Note: This blog post is from my latest paper/work-in-progress: “A Short History of Adam Smith in Love.”
There is yet another significant clue regarding Adam Smith’s love life, a third piece of primary evidence. The source of this particular piece of proof is Henry Mackenzie, a distinguished Scottish lawyer and novelist who, as I mentioned in a previous post, had co-founded–along with Professor Dugald Stewart–the Royal Society of Edinburgh. (For your reference, here is Mackenzie’s Wikipedia page.) It also worth noting that, according to Ian Simpson Ross (2010, p. 227), 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.”
Toward the end of his life, Henry Mackenzie jotted down a series of personal recollections and memorable anecdotes from his lifetime, hoping to have these memories published in a book of “anecdotes and egotisms,” as Mackenzie himself referred to them. Mackenzie’s collection of anecdotes were eventually assembled by Harold William Thompson and published by Oxford University Press in 1927. Among other things, Henry Mackenzie recounts this brief recollection with the tantalizing title of “Smith and Hume in Love”:
|“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.|
“His friend, David Hume, was deeply smitten with a very amiable young lady, a great friend of mine, Miss Nancy Ord, but the disparity of age prevented his proposing to her, which he once intended. She was a great admirer of his, and he was a frequent guest at her father’s, where I met him, and made one of his whist party with the young lady and some other person. I played well at the time and so did she. D. Hume was vain of his playing whist. That game has much of observation in it, and such games best suit a thinking man.”
This first sentence of Mackenzie’s fragmentary anecdote raises so many intriguing questions! Who is this mysterious “Miss Campbell of ________,” and when exactly did Adam Smith fall in love with her, and what, if anything, became of this romance? More specifically, could “Miss Campbell” be the same “young lady of great beauty and accomplishment” that Professor Dugald Stewart enigmatically refers to in “Note K” of his biography of Adam Smith? Or could she be the same “English lady” referred to in James Currie’s letter of July 1784, the woman that Adam Smith allegedly fell in love with during his visit to Abbeville? Or could she be an entirely different woman; could she be Adam Smith’s third love? Together, these three pieces of proof–Professor Dugald Stewart’s original obscure footnote and personal recollection of Adam Smith’s first love; Dr. James Currie’s hearsay report in his July 1794 letter to Prof. Stewart; and Henry Mackenzie’s brief and incomplete anecdote–point to an inescapable conclusion: Adam Smith had fallen madly in love on at least two occasions during his remarkable life.