Life of Adam Smith
by John Rae
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Life of Adam Smith








The fullest account we possess of the life of Adam Smith is still the memoir which Dugald Stewart read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on two evenings of the winter of 1793, and which he subsequently published as a separate work, with many additional illustrative notes, in 1810. Later biographers have made few, if any, fresh contributions to the subject. But in the century that has elapsed since Stewart wrote, many particulars about Smith and a number of his letters have incidentally and by very scattered channels found their way into print. It will be allowed to be generally desirable, in view of the continued if not even increasing importance of Smith, to obtain as complete a view of his career and work as it is still in our power to recover; and it appeared not unlikely that some useful contribution to this end might result if all those particulars and letters to which I have alluded were collected together, and if they were supplemented by such unpublished letters and information as it still remained possible to procure. In this last part of my task I have been greatly assisted by the Senatus of the University of Glasgow, who have most kindly supplied me with an extract of every passage in the College records bearing on Smith; by the Council of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, who have granted me every facility for using the Hume Correspondence, which is in their custody; and by the Senatus of the University of Edinburgh for a similar courtesy with regard to the Carlyle Correspondence and the David Laing MSS. in their library. I am also deeply indebted, for the use of unpublished letters or for the supply of special information, to the Duke of Buccleuch, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Professor R.O. Cunningham of Queen's College, Belfast, Mr. Alfred Morrison of Fonthill, Mr. F. Barker of Brook Green, and Mr. W. Skinner, W.S., late Town Clerk of Edinburgh.




Birth and parentage, 1. Adam Smith senior, 1; his death and funeral, 3. Smith's mother, 4. Burgh School of Kirkcaldy, 5. Schoolmaster's drama, 6. School-fellows, 6. Industries of Kirkcaldy, 7.



Professors and state of learning there, 9. Smith's taste for mathematics, 10. Professor R. Simson, 10. Hutcheson, 11; his influence over Smith, 13; his economic teaching, 14. Smith's early connection with Hume, 15. Snell exhibitioner, 16. College friends, 17.



Scotch and English agriculture, 18. Expenses at Oxford, 19. Did Smith graduate? 20. State of learning, 20; Smith's censure of, 20. His gratitude to Oxford, 22. Life in Balliol College, 22. Smith's devotion to classics and belles-lettres, 23. Confiscation of his copy of Hume's Treatise, 24. Ill-health, 25. Snell exhibitioners ill-treated and discontented at Balliol, 26. Desire transference to other college, 27. Smith's college friends, or his want of them, 28. Return to Scotland, 28.



Lord Kames, 31. Smith's class on English literature, 32. Blair's alleged obligations to Smith's lectures, 33. Smith's views as a critic, 34. His addiction to poetry, 35. His economic lectures, 36. James Oswald, M.P., 37. Oswald's economic correspondence with Hume, 37. Hamilton of Bangour's poems edited by Smith, 38. Dedication to second edition, 40.



Admission to Logic chair, 42. Letter to Cullen about undertaking Moral Philosophy class, 44. Letter to Cullen on Hume's candidature for Logic chair and other business, 45. Burke's alleged candidature, 46. Hume's defeat, 47. Moral Philosophy class income, 48. Work, 50. Professor John Millar, 53. His account of Smith's lectures, 54; of his qualities as lecturer, 56. Smith's students, 57. H. Erskine, Boswell, T. Fitzmaurice, Tronchin, 58, 59. Smith's religious views suspected, 60. His influence in Glasgow, 60. Conversion of merchants to free trade, 61. Manifesto of doctrines in 1755, 61. Its exposition of economic liberty, 62. Smith's alleged habitual fear of the plagiarist, 64. This manifesto not directed against Adam Ferguson, 65.



Smith's alleged helplessness in business transactions, 66; his large participation in business at Glasgow, 67. Appointed Quaestor, 68; Dean of Faculty, 68; Vice-Rector, 68. Dissensions in the University, 69; their origin in the academic constitution, 70. Enlightened educational policy of the University authorities, 71. James Watt, University instrument-maker; Robert Foulis, University printer, 71. Wilson, type-founder and astronomer. The Academy of Design. Professor Anderson's classes for working men, 72. Smith and Watt, 73. Smith's connection with Foulis's Academy of Design, 74. Smith and Wilson's type-foundry, 77. Proposed academy of dancing, fencing, and riding in the University, 79. Smith's opposition to the new Glasgow theatre, 80; his generally favourable views on theatrical representations, 81. His protests against Professor Anderson voting for his own translation to Natural Philosophy chair, 83. Joins in refusing Professor Rouet leave to travel abroad with a pupil, and in depriving him of office for his absenteeism, 84.



Glasgow at period of Smith's residence, 87; its beauty, 88; its expanding commerce and industry, 89; its merchants, 90. Andrew Cochrane, 91. The economic club, 92. Duty on American iron and foreign linen yarns, 93. Paper money, 94. The Literary Society, 95. Smith's paper on Hume's Essays on Commerce, 95. "Mr. Robin Simson's Club," 96. Saturday dinners at Anderston, 97. Smith at whist, 97. Simson's ode to the Divine Geometer, 98. James Watt's account of this club, 99. Professor Moor, 99.



Edinburgh friends, 101. Wilkie, the poet, 102. William Johnstone (afterwards Sir William Pulteney), 103. Letter of Smith introducing Johnstone to Oswald, 103. David Hume, 105. The Select Society, 107; Smith's speech at its first meeting, 108; its debates, 109; its great attention to economic subjects, 110; its practical work for improvement of arts, manufactures, and agriculture, 112; its dissolution, 118. Thomas Sheridan's classes on elocution, 119. The Edinburgh Review, 120; Smith's contributions, 121; on Wit and Humour, 122; on French and English classics, 123; on Rousseau's discourse on inequality, 124. Smith's republicanism, 124. Premature end of the Review, 124; Hume's exclusion from it, 126. Attempt to subject him to ecclesiastical censure, 127. Smith's views and Douglas's Criterion of Miracles Examined, 129. Home's Douglas, 130. Chair of Jurisprudence in Edinburgh, 131. Miss Hepburn, 133. The Poker Club, 134; founded to agitate for a Scots militia, 135. Smith's change of opinion on that subject, 137. The tax on French wines, 139.



Letter from Hume, 141. Burke's criticism, 145. Charles Townshend, 146. Letter from Smith to Townshend, 148. Second edition of Theory, 148. Letter from Smith to Strahan, 149. The union of Scotland with England, 150. Benjamin Franklin, 150.



Conversion of Lord Shelburne to free trade, 153. Altercation with Dr. Johnson, 154. Boswell's account, 155; Sir Walter Scott's, 156; Bishop Wilberforce's, 157.



Letter on Rev. W. Ward's Rational Grammar, 159. Letter to Hume introducing Mr. Henry Herbert, 161. Smith's indignation at Shelburne's intrigues with Lord Bute, 162. On Wilkes, 163. Letter from Hume at Paris, 163. Letter from Charles Townshend about Buccleugh tutorship, 164. Smith's acceptance, 165. Salary of such posts, 165. Smith's poor opinion of the educational value of the system, 166. Smith's arrangements for return of class fees and conduct of class, 167. Letter to Hume announcing his speedy departure for Paris, 168. Parting with his students, 169. Letter resigning chair, 172.



Sir James Macdonald, 174. Toulouse, 175. Abbe Colbert, 175. The Cuthberts of Castlehill, 176. Archbishop Lomenie de Brienne, 177. Letter to Hume, 178. Trip to Bordeaux, 179. Colonel Barre, 179. Toulouse and Bordeaux, 180. Sobriety of Southern France, 180. Duke of Richelieu, 181. Letter to Hume, 181; letter to Hume, 183. Visit to Montpellier, 183. Horne Tooke, 183. The States of Languedoc, 183. The provincial assembly question, 184. Parliament of Toulouse, 185. The Calas case, 186.



Its constitution, 188. Voltaire, 189; Smith's veneration for, 190; remarks to Rogers and Saint Fond on, 190. Charles Bonnet, G.L. Le Sage, 191. Duchesse d'Enville and Duc de la Rochefoucauld, 192. Lord Stanhope, Lady Conyers, 193.



Arrival, 194. Departure of Hume, 196. Smith's reception in society, 197. Comtesse de Boufflers, 198. Baron d'Holbach, 199. Helvetius, 200. Morellet, 200. Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse, 201. Turgot and D'Alembert, 202. Question of literary obligations, 203. Alleged correspondence, 204. Smith's opinion of Turgot, 205. Necker, 206. Dispute between Rousseau and Hume, 206. Letter to Hume, 208. Madame Riccoboni, 210; letter from her to Garrick introducing Smith, 211. Visit to Abbeville, 212. A marquise, 213. The French theatre, 214. Smith's love of music, 214. The French economists, 215. Dupont de Nemours's allusion, 215. Quesnay, 216. Views of the political situation, 217. Mercier de la Riviere and Mirabeau, 218. Activity of the sect in 1766, 219. Smith's views of effect of moderate taxation on wages, 220. Illness of Duke of Buccleugh at Compiegne, 222. Letter of Smith to Townshend, 222. Hume's perplexity where to stay, 225. Death of Hon. Hew Campbell Scott, 226. Duke of Buccleugh on the tutorship, 226. Smith's merits as tutor, 227. His improvement from his travels, 227; their value to him as thinker, 228. Did he foresee the Revolution? 229. His views on condition of French people, 230. His suggestion for reform of French taxation, 231.



Arrival in November 1766, 232. On Hume's continuing his History, 233. Third edition of Theory, 233. Letter to Strahan, 234. Letter to Lord Shelburne, 233. Alexander Dalrymple, hydrographer, 235. Colonies of ancient Rome, 236. Anecdote of Smith's absence of mind, 237. F.R.S., 238.



