Snapshots from UW Madison

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adam Smith in Love Redux: Three Tables

I made some additions and minor revisions to my three Adam Smith tables, so I am reblogging my previous post with the new and revised table. In brief, Table 1 summarizes in chronological order the secondary literature on Adam Smith’s love life, while Table 2 assembles the available evidence (also in chronological fashion). Additionally, based on the evidence set forth in Table 2, Table 3a identifies Smith’s possible lost loves by name. Lastly, Table 3b, by contrast, refers to those possible lost loves whose names are unknown.

prior probability

For my talk at the annual conference of the International Adam Smith Society (IASS) on Friday morning, I have decided to systematize my research on Adam Smith’s private life in the following three tables:


View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adam Smith in Love Redux: Three Tables

For my talk at the annual conference of the International Adam Smith Society (IASS) on Friday morning, I have decided to systematize my research on Adam Smith’s private life in the following three tables:


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Miss Campbell?

Based on a short entry in Scottish novelist Henry Mackenzie’s memoire, I identified a seventh possible Adam Smith “lost love” in my previous post, a “Miss Campbell.” Who was she; when did Smith fall in love with her; and what, if anything, became of this romance? For his part, Mackenzie himself implies that “Campbell” was a common last name — a “name so numerous that to use it cannot be thought personal” — so that he is not giving anything way by identifying “Miss Campbell” as the object of Smith’s affections. That said, could Mackenzie’s “Miss Campbell” nevertheless be the same “young lady of great beauty and accomplishment” that Dugald Stewart refers to in his end note — originally Note H; now Note K — in his biography of Smith?

In the alternative, could Mackenzie perhaps be referring to Duke Henry’s younger sister Lady Frances (b. 1750, d. 1817), whose portrait as a little girl is pictured below? Although this is just a conjecture on my part, it is not a far-fetched one for several reasons. To begin with, Lady Frances was the daughter of Caroline Campbell Scott, so she was a “Campbell”. Secondly is Mackenzie’s observation that the woman, whoever she was, was “of as different dispositions and habits from him as possible.” Lady Frances was the daughter of a wealthy aristocratic family, while Adam Smith was an absent-minded professor. Lastly, Adam Smith corresponded with Lady Frances on multiple occasions (at least three letters from Smith addressed to Lady Frances survive), and both lived at Dalkeith House for at least two months during the fall of 1767.

Given these many coincidences (see above), I will further explore the relationship between Lady Frances and Adam Smith in my next blog post …

Frances, Lady Douglas, 1750-1817
Artist Credit: Joshua Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seven lost loves?

Thus far in my “Adam Smith in Paris” series, we have identified six possible lost loves in Adam Smith’s life — five of them by name(!):

  1. Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni (b. 1713, d. 1792).
  2. Marie Françoise Catherine de Beauvau-Craon (b. 1711, d. 1786), a/k/a “Madame de Boufflers”;
  3. The “Duchess of Anville“, who may, or may not, be the same person as Marie Louise Nicole Elisabeth de La Rochefoucauld (b. 1716, d. 1797), who was the Duchesse d’Enville and the mother of the Duke de la Rochefoucault. (See, for example, this family tree and this passage from the autobiography of John Adams, especially footnote 3.)
  4. Lady Janet Anstruther (b. 1725, d. 1802).
  5. Madame Nicol.

In addition to these historical individuals, two additional women (who may, or may not, be the same person) are mentioned by various primary sources:

6a. An “English lady” who Adam Smith reportedly fell in love with in the town of Abbeville in northwestern France according to a hearsay report contained in a private letter by Dr James Currie.

6b. The “lady of Fife“, who Adam Smith had loved (past tense) according to his friend, confidant, and travel companion the Abbe Colbert.

Now, what if I told you that there might be a seventh lost love? I will conclude this series of blog posts by considering just such a possibility, so read on …!

Toward the end of his long and remarkable life, Henry Mackenzie (b. 1745, d. 1831), whose portrait is pictured below, jotted down a series of personal recollections, hoping to have these memories published in a book of “anecdotes and egotisms,” as Mackenzie himself referred to them. (See Fieser (2003), p. 251. As a further aside, Mackenzie’s wide-ranging collection of anecdotes was eventually assembled by Harold William Thompson and published by Oxford University Press in 1927.)

