Home  »  Volume X: English THE AGE OF JOHNSON  »  § 19. Mitford’s History of Greece

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

XIII. Historians

§ 19. Mitford’s History of Greece

In the year (1784) following that of the publication of Ferguson’s Roman History appeared the first volume of William Mitford’s History of Greece, a venture upon what was then, in English historical literature, almost untrodden ground. Gibbon had suggested the enterprise to Mitford, who was his brother-officer in the south-Hampshire militia and had published a treatise on the military force of England, and the militia in particular. Mitford’s History, which was not completed till 1810, long held the field, and only succumbed to works of enduring value. It is only necessary to glance at Macaulay’s early article on the work, in order to recognise that, in the midst of his partisan cavils—in spite, too, of shortcomings of historical criticism particularly obvious in the account of the heroic age—Mitford displays an apprehension of the grandeur of the theme on which he is engaged. He is prejudiced, but not unconscientious; and, from his frequently perverse conclusions, many an English student has been able to disentangle his first conception of Greek free citizenship.