The first fourteen of these letters were until recently thought to have been lost. In 1955, Mr.Geoffrey Hunter discovered transcripts of the letters made in the 19th century by an Edinburgh lawyer, John Turnbull(1820-91). They were published in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol.II,no.2(Summer 1960), pp.127-50. Mr.Hunter commented that "there is some evidence to suggest that autograph letters...were burnt."(p.129) But,fortunately,they were not,and these original autograph letters of David Hume were added to this collection. While the published transcripts of the letters are reasonably accurate,there are a number of differences between them and the originals.
Thirteen letters addressed to his brother touch upon a number of points in connection with Hume's life and his health. Written to his closest relative,they reveal the philosopher at his most relaxed and communicative. The fourteenth letter covers a number of amusing areas of Josey's behaviour. It conveys much more of the flavour and tenor of Hume's jocular correspondence with Josey.
No.15 is the earlist of Hume's known letters to John Crawford. This autogragh original was until recently in private hands,and was first published by Messrs.J.C.Hilson and J.V.Price in Yearbook for English Studies, VII(1977),pp.121-27. The published transcript is faithful except that several capitals are lower-cased, cock-up letters are disregarded, and "woud" in a sentence is rectified.
The letters are here reproduced faithfully except that missing periods are inserted in square brackets[ ]. I have strictly followed Hume'spelling and punctuation. Adhering to his usage, I have had to write Furlowe; sometimes Haemorrage, sometimes Haemorrhage;could,cou'd and coud,received,receiv'd, and receivd, without any rule. His disregard of uniformity appears more clearly in the spelling of proper names. We find Barnaby and Burnaby; D'alembert and Dalembert; Madame du Deffand is called du Duffan.