Among other things, Mackenzie’s collection of anecdotes includes a short but intriguing entry with the title of “Smith and Hume in Love.” For the record, the first part of Mackenzie’s brief recollection about Smith is quoted in full below (Mackenzie (1927), p. 176, reprinted in Fieser (2003), p. 255, omission and parenthetical remark both appear in the original):

Adam Smith [was] seriously in love with Miss Campbell of __ (the name is so numerous that to use it cannot be thought personal), a woman of as different dispositions and habits from him as possible.”

So, who was Henry Mackenzie, and why should we believe him? To begin with, Mackenzie was a distinguished Scottish lawyer and popular novelist. He also co-founded, along with Dugald Stewart, the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Moreover, Mackenzie knew Adam Smith personally and “was much in Smith’s company when he [Smith] lived in Edinburgh in the last twelve years of his life.” (This quote is from Ian Simpson Ross (2010), p. 227.) So, yes, I find Mackenzie to be a credible source.

But more importantly, who was Miss Campbell? I will explore the identity of Miss Campbell in my next post …

Henry Mackenzie - Wikipedia

Artist Credit and Works Cited

Artist of the Portrait of Henry Mackenzie: Henry Raeburn.

James Fieser, Early Responses to Hume, vol. 10, Thoemmes Press (2003).

Henry Mackenzie, “Smith and Hume in Love”, in Harold W. Thompson, editor, The Anecdotes and Egotisms of Henry Mackenzie, 1745–1831, p. 176, Oxford University Press (1927 [1831]).

Ian Simpson Ross, The Life of Adam Smith, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press (2010).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Twitter Tuesday: #ShotOniPhone

I am interrupting my “Adam Smith in Paris” series to share this tweet by @johnkrausphotos:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adam Smith and Lady Janet Anstruther?

Who was the “lady of Fife” mentioned in my previous post and in Colbert’s letter dated 18 September 1766? Alain Alcouffe and Andrew Moore (2018, 15 n.18) identify this possible love interest as Lady Janet Anstruther (b. 1725, d. 1802), who “was renowned for her beauty and for her reputation as a flirt” and whose portrait is pictured below. Additionally, the second edition of Dugald Stewart’s biographical essay “An Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith” contains the following enigmatic endnote (Stewart, 1980/1811, pp. 349–350, emphasis added):

“In the early part of Mr Smith’s life it is well known to his friends, that he was for several years attached to a young lady of great beauty and accomplishment. How far his addresses were favourably received, or what the circumstances were which prevented their union, I have not been able to learn; but I believe it is pretty certain that, after this disappointment, he laid aside all thoughts of marriage. The lady to whom I allude died also unmarried. She survived Mr Smith for a considerable number of years, and was alive long after the publication of the first edition of this Memoir. I had the pleasure of seeing her when she was turned of eighty, and when she still retained evident traces of her former beauty. The powers of her understanding and the gaiety of her temper seemed to have suffered nothing from the hand of time.”

What are we to make of this passage? For his part, Ian Simpson Ross (2010, p. 227) describes this early love interest as “a Fife lady whom he [Smith] had loved very much,” but neither Ross nor Stewart provides any additional evidence about the geographical location of this love affair; nor do they identify this woman by name. Nevertheless, if this love affair occurred in the Kirkcaldy of Smith’s youth, a small parish located in the burgh of Fife, it should not be impossible to identify the lady. (At the time of Smith’s birth in 1723, Kirkcaldy had a population of 1,500. See, e.g., Heilbroner (1999), p. 46.)

So, was this “young lady of great beauty and accomplishment” in Stewart’s endnote Lady Janet Anstruther, as alleged by Alain Alcouffe and Andrew Moore in their 2018 paper? Was she the same “lady of Fife” referred to in Colbert’s 1766 letter? Whoever she was, Dugald Stewart is a credible witness to an attachment “well known” to Smith’s friends, since Stewart personally knew Smith and many of Smith’s acquaintances. Also, to give the reader some idea of Stewart’s stature and sterling reputation, he co-founded the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783 and held the chair of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh for thirty-five years, from 1785 until 1820. Why would Stewart risk sullying his own reputation (and that of his friend Smith) by reporting mere gossip or an unfounded rumor?

