Adam Smith in Love Update: A Fourth Conjecture

Three weeks ago, I shared the following three conjectures about Adam Smith’s love life in one of my previous posts: (1) that Adam Smith may have fallen in love upon his return to Kirkcaldy in 1746 after completing his formal studies at Oxford, (2) that his mother Margaret Douglas objected to this proposed union and that Smith acquiesced to his mother’s veto; and (3) that Smith may have carried out an adulterous love affair at some point during his Grand Tour of France. I now wish to add a fourth conjecture as follows:

“… my final conjecture, though perhaps my most tenuous one, is that during an extended stay at Dalkeith House [pictured below] in late 1767, Adam Smith may have carried out a secret and short-lived love affair with the sister of his former pupil Henry Scott, Lady Frances Scott Campbell.[1] Lady Frances, who would have been 17 years old at the time,[2] did not wed until 1783.[3] Of particular relevance to this conjecture is one of the four primary historical sources discussed at length in the next part of this paper: a short and incomplete recollection titled “Smith and Hume in Love”; see subsection “Exhibit C” in Part 2 of the paper, which identifies a “Miss Campbell of _________” as the object of Adam Smith’s romantic affections. Could this same “Miss Campbell” be a veiled reference to none other than Lady Frances; should “Dalkeith” or “Buccleuch” be inserted in the blank line following her name? According to one scholarly source (Bonnyman, 2014, pp. 59-60), Adam Smith resided at Dalkeith House, the Buccleuch family’s principal and recently-refurbished residence in Scotland.[4] Moreover, his stay at Dalkeith House lasted at least two months, from mid-September 1767 to mid-November 1767,[5] and he may have subsequently visited the Buccleuch estates on several occasions.[6] As a result, the possibility of a secret love affair between Doctor Smith and the young Lady Frances is not a far-fetched one.[7]

Dalkeith Palace - Castle in Scotland - Thousand Wonders

[1] Recall that Adam Smith was Henry Scott’s private tutor during their Grand Tour of Europe (early 1764 to late 1766). Edith Kuiper (2013, p. 70) incorrectly identifies Lady Frances as Henry Scott’s elder sister. In fact, Lady Frances was Henry Scott’s youngest sister. See Bonnyman, 2014, p. 1.

[2] See Stuart, 1985, p. 54.

[3] See Alcouffe & Massot-Bordenave, 2020, p. 290. When she married in 1783, at the age of 33, Lady Frances became Lord Archibald Douglas’ second wife. See Rubenstein, 1985, p. 11. As an aside, according to Stuart (1985, p. 59), Lady Frances, upon reaching the age of 21, was entitled to an income from her family of £600 per year. To put this amount in perspective, Adam Smith’s compensation for serving as the Duke’s private tutor and advisor consisted of an annual salary of £300 plus traveling expenses and a pension of £300 a year thereafter. Ross, 2010, p. *.

[4] Dalkeith House or Dalkeith Palace is located only four miles south of Edinburgh, where Smith lived the last 12 years of his life. This neo-classical palace was commissioned and built in the early 18th century and then refurbished in preparation for Henry Scott first visit to Scotland in honor of his reaching the age of majority. See Bonnyman, 2014, p. 10 & pp. 57-58. For an engraving of this palace as it appeared in the early 18th century, see National Library of Scotland, n.d.

[5] For further details regarding Smith’s stay at Dalkeith, see Bonnyman, 2014, pp. 58-59.

[6] See Kuiper, 2013, p. 76, n.14. It is unclear, however, whether Adam Smith ever returned to Dalkeith House following his initial two-month stay in late 1767.

[7] For a biography of Lady Frances written by a contemporary of hers, see Stuart, 1985. See also Rubenstein, 1985. Among other things, Lady Louisa Stuart’s intimate memoire of Lady Frances’ life and circle of family and friends paints a very unflattering picture of Lady Frances’ mother; in addition, Stuart (1985, pp. 45-49) paints Lady Frances’ stepfather as extremely possessive: “unwilling ever to have her out of his sight” (p. 46). Also, Stuart’s memoire (see especially pp. 54 & 58) highlights Lady Frances’ worldliness and awareness of adult double standards. Given these facts, along with Townsend’s sudden death in August of 1767, it is not far-fetched to imagine a fling between an erudite middle-aged Adam Smith and a young, newly-liberated damsel. For a portrait of Lady Frances by Sir Joshua Reynolds when she was still a child, see National Galleries of Scotland, n.d. As a further aside, Lady Frances was an accomplished artist in her own right. For a collection of her works, see Tate, n.d.

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 Adam Smith in Love Update: A Fourth Conjecture

  1. Pingback: Compilation of my most recent Adam Smith blog posts | prior probability

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