The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 12. Horace Walpoles Historic Doubts; William Guthrie
Incursions into the field of history were made by two English authors of the governing class. Walpole’s Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of Richard III (1768) is an attempt to show that Richard was probably innocent of the crimes imputed to him by Lancastrian writers. Sir George Buck, Carte and William Guthrie, whose History of England to 1688 in four volumes (1744–51) was little read and is of no importance, had, in different degrees, anticipated him; but Walpole was the first to argue the case with skill. He got it up well, his points are clearly put, and his pleading is witty and readable. The question has been revived and adequately discussed in our own day. Some of the accusations which Walpole criticises are no longer maintained by competent historians, but Walpole could not (nor can any one) show sufficient cause for doubting that Richard had part, at least, in the murder of Henry VI, that he put Hastings to death without a trial and that he murdered his nephews. Walpole was much pleased with his own book and bitterly resented adverse criticism from Hume and others.