Count de Sarsfield, 240. Letter from Smith to Hume, 241. His daily life in Kirkcaldy, 242. Letter to Hume from Dalkeith, 243. Bishop Oswald, 243. Captain Skene, 243. The Duchess of Buccleugh, 243. Home-coming at Dalkeith, 244. The Duke, 245. Stories of Smith's absence of mind, 246. Letter to Lord Hailes on old Scots Acts about hostellaries, 247. On the Douglas case, 248. Reported completion of Wealth of Nations in 1770, 251. Smith receives freedom of Edinburgh, 251. Letter to Sir W. Pulteney on his book and an Indian appointment, 253. Crisis of 1772, 254. The Indian appointment, 255; Thorold Rogers on, 256. Work on Wealth of Nation after this date, 257. Tutorship to Duke of Hamilton, 258. Anecdote of absence of mind, 259. Habits in composing Wealth of Nations, 260.



Letter to Hume appointing him literary executor, 262. Long residence in London, 263. Assistance from Franklin, 264. Recommendation of Adam Ferguson for Chesterfield tutorship, 266. Hume's proposal as to Smith taking Ferguson's place in the Moral Philosophy chair, 266. The British Coffee-House, 267. Election to the Literary Club, 267. Smith's conversation, 268. His alleged aversion to speak of what he knew, 269. Attends William Hunter's lectures, 271. Letter to Cullen on freedom of medical instruction, 273. Hume's health, 280. Smith's zeal on the American question, 281. Advocacy of colonial incorporation, 282.



Terms of publication and sales, 285. Letter from Hume, 286. Gibbon's opinion, 287; Sir John Pringle's, 288; Buckle's, 288. General reception, 288. Fox's quotation, 289. Fox and Lauderdale's conversation on Smith, 289. Quotations in Parliament, 290. Popular association of economics with "French principles," 291. Prejudice against free trade as a revolutionary doctrine, 291. Editions of the book, 293. Immediate influence of the book on English taxation, 294.



Smith and John Home meet Hume at Morpeth, 295. The Dialogues on Natural Religion, 296. Letter from Hume, 297. Hume's farewell dinner, 299. Correspondence between Hume and Smith about the Dialogues, 300. Hume's death and monument in Calton cemetery, 302. Correspondence of Smith with Home or Ninewells, 302. Correspondence with Strahan on the Dialogues, 305. Copy money for Wealth of Nations. Strahan's proposal to publish selection of Hume's letters, 309. Smith's reply, 310. Clamour raised by the letter to Strahan on Hume's death, 311. Bishop Horne's pamphlet, 312. Was Hume a Theist? 313. Mackenzie's "La Roche," 314.



Mickle's translation of the Lusiad, 316. His causeless resentment against Smith, 317. Governor Pownall, 318. Letter of Smith to Pownall, 319. Appointed Commissioner of Customs, 320. Lord North's indebtedness to the Wealth of Nations, 320. Salary of post, 321. Correspondence with Strahan, 321.



Panmure House, Canongate, 325; Windham on, 326. Sunday suppers, 327. Smith's library, 327. His personal appearance, 329. Work in the Custom House, 330. Anecdotes of absence of mind, 330. Devotion to Greek and Latin classics, 333. The Oyster Club, 334. Dr. Black and Dr. Hutton, 336.



Letter from Duc de la Rochefoucauld, 339. Letter to Lord Kames, 341. Sir John Sinclair's manuscript work on the Sabbath, 342. The surrender at Saratoga, 343. Letter to Sir John Sinclair on the Memoires concernant les Impositions, 343. Smith's view of taxes on the necessaries and on the luxuries of the poor, 345.



Commercial restrictions on Ireland, 346. Popular discontent, 347. Demand for free trade, 347. Grattan's motion, 348. Smith consulted by Government, 349. Letter to Lord Carlisle, 350. Letter from Dundas to Smith, 352. Smith's reply, 353. Smith's advocacy of union, 356.



Danish translation, 357. Letter of Smith to Strahan, 357. French translations, 358; German, 359; Italian and Spanish, 360. Suppressed by the Inquisition, 360. Letter to Cadell, 361. Letter to Cadell on new edition, 362. Dr. Swediaur, 362. The additional matter, 363.



Reminiscences in the Bee, 365. Opinion of Dr. Johnson, 366; Dr. Campbell of the Political Survey, 366; Swift, 367; Livy, 367; Shakespeare, 368; Dryden, 368; Beattie, 368; Pope's Iliad, Milton's shorter poems, Gray, Allan Ramsay, Percy's Reliques, 369; Burke, 369; the Reviews, 370. Gibbon's History, 371. Professor Faujas Saint Fond's reminiscences, 372. Voltaire and Rousseau, 372. The bagpipe competition, 372. Smith made Captain of the Trained Bands, 374. Foundation of Royal Society of Edinburgh, 375. Count de Windischgraetz's proposed reform of legal terminology, 376.



Smith's Whiggism, 378. Mackinnon of Mackinnon's manuscript treatise on fortification, 379. Letter from Smith, 380. Letter to Sir John Sinclair on the Armed Neutrality, 382. Letter to W. Eden (Lord Auckland) on the American Intercourse Bill, 385. Fox's East India Bill, 386.



Friendship of Burke and Smith, 387. Burke in Edinburgh, 388. Smith's prophecy of restoration of the Whigs to power, 389. With Burke in Glasgow, 390. Andrew Stuart, 391. Letter of Smith to J. Davidson, 392. Death of Smith's mother, 393. Burke and Windham in Edinburgh, 394. Dinner at Smith's, 394. Windham love-struck, 395. John Logan, the poet, 396. Letter of Smith to Andrew Strahan, 396.



Dr. R. Price on the decline of population, 398. Dr. A. Webster's lists of examinable persons in Scotland, 399. Letter of Smith to Eden, 400. Smith's opinion of Price, 400. Further letter to Eden, 400. Henry Hope of Amsterdam, 401. Letter to Bishop Douglas, introducing Beatson of the Political Index, 403.



Meeting with Pitt at Dundas's, 405. Smith's remark about Pitt, 405. Consulted by Pitt, 406. Opinion on Sunday schools, 407. Wilberforce and Smith, 407. The British Fisheries Society, 408. Smith's prognostication confirmed, 409. Chosen Lord Rector of Glasgow University, 410. Letter to Principal Davidson, 411. Installation, 412. Sir John Leslie, 412. Letter of Smith to Sir Joseph Banks, 413. Death of Miss Douglas, 414. Letter to Gibbon, 414.



Smith at breakfast, 416. Strawberries, 417. Old town of Edinburgh, 417. Loch Lomond, 417. The refusal of corn to France, 417. "That Bogle," 418. Junius, 429. Dinner at Smith's, 420. At the Royal Society meeting, 421. Smith on Bentham's Defence of Usury, 422.



Letter from Dugald Stewart, 426. Additional matter in new edition of Theory, 427. Deletion of the allusion to Rochefoucauld, 427. Suppressed passage on the Atonement, 428. Archbishop Magee, 428. Passage on the Calas case, 429.



Declining health, 431. Adam Ferguson's reconciliation and attentions, 433. Destruction of Smith's MSS., 434. Last Sunday supper, 434. His words of farewell, 435. Death and burial, 435. Little notice in the papers, 436. His will and executors, 436. His large private charities, 437. His portraits, 438. His books, 439. Extant relics, 440.




Adam Smith was born at Kirkcaldy, in the county of Fife, Scotland, on the 5th of June 1723. He was the son of Adam Smith, Writer to the Signet, Judge Advocate for Scotland and Comptroller of the Customs in the Kirkcaldy district, by Margaret, daughter of John Douglas of Strathendry, a considerable landed proprietor in the same county.

Of his father little is known. He was a native of Aberdeen, and his people must have been in a position to make interest in influential quarters, for we find him immediately after his admission to the Society of Writers to the Signet in 1707, appointed to the newly-established office of Judge Advocate for Scotland, and in the following year to the post of Private Secretary to the Scotch Minister, the Earl of Loudon. When he lost this post in consequence of Lord Loudon's retirement from office in 1713, he was provided for with the Comptrollership of Customs at Kirkcaldy, which he continued to hold, along with the Judge Advocateship, till his premature death in 1723. The Earl of Loudon having been a zealous Whig and Presbyterian, it is perhaps legitimate to infer that his secretary must have been the same, and from the public appointments he held we may further gather that he was a man of parts. The office of Judge Advocate for Scotland, which was founded at the Union, and which he was the first to fill, was a position of considerable responsibility, and was occupied after him by men, some of them of great distinction. Alexander Fraser Tytler, the historian, for example, was Judge Advocate till he went to the bench as Lord Woodhouselee. The Judge Advocate was clerk and legal adviser to the Courts Martial, but as military trials were not frequent in Scotland, the duties of this office took up but a minor share of the elder Smith's time. His chief business, at least for the last ten years of his life, was his work in the Custom-house, for though he was bred a Writer to the Signet—that is, a solicitor privileged to practise before the Supreme Court—he never seems to have actually practised that profession. A local collectorship or controllership of the Customs was in itself a more important administrative office at that period, when duties were levied on twelve hundred articles, than it is now, when duties are levied on twelve only, and it was much sought after for the younger, or even the elder, sons of the gentry. The very place held by Smith's father at Kirkcaldy was held for many years after his day by a Scotch baronet, Sir Michael Balfour. The salary was not high. Adam Smith began in 1713 with L30 a year, and had only L40 when he died in 1723, but then the perquisites of those offices in the Customs were usually twice or thrice the salary, as we know from the Wealth of Nations itself (Book V. chap. ii.). Smith had a cousin, a third Adam Smith, who was in 1754 Collector of Customs at Alloa with a salary of L60 a year, and who writes his cousin, in connection with a negotiation the latter was conducting on behalf of a friend for the purchase of the office, that the place was worth L200 a year, and that he would not sell it for less than ten years' purchase.[1]

Smith's father died in the spring of 1723, a few months before his famous son was born. Some doubt has been cast upon this fact by an announcement quoted by President M'Cosh, in his Scottish Philosophy, from the Scots Magazine of 1740, of the promotion of Adam Smith, Comptroller of the Customs, Kirkcaldy, to be Inspector-General of the Outports. But conclusive evidence exists of the date of the death of Smith's father in a receipt for his funeral expenses, which is in the possession of Professor Cunningham, and which, as a curious illustration of the habits of the time, I subjoin in a note below.[2] The promotion of 1740 is the promotion not of Smith's father but of his cousin, whom I have just had occasion to mention, and who appears from Chamberlayne's Notitia Angliae to have been Comptroller of the Customs at Kirkcaldy from about 1734 till somewhere before 1741. In the Notitia Angliae for 1741 the name of Adam Smith ceases to appear as Comptroller in Kirkcaldy, and appears for the first time as Inspector-General of the Outports, exactly in accordance with the intimation quoted by Dr. M'Cosh. It is curious that Smith, who was to do so much to sweep away the whole system of the Customs, should have been so closely connected with that branch of administration. His father, his only known relation on his father's side, and himself, were all officials in the Scotch Customs.

