David Hume of Godscroft


David Hume of Godscroft

David Hume (or Home) (1558–1629) was a Scottish historian and political theorist, poet and controversialist, a major intellectual figure in Jacobean Scotland. He also spent a decade as pastor of a Protestant congregation in France.

Contents

Life

He was the second son of Sir David Hume or Home, seventh baron of Wedderburn, Berwickshire. Receiving preliminary training at Dunbar public school, he entered the University of St Andrews in 1578, and after a course of study there travelled on the continent. From France he proceeded to Geneva, intending to go to Italy, but he was recalled by the serious illness of his elder brother. He returned about 1581. On the recovery of his brother, Hume for a time continued to manage his affairs, but in 1583 he was residing as private secretary with his relative, Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus, who was ordered, after James VI withdrew his confidence from the Ruthven lords, to remain in the north of Scotland.

During the exile of the Ruthven party at Newcastle, Hume was in London, ostensibly studying, but actively interesting himself in Angus and his cause. The lords returned to Scotland in 1585, and between that date and 1588, when Angus died, Hume supported his patron's policy in a series of letters (preserved in the History of the Houses of Douglas and Angus) on the doctrine of obedience to princes. A discussion of a sermon on the same theme by the Rev. John Craig is the subject of an elaborate Conference betwixt the Erle of Angus and Mr. David Hume, which is printed in David Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland. He was probably in France again in 1593. According to the True Travels of Captain John Smith, Smith about that year grew acquainted at Paris with a Master David Hume, who gave Smith letters to his friends in Scotland to prefer him to King James.

From 1604 he was pastor at Duras, Guienne, in south-west France. He was replaced by 1614, after an absence, when he returned to Scotland and brought messages from King James to the synod of Tonneins in the same part of France. Hume had been given a delicate and ultimately unsuccessful mission by the king, to bring about reconciliation within the Protestant camp at this national Huguenot council.[1]

In later life Hume devoted himself to literature on his property of Gowkscroft, a farming hamlet 2 miles to the north of Abbey St. Bathans, in the Lammermuir Hills, Berwickshire, which he renamed Godscroft, and styled himself Theagrius when he figured as a Latin poet. His daughter Anna Hume was known as an editor, and his son James Hume (fl. 1639) as a mathematician.

Works

Political and religious writings

In 1605 a work on the union of the kingdoms, by Robert Pont, suggested his treatise, De Unione Insulæ Britanniæ, a study in how to effect the closer political union of Scotland and England. Of this he published only the first part, Tractatus I. (London, 1605), but the second part is in the collections of Sibbald and Wodrow. On the relative values of episcopacy and presbytery, and Hume was a persistent polemicist in discussing the theme, first with James Law, bishop of Orkney, from 1608 to 1611, and secondly, in 1613, with William Cowper, bishop of Galloway. He was also responsible about the same time for De Episcopatu, May 1, 1609, Patricio Simsono, to Patrick Simson. Hume's other major Latin prose writings are his unpublished attack on William Camden for his depreciatory view of Scotland, written in 1617—Cambdenia; id est, Examen nonnullorum a Gulielmo Cambreno in “Britannia,” —and a work dedicated to Charles I (Paris, 1626), entitled ‘Apologia Basilica; seu Machiavelli Ingenium Examinatum, in libro quem inscripsit Princeps.’

His authorship of French tracts and the publication of his Latin works at Paris imply that he maintained close relations with France. A notice in the Biographie Universelle credits him with an attempt, suggested by James I, to reconcile Pierre Dumoulin and Daniel Tilenus on the subject of justification by faith, and also with Le contr' Assassin; ou Reponse à l'Apologie des Jesuites (1612), and L'Assassinat du Roi; ou Maximes du Vieil de la Montagne pratiquées en la personne de défunt Henri le Grand (1617).

Neo-Latin poetry

Hume wrote Latin poems when very young, and received the commendation of George Buchanan. His Daphn-Amaryllis was produced at the age of fourteen. His Lusus Poetici (1605) were ultimately incorporated in Arthur Johnston's Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum. When Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales died, Hume wrote a memorial tribute entitled Henrici Principis Justa, and in 1617 he welcomed the king back to Scotland in his Regi suo Gratulatio. His Latin poems were twice issued in Paris, in 1632 and 1639, the second time with additions under the care of his son James, and with the title: Davidis Humii Wedderburnensis Poemata Omnia. Accessere ad finem Unio Britannica et Prœlium ad Lipsiam soluta oratione.

Family history

Hume was a partisan panegyricist of the Douglas family. He was a grandson of Alison Douglas, herself a granddaughter of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus. His chief patron was William Douglas, 11th Earl of Angus, later the 1st Marquess of Douglas.

His sense of the historical importance of his house led to Hume's History of the House of Wedderburn, written by a Son of the Family, in the year 1611, a eulogy. Beginning with David, the first laird of Wedderburn, about the end of the fourteenth century, this work closes with an account of Hume's own early career in connection with that of his elder brother, to whom, along with the Earl of Home, it is dedicated. It remained in manuscript till 1839, when it was printed by the Abbotsford Club.

A more imposing family history is Hume's History of the House and Race of Douglas and Angus, printed at Edinburgh in 1644 by Evan Tyler, the king's printer. The title-pages of the earlier copies vary, some having no date, others being dated 1648, while others still have the title, ‘A Generall History of Scotland, together with a particular History of the Houses of Douglas and Angus.’ The confusion is due to the difficulties of Hume's daughter, Anna Hume, in getting the work published, owing to the opposition of Angus, who resented the use which Hume had made of some of the materials supplied him from the family archives. Hume is thought to have finished the history between 1625 and 1630, the year (it is conjectured) of his death. In the preface to the edition of T. W. and T. Ruddimans, 1743, it is pointed out that ‘the first editor’ had been very inefficient, leaving to the new editor the task of recovering the text by scrupulous examination of the author's manuscript. The work begins with Sholto Douglas, conqueror of Donald Bane, and concludes with Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus, who is eulogised in a Latin ode and numerous elegiacs. Another manuscript history of the family brings the record close to the death of William Douglas, 10th Earl of Angus, in 1611, and is ascribed to that earl. The tenth earl's son, William Douglas, is said to have threatened its publication in order that Hume's work might be superseded, but owing to the good offices of Drummond of Hawthornden the threat came to nothing.

Notes

  1. ^ W. B. Patterson, King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom (1997), p. 166, pp. 170-1, p. 181.
Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Hume, David (1560?-1630?)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 


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