1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

David Hume

George Gregory, in Letters on Literature, Taste, and Composition (1808) 2:37-38.



It would be unfair, though I dislike his principles both political and religious, to deny Mr. Hume the praise of a chaste, correct, and pleasing writer. I have been told by some who knew him, that he composed with great difficulty, and even with painful feelings; yet his genius seems to me happily calculated for narration. He is clear and spirited; and though he can rarely reach either the sublime or the pathetic, he always interests. Some of his dissertations, as that on the consequences of the invention of gunpowder, &c. might have been omitted; they remind us of scholastic disputations, and have no connexion with a recital of facts. He is not copious; his vocabulary is remarkably limited, but it is well chosen. I wish, however, he possessed more honesty, more industry, and less of that rancorous spirit so peculiarly characteristic of infidels, that even Mr. Gibbon terms Voltaire "a bigot, an intolerable bigot." He frequently misrepresents when party or prejudice offers a temptation; as particularly evinced in his account of Barebone's parliament, and the character of Milton, and his negligence is very reprehensible. I have been told that he has copied pages, I might almost say volumes, from Carte, with only slight alterations in language. All these circumstances render his history of little value as an authentic record.