history of england_david hume

Like all other species of superstition it rouses the

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Unformatted text preview: s prelates and spiritual princes, whose temper, PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 9 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 more cultivated and humanized, inclined them to every decent pleasure and indulgence. Like all other species of superstition, it rouses the vain fears of unhappy mortals; but it knows also the secret of allaying these fears, and by exterior rites, ceremonies, and abasements, tho’ sometimes at the expence of morals, it reconciles the penitent to his offended deity. Employing all these various arts, along with a restless enterprize, the catholic religion has acquired the favor of many monarchs, who had received their education from its rival sect; and Sweden, as well as England, has felt the effect of its dangerous insinuations. However one may regard these two influential religious movements, it must be conceded that Hume here betrays no unwonted partiality and is quite even-handed in his censure. To all sectarian objections then, both political and clerical, he may be allowed the rejoinder that, while his book had been “extremely run down by Faction . . . it has been met with such Indulgence by good Judges, that I have no Reason to repent of my Undertaking.” In later time the critics could be more than indulgent, indeed lavish in their praise, for upon completion of the work, essentially, in 1762, it had been greatly improved in many respects: incidentally by more precise and extensive footnoting, as well as by more careful typography; in its text by the gradual elimination of peculiarly Scottish spelling and idioms; in its authorities by reference to other historical archives, especially those at the British Museum; and in its scope by extending now, in other volumes, to less controversial matters. All this achieved, the work received an extensive review by Voltaire, himself an accomplished philosophe and historian, who considered this English account to be “perhaps the best written in any language.” Moreover, he continued, the author thereof “is neither parliamentarian, nor royalist, nor Anglican, nor Presbyterian—he is simply judicial,” one obviously of a “mind superior to his materials; he speaks of weaknesses, blunders, cruelties as a physician speaks of epidemic diseases.” No less effusive was the Earl of Chesterfield, who rightly predicted that this was “the only History of England that will go down to Posterity.” Still another way of assessing, now statistically, the continued acceptance of the History may be discovered in the printers’ own accounts. Confronted by six massive quarto books, gradually appearing one or two at a time, even the most assiduous readers, as Hume anticipated, would become less and less interested, especially when each succeeding volume took them backward to epochs of lesser concern. Nonetheless, the complex printing records, when reduced to tabular form, disclose a total quarto issue hardly surpassed, in this period, for work of any kind. Printed “Stuarts” 1754 1757 1759 1761 1762 1763 1764 Total 1 [5] 2,000 750 800 [225?] 3,775 2...
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