1. James Hume was the son, and after 1629, the heir to the major Presbyterian theorist and political activist David Hume of Godscroft [1558 - 1630/1631). James, whose date of birth is unknown and whose death seems to have occurred shortly before January 1642, never escaped the shadow of his eminent father. Yet he proved to be a major intellect, and the course of his career illustrates the trajectory of European cultural history during this period, while at the same time exemplifying key elements within the story of the early modern Scottish diaspora.
2. In a passing remark made decades later, Hume indicates that he enlisted in the Bohemian struggle against the Hapsburgs and served as a soldier with Ernst von Mansfeld during the opening years of the Thirty Years War. NOTE 1 Again from later statements, his purpose was to support Elizabeth Stewart and her husband Frederick V in their increasingly desperate conflict with Vienna. Princess Elizabeth’s cause would prove an ongoing commitment for the remainder of Hume’s life.
3. After the disaster at the Battle of White Mountain in November 1620 — an engagement in which Mansfeld (and presumably Hume) did not participate — Hume appears to have left military service and, if he is the James Hume Scotus in the matriculation records, commenced studies at the University of Rostock in 1621. Rostock was a major center for Hebrew scholarship, and we first encounter Hume directly through the publication of his Hebrew grammar at the outset of 1624 in another northern German city, Hamburg. Hume enjoyed the patronage of the Hamburg city council, and his grammar is prefaced with a brief introduction by the Reverend Henry Rumpius, master of the Hamburg gymnasium and a major scholar of Greek literature. Hamburg was at the time a leading center for Hebrew language publication. NOTE 2
3. Nevertheless, Hume did not remain in Hamburg. Later that year he and his brother George (who may well have been with him in Mansfeld’s forces) moved on to Paris — with letters of introduction to Protestant ministers there from their father. At Paris his interests shifted dramatically, and in 1625 he published his first book on mathematics, his “premiers fruicts.” NOTE 3 The subject would become a passion that consumed him for the remainder of his life. However, at just this juncture Hume disappears for eight years. He only resurfaces in 1633 at Rouen with his Pantaleonis Vaticina Satyra, a Latin romance that sought to supplant John Barclay’s internationally popular Argenis (1621). Hume’s satire proved a flop — perhaps not altogether surprising since, among other things, it mocks physicians (Hume jokingly styles himself “M. D.”), and the leading Scottish expatriate in Paris, John Davidson, and the leading figure organizing quite dazzling Parisian intellectual gatherings (in which Hume actively participated), Théophraste Renaudot, were both medical doctors. NOTE 4
4. In fact, Hume’s financial circumstances were always highly precarious. He seems to have made a modest living by tutoring Hebrew and mathematics, by the publication of his books, and by his continuous (though only occasionally successful) efforts to secure patronage from leading French and British political figures. At least as early as 1634 he targeted no less than Cardinal Richelieu, whose support he sought for his method for calculating longitudes. In that year he composed a Latin poem, edited here, celebrating the Cardinal which projected a revitalized France that would overthrow Hapsburg power and “smash” (contundere) the Spanish global empire. It would be a France that recovered from the disastrous civil wars of the late 16th century, from the long history of Spanish perfidy and Guise treason. Arising from all this would emerge a new world order, dominated by France, which inaugurated a era of justice, culture, and civilization. In that new age Princess Elizabeth would presumably have her Palatine lands and, no less, the Bohemian crown, restored to her.
5. During these years Hume wrote about battles during the Thirty Year War, most notably the great Protestant victory near Leipzig in 1631, about Dutch and French fortifications, about various aspects of astronomy (he inclined to the Copernican theory), and about the mathematics that underlay it all, specifically trigonometry and algebra. At mid-decade Hume’s precarious existence became vastly more complicated and vulnerable through an ugly encounter with the royal professor of mathematics, Jean-Baptiste Morin. NOTE 5 At issue were matters of plagiarism, astronomical theory, astrology, religion, and professional rivalry — and, in the case of Morin, sheer personal arrogance. The conflict proved ongoing, lasting the remainder of Hume’s life.
