* In 1734, David Hume, a bookish 23-year-old Scotsman, dropped what he was doing in Britain and went off to France to "think things over". Living frugally and devoting himself to study and writing, he returned after three years with a hefty manuscript under his arm. Published in three volumes in 1739:40 as A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE, it attracted little attention. Reflecting on the event near the end of his life, Hume sighed that it "fell still-born from the press."
Hume was undiscouraged, being an irrepressible man, going on to publish his ESSAYS, MORAL & POLITICAL in 1741 and 1742, these works proving modestly successful. However, the TREATISE remained closest to his heart, and he spent the better part of a decade trimming down and sharpening the arguments he had made in that text. The results he published as AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING (1748) and then AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALS (1751) -- shorter works, sets of related essays, that he hoped would reach a wider audience.
He was mostly disappointed in that expectation; however, his several volumes of other essays established his reputation, and his HISTORY OF ENGLAND, consisting of six volumes published from 1754 to 1762, was very popular, making Hume one of the first writers to become (modestly) wealthy off his writing alone. It would be regarded as the definitive work on the subject for a century; in his lifetime, in fact, Hume would become widely known as a historian, not a philosopher. Still, Hume never abandoned philosophy, and an extended critique of religion, DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION, would be be published in 1779, after his death in 1776.
Hume in his lifetime was a controversial figure, and to the extent he is remembered, he remains controversial. However, Hume is indeed remembered, his insights being too sharp to be easily dismissed and remain unsettling centuries after his death. This document provides a biography of Hume, including a brief survey of his work.