On the mother's side his kindred were much connected with the army. His uncle, Robert Douglas of Strathendry, and three of his uncle's sons were military officers, and so was his cousin, Captain Skene, the laird of the neighbouring estate of Pitlour. Colonel Patrick Ross, a distinguished officer of the times, was also a relation, but on which side I do not know. His mother herself was from first to last the heart of Smith's life. He being an only child, and she an only parent, they had been all in all to one another during his infancy and boyhood, and after he was full of years and honours her presence was the same shelter to him as it was when a boy. His friends often spoke of the beautiful affection and worship with which he cherished her. One who knew him well for the last thirty years of his life, and was very probably at one time a boarder in his house, the clever and bustling Earl of Buchan, elder brother of Lord Chancellor Erskine, says the principal avenue to Smith's heart always was by his mother. He was a delicate child, and afflicted even in childhood with those fits of absence and that habit of speaking to himself which he carried all through life. Of his infancy only one incident has come down to us. In his fourth year, while on a visit to his grandfather's house at Strathendry on the banks of the Leven, the child was stolen by a passing band of gipsies, and for a time could not be found. But presently a gentleman arrived who had met a gipsy woman a few miles down the road carrying a child that was crying piteously. Scouts were immediately despatched in the direction indicated, and they came upon the woman in Leslie wood. As soon as she saw them she threw her burden down and escaped, and the child was brought back to his mother. He would have made, I fear, a poor gipsy. As he grew up in boyhood his health became stronger, and he was in due time sent to the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy.

The Burgh School of Kirkcaldy was one of the best secondary schools of Scotland at that period, and its principal master, Mr. David Millar, had the name of being one of the best schoolmasters of his day. When Smith first went to school we cannot say, but it seems probable that he began Latin in 1733, for Eutropius is the class-book of a beginner in Latin, and the Eutropius which Smith used as a class-book still exists, and contains his signature with the date of that year.[3] As he left school in 1737, he thus had at least four years' training in the classics before he proceeded to the University. Millar, his classical master, had adventured in literature. He wrote a play, and his pupils used to act it. Acting plays was in those days a common exercise in the higher schools of Scotland. The presbyteries often frowned, and tried their best to stop the practice, but the town councils, which had the management of these schools, resented the dictation of the presbyteries, and gave the drama not only the support of their personal presence at the performances, but sometimes built a special stage and auditorium for the purpose. Sir James Steuart, the economist, played the king in Henry the Fourth when he was a boy at the school of North Berwick in 1735. The pupils of Dalkeith School, where the historian Robertson was educated, played Julius Caesar in 1734. In the same year the boys of Perth Grammar School played Cato in the teeth of an explicit presbyterial anathema, and again in the same year—in the month of August—the boys of the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy, which Smith was at the time attending, enacted the piece their master had written. It bore the rather unromantic and uninviting title of "A Royal Council for Advice, or the Regular Education of Boys the Foundation of all other Improvements." The dramatis personae were first the master and twelve ordinary members of the council, who sat gravely round a table like senators, and next a crowd of suitors, standing at a little distance off, who sent representatives to the table one by one to state their grievances—first a tradesman, then a farmer, then a country gentleman, then a schoolmaster, a nobleman, and so on. Each of them received advice from the council in turn, and then, last of all, a gentleman came forward, who complimented the council on the successful completion of their day's labours.[4] Smith would no doubt have been present at this performance, but whether he played an active part either as councillor or as spokesman for any class of petitioners, or merely stood in the crowd of suitors, a silent super, cannot now be guessed.

Among those young actors at this little provincial school were several besides Smith himself who were to play important and even distinguished parts afterwards on the great stage of the world. James Oswald—the Right Hon. James Oswald, Treasurer of the Navy—who is sometimes said to have been one of Smith's schoolfellows, could not have been so, as he was eight years Smith's senior, but his younger brother John, subsequently Bishop of Raphoe, doubtless was; and so was Robert Adam, the celebrated architect, who built the London Adelphi, Portland Place, and—probably his finest work—Edinburgh University. Though James Oswald was not at school with Smith, he was one of his intimate home friends from the first. The Dunnikier family lived in the town, and stood on such a footing of intimacy with the Smiths that, as we have seen, it was "Mr. James of Dunnikier"—the father of the James Oswald now in question—who undertook on behalf of Mrs. Smith the arrangements for her husband's funeral; and the friendship of James Oswald, as will presently appear, was, after the affection of his mother, the best thing Smith carried into life with him from Kirkcaldy. The Adam family also lived in the town, though the father was a leading Scotch architect—King's Mason for Scotland, in fact—and was proprietor of a fair estate not far away; and the four brothers Adam were the familiars of Smith's early years. They continued to be among his familiars to the last. Another of his school companions who played a creditable part in his time was John Drysdale, the minister's son, who became one of the ministers of Edinburgh, doctor of divinity, chaplain to the king, leader of an ecclesiastical party—of the Moderates in succession to Robertson—twice Moderator of the General Assembly, though in his case, as in so many others, the path of professional success has led but to oblivion. Still he deserves mention here, because, as his son-in-law, Professor Dalzel tells us, he and Smith were much together again in their later Edinburgh days, and there was none of all Smith's numerous friends whom he liked better or spoke of with greater tenderness than Drysdale.[5] Drysdale's wife was a sister of the brothers Adam, and Robert Adam stayed with Drysdale on his visits to Edinburgh.

A small town like Kirkcaldy—it had then only 1500 inhabitants—is a not unfavourable observatory for beginning one's knowledge of the world. It has more sorts and conditions of men to exhibit than a rural district can furnish, and it exhibits each more completely in all their ways, pursuits, troubles, characters, than can possibly be done in a city. Smith, who, spite of his absence of mind, was always an excellent observer, would grow up in the knowledge of all about everybody in that little place, from the "Lady Dunnikier," the great lady of the town, to its poor colliers and salters who were still bondsmen. Kirkcaldy, too, had its shippers trading with the Baltic, its customs officers, with many a good smuggling story, and it had a nailery or two, which Smith is said to have been fond of visiting as a boy, and to have acquired in them his first rough idea of the value of division of labour.[6] However that may be, Smith does draw some of his illustrations of the division of labour from that particular business, which would necessarily be very familiar to his mind, and it may have been in Kirkcaldy that he found the nailers paid their wages in nails, and using these nails afterwards as a currency in making their purchases from the shopkeepers.[7]

At school Smith was marked for his studious disposition, his love of reading, and his power of memory; and by the age of fourteen he had advanced sufficiently in classics and mathematics to be sent to Glasgow College, with a view to obtaining a Snell exhibition to Oxford.


[1] Original letter in possession of Professor Cunningham, Belfast.



To eight bottles of ale L0 12 0 To butter and eggs to the seed cake 1 4 0 To four bottles of ale 0 6 0 To three pounds fresh butter for bread 0 14 0 To one pound small candles 0 4 6 To two pounds bisquet 1 4 0 To sixteen bottles of ale 1 4 0 To money sent to Edinr. for bisquet, stockings, and necessars 25 4 0 To three expresses to Edinburgh 2 14 0 To a pair of murning shous to Hugh 1 10 0 To horse hyre with the wine from Kinghorn 0 15 0 To the poor 3 6 0 To six bottles and eight pints of ale to the beadels, etc. 1 10 4 To pipes and tobacco 0 4 0 To four pints of ale to the workmen 0 12 8 To the postage of three letters 0 6 0 To making the grave 3 0 0 To caring the mourning letters thro' the town and country 1 10 0 To the mort cloth 3 12 0 To Robert Martin for his services 1 4 0 To Deacon Lessels for the coffin and ironwork 28 4 0 To Deacon Sloan for lifting the stone 1 11 0 ———— Summa is L80 16 6

On the back is the docquet, "Account of funeral charges, Mr. Adam Smith, 1723," and the formal receipt as follows: "Kirkaldie, Apl. 24, 1723. Received from Mr. James of Dunekier eighty pund sexteen shilling six penes Scots in full of the within account depussd by me.


"Mr. James of Dunekier" is Mr. James Oswald of Dunnikier, the father of Smith's friend, the statesman of the same name, and he had apparently as a friend of the family undertaken the duty of looking after the funeral arrangements.

[3] In possession of Professor Cunningham.

[4] Grant's Burgh Schools of Scotland, p. 414.

[5] Drysdale's Sermons, Preface by Dalzel.

[6] Campbell, Journey from Edinburgh through North Britain, 1802, ii. p. 49.

[7] Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. iv.



A.D. 1737-1740. Aet. 14-17

Smith entered Glasgow College in 1737, no doubt in October, when the session began, and he remained there till the spring of 1740. The arts curriculum at that time extended over five sessions, so that Smith did not complete the course required for a degree. In the three sessions he attended he would go through the classes of Latin, Greek, Mathematics, and Moral Philosophy, and have thus listened to the lectures of the three eminent teachers who were then drawing students to this little western College from the most distant quarters, and keeping its courts alive with a remarkable intellectual activity. Dr. A. Carlyle, who came to Glasgow College for his divinity classes after he had finished his arts course at Edinburgh, says he found a spirit of inquiry and a zeal for learning abroad among the students of Glasgow which he remembered nothing like among the students of Edinburgh. This intellectual awakening was the result mainly of the teaching of three professors—Alexander Dunlop, Professor of Greek, a man of fine scholarship and taste, and an unusually engaging method of instruction; Robert Simson, the professor of Mathematics, an original if eccentric genius, who enjoyed a European reputation as the restorer of the geometry of the ancients; and above all, Francis Hutcheson, a thinker of great original power, and an unrivalled academic lecturer.

