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MOORE, Charles.

A Full Inquiry into the Subject of Suicide.

To which are added (as being closely connected with the Subject) Two Treatises on Duelling and Gaming.

Published: London: Printed for J. F. and C. Rivington [& 3 others in London]; Fletcher, Prince and Cooke, Oxford; Merrills, Lunn, Cambridge; Simmons and Kirby, Canterbury; and Gillman, Rochester, 1790

Stock code: 88469

Price: £4,750

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First edition, written to combat Hume’s Essay on Suicide (1783) and “one of the fullest surveys of philosophical and religious thought up to that time” (Encyclopedia of philosophy); “the most extensive treatise on the ‘natural, social, moral, and religious’ aspects of suicide the risk of which the psychiatrist must continually bear in mind. From it is taken his historical survey showing the roots of modern legal attitudes and why Coroners still prefer the verdict of ‘accidental death’ even to ‘suicide while of unsound mind'” (Hunter & MacAlpine). In Volume II Moore includes “The Modern History of Suicide; contained in a Review of Certain Writings in its Favour”, with separate chapters devoted to John Donne and David Hume. Hume’s approach is subjected to systematic criticism: he deceives by the elegance of his style; his arguments are not easily reduced to logical precision; he attempts to undermine the Christian stance against suicide by including it within the pejorative term “Superstition.” Moore sets out to refute Hume’s key contention “that it is in our interest and duty to destroy ourselves, when life is more burdensome even than annihilation”. The substantial “Treatise on gaming” at the end of vol. II discusses the vices of gambling, covering dice, cards, “the pursuits of the turf”, lotteries, and stock-jobbing, all “notoriously productive of either direct or indirect self-murder”. Among those in the lengthy “List of Subscribers” are the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Heberden (who attended the melancholic Samuel Johnson and was called in to advise in the case of George III’s indisposition), William Hawes of the Humane Society, and Samuel Whitbread, reformist MP who, ironically, committed suicide himself in 1815.

2 volumes quarto (298 228 mm). Uncut and unpressed in later boards, paper spines, printed paper spine labels. Additions and corrections and errata leaves present at the end of both volumes, complete with final blank leaf to vol. 2. Pale stain to one leaf in vol. 1 (pp. 191-20 and another marginal stain at the end of vol. 2, occasional light spotting and the odd mark; a very good, uncut copy.

Bibliography: Fedden, Suicide: a social and historical study, p. 348; Hunter & MacAlpine pp. 528-31

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