Literary Pursuits

Ian Simpson Ross

in The Life of Adam Smith

Published in print October 1995 | ISBN: 9780198288213
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596827 | DOI:
 Literary Pursuits

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Smith expressed regret in 1780 that his Custom‐house duties held up ‘Several Works’ he had projected. One of these was on the subject of the ‘Imitative Arts,’ presumably his mimetic aesthetic philosophy. This was very likely connected with the two ‘Great Works’ he had ‘on the anvil’ on 1785. He described the first one as a ‘sort of Philosophical History of all the different branches of Literature, of Philosophy, Poetry, and Eloquence.’ The second he described as a ‘sort of theory and History of Law and Government,’ which presumably would have included the ‘system of jurisprudence’, Smith promised his readers at the conclusion of TMS in 1759. He reported in 1785 that the materials collected were in tolerably good order, but he doubted whether the onset of old age would allow him to finish either work. Parts of the first project were published after his death in Essays on Philosophical Subjects (EPS: 1795), the only book of his that was not a commercial success. His major efforts of the end of his life went into further editions of TMS and WN, which he had in hand by 1783, in part responding to his critics.

Keywords: editions; government; law; mimetic; poetry

Chapter.  8088 words. 

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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