1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

David Hume

William Warburton to Richard Hurd, 3 March 1759; in Letters of a Late eminent Prelate (1808) 207.



As to Hume's History, you need not fear being forestalled by a thousand such writers. But the fear is natural, as I have oft felt, and have as oft experienced to be absurd.

As to Murden's papers, you will not find much to your purpose, but as your curiosity will lead you to turn them over, you will be amused with a very extraordinary letter of Mary to Elizabeth, at p. 558; and I dare say you will not think it one of the least causes of the fatal catastrophe which soon followed.

Hume has out done himself in this new history, in shewing his contempt of religion. This is one of those proof charges which Arbuthnot speaks of in his treatise of political-lying, to try how much the public will bear. If his history be well received, I shall conclude that there is even an end of all pretence to religion. But I should think it will not: because I fancy the good reception of Robertson's proceeded from the decency of it. — Hume carries his system here, to prove we had no Constitution till the struggles with James and Charles procured us one. And he has continued an effectual way to support his system, by beginning the History of England with Henry VII. and shutting out all that preceded, by assuring his reader that the earlier history is worth no one's while to enquire after. — Should you not take notice of this address? I take it for granted you will read his history — say nothing of it till it be published, for I engaged my word to Millar to be silent about it till that time.