The four dissertations which Andrew Millar accepted for publication had probably been composed between 1749 and 1751, after David Hume's return from Turin and before he plunged into active composition of the History in the spring of 1752. The first, so coyly alluded to as ‘that which Allan Ramsay mentioned’, and again, as containing ‘a good deal of Literature’, is ‘The Natural History of Religion’. ‘Of the Passions’ is a brief reworking of Book II of the Treatise. ‘Of Tragedy’ is a short essay on the aesthetic problem of why grief in art is enjoyable. The fourth dissertation, ‘Some Considerations previous to Geometry & Natural Philosophy’ was presumably a reworking of Book I, Part II, of the Treatise. This fourth item was never actually set in type. Its history is summed up by Hume in a letter of January 25, 1772 to William Strahan, who had in the meanwhile succeeded Millar in the publishing business.
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