I have begun Mr. Hume’s history, and got almost through the first volume. It is amusing to one who ]knows a little of his own country, but I fear would not teach much to a beginner; details are so much avoided by him, and the whole rather skimmed than elucidated. I cannot say I think it very carefully performed. Dr. Robertson’s work I should expect would be more accurate.
P. S. There has lately appeared, in four little volumes, a Chinese Tale, called Hau Kiou Choaan,(205) not very entertaining from the incidents, but I think extremely so from the novelty of the manner and the genuine representation of their customs.
(203) Now first collected.
(204) Probably Sir David’s “Memorials and Letters relating to the History of Britain in the Reigns of James the First and Charles the First,” which were published in 1766, from the originals in the Advocates’ Library.-E.
(205) This pleasing little novel, in which the manners of the Chinese are painted to the life, was a translation from the Chinese by Mr. Wilkinson, and revised for publication by Dr. Percy.-E.
I return you the list of prints, and shall be glad you will bring me all to which I have affixed this mark X. The rest I have; yet the expense of the whole list would not ruin me. Lord Farnham, who, I believe, departed this morning, brings you the list of the Duke of Devonshire’s pictures.
I have been told that Mr. Bourk’s history was of England, not of Ireland; I am glad it is the latter, for I am now in Mr. Hume’s England, and would fain read no more. I not only know what has been written, but what would be written. Our story is so exhausted, that to make it new, they really make it new. Mr. Hume has exalted Edward the Second and depressed Edward the Third. The next historian, I suppose, will make James the First a hero, and geld Charles the Second.
Fingal is come out; I have not yet got through it; not but, it is very fine-yet I cannot at once compass an epic poem now. It tires me to death to read how many ways a warrior is like the moon, or the sun, or a rock, or a lion, or the ocean. Fingal is a brave collection of similes, and will serve all the boys at Eton and Westminster for these twenty years. I will trust you with a secret, but you must not disclose it; I should be ruined with my Scotch friends; in short, I cannot believe it genuine; I cannot believe a regular poem of six books has been preserved, uncorrupted, by oral tradition, from times before Christianity was introduced into the island. What! preserved unadulterated by savages dispersed among mountains, and so often driven from their dens, so wasted by wars civil and foreign! alas one man ever got all by heart? I doubt it; were parts preserved by some, other parts by others? Mighty lucky, that the tradition was never interrupted, nor any part lost-not a verse, not a measure, not the sense! luckier and luckier. I have been extremely qualified myself lately for this Scotch memory; we have had nothing but a coagulation of rains, fogs, and frosts, and though they have clouded all understanding, I suppose, if I had tried, I should have found that they thickened, and gave great consistence to my remembrance.