Hume tomb conserved for future generations

The last resting place of Scotland’s greatest philosopher has been conserved, thanks to a joint project led by the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.

The David Hume mausoleum in Old Calton burial ground was designed by his friend the famous architect Robert Adam, matching the philosopher's wish that on his death a "Monument be built over my body ... with an Inscription containing only my Name and the Year of my Birth and Death, leaving it to Posterity to add the Rest."

The conservation works focused on removing vegetation, and replacing loose or defective pointing with appropriate lime mortar.

The intricate decorative features inspired by ancient Roman styles have received particular attention,  the cornice, architrave, and frieze around the top of the building.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure Convener, said:  "I'm delighted the Council and EWH have been able to carry out this vital conservation work on the mausoleum of Edinburgh's own David Hume.  Hume is a towering figure in Scotland's history, enormously respected across the world for his outstanding contributions to philosophy, economics, history and the written word. It's particularly pleasing we have secured the necessary funds to conserve his memorial in 2011, the 300th anniversary of his birth."

A spokesman for Edinburgh World Heritage said: "The Hume mausoleum is of great importance to the city and Scotland. Designed by the famous architect Robert Adam to commemorate the nation's foremost philosopher, it neatly encapsulates Edinburgh's history as a city at the heart of the Enlightenment. This sort of conservation work is essential to keep the building in good order for the future, and to encourage more people to appeciate the value of the city's historic graveyards."

The total cost of the project was £5,000, funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage, with kind donations from the Regent, Royal and Carlton Terraces Association and others.

The history of David Hume's death

There was considerable public interest in Hume's death, both in terms of the tranquil and philosophical way he approached his end and because of his sceptical views on religion. Hume had been accused of being an atheist, and to keep the more superstitious or curious citizens away from his grave, his friends kept watch at the mausoleum for eight days after his burial.

James Boswell was an eye-witness to Hume's burial: "Thursday 29 August. Was vexed at my rashness last night, but was somehow in a very composed steady frame. It was a very wet day. After breakfast Grange and I went and saw David Hume's burial. We first looked at his grave in the burying ground on the Calton Hill, and then stood concealed behind a wall till we saw the procession of carriages come down from the New Town, and thereafter the procession of the corpse carried to the grave. We then went to the Advocates' Library and read some part of his Essays: of his "Epicurean, his "Stoic" , his "Sceptic"; and "On Natural Religion".

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