In the latest issue:

Short Cuts

Jonathan Parry

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Citizen HobbesNoel Malcolm

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
De Cive: The Latin Version 
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Howard Warrender.
Oxford, 336 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 824385 5
Show More
De Cive: The English Version 
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Howard Warrender.
Oxford, 300 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 824623 4
Show More
Show More

Hobbes studies are booming. The production of books and articles on Hobbes and everything (Hobbes and Laughter; Hobbes and the American Constitution; Hobbes and Vico, or Dryden, or Hegel ...) has reached record levels. Yet the essential scholarly machinery on which one might expect such a thriving industry to depend is in fact jerry-built and creaking with age: the standard edition of Hobbes’s works was published nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, and suffers from incompleteness, unreliable transcriptions and an often arbitrary choice of copy-texts. Scholars have always known that most of Hobbes’s works have complex textual histories, but they have usually shied away from the task of tackling them editorially. Now at long last Howard Warrender has produced what promises to be the first work in a new complete edition of Hobbes’s philosophical writings. The text he has tackled is one of the most complex of all, and it is not surprising to learn that his painstaking work on it took nearly twenty years to finish (though it is rather surprising that it then apparently spent more than four years in the press).

Hobbes scholars were, of course, already indebted to Warrender before he embarked on his editorial work. The post-war surge of interest in Hobbes owes its impetus to the writings of three men: Howard Warrender, Quentin Skinner and Michael Oakeshott; of these, it is Warrender’s book The Political Philosophy of Hobbes (1957) that has produced the greatest quantity of subsequent discussion and development. This book had the merit of taking Hobbes seriously as a major moral and political philosopher and at the same time tying him down to some quite specific, technical issues in the theory of obligation. The essence of Warrender’s view was that Hobbes did not reduce moral ‘oughts’ to prudential ‘shoulds’ or psychological ‘musts’. Moral obligation existed independently of these, but could be prevented from operating if certain prudential or psychological conditions were not met. To Warrender’s critics this seemed like saying, ‘you needn’t do what you are obliged to do unless you also want to do it (or could in principle want to do it),’ which did not sound like a strong defence of the difference between obligation and motivation. But Warrender might well have answered that this was a criticism not of him but of Hobbes. His interpretation, unlike many others, allowed him to recognise Hobbes’s claim that the Laws of Nature continue to oblige in conscience even in circumstances where they cannot safely be obeyed. Warrender’s philosophical account of Hobbes carried some historical implications: it suggested that Hobbes was much closer to the Natural Law tradition than most previous critics had allowed. Yet Warrender was engaged in a very different sort of interpretative enterprise from that of Quentin Skinner, who, in a famous series of articles, set about placing Hobbes’s ideas in a detailed historical context. It is, nevertheless, from a work which is in some ways close in spirit to Skinner, Richard Tuck’s Natural Rights Theories, that the most penetrating recent criticism of Warrender has come.

Of the trio of Hobbes scholars I mentioned above, Oakeshott is the one whose ideas stand most in need of further development today, for he is one of the few people who find Hobbes’s vision of human nature and the state not merely interesting but in some important sense true. Oakeshott’s own political philosophy is often reverently invoked by the theorists of the ‘New Right’: but his admiration for Hobbes reflects a strand of his thought which is quite incompatible with the sort of neo-Hegelianism which we find in such works as Scruton’s on conservatism. For the neo-Hegelians, every aspect of an individual’s life gains its meaning and worth from the cultural, social and ultimately political world he inhabits: to put it in traditional language, the ends of any individual are subordinate parts of a whole system of ends, which constitutes the state. For Hobbes, the individual’s ends are private, and they are subordinated to the state only extrinsically, in the sense that, if need be, the state can overrule them. The state does not set goals to human activity, but only prescribes limits to the ways in which people may pursue their goals within it – this is what Oakeshott has called an adverbial concept of law. Individuals are not formed by the state: the state is formed by the wills of individuals. What makes Hobbes attractive to Oakeshott is, I believe, this sort of individualism: Hobbes, with his scepticism about absolute intuitable moral verities, is liberal in a way in which liberalism, with its tradition of dogmatic moralism and rationalism, is not. This may sound surprising to anyone brought up on the standard view of Hobbes as a hard-boiled authoritarian who elevated the state to the level of a ‘mortal God’. But Hobbes was in fact very unpopular with the old-fashioned authoritarians of his day, partly because he attacked their traditional notions of teleological values which could be intuited by mankind and fulfilled in the social and political order, and partly because he founded the existence and legitimacy of the state on the consenting wills of the people who formed it. Of these two objectionable lines of argument the first was developed most fully in Leviathan, where it was linked to a wider attack on the philosophical apparatus of traditional theology. But the second received if not its fullest, then at least its most striking statement in the work which preceded Leviathan, and which, significantly, was called, not The Kingdom, The King or The Commonwealth, but The Citizen: De Cive.

