See Gibbon's Decline and Fall (ed.
In 1776 he answered Gibbon's chapters on Christianity, and had the honour of being one of the only two opponents whom Gibbon treated with respect.
But Gibbon's friends in a few weeks discovered that the new tutor preferred the pleasures of London to the instruction of his pupils, and in this perplexity decided to send him prematurely to Oxford, where he was matriculated as a gentleman commoner of Magdalen College, 3rd April 1752.
In 1757 Voltaire came to reside at Lausanne; and although he took but little notice of the young Englishman of twenty, who eagerly sought and easily obtained an introduction, the establishment of the theatre at Monrepos, where the brilliant versifier himself declaimed before select audiences his own productions on the stage, had no small influence in fortifying Gibbon's taste for the French theatre, and in at the same time abating that "idolatry for the gigantic genius of Shakespeare which is inculcated from our infancy as the first duty of an Englishman."
" He could never forget," he declares, " the joy with which he exchanged a bank note of twenty pounds for the twenty volumes of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions," an Academy which has been well characterized (by Sainte-Beuve) as Gibbon's intellectual fatherland.
Sainte-Beuve's criticism is almost identical with Gibbon's own; but though he finds that " la lecture en est assez difficile et parfois obscure, la liaison des idees echappe souvent par trop de concision et par le desir qu'a eu le jeune auteur d'y faire entrer, d'y condenser la plupart de ses notes," he adds, y a, chemin faisant, des vues neuves et qui sentent l'historien."
More to the point is the often-quoted passage from Gibbon's letter to Deyverdun, where the frank revelation is made: " You have not forgotten that I went into parliament without patriotism and without ambition, and that 1 For a very full list of publications in answer to Gibbon's attack on Christianity reference may be made to the Bibliographer's Manual, pp. 885-886 (1858).
Gibbon's Vindication (1779) called forth a Reply by Davies (1779), and A Short Appeal to the Public by Francis Eyre (1779).
Chelsum returned to the attack in 1785 (A Reply to Mr Gibbon's Vindication), and Sir David Dalrymple (An Inquiry into the Secondary Causes, &c.) made his first appearance in the controversy in 1786.
It is impossible not to concur in almost every point with Gibbon's own estimate of his numerous assailants.
The ministry of Lord North, however, was tottering, and soon after fell; the Board of Trade was abolished by the passing of Burke's bill in 1782, and Gibbon's salary vanished with it - no trifle, for his expenditure had been for three years on a scale somewhat disproportionate to his private fortune.
Differing as they did in politics, Gibbon's testimony to the genius and character of the great statesman is highly honourable to both: " Perhaps no human being," he says, " was ever more perfectly exempt from the taint of malevolence, vanity, or falsehood."
It has already been seen that Gibbon's early ailments all left him on the approach of manhood; thenceforward, " till admonished by the gout," he could truly boast of an immunity well-nigh perfect from every bodily complaint; an exceptionally vigorous brain, and a stomach "almost too good," united to bestow upon him a vast capacity alike for work and for enjoyment.
BL.) Gibbon's literary art, the sustained excellence of his style, his piquant epigrams and his brilliant irony, would perhaps not secure for his work the immortality which it seems likely to enjoy, if it were not also marked by ecumenical grasp, extraordinary accuracy and striking acuteness of judgment.
It must be added that the pages on the Slavonic peoples and their relations to the empire are conspicuously insufficient; but it must be taken into account that it was not till many years after Gibbon's death that Slavonic history began to receive due attention, in consequence of the rise of competent scholars among the Sla y s themselves.
Gibbon's stylistic artifice both averted the peril of prosecution and rendered the attack more telling.
Gibbon's verdict on the history of the middle ages is contained in the famous sentence, " I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion."
A new edition of the complete translation, prefaced by a letter on Gibbon's life and character, from the pen of Suard, and annotated by Guizot, appeared in 1812 (and again in 1828).
Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works, with Memoirs of his Life and Writings, composed by himself; illustrated from his Letters, with occasional Notes and Narrative, published by Lord Sheffield in two volumes in 1796, has been often reprinted.
It may be added that a special translation of the chapter on Roman Law (Gibbon's historische Ubersicht des romischen Rechts) was published by Hugo at GÃ¶ttingen in 1839, and has frequently been used as a text-book in German universities.
The centenary of Gibbon's death was celebrated in 1894 under the auspices of the Royal Historical Society: Proceedings of the Gibbon Commemoration, 1 79418 94, by R.
Bury's edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, v.
6-9; Gibbon's Decline and Fall, cap. xl.
His pupil then went abroad, but Law was left at Putney, where he remained in Gibbon's house for more than ten years, acting as a religious guide not only to the family but to a number of earnest-minded folk who came to consult him.
He was a man of brutal and worthless character; but although Gibbon's statement that he was "just, humane and even partial towards the afflicted Christians" may be exaggerated, it is probable that he never exhibited any special hostility towards them.
He settled in England in 1740, published several books, and wrote the preface to Gibbon's first work, Etude de la litterature.
Bury's edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, iv.
Gibbon's Decline and Fall; M.
Silvestri), was forged at Rome some time between the middle and end of the 8th century, was included in the 9th century in the collection known as the False Decretals, two centuries later was incorporated in the Decretum by a pupil of Gratian, and in Gibbon's day was still "enrolled among the decrees of the canon law," though already rejected "by the tacit or modest censure of the advocates of the Roman church."
In spite, however, of Gibbon's characteristic scepticism on this point, it is certain that the Constitutum was regarded as genuine both by the friends and the enemies of the papal pretensions throughout the middle ages.
Both were feeble, and, in Gibbon's phrase, slumbered on their thrones, leaving the government to others.
Modern: Gibbon's Decline and Fall, vol.
Friedlander, for instance, does not think that they exceeded by much Gibbon's estimate for the reign of Decius, viz.
Of his edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall.
The population more than doubles Gibbon's estimate of 120 millions for all the races and nations which obeyed imperial Rome.
Hence came the invasion of Alboin (568), which wrested the greater part of Italy from the empire, and changed the destinies of the peninsula.2 1 Gibbon's statement that Narses was "the first and most powerful of the exarchs" is more correct in substance than in form.
The nearest approach to excise was the duty of r% on all sales, a tax that in Gibbon's words " has ever been the occasion of clamour and discontent."
The story is well told in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch.
He confessed that his object was "to prove the contrary thesis to Gibbon's," and, although any historian who begins with the desire to prove a thesis is quite sure to go more or less wrong, Ozanam no doubt administered a healthful antidote to -the prevalent notion, particularly amongst English-speaking peoples, that the Catholic church had done far more to enslave than to elevate the human mind.
For men like Hume and Gibbon the standpoint of deism was long left behind; yet Gibbon's famous two chapters might well have been written by a deist.