Smith would doubtless improve his Greek to some extent under Dunlop, though from all we know of the work of that class, he could not be carried very far there. Dunlop spent most of his first year teaching the elements of Greek grammar with Verney's Grammar as his textbook, and reading a little of one or two easy authors as the session advanced. Most of the students entered his class so absolutely ignorant of Greek that he was obliged to read a Latin classic with them for the first three months till they learnt enough of the Greek grammar to read a Greek one. In the second session they were able to accompany him through some of the principal Greek classics, but the time was obviously too short for great things. Smith, however, appears at this time to have shown a marked predilection for mathematics. Dugald Stewart's father, Professor Matthew Stewart of Edinburgh, was a class-fellow of Smith's at Glasgow; and Dugald Stewart has heard his father reminding Smith of a "geometrical problem of considerable difficulty by which he was occupied at the time when their acquaintance commenced, and which had been proposed to him as an exercise by the celebrated Dr. Simson." The only other fellow-student of his at Glasgow of whom we have any knowledge is Dr. Maclaine, the translator of Mosheim, and author of several theological works; and Dr. Maclaine informed Dugald Stewart, in private conversation, of Smith's fondness for mathematics in those early days. For his mathematical professor, Robert Simson himself, Smith always retained the profoundest veneration, and one of the last things he ever wrote—a passage he inserted in the new edition of his Theory of Moral Sentiments, published immediately before his death in 1790—contains a high tribute to the gifts and character of that famous man. In this passage Smith seeks to illustrate a favourite proposition of his, that men of science are much less sensitive to public criticism and much more indifferent to unpopularity or neglect than either poets or painters, because the excellence of their work admits of easy and satisfactory demonstration, whereas the excellence of the poet's work or the painter's depends on a judgment of taste which is more uncertain; and he points to Robert Simson as a signal example of the truth of that proposition. "Mathematicians," he says, "who may have the most perfect assurance of the truth and of the importance of their discoveries, are frequently very indifferent about the reception which they may meet with from the public. The two greatest mathematicians that I ever have had the honour to be known to, and I believe the two greatest that have lived in my time, Dr. Robert Simson of Glasgow and Dr. Matthew Stewart of Edinburgh, never seemed to feel even the slightest uneasiness from the neglect with which the ignorance of the public received some of their most valuable works."[8] And it ought to be remembered that when Smith wrote thus of Simson he had been long intimate with D'Alembert.

But while Smith improved his Greek under Dunlop, and acquired a distinct ardour for mathematics under the inspiring instructions of Simson, the most powerful and enduring influence he came under at Glasgow was undoubtedly that of Hutcheson—"the never-to-be-forgotten Hutcheson," as he styled him half a century later in recalling his obligations to his old College on the occasion of his election to the Rectorship. No other man, indeed, whether teacher or writer, did so much to awaken Smith's mind or give a bent to his ideas. He is sometimes considered a disciple of Hume and sometimes considered a disciple of Quesnay; if he was any man's disciple, he was Hutcheson's. Hutcheson was exactly the stamp of man fitted to stir and mould the thought of the young. He was, in the first place, one of the most impressive lecturers that ever spoke from an academic chair. Dugald Stewart, who knew many of his pupils, states that every one of them told of the extraordinary impression his lectures used to make on their hearers. He was the first professor in Glasgow to give up lecturing in Latin and speak to his audience in their own tongue, and he spoke without notes and with the greatest freedom and animation. Nor was it only his eloquence, but his ideas themselves were rousing. Whatever he touched upon, he treated, as we may still perceive from his writings, with a certain freshness and decided originality which must have provoked the dullest to some reflection, and in a bracing spirit of intellectual liberty which it was strength and life for the young mind to breathe. He was not long in Glasgow, accordingly, till he was bitterly attacked by the older generation outside the walls of the College as a "new light" fraught with dangers to all accepted beliefs, and at the same time worshipped like an idol by the younger generation inside the walls, who were thankful for the light he brought them, and had no quarrel with it for being new. His immediate predecessor in that chair, Professor Gershom Carmichael, the reputed father of the Scottish Philosophy, was still a Puritan of the Puritans, wrapt in a gloomy Calvinism, and desponding after signs that would never come. But Hutcheson belonged to a new era, which had turned to the light of nature for guidance, and had discovered by it the good and benevolent Deity of the eighteenth century, who lived only for human welfare, and whose will was not to be known from mysterious signs and providences, but from a broad consideration of the greater good of mankind—"the greatest happiness of the greatest number." Hutcheson was the original author of that famous phrase.

All this was anathema to the exponents of the prevailing theology with which, indeed, it seemed only too surely to dispense; and in Smith's first year at Glasgow the local Presbytery set the whole University in a ferment by prosecuting Hutcheson for teaching to his students, in contravention of his subscription to the Westminster Confession, the following two false and dangerous doctrines: 1st, that the standard of moral goodness was the promotion of the happiness of others; and 2nd, that we could have a knowledge of good and evil without and prior to a knowledge of God. This trial of course excited the profoundest feeling among the students, and they actually made a formal appearance before the Presbytery, and defended their hero zealously both by word and writing. Smith, being only a bajan—a first year's student—would play no leading part in these proceedings, but he could not have lived in the thick of them unmoved, and he certainly—either then or afterwards, when he entered Hutcheson's class and listened to his lectures on natural theology, or perhaps attended his private class on the Sundays for special theological study—adopted the religious optimism of Hutcheson for his own creed, and continued under its influence to the last of his days.

In politics also Hutcheson's lectures exercised important practical influence on the general opinion of his students. The principles of religious and political liberty were then so imperfectly comprehended and so little accepted that their advocacy was still something of a new light, and we are informed by one of Hutcheson's leading colleagues, Principal Leechman, that none of his lectures made a deeper or wider impression than his exposition of those principles, and that very few of his pupils left his hands without being imbued with some of the same love of liberty which animated their master. Smith was no exception, and that deep strong love of all reasonable liberty which characterised him must have been, if not first kindled, at any rate quickened by his contact with Hutcheson.

Interesting traces of more specific influence remain. Dugald Stewart seems to have heard Smith himself admit that it was Hutcheson in his lectures that suggested to him the particular theory of the right of property which he used to teach in his own unpublished lectures on jurisprudence, and which founded the right of property on the general sympathy of mankind with the reasonable expectation of the occupant to enjoy unmolested the object which he had acquired or discovered.[9] But it is most probable that his whole theory of moral sentiments was suggested by the lectures of Hutcheson, perhaps the germs of it even when he was passing through the class. For Hutcheson in the course of his lectures expressly raises and discusses the question, Can we reduce our moral sentiments to sympathy? He answered the question himself in the negative, on the ground that we often approve of the actions of people with whom we have no sympathy, our enemies for example, and his pupil's contribution to the discussion was an ingenious attempt to surmount that objection by the theory of sympathy with an impartial spectator.

Hutcheson's name occurs in no history of political economy, but he lectured systematically on that subject—as Smith himself subsequently did—as a branch of his course on natural jurisprudence, a discussion of contracts requiring him to examine the principles of value, interest, currency, etc., and these lectures, though fragmentary, are remarkable for showing a grasp of economic questions before his time, and presenting, with a clear view of their importance, some of Smith's most characteristic positions. He is free from the then prevailing mercantilist fallacies about money. His remarks on value contain what reads like a first draft of Smith's famous passage on value in use and value in exchange. Like Smith, he holds labour to be the great source of wealth and the true measure of value, and declares every man to have the natural right to use his faculties according to his own pleasure for his own ends in any work or recreation that inflicts no injury on the persons or property of others, except when the public interests may otherwise require. This is just Smith's system of natural liberty in matters industrial, with a general limitation in the public interest such as Smith also approves. In the practical enforcement of this limitation he would impose some particular restraints which Smith might not, but, on the other hand, he would abolish other particular restraints which Smith, and even Quesnay, would still retain, e.g. the fixing of interest by law. His doctrine was essentially the doctrine of industrial liberty with which Smith's name is identified, and in view of the claims set up on behalf of the French Physiocrats that Smith learnt that doctrine in their school, it is right to remember that he was brought into contact with it in Hutcheson's class-room at Glasgow some twenty years before any of the Physiocrats had written a line on the subject, and that the very first ideas on economic subjects which were presented to his mind contained in germ—and in very active and sufficient germ—the very doctrines about liberty, labour, and value on which his whole system was afterwards built.

Though Smith was a mere lad of sixteen at that time, his mind had already, under Hutcheson's stimulating instructions, begun to work effectively on the ideas lodged in it and to follow out their suggestions in his own thought. Hutcheson seems to have recognised his quality, and brought him, young though he was, under the personal notice of David Hume. There is a letter written by Hume to Hutcheson on the 4th of March 1740 which is not indeed without its difficulties, but if, as Mr. Burton thinks, the Mr. Smith mentioned in it be the economist, it would appear as if Smith had, while attending Hutcheson's class,—whether as a class exercise or otherwise,—written an abstract of Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, then recently published, that Smith's abstract was to be sent to some periodical for publication, and that Hume was so pleased with it that he presented its young author with a copy of his own work. "My bookseller," Hume writes, "has sent to Mr. Smith a copy of my book, which I hope he has received as well as your letter. I have not yet heard what he has done with the abstract. Perhaps you have. I have got it printed in London, but not in the Works of the Learned, there having been an article with regard to my book somewhat abusive before I sent up the abstract." If the Mr. Smith of this letter is Adam Smith, then he must have been away from Glasgow at that time, for Hutcheson was communicating with him by letter, but that may possibly be explained by the circumstance that he had been appointed to one of the Snell exhibitions at Balliol College, Oxford, and might have gone home to Kirkcaldy to make preparations for residence at the English University, though he did not actually set out for it till June.