De Cive is the middle work in the series of Hobbes’s three statements of his political theory. The most important way in which it differs from the earlier Elements of Law is in its development of a theory of authorisation: the government becomes for Hobbes an ‘artificial person’ which represents the wills of the individuals under it. Their acknowledgment of the government’s actions as implicitly willed by them is not something that can vary according to their approval or disapproval of particular actions: it is the fundamental condition of having a government, and the need for government is unvarying. The underlying argument had been the same in the Elements of Law: but there when Hobbes discussed the rights of the government over individuals, his main emphasis was on their duties of non-resistance and its sheer superior power. In De Cive he stresses that the government’s rights derive essentially from the fact that it is the authorised agent of each individual’s will. Some aspects of this theory were developed further in Leviathan, but there is in De Cive what one might almost call a populist element which disappears in the later work. Hobbes argues that before a monarchical state can be formed, the assembled individuals must first of all be transformed from a ‘Multitude’ of separate persons into a ‘People’, which is the primary political entity. In the second edition of De Cive Hobbes added a subtle account of the way in which individuals could be both members of the subject population and members of the sovereign, and it is tempting to see a link here with the sort of republican tradition on which Rousseau was later to draw. Of course, De Cive did not look like a republican work overall, both because of its claim that the people could transfer its authority irrevocably to a single ruler, and because of the long list of arguments Hobbes supplied for showing that monarchy was the most beneficial and least corruptible form of government. This overt support for monarchy, together with Hobbes’s tendency in the first edition to frame the premises of his argument in the phraseology of traditional Natural Law (especially his use of the term ‘right reason’), helps to explain why many people who were later to be scandalised by Leviathan were, like Clarendon, comparatively untroubled by De Cive.

In England De Cive has always been over-shadowed by its more scandalous sequel. In Europe, thanks no doubt to the succession of handy Elezevir pocket editions, De Cive has come closer to holding the centre of the stage. Writers on Natural Law such as Pufendorf and Leibniz based their interpretations of Hobbes on De Cive (which Leibniz called subtilissimus); it was the only work by Hobbes in Voltaire’s library; and when Kant discussed Hobbes, it was De Cive that he cited. (War-render is, however, probably mistaken in claiming that Spinoza knew only this work and not Leviathan.) This century it has been translated into Italian (three times), German, Spanish, Polish and Czech. Warrender’s edition should bring to an end the comparative neglect in this country of this crucial transitional work.

Some important transitions take place between the successive versions of the Latin text itself. Warrender uses the first (1642) edition as his copy-text, and records all material variants both in the later 1647 editions and in the original manuscript, so that it is possible to follow and compare on each page every chronological layer of the text; and his discussion of the order and identity of these early editions will lay a great deal of confusion permanently to rest. But he stops at 1647, announcing that there is ‘no evidence’ that Hobbes had a part in the production of any Latin version of De Cive after that year. This is simply wrong. Hobbes did have a part in the production of the 1668 Blaeu edition of his Latin works, which included De Cive; Blaeu actually visited him in London in 1664 to discuss the project, and in 1667, after sending him a proof copy, Blaeu’s son wrote to Hobbes requesting him to ‘look through it carefully, so that I may correct anything you might think necessary’. As it happens, Hobbes made no changes to De Cive for Blaeu, so ignoring this publication has done no damage to Warrender’s edition of the Latin text. But the 1668edition does, I believe, provide important evidence for thinking that Warrender is wrong in attributing the English translation of 1651 to Hobbes himself.

