Introduction to “A Short History of Adam Smith in Love”

Have you ever wondered why the great Adam Smith never married or if he ever fell in love? I shared the abstract of my lastest paper about this enigma in my previous post. In fact, the available evidence, though meager, suggests that Smith did fall in love, at least twice in his life! I will carefully review this historical record and evidence piece by piece in my next few posts; in the meantime, below the fold is the full introduction to my “Adam Smith in love” paper (no indentations):

“The great Adam Smith was a lifelong bachelor, but did the founding father of modern economics ever fall in love? Broadly speaking, students of Adam Smith’s life and ideas have adopted radically different stances when writing about Doctor Smith’s love life. Some Smith biographers simply avoid the subject altogether. (See, e.g., Haldane, 2002 [1887]; Rae, 1965 [1865].) Others, by contrast, are willing to acknowledge the possibility of love affairs (see, e.g., Phillipson, 2012; Ross, 2010; Stewart, 1982), but do so reluctantly or sparingly, either relegating their romantic speculations to an obscure footnote (Stewart, 1982, Note K) or merely alluding in passing to the possibility of Adam Smith falling in love during his 1766 sojourn in Paris. (See, e.g., Rasmussen, 2017, p. 131, footnote omitted: “There are indications that Smith too [along with Hume] may have had an amorous interlude while in Paris ….” For his part, Nicholas Phillipson, 2012, p. 136, relegates these reports to mere “gossip.”) [Note: Smith’s first biographer, Dugald Steward is pictured below, bottom right.]

“More recently, however, a select handful of Adam Smith scholars have been willing to entertain and explore this amorous Smithian enigma head on. (See, e.g., Kennedy, 2005, pp. 4-5; Ross, 2010, pp. 227-228; Rasmussen, 2017, pp. 131-132.) Gavin Kennedy (2005, pp. 4-5), for example, addresses the possibility of numerous “love interests” in the opening pages of his intellectual biography of Adam Smith, only to dismiss this tantalizing possibility out of hand as unfounded “speculation” (ibid., p. 4). Dennis Rasmussen (2017, p. 131) deems reports of Smith’s numerous dalliances as mere “rumors,” while Ian Simpson Ross (2010, pp. 227-228), who has written the most comprehensive biography of Adam Smith’s long life, provides the most comprehensive picture of Smith’s amorous interludes. [Simpson is pictured below, bottom left.] Alas, even Ross concludes that “the biographer can do little more with the topic of Adam Smith’s sex life than contribute a footnote to the history of sublimation.” (Ibid., p. 228.)

“I will follow an entirely different approach. Specifically, I will devote my full scholarly attention to the mystery of Smith’s sex life by carefully re-assembling all the admissible amorous evidence, including Adam Smith’s long lost Paris diary and his testamentary instructions to destroy his private papers, by subjecting such facts to critical lawyerly scrutiny, and by drawing reasonable inferences from these sundry proofs. In short, contrary to the conventional biographical wisdom, reports of Adam Smith’s love life are not mere rumors or unfounded speculations. Although Adam Smith’s lifelong devotion to his intellectual life and to his widowed mother Margaret Douglas may have ultimately prevented him from getting married and forming his own household, the evidence will show that it is ‘more likely than not’ that Adam Smith was deeply in love at least twice in his life.”

Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 8.40.06 AMDugald Stewart - Wikipedia

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to Introduction to “A Short History of Adam Smith in Love”

  1. Pingback: Adam Smith in Love Update | prior probability

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