These Snell exhibitions, which were practically in the gift of the Glasgow professors, were naturally the prize of the best student of Glasgow College at the time they fell vacant, and they have been held in the course of the two centuries of their existence by many distinguished men, including Sir William Hamilton and Lockhart, Archbishop Tait and Lord President Inglis. They were originally founded by an old Glasgow student, a strong Episcopalian, for the purpose of educating Scotchmen for the service of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. By the terms of his will the holders were even to be bound under penalty of L500 "to enter holy orders and return to serve the Church in Scotland," and it has sometimes been concluded from that circumstance that Smith must have accepted the Snell exhibition with a view to the Episcopal ministry. But the original purpose of the founder was frustrated by the Revolution settlement, which made "the Church in Scotland" Presbyterian, and left scarce any Episcopal remnant to serve, and the original condition has never been practically enforced. The last attempt to impose it was made during Smith's own tenure of the exhibition, and failed. In the year 1744 the Vice-Chancellor and the heads of Colleges at Oxford raised a process in the Court of Chancery for compelling the Snell exhibitioners "to submit and conform to the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England, and to enter into holy orders when capable thereof by the canons of the Church of England"; but the Court of Chancery refused to interfere, and the exhibitioners were left entirely free to choose their sect, their profession, and their country, as seemed best to themselves. It may be added that in Smith's time the Snell foundation yielded five exhibitions of L40 a year each, tenable for eleven years.

Of Smith's friends among his fellow-students at Glasgow, no names have been preserved for us except those already mentioned, Professor Matthew Stewart, and Dr. Maclaine, the embassy chaplain at the Hague. He continued on a footing of great intimacy with Stewart, whom, as we have seen, he considered to be, after Robert Simson, the greatest mathematician of his time, and he seems to have enjoyed occasional opportunities of renewing his acquaintance with Dr. Maclaine, though the opportunities could not have been frequent, as Maclaine spent his whole active life abroad as English chaplain at the Hague. But the remark made by Smith to Dr. William Thompson, a historical writer of the last century, seems to imply his having had some intercourse with his early friend. Thompson, Dr. Watson the historian of Philip II., and Dr. Maclaine, seem all to have been writing the history of the Peace of Utrecht, and Smith, who knew all three, said Watson was much afraid of Maclaine, and Maclaine was just as much afraid of Watson, but he could have told them of one they had much more cause to fear, and that was Thompson himself.


[8] Theory of Moral Sentiments, i. 313.

[9] Stewart's Works, vii. 263.



1740-1746. Aet. 17-23

Smith left Scotland for Oxford in June 1740, riding the whole way on horseback, and, as he told Samuel Rogers many years afterwards, being much struck from the moment he crossed the Border with the richness of the country he was entering, and the great superiority of its agriculture over that of his own country. Scotch agriculture was not born in 1740, even in the Lothians; the face of the country everywhere was very bare and waste, and, as he was rather pointedly reminded on the day of his arrival at Oxford, even its cattle were still lean and poor, compared with the fat oxen of England. Among the stories told of his absence of mind is one he is said by a writer in the Monthly Review to have been fond of relating himself whenever a particular joint appeared on his own table. The first day he dined in the hall at Balliol he fell into a reverie at table and for a time forgot his meal, whereupon the servitor roused him to attention, telling him he had better fall to, because he had never seen such a piece of beef in Scotland as the joint then before him. His nationality, as will presently appear, occasioned him worse trouble at Oxford than this good-natured gibe.

He matriculated at the University on the 7th of July. Professor Thorold Rogers, who has collected the few particulars that can now be learned of Smith's residence at Oxford from official records, gives us the matriculation entry: "Adamus Smith e Coll. Ball., Gen. Fil. Jul. 7mo 1740,"[10] and mentions that it is written in a round school-boy hand—a style of hand, we may add, which Smith retained to the last. He has himself said that literary composition never grew easier to him with experience; neither apparently did handwriting. His letters are all written in the same big round characters, connected together manifestly by a slow, difficult, deliberate process.

He remained at Oxford till the 15th of August 1746; after that day his name appears no longer in the Buttery Books of the College; but up till that day he resided at Oxford continuously from the time of his matriculation. He did not leave between terms, and was thus six years on end away from home. A journey to Scotland was in those days a serious and expensive undertaking; it would have taken more than half Smith's exhibition of L40 to pay for the posting alone of a trip to Kirkcaldy and back. When Professor Rouet of Glasgow was sent up to London a few years later to push on the tedious twenty years' lawsuit between Glasgow College and Balliol about the Snell exhibitions, the single journey cost him L11:15s., exclusive of personal expenses, for which he was allowed 6s. 8d. a day.[11] Now Smith out of his L40 a year had to pay about L30 for his food; Mr. Rogers mentions that his first quarter's maintenance came to L7:5s., about the usual cost of living, he adds, at Oxford at that period. Then the tutors, though they seem to have ceased to do any tutoring, still took their fees of 20s. a quarter all the same, and Smith's remaining L5 would be little enough to meet other items of necessary expenditure. It appears from Salmon's Present State of the Universities, published in 1744, during Smith's residence at Oxford, that an Oxford education then cost L32 a year as a minimum, but that there was scarce a commoner in the University who spent less than L60.

Smith's name does not appear in Bliss's list of Oxford graduates, and although in Mr. Foster's recent Alumni Oxonienses other particulars are given about him, no mention is made of his graduation; but Professor Rogers has discovered evidence in the Buttery Books of Balliol which seems conclusively to prove that Smith actually took the degree of B.A., whatever may be the explanation of the apparent omission of his name from the official graduation records. In those Buttery Books he is always styled Dominus from and after the week ending 13th April 1744. Now Dominus was the usual designation of a B.A., and in April 1744 Smith would have kept the sixteen terms that were then, we may say, the only qualification practically necessary for that degree. He had possibly omitted some step requisite for the formal completion of the graduation.

Smith's residence at Oxford fell in a time when learning lay there under a long and almost total eclipse. This dark time seems to have lasted most of that century. Crousaz visited Oxford about the beginning of the century and found the dons as ignorant of the new philosophy as the savages of the South Sea. Bishop Butler came there as a student twenty years afterwards, and could get nothing to satisfy his young thirst for knowledge except "frivolous lectures" and "unintelligible disputations." A generation later he could not even have got that; for Smith tells us in the Wealth of Nations that the lecturers had then given up all pretence of lecturing, and a foreign traveller, who describes a public disputation he attended at Oxford in 1788, says the Praeses Respondent and three Opponents all sat consuming the statutory time in profound silence, absorbed in the novel of the hour. Gibbon, who resided there not long after Smith, tells that his tutor neither gave nor sought to give him more than one lesson, and that the conversation of the common-room, to which as a gentleman commoner he was privileged to listen, never touched any point of literature or scholarship, but "stagnated in a round of College business, Tory politics, personal anecdotes, and private scandal." Bentham, a few years after Gibbon, has the same tale to tell; it was absolutely impossible to learn anything at Oxford, and the years he spent there were the most barren and unprofitable of his life. Smith's own account of the English universities in the Wealth of Nations, though only published in 1776, was substantially true of Oxford during his residence there thirty years before. Every word of it is endorsed by Gibbon as the word of "a moral and political sage who had himself resided at Oxford." Now, according to that account, nobody was then taught, or could so much as find "the proper means of being taught, the sciences which it is the business of those incorporated bodies to teach." The lecturers had ceased lecturing; "the tutors contented themselves with teaching a few unconnected shreds and parcels" of the old unimproved traditionary course, "and even these they commonly taught very negligently and superficially"; being paid independently of their personal industry, and being responsible only to one another, "every man consented that his neighbour might neglect his duty provided he himself were allowed to neglect his own"; and the general consequence was a culpable dislike to improvement and indifference to all new ideas, which made a rich and well-endowed university the "sanctuary in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices find shelter and protection after they have been hunted out of every corner of the world." Coming up from a small university in the North, which was cultivating letters with such remarkable spirit on its little oatmeal wisely dispensed, Smith concluded that the stagnation of learning which prevailed in the wealthy universities of England was due at bottom to nothing but their wealth, because it was distributed on a bad system.

Severely, however, as Smith has censured the order of things he found prevailing at Oxford, it is worthy of notice that he never, like Gibbon and Bentham, thought of the six years he spent there as being wasted. Boswell and others have pronounced him ungrateful for the censures he deemed meet to pass upon that order of things, but that charge is of course unreasonable, because the censures were undeniably true and undeniably useful, and I refer to it here merely to point out that as a matter of fact Smith not only felt, but has publicly expressed, gratitude for his residence at the University of Oxford. He does so in his letter to the Principal of Glasgow College in 1787 accepting the Rectorship, when in enumerating the claims which Glasgow College had upon his grateful regard, he expressly mentions the fact that it had sent him as a student to Oxford. In truth, his time was not wasted at Oxford. He did not allow it to be wasted. He read deeply and widely in many subjects and in many languages; he read and thought for six years, and for that best kind of education the negligence of tutors and lecturers, such as they then were, was probably better than their assiduity.

For this business of quiet reading Smith seems to have been happily situated in Balliol. Balliol was not then a reading college as it is now. A claim is set up in behalf of some of the other Oxford colleges that they kept the lamp of learning lit even in the darkest days of last century, but Balliol is not one of them. It was chiefly known in that age for the violence of its Jacobite opinions. Only a few months after Smith left it a party of Balliol students celebrated the birthday of Cardinal York in the College, and rushing out into the streets, mauled every Hanoverian they met, and created such a serious riot that they were sentenced to two years' imprisonment for it by the Court of King's Bench; but for this grave offence the master of the College, Dr. Theophilus Leigh, and the other authorities, had thought the culprits entitled to indulgence on account of the anniversary they were celebrating, and had decided that the case would be sufficiently met by a Latin imposition. If Balliol, however, was not more enlightened than any of the other colleges of the day, it had one great advantage, it possessed one of the best college libraries at Oxford. The Bodleian was not then open to any member of the University under the rank of a bachelor of arts of two years' standing, and Smith was only a bachelor of arts of two years' standing for a few months before he finally quitted Oxford. He could therefore have made little use of the Bodleian and its then unrivalled treasures, but in his own college library at Balliol he was allowed free range, and availed himself of his privilege with only too great assiduity, to the injury of his health.