This is the translation which Warrender has edited as a companion volume. In the past, the attribution has usually gone to Hobbes either by default or on the strength of Aubrey’s story that Waller gave up his own attempt at a translation after seeing a specimen section translated by Hobbes. Aubrey, however, only states that Waller gave up, not that Hobbes continued; and the attribution to Hobbes has been doubtful ever since H.J.H. Drummond drew attention 11 years ago to the existence of an earlier version of the 1651 translation, which contains a dedicatory epistle by the translator signed ‘C.C.’. Warrender seems determined to give the credit to Hobbes. He prints this epistle not in its proper preliminary place but as an appendix. In his Introduction he is willing only to concede that Hobbes may have had some ‘assistance’ from C.C., although the epistle clearly implies that C.C. did the translation single-handed and without Hobbes’s knowledge. His main argument is that the translation is stylistically Hobbesian. He scrupulously notes that in places the translation diverges from or embellishes the original, but he then argues that such changes amount to ‘a great deal more than Hobbes would have allowed without his own active participation and sanction’: this is surely arguing back-to-front, begging the question of whether Hobbes ‘allowed’ the translation in the first place. Two proper tests can be applied. The first is that of comparison with Leviathan, which frequently incorporated phrases or sentences from De Cive; the English rendering of such phrases in Leviathan is so often different from that of the (contemporaneous) English translation of De Cive that it must seem unlikely that they were by the same man. The second test involves the 1668 Blaeu edition. As Warrender has carefully noted, the early Latin editions of De Cive frequently give slightly inaccurate references when citing passages from the Bible (which prompts the rather pleasing thought that the Monster of Malmesbury had such an encyclopedic knowledge of Holy Scripture that he felt able to quote it extensively from memory). The 1651 translation corrects many of these errors. If Hobbes had been responsible for these corrections, we might expect him to have similarly corrected the 1668 text when asked to check it by Blaeu: but the errors reappear there unaltered.

According to Warrender, Hobbes prepared his translation in 1650 ‘under pressure from the threat of piracy’; and he cites a letter from Hobbes’s friend Robert Payne to Sheldon of May 1650 which says: ‘I sent notice to Mr Hobbes, yt his booke De Cive was translated into English, & desird him to prevent yt translation by one of his owne.’ The letter continues, however: ‘but he sends me word he hath an other taske in hand, wch is Politiques, in English.’ Hobbes was far too busy writing Leviathan to bother with translating the work which it was intended to supersede. (Whether the translation Payne heard about was the one by C.C., which was not registered at Stationers’ Hall till November, we cannot tell: but what he goes on to describe in the same letter as a copy he has seen of the English De Cive missing its third section was, as a later letter makes clear, not De Cive at all but, as Richard Tuck has pointed out, the recently published second half of the Elements of Law.) Yet when all the evidence against Hobbes’s responsibility for the translation of De Cive is counted, the fact remains that the translation is not merely usable but very good: Warrender need not feel that he has wasted his efforts in editing it so meticulously for this series.

Lastly, a handful of minor errors in the Introduction and the Appendix of correspondence: the letter of 2 November 1646 should be II November; the letter from Sorbière to Wllefeldt is taken not from a letter to Wllefeldt but from the ‘Avertissement’ which Sorbiére put at the end of his French translation of De Cive; the invitation to Hobbes to stay at Montauban came not from du Verdus but from Martel. On some small points, because of its long gestation at the press. Warrender’s material has been overtaken or supplemented by the continuing publication of the Mersenne Correspondence; and Richard Pennington’s superb catalogue of Hollar’s etchings has now supplied the prehistory of the three mysterious engravings which are reproduced from C.C.’s translation. The identity of C.C. remains, however, a mystery.

Warrender has set the textual basis of Hobbes studies on a new footing, and we should be particularly grateful to him for the immensely useful cross-references he has supplied throughout his edition to passages in the Elements of Law and Leviathan. I have one final complaint. When these books were advertised to booksellers at the end of 1983, the price was given as £25 in hardback, £10 in paperback. They appeared in March 1984 in hardback only, at £35. At this rate, the Clarendon Press will rapidly reach the dizzy heights of the CUP. A £10 paperback of the English version would be a very useful addition to the list of buyable copies of Hobbes’s works: at £35 the market is surely confined almost entirely to libraries.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.