Lot 307
  • 307


7,000 - 10,000 GBP
40,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Hume, David
  • Autograph letter signed, to Rev. Robert Traill of Banff
  • ink on paper
admitting his religious doubts ("...You do not surely expect that I am converted: The doubts, which I have long entertain'd, cannot so easily be dispelled as I wish: For I seriously believe that I am a loser by not thinking in the same manner you do...") when thanking Trail for sending a sermon in which his work was criticised, writing kindly of mutual acquaintances, and expressing his hope that Trail would establish a friendship with "a set of very agreeable sensible Clergymen, who sometimes admit me into their Company, notwithstanding the Murmors of Bigots", 2 pages, 4to, Edinburgh, 21 December 1755, integral autograph address leaf, with a draft reply by Trail subscribed, later docketing on address leaf, nicks and tears 

Catalogue Note

AN UNRECORDED LETTER BY HUME ON CHRISTIANITY. The recipient of this letter, Robert Traill (d.1775), was an Aberdeenshire clergyman who went on to be Professor of Divinity at Glasgow. He was the author of The Qualifications and Decorum of a Teacher of Christianity Considered (Aberdeen, 1755), which refuted Hume's wittily excoriating analysis of clergymen in his 1748 essay 'Of National Characters', where - amongst other remarks - he suggests that the need to "feign more devotion than they are ... possessed of" leads most clergymen to "promote the spirit of superstition, by a continued grimace and hypocrisy." Hume takes a very different tone in this emollient letter, emphasising his wish that he could hold religious convictions and praising Traill's erudition in making a contrast between "the stationary & the flowing philosophers". He refers to their mutual acquaintance James Ogilvy, Lord Deskford (later 6th Earl of Findlater), and also hopes that Traill would join the ranks of the 'moderate' Edinburgh clergy - including such men as William Robertson, Hugh Blair and John Home - with whom Hume had developed an important friendship. Traill's draft reply strikes a similar note of mutual respect over-riding deep philosophical differences ("...there are few, I believe, who have higher notions of your Talents as a Writer and Penetration as a Philosopher, than I have...")