His studies took a new turn at Oxford; he laid aside the mathematics for which he showed a liking at Glasgow, and gave his strength to the ancient Latin and Greek classics, possibly for no better reason than that he could get nobody at Oxford to take the trouble of teaching him the former, and that the Balliol library furnished him with the means of cultivating the latter by himself. He did so, moreover, to some purpose, for all through life he showed a knowledge of Greek and Latin literature not only uncommonly extensive but uncommonly exact. Dalzel, the professor of Greek at Edinburgh, was one of Smith's most intimate friends during those latter years of his life when he was generally found with one of the classical authors before him, in conformity with his theory that the best amusement of age was to renew acquaintance with the writers who were the delight of one's youth; and Dalzel used always to speak to Dugald Stewart with the greatest admiration of the readiness and accuracy with which Smith remembered the works of the Greek authors, and even of the mastery he exhibited over the niceties of Greek grammar.[12] This knowledge must of course have been acquired at Oxford. Smith had read the Italian poets greatly too, and could quote them easily; and he paid special care to the French classics on account of their style, spending much time indeed, we are told, in trying to improve his own style by translating their writings into English.

There was only one fruit in the garden of which he might not freely eat, and that was the productions of modern rationalism. A story has come down which, though not mentioned by Dugald Stewart, is stated by M'Culloch to rest on the best authority, and by Dr. Strang of Glasgow to have been often told by Smith himself, to the effect that he was one day detected reading Hume's Treatise of Human Nature—probably the very copy presented him by the author at the apparent suggestion of Hutcheson—and was punished by a severe reprimand and the confiscation of the evil book. It is at least entirely consistent with all we know of the spirit of darkness then ruling in Oxford that it should be considered an offence of peculiar aggravation for a student to read a great work of modern thought which had been actually placed in his hands by his professor at Glasgow, and the only wonder is that Smith escaped so lightly, for but a few years before three students were expelled from Oxford for coquetting with Deism, and a fourth, of whom better hopes seem to have been formed, had his degree deferred for two years, and was required in the interval to translate into Latin as a reformatory exercise the whole of Leslie's Short and Easy Method with the Deists.[13]

Except for the great resource of study, Smith's life at Oxford seems not to have been a very happy one. For one thing, he was in poor health and spirits a considerable part of the time, as appears from the brief extracts from his letters published by Lord Brougham. When Brougham was writing his account of Smith he got the use of a number of letters written by the latter to his mother from Oxford between 1740 and 1746, which probably exist somewhere still, but which, he found, contained nothing of any general interest. "They are almost all," he says, "upon mere family and personal matters, most of them indeed upon his linen and other such necessaries, but all show his strong affection for his mother." The very brief extracts Brougham makes from them, however, inform us that Smith was then suffering from what he calls "an inveterate scurvy and shaking in the head," for which he was using the new remedy of tar-water which Bishop Berkeley had made the fashionable panacea for all manner of diseases. At the end of July 1744 Smith says to his mother: "I am quite inexcusable for not writing to you oftener. I think of you every day, but always defer writing till the post is just going, and then sometimes business or company, but oftener laziness, hinders me. Tar-water is a remedy very much in vogue here at present for almost all diseases. It has perfectly cured me of an inveterate scurvy and shaking in the head. I wish you'd try it. I fancy it might be of service to you." In another and apparently subsequent letter, however, he states that he had had the scurvy and shaking as long as he remembered anything, and that the tar-water had not removed them. On the 29th of November 1743 he makes the curious confession: "I am just recovered from a violent fit of laziness, which has confined me to my elbow-chair these three months."[14] Brougham thinks these statements show symptoms of hypochondria; but they probably indicate no more than the ordinary lassitude and exhaustion ensuing from overwork. Hume, when about the same age, had by four or five years' hard reading thrown himself into a like condition, and makes the same complaints of "laziness of temper" and scurvy. The shaking in the head continued to attend Smith all his days.

But low health was only one of the miseries of his estate at Oxford. There is reason to believe that Balliol College was in his day a stepmother to her Scotch sons, and that their existence there was made very uncomfortable not merely at the hands of the mob of young gentlemen among whom they were obliged to live, but even more by the unfair and discriminating harshness of the College authorities themselves. Out of the hundred students then residing at Balliol, eight at least were Scotch, four on the Snell foundation and four on the Warner, and the Scotch eight seem to have been always treated as an alien and intrusive faction. The Snell exhibitioners were continually complaining to the Glasgow Senatus on the subject, and the Glasgow Senatus thought them perfectly justified in complaining. In a letter of 22nd May 1776, in which they go over the whole long story of grievances, the Glasgow Senatus tell the Master and Fellows of Balliol plainly that the Scotch students had never been "welcomely received" at Balliol, and had never been happy there. If an English undergraduate committed a fault, the authorities never thought of blaming any one but himself, but when one of the eight Scotch undergraduates did so, his sin was remembered against all the other seven, and reflections were cast on the whole body; "a circumstance," add the Senatus, "which has been much felt during their residence at Balliol." Their common resentment against the injustice of this kind of tribal accountability that was imposed on them naturally provoked a common resistance; it developed "a spirit of association," say the Senatus, which "has at all periods been a cause of much trouble both to Balliol and to Glasgow Colleges."[15] In 1744, when Smith himself was one of them, the Snell exhibitioners wrote an account of their grievances to the Glasgow Senatus, and stated "what they wanted to be done towards making their residence more easy and advantageous";[16] and in 1753, when some of Smith's contemporaries would still be on the foundation, Dr. Leigh, the master of Balliol, tells the Glasgow Senatus that he had ascertained in an interview with one of the Snell exhibitioners that what they wanted was to be transferred to some other college, because they had "a total dislike to Balliol."[17]

This idea of a transference, I may be allowed to add, continued to be mooted, and in 1776 it was actually proposed by the heads of Balliol to the Senatus of Glasgow to transfer the Snell foundationers altogether to Hertford College; but the Glasgow authorities thought this would be merely a transference of the troubles, and not a remedy for them, that the exhibitioners would get no better welcome at Hertford than at Balliol if they came as "fixed property" instead of coming as volunteers, and that they could never lose their national peculiarities of dialect and their habits of combination if they came in a body. Accordingly, in the letter of 22nd May 1776, which I have already quoted,[18] they recommended the arrangement of leaving each exhibitioner to choose his own college,—an arrangement, it may be remembered, which had just then been strongly advocated as a general principle by Smith in his newly-published Wealth of the Nations, on the broader ground that it would encourage a wholesome competition between the colleges, and so improve the character of the instruction given in them all.

Now if the daily relations between the Scotch exhibitioners at Balliol and the authorities and general members of the College were of the unhappy description partially revealed in this correspondence, that may possibly afford some explanation of what must otherwise seem the entirely unaccountable circumstance that Smith, so far as we are able to judge, made almost no permanent friends at Oxford. Few men were ever by nature more entirely formed for friendship than Smith. At every other stage of his history we invariably find him surrounded by troops of friends, and deriving from their company his chief solace and delight. But here he is six or seven years at Oxford, at the season of manhood when the deepest and most lasting friendships of a man's life are usually made, and yet we never see him in all his subsequent career holding an hour's intercourse by word or letter with any single Oxford contemporary except Bishop Douglas of Salisbury, and Bishop Douglas had been a Snell exhibitioner himself. With Douglas, moreover, he had many other ties. Douglas was a Fifeshire man, and may possibly have been a kinsman more or less remote; he was a friend of Hume and Robertson, and all Smith's Edinburgh friends; and he was, like Smith again, a member of the famous Literary Club of London, and is celebrated in that character by Goldsmith in the poem "Retaliation," as "the scourge of impostors, the terror of quacks." I have gone over the names of those who might be Smith's contemporaries at Balliol as they appear in Mr. Foster's list of Alumni Oxonienses, and they were a singularly undistinguished body of people. Smith and Douglas themselves are indeed the only two of them who seem to have made any mark in the world at all.

An allusion has been made to the Scottish dialect of the Snell exhibitioners; it may be mentioned that Smith seems to have lost the broad Scotch at Oxford without, like Jeffrey, contracting the narrow English; at any rate Englishmen, who visited Smith after visiting Robertson or Blair, were struck with the pure and correct English he spoke in private conversation, and he appears to have done so without giving any impression of constraint.

Smith returned to Scotland in August 1746, but his name remained on the Oxford books for some months after his departure, showing apparently that he had not on leaving come to a final determination against going back. His friends at home are said to have been most anxious that he should continue at Oxford; that would naturally seem to open to him the best opportunities either in the ecclesiastical career for which they are believed to have destined him, or in the university career for which nature herself designed him. But both careers were practically barred against him by his objection to taking holy orders, the great majority of the Oxford Fellowships being at that time only granted upon condition of ordination, and Smith concluded that the best prospect for him was after all the road back to Scotland. And he never appears to have set foot in Oxford again. When he became Professor at Glasgow he was the medium of intercourse between the Glasgow Senate and the Balliol authorities, but beyond the occasional interchange of letters which this business required, his relations with the Southern University appear to have continued completely suspended. Nor did Oxford, on her part, ever show any interest in him. Even after he had become perhaps her greatest living alumnus, she did not offer him the ordinary honour of a doctor's degree.


[10] Rogers's edition of the Wealth of Nations, I. vii.

[11] Laing MSS., Edinburgh University.

[12] Stewart's Life of Adam Smith, p. 8.

[13] Tyerman's Wesley, i. 66.

[14] Brougham, Men of Letters, ii. 216.

[15] Letter from Senatus of Glasgow College to Balliol College, in Laing MSS., Edinburgh University.

[16] Letter of A.G. Ross of Gray's Inn to Professor R. Simson, Glasgow, in Edinburgh University Library.

[17] Laing MSS., Edinburgh University.

[18] Edinburgh University Library.



