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Unformatted text preview: insensible, and did not display its Influence till many Years afterwards. Twas under James that the House of Commons began first to raise their Head, & then the Quarrel betwixt Privilege & Prerogative commenc’d. The Government, no longer opprest by the enormous Authority of the Crown, display’d its Genius; and the Factions, which then arose, having an Influence on our present Affairs, form the most curious, interesting, & instructive Part of our History. . . . I confess, that the Subject appears to me very fine; & I enter upon it with great Ardour & Pleasure. You need not doubt of my Perseverance. For a historian tracing, in one period or another, the progress or decline of human welfare, the “influence” twice mentioned in the letter to Smith eventually required a “backward” narrative: from present effects to earlier precedents and then to causes earlier yet. Thus over the ensuing years Hume proceeded retrogressively, representing first the Stuart reigns (now volumes V–VI in this reprint), then the Tudors (III–IV), PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 5 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 and finally all the “barbarous” times before Henry VII (I–II). Hence in surveying the development of this history, and the various reactions to its initial publication, we should remember that what Hume reports of his first two volumes (originally published 1754, 1757) is lastly conveyed here as V–VI (volumes not so designated until issue in 1762 of the “complete” edition). About his early work, so ebulliently described to Smith, Hume has much else to say, all of it in great confidence as to the rectitude and efficacy of his own procedure. To one friend he observes: “You know that there is no post of honour in the English Parnassus more vacant than that of History. Style, judgement, impartiality, care—everything is wanting to our historians; and even Rapin, during this latter period, is extremely deficient.” To another he confides that he has “more propos’d as my Model the concise manner of the antient Historians, than the prolix, tedious Style of some modern Compilers. I have inserted no original Papers, and enter’d into no Detail of minute, uninteresting Facts. The philosophical Spirit, which I have so much indulg’d in all my Writings, finds here ample Materials to work upon.” To a third correspondent Hume is even more assured. The more I advance in my undertaking, the more am I convinced that the History of England has never yet been written, not only for style, which is notorious to all the world, but also for matter; such is the ignorance and partiality of all our historians. Rapin, whom I had an esteem for, is totally despicable. I may be liable to the reproach of ignorance, but I am certain of escaping that of par[chtiality: The truth is, there is so much reason to blame and praise alternately King and Parliament, that I am afraid the mixture of both in my composition, being so equal, may pass sometimes for an affectation, and not the result of judgement and evidence. In this last comment the allusion to tr...
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This note was uploaded on 02/12/2011 for the course CHIN 101 taught by Professor Dr.yu during the Spring '08 term at University Of Southern Mississippi .
- Spring '08