I will present one last piece of evidence of Adam Smith’s love life in my next post …

Lady Anstruther', Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1761 | Tate

Artist Credit and Works Cited

Artist of the Portrait of Lady Janet Anstruther: Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Alain Alcouffe and Andrew Moore, “Smith’s Networks in Occitania—March 1764–October 1765,” presented at the 31st Annual Conference of Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society (Glasgow) (July 17–21, 2018).

Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of Great Economic Thinkers, 7th rev. ed., Touchstone (1999).

Ian Simpson Ross, The Life of Adam Smith, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press (2010).

Dugald Stewart, Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D., in Ian Simpson Ross, editor, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, pp. 269–351, Oxford University Press (1980 [1811]).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adam Smith in France: Four Lost Loves?

Let’s resume my “Adam Smith in Paris” series by introducing an additional piece of evidence, a possible “Smoking Arrow” in the form of a private letter addressed to Smith dated 18 September 1766, a month before the end of Smith’s sojourn in Paris. Among other things, this correspondence contains the following fascinating passage (as translated in Alcouffe & Massot-Bordenave, p. 260):

“And you, Adam Smith, Glasgow philosopher, high-broad Ladies’ hero and idol, what are you doing my dear friend? How do you govern the Duchess of Anville and Madame de Boufflers, where your heart is always in love with Madame Nicol and with the attractions as apparent as hidden of this lady of Fife that you loved.”

For the reasons that I discuss in my refereed paper “Adam Smith in Love“, this letter was most likely authored by Seignelay Colbert de Castlehill (b. 1735, d. 1811), a fellow Scotsman who had emigrated to France at an early age. According to John Rae (1895, p. 176), Colbert played an important role during the first part of Smith’s trip overseas as Smith’s “chief guide and friend”. In brief, Colbert became Smith’s closest friend and confidant while Smith was living in Toulouse–March 1764 to November 1765–and Colbert even travelled with Smith to Bordeaux and to other places in the South of France during this 18-month period. See generally Alcouffe & Massot-Bordenave (2020), pp. 216–217; see also Rae (1895), p. 179.

Getting down to brass tacks, who are the four women identified in Colbert’s letter: the Duchess of Anville, Madame de Boufflers, Madame Nicol, and the Lady of Fife? Also, how did Adam Smith meet these women, and what was the nature of his relationship with them, i.e. romantic or Platonic? Let’s begin with the Duchess of Anville. As it happens, Anville is a real place, a small settlement in southwestern France, but at the time of Smith’s travels (1764-66), Anville’s population probably consisted of just a few hundred souls. (See here, for example.) Did such a small village really have a duchess? If so, it should be possible to determine the identity of this noblewoman.

What about the second women mentioned in this letter, Madame de Boufflers? According to this entry in Wikipedia, Madame de Boufflers refers to a real person, the French noblewoman Marie Françoise Catherine de Beauvau-Craon (b. 1711, d. 1786), whose portrait is pictured below. Her formal title was the Marquise de Boufflers, but she was commonly known as Madame de Boufflers! Did Smith meet Madame de Boufflers in Paris or Toulouse (or somewhere else), and what was the nature of their relationship?

Next, who was Madame Nicol, the woman who, if Colbert is to be believed, apparently won Smith’s heart? My colleagues and friends Alain Alcouffe and Philippe Massot-Bordenave (2020, p. 262) have identified this potential love interest as a resident of Toulouse: “Madame Nicol, the wife of Capitoul Nicol.” Alcouffe and Massot-Bordenave also provide additional details about Madame Nicol’s husband, Jacques Nicol de Montblanc, a wealthy Anglophile Frenchman who presided over the Mont Blanc Estate in the present Croix Daurade district of Toulouse, but they do not provide any further details about Madame Nicol herself.

