English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Introductory Note

David Hume

DAVID HUME (1711–1776) was born in Edinburgh, and was trained for the law. He early showed an eager interest in philosophy, and devoted himself to study with such intensity as to injure his health. He traveled in France more than once, and was on intimate terms with such men as d’Alembert, Turgot, and Rousseau, for the last of whom he found a pension and a temporary refuge in England.

Hume is most celebrated for his philosophical writings, in which he carried the empirical philosophy of Locke to the point of complete skepticism. He wrote also a “History of England” in eight volumes, and a large number of treatises and essays on politics, economics, ethics, and esthetics. The following essay, “Of the Standard of Taste,” is a typical example of his clear thinking and admirable style. “He may be regarded,” says Leslie Stephen, “as the acutest thinker in Great Britain of the eighteenth century, and the most qualified interpreter of its intellectual tendencies.”