Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER LXV.: Dr. Percy offended by a Passage in the History. - Letters of David Hume to William Strahan
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LETTER LXV.: Dr. Percy offended by a Passage in the History. - David Hume, Letters of David Hume to William Strahan 
Letters of David Hume to William Strahan, ed. G. Birkbeck Hill (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888).
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Dr. Percy offended by a Passage in the History.
16 of Jany., 1773.
You have been guilty of a small Indiscretion in allowing a Copy of my new Edition to go out before the Publication: For I had a Letter yesterday from Mr. Piercy1 , complaining tho’ in obliging terms, of the Note with regard to the old Earl of Northumberland House-hold book; as if it were a Satyre on that particular Nobleman, which was by no means my Intention: I only meant to paint the manners of the Age2 . I reply’d to him, that I fancy’d it was too late to correct my Expressions; for that the Work was probably in the hands of the public. I hope it is; or at least beg it may be soon. I know I have no right to demand any account of your Sales: I only entreat you to tell me precisely, as far as you can, the time of your publication; and also when you can send off the Copies for me. You told me in a former Letter that you heard I was continuing my History: I beg of you to believe that such an extravagant and absurd Idea never once enterd into my head.
I am very sincerly Yours
Note 1. Dr. Thomas Percy, afterwards Dean of Carlisle and Bishop of Dromore, the author of Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. He spelt his name Percy, and not Piercy. He wrote to Hume:—‘The name is not, nor ever was, properly written Piercy.’ M. S. R. S. E. Hume however keeps to his own way of spelling. Mr. H. B. Wheatley in the Preface to his edition of the Reliques says (p. lxxi):—‘Percy's father and grandfather were grocers, spelt their name Piercy, and knew nothing of any connection with the noble house of Northumberland.’ The Bishop boasted however of being the heir male of the ancient Percies. Boswell had examined the proofs of this claim, and says, ‘Both as a lawyer accustomed to the consideration of evidence, and as a genealogist versed in the study of pedigrees, I am fully satisfied.’ Boswell's Johnson, iii. 271. Percy, for the honour of his line, some years later on withstood Johnson, as he now withstood Hume. Johnson had praised Pennant's Tour in Scotland. ‘Percy,’ says Boswell, ‘could not sit quietly and hear a man praised who had spoken disrespectfully of Alnwick Castle and the Duke's pleasure grounds, especially as he thought meanly of his travels.’ The result was an explosion, in which Johnson cried out,—‘Hold, Sir! Don’t talk of rudeness; remember, Sir, you told me (puffing hard with passion struggling for a vent) I was short-sighted. We have done with civility. We are to be as rude as we please.’ Ib.
Note 2. Hume at the end of his chapter on the reign of Henry VII says:—‘It must be acknowledged, in spite of those who declaim so violently against refinement in the arts, or what they are pleased to call luxury, that as much as an industrious tradesman is both a better man and a better citizen than one of those idle retainers who formerly depended on the great families; so much is the life of a modern nobleman more laudable than that of an ancient baron.’ History of England, ed. 1802, iii. 400. As a note he added (p. 460) the extract from the House-hold Book of the fifth Earl of Northumberland. Dr. Percy, in a letter to Hume dated Jan 5, 1772 [an error for 1773], complaining that he called ‘the management of the Earl's family niggardly,’ maintains that ‘what might appear extremely penurious now, might at that time have been exceedingly liberal.’ To prove this he proposes to examine the accounts of other households, and begs Hume ‘to suspend his asperities till the next edition.’ Hume, as is shown by his next letter to Strahan, overcome by Percy's ‘very obliging manner’ and wishful to avoid giving the family ‘great offence,’ has the note reprinted. What was struck out besides niggardly I do not know. Enough however remains to have stirred up the Percy blood, had any great quantity of it flowed in the veins of the modern Percies. ‘My Lord,’ he writes, ‘passes the year in three country seats, all in Yorkshire; but he has furniture only for one. He carries everything along with him, beds, tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, all which we may conclude were so coarse that they could not be spoilt by the carriage. Yet seventeen carts and one waggon suffices for the whole... It is amusing to observe the pompous and even royal style assumed by this Tartar chief: he does not give any orders, though only for the right making of mustard, but it is introduced with this preamble, It seemeth good to us and our council.’ Ib. p. 463.