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The Life of David Hume$

Ernest C. Mossner

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243365

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243365.001.0001

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Appendix D William Warburton

Appendix D William Warburton

The Life of David Hume
Oxford University Press

MORE than a century ago Hill Burton (I, 109) remarked in the main section of the review of Hume’s Treatise in the History of the Works of the Learned “a tone of clamorous jeering and vulgar raillery that forcibly reminds one of the writings of Warburton.” The name of William Warburton had been suggested as author by earlier writers and has again been brought up in recent years, but no evidence has been produced. I myself have no direct evidence to offer, only certain circumstantial evidence.

In a note appended to an article in the October 1741 issue of the History of the Works of the Learned (p. 257), the editor goes out of his way to state:

“These articles, on the Physico-Theology of Dr. Morgan, were communicated by a Correspondent, who chuses, I find, to be concealed, with Regard to his Name, Profession, and Abode; all I can say of him is, that by the Similitude of the MSS I believe him to be the Person who drew up the Account of the Treatise of Human Nature, which was printed in the Months of November and December 1739.”

The apology of the editor for the Morgan review would correspond with his having earlier apologised, as it were, for the Hume review by the addition of the final conciliatory paragraph. A tone of contemptuous sarcasm characterises both reviews. An instance of it in that of Morgan may be cited because of an instructive allusion: “Readers, cast away Lord Shaftsbury, (p.618) Archbishop King, and the divine Bard who undertook to vindicate the Ways of God to Man; and attend only to the Solution of our illustrious Physico-Theologer, who utters this ensuing Oracle….” The allusion to Alexander Pope as the “divine Bard” of the Essay of Man would have come pat from the pen of the man who had but recently defended Pope’s orthodoxy publicly, and, to no small extent, by the use of the authorities just cited. It is perhaps also worth noting that the only autobiographical comment in the Hume review would fit the facts of Warburton’s career perfectly. For the writer there remarks that, “It is above twenty Years since I looked over that Piece of Dr. Berkeley’s….” The Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, here referred to, appeared in 1710 and might well have been first read by Warburton, say about 1718, in which year he was aged twenty-one.