Posted by: captainfalcon | March 12, 2010

Now for something completely different

Speaking of incongruence (we were, FYI), the peroration of Adam Smith’s epistolary eulogy to David Hume says some nice things that definitely do not apply around here:

His temper, indeed, seemed to be more happily balanced, if I may be allowed such an expression, than that perhaps of any other man I have ever known. Even in the lowest state of his fortune, his great and necessary frugality never hindered him from exercising, upon proper occasions, acts both of charity and generosity… The extreme gentleness of his nature never weakened either the firmness of his mind, or the steadiness of his resolutions. His constant pleasantry was the genuine effusion of good-nature and good-humour, tempered with delicacy and modesty, and without even the slightest tincture of malignity, so frequently the disagreeable source of what is called wit in other men. It never was the meaning of his raillery to mortify; and therefore, far from offending, it seldom failed to please and delight, even those who were the objects of it…And that gaiety of temper, so agreeable in society, but which is so often accompanied with frivolous and superficial qualities, was in him certainly attended with the most severe application, the most extensive learning, the greatest depth of thought, and a capacity in every respect the most comprehensive. Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.

Update: just as it’s instructive to compare Horace Smith’s and Percy Shelly’s versions of Ozymandias (the superiority of Shelly’s stands out so startlingly, and, because we’ve controlled for subject matter, can’t easily be explained away), so too is it nifty to compare Smith’s peroration with David Hume’s. (Though they are equally insightful, Hume is obviously the better writer.)

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