Lastly, who was the fourth woman in this letter — “this lady of Fife that [Smith] loved”? Whoever she was, it is worth noting that the word love in this part of the letter appears in the past tense, but how far back? Does the lady of Fife refer to the same “English lady” in Dr James Currie’s 1794 letter–the hearsay report that I mentioned in a previous post–i.e. the lady that Adam Smith was supposedly “dying for” during his visit to Abbeville in northwestern France? Or does she refer to another lost love. I shall consider the latter possibility in my next post …

Screen Shot 2021-10-10 at 10.37.47 PM

Artist Credit and Works Cited

Artist of the Portrait of Madame de Bouffler: Jean Marc Nattier.

Alain Alcouffe and Philippe Massot-Bordenave, Adam Smith in Toulouse and Occitania: The Unknown Years, Palgrave Macmillan (2020).

John Rae, Life of Adam Smith, London: Macmillan (1895).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maps of Neverland

Which one is your favorite, and why?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adam Smith in Paris: L’affaire du Chevalier de La Barre

In a private letter dated 14 July 1794, four years and three days after the death of Adam Smith, Dr James Currie mentions that Adam Smith visited the small town of Abbeville in northwest France. Currie’s letter does not say when Smith was there or for how long, but in 1766, the same year Smith was in Paris, Abbeville was the center of a huge controversy. It was where Chevalier de La Barre was put to death in July of 1766, the last man in Europe to be executed for the crime of blasphemy.

Although Currie’s letter is based on a second-hand report, and although I do not have any further evidence beyond this letter, I conjecture that Adam Smith may have travelled from Paris to Abbeville to witness the execution of the Chevalier de La Barre. (For detailed histories of this celebrated case, see Claverie 1992; 1994; Chassaigne 1920.) At the time, “l’affaire du Chevalier de La Barre” attracted attention across France—even attracting the sustained notice of the celebrated atheist and free-thinker Voltaire, who Adam Smith had visited in Geneva on his way to France. (Also, as it happens, Voltaire wrote not one but two accounts of the young de La Barre’s prosecution and sentence. Voltaire’s first essay about this case is dated 15 July 1766, but some scholars believe this essay was actually written in 1767 or 1768. For a summary of Voltaire’s involvement in this notorious case, see Claverie 1994; see also Braden 1965, 58–65.)

As it happens, this case has now become so central to the identity and history of modern France that many streets are named after the Chevalier de La Barre and many monuments were subsequently erected in his honor, including a statue standing at the gates of the famous Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Montmarte neighborhood of Paris. A picture of this particular monument to de La Barre is posted below. (Alas, this monument was taken down during the Second World War on orders of Marshal Philippe Pétain and melted down. See Caulcutt 2020.)

Dr Currie’s 1794 letter also contains the following observation:

“Dr. Smith, it seems, while at Abbeville, was deeply in love with an English lady there. What seems more singular, a French Marquise, a woman of talents and esprit, was smitten, or thought herself smitten, with the Doctor, and made violent attempts to obtain his friendship. She was just come from Paris [and], … was determined to obtain his friendship; but after various attempts was obliged to give the matter up. Dr. Smith had not the easy and natural manner of Mr. Hume…. He [Smith] was abstracted and inattentive. He could not endure this French woman, and was, besides, dying for another.”

Dying for another! Is the reference to the “Marquise” in this letter to Madame Riccoboni, or did Smith have yet another French admirer? Also, who was the “English lady” that Smith was “deeply in love with”? I will address these questions next week …

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 4.03.53 PM

Works Cited

Irene Braden, Voltaire and Injustice. Master’s thesis, Kansas State University (1965).

Marc Chassaigne, Le procès du Chevalier de la Barre, Librairie Victor Lecoffre (1920).

Clea Caulcutt, “French Free-Thinking Knight Still a Controversial Figure,” France Médias Monde (Dec. 16, 2010).

Elisabeth Claverie, “Sainte indignation contre indignation éclairée: L’affaire du Chevalier de La Barre,” Ethnologie Française, Vol. 22, No. 3 (2010), pp. 271–290.

James Currie, Letter 87 (“To Dugald Stewart, Esq., Edinburgh, July 14, ’94, Respecting Dr. Adam Smith”), in William Wallace Currie, editor, Memoir of the Life, Writings, and Correspondence of James Currie, M.D. F.R.S., of Liverpool, vol. 2, pp. 317–320. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green (1831).

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment