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´╗┐Title: Memoirs of My Life and Writings
Author: Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794
Language: English
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By Edward Gibbon

In the fifty-second year of my age, after the completion of an
arduous and successful work, I now propose to employ some moments of
my leisure in reviewing the simple transactions of a private and
literary life.  Truth, naked unblushing truth, the first virtue of
more serious history, must be the sole recommendation of this
personal narrative.  The style shall be simple and familiar; but
style is the image of character; and the habits of correct writing
may produce, without labour or design, the appearance of art and
study.  My own amusement is my motive, and will be my reward: and if
these sheets are communicated to some discreet and indulgent
friends, they will be secreted from the public eye till the author
shall be removed beyond the reach of criticism or ridicule.

A lively desire of knowing and of recording our ancestors so
generally prevails, that it must depend on the influence of some
common principle in the minds of men.  We seem to have lived in the
persons of our forefathers; it is the labour and reward of vanity to
extend the term of this ideal longevity.  Our imagination is always
active to enlarge the narrow circle in which Nature has confined us.
Fifty or an hundred years may be allotted to an individual, but we
step forward beyond death with such hopes as religion and philosophy
will suggest; and we fill up the silent vacancy that precedes our
birth, by associating ourselves to the authors of our existence.
Our calmer judgment will rather tend to moderate, than to suppress,
the pride of an ancient and worthy race.  The satirist may laugh,
the philosopher may preach; but Reason herself will respect the
prejudices and habits, which have been consecrated by the experience
of mankind.

Wherever the distinction of birth is allowed to form a superior
order in the state, education and example should always, and will
often, produce among them a dignity of sentiment and propriety of
conduct, which is guarded from dishonour by their own and the public
esteem.  If we read of some illustrious line so ancient that it has
no beginning, so worthy that it ought to have no end, we sympathize
in its various fortunes; nor can we blame the generous enthusiasm,
or even the harmless vanity, of those who are allied to the honours
of its name.  For my own part, could I draw my pedigree from a
general, a statesman, or a celebrated author, I should study their
lives with the diligence of filial love.  In the investigation of
past events, our curiosity is stimulated by the immediate or
indirect reference to ourselves; but in the estimate of honour we
should learn to value the gifts of Nature above those of Fortune; to
esteem in our ancestors the qualities that best promote the
interests of society; and to pronounce the descendant of a king less
truly noble than the offspring of a man of genius, whose writings
will instruct or delight the latest posterity.  The family of
Confucius is, in my opinion, the most illustrious in the world.
After a painful ascent of eight or ten centuries, our barons and
princes of Europe are lost in the darkness of the middle ages; but,
in the vast equality of the empire of China, the posterity of
Confucius have maintained, above two thousand two hundred years,
their peaceful honours and perpetual succession.  The chief of the
family is still revered, by the sovereign and the people, as the
lively image of the wisest of mankind.  The nobility of the Spencers
has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of Marlborough;
but I exhort them to consider the "Fairy Queen" as the most precious
jewel of their coronet.  I have exposed my private feelings, as I
shall always do, without scruple or reserve.  That these sentiments
are just, or at least natural, I am inclined to believe, since I do
not feel myself interested in the cause; for I can derive from my
ancestors neither glory nor shame.

Yet a sincere and simple narrative of my own life may amuse some of
my leisure hours; but it will subject me, and perhaps with justice,
to the imputation of vanity.  I may judge, however, from the
experience both of past and of the present times, that the public
are always curious to know the men, who have left behind them any
image of their minds: the most scanty accounts of such men are
compiled with diligence, and perused with eagerness; and the student
of every class may derive a lesson, or an example, from the lives
most similar to his own.  My name may hereafter be placed among the
thousand articles of a Biographic Britannica; and I must be
conscious, that no one is so well qualified, as myself, to describe
the series of my thoughts and actions.  The authority of my masters,
of the grave Thuanus, and the philosophic Hume, might be sufficient
to justify my design; but it would not be difficult to produce a
long list of ancients and moderns, who, in various forms, have
exhibited their own portraits.  Such portraits are often the most
interesting, and sometimes the only interesting parts of their
writings; and if they be sincere, we seldom complain of the
minuteness or prolixity of these personal memorials.  The lives of
the younger Pliny, of Petrarch, and of Erasmus, are expressed in the
epistles, which they themselves have given to the world.  The essays
of Montaigne and Sir William Temple bring us home to the houses and
bosoms of the authors: we smile without contempt at the headstrong
passions of Benevenuto Cellini, and the gay follies of Colley
Cibber.  The confessions of St. Austin and Rousseau disclose the
secrets of the human heart; the commentaries of the learned Huet
have survived his evangelical demonstration; and the memoirs of
Goldoni are more truly dramatic than his Italian comedies.  The
heretic and the churchman are strongly marked in the characters and
fortunes of Whiston and Bishop Newton; and even the dullness of
Michael de Marolles and Anthony Wood acquires some value from the
faithful representation of men and manners.  That I am equal or
superior to some of these, the effects of modesty or affectation
cannot force me to dissemble.

My family is originally derived from the county of Kent.  The
Southern district, which borders on Sussex and the sea, was formerly
overspread with the great forest Anderida, and even now retains the
denomination of the Weald or Woodland.  In this district, and in the
hundred and parish of Rolvenden, the Gibbons were possessed of lands
in the year one thousand three hundred and twenty-six; and the elder
branch of the family, without much increase or diminution of
property, still adheres to its native soil.  Fourteen years after
the first appearance of his name, John Gibbon is recorded as the
Marmorarius or architect of King Edward the Third: the strong and
stately castle of Queensborough, which guarded the entrance of the
Medway, was a monument of his skill; and the grant of an hereditary
toll on the passage from Sandwich to Stonar, in the Isle of Thanet,
is the reward of no vulgar artist.  In the visitations of the
heralds, the Gibbons are frequently mentioned; they held the rank of
esquire in an age, when that title was less promiscuously assumed:
one of them, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was captain of the
militia of Kent; and a free school, in the neighbouring town of
Benenden, proclaims the charity and opulence of its founder.  But
time, or their own obscurity, has cast a veil of oblivion over the
virtues and vices of my Kentish ancestors; their character or
station confined them to the labours and pleasures of a rural life:
nor is it in my power to follow the advice of the poet, in an
inquiry after a name,--

     "Go! search it there, where to be born, and die,
     Of rich and poor makes all the history."

So recent is the institution of our parish registers.  In the
beginning of the seventeenth century, a younger branch of the
Gibbons of Rolvenden migrated from the country to the city; and from
this branch I do not blush to descend.  The law requires some
abilities; the church imposes some restraints; and before our army
and navy, our civil establishments, and India empire, had opened so
many paths of fortune, the mercantile profession was more frequently
chosen by youths of a liberal race and education, who aspired to
create their own independence.  Our most respectable families have
not disdained the counting-house, or even the shop; their names are
enrolled in the Livery and Companies of London; and in England, as
well as in the Italian commonwealths, heralds have been compelled to
declare that gentility is not degraded by the exercise of trade.

The armorial ensigns which, in the times of chivalry, adorned the
crest and shield of the soldier, are now become an empty decoration,
which every man, who has money to build a carriage, may paint
according to his fancy on the panels.  My family arms are the same,
which were borne by the Gibbons of Kent in an age, when the College
of Heralds religiously guarded the distinctions of blood and name: a
lion rampant gardant, between three schallop-shells argent, on a
field azure.  I should not however have been tempted to blazon my
coat of arms, were it not connected with a whimsical anecdote. About
the reign of James the First, the three harmless schallop-shells
were changed by Edmund Gibbon esq. into three ogresses, or female
cannibals, with a design of stigmatizing three ladies, his
kinswomen, who had provoked him by an unjust law-suit.  But this
singular mode of revenge, for which he obtained the sanction of Sir
William Seagar, king at arms, soon expired with its author; and, on
his own monument in the Temple church, the monsters vanish, and the
three schallop-shells resume their proper and hereditary place.

Our alliances by marriage it is not disgraceful to mention.  The
chief honour of my ancestry is James Fiens, Baron Say and Scale, and
Lord High Treasurer of England, in the reign of Henry the Sixth;
from whom by the Phelips, the Whetnalls, and the Cromers, I am
lineally descended in the eleventh degree.  His dismission and
imprisonment in the Tower were insufficient to appease the popular
clamour; and the Treasurer, with his son-in-law Cromer, was
beheaded(1450), after a mock trial by the Kentish insurgents.  The
black list of his offences, as it is exhibited in Shakespeare,
displays the ignorance and envy of a plebeian tyrant.  Besides the
vague reproaches of selling Maine and Normandy to the Dauphin, the
Treasurer is specially accused of luxury, for riding on a
foot-cloth; and of treason, for speaking French, the language of our
enemies: "Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the
realm," says Jack Cade to the unfortunate Lord, "in erecting a
grammar-school; and whereas before our forefathers had no other
books than the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be
used; and, contrary to the king, his crown, and dignity, thou hast
built a paper-mill.  It will be proved to thy face, that thou hast
men about thee, who usually talk of a noun and a verb, and such
abominable words, as no Christian ear can endure to hear."  Our
dramatic poet is generally more attentive to character than to
history; and I much fear that the art of printing was not introduced
into England, till several years after Lord Say's death; but of some
of these meritorious crimes I should hope to find my ancestor
guilty; and a man of letters may be proud of his descent from a
patron and martyr of learning.

In the beginning of the last century Robert Gibbon Esq. of Rolvenden
in Kent (who died in 1618), had a son of the same name of Robert,
who settled in London, and became a member of the Cloth-workers'
Company.  His wife was a daughter of the Edgars, who flourished
about four hundred years in the county of Suffolk, and produced an
eminent and wealthy serjeant-at-law, Sir Gregory Edgar, in the reign
of Henry the Seventh.  Of the sons of Robert Gibbon, (who died in
1643,) Matthew did not aspire above the station of a linen-draper in
Leadenhall-street; but John has given to the public some curious
memorials of his existence, his character, and his family.  He was
born on Nov. 3d, 1629; his education was liberal, at a grammar-school,
and afterwards in Jesus College at Cambridge; and he
celebrates the retired content which he enjoyed at Allesborough, in
Worcestershire, in the house of Thomas Lord Coventry, where John
Gibbon was employed as a domestic tutor, the same office which Mr.
Hobbes exercised in the Devonshire family.  But the spirit of my
kinsman soon immerged into more active life: he visited foreign
countries as a soldier and a traveller, acquired the knowledge of
the French and Spanish languages, passed some time in the Isle of
Jersey, crossed the Atlantic, and resided upwards of a twelvemonth
(1659) in the rising colony of Virginia.  In this remote province
his taste, or rather passion, for heraldry found a singular
gratification at a war-dance of the native Indians.  As they moved
in measured steps, brandishing their tomahawks, his curious eye
contemplated their little shields of bark, and their naked bodies,
which were painted with the colours and symbols of his favourite
science.  "At which I exceedingly wondered; and concluded that
heraldry was ingrafted _naturally_ into the sense of human race.  If
so, it deserves a greater esteem than now-a-days is put upon it."
His return to England after the Restoration was soon followed by his
marriage his settlement in a house in St. Catherine's Cloister, near
the Tower, which devolved to my grandfather and his introduction
into the Heralds' College (in 1671) by the style and title of
Blue-mantle Pursuivant at Arms.  In this office he enjoyed near
fifty years the rare felicity of uniting, in the same pursuit, his
duty and inclination: his name is remembered in the College, and
many of his letters are still preserved.  Several of the most
respectable characters of the age, Sir William Dugdale, Mr. Ashmole,
Dr. John Betts, and Dr. Nehemiah Grew, were his friends; and in the
society of such men, John Gibbon may be recorded without disgrace as
the member of an astrological club.  The study of hereditary honours
is favourable to the Royal prerogative; and my kinsman, like most of
his family, was a high Tory both in church and state.  In the latter
end of the reign of Charles the Second, his pen was exercised in the
cause of the Duke of York: the Republican faction he most cordially
detested; and as each animal is conscious of its proper arms, the
heralds' revenge was emblazoned on a most diabolical escutcheon.
But the triumph of the Whig government checked the preferment of
Blue-mantle; and he was even suspended from his office, till his
tongue could learn to pronounce the oath of abjuration.  His life
was prolonged to the age of ninety: and, in the expectation of the
inevitable though uncertain hour, he wishes to preserve the
blessings of health, competence, and virtue.  In the year 1682 he
published in London his Introductio ad Latinam Blasoniam, an
original attempt, which Camden had desiderated, to define, in a
Roman idiom, the terms and attributes of a Gothic institution.  It
is not two years since I acquired, in a foreign land, some domestic
intelligence of my own family; and this intelligence was conveyed to
Switzerland from the heart of Germany.  I had formed an acquaintance
with Mr. Langer, a lively and ingenious scholar, while he resided at
Lausanne as preceptor to the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick.  On his
return to his proper station of Librarian to the Ducal Library of
Wolfenbuttel, he accidentally found among some literary rubbish a
small old English volume of heraldry, inscribed with the name of
John Gibbon.  From the title only Mr. Langer judged that it might be
an acceptable present to his friend--and he judged rightly.  His
manner is quaint and affected; his order is confused: but he
displays some wit, more reading, and still more enthusiasm: and if
an enthusiast be often absurd, he is never languid.  An English text
is perpetually interspersed with Latin sentences in prose and verse;
but in his own poetry he claims an exemption from the laws of
prosody.  Amidst a profusion of genealogical knowledge, my kinsman
could not be forgetful of his own name; and to him I am indebted for
almost the whole of my information concerning the Gibbon family.
From this small work the author expected immortal fame.

Such are the hopes of authors! In the failure of those hopes John
Gibbon has not been the first of his profession, and very possibly
may not be the last of his name.  His brother Matthew Gibbon, the
draper, had one daughter and two sons--my grandfather Edward, who
was born in the year 1666, and Thomas, afterwards Dean of Carlisle.
According to the mercantile creed, that the best book is a
profitable ledger, the writings of John the herald would be much
less precious than those of his nephew Edward: but an author
professes at least to write for the public benefit; and the slow
balance of trade can be pleasing to those persons only, to whom it
is advantageous.  The successful industry of my grandfather raised
him above the level of his immediate ancestors; he appears to have
launched into various and extensive dealings: even his opinions were
subordinate to his interest; and I find him in Flanders clothing
King William's troops, while he would have contracted with more
pleasure, though not perhaps at a cheaper rate, for the service of
King James.  During his residence abroad, his concerns at home were
managed by his mother Hester, an active and notable woman.  Her
second husband was a widower of the name of Acton: they united the
children of their first nuptials.  After his marriage with the
daughter of Richard Acton, goldsmith in Leadenhall-street, he gave
his own sister to Sir Whitmore Acton, of Aldenham; and I am thus
connected, by a triple alliance, with that ancient and loyal family
of Shropshire baronets.  It consisted about that time of seven
brothers, all of gigantic stature; one of whom, a pigmy of six feet
two inches, confessed himself the last and least of the seven;
adding, in the true spirit of party, that such men were not born
since the Revolution.  Under the Tory administration of the four
last years of Queen Anne (1710-1714) Mr. Edward Gibbon was appointed
one of the Commissioners of the Customs; he sat at that Board with
Prior; but the merchant was better qualified for his station than
the poet; since Lord Bolingbroke has been heard to declare, that he
had never conversed with a man, who more clearly understood the
commerce and finances of England.  In the year 1716 he was elected
one of the Directors of the South Sea Company; and his books
exhibited the proof that, before his acceptance of this fatal
office, he had acquired an independent fortune of sixty thousand

But his fortune was overwhelmed in the shipwreck of the year twenty,
and the labours of thirty years were blasted in a single day.  Of
the use or abuse of the South Sea scheme, of the guilt or innocence
of my grandfather and his brother Directors, I am neither a
competent nor a disinterested judge.  Yet the equity of modern times
must condemn the violent and arbitrary proceedings, which would have
disgraced the cause of justice, and would render injustice still
more odious.  No sooner had the nation awakened from its golden
dream, than a popular and even a parliamentary clamour demanded
their victims: but it was acknowledged on all sides that the South
Sea Directors, however guilty, could not be touched by any known
laws of the land.  The speech of Lord Molesworth, the author of the
State of Denmark, may shew the temper, or rather the intemperance,
of the House of Commons.  "Extraordinary crimes (exclaimed that
ardent Whig) call aloud for extraordinary remedies.  The Roman
lawgivers had not foreseen the possible existence of a parricide;
but as soon as the first monster appeared, he was sewn in a sack,
and cast headlong into the river; and I shall be content to inflict
the same treatment on the authors of our present ruin." His motion
was not literally adopted; but a bill of pains and penalties was
introduced, a retroactive statute, to punish the offences, which did
not exist at the time they were committed.  Such a pernicious
violation of liberty and law can be excused only by the most
imperious necessity; nor could it be defended on this occasion by
the plea of impending danger or useful example.  The legislature
restrained the persons of the Directors, imposed an exorbitant
security for their appearance, and marked their characters with a
previous note of ignominy: they were compelled to deliver, upon
oath, the strict value of their estates; and were disabled from
making any transfer or alienation of any part of their property.
Against a bill of pains and penalties it is the common right of
every subject to be heard by his counsel at the bar: they prayed to
be heard; their prayer was refused; and their oppressors, who
required no evidence, would listen to no defence.  It had been at
first proposed that one-eighth of their respective estates should be
allowed for the future support of the Directors; but it was
speciously urged, that in the various shades of opulence and guilt
such an unequal proportion would be too light for many, and for some
might possibly be too heavy.  The character and conduct of each man
were separately weighed; but, instead of the calm solemnity of a
judicial inquiry, the fortune and honour of three and thirty
Englishmen were made the topic of hasty conversation, the sport of a
lawless majority; and the basest member of the committee, by a
malicious word or, a silent vote, might indulge his general spleen
or personal animosity.  Injury was aggravated by insult, and insult
was embittered by pleasantry.  Allowances of twenty pounds, or one
shilling, were facetiously moved.  A vague report that a Director
had formerly been concerned in another project, by which some
unknown persons had lost their money, was admitted as a proof of his
actual guilt.  One man was ruined because he had dropped a foolish
speech, that his horses should feed upon gold; another because he
was grown so proud, that, one day at the Treasury, he had refused a
civil answer to persons much above him.  All were condemned, absent
and unheard, in arbitrary fines and forfeitures, which swept away
the greatest part of their substance.  Such bold oppression can
scarcely be shielded by the omnipotence of parliament; and yet it
maybe seriously questioned, whether the judges of the South Sea
Directors were the true and legal representatives of their country.
The first parliament of George the First had been chosen (1715) for
three years: the term had elapsed, their trust was expired; and the
four additional years (1718-1722), during which they continued to
sit, were derived not from the people, but from themselves; from the
strong measure of the septennial bill, which can only be paralleled
by il serar di consiglio of the Venetian history.  Yet candour will
own that to the same parliament every Englishman is deeply indebted:
the septennial act, so vicious in its origin, has been sanctioned by
time, experience, and the national consent.  Its first operation
secured the House of Hanover on the throne, and its permanent
influence maintains the peace and stability of government.  As often
as a repeal has been moved in the House of Commons, I have given in
its defence a clear and conscientious vote.  My grandfather could
not expect to be treated with more lenity than his companions.  His
Tory principles and connections rendered him obnoxious to the ruling
powers: his name is reported in a suspicious secret; and his
well-known abilities could not plead the excuse of ignorance or
error.  In the first proceedings against the South Sea Directors,
Mr. Gibbon is one of the few who were taken into custody; and, in
the final sentence, the measure of his fine proclaims him eminently
guilty.  The total estimate which he delivered on oath to the House
of Commons amounted to 106,543 pounds 5 shillings and 6 pence,
exclusive of antecedent settlements.  Two different allowances of
15,000 pounds and of 10,000 pounds were moved for Mr. Gibbon; but,
on the question being put, it was carried without a division for the
smaller sum. On these ruins, with the skill and credit, of which
parliament had not been able to despoil him, my grandfather at a
mature age erected the edifice of a new fortune: the labours of
sixteen years were amply rewarded; and I have reason to believe that
the second structure was not much inferior to the first.  He had
realized a very considerable property in Sussex, Hampshire,
Buckinghamshire, and the New River Company; and had acquired a
spacious house, with gardens and lands, at Putney, in Surrey, where
he resided in decent hospitality.  He died in December 1736, at the
age of seventy; and by his last will, at the expense of Edward, his
only son, (with whose marriage he was not perfectly reconciled,)
enriched his two daughters, Catherine and Hester.  The former became
the wife of Mr. Edward Elliston, an East India captain: their
daughter and heiress Catherine was married in the year 1756 to
Edward Eliot, Esq. (now lord Eliot), of Port Eliot, in the county of
Cornwall; and their three sons are my nearest male relations on the
father's side.  A life of devotion and celibacy was the choice of my
aunt, Mrs. Hester Gibbon, who, at the age of eighty-five, still
resides in a hermitage at Cliffe, in Northamptonshire; having long
survived her spiritual guide and faithful companion Mr. William Law,
who, at an advanced age, about the year 1761, died in her house.  In
our family he had left the reputation of a worthy and pious man, who
believed all that he professed, and practised all that he enjoined.
The character of a non-juror, which he maintained to the last, is a
sufficient evidence of his principles in church and state; and the
sacrifice of interest to conscience will be always respectable.  His
theological writings, which our domestic connection has tempted me
to peruse, preserve an imperfect sort of life, and I can pronounce
with more confidence and knowledge on the merits of the author.  His
last compositions are darkly tinctured by the incomprehensible
visions of Jacob Behmen; and his discourse on the absolute
unlawfulness of stage entertainments is sometimes quoted for a
ridiculous intemperance of sentiment and language.--"The actors and
spectators must all be damned: the playhouse is the porch of Hell,
the place of the Devil's abode, where he holds his filthy court of
evil spirits: a play is the Devil's triumph, a sacrifice performed
to his glory, as much as in the heathen temples of Bacchus or Venus,
&c., &c." But these sallies of religious frenzy must not extinguish
the praise, which is due to Mr. William Law as a wit and a scholar.
His argument on topics of less absurdity is specious and acute, his
manner is lively, his style forcible and clear; and, had not his
vigorous mind been clouded by enthusiasm, he might be ranked with
the most agreeable and ingenious writers of the times.  While the
Bangorian controversy was a fashionable theme, he entered the lists
on the subject of Christ's kingdom, and the authority of the
priesthood: against the plain account of the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper he resumed the combat with Bishop Hoadley, the object of Whig
idolatry, and Tory abhorrence; and at every weapon of attack and
defence the non-juror, on the ground which is common to both,
approves himself at least equal to the prelate.  On the appearance
of the Fable of the Bees, he drew his pen against the licentious
doctrine that private vices are public benefits, and morality as
well as religion must join in his applause.  Mr. Law's master-work,
the Serious Call, is still read as a popular and powerful book of
devotion.  His precepts are rigid, but they are founded on the
gospel; his satire is sharp, but it is drawn from the knowledge of
human life; and many of his portraits are not unworthy of the pen of
La Bruyere.  If he finds a spark of piety in his reader's mind, he
will soon kindle it to a flame; and a philosopher must allow that he
exposes, with equal severity and truth, the strange contradiction
between the faith and practice of the Christian world.  Under the
names of Flavia and Miranda he has admirably described my two aunts
the heathen and the Christian sister.

My father, Edward Gibbon, was born in October, 1707: at the age of
thirteen he could scarcely feel that he was disinherited by act of
parliament; and, as he advanced towards manhood, new prospects of
fortune opened to his view.  A parent is most attentive to supply in
his children the deficiencies, of which he is conscious in himself:
my grandfather's knowledge was derived from a strong understanding,
and the experience of the ways of men; but my father enjoyed the
benefits of a liberal education as a scholar and a gentleman.  At
Westminster School, and afterwards at Emanuel College in Cambridge,
he passed through a regular course of academical discipline; and the
care of his learning and morals was intrusted to his private tutor,
the same Mr. William Law.  But the mind of a saint is above or below
the present world; and while the pupil proceeded on his travels, the
tutor remained at Putney, the much-honoured friend and spiritual
director of the whole family.  My father resided sometime at Paris
to acquire the fashionable exercises; and as his temper was warm and
social, he indulged in those pleasures, for which the strictness of
his former education had given him a keener relish.  He afterwards
visited several provinces of France; but his excursions were neither
long nor remote; and the slender knowledge, which he had gained of
the French language, was gradually obliterated.  His passage through
Besancon is marked by a singular consequence in the chain of human
events.  In a dangerous illness Mr. Gibbon was attended, at his own
request, by one of his kinsmen of the name of Acton, the younger
brother of a younger brother, who had applied himself to the study
of physic.  During the slow recovery of his patient, the physician
himself was attacked by the malady of love: he married his mistress,
renounced his country and religion, settled at Besancon, and became
the father of three sons; the eldest of whom, General Acton, is
conspicuous in Europe as the principal Minister of the king of the
Two Sicilies.  By an uncle whom another stroke of fortune had
transplanted to Leghorn, he was educated in the naval service of the
Emperor; and his valour and conduct in the command of the Tuscan
frigates protected the retreat of the Spaniards from Algiers.  On my
father's return to England he was chosen, in the general election of
1734, to serve in parliament for the borough of Petersfield; a
burgage tenure, of which my grandfather possessed a weighty share,
till he alienated (I know not why) such important property.  In the
opposition to Sir Robert Walpole and the Pelhams, prejudice and
society connected his son with the Tories,--shall I say Jacobites?
or, as they were pleased to style themselves, the country gentlemen?
with them he gave many a vote; with them he drank many a bottle.
Without acquiring the fame of an orator or a statesman, he eagerly
joined in the great opposition, which, after a seven years' chase,
hunted down Sir Robert Walpole: and in the pursuit of an unpopular
minister, he gratified a private revenge against the oppressor of
his family in the South Sea persecution.

I was born at Putney, in the county of Surrey, April 27th, O. S., in
the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven; the first
child of the marriage of Edward Gibbon, esq., and of Judith Porten.
[Note: The union to which I owe my birth was a marriage of
inclination and esteem.  Mr. James Porten, a merchant of London,
resided with his family at Putney, in a house adjoining to the
bridge and churchyard, where I have passed many happy hours of my
childhood.  He left one son (the late Sir Stanier Porten) and three
daughters; Catherine, who preserved her maiden name, and of whom I
shall hereafter speak; another daughter married Mr. Darrel of
Richmond, and left two sons, Edward and Robert: the youngest of the
three sisters was Judith, my mother.]  My lot might have been that
of a slave, a savage, or a peasant; nor can I reflect without
pleasure on the bounty of Nature, which cast my birth in a free and
civilized country, in an age of science and philosophy, in a family
of honourable rank, and decently endowed with the gifts of fortune.
From my birth I have enjoyed the right of primogeniture; but I was
succeeded by five brothers and one sister, all of whom were snatched
away in their infancy.  My five brothers, whose names may be found
in the parish register of Putney, I shall not pretend to lament: but
from my childhood to the present hour I have deeply and sincerely
regretted my sister, whose life was somewhat prolonged, and whom I
remember to have been an amiable infant.  The relation of a brother
and a sister, especially if they do not marry, appears to me of a
very singular nature.  It is a familiar and tender friendship with a
female, much about our own age; an affection perhaps softened by the
secret influence of sex, and the sole species of Platonic love that
can be indulged with truth, and without danger.

At the general election of 1741, Mr. Gibbon and Mr. Delme stood an
expensive and successful contest at Southampton, against Mr. Dummer
and Mr. Henly, afterwards Lord Chancellor and Earl of Northington.
The Whig candidates had a majority of the resident voters; but the
corporation was firm in the Tory interest: a sudden creation of one
hundred and seventy new freemen turned the scale; and a supply was
readily obtained of respectable volunteers, who flocked from all
parts of England to support the cause of their political friends.
The new parliament opened with the victory of an opposition, which
was fortified by strong clamour and strange coalitions.  From the
event of the first divisions, Sir Robert Walpole perceived that he
could no longer lead a majority in the House of Commons, and
prudently resigned (after a dominion of one-and-twenty years) the
guidance of the state (1742).  But the fall of an unpopular minister
was not succeeded, according to general expectation, by a millennium
of happiness and virtue: some courtiers lost their places, some
patriots lost their characters, Lord Orford's offences vanished with
his power; and after a short vibration, the Pelham government was
fixed on the old basis of the Whig aristocracy.  In the year 1745,
the throne and the constitution were attacked by a rebellion, which
does not reflect much honour on the national spirit; since the
English friends of the Pretender wanted courage to join his
standard, and his enemies (the bulk of the people) allowed him to
advance into the heart of the kingdom.  Without daring, perhaps
without desiring, to aid the rebels, my father invariably adhered to
the Tory opposition.  In the most critical season he accepted, for
the service of the party, the office of alderman in the city of
London: but the duties were so repugnant to his inclination and
habits, that he resigned his gown at the end of a few months.  The
second parliament in which he sat was prematurely dissolved (1747):
and as he was unable or unwilling to maintain a second contest for
Southampton, the life of the senator expired in that dissolution.

The death of a new-born child before that of its parents may seem an
unnatural, but it is strictly a probable, event: since of any given
number the greater part are extinguished before their ninth year,
before they possess the faculties of the mind or body.  Without
accusing the profuse waste or imperfect workmanship of Nature, I
shall only observe, that this unfavourable chance was multiplied
against my infant existence.  So feeble was my constitution, so
precarious my life, that, in the baptism of each of my brothers, my
father's prudence successively repeated my Christian name of Edward,
that, in case of the departure of the eldest son, this patronymic
appellation might be still perpetuated in the family.

          --Uno avulso non deficit alter.

To preserve and to rear so frail a being, the most tender assiduity
was scarcely sufficient, and my mother's attention was somewhat
diverted by an exclusive passion for her husband, and by the
dissipation of the world, in which his taste and authority obliged
her to mingle.  But the maternal office was supplied by my aunt,
Mrs. Catherine Porten; at whose name I feel a tear of gratitude
trickling down my cheek.  A life of celibacy transferred her vacant
affection to her sister's first child; my weakness excited her pity;
her attachment was fortified by labour and success: and if there be
any, as I trust there are some, who rejoice that I live, to that
dear and excellent woman they must hold themselves indebted.  Many
anxious and solitary days did she consume in the patient trial of
every mode of relief and amusement.  Many wakeful nights did she sit
by my bedside in trembling expectation that each hour would be my
last.  Of the various and frequent disorders of my childhood my own
recollection is dark.  Suffice it to say, that while every
practitioner, from Sloane and Ward to the Chevalier Taylor, was
successively summoned to torture or relieve me, the care of my mind
was too frequently neglected for that of my health: compassion
always suggested an excuse for the indulgence of the master, or the
idleness of the pupil; and the chain of my education was broken, as
often as I was recalled from the school of learning to the bed of

As soon as the use of speech had prepared my infant reason for the
admission of knowledge, I was taught the arts of reading, writing,
and arithmetic.  So remote is the date, so vague is the memory of
their origin in myself, that, were not the error corrected by
analogy, I should be tempted to conceive them as innate.  In my
childhood I was praised for the readiness with which I could
multiply and divide, by memory alone, two sums of several figures;
such praise encouraged my growing talent; and had I persevered in
this line of application, I might have acquired some fame in
mathematical studies.

After this previous institution at home, or at a day school at
Putney, I was delivered at the age of seven into the hands of Mr.
John Kirkby, who exercised about eighteen months the office of my
domestic tutor.  His learning and virtue introduced him to my
father; and at Putney he might have found at least a temporary
shelter, had not an act of indiscretion driven him into the world.
One day reading prayers in the parish church, he most unluckily
forgot the name of King George: his patron, a loyal subject,
dismissed him with some reluctance, and a decent reward; and how the
poor man ended his days I have never been able to learn.  Mr. John
Kirkby is the author of two small volumes; the Life of Automathes
(London, 1745), and an English and Latin Grammar (London, 1746);
which, as a testimony of gratitude, he dedicated (Nov. 5th, 1745) to
my father.  The books are before me: from them the pupil may judge
the preceptor; and, upon the whole, his judgment will not be
unfavourable.  The grammar is executed with accuracy and skill, and
I know not whether any better existed at the time in our language:
but the Life of Automathes aspires to the honours of a philosophical
fiction.  It is the story of a youth, the son of a ship-wrecked
exile, who lives alone on a desert island from infancy to the age of
manhood.  A hind is his nurse; he inherits a cottage, with many
useful and curious instruments; some ideas remain of the education
of his two first years; some arts are borrowed from the beavers of a
neighbouring lake; some truths are revealed in supernatural visions.
With these helps, and his own industry, Automathes becomes a
self-taught though speechless philosopher, who had investigated with
success his own mind, the natural world, the abstract sciences, and
the great principles of morality and religion.  The author is not
entitled to the merit of invention, since he has blended the English
story of Robinson Crusoe with the Arabian romance of Hai Ebn
Yokhdan, which he might have read in the Latin version of Pocock.
In the Automathes I cannot praise either the depth of thought or
elegance of style; but the book is not devoid of entertainment or
instruction; and among several interesting passages, I would select
the discovery of fire, which produces by accidental mischief the
discovery of conscience.  A man who had thought so much on the
subjects of language and education was surely no ordinary preceptor:
my childish years, and his hasty departure, prevented me from
enjoying the full benefit of his lessons; but they enlarged my
knowledge of arithmetic, and left me a clear impression of the
English and Latin rudiments.

In my ninth year (Jan., 1746), in a lucid interval of comparative
health, my father adopted the convenient and customary mode of
English education; and I was sent to Kingston-upon-Thames, to a
school of about seventy boys, which was kept by Dr. Wooddeson and
his assistants.  Every time I have since passed over Putney Common,
I have always noticed the spot where my mother, as we drove along in
the coach, admonished me that I was now going into the world, and
must learn to think and act for myself.  The expression may appear
ludicrous; yet there is not, in the course of life, a more
remarkable change than the removal of a child from the luxury and
freedom of a wealthy house, to the frugal diet and strict
subordination of a school; from the tenderness of parents, and the
obsequiousness of servants, to the rude familiarity of his equals,
the insolent tyranny of his seniors, and the rod, perhaps, of a
cruel and capricious pedagogue.  Such hardships may steel the mind
and body against the injuries of fortune; but my timid reserve was
astonished by the crowd and tumult of the school; the want of
strength and activity disqualified me for the sports of the
play-field; nor have I forgotten how often in the year forty-six I
was reviled and buffeted for the sins of my Tory ancestors.  By the
common methods of discipline, at the expence of many tears and some
blood, I purchased the knowledge of the Latin syntax: and not long
since I was possessed of the dirty volumes of Phaedrus and Cornelius
Nepos, which I painfully construed and darkly understood.  The
choice of these authors is not injudicious.  The lives of Cornelius
Nepos, the friend of Atticus and Cicero, are composed in the style
of the purest age: his simplicity is elegant, his brevity copious;
he exhibits a series of men and manners; and with such
illustrations, as every pedant is not indeed qualified to give, this
classic biographer may initiate a young student in the history of
Greece and Rome.  The use of fables or apologues has been approved
in every age from ancient India to modern Europe.  They convey in
familiar images the truths of morality and prudence; and the most
childish understanding (I advert to the scruples of Rousseau) will
not suppose either that beasts do speak, or that men may lie.  A
fable represents the genuine characters of animals; and a skilful
master might extract from Pliny and Buffon some pleasing lessons of
natural history, a science well adapted to the taste and capacity of
children.  The Latinity of Phaedrus is not exempt from an alloy of
the silver age; but his manner is concise, terse, and sententious;
the Thracian slave discreetly breathes the spirit of a freeman; and
when the text is found, the style is perspicuous.  But his fables,
after a long oblivion, were first published by Peter Pithou, from a
corrupt manuscript.  The labours of fifty editors confess the
defects of the copy, as well as the value of the original; and the
school-boy may have been whipped for misapprehending a passage,
which Bentley could not restore, and which Burman could not explain.

My studies were too frequently interrupted by sickness; and after a
real or nominal residence at Kingston School of near two years, I
was finally recalled (Dec., 1747) by my mother's death, in her
thirty-eighth year.  I was too young to feel the importance of my
loss; and the image of her person and conversation is faintly
imprinted in my memory.  The affectionate heart of my aunt,
Catherine Porten, bewailed a sister and a friend; but my poor father
was inconsolable, and the transport of grief seemed to threaten his
life or his reason.  I can never forget the scene of our first
interview, some weeks after the fatal event; the awful silence, the
room hung with black, the mid-day tapers, his sighs and tears; his
praises of my mother, a saint in heaven; his solemn adjuration that
I would cherish her memory and imitate her virtues; and the fervor
with which he kissed and blessed me as the sole surviving pledge of
their loves.  The storm of passion insensibly subsided into calmer
melancholy.  At a convivial meeting of his friends, Mr. Gibbon might
affect or enjoy a gleam of cheerfulness; but his plan of happiness
was for ever destroyed: and after the loss of his companion he was
left alone in a world, of which the business and pleasures were to
him irksome or insipid.  After some unsuccessful trials he renounced
the tumult of London and the hospitality of Putney, and buried
himself in the rural or rather rustic solitude of Beriton; from
which, during several years, he seldom emerged.

As far back as I can remember, the house, near Putney-bridge and
churchyard, of my maternal grandfather appears in the light of my
proper and native home.  It was there that I was allowed to spend
the greatest part of my time, in sickness or in health, during my
school vacations and my parents' residence in London, and finally
after my mother's death.  Three months after that event, in the
spring of 1748, the commercial ruin of her father, Mr. James Porten,
was accomplished and declared.  He suddenly absconded: but as his
effects were not sold, nor the house evacuated, till the Christmas
following, I enjoyed during the whole year the society of my aunt,
without much consciousness of her impending fate.  I feel a
melancholy pleasure in repeating my obligations to that excellent
woman, Mrs. Catherine Porten, the true mother of my mind as well as
of my health.  Her natural good sense was improved by the perusal of
the best books in the English language; and if her reason was
sometimes clouded by prejudice, her sentiments were never disguised
by hypocrisy or affectation.  Her indulgent tenderness, the
frankness of her temper, and my innate rising curiosity, soon
removed all distance between us: like friends of an equal age, we
freely conversed on every topic, familiar or abstruse; and it was
her delight and reward to observe the first shoots of my young
ideas.  Pain and languor were often soothed by the voice of
instruction and amusement; and to her kind lessons I ascribe my
early and invincible love of reading, which I would not exchange for
the treasures of India.  I should perhaps be astonished, were it
possible to ascertain the date, at which a favourite tale was
engraved, by frequent repetition, in my memory: the Cavern of the
Winds; the Palace of Felicity; and the fatal moment, at the end of
three months or centuries, when Prince Adolphus is overtaken by
Time, who had worn out so many pair of wings in the pursuit.  Before
I left Kingston school I was well acquainted with Pope's Homer and
the Arabian Nights Entertainments, two books which will always
please by the moving picture of human manners and specious miracles:
nor was I then capable of discerning that Pope's translation is a
portrait endowed with every merit, excepting that of likeness to the
original.  The verses of Pope accustomed my ear to the sound of
poetic harmony: in the death of Hector, and the shipwreck of
Ulysses, I tasted the new emotions of terror and pity; and seriously
disputed with my aunt on the vices and virtues of the heroes of the
Trojan war.  From Pope's Homer to Dryden's Virgil was an easy
transition; but I know not how, from some fault in the author, the
translator, or the reader, the pious Aeneas did not so forcibly
seize on my imagination; and I derived more pleasure from Ovid's
Metamorphoses, especially in the fall of Phaeton, and the speeches
of Ajax and Ulysses.  My grand-father's flight unlocked the door of
a tolerable library; and I turned over many English pages of poetry
and romance, of history and travels.  Where a title attracted my
eye, without fear or awe I snatched the volume from the shelf; and
Mrs. Porten, who indulged herself in moral and religious
speculations, was more prone to encourage than to check a curiosity
above the strength of a boy.  This year (1748), the twelfth of my
age, I shall note as the most propitious to the growth of my
intellectual stature.

The relics of my grandfather's fortune afforded a bare annuity for
his own maintenance; and his daughter, my worthy aunt, who had
already passed her fortieth year, was left destitute.  Her noble
spirit scorned a life of obligation and dependence; and after
revolving several schemes, she preferred the humble industry of
keeping a boarding-house for Westminster-school, where she
laboriously earned a competence for her old age.  This singular
opportunity of blending the advantages of private and public
education decided my father.  After the Christmas holidays in
January, 1749, I accompanied Mrs. Porten to her new house in
College-street; and was immediately entered in the school of which
Dr. John Nicoll was at that time head-master.  At first I was alone:
but my aunt's resolution was praised; her character was esteemed;
her friends were numerous and active: in the course of some years
she became the mother of forty or fifty boys, for the most part of
family and fortune; and as her primitive habitation was too narrow,
she built and occupied a spacious mansion in Dean's Yard.  I shall
always be ready to join in the common opinion that our public
schools, which have produced so many eminent characters, are the
best adapted to the genius and constitution of the English people.
A boy of spirit may acquire a previous and practical experience of
the world; and his playfellows may be the future friends of his
heart or his interest.  In a free intercourse with his equals, the
habits of truth, fortitude, and prudence will insensibly be matured.
Birth and riches are measured by the standard of personal merit; and
the mimic scene of a rebellion has displayed, in their true colours,
the ministers and patriots of the rising generation.  Our seminaries
of learning do not exactly correspond with the precept of a Spartan
king, "that the child should be instructed in the arts, which will
be useful to the man;" since a finished scholar may emerge from the
head of Westminster or Eton, in total ignorance of the business and
conversation of English gentlemen in the latter end of the
eighteenth century.  But these schools may assume the merit of
teaching all that they pretend to teach, the Latin and Greek
languages: they deposit in the hands of a disciple the keys of two
valuable chests; nor can he complain, if they are afterwards lost or
neglected by his own fault.  The necessity of leading in equal ranks
so many unequal powers of capacity and application, will prolong to
eight or ten years the juvenile studies, which might be despatched
in half that time by the skilful master of a single pupil.  Yet even
the repetition of exercise and discipline contributes to fix in a
vacant mind the verbal science of grammar and prosody: and the
private or voluntary student, who possesses the sense and spirit of
the classics, may offend, by a false quantity, the scrupulous ear of
a well-flogged critic.  For myself, I must be content with a very
small share of the civil and literary fruits of a public school.  In
the space of two years (1749, 1750), interrupted by danger and
debility, I painfully climbed into the third form; and my riper age
was left to acquire the beauties of the Latin, and the rudiments of
the Greek tongue.  Instead of audaciously mingling in the sports,
the quarrels, and the connections of our little world, I was still
cherished at home under the maternal wing of my aunt; and my removal
from Westminster long preceded the approach of manhood.

The violence and variety of my complaint, which had excused my
frequent absence from Westminster School, at length engaged Mrs.
Porten, with the advice of physicians, to conduct me to Bath: at the
end of the Michaelmas vacation (1750) she quitted me with
reluctance, and I remained several months under the care of a trusty
maid-servant.  A strange nervous affection, which alternately
contracted my legs, and produced, without any visible symptoms, the
most excruciating pain, was ineffectually opposed by the various
methods of bathing and pumping.  From Bath I was transported to
Winchester, to the house of a physician; and after the failure of
his medical skill, we had again recourse to the virtues of the Bath
waters.  During the intervals of these fits, I moved with my father
to Beriton and Putney; and a short unsuccessful trial was attempted
to renew my attendance at Westminster School.  But my infirmities
could not be reconciled with the hours and discipline of a public
seminary; and instead of a domestic tutor, who might have watched
the favourable moments, and gently advanced the progress of my
learning, my father was too easily content with such occasional
teachers as the different places of my residence could supply.  I
was never forced, and seldom was I persuaded, to admit these
lessons: yet I read with a clergyman at Bath some odes of Horace,
and several episodes of Virgil, which gave me an imperfect and
transient enjoyment of the Latin poets.  It might now be apprehended
that I should continue for life an illiterate cripple; but, as I
approached my sixteenth year, Nature displayed in my favour her
mysterious energies: my constitution was fortified and fixed; and my
disorders, instead of growing with my growth and strengthening with
my strength, most wonderfully vanished.  I have never possessed or
abused the insolence of health: but since that time few persons have
been more exempt from real or imaginary ills; and, till I am
admonished by the gout, the reader will no more be troubled with the
history of my bodily complaints.  My unexpected recovery again
encouraged the hope of my education; and I was placed at Esher, in
Surrey, in the house of the Reverend Mr. Philip Francis, in a
pleasant spot, which promised to unite the various benefits of air,
exercise, and study (Jan.,1752).  The translator of Horace might
have taught me to relish the Latin poets, had not my friends
discovered in a few weeks, that he preferred the pleasures of
London, to the instruction of his pupils.  My father's perplexity at
this time, rather than his prudence, was urged to embrace a singular
and desperate measure.  Without preparation or delay he carried me
to Oxford; and I was matriculated in the university as a gentleman
commoner of Magdalen college, before I had accomplished the
fifteenth year of my age (April 3, 1752).

The curiosity, which had been implanted in my infant mind, was still
alive and active; but my reason was not sufficiently informed to
understand the value, or to lament the loss, of three precious years
from my entrance at Westminster to my admission at Oxford.  Instead
of repining at my long and frequent confinement to the chamber or
the couch, I secretly rejoiced in those infirmities, which delivered
me from the exercises of the school, and the society of my equals.
As often as I was tolerably exempt from danger and pain, reading,
free desultory reading, was the employment and comfort of my
solitary hours.  At Westminster, my aunt sought only to amuse and
indulge me; in my stations at Bath and Winchester, at Beriton and
Putney, a false compassion respected my sufferings; and I was
allowed, without controul or advice, to gratify the wanderings of an
unripe taste.  My indiscriminate appetite subsided by degrees in the
historic line: and since philosophy has exploded all innate ideas
and natural propensities, I must ascribe this choice to the
assiduous perusal of the Universal History, as the octavo volumes
successively appeared.  This unequal work, and a treatise of Hearne,
the Ductor historicus, referred and introduced me to the Greek and
Roman historians, to as many at least as were accessible to an
English reader.  All that I could find were greedily devoured, from
Littlebury's lame Herodotus, and Spelman's valuable Xenophon, to the
pompous folios of Gordon's Tacitus, and a ragged Procopius of the
beginning of the last century.  The cheap acquisition of so much
knowledge confirmed my dislike to the study of languages; and I
argued with Mrs. Porten, that, were I master of Greek and Latin, I
must interpret to myself in English the thoughts of the original,
and that such extemporary versions must be inferior to the elaborate
translations of professed scholars; a silly sophism, which could not
easily be confuted by a person ignorant of any other language than
her own.  From the ancient I leaped to the modern world: many crude
lumps of Speed, Rapin, Mezeray, Davila, Machiavel, Father Paul,
Bower, &c., I devoured like so many novels; and I swallowed with the
same voracious appetite the descriptions of India and China, of
Mexico and Peru.

My first introduction to the historic scenes, which have since
engaged so many years of my life, must be ascribed to an accident.
In the summer of 1751, I accompanied my father on a visit to Mr.
Hoare's, in Wiltshire; but I was less delighted with the beauties of
Stourhead, than with discovering in the library a common book, the
Continuation of Echard's Roman History, which is indeed executed
with more skill and taste than the previous work.  To me the reigns
of the successors of Constantine were absolutely new; and I was
immersed in the passage of the Goths over the Danube, when the
summons of the dinner-bell reluctantly dragged me from my
intellectual feast.  This transient glance served rather to irritate
than to appease my curiosity; and as soon as I returned to Bath I
procured the second and third volumes of Howel's History of the
World, which exhibit the Byzantine period on a larger scale.
Mahomet and his Saracens soon fixed my attention; and some instinct
of criticism directed me to the genuine sources.  Simon Ockley, an
original in every sense, first opened my eyes; and I was led from
one book to another, till I had ranged round the circle of Oriental
history.  Before I was sixteen, I had exhausted all that could be
learned in English of the Arabs and Persians, the Tartars and Turks;
and the same ardour urged me to guess at the French of D'Herbelot,
and to construe the barbarous Latin of Pocock's Abulfaragius.  Such
vague and multifarious reading could not teach me to think, to
write, or to act; and the only principle that darted a ray of light
into the indigested chaos, was an early and rational application to
the order of time and place.  The maps of Cellarius and Wells
imprinted in my mind the picture of ancient geography: from
Stranchius I imbibed the elements of chronology: the Tables of
Helvicus and Anderson, the Annals of Usher and Prideaux,
distinguished the connection of events, and engraved the multitude
of names and dates in a clear and indelible series.  But in the
discussion of the first ages I overleaped the bounds of modesty and
use.  In my childish balance I presumed to weigh the systems of
Scaliger and Petavius, of Marsham and Newton, which I could seldom
study in the originals; and my sleep has been disturbed by the
difficulty of reconciling the Septuagint with the Hebrew
computation.  I arrived at Oxford with a stock of erudition, that
might have puzzled a doctor, and a degree of ignorance, of which a
school-boy would have been ashamed.

At the conclusion of this first period of my life, I am tempted to
enter a protest against the trite and lavish praise of the happiness
of our boyish years, which is echoed with so much affectation in the
world.  That happiness I have never known, that time I have never
regretted; and were my poor aunt still alive, she would bear
testimony to the early and constant uniformity of my sentiments.  It
will indeed be replied, that I am not a competent judge; that
pleasure is incompatible with pain; that joy is excluded from
sickness; and that the felicity of a schoolboy consists in the
perpetual motion of thoughtless and playful agility, in which I was
never qualified to excel.  My name, it is most true, could never be
enrolled among the sprightly race, the idle progeny of Eton or

          "Who foremost may delight to cleave,
          With pliant arm, the glassy wave,
          Or urge the flying ball."

The poet may gaily describe the short hours of recreation; but he
forgets the daily tedious labours of the school, which is approached
each morning with anxious and reluctant steps.

A traveller, who visits Oxford or Cambridge, is surprised and
edified by the apparent order and tranquillity that prevail in the
seats of the English muses.  In the most celebrated universities of
Holland, Germany, and Italy, the students, who swarm from different
countries, are loosely dispersed in private lodgings at the houses
of the burghers: they dress according to their fancy and fortune;
and in the intemperate quarrels of youth and wine, their swords,
though less frequently than of old, are sometimes stained with each
other's blood.  The use of arms is banished from our English
universities; the uniform habit of the academics, the square cap,
and black gown, is adapted to the civil and even clerical
profession; and from the doctor in divinity to the under-graduate,
the degrees of learning and age are externally distinguished.
Instead of being scattered in a town, the students of Oxford and
Cambridge are united in colleges; their maintenance is provided at
their own expense, or that of the founders; and the stated hours of
the hall and chapel represent the discipline of a regular, and, as
it were, a religious community.  The eyes of the traveller are
attracted by the size or beauty of the public edifices; and the
principal colleges appear to be so many palaces, which a liberal
nation has erected and endowed for the habitation of science.  My
own introduction to the university of Oxford forms a new aera in my
life; and at the distance of forty years I still remember my first
emotions of surprise and satisfaction.  In my fifteenth year I felt
myself suddenly raised from a boy to a man: the persons, whom I
respected as my superiors in age and academical rank, entertained me
with every mark of attention and civility; and my vanity was
flattered by the velvet cap and silk gown, which distinguish a
gentleman commoner from a plebeian student.  A decent allowance,
more money than a schoolboy had ever seen, was at my own disposal;
and I might command, among the tradesmen of Oxford, an indefinite
and dangerous latitude of credit.  A key was delivered into my
hands, which gave me the free use of a numerous and learned library;
my apartment consisted of three elegant and well-furnished rooms in
the new building, a stately pile, of Magdalen College; and the
adjacent walks, had they been frequented by Plato's disciples, might
have been compared to the Attic shade on the banks of the Ilissus.
Such was the fair prospect of my entrance (April 3, 1752) into the
university of Oxford.

A venerable prelate, whose taste and erudition must reflect honour
on the society in which they were formed, has drawn a very
interesting picture of his academical life.--"I was educated (says
Bishop Lowth) in the UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.  I enjoyed all the
advantages, both public and private, which that famous seat of
learning so largely affords.  I spent many years in that illustrious
society, in a well-regulated course of useful discipline and
studies, and in the agreeable and improving commerce of gentlemen
and of scholars; in a society where emulation without envy, ambition
without jealousy, contention without animosity, incited industry,
and awakened genius; where a liberal pursuit of knowledge, and a
genuine freedom of thought, were raised, encouraged, and pushed
forward by example, by commendation, and by authority.  I breathed
the same atmosphere that the HOOKERS, the CHILLINGWORTHS, and the
LOCKES had breathed before; whose benevolence and humanity were as
extensive as their vast genius and comprehensive knowledge; who
always treated their adversaries with civility and respect; who made
candour, moderation, and liberal judgment as much the rule and law
as the subject of their discourse.  And do you reproach me with my
education in this place, and with my relation to this most
respectable body, which I shall always esteem my greatest advantage
and my highest honour?" I transcribe with pleasure this eloquent
passage, without examining what benefits or what rewards were
derived by Hooker, or Chillingworth, or Locke, from their academical
institution; without inquiring, whether in this angry controversy
the spirit of Lowth himself is purified from the intolerant zeal,
which Warburton had ascribed to the genius of the place.  It may
indeed be observed, that the atmosphere of Oxford did not agree with
Mr. Locke's constitution; and that the philosopher justly despised
the academical bigots, who expelled his person and condemned his
principles.  The expression of gratitude is a virtue and a pleasure:
a liberal mind will delight to cherish and celebrate the memory of
its parents; and the teachers of science are the parents of the
mind.  I applaud the filial piety, which it is impossible for me to
imitate; since I must not confess an imaginary debt, to assume the
merit of a just or generous retribution.  To the university of
Oxford I acknowledge no obligation; and she will as cheerfully
renounce me for a son, as I am willing to disclaim her for a mother.
I spent fourteen months at Magdalen College; they proved the
fourteen months the most idle and unprofitable of my whole life: the
reader will pronounce between the school and the scholar; but I
cannot affect to believe that Nature had disqualified me for all
literary pursuits.  The specious and ready excuse of my tender age,
imperfect preparation, and hasty departure, may doubtless be
alleged; nor do I wish to defraud such excuses of their proper
weight.  Yet in my sixteenth year I was not devoid of capacity or
application; even my childish reading had displayed an early though
blind propensity for books; and the shallow flood might have been
taught to flow in a deep channel and a clear stream.  In the
discipline of a well-constituted academy, under the guidance of
skilful and vigilant professors, I should gradually have risen from
translations to originals, from the Latin to the Greek classics,
from dead languages to living science: my hours would have been
occupied by useful and agreeable studies, the wanderings of fancy
would have been restrained, and I should have escaped the
temptations of idleness, which finally precipitated my departure
from Oxford.

Perhaps in a separate annotation I may coolly examine the fabulous
and real antiquities of our sister universities, a question which
has kindled such fierce and foolish disputes among their fanatic
sons.  In the meanwhile it will be acknowledged that these venerable
bodies are sufficiently old to partake of all the prejudices and
infirmities of age.  The schools of Oxford and Cambridge were
founded in a dark age of false and barbarous science; and they are
still tainted with the vices of their origin.  Their primitive
discipline was adapted to the education of priests and monks; and
the government still remains in the hands of the clergy, an order of
men whose manners are remote from the present world, and whose eyes
are dazzled by the light of philosophy.  The legal incorporation of
these societies by the charters of popes and kings had given them a
monopoly of the public instruction; and the spirit of monopolists is
narrow, lazy, and oppressive; their work is more costly and less
productive than that of independent artists; and the new
improvements so eagerly grasped by the competition of freedom, are
admitted with slow and sullen reluctance in those proud
corporations, above the fear of a rival, and below the confession of
an error.  We may scarcely hope that any reformation will be a
voluntary act; and so deeply are they rooted in law and prejudice,
that even the omnipotence of parliament would shrink from an inquiry
into the state and abuses of the two universities.

The use of academical degrees, as old as the thirteenth century, is
visibly borrowed from the mechanic corporations; in which an
apprentice, after serving his time, obtains a testimonial of his
skill, and a licence to practise his trade and mystery.  It is not
my design to depreciate those honours, which could never gratify or
disappoint my ambition; and I should applaud the institution, if the
degrees of bachelor or licentiate were bestowed as the reward of
manly and successful study: if the name and rank of doctor or master
were strictly reserved for the professors of science, who have
approved their title to the public esteem.

In all the universities of Europe, excepting our own, the languages
and sciences are distributed among a numerous list of effective
professors: the students, according to their taste, their calling,
and their diligence, apply themselves to the proper masters; and in
the annual repetition of public and private lectures, these masters
are assiduously employed.  Our curiosity may inquire what number of
professors has been instituted at Oxford? (for I shall now confine
myself to my own university;) by whom are they appointed, and what
may be the probable chances of merit or incapacity; how many are
stationed to the three faculties, and how many are left for the
liberal arts? what is the form, and what the substance, of their
lessons? But all these questions are silenced by one short and
singular answer, "That in the University of Oxford, the greater part
of the public professors have for these many years given up
altogether even the pretence of teaching." Incredible as the fact
may appear, I must rest my belief on the positive and impartial
evidence of a master of moral and political wisdom, who had himself
resided at Oxford.  Dr. Adam Smith assigns as the cause of their
indolence, that, instead of being paid by voluntary contributions,
which would urge them to increase the number, and to deserve the
gratitude of their pupils, the Oxford professors are secure in the
enjoyment of a fixed stipend, without the necessity of labour, or
the apprehension of controul.  It has indeed been observed, nor is
the observation absurd, that excepting in experimental sciences,
which demand a costly apparatus and a dexterous hand, the many
valuable treatises, that have been published on every subject of
learning, may now supersede the ancient mode of oral instruction.
Were this principle true in its utmost latitude, I should only infer
that the offices and salaries, which are become useless, ought
without delay to be abolished.  But there still remains a material
difference between a book and a professor; the hour of the lecture
enforces attendance; attention is fixed by the presence, the voice,
and the occasional questions of the teacher; the most idle will
carry something away; and the more diligent will compare the
instructions, which they have heard in the school, with the volumes,
which they peruse in their chamber.  The advice of a skilful
professor will adapt a course of reading to every mind and every
situation; his authority will discover, admonish, and at last
chastise the negligence of his disciples; and his vigilant inquiries
will ascertain the steps of their literary progress.  Whatever
science he professes he may illustrate in a series of discourses,
composed in the leisure of his closet, pronounced on public
occasions, and finally delivered to the press.  I observe with
pleasure, that in the university of Oxford Dr. Lowth, with equal
eloquence and erudition, has executed this task in his incomparable
Praelections on the Poetry of the Hebrews.

The college of St. Mary Magdalen was founded in the fifteenth
century by Wainfleet, bishop of Winchester; and now consists of a
president, forty fellows, and a number of inferior students.  It is
esteemed one of the largest and most wealthy of our academical
corporations, which may be compared to the Benedictine abbeys of
Catholic countries; and I have loosely heard that the estates
belonging to Magdalen College, which are leased by those indulgent
landlords at small quit-rents and occasional fines, might be raised,
in the hands of private avarice, to an annual revenue of nearly
thirty thousand pounds.  Our colleges are supposed to be schools of
science, as well as of education; nor is it unreasonable to expect
that a body of literary men, devoted to a life of celibacy, exempt
from the care of their own subsistence, and amply provided with
books, should devote their leisure to the prosecution of study, and
that some effects of their studies should be manifested to the
world.  The shelves of their library groan under the weight of the
Benedictine folios, of the editions of the fathers, and the
collections of the middle ages, which have issued from the single
abbey of St. Germain de Prez at Paris.  A composition of genius must
be the offspring of one mind; but such works of industry, as may be
divided among many hands, and must be continued during many years,
are the peculiar province of a laborious community.  If I inquire
into the manufactures of the monks of Magdalen, if I extend the
inquiry to the other colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, a silent
blush, or a scornful frown, will be the only reply.  The fellows or
monks of my time were decent easy men, who supinely enjoyed the
gifts of the founder; their days were filled by a series of uniform
employments; the chapel and the hall, the coffee-house and the
common room, till they retired, weary and well satisfied, to a long
slumber.  From the toil of reading, or thinking, or writing, they
had absolved their conscience; and the first shoots of learning and
ingenuity withered on the ground, without yielding any fruits to the
owners or the public.  As a gentleman commoner, I was admitted to
the society of the fellows, and fondly expected that some questions
of literature would be the amusing and instructive topics of their
discourse.  Their conversation stagnated in a round of college
business, Tory politics, personal anecdotes, and private scandal:
their dull and deep potations excused the brisk intemperance of
youth; and their constitutional toasts were not expressive of the
most lively loyalty for the house of Hanover.  A general election
was now approaching: the great Oxfordshire contest already blazed
with all the malevolence of party-zeal.  Magdalen College was
devoutly attached to the old interest! and the names of Wenman and
Dashwood were more frequently pronounced, than those of Cicero and
Chrysostom.  The example of the senior fellows could not inspire the
under-graduates with a liberal spirit or studious emulation; and I
cannot describe, as I never knew, the discipline of college.  Some
duties may possibly have been imposed on the poor scholars, whose
ambition aspired to the peaceful honours of a fellowship (ascribi
quietis ordinibus-- --Deorum); but no independent members were
admitted below the rank of a gentleman commoner, and our velvet cap
was the cap of liberty.  A tradition prevailed that some of our
predecessors had spoken Latin declamations in the hall; but of this
ancient custom no vestige remained: the obvious methods of public
exercises and examinations were totally unknown; and I have never
heard that either the president or the society interfered in the
private economy of the tutors and their pupils.