1748-1750. Aet. 25-27

In returning to Scotland Smith's ideas were probably fixed from the first on a Scotch university chair as an eventual acquisition, but he thought in the meantime to obtain employment of the sort he afterwards gave up his chair to take with the Duke of Buccleugh, a travelling tutorship with a young man of rank and wealth, then a much-desired and, according to the standard of the times, a highly-remunerated occupation. While casting about for a place of that kind he stayed at home with his mother in Kirkcaldy, and he had to remain there without any regular employment for two full years, from the autumn of 1746 till the autumn of 1748. The appointment never came; because from his absent manner and bad address, we are told, he seemed to the ordinary parental mind a most unsuitable person to be entrusted with the care of spirited and perhaps thoughtless young gentlemen. But the visits he paid to Edinburgh in pursuit of this work bore fruit by giving him quite as good a start in life, and a much shorter cut to the professorial position for which he was best fitted. During the winter of 1748-49 he made a most successful beginning as a public lecturer by delivering a course on the then comparatively untried subject of English literature, and gave at the same time a first contribution to English literature himself by collecting and editing the poems of William Hamilton of Bangour. For both these undertakings he was indebted to the advice and good offices of Lord Kames, or, as he then was, Mr. Henry Home, one of the leaders of the Edinburgh bar, with whom he was made acquainted, we may safely assume, by his friend and neighbour, James Oswald of Dunnikier, whom we know to have been among Kames's most intimate friends and correspondents. Kames, though now fifty-two, had not yet written any of the works which raised him afterwards to eminence, but he had long enjoyed in the literary society of the North something of that position which Voltaire laughs at him for trying to take towards the world in general; he was a law on all questions of taste, from an epic poem to a garden plot. He had little Latin and no Greek, for he never was at college, and the classical quotations in his Sketches were translated for him by A.F. Tytler. But he had thrown himself with all the greater zeal on that account into English literature when English literature became the rage in Scotland after the Union, and he was soon crossing steel with Bishop Butler in metaphysics, and the accepted guide of the new Scotch poets in literary criticism. Hamilton of Bangour confesses that he himself

From Hume learned verse to criticise,

the Hume meant being his early friend, Henry Home of Kames, and not his later friend, David Hume the historian.[19] Home's place in the literature of Scotland corresponds with his place in its agriculture; he was the first of the improvers; and Smith, who always held him in the deepest veneration, was not wrong when, on being complimented on the group of great writers who were then reflecting glory on Scotland, he said, "Yes, but we must every one of us acknowledge Kames for our master."[20]

When Home found Smith already as well versed in the English classics as himself, he suggested the delivery of this course of lectures on English literature and criticism. The subject was fresh, it was fashionable, and though Stevenson, the Professor of Logic, had already lectured on it, and lectured on it in English too to his class, nobody had yet given lectures on it open to the general public, whose interest it had at the moment so much engaged. The success of such a course seemed assured, and the event fully justified that prognostication. The class was attended among others by Kames himself; by students for the bar, like Alexander Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Chancellor of England, and William Johnstone, who long played an influential part in Parliament as Sir William Pulteney; by young ministers of the city like Dr. Blair, who subsequently gave a similar course himself; and by many others, both young and old. It brought Smith in, we are informed, a clear L100 sterling, and if we assume that the fee was a guinea, which was a customary fee at the period, the audience would be something better than a hundred. It was probably held in the College, for Blair's subsequent course was delivered there even before the establishment of any formal connection with the University by the creation of the professorship.

The lectures Smith then delivered on English literature were burnt at his own request shortly before his death. Blair, who not only heard them at the time, but got the use of them—or, at least, of part of them—afterwards for the preparation of his own lectures on rhetoric, speaks as if there was some hope at one time that Smith would publish them, but if he ever entertained such an intention, he was too entirely preoccupied with work of greater importance and interest to himself to obtain leisure to put them into shape for publication. It has been suggested that they are practically reproduced in the lectures of Blair. Blair acknowledges having taken a few hints for his treatment of simplicity in style from the manuscript of Smith's lectures. His words are: "On this head, of the general characters of style, particularly the plain and the simple, and the characters of those English authors who are classed under them, in this and the following lecture, several ideas have been taken from a manuscript treatise on rhetoric, part of which was shown to me many years ago by the learned and ingenious author, Dr. Adam Smith; and which it is hoped will be given by him to the public."[21] Now many of Smith's friends considered this acknowledgment far from adequate, and Hill, the biographer of Blair, says Smith himself joined in their complaint. It is very unlikely that Smith ever joined in any such complaint, for Henry Mackenzie told Samuel Rogers an anecdote which conveys an entirely contrary impression. Mackenzie was speaking of Smith's wealth of conversation, and telling how he often used to say to him, "Sir, you have said enough to make a book," and he then mentioned that Blair frequently introduced into his sermons some of Smith's thoughts on jurisprudence, which he had gathered from his conversation, and that he himself had told the circumstance to Smith. "He is very welcome," was the economist's answer; "there is enough left."[22] And if Smith made Blair welcome to his thoughts on jurisprudence, a subject on which he intended to publish a work of his own, we may be certain he made him not less heartily welcome to his thoughts on literature and style, on which he probably entertained no similar intention. Besides, if we judge from the two chapters regarding which he owns his obligation to Smith, Blair does not seem to have borrowed anything but what was the commonest of property already. He took only what his superficial mind had the power of taking, and the pith of Smith's thinking must have been left behind. To borrow even a hat to any purpose, the two heads must be something of a size.

We cannot suppose, therefore, that we have any proper representation or reflection of Smith's literary lectures in the lectures of Blair, but it would be quite possible still, if it were desired, to collect a not inadequate view of his literary opinions from incidental remarks contained in his writings or preserved by friends from recollections of his conversation. Wordsworth, in the preface to the Lyrical Ballads, calls him "the worst critic, David Hume excepted, that Scotland, a soil to which this sort of weed seems natural, has produced," and his judgments will certainly not be confirmed by the taste of the present time. He preferred the classical to the romantic school. He thought with Voltaire that Shakespeare had written good scenes but not a good play, and that though he had more dramatic genius than Dryden, Dryden was the greater poet. He thought little of Milton's minor poems, and less of the old ballads collected by Percy, but he had great admiration for Pope, believed Gray, if he had only written a little more, would have been the greatest poet in the English language, and thought Racine's Phaedrus the finest tragedy extant in any language in the world. His own great test of literary beauty was the principle he lays down in his Essay on the Imitative Arts, that the beauty is always in the proportion of the difficulty perceived to be overcome.

Smith seems at this early period of his life to have had dreams of some day figuring as a poet himself, and his extensive familiarity with the poets always struck Dugald Stewart as very remarkable in a man so conspicuous for the weight of his more solid attainments. "In the English language," says Stewart, "the variety of poetical passages which he was not only accustomed to refer to occasionally, but which he was able to repeat with correctness, appeared surprising even to those whose attention had never been attracted to more important acquisitions." The tradition of Smith's early ambition to be a poet is only preserved in an allusion in Caleb Colton's "Hypocrisy," but it receives a certain support from a remark of Smith's own in conversation with a young friend in his later years. Colton's allusion runs as follows:—

Unused am I the Muse's path to tread, And curs'd with Adam's unpoetic head, Who, though that pen he wielded in his hand Ordain'd the Wealth of Nations to command; Yet when on Helicon he dar'd to draw, His draft return'd and unaccepted saw. If thus like him we lay a rune in vain, Like him we'll strive some humbler prize to gain.

Smith's own confession is contained in a report of some conversations given in the Bee for 1791. He was speaking about blank verse, to which he always had a dislike, as we know from an interesting incident mentioned by Boswell. Boswell, who attended Smith's lectures on English literature at Glasgow College in 1759, told Johnson four years after that Smith had pronounced a strong opinion in these lectures against blank verse and in favour of rhyme—always, no doubt, on the same principle that the greater the difficulty the greater the beauty. This delighted the heart of Johnson, and he said, "Sir, I was once in company with Smith, and we did not take to each other, but had I known that he loved rhyme as much as you tell me he does, I should have hugged him." Twenty years later Smith was again expressing to the anonymous interviewer of the Bee his unabated contempt for all blank verse except Milton's, and he said that though he could never find a single rhyme in his life, he could make blank verse as fast as he could speak. "Blank verse," he said; "they do well to call it blank, for blank it is. I myself even, who never could find a single rhyme in my life, could make blank verse as fast as I could speak." The critic would thus appear here again to have been the poet who has failed, though in this case he had the sense to discover the failure without tempting the judgment of the public.

Indeed he had already begun to discover his true vocation, for besides his lectures on English literature, which he delivered for three successive winters, he delivered at least one winter a course on economics; and in this course, written in the year 1749, and delivered in the year 1750-51, Smith advocated the doctrines of commercial liberty on which he was nurtured by Hutcheson, and which he was afterwards to do so much to advance. He states this fact himself in a paper read before a learned society in Glasgow in 1755, which afterwards fell into the hands of Dugald Stewart, and from which Stewart extracts a passage or two, which I shall quote in a subsequent chapter. They certainly contain a plain enough statement of the doctrine of natural liberty; and Smith says that a great part of the opinions contained in the paper were "treated of at length in some lectures which I have still by me, and which were written in the hand of a clerk who left my service six years ago"—that is, in 1749—and adds that "they had all of them been the subjects of lectures which I read at Edinburgh the winter before I left it, and I can adduce innumerable witnesses both from that place and from this who will ascertain them sufficiently to be mine."[23] These ideas of natural liberty in industrial affairs were actively at work, not only in Smith's own mind, but in the minds of others in his immediate circle in Scotland in those years 1749 and 1750. David Hume and James Oswald were then corresponding on the subject, and though it is doubtful whether Smith had seen much or anything of Hume personally at that time (for Hume had been abroad with General St. Clair part of it, and did not live in Edinburgh after his return), it was in those and the two previous years that Smith was first brought into real intellectual contact with his friend and townsman, James Oswald.

