Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Johnson > Historians > Smollett’s Compleat History and Continuation; Oliver Goldsmith’s History of England
  Lord Lyttelton’s Henry II; Archibald Bower’s History of the Popes Leland’s History of Ireland; Orme’s Military Transactions in Indostan; William Russell’s Modern Europe  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XII. Historians.

§ 14. Smollett’s Compleat History and Continuation; Oliver Goldsmith’s History of England.


History was written as hackwork by two authors of eminent genius. Tobias George Smollett was hired to write a history to rival Hume’s work, of which the first two volumes had then appeared, and, in 1757, he produced his Compleat History of England to 1748, in four volumes, written in fourteen months. He boasts of having consulted over three hundred books. When he began to write, he had “a warm side” to whig principles; but he changed his opinions as he proceeded. The History sold well, and Hume, while contemptuous, was annoyed at his rivalry. 26  Smollett wrote a continuation; the part from the revolution was revised and republished as a continuation of Hume’s History and, as such, passed through several editions. It favours the tory side and is written in a robust and unaffected style. Oliver Goldsmith, in the preface to his History of England to 1760, in four volumes (1771), disclaims any attempt at research, and says that he wrote to instruct beginners and to refresh the minds of the aged, and “not to add to our historical knowledge but to contract it.” In matter, his History is indebted to Hume. Both it and his two smaller books on the same subject are written in the charming and graceful style which makes all his prose works delightful. The smaller books, at least, were extensively used in education within the last seventy years. Neither Smollett, though he took his History seriously, nor Goldsmith should be considered as a historian.   21

Note 26. Burton, J. H., Life, vol. II, p. 53. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Lord Lyttelton’s Henry II; Archibald Bower’s History of the Popes Leland’s History of Ireland; Orme’s Military Transactions in Indostan; William Russell’s Modern Europe  
 
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