The silence of the Oxford professors, which deprives the youth of
public instruction, is imperfectly supplied by the tutors, as they
are styled, of the several colleges.  Instead of confining
themselves to a single science, which had satisfied the ambition of
Burman or Bernoulli, they teach, or promise to teach, either history
or mathematics, or ancient literature, or moral philosophy; and as
it is possible that they may be defective in all, it is highly
probable that of some they will be ignorant.  They are paid, indeed,
by voluntary contributions; but their appointment depends on the
head of the house: their diligence is voluntary, and will
consequently be languid, while the pupils themselves, or their
parents, are not indulged in the liberty of choice or change.  The
first tutor into whose hands I was resigned appears to have been one
of the best of the tribe: Dr. Waldegrave was a learned and pious
man, of a mild disposition, strict morals, and abstemious life, who
seldom mingled in the politics or the jollity of the college.  But
his knowledge of the world was confined to the university; his
learning was of the last, rather than the present age; his temper
was indolent; his faculties, which were not of the first rate, had
been relaxed by the climate, and he was satisfied, like his fellows,
with the slight and superficial discharge of an important trust.  As
soon as my tutor had sounded the insufficiency of his pupil in
school-learning, he proposed that we should read every morning from
ten to eleven the comedies of Terence.  The sum of my improvement in
the university of Oxford is confined to three or four Latin plays;
and even the study of an elegant classic, which might have been
illustrated by a comparison of ancient and modern theatres, was
reduced to a dry and literal interpretation of the author's text.
During the first weeks I constantly attended these lessons in my
tutor's room; but as they appeared equally devoid of profit and
pleasure I was once tempted to try the experiment of a formal
apology.  The apology was accepted with a smile.  I repeated the
offence with less ceremony; the excuse was admitted with the same
indulgence: the slightest motive of laziness or indisposition, the
most trifling avocation at home or abroad, was allowed as a worthy
impediment; nor did my tutor appear conscious of my absence or
neglect.  Had the hour of lecture been constantly filled, a single
hour was a small portion of my academic leisure.  No plan of study
was recommended for my use; no exercises were prescribed for his
inspection; and, at the most precious season of youth, whole days
and weeks were suffered to elapse without labour or amusement,
without advice or account.  I should have listened to the voice of
reason and of my tutor; his mild behaviour had gained my confidence.
I preferred his society to that of the younger students; and in our
evening walks to the top of Heddington-hill, we freely conversed on
a variety of subjects.  Since the days of Pocock and Hyde, Oriental
learning has always been the pride of Oxford, and I once expressed
an inclination to study Arabic.  His prudence discouraged this
childish fancy; but he neglected the fair occasion of directing the
ardour of a curious mind.  During my absence in the summer vacation,
Dr. Waldegrave accepted a college living at Washington in Sussex,
and on my return I no longer found him at Oxford.  From that time I
have lost sight of my first tutor; but at the end of thirty years
(1781) he was still alive; and the practice of exercise and
temperance had entitled him to a healthy old age.

The long recess between the Trinity and Michaelmas terms empties the
colleges of Oxford, as well as the courts of Westminster.  I spent,
at my father's house at Beriton in Hampshire, the two months of
August and September.  It is whimsical enough, that as soon as I
left Magdalen College, my taste for books began to revive; but it
was the same blind and boyish taste for the pursuit of exotic
history.  Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits
of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to
write a book.  The title of this first Essay, The Age of Sesostris,
was perhaps suggested by Voltaire's Age of Lewis XIV. which was new
and popular; but my sole object was to investigate the probable date
of the life and reign of the conqueror of Asia.  I was then
enamoured of Sir John Marsham's Canon Chronicus; an elaborate work,
of whose merits and defects I was not yet qualified to judge.
According to his specious, though narrow plan, I settled my hero
about the time of Solomon, in the tenth century before the Christian
era.  It was therefore incumbent on me, unless I would adopt Sir
Isaac Newton's shorter chronology, to remove a formidable objection;
and my solution, for a youth of fifteen, is not devoid of ingenuity.
In his version of the Sacred Books, Manetho, high priest has
identified Sethosis, or Sesostris, with the elder brother of Danaus,
who landed in Greece, according to the Parian Marble, fifteen
hundred and ten years before Christ.  But in my supposition the high
priest is guilty of a voluntary error; flattery is the prolific
parent of falsehood.  Manetho's History of Egypt is dedicated to
Ptolemy Philadelphus, who derived a fabulous or illegitimate
pedigree from the Macedonian kings of the race of Hercules.  Danaus
is the ancestor of Hercules; and after the failure of the elder
branch, his descendants, the Ptolemies, are the sole representatives
of the royal family, and may claim by inheritance the kingdom which
they hold by conquest.  Such were my juvenile discoveries; at a
riper age I no longer presume to connect the Greek, the Jewish, and
the Egyptian antiquities, which are lost in a distant cloud.  Nor is
this the only instance, in which the belief and knowledge of the
child are superseded by the more rational ignorance of the man.
During my stay at Beriton, my infant-labour was diligently
prosecuted, without much interruption from company or country
diversions; and I already heard the music of public applause.  The
discovery of my own weakness was the first symptom of taste.  On my
return to Oxford, the Age of Sesostris was wisely relinquished; but
the imperfect sheets remained twenty years at the bottom of a
drawer, till, in a general clearance of papers (Nov., 1772,) they
were committed to the flames.

After the departure of Dr. Waldegrave, I was transferred, with his
other pupils, to his academical heir, whose literary character did
not command the respect of the college.  Dr--- well remembered that
he had a salary to receive, and only forgot that he had a duty to
perform.  Instead of guiding the studies, and watching over the
behaviour of his disciple, I was never summoned to attend even the
ceremony of a lecture; and, excepting one voluntary visit to his
rooms, during the eight months of his titular office, the tutor and
pupil lived in the same college as strangers to each other.  The
want of experience, of advice, and of occupation, soon betrayed me
into some improprieties of conduct, ill-chosen company, late hours,
and inconsiderate expense.  My growing debts might be secret; but my
frequent absence was visible and scandalous: and a tour to Bath, a
visit into Buckingham-shire, and four excursions to London in the
same winter, were costly and dangerous frolics.  They were, indeed,
without a meaning, as without an excuse.  The irksomeness of a
cloistered life repeatedly tempted me to wander; but my chief
pleasure was that of travelling; and I was too young and bashful to
enjoy, like a Manly Oxonian in Town, the pleasures of London.  In
all these excursions I eloped from Oxford; I returned to college; in
a few days I eloped again, as if I had been an independent stranger
in a hired lodging, without once hearing the voice of admonition,
without once feeling the hand of control.  Yet my time was lost, my
expenses were multiplied, my behaviour abroad was unknown; folly as
well as vice should have awakened the attention of my superiors, and
my tender years would have justified a more than ordinary degree of
restraint and discipline.

It might at least be expected, that an ecclesiastical school should
inculcate the orthodox principles of religion.  But our venerable
mother had contrived to unite the opposite extremes of bigotry and
indifference: an heretic, or unbeliever, was a monster in her eyes;
but she was always, or often, or sometimes, remiss in the spiritual
education of her own children.  According to the statutes of the
university, every student, before he is matriculated, must subscribe
his assent to the thirty-nine articles of the church of England,
which are signed by more than read, and read by more than believe
them.  My insufficient age excused me, however, from the immediate
performance of this legal ceremony; and the vice-chancellor directed
me to return, as soon as I should have accomplished my fifteenth
year; recommending me, in the mean while, to the instruction of my
college.  My college forgot to instruct: I forgot to return, and was
myself forgotten by the first magistrate of the university.  Without
a single lecture, either public or private, either christian or
protestant, without any academical subscription, without any
episcopal confirmation, I was left by the dim light of my catechism
to grope my way to the chapel and communion-table, where I was
admitted, without a question, how far, or by what means, I might be
qualified to receive the sacrament.  Such almost incredible neglect
was productive of the worst mischiefs.  From my childhood I had been
fond of religious disputation: my poor aunt has been often puzzled
by the mysteries which she strove to believe; nor had the elastic
spring been totally broken by the weight of the atmosphere of
Oxford.  The blind activity of idleness urged me to advance without
armour into the dangerous mazes of controversy; and at the age of
sixteen, I bewildered myself in the errors of the church of Rome.

The progress of my conversion may tend to illustrate, at least, the
history of my own mind.  It was not long since Dr. Middleton's free
inquiry had founded an alarm in the theological world: much ink and
much gall had been spilt in the defence of the primitive miracles;
and the two dullest of their champions were crowned with academic
honours by the university of Oxford.  The name of Middleton was
unpopular; and his proscription very naturally led me to peruse his
writings, and those of his antagonists.  His bold criticism, which
approaches the precipice of infidelity, produced on my mind a
singular effect; and had I persevered in the communion of Rome, I
should now apply to my own fortune the prediction of the Sibyl,

               --Via prima salutis,
          Quod minime reris, Graia, pandetur ab urbe.

The elegance of style and freedom of argument were repelled by a
shield of prejudice.  I still revered the character, or rather the
names, of the saints and fathers whom Dr. Middleton exposes; nor
could he destroy my implicit belief, that the gift of miraculous
powers was continued in the church, during the first four or five
centuries of Christianity.  But I was unable to resist the weight of
historical evidence, that within the same period most of the leading
doctrines of popery were already introduced in theory and practice:
nor was my conclusion absurd, that miracles are the test of truth,
and that the church must be orthodox and pure, which was so often
approved by the visible interposition of the Deity.  The marvellous
tales which are so boldly attested by the Basils and Chrysostoms,
the Austins and Jeroms, compelled me to embrace the superior merits
of celibacy, the institution of the monastic life, the use of the
sign of the cross, of holy oil, and even of images, the invocation
of saints, the worship of relics, the rudiments of purgatory in
prayers for the dead, and the tremendous mystery of the sacrifice of
the body and blood of Christ, which insensibly swelled into the
prodigy of transubstantiation.  In these dispositions, and already
more than half a convert, I formed an unlucky intimacy with a young
gentleman of our college, whose name I shall spare.  With a
character less resolute, Mr.--- had imbibed the same religious
opinions; and some Popish books, I know not through what channel,
were conveyed into his possession.  I read, I applauded, I believed
the English translations of two famous works of Bossuet, Bishop of
Meaux, the Exposition of the Catholic Doctrine, and the History of
the Protestant Variations, achieved my conversion, and I surely fell
by a noble hand.  I have since examined the originals with a more
discerning eye, and shall not hesitate to pronounce, that Bossuet is
indeed a master of all the weapons of controversy.  In the
Exposition, a specious apology, the orator assumes, with consummate
art, the tone of candour and simplicity; and the ten-horned monster
is transformed, at his magic touch, into the milk-white hind, who
must be loved as soon as she is seen.  In the History, a bold and
well-aimed attack, he displays, with a happy mixture of narrative
and argument, the faults and follies, the changes and contradictions
of our first reformers; whose variations (as he dexterously
contends) are the mark of historical error, while the perpetual
unity of the catholic church is the sign and test of infallible
truth.  To my present feelings it seems incredible that I should
ever believe that I believed in transubstantiation.  But my
conqueror oppressed me with the sacramental words, "Hoc est corpus
meum," and dashed against each other the figurative half-meanings of
the protestant sects: every objection was resolved into omnipotence;
and after repeating at St. Mary's the Athanasian creed, I humbly
acquiesced in the mystery of the real presence.

     "To take up half on trust, and half to try,
     Name it not faith, but bungling bigotry,
     Both knave and fool, the merchant we may call,
     To pay great sums, and to compound the small,
     For who would break with Heaven, and would not break for all?"

No sooner had I settled my new religion than I resolved to profess
myself a catholic.  Youth is sincere and impetuous; and a momentary
glow of enthusiasm had raised me above all temporal considerations.

By the keen protestants, who would gladly retaliate the example of
persecution, a clamour is raised of the increase of popery: and they
are always loud to declaim against the toleration of priests and
jesuits, who pervert so many of his majesty's subjects from their
religion and allegiance.  On the present occasion, the fall of one
or more of her sons directed this clamour against the university:
and it was confidently affirmed that popish missionaries were
suffered, under various disguises, to introduce themselves into the
colleges of Oxford.  But justice obliges me to declare, that, as far
as relates to myself, this assertion is false; and that I never
conversed with a priest, or even with a papist, till my resolution
from books was absolutely fixed.  In my last excursion to London, I
addressed myself to Mr. Lewis, a Roman catholic bookseller in
Russell-street, Covent Garden, who recommended me to a priest, of
whose name and order I am at present ignorant.  In our first
interview he soon discovered that persuasion was needless.  After
sounding the motives and merits of my conversion he consented to
admit me into the pale of the church; and at his feet on the eighth
of June 1753, I solemnly, though privately, abjured the errors of
heresy.  The seduction of an English youth of family and fortune was
an act of as much danger as glory; but he bravely overlooked the
danger, of which I was not then sufficiently informed.  "Where a
person is reconciled to the see of Rome, or procures others to be
reconciled, the offence (says Blackstone) amounts to high treason."
And if the humanity of the age would prevent the execution of this
sanguinary statute, there were other laws of a less odious cast,
which condemned the priest to perpetual imprisonment, and
transferred the proselyte's estate to his nearest relation.  An
elaborate controversial epistle, approved by my director, and
addressed to my father, announced and justified the step which I had
taken.  My father was neither a bigot nor a philosopher; but his
affection deplored the loss of an only son; and his good sense was
astonished at my strange departure from the religion of my country.
In the first sally of passion he divulged a secret which prudence
might have suppressed, and the gates of Magdalen College were for
ever shut against my return.  Many years afterwards, when the name
of Gibbon was become as notorious as that of Middleton, it was
industriously whispered at Oxford, that the historian had formerly
"turned papist;" my character stood exposed to the reproach of
inconstancy; and this invidious topic would have been handled
without mercy by my opponents, could they have separated my cause
from that of the university.  For my own part, I am proud of an
honest sacrifice of interest to conscience.  I can never blush, if
my tender mind was entangled in the sophistry that seduced the acute
and manly understandings of CHILLINGWORTH and BAYLE, who afterwards
emerged from superstition to scepticism.

While Charles the First governed England, and was himself governed
by a catholic queen, it cannot be denied that the missionaries of
Rome laboured with impunity and success in the court, the country,
and even the universities.  One of the sheep,

          --Whom the grim wolf with privy paw
          Daily devours apace, and nothing said,

is Mr. William Chillingworth, Master of Arts, and Fellow of Trinity
College, Oxford; who, at the ripe age of twenty-eight years, was
persuaded to elope from Oxford, to the English seminary at Douay in
Flanders.  Some disputes with Fisher, a subtle jesuit, might first
awaken him from the prejudices of education; but he yielded to his
own victorious argument, "that there must be somewhere an infallible
judge; and that the church of Rome is the only Christian society
which either does or can pretend to that character."  After a short
trial of a few months, Mr. Chillingworth was again tormented by
religious scruples: he returned home, resumed his studies,
unravelled his mistakes, and delivered his mind from the yoke of
authority and superstition.  His new creed was built on the
principle, that the Bible is our sole judge, and private reason our
sole interpreter: and he ably maintains this principle in the
Religion of a Protestant, a book which, after startling the doctors
of Oxford, is still esteemed the most solid defence of the
Reformation.  The learning, the virtue, the recent merits of the
author, entitled him to fair preferment: but the slave had now
broken his fetters; and the more he weighed, the less was he
disposed to subscribe to the thirty-nine articles of the church of
England.  In a private letter he declares, with all the energy of
language, that he could not subscribe to them without subscribing to
his own damnation; and that if ever he should depart from this
immoveable resolution, he would allow his friends to think him a
madman, or an atheist.  As the letter is without a date, we cannot
ascertain the number of weeks or months that elapsed between this
passionate abhorrence and the Salisbury Register, which is still
extant.  "Ego Gulielmus Chillingworth,...... omnibus hisce
articulis....... et singulis in iisdem contentis volens, et ex
animo subscribo, et consensum meum iisdem praebeo.  20 die Julii
1638."  But, alas! the chancellor and prebendary of Sarum soon
deviated from his own subscription: as he more deeply scrutinized
the article of the Trinity, neither scripture nor the primitive
fathers could long uphold his orthodox belief; and he could not but
confess, "that the doctrine of Arius is either the truth, or at
least no damnable heresy."  From this middle region of the air, the
descent of his reason would naturally rest on the firmer ground of
the Socinians: and if we may credit a doubtful story, and the
popular opinion, his anxious inquiries at last subsided in
philosophic indifference.  So conspicuous, however, were the candour
of his nature and the innocence of his heart, that this apparent
levity did not affect the reputation of Chillingworth.  His frequent
changes proceeded from too nice an inquisition into truth.  His
doubts grew out of himself; he assisted them with all the strength
of his reason: he was then too hard for himself; but finding as
little quiet and repose in those victories, he quickly recovered, by
a new appeal to his own judgment: so that in all his sallies and
retreats, he was in fact his own convert.