6. In 1639 Hume published an extensive collection of his father’s poetry, a volume that included a number of the younger Hume’s own writings, printed at Paris in 1639 under the title Davidis Humii Wedderburnensis Poemata Omnia. The editing of the poems — in which some of David Hume’s more incendary remarks were replaced with asterisks— indicates that James broke decisively with his father’s Presbyterianism and political radicalism. The volume also reprints the first part of his father’s 1605 tract urging Anglo-Scottish union. NOTE 6 Perhaps significantly, it omits the radical British vision in part two that had not seen print but was widely available in manuscript. It may be that the first section appeared at this time in order to moderate or counter-act the revolutionary upheaval just now beginning in Scotland and soon to engulf the entire British Isles. Other unionist literature from the first years of the 17th century would also see republication at this moment. NOTE 7
7. Hume’s career exemplifies the story of many struggling Scottish intellectuals abroad during this period. More generally, it provides insight into early modern Scottish migration. Religious and political motivations drew Scots to the Continent, and the allure of economic prospects (in Hume’s case intellectual ones as well) kept them there. At the same time, Hume evolved from a Humanist scholar studying texts into a mathematician working with applied science. Put another way, Hume illustrates the growing authoritarianism of his age as his intellectual journey departs the civic world of George Buchanan and David Hume of Godscroft for the hierarchical order projected by René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes.
8. As part of his struggle and in a never-ending quest for a generous French patron, James Hume addressed his short heroic poem, the Richeliad, to Cardinal Richelieu. This 146 - line poem consists of three elements: praise for Paris’ current (ca. 1630) magnificence, lamentation for France’s troubles during the Wars of Religion (last half of the 16th century), and rejoicing at the birth in 1585 of an infant who, as an adult, will rescue France from her troubles. Possibly conceived as the first part of a longer poem, Hume appears to have abandoned his project, perhaps prompted by the criticism of rivals. How the poem may have been received by the Cardinal is unknown.
9. The plot follows well-established precedents of the “praise poem” genre going back to Pindar, who, in his poems celebrating chariot-race victors and the like, always cites some myth that pertains in some way to the victor. In the first few lines of Hume’s poem, the narrator imagines himself watching the construction of the new walls around Paris, a project of Louis XIII. He marvels at the magnificent of the city and of the Seine, to whose greatness all other rivers bow (1 - 25). He then praises the hospitality of France, citing his own welcome there (26 - 35). NOTE 8 The poem verges into mythology at line 30, where he sees the nymph France/Gallia carrying a cornucopia and wreathed in grain and grapes. This image presents the nymph France as a combination of the goddesses Ceres (grain), Pomona (grapes), and Minerva/Athena (the sword and the harp). Seeing the poet watching, the nymph addresses him and recounts the recent history of France. Peace had prevailed for many years until the deaths of a father and a son, identified in Hume’s footnotes as Kings Henri II and François II. Upon the death of Francis II, Hell opened its gates and disaster fell on France: wars, murders, foreign threats, desolation of the countryside, all caused by the Spanish and their ally, the Duke of Lorraine (63 - 104). However, continues the nymph, in 1585 Minerva herself had appeared to her and declared that, since her home was now France — her old classical abodes having fallen to the barbarians — she would now send a man to rescue France from her troubles and to smash the Spaniards (116 - 128). Thus Minerva. The nymph France then tells how Minerva donned her armor, flew to western France, to the town of Richelieu, and manifested herself as an infant of marvelous form (129 - 146). Here the poem ends.
10. As mentioned, the Richeliad is a praise-poem in the heroic style. The first few lines owe something to Vergil’s portrayal of Aeneas watching the wall of Carthage arise (I.420 - 429ff). The description of France’s desolation during the Wars of Religion is derived from passages where rivers run with blood and bodies are piled high, for example,
Sanguine Romano quam turbidus ibit Enipeus (Lucan, Bellum Civile I.116)
[“How rough the Enipeus runs with Roman blood.“]
tu, Caesar, in alto
caedis adhuc cumulo patriae per viscera vadis (ib. VII.721-2)
[“Caesar, you stride through the bowels of your country on piles of dead.”]
More recent models can be found in the poetry George Buchanan [1506 - 1582]. In his poem Deploratio status rei Gallicae sub mortem Francisci Secundi Regis (whose death is mentioned by Hume in Richeliad 66), we find some of the images from which Hume drew. Whether he knew this specific poem cannot of course be determined:
Quos non infecimus amnes
Sanguine? Naufragiis mare teximus, ossibus agros:
Oppida quot spoliata! suis viduata colonis
Rura quot incultis horrent squalentia dumis!
