Identity and Diversity among
By its very nature, writing books is usually a private activity, and often a lonely one. Yet sociability and commitment to a community and a world beyond oneself were among the core values of the Enlightenment, in Scotland at least as much as anywhere else. Different authors devised different strategies for balancing the contrary demands of the individual and the collective, the private and the social. William Robertson, for example, was able to combine personal scholarship with active participation in the cultural life of Enlightenment Edinburgh by limiting his participation in the domestic sphere: “I well remember his constant habit of quitting the drawing-room, both after dinner and again after tea, and remaining shut up in his library,” recalled his nephew Henry Brougham.1 Outside the home, sociability depended largely on access to the formal and informal institutions that comprised the public sphere. As we shall see in this chapter, the books of the Scottish Enlightenment were affected by the social interaction of their authors, and those books in turn projected images of authors as, among other things, friends, colleagues, and men of letters.
The birth dates of the authors in table 1 span the better part of a hundred years, from Charles Alston in 1683 to Mungo Park in 1771, with the year
1. Brougham, Lives, 1:259.