Bayle was the son of a Calvinist minister in a remote province of
France, at the foot of the Pyrenees.  For the benefit of education,
the protestants were tempted to risk their children in the catholic
universities; and in the twenty-second year of his age, young Bayle
was seduced by the arts and arguments of the jesuits of Toulouse.
He remained about seventeen months (Mar. 19 1669--Aug. 19 1670) in
their hands, a voluntary captive: and a letter to his parents, which
the new convert composed or subscribed (April 15 1670), is darkly
tinged with the spirit of popery.  But Nature had designed him to
think as he pleased, and to speak as he thought: his piety was
offended by the excessive worship of creatures; and the study of
physics convinced him of the impossibility of transubstantiation,
which is abundantly refuted by the testimony of our senses.  His
return to the communion of a falling sect was a bold and
disinterested step, that exposed him to the rigour of the laws; and
a speedy flight to Geneva protected him from the resentment of his
spiritual tyrants, unconscious as they were of the full value of the
prize, which they had lost.  Had Bayle adhered to the catholic
church, had he embraced the ecclesiastical profession, the genius
and favour of such a proselyte might have aspired to wealth and
honours in his native country: but the hypocrite would have found
less happiness in the comforts of a benefice, or the dignity of a
mitre, than he enjoyed at Rotterdam in a private state of exile,
indigence, and freedom.  Without a country, or a patron, or a
prejudice, he claimed the liberty and subsisted by the labours of
his pen: the inequality of his voluminous works is explained and
excused by his alternately writing for himself, for the booksellers,
and for posterity; and if a severe critic would reduce him to a
single folio, that relic, like the books of the Sibyl, would become
still more valuable.  A calm and lofty spectator of the religious
tempest, the philosopher of Rotterdam condemned with equal firmness
the persecution of Lewis the Fourteenth, and the republican maxims
of the Calvinists; their vain prophecies, and the intolerant bigotry
which sometimes vexed his solitary retreat.  In reviewing the
controversies of the times, he turned against each other the
arguments of the disputants; successively wielding the arms of the
catholics and protestants, he proves that neither the way of
authority, nor the way of examination can afford the multitude any
test of religious truth; and dexterously concludes that custom and
education must be the sole grounds of popular belief.  The ancient
paradox of Plutarch, that atheism is less pernicious than
superstition, acquires a tenfold vigor, when it is adorned with the
colours of his wit, and pointed with the acuteness of his logic.
His critical dictionary is a vast repository of facts and opinions;
and he balances the false religions in his sceptical scales, till
the opposite quantities (if I may use the language of algebra)
annihilate each other.  The wonderful power which he so boldly
exercised, of assembling doubts and objections, had tempted him
jocosely to assume the title of the {Greek expression} Zeus, the
cloud-compelling Jove; and in a conversation with the ingenious Abbe
(afterwards Cardinal) de Polignac, he freely disclosed his universal
Pyrrhonism.  "I am most truly (said Bayle) a protestant; for I
protest indifferently against all systems and all sects."

The academical resentment, which I may possibly have provoked, will
prudently spare this plain narrative of my studies, or rather of my
idleness; and of the unfortunate event which shortened the term of
my residence at Oxford.  But it may be suggested, that my father was
unlucky in the choice of a society, and the chance of a tutor. It
will perhaps be asserted, that in the lapse of forty years many
improvements have taken place in the college and in the university.
I am not unwilling to believe, that some tutors might have been
found more active than Dr. Waldgrave, and less contemptible than
Dr.****.  About the same time, and in the same walk, a Bentham was
still treading in the footsteps of a Burton, whose maxims he had
adopted, and whose life he had published.  The biographer indeed
preferred the school-logic to the new philosophy, Burgursdicius to
Locke; and the hero appears, in his own writings, a stiff and
conceited pedant.  Yet even these men, according to the measure of
their capacity, might be diligent and useful; and it is recorded of
Burton, that he taught his pupils what he knew; some Latin, some
Greek, some ethics and metaphysics; referring them to proper masters
for the languages and sciences of which he was ignorant.  At a more
recent period, many students have been attracted by the merit and
reputation of Sir William Scott, then a tutor in University College,
and now conspicuous in the profession of the civil law: my personal
acquaintance with that gentleman has inspired me with a just esteem
for his abilities and knowledge; and I am assured that his lectures
on history would compose, were they given to the public, a most
valuable treatise.  Under the auspices of the present Archbishop of
York, Dr. Markham, himself an eminent scholar, a more regular
discipline has been introduced, as I am told, at Christ Church; a
course of classical and philosophical studies is proposed, and even
pursued, in that numerous seminary: learning has been made a duty, a
pleasure, and even a fashion; and several young gentlemen do honour
to the college in which they have been educated.  According to the
will of the donor, the profit of the second part of Lord Clarendon's
History has been applied to the establishment of a riding-school,
that the polite exercises might be taught, I know not with what
success, in the university.  The Vinerian professorship is of far
more serious importance; the laws of his country are the first
science of an Englishman of rank and fortune, who is called to be a
magistrate, and may hope to be a legislator.  This judicious
institution was coldly entertained by the graver doctors, who
complained (I have heard the complaint) that it would take the young
people from their books: but Mr. Viner's benefaction is not
unprofitable, since it has at least produced the excellent
commentaries of Sir William Blackstone.

After carrying me to Putney, to the house of his friend Mr. Mallet,
by whose philosophy I was rather scandalized than reclaimed, it was
necessary for my father to form a new plan of education, and to
devise some method which, if possible, might effect the cure of my
spiritual malady.  After much debate it was determined, from the
advice and personal experience of Mr. Eliot (now Lord Eliot) to fix
me, during some years, at Lausanne in Switzerland.  Mr. Frey, a
Swiss gentleman of Basil, undertook the conduct of the journey: we
left London the 19th of June, crossed the sea from Dover to Calais,
travelled post through several provinces of France, by the direct
road of St. Quentin, Rheims, Langres, and Besancon, and arrived the
30th of June at Lausanne, where I was immediately settled under the
roof and tuition of Mr. Pavilliard, a Calvinist minister.

The first marks of my father's displeasure rather astonished than
afflicted me: when he threatened to banish, and disown, and
disinherit a rebellious son, I cherished a secret hope that he would
not be able or willing to effect his menaces; and the pride of
conscience encouraged me to sustain the honourable and important
part which I was now acting.  My spirits were raised and kept alive
by the rapid motion of my journey, the new and various scenes of the
Continent, and the civility of Mr. Frey, a man of sense, who was not
ignorant of books or the world.  But after he had resigned me into
Pavilliard's hands, and I was fixed in my new habitation, I had
leisure to contemplate the strange and melancholy prospect before
me.  My first complaint arose from my ignorance of the language.  In
my childhood I had once studied the French grammar, and I could
imperfectly understand the easy prose of a familiar subject.  But
when I was thus suddenly cast on a foreign land, I found myself
deprived of the use of speech and of hearing; and, during some
weeks, incapable not only of enjoying the pleasures of conversation,
but even of asking or answering a question in the common intercourse
of life.  To a home-bred Englishman every object, every custom was
offensive; but the native of any country might have been disgusted
with the general aspect of his lodging and entertainment.  I had now
exchanged my elegant apartment in Magdalen College, for a narrow,
gloomy street, the most unfrequented of an unhandsome town, for an
old inconvenient house, and for a small chamber ill-contrived and
ill-furnished, which, on the approach of Winter, instead of a
companionable fire, must be warmed by the dull invisible heat of a
stove.  From a man I was again degraded to the dependence of a
schoolboy.  Mr. Pavilliard managed my expences, which had been
reduced to a diminutive state: I received a small monthly allowance
for my pocket-money; and helpless and awkward as I have ever been, I
no longer enjoyed the indispensable comfort of a servant.  My
condition seemed as destitute of hope, as it was devoid of pleasure:
I was separated for an indefinite, which appeared an infinite term
from my native country; and I had lost all connexion with my
catholic friends.  I have since reflected with surprise, that as the
Romish clergy of every part of Europe maintain a close
correspondence with each other, they never attempted, by letters or
messages, to rescue me from the hands of the heretics, or at least
to confirm my zeal and constancy in the profession of the faith.
Such was my first introduction to Lausanne; a place where I spent
nearly five years with pleasure and profit, which I afterwards
revisited without compulsion, and which I have finally selected as
the most grateful retreat for the decline of my life.

But it is the peculiar felicity of youth that the most unpleasing
objects and events seldom make a deep or lasting impression; it
forgets the past, enjoys the present, and anticipates the future. At
the flexible age of sixteen I soon learned to endure, and gradually
to adopt, the new forms of arbitrary manners: the real hardships of
my situation were alienated by time.  Had I been sent abroad in a
more splendid style, such as the fortune and bounty of my father
might have supplied, I might have returned home with the same stock
of language and science, which our countrymen usually import from
the Continent. An exile and a prisoner as I was, their example
betrayed me into some irregularities of wine, of play, and of idle
excursions: but I soon felt the impossibility of associating with
them on equal terms; and after the departure of my first
acquaintance, I held a cold and civil correspondence with their
successors.  This seclusion from English society was attended with
the most solid benefits.  In the Pays de Vaud, the French language
is used with less imperfection than in most of the distant provinces
of France: in Pavilliard's family, necessity compelled me to listen
and to speak; and if I was at first disheartened by the apparent
slowness, in a few months I was astonished by the rapidity of my
progress.  My pronunciation was formed by the constant repetition of
the same sounds; the variety of words and idioms, the rules of
grammar, and distinctions of genders, were impressed in my memory
ease and freedom were obtained by practice; correctness and elegance
by labour; and before I was recalled home, French, in which I
spontaneously thought, was more familiar than English to my ear, my
tongue, and my pen.  The first effect of this opening knowledge was
the revival of my love of reading, which had been chilled at Oxford;
and I soon turned over, without much choice, almost all the French
books in my tutor's library.  Even these amusements were productive
of real advantage: my taste and judgment were now somewhat riper.  I
was introduced to a new mode of style and literature: by the
comparison of manners and opinions, my views were enlarged, my
prejudices were corrected, and a copious voluntary abstract of the
Histoire de l'Eglise et de l'Empire, by le Sueur, may be placed in a
middle line between my childish and my manly studies.  As soon as I
was able to converse with the natives, I began to feel some
satisfaction in their company my awkward timidity was polished and
emboldened; and I frequented, for the first time, assemblies of men
and women.  The acquaintance of the Pavilliards prepared me by
degrees for more elegant society. I was received with kindness and
indulgence in the best families of Lausanne; and it was in one of
these that I formed an intimate and lasting connection with Mr.
Deyverdun, a young man of an amiable temper and excellent
understanding.  In the arts of fencing and dancing, small indeed was
my proficiency; and some months were idly wasted in the
riding-school.  My unfitness to bodily exercise reconciled me to a
sedentary life, and the horse, the favourite of my countrymen, never
contributed to the pleasures of my youth.

My obligations to the lessons of Mr. Pavilliard, gratitude will not
suffer me to forget: he was endowed with a clear head and a warm
heart; his innate benevolence had assuaged the spirit of the church;
he was rational, because he was moderate: in the course of his
studies he had acquired a just though superficial knowledge of most
branches of literature; by long practice, he was skilled in the arts
of teaching; and he laboured with assiduous patience to know the
character, gain the affection, and open the mind of his English
pupil.  As soon as we began to understand each other, he gently led
me, from a blind and undistinguishing love of reading, into the path
of instruction.  I consented with pleasure that a portion of the
morning hours should be consecrated to a plan of modern history and
geography, and to the critical perusal of the French and Latin
classics; and at each step I felt myself invigorated by the habits
of application and method.  His prudence repressed and dissembled
some youthful sallies; and as soon as I was confirmed in the habits
of industry and temperance, he gave the reins into my own hands.
His favourable report of my behaviour and progress gradually
obtained some latitude of action and expence; and he wished to
alleviate the hardships of my lodging and entertainment.  The
principles of philosophy were associated with the examples of taste;
and by a singular chance, the book, as well as the man, which
contributed the most effectually to my education, has a stronger
claim on my gratitude than on my admiration.  Mr. De Crousaz, the
adversary of Bayle and Pope, is not distinguished by lively fancy or
profound reflection; and even in his own country, at the end of a
few years, his name and writings are almost obliterated.  But his
philosophy had been formed in the school of Locke, his divinity in
that of Limborch and Le Clerc; in a long and laborious life, several
generations of pupils were taught to think, and even to write; his
lessons rescued the academy of Lausanne from Calvinistic prejudice;
and he had the rare merit of diffusing a more liberal spirit among
the clergy and people of the Pays de Vaud.  His system of logic,
which in the last editions has swelled to six tedious and prolix
volumes, may be praised as a clear and methodical abridgment of the
art of reasoning, from our simple ideas to the most complex
operations of the human understanding.  This system I studied, and
meditated, and abstracted, till I have obtained the free command of
an universal instrument, which I soon presumed to exercise on my
catholic opinions.  Pavilliard was not unmindful that his first
task, his most important duty, was to reclaim me from the errors of
popery.  The intermixture of sects has rendered the Swiss clergy
acute and learned on the topics of controversy; and I have some of
his letters in which he celebrates the dexterity of his attack, and
my gradual concessions after a firm and well-managed defence.  I was
willing, and I am now willing, to allow him a handsome share of the
honour of my conversion: yet I must observe, that it was principally
effected by my private reflections; and I still remember my solitary
transport at the discovery of a philosophical argument against the
doctrine of transubstantiation: that the text of scripture, which
seems to inculcate the real presence, is attested only by a single
sense--our sight; while the real presence itself is disproved
by three of our senses--the sight, the touch, and the taste.  The
various articles of the Romish creed disappeared like a dream; and
after a full conviction, on Christmas-day, 1754, I received the
sacrament in the church of Lausanne.  It was here that I suspended
my religious inquiries, acquiescing with implicit belief in the
tenets and mysteries, which are adopted by the general consent of
catholics and protestants.

