3 DECEMBER 1937, Page 40



-- By L B. Namier

Anybody who has tried to work with Fortescue's edition of the letters of George III will be only too painfully aware that it is full of errors and traps, how full he will not perhaps have realised unless (improbable conjecture) he sliould have gone into the matter as thoroughly as Professor Namier. This little book of some eighty pages (Manchester University Press, los. 6d.) deals only with Fortescue's first volume, and reveals a state of affairs which is horrifying. There are in this first volume 588 documents ; and of these " 151 documents, i.e., more than one- fourth of the total, are misdated, in- sufficiently dated, or misplaced." Two letters which should belong to this volume appear in Vols. III and V. To the general reader, of course, these things will not make much difference ; they will not alter the general view. But for the scholar, even the amateur scholar, they are disastrous. All honour to Sir John Fortescue for having tackled so arduous a piece of work, but it appears that he took it too light-hearted- ly. Indeed the shortcomings of the edition, pithily and perhaps a little bitterly summarised by Mr. Namier, deprive it of half its possible utility. Mr. Namier has had to do the work all over again, and now has produced a book that will be of infinite value to scholars. And however much he may be appalled at the prospect, it is hoped that he will continue the work, and thus save other scholars from having to take arms against, a sea of troubles.