chapter  3
‘A Very Proper Specimen of Great Improvement’: The Edinburgh Review and the Moderate Literati
Pages 14

As Benjamin Franklin wryly noted about his own predilections for religious disputation, ‘I have since remarked that men of sense seldom fall into this error; lawyers, fellows of universities, and persons of every profession educated at Edinburgh excepted’.3 In the 1750s religious disputation in the Scottish capital was giving way to more aggressive posturing as the battle lines were drawn between the Moderates and their opponents in the Church of Scotland, who were loosely grouped into the Popular Party . Indeed, the decade saw a series of ashpoints where the two sides clashed over matters ecclesiastical, but also extended their ght into the cultural and literary realms. In 1755 the orthodox defenders of the

Church of Scotland sought to censure the recently published works of David Hume (1711-76) and Henry Home , Lord Kames (1696-1782),4 for the heretical propositions contained within.5 e charges against them were resolutely defended by their ecclesiastical friends in the Moderate Party with the most forceful support coming from Hugh Blair (1718-1800). Blair answered the attack on Hume and Kames in an initially anonymous work, Observations upon a Pamphlet Intitled An Analysis of the Moral and Religious Sentiments Contained in the Writings of Sopho and David Hume, Esq. (1755). Both pieces (the attack and defence) were referenced in the Edinburgh Review , and were placed sequentially so that a comparison between the two could be undertaken. Although Blair was not revealed as the author, the two review articles made clear that Blair’s work had exposed the former for its lack of accuracy and exactness of quotations. Blair’s central contention was that ideas themselves, relating to either the secular or the religious spheres, should be tolerated by an enlightened society, before announcing that ‘the perfection of religion is the spirit of moderation’.6 It was in this climate, with the tensions between the two groups already taut, that the Edinburgh Review arrived on the Scottish literary scene.