Oswald, it may be mentioned, though still a young man—only eight years older than Smith—had already made his mark in Parliament where he sat for their native burgh, and had been made a Commissioner of the Navy in 1745. He had made his mark largely by his mastery of economic subjects, for which Hume said, after paying him a visit at Dunnikier for a week in 1744, that he had a "great genius," and "would go far in that way if he persevered." He became afterwards commissioner of trade and plantations, Lord of the Treasury, and Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, and would have certainly gone further but for his premature death in 1768 at the age of fifty-two. Lord Shelburne once strongly advised Lord Bute to make him Chancellor of the Exchequer. Smith thought as highly of Oswald as Hume. He used to "dilate," says Oswald's grandson, who heard him, "with a generous and enthusiastic pleasure on the qualifications and merits of Mr. Oswald, candidly avowing at the same time how much information he had received on many points from the enlarged views and profound knowledge of that accomplished statesman."[24] Dugald Stewart saw a paper written by Smith which described Oswald not only as a man of extensive knowledge of economic subjects, but a man with a special taste and capacity for the discussion of their more general and philosophical aspects. That paper, we cannot help surmising, is the same document of 1755 I have just mentioned in which Smith was proving his early attachment to the doctrines of economic liberty, and would naturally treat of circumstances connected with the growth of his opinions. However that may be, it is certain that Smith and Oswald must have been in communication upon economic questions about that period, and Oswald's views at that period are contained in the correspondence to which reference has been made.

Early in 1750 David Hume sent Oswald the manuscript of his well-known essay on the Balance of Trade, afterwards published in his Political Essays in 1752, asking for his views and criticisms; and Oswald replied on the 10th of October in a long letter, published in the Caldwell Papers,[25] which shows him to have been already entirely above the prevailing mercantilist prejudices, and to have very clear conceptions of economic operations. He declares jealousies between nations of being drained of their produce and money to be quite irrational; that could never happen as long as the people and industry remained. The prohibition against exporting commodities and money, he held, had always produced effects directly contrary to what was intended by it. It had diminished cultivation at home instead of increasing it, and really forced the more money out of the country the more produce it prevented from going. Oswald's letter seems to have been sent on by Hume, together with his own essay, to Baron Mure, who was also interested in such discussions. The new light was thus breaking in on groups of inquirers in Scotland as well as elsewhere, and Smith was from his earliest days within its play.

Amid the more serious labours of these literary and economic lectures, it would be an agreeable relaxation to collect and edit the scattered poems, published and unpublished, of Hamilton of Bangour, the author of what Wordsworth calls the "exquisite ballad" of "The Braes o' Yarrow," beginning—

Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny, bonny bride, Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow, Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny, bonny bride, And think no more on the Braes o' Yarrow.

This ballad had appeared in Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany so long ago as 1724, and it was followed by Hamilton's most ambitious effort, the poem "Contemplation," in 1739, but the general public of Scotland only seem to have awakened to their merits after the poet espoused the Jacobite cause in 1745, and celebrated the victory of Prestonpans by his "Ode to the Battle of Gladsmuir"—the name the Jacobites preferred to give the battle. This ode, which had been set to music by M'Gibbon, became a great favourite in Jacobite households, and created so much popular interest in the author's other works that imperfect versions of some of his unpublished poems, and even of those which were already in print, began to appear. The author was himself an outlaw, and could not intervene. The ode which had lifted him into popularity had at the same time driven him into exile, and he was then living with a little group of young Scotch refugees at Rouen, and completely shattered in bodily health by his three months' hiding among the Grampians. Under those circumstances his friends thought it advisable to forestall the pirated and imperfect collections of his poems which were in contemplation by publishing as complete and correct an edition of them as could possibly be done in the absence of the author. And this edition was issued from the famous Foulis press in Glasgow in 1748. In doing so they acted, as they avow in the preface, "not only without the author's consent, but without his knowledge," but it is absurd to call an edition published under those circumstances, as the new Dictionary of National Biography calls it, a "surreptitious edition." It was published by the poet's closest personal friends as a protection for the poet's reputation, and perhaps as a plea for his pardon.

The task of collecting and editing the poems was entrusted to Adam Smith. We are informed of this fact by the accurate and learned David Laing, and though Laing has not imparted his authority for the information, it receives a certain circumstantial corroboration from other quarters. We find Smith in the enjoyment of a very rapid intimacy with Hamilton during the two brief years the poet resided in Scotland between receiving the royal pardon in 1750 and flying again in 1752 from a more relentless enemy than kings—the fatal malady of consumption, from which he died two years later at Lyons. Sir John Dalrymple, the historian, speaks in a letter to Robert Foulis, the printer, of "the many happy and flattering hours which he (Smith) had spent with Mr. Hamilton." We find again that when Hamilton's friends propose to print a second edition of the poems, they come to Smith for assistance. This edition was published in 1758, and is dedicated to the memory of William Craufurd, merchant, Glasgow, a friend of the poet mentioned in the preface to the first edition as having supplied many of the previously unpublished pieces which it contained. Craufurd appears to have been an uncle of Sir John Dalrymple, and Sir John asks Foulis to get Smith to write this dedication. "Sir," says he, in December 1757, "I have changed my mind about the dedication of Mr. Hamilton's poems. I would have it stand 'the friend of William Hamilton,' but I assent to your opinion to have something more to express Mr. Craufurd's character. I know none so able to do this as my friend Mr. Smith. I beg it, therefore, earnestly that he will write the inscription, and with all the elegance and all the feelingness which he above the rest of mankind is able to express. This is a thing that touches me very nearly, and therefore I beg a particular answer as to what he says to it. The many happy and the many flattering hours which he has spent with Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Craufurd makes me think that he will account his usual indolence a crime upon this occasion. I beg you will make my excuse for not wryting him this night, but then I consider wryting to you upon this head to be wryting to him."[26] It is unlikely that Smith would resist an appeal like this, and the dedication bears some internal marks of his authorship. It describes Mr. Craufurd as "the friend of Mr. Hamilton, who to that exact frugality, that downright probity and pliancy of manners so suitable to his profession, joined a love of learning and of all the ingenious arts, an openness of hand and a generosity of heart that was far both from vanity and from weakness, and a magnanimity that would support, under the prospect of approaching and inevitable death, a most torturing pain of body with an unalterable cheerfulness of temper, and without once interrupting even to his last hour the most manly and the most vigorous activity of business." This William Craufurd is confounded by Lord Woodhouselee, and through him by others, with Robert Crauford, the author of "The Bush aboon Traquair," "Tweedside," and other poems, who was also an intimate friend of Hamilton of Bangour, but died in 1732.

Another link in the circumstantial evidence corroborating David Laing's statement is the fact that Smith was certainly at the moment in communication with Hamilton's personal friends, at whose instance the volume of poems was published. Kames, who was then interesting himself so actively in Smith's advancement, was the closest surviving friend Hamilton possessed. They had been constant companions in youth, leading spirits of that new school of dandies called "the beaux"—young men at once of fashion and of letters—who adorned Scotch society between the Rebellions, and continued to adorn many an after-dinner table in Edinburgh down till the present century. Hamilton owns that it was Kames who first taught him "verse to criticise," and wrote to him the poem "To H.H. at the Assembly"; while Kames for his part used in his old age, as his neighbour Ramsay of Ochtertyre informs us, to have no greater enjoyment than recounting the scenes and doings he and Hamilton had transacted together in those early days, of which the poet himself writes, when they "kept friendship's holy vigil" in the subterranean taverns of old Edinburgh "full many a fathom deep."


[19] Home and Hume, it may be mentioned, are only different ways of spelling the same name, which, though differently spelt, was not differently pronounced.

[20] Tytler's Life of Kames, i. 218.

[21] Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres, i. 381.

[22] Clayden's Early Life of Samuel Rogers, p. 168.

[23] Stewart's Works, ed. Hamilton, vol. x. p. 68.

[24] Correspondence of James Oswald, Preface.

[25] Caldwell Papers, i. 93.

[26] Duncan's Notes and Documents illustrative of the Literary History of Glasgow, p. 25.



1751-1764. Aet. 27-40

The Edinburgh lectures soon bore fruit. On the death of Mr. Loudon, Professor of Logic in Glasgow College, in 1750, Smith was appointed to the vacant chair, and so began that period of thirteen years of active academic work which he always looked back upon, he tells us, "as by far the most useful and therefore by far the happiest and most honourable period" of his life. The appointment lay with the Senatus—or, more strictly, with a section of the Senatus known as the Faculty Professors—some of whom, of course, had been his own teachers ten years before, and knew him well; and the minutes state that the choice was unanimous. He was elected on the 9th of January 1751, and was admitted to the office on the 16th, after reading a dissertation De origine idearum, signing the Westminster Confession of Faith before the Presbytery of Glasgow, and taking the usual oath De fideli to the University authorities; but he did not begin work till the opening of the next session in October. His engagements in Edinburgh did not permit of his undertaking his duties in Glasgow earlier, and his classes were accordingly conducted, with the sanction of the Senatus, by Dr. Hercules Lindsay, the Professor of Jurisprudence, as his substitute, from the beginning of January till the end of June. During this interval Smith went through to Glasgow repeatedly to attend meetings of the Senatus, but he does not appear to have given any lectures to the students. If he was relieved of his duties in the summer, however, he worked double tides during the winter, for besides the work of his own class, he undertook to carry on at the same time the work of Professor Craigie of the Moral Philosophy chair, who was laid aside by ill health, and indeed died a few weeks after the commencement of the session. This double burden was no doubt alleviated by the circumstance that he was able in both the class-rooms to make very considerable use of the courses of lectures he had already delivered in Edinburgh. By the traditional distribution of academic subjects in the Scotch universities, the province of the chair of Logic included rhetoric and belles-lettres, and the province of the chair of Moral Philosophy included jurisprudence and politics, and as Smith had lectured in Edinburgh both on rhetoric and belles-lettres and on jurisprudence and politics, he naturally took those branches for the subjects of his lectures this first session at Glasgow. Professor John Millar, the author of the Historical View of the English Government and other works of great merit, was a member of Smith's logic class that year, having been induced, by the high reputation the new professor brought with him from Edinburgh, to take out the class a second time, although he had already completed his university curriculum; and Millar states that most of the session was occupied with "the delivery of a system of rhetoric and belles-lettres." In respect to the other class, jurisprudence and politics were specially suggested to him as the subjects for the year when he was asked to take Professor Craigie's place. The proposal came through Professor Cullen, who was probably Craigie's medical attendant, and Cullen suggested those particular subjects as being the most likely to suit Smith's convenience and save him labour, inasmuch as he had lectured on them already. Smith replied that these were the subjects which it would be most agreeable to him to take up.

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