to save her sister {5} from going into an anglican convent {6}. It was no use for they would not let her see the poor child till the ceremony of admission was over. Can’t you make the act of persuading any woman under 30 to enter a conventual institution punishable in the same way as the other mode of seducing a child? The higher limit of age is required by the nature of the offence and the far greater demoralization produced. This poor girl is just 21; even supposing that in four or five years her conscience comes to maturity and brings her out of the place, she will have spent the most impressionable part of her life with thoroughly shallow people having only one idea, reading nothing but books of devotion, and living in an atmosphere of falsehood and treachery. The superior deliberately tried to make the other sister deceive her father and sleep in the convent against his orders. Unfortunately these scotch episcopalians are at present beyond the reach of the law, and this might be made a good argument against disestablishment.

Tell Sir Frederic he shall have back your charming bit of Rabelais on Monday.


My best love to Georgie & Mrs Deffell.


Letter-head of the Devon and Exeter Institution.

{1} Lit. ‘world-longing’ (German).

{2} Psalm cxlvii. 10 (Prayer Book version).

{2} i.e. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose’s edition of Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1874).

{4} See C. E. Appleton, ‘Strauss as a Theologian’, Contemporary Review, vol. xxiv, pp. 234-53 (July 1874), particularly the following passage (p. 239):

'“Common Sense,” the intellectual phase of the eighteenth century, could not accept a miraculous history as miraculous. Missing with characteristic coarseness and absence of tact, all the finer points, all the sentiment, not to speak of the speculative ideas involved in primitive Christianity, it invented the hypothesis of imposture to account for the miracles.'

(In the collected edition of Appleton’s works ‘coarseness and absence of tact’ was replaced by ‘want of tact’. See Dr Appleton, his Life and Literary Relics, ed. J. H. Appleton and A. H. Sayce (1881), p. 139.)

{5} Isabel. Cf. CLIF A4/9a.

{6} St Margaret's.

Letter from Andrew Lang to Henry Sidgwick

Tells Sidgwick that it is very good of him 'to attend to [his] paradoxes.' Admits that his 'Psychics' are very unpopular, 'but Tyler [E. B. Tylor?] brought them in, and left them hanging in the air, and did little to the civilised side of them.' Informs him that he will find [fire walls] in his Modern Mythology. Reports that he has published more in the Westminster Gazette, and that the New Zealand [observations] 'will appear at length in the proceedings of their scientific society.' States that the performances 'were well tested, and quite unexplained.' Claims to know no competent anthropologist 'in the line of beliefs' apart from Frazer and Tyler. The latter has not been well and his wife has not allowed him Lang's book, '"for fear it might injure the brain".' Believes that [Sir Alfred?] Lyall has read it, and thinks that 'part II holds water'. Would correct the points in relation to 'S.P.R.' [the Society for Psychical Research] and hopes Myers had kept him straight.' States that he may 'correct in the French.' Refers to a comment made by Sidgwick on Hume and claims that he [Hume] 'certainly advised absolute disregard of evidence'.

Lang, Andrew (1844–1912) anthropologist

Letter from Leslie Stephen to Henry Sidgwick

Observes that 'there does not appear to be any English book worth much as a systematic statement of any political theory.' In answer to a question asked by Sidgwick, he suggests the names and works of writers on politics, economy and philosophy, and comments on their writings. Refers to Locke's Treatises on Government; Liberty Lord Bolingbroke's Patriot King; Hume's political essays; any of Burke's works, including the speeches on American taxation and on economical reform, as well as 'the reflexions on [the] French Revolution', which 'preceded Godwin and are therefore not included [ ] by your limit of time...'; Tom Paine; Bentham's Fragment on Government, which, he believes is 'too much in the controversial way and dependent upon [a] Blackstone'; [Priestley]; [Tucker]. Admits that he has given too long a list, and states that his preference would be for Locke, Hume, Burke, Godwin and Bentham.

Stephen, Sir Leslie (1832-1904), knight, author and literary critic