(lines 7ff.; Latin text from Buchanan 1995)
[“What rivers have we not made to run red with blood?
The sea is covered with shipwrecks, the fields with bones:
How many towns are sacked! How many farms abandoned by the tillers of the soil,
Now neglected and overgrown with weeds and briars!”]
(trans. McGinnis in Buchanan 1995 pp. 144 -6)
Discord also appears in Buchanan, as at Richeliad 69):
Ipsa etiam tetro Discordia foeta veneno
His maius meditata nefas, de sede silentum
Evocat infernas supera ad convexa sorores,
Inque animos odii fundens mala semina et irae
(21 - 24)
[“Discord herself, streaming with venom, plotting even worse things, calls on the infernal sisters from the home of the shades, and pouring the evil seeds of hatred and anger into their spirits...”]
Similar images can be found in Buchanan’s Satyra in Carolum Lotharingum Cardinalem (Charles of Guise, the uncle of the Henri mentioned at Richeliad 104).
Aspice vexatas, qua Gallia panditur, urbes,
Aut flammis foedata aut deformata ruinis
Oppida, disiectis tot rura inculta colonis:
Aspice tot viduas, puerosque parentibus orbos,
Sedibus ejectae tot mendicabula plebis,
Inter fumantes villas, taboque natantes
Sanguinis innocui campos, inhumataque passim
Ossa virum, laceros artus, deformiaque ora
(71 - 78)
[“Take a look at the poor cities of France
The towns on fire or smoldering in ruins,
The fields where no farmers till the soil!
Behold all the widows, the children bereft of parents,
The poor people begging their way from one village to the next
Midst the smoking farm houses and the fields drenched in the blood of the innocent,
The unburied bones everywhere, the mangled bodies, the disfigured faces...”]
Buchanan did a little more with the Furies, introducing Megaera and Tisiphone, and bringing them from Phlegethon (99 - 194). He then goes on to suggest that the Cardinal may as well become a cannibal, with the immortal lines:
Semianimes artus et adhuc spirantia membra
Ore vora, crepitentque avidis sub dentibus ossa.
[“Eat the half-dead bodies and the still-quivering limbs,
And let their bones crunch between your greedy teeth.”]
(trans. Riley; cp. the Cyclops in Odyssey ix)
Buchanan was a more imaginative and enthusiastic poet, not to mention hater, than James Hume, who never attained such heights of invective.
11. Hume was thus following tradition when he mixed real people with classical mythology. He pictures the Cardinal as being born at the family estates in Richelieu surrounded by the local deities and virtually an incarnation of the goddess Minerva (in fact he was born 9 Sept. 1585, in Paris, where his father was grand provost to Henri III. When his father died in 1590, the whole family did move to Richelieu.) Works of a similar nature and title include the Carliados Libri XV about Charlemagne (if Hume’s poem had had more than one Book, its title would have been Richeliados Libri -). Others are the Alfonseis, on King Alfonso of Naples, the Borsias, on the Dukes of the House of d’Este in Ferrara, and the Christinas, on the Swedish Queen Christina. NOTE 9 In all of these, like Hume, Vergil is the model, at least in style and diction. In view of these somewhat lengthy models, we might assume that Hume intended to continue, and we might conjecture what he could have written, keeping in mind the tradition of mixing history and mythology. Either what we have was originally written as the start of a projected epic, or it was artfully contrived to look like one. Hume could have gone on to imagine how the local nymphs mentioned in 133f. watched over the growing child; how he displayed his precocious talents; how he was admired by the entire countryside; how great things were forecast for him; and so on. Judging from the two epigrams included here and the defensive tone of Hume’s metrical explanations (both included after the primary text), his efforts were not well received. We may ask why.
