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David Hume – A Concise and Genuine Account …, 1766

A Concise and Genuine Account of the Dispute between Mr. Hume and Mr. Rousseau: with the Letters that passed between them during their Controversy. As also, the letters of the Hon. Mr. Walpole, and Mr. D’Alembert, relative to this extraordinary Affair. Translated from the French. London: printed for T. Becket and P.A. De Hondt, 1766. 8vo, pp viii, 95, [1] pp., 20th-century half calf over marbled boards, small stab-holes in inner margins, outer leaves a little browned towards the edges, otherwise internally clean and fresh, a very good copy.

The rare first edition in English of Hume’s Exposé succinct de la contestation qui s’est élevée entre M. Hume et M. Rousseau, originally published in Paris, but with a “Londres” imprint, in October 1766. This English edition, the first and only appearance of Hume’s original text, was published on 18 November. This is Hume’s own account of his bitter disagreement with Rousseau. The dispute stemmed from the publication of Emile, and the enormous amount of controversy and public antagonism towards Rousseau that ensued. Hume offered Rousseau asylum in England, and he duly arrived in England in January 1766. The publication of a spiteful letter by Horace Walpole, in the name of the King of Prussia, made Rousseau believe that there was a plot against him, and he ended up by quarrelling with Hume himself. The text here consists of correspondence between Hume and Rousseau, with connecting narrative passages and explanatory footnotes by Hume. Hume sent his manuscript account of the affair to d’Alembert and other friends in France but with no thought of publication. With his permission, certain changes were made and a preface added, and the book was printed in Paris in a translation made by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard. Eventually Hume was persuaded to have his English original published as well. Originally he intended the French text to be translated for the English edition so that d’Alembert’s alterations could be included, but on seeing the Paris version he changed his mind and instructed the publisher to follow his original English narrative. This English edition is much scarcer than any of the French versions and very seldom comes up for sale.

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