Such, from my arrival at Lausanne, during the first eighteen or
twenty months (July 1753--March 1755), were my useful studies, the
foundation of all my future improvements.  But every man who rises
above the common level has received two educations: the first from
his teachers; the second, more personal and important, from himself.
He will not, like the fanatics of the last age, define the moment of
grace; but he cannot forget the aera of his life, in which his mind
has expanded to its proper form and dimensions.  My worthy tutor had
the good sense and modesty to discern how far he could be useful: as
soon as he felt that I advanced beyond his speed and measure, he
wisely left me to my genius; and the hours of lesson were soon lost
in the voluntary labour of the whole morning, and sometimes of the
whole day.  The desire of prolonging my time, gradually confirmed
the salutary habit of early rising, to which I have always adhered,
with some regard to seasons and situations; but it is happy for my
eyes and my health, that my temperate ardour has never been seduced
to trespass on the hours of the night.  During the last three years
of my residence at Lausanne, I may assume the merit of serious and
solid application; but I am tempted to distinguish the last eight
months of the year 1755, as the period of the most extraordinary
diligence and rapid progress.  In my French and Latin translations I
adopted an excellent method, which, from my own success, I would
recommend to the imitation of students.  I chose some classic
writer, such as Cicero and Vertot, the most approved for purity and
elegance of style.  I translated, for instance, an epistle of Cicero
into French; and after throwing it aside, till the words and phrases
were obliterated from my memory, I re-translated my French into such
Latin as I could find; and then compared each sentence of my
imperfect version, with the ease, the grace, the propriety of the
Roman orator.  A similar experiment was made on several pages of the
Revolutions of Vertot; I turned them into Latin, returned them after
a sufficient interval into my own French, and again scrutinized the
resemblance or dissimilitude of the copy and the original.  By
degrees I was less ashamed, by degrees I was more satisfied with
myself; and I persevered in the practice of these double
translations, which filled several books, till I had acquired the
knowledge or both idioms, and the command at least of a correct
style.  This useful exercise of writing was accompanied and
succeeded by the more pleasing occupation of reading the best
authors.  The perusal of the Roman classics was at once my exercise
and reward.  Dr. Middleton's History, which I then appreciated above
its true value, naturally directed the to the writings of Cicero.
The most perfect editions, that of Olivet, which may adorn the
shelves of the rich, that of Ernesti, which should lie on the table
of the learned, were not in my power.  For the familiar epistles I
used the text and English commentary of Bishop Ross: but my general
edition was that of Verburgius, published at Amsterdam in two large
volumes in folio, with an indifferent choice of various notes.  I
read, with application and pleasure, all the epistles, all the
orations, and the most important treatises of rhetoric and
philosophy; and as I read, I applauded the observation of
Quintilian, that every student may judge of his own proficiency, by
the satisfaction which he receives from the Roman orator.  I tasted
the beauties of language, I breathed the spirit of freedom, and I
imbibed from his precepts and examples the public and private sense
of a man.  Cicero in Latin, and Xenophon in Greek, are indeed the
two ancients whom I would first propose to a liberal scholar; not
only for the merit of their style and sentiments, but for the
admirable lessons, which may be applied almost to every situation of
public and private life.  Cicero's Epistles may in particular afford
the models of every form of correspondence, from the careless
effusions of tenderness and friendship, to the well guarded
declaration of discreet and dignified resentment.  After finishing
this great author, a library of eloquence and reason, I formed a
more extensive plan of reviewing the Latin classics, under the four
divisions of, 1. historians, 2. Poets, 3. orators, and 4.
philosophers, in a chronological series, from the days of Plautus
and Sallust, to the decline of the language and empire of Rome: and
this plan, in the last twenty-seven months of my residence at
Lausanne (Jan. 1756--April 1758), I nearly accomplished.  Nor was
this review, however rapid, either hasty or superficial.  I indulged
myself in a second and even a third perusal of Terence, Virgil,
Horace, Tacitus, &c.; and studied to imbibe the sense and spirit
most congenial to my own.  I never suffered a difficult or corrupt
passage to escape, till I had viewed it in every light of which it
was susceptible: though often disappointed, I always consulted the
most learned or ingenious commentators, Torrentius and Dacier on
Horace, Catrou and Servius on Virgil, Lipsius on Tacitus, Meziriac
on Ovid, &c.; and in the ardour of my inquiries, I embraced a large
circle of historical and critical erudition.  My abstracts of each
book were made in the French language: my observations often
branched into particular essays; and I can still read, without
contempt, a dissertation of eight folio pages on eight lines
(287-294) of the fourth Georgic of Virgil.  Mr. Deyverdun, my
friend, whose name will be frequently repeated, had joined with
equal zeal, though not with equal perseverance, in the same
undertaking.  To him every thought, every composition, was instantly
communicated; with him I enjoyed the benefits of a free conversation
on the topics of our common studies.

But it is scarcely possible for a mind endowed with any active
curiosity to be long conversant with the Latin classics, without
aspiring to know the Greek originals, whom they celebrate as their
masters, and of whom they so warmly recommend the study and

          --Vos exemplaria Graeca
          Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.

It was now that I regretted the early years which had been wasted in
sickness or idleness, or mere idle reading; that I condemned the
perverse method of our schoolmasters, who, by first teaching the
mother-language, might descend with so much ease and perspicuity to
the origin and etymology of a derivative idiom.  In the nineteenth
year of my age I determined to supply this defect; and the lessons
of Pavilliard again contributed to smooth the entrance of the way,
the Greek alphabet, the grammar, and the pronunciation according to
the French accent.  At my earnest request we presumed to open the
Iliad; and I had the pleasure of beholding, though darkly and
through a glass, the true image of Homer, whom I had long since
admired in an English dress.  After my tutor had left me to myself,
I worked my way through about half the Iliad, and afterwards
interpreted alone a large portion of Xenophon and Herodotus.  But my
ardour, destitute of aid and emulation, was gradually cooled, and,
from the barren task of searching words in a lexicon, I withdrew to
the free and familiar conversation of Virgil and Tacitus.  Yet in my
residence at Lausanne I had laid a solid foundation, which enabled
me, in a more propitious season, to prosecute the study of Grecian

From a blind idea of the usefulness of such abstract science, my
father had been desirous, and even pressing, that I should devote
some time to the mathematics; nor could I refuse to comply with so
reasonable a wish.  During two winters I attended the private
lectures of Monsieur de Traytorrens, who explained the elements of
algebra and geometry, as far as the conic sections of the Marquis de
l'Hopital, and appeared satisfied with my diligence and improvement.
But as my childish propensity for numbers and calculations was
totally extinct, I was content to receive the passive impression of
my Professor's lectures, without any active exercise of my own
powers. As soon as I understood the principles, I relinquished for
ever the pursuit of the mathematics; nor can I lament that I
desisted, before my mind was hardened by the habit of rigid
demonstration, so destructive of the finer feelings of moral
evidence, which must, however, determine the actions and opinions of
our lives.  I listened with more pleasure to the proposal of
studying the law of nature and nations, which was taught in the
academy of Lausanne by Mr. Vicat, a professor of some learning and
reputation.  But instead of attending his public or private course,
I preferred in my closet the lessons of his masters, and my own
reason. Without being disgusted by Grotius or Puffendorf, I studied
in their writings the duties of a man, the rights of a citizen, the
theory of justice (it is, alas! a theory), and the laws of peace and
war, which have had some influence on the practice of modern Europe.
My fatigues were alleviated by the good sense of their commentator
Barbeyrac.  Locke's Treatise of Government instructed me in the
knowledge of Whig principles, which are rather founded in reason
than experience; but my delight was in the frequent perusal of
Montesquieu, whose energy of style, and boldness of hypothesis, were
powerful to awaken and stimulate the genius of the age.  The logic
of De Crousaz had prepared me to engage with his master Locke and
his antagonist Bayle; of whom the former may be used as a bridle,
and the latter applied as a spur, to the curiosity of a young
philosopher.  According to the nature of their respective works, the
schools of argument and objection, I carefully went through the
Essay on Human Understanding, and occasionally consulted the most
interesting articles of the Philosophic Dictionary.  In the infancy
of my reason I turned over, as an idle amusement, the most serious
and important treatise: in its maturity, the most trifling
performance could exercise my taste or judgment, and more than once
I have been led by a novel into a deep and instructive train of
thinking.  But I cannot forbear to mention three particular books,
since they may have remotely contributed to form the historian of
the Roman empire.  1. From the Provincial Letters of Pascal, which
almost every year I have perused with new pleasure, I learned to
manage the weapon of grave and temperate irony, even on subjects of
ecclesiastical solemnity.  2. The Life of Julian, by the Abbe de la
Bleterie, first introduced me to the man and the times; and I should
be glad to recover my first essay on the truth of the miracle which
stopped the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem.  3. In Giannone's
Civil History of Naples I observed with a critical eye the progress
and abuse of sacerdotal power, and the revolutions of Italy in the
darker ages.  This various reading, which I now conducted with
discretion, was digested, according to the precept and model of Mr.
Locke, into a large common-place book; a practice, however, which I
do not strenuously recommend.  The action of the pen will doubtless
imprint an idea on the mind as well as on the paper: but I much
question whether the benefits of this laborious method are adequate
to the waste of time; and I must agree with Dr. Johnson, (Idler, No.
74.) "that what is twice read, is commonly better remembered, than
what is transcribed."

During two years, if I forget some boyish excursions of a day or a
week, I was fixed at Lausanne; but at the end of the third summer,
my father consented that I should make the tour of Switzerland with
Pavilliard: and our short absence of one month (Sept. 21st--Oct.
20th, 1755) was a reward and relaxation of my assiduous studies.
The fashion of climbing the mountains and reviewing the Glaciers,
had not yet been introduced by foreign travellers, who seek the
sublime beauties of nature.  But the political face of the country
is not less diversified by the forms and spirit of so many various
republics, from the jealous government of the few to the licentious
freedom of the many.  I contemplated with pleasure the new prospects
of men and manners; though my conversation with the natives would
have been more free and instructive, had I possessed the German, as
well as the French language.  We passed through most of the
principal towns of Switzerland; Neufchatel, Bienne, Soleurre, Arau,
Baden, Zurich, Basil, and Berne.  In every place we visited the
churches, arsenals, libraries, and all the most eminent persons; and
after my return, I digested my notes in fourteen or fifteen sheets
of a French journal, which I dispatched to my father, as a proof
that my time and his money had not been mis-spent.  Had I found this
journal among his papers, I might be tempted to select some
passages; but I will not transcribe the printed accounts, and it may
be sufficient to notice a remarkable spot, which left a deep and
lasting impression on my memory.  From Zurich we proceeded to the
Benedictine Abbey of Einfidlen, snore commonly styled Our Lady of
the Hermits.  I was astonished by the profuse ostentation of riches
in the poorest corner of Europe; amidst a savage scene of woods and
mountains, a palace appears to have been erected by magic; and it
was erected by the potent magic of religion.  A crowd of palmers and
votaries was prostrate before the altar.  The title and worship of
the Mother of God provoked my indignation; and the lively naked
image of superstition suggested to me, as in the same place it had
done to Zuinglius, the most pressing argument for the reformation of
the church.  About two years after this tour, I passed at Geneva a
useful and agreeable month; but this excursion, and short visits in
the Pays de Vaud, did not materially interrupt my studious and
sedentary life at Lausanne.

My thirst of improvement, and the languid state of science at
Lausanne, soon prompted me to solicit a literary correspondence with
several men of learning, whom I had not an opportunity of personally
consulting.  1. In the perusal of Livy, (xxx. 44,) I had been
stopped by a sentence in a speech of Hannibal, which cannot be
reconciled by any torture with his character or argument.  The
commentators dissemble, or confess their perplexity.  It occurred to
me, that the change of a single letter, by substituting otio instead
of odio, might restore a clear and consistent sense; but I wished to
weigh my emendation in scales less partial than my own.  I addressed
myself to M. Crevier, the successor of Rollin, and a professor in
the university of Paris, who had published a large and valuable
edition of Livy.  His answer was speedy and polite; he praised my
ingenuity, and adopted my conjecture.  2. I maintained a Latin
correspondence, at first anonymous, and afterwards in my own name,
with Professor Breitinger of Zurich, the learned editor of a
Septuagint Bible.  In our frequent letters we discussed many
questions of antiquity, many passages of the Latin classics.  I
proposed my interpretations and amendments.  His censures, for he
did not spare my boldness of conjecture, were sharp and strong; and
I was encouraged by the consciousness of my strength, when I could
stand in free debate against a critic of such eminence and
erudition.  3. I corresponded on similar topics with the celebrated
Professor Matthew Gesner, of the university of Gottingen; and he
accepted, as courteously as the two former, the invitation of an
unknown youth.  But his abilities might possibly be decayed; his
elaborate letters were feeble and prolix; and when I asked his
proper direction, the vain old man covered half a sheet of paper
with the foolish enumeration of his titles and offices.  4. These
Professors of Paris, Zurich, and Gottingen, were strangers, whom I
presumed to address on the credit of their name; but Mr. Allamand,
Minister at Bex, was my personal friend, with whom I maintained a
more free and interesting correspondence.  He was a master of
language, of science, and, above all, of dispute; and his acute and
flexible logic could support, with equal address, and perhaps with
equal indifference, the adverse sides of every possible question.
His spirit was active, but his pen had been indolent.  Mr. Allamand
had exposed himself to much scandal and reproach, by an anonymous
letter (1745) to the Protestants of France; in which he labours to
persuade them that public worship is the exclusive right and duty of
the state, and that their numerous assemblies of dissenters and
rebels were not authorized by the law or the gospel.  His style is
animated, his arguments specious; and if the papist may seem to lurk
under the mask of a protestant, the philosopher is concealed under
the disguise of a papist.  After some trials in France and Holland,
which were defeated by his fortune or his character, a genius that
might have enlightened or deluded the world, was buried in a country
living, unknown to fame, and discontented with mankind.  Est
sacrificulus in pago, et rusticos decipit.  As often as private or
ecclesiastical business called him to Lausanne, I enjoyed the
pleasure and benefit of his conversation, and we were mutually
flattered by our attention to each other.  Our correspondence, in
his absence, chiefly turned on Locke's metaphysics, which he
attacked, and I defended; the origin of ideas, the principles of
evidence, and the doctrine of liberty;

          And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.