12. The poem has some nice touches. The framework is well done, with the action moving from the poet narrator to the nymph France, then to Minerva, finally to the infant Richelieu as a climax. The recital of mythological stories about cities (Romulus in Rome, Cadmus in Thebes, Dido in Carthage) gives Paris a status equal to these noble cities of antiquity and the king the status of a heroic founder (1 - 11). Hume includes many names, always considered the condiment of Latin verse. The river names in particular serve a specific purpose: they symbolize the rival powers who will soon yield to France: the Tagus (18) running through Spain and Portugal represent Hapsburg Spain; the Danube (16) Hapsburg Austria; the Pactolus (17) in Asia Minor (if not mentioned simply because of its association with wealth) represents the Ottomans, along with Dacus (30). The Scot Hume of course refers to himself with Caledonius (29). In addition he had spent some time in Germany, hence the Rhine, Elbe, Main, and Oder (23, 28). Hume’s section on the birth of Richelieu introduces the local nymphs in a clever manner (132 - 4).
13. On the other hand, Hume’s verse is fairly pedestrian with frequent repetitions: the nymph France and the goddess Minerva are described in similar terms (35 - 42, 127 - 130); “piles of men” occur twice (49f., 77f.), parentes multiple times; exiles arrive twice (17f., 24f.). His skills in using the dactylic hexameter meter was criticized by his rivals — see the “explanation” for details. His need for footnotes indicates some excessive literalness of the part of the author, which is perhaps not conducive to good poetry. Hume’s talents in verse seem better suited to his epigrams, some against his enemies, two examples of which can be found below. He also wrote occasional verse, including funeral and laudatory poems, and several prose works, as mentioned above.
14. The Richelias together with its appended note on metrics occupy pp. 143 - 150 of Davidis Humii Wedderburnensis Poemata Omnia, and the two epigrams given at the end are printed on p. 143. In the commentary notes, James Hume’s original footnotes are translated within square brackets. All other annotations are by the editors.
NOTE 1 Hume, La Theorie des Planettes (Paris, 1637), sig. A2r (dedication to Charles Faye), Postquam durius militia rudimentis defunctus inter tumultus Mansfeldianos…NOTE 2 ΡΑΔΙΟΜΑΘΕΙΑ linguae Hebraeae (Hamburg, 1624); Rumpius’ preface is dated 13 January 1624. The volume seems to have appeared shortly thereafter. Die Matrikel der Universität Rostock (Rostock, 1889). We are grateful to Steve Murdoch for this reference; cf. also S. G. Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era (Leiden, 2012), pp. xix, xx, 30, 39, 71, 203.
NOTE 4 John Small, “Notice of William Davidson, M. D.,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 10 (1873): 265 - 81; John Read, “William Davidson of Aberdeen: The First British Professor of Chemistry,” in Ambix 9 (1961): 70 - 101; L. M. Principe, “William Davisson,” ODNB (accessed May 23, 2012); Hume, Algebre de Viète (Paris, 1636) pp. 432, 452; Pierre Bayle, The Dictionary Historical and Critical (London, 1734) IV:258 - 68, at 258; H. M. Solomon, Public Welfare, Science, and Propaganda in Seventeenth-Century France: The Innovations of Théophraste Renaudot (Princeton, 1972).
NOTE 5 See Mark Riley, Introduction to Hume’s Pantaleonis Vaticinia Satyra; A. H. Williamson, “Number and National Consciousness: The Edinburgh Mathematicians and Scottish Political Culture at the Union of the Crowns,” in R. A. Mason (ed.), Scots and Britons: Scottish Political Thought and the Union of 1603 (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 187 - 212 and 204f.
NOTE 6 There is a modern edition of these two tracts, Paul J. McGinnis and Arthur H. Williamson, The British Union: A Critical Edition and Translation of David Hume of Godscroft’s De Unione Insulae Britanniae (Aldershot, 2002).
NOTE 7 Notably Bishop John Thornborough’s A Discourse plainly proving the evident UTILITY AND URGENT Necessity of the desired happy Union of England and Scotland (London, 1604) would be reissued and reedited in two editions as A discourse shewing the great happinesse that hath and may still accrue to His Majesties kingdomes of England and Scotland by re-uniting them into one Great Britain… (London, 1641).
Buchanan, George, The Political Poetry, edd. and trans. Paul J. McGinnis and Arthur H. Williamson (Edinburgh: The Scottish History Society, 1995)
Ijsewijn, Jozef, Companion to Neo-Latin Studies (2nd, entirely rewritten, edition, Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1998)