Henry Home - Lord Kames - author of Elements of Criticism

Henry Home

Born 1696 in County Berwick
Died Dec 27, 1782

Alias: 

Lord Kames

Biography: 

Son of George Home of Kames. Married to Agatha Drummond. Father of George Home and Jean Home.

Henry Home was tutored at home until his 16th year, first by clergyman John Wingate and later by a Mr. Anderson who taught him Greek, Latin, mathematics, and physics.1 He was apprenticed to a Writer to the Signet (a high-ranking solicitor) in 1712, and in 1723 became an advocate, despite not having received any formal education in law. He rose to became a lawyer, philosopher and sociologist (if that term could even be said to apply in the 18th century) of much fame in his own time.

Appointed judge in the Scottish Court of Sessions, as Lord Kames, in 1752, and Lord of Justiciary (judge in the criminal court) in 1763. He helped establish the Royal Society of Scotland, but didn't live to see it being officially formed.

In his final years "[h]e continued to enjoy those small and select evening parties which usually met at his house, during the winter and summer sessions, without invitation; [...] At these meetings, it was the envied privilege of a few of his younger friends, to find a place; and the graver conversation of a Smith, a Blair, and a Fergusson, was agreeably tempered and enlivened by the native wit, the splendid abilities, and the engaging manners of a [Robert] Cullen; or the sprightly fancy, and whimsical eccentricity of a Boswell."2

Lord Kames was the author of numerous works, including the legal writings Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session (1728), Dictionary of the Decisions of the Court of Session (1741) and Principles of Equity (1760), as well as the philosophical works Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751), An Introduction to the Art of Thinking (1761), Elements of Criticism (1762) and Sketches of the History of Man (1774)

  • 1. According to Tytler, Alexander Fraser; Price, John Valdimir (ed.). (1993). Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Honourable Henry Home of Kames. Routledge / Thoemmes Press.
  • 2. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Honourbale Henry Home of Kames vol. 2, p. 228

Life with Boswell: 

Boswell  knew Lord Kames through his father, Alexander Boswell, who was Lord Kames' colleague in the Court of Sessions. Shortly before he departed for London in 1762, Boswell travelled with Lord and Lady Kames through the southern counties of Scotland, and also stayed for a while at Kames.

In his journal entry for September 27, 1764, then visiting the Court of Dessau south of Berlin, Boswell quotes parts of a long letter which he had written to Kames. The letter centers around Boswell's own personal development since leaving Scotland in 1762, and is an important look into his perception of himself at the time.

It is generally agreed, that Lord Kames is the "man of the first distinction in Scotland" who "had heaped kindness on me" referred to in Boswell's sketch to Rosseau in December 1764.

Lord Kames arguably had a better understanding of Boswell than did his father, and Kames was held in high regard by him. They stayed friends until Lord Kames' death on December 27, 1782.

Literature: 

Alexander Fraser Tytler's early 19th century Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Honourable Henry Home of Kames is often available in various editions on AbeBooks.com, as is Home's Elements of Criticism.

The complete works of Lord Kames were reprinted in 1993 in a 13 volume edition published by Routledge, with new introductions by John Valdimir Price.

As of February 2015, the entire work is available for downloading online, free of charge, at LibertyFund.