By fencing with so skilful a master, I acquired some dexterity in
the use of my philosophic weapons; but I was still the slave of
education and prejudice.  He had some measures to keep; and I much
suspect that he never showed me the true colours of his secret

Before I was recalled from Switzerland, I had the satisfaction of
seeing the most extraordinary man of the age; a poet, an historian,
a philosopher, who has filled thirty quartos, of prose and verse,
with his various productions, often excellent, and always
entertaining.  Need I add the name of Voltaire? After forfeiting, by
his own misconduct, the friendship of the first of kings, he
retired, at the age of sixty, with a plentiful fortune, to a free
and beautiful country, and resided two winters (1757 and 1758) in
the town or neighbourhood of Lausanne.  My desire of beholding
Voltaire, whom I then rated above his real magnitude, was easily
gratified.  He received me with civility as an English youth; but I
cannot boast of any peculiar notice or distinction, Virgilium vidi

The ode which he composed on his first arrival on the banks of the
Leman Lake, O Maison d'Aristippe! O Jardin d'Epicure, &c. had been
imparted as a secret to the gentleman by whom I was introduced.  He
allowed me to read it twice; I knew it by heart; and as my
discretion was not equal to my memory, the author was soon
displeased by the circulation of a copy.  In writing this trivial
anecdote, I wished to observe whether my memory was impaired, and I
have the comfort of finding that every line of the poem is still
engraved in fresh and indelible characters.  The highest
gratification which I derived from Voltaire's residence at Lausanne,
was the uncommon circumstance of hearing a great poet declaim his
own productions on the stage.  He had formed a company of gentlemen
and ladies, some of whom were not destitute of talents.  A decent
theatre was framed at Monrepos, a country-house at the end of a
suburb; dresses and scenes were provided at the expense of the
actors; and the author directed the rehearsals with the zeal and
attention of paternal love.  In two successive winters his tragedies
of Zayre, Alzire, Zulime, and his sentimental comedy of the Enfant
Prodigue, were played at the theatre of Monrepos.  Voltaire
represented the characters best adapted to his years, Lusignan,
Alvarez, Benassar, Euphemon.  His declamation was fashioned to the
pomp and cadence of the old stage; and he expressed the enthusiasm
of poetry, rather than the feelings of nature.  My ardour, which
soon became conspicuous, seldom failed of procuring me a ticket.
The habits of pleasure fortified my taste for the French theatre,
and that taste has perhaps abated my idolatry for the gigantic
genius of Shakespeare, which is inculcated from our infancy as the
first duty of an Englishman.  The wit and philosophy of Voltaire,
his table and theatre, refined, in a visible degree, the manners of
Lausanne; and, however addicted to study, I enjoyed my share of the
amusements of society.  After the representation of Monrepos I
sometimes supped with the actors.  I was now familiar in some, and
acquainted in many houses; and my evenings were generally devoted to
cards and conversation, either in private parties or numerous

I hesitate, from the apprehension of ridicule, when I approach the
delicate subject of my early love.  By this word I do not mean the
polite attention, the gallantry, without hope or design, which has
originated in the spirit of chivalry, and is interwoven with the
texture of French manners.  I understand by this passion the union
of desire, friendship, and tenderness, which is inflamed by a single
female, which prefers her to the rest of her sex, and which seeks
her possession as the supreme or the sole happiness of our being.  I
need not blush at recollecting the object of my choice; and though
my love was disappointed of success, I am rather proud that I was
once capable of feeling such a pure and exalted sentiment.  The
personal attractions of Mademoiselle Susan Curchod were embellished
by the virtues and talents of the mind.  Her fortune was humble, but
her family was respectable.  Her mother, a native of France, had
preferred her religion to her country.  The profession of her father
did not extinguish the moderation and philosophy of his temper, and
he lived content with a small salary and laborious duty, in the
obscure lot of minister of Crassy, in the mountains that separate
the Pays de Vaud from the county of Burgundy.  In the solitude of a
sequestered village he bestowed a liberal, and even learned,
education on his only daughter.  She surpassed his hopes by her
proficiency in the sciences and languages; and in her short visits
to some relations at Lausanne, the wit, the beauty, and erudition of
Mademoiselle Curchod were the theme of universal applause.  The
report of such a prodigy awakened my curiosity; I saw and loved.  I
found her learned without pedantry, lively in conversation, pure in
sentiment, and elegant in manners; and the first sudden emotion was
fortified by the habits and knowledge of a more familiar
acquaintance.  She permitted me to make her two or three visits at
her father's house.  I passed some happy days there, in the
mountains of Burgundy, and her parents honourably encouraged the
connection.  In a calm retirement the gay vanity of youth no longer
fluttered in her bosom; she listened to the voice of truth and
passion, and I might presume to hope that I had made some impression
on a virtuous heart.  At Crassy and Lausanne I indulged my dream of
felicity: but on my return to England, I soon discovered that my
father would not hear of this strange alliance, and that without his
consent I was myself destitute and helpless.  After a painful
struggle I yielded to my fate: I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a
son; my wound was insensibly healed by time, absence, and the habits
of a new life.  My cure was accelerated by a faithful report of the
tranquillity and cheerfulness of the lady herself, and my love
subsided in friendship and esteem.  The minister of Crassy soon
afterwards died; his stipend died with him: his daughter retired to
Geneva, where, by teaching young ladies, she earned a hard
subsistence for herself and her mother; but in her lowest distress
she maintained a spotless reputation, and a dignified behaviour.  A
rich banker of Paris, a citizen of Geneva, had the good fortune and
good sense to discover and possess this inestimable treasure; and in
the capital of taste and luxury she resisted the temptations of
wealth, as she had sustained the hardships of indigence.  The genius
of her husband has exalted him to the most conspicuous station in
Europe.  In every change of prosperity and disgrace he has reclined
on the bosom of a faithful friend; and Mademoiselle Curchod is now
the wife of M. Necker, the minister, and perhaps the legislator, of
the French monarchy.

Whatsoever have been the fruits of my education, they must be
ascribed to the fortunate banishment which placed me at Lausanne.  I
have sometimes applied to my own fate the verses of Pindar, which
remind an Olympic champion that his victory was the consequence of
his exile; and that at home, like a domestic fowl, his days might
have rolled away inactive or inglorious.
[Greek omitted]

          Thus, like the crested bird of Mars, at home
               Engag'd in foul domestic jars,
               And wasted with intestine wars,
          Inglorious hadst thou spent thy vig'rous bloom;
               Had not sedition's civil broils
               Expell'd thee from thy native Crete,
               And driv'n thee with more glorious toils
          Th' Olympic crown in Pisa's plain to meet.
                         West's Pindar.

If my childish revolt against the religion of my country had not
stripped me in time of my academic gown, the five important years,
so liberally improved in the studies and conversation of Lausanne,
would have been steeped in port and prejudice among the monks of
Oxford.  Had the fatigue of idleness compelled me to read, the path
of learning would not have been enlightened by a ray of philosophic
freedom.  I should have grown to manhood ignorant of the life and
language of Europe, and my knowledge of the world would have been
confined to an English cloister.  But my religious error fixed me at
Lausanne, in a state of banishment and disgrace.  The rigid course
of discipline and abstinence, to which I was condemned, invigorated
the constitution of my mind and body; poverty and pride estranged me
from my countrymen.  One mischief, however, and in their eyes a
serious and irreparable mischief, was derived from the success of my
Swiss education; I had ceased to be an Englishman.  At the flexible
period of youth, from the age of sixteen to twenty-one, my opinions,
habits, and sentiments were cast in a foreign mould; the faint and
distant remembrance of England was almost obliterated; my native
language was grown less familiar; and I should have cheerfully
accepted the offer of a moderate independence on the terms of
perpetual exile.  By the good sense and temper of Pavilliard my yoke
was insensibly lightened: he left me master of my time and actions;
but he could neither change my situation, nor increase my allowance,
and with the progress of my years and reason I impatiently sighed
for the moment of my deliverance.  At length, in the spring of the
year 1758, my father signified his permission and his pleasure that
I should immediately return home.  We were then in the midst of a
war: the resentment of the French at our taking their ships without
a declaration, had rendered that polite nation somewhat peevish and
difficult.  They denied a passage to English travellers, and the
road through Germany was circuitous, toilsome, and perhaps in the
neighbourhood of the armies, exposed to some danger.  In this
perplexity, two Swiss officers of my acquaintance in the Dutch
service, who were returning to their garrisons, offered to conduct
me through France as one of their companions; nor did we
sufficiently reflect that my borrowed name and regimentals might
have been considered, in case of a discovery, in a very serious
light.  I took my leave of Lausanne on April 11 1758, with a mixture
of joy and regret, in the firm resolution revisiting, as a man, the
persons and places which had been so dear to my youth.  We travelled
slowly, but pleasantly, in a hired coach, over the hills of
Franche-compte and the fertile province of Lorraine, and passed,
without accident or inquiry, through several fortified towns of the
French frontier: from thence we entered the wild Ardennes of the
Austrian dutchy of Luxemburg; and after crossing the Meuse at Liege,
we traversed the heaths of Brabant, and reached, on April 26, our
Dutch garrison of Bois le Duc.  In our passage through Nancy, my eye
was gratified by the aspect of a regular and beautiful city, the
work of Stanislaus, who, after the storms of Polish royalty, reposed
in the love and gratitude of his new subjects of Lorraine.  In our
halt at Maestricht I visited Mr. de Beaufort, a learned critic, who
was known to me by his specious arguments against the five first
centuries of the Roman History.  After dropping my regimental
companions, I stepped aside to visit Rotterdam and the Hague.  I
wished to have observed a country, the monument of freedom and
industry; but my days were numbered, and a longer delay would have
been ungraceful.  I hastened to embark at the Brill, landed the next
day at Harwich, and proceeded to London, where my father awaited my
arrival.  The whole term of my first absence from England was four
years ten months and fifteen days.

In the prayers of the church our personal concerns are judiciously
reduced to the threefold distinction of mind, body, and estate.  The
sentiments of the mind excite and exercise our social sympathy.  The
review of my moral and literary character is the most interesting to
myself and to the public; and I may expatiate, without reproach, on
my private studies; since they have produced the public writings,
which can alone entitle me to the esteem and friendship of my
readers.  The experience of the world inculcates a discreet reserve
on the subject of our person and estate, and we soon learn that a
free disclosure of our riches or poverty would provoke the malice of
envy, or encourage the insolence of contempt.

The only person in England whom I was impatient to see was my aunt
Porten, the affectionate guardian of my tender years.  I hastened to
her house in College-street, Westminster; and the evening was spent
in the effusions of joy and confidence.  It was not without some awe
and apprehension that I approached the presence of my father.  My
infancy, to speak the truth, had been neglected at home; the
severity of his look and language at our last parting still dwelt on
my memory; nor could I form any notion of his character, or my
probable reception.  They were both more agreeable than I could
expect.  The domestic discipline of our ancestors has been relaxed
by the philosophy and softness of the age; and if my father
remembered that he had trembled before a stern parent, it was only
to adopt with his own son an opposite mode of behaviour.  He
received me as a man and a friend; all constraint was banished at
our first interview, and we ever afterwards continued on the same
terms of easy and equal politeness. He applauded the success of my
education; every word and action was expressive of the most cordial
affection; and our lives would have passed without a cloud, if his
oeconomy had been equal to his fortune, or if his fortune had been
equal to his desires.  During my absence he had married his second
wife, Miss Dorothea Patton, who was introduced to me with the most
unfavourable prejudice.  I considered his second marriage as an act
of displeasure, and I was disposed to hate the rival of my mother.
But the injustice was in my own fancy, and the imaginary monster was
an amiable and deserving woman.  I could not be mistaken in the
first view of her understanding, her knowledge, and the elegant
spirit of her conversation: her polite welcome, and her assiduous
care to study and gratify my wishes, announced at least that the
surface would be smooth; and my suspicions of art and falsehood were
gradually dispelled by the full discovery of her warm and exquisite
sensibility. After some reserve on my side, our minds associated in
confidence and friendship; and as Mrs. Gibbon had neither children
nor the hopes of children, we more easily adopted the tender names
and genuine characters of mother and of son.  By the indulgence of
these parents, I was left at liberty to consult my taste or reason
in the choice of place, of company, and of amusements; and my
excursions were bounded only by the limits of the island, and the
measure of my income.  Some faint efforts were made to procure me
the employment of secretary to a foreign embassy; and I listened to
a scheme which would again have transported me to the continent.
Mrs. Gibbon, with seeming wisdom, exhorted me to take chambers in
the Temple, and devote my leisure to the study of the law.  I cannot
repent of having neglected her advice.  Few men, without the spur of
necessity, have resolution to force their way, through the thorns
and thickets of that gloomy labyrinth.  Nature had not endowed me
with the bold and ready eloquence which makes itself heard amidst
the tumult of the bar; and I should probably have been diverted from
the labours of literature, without acquiring the fame or fortune of
a successful pleader.  I had no need to call to my aid the regular
duties of a profession; every day, every hour, was agreeably filled;
nor have I known, like so many of my countrymen, the tediousness of
an idle life.

Of the two years (May 1758-May 1760,) between my return to England
and the embodying of the Hampshire militia, I passed about nine
months in London, and the remainder in the country.  The metropolis
affords many amusements, which are open to all.  It is itself an
astonishing and perpetual spectacle to the curious eye; and each
taste, each sense may be gratified by the variety of objects which
will occur in the long circuit of a morning walk.  I assiduously
frequented the theatres at a very propitious aera of the stage, when
a constellation of excellent actors, both in tragedy and comedy, was
eclipsed by the meridian brightness of Garrick in the maturity of
his judgment, and vigour of his performance.  The pleasures of a
town-life are within the reach of every man who is regardless of his
health, his money, and his company.  By the contagion of example I
was sometimes seduced; but the better habits, which I had formed at
Lausanne, induced me to seek a more elegant and rational society;
and if my search was less easy and successful than I might have
hoped, I shall at present impute the failure to the disadvantages of
my situation and character.  Had the rank and fortune of my parents
given them an annual establishment in London, their own house would
have introduced me to a numerous and polite circle of acquaintance.
But my father's taste had always preferred the highest and the
lowest company, for which he was equally qualified; and after a
twelve years' retirement, he was no longer in the memory of the
great with whom he had associated.  I found myself a stranger in the
midst of a vast and unknown city; and at my entrance into life I was
reduced to some dull family parties, and some scattered connections,
which were not such as I should have chosen for myself.  The most
useful friends of my father were the Mallets: they received me with
civility and kindness at first on his account, and afterwards on my
own; and (if I may use Lord Chesterfield's words) I was soon
domesticated in their house.  Mr. Mallet, a name among the English
poets, is praised by an unforgiving enemy, for the ease and elegance
of his conversation, and his wife was not destitute of wit or
learning.  By his assistance I was introduced to Lady Hervey, the
mother of the present earl of Bristol.  Her age and infirmities
confined her at home; her dinners were select; in the evening her
house was open to the best company of both sexes and all nations;
nor was I displeased at her preference and affectation of the
manners, the language, and the literature of France.  But my
progress in the English world was in general left to my own efforts,
and those efforts were languid and slow.  I had not been endowed by
art or nature with those happy gifts of confidence and address,
which unlock every door and every bosom; nor would it be reasonable
to complain of the just consequences of my sickly childhood, foreign
education, and reserved temper.  While coaches were rattling through
Bond-street, I have passed many a solitary evening in my lodging
with my books.  My studies were sometimes interrupted by a sigh,
which I breathed towards Lausanne; and on the approach of Spring, I
withdrew without reluctance from the noisy and extensive scene of
crowds without company, and dissipation without pleasure.  In each
of the twenty-five years of my acquaintance with London (1758-1783)
the prospect gradually brightened; and this unfavourable picture
most properly belongs to the first period after my return from

My father's residence in Hampshire, where I have passed many light,
and some heavy hours, was at Beriton, near Petersfield, one mile
from the Portsmouth road, and at the easy distance of fifty-eight
miles from London.  An old mansion, in a state of decay, had been
converted into the fashion and convenience of a modern house: and if
strangers had nothing to see, the inhabitants had little to desire.
The spot was not happily chosen, at the end of the village and the
bottom of the hill: but the aspect of the adjacent grounds was
various and cheerful; the downs commanded a noble prospect, and the
long hanging woods in sight of the house could not perhaps have been
improved by art or expence.  My father kept in his own hands the
whole of the estate, and even rented some additional land; and
whatsoever might be the balance of profit and loss, the farm
supplied him with amusement and plenty.  The produce maintained a
number of men and horses, which were multiplied by the intermixture
of domestic and rural servants; and in the intervals of labour the
favourite team, a handsome set of bays or greys, was harnessed to
the coach.  The oeconomy of the house was regulated by the taste and
prudence of Mrs. Gibbon.  She prided herself in the elegance of her
occasional dinners; and from the uncleanly avarice of Madame
Pavilliard, I was suddenly transported to the daily neatness and
luxury of an English table.  Our immediate neighbourhood was rare
and rustic; but from the verge of our hills, as far as Chichester
and Goodwood, the western district of Sussex was interspersed with
noble seats and hospitable families, with whom we cultivated a
friendly, and might have enjoyed a very frequent, intercourse.  As
my stay at Buriton was always voluntary, I was received and
dismissed with smiles; but the comforts of my retirement did not
depend on the ordinary pleasures of the country.  My father could
never inspire me with his love and knowledge of farming.  I never
handled a gun, I seldom mounted an horse; and my philosophic walks
were soon terminated by a shady bench, where I was long detained by
the sedentary amusement of reading or meditation.  At home I
occupied a pleasant and spacious apartment; the library on the same
floor was soon considered as my peculiar domain; and I might say
with truth, that I was never less alone than when by myself.  My
sole complaint, which I piously suppressed, arose from the kind
restraint imposed on the freedom of my time.  By the habit of early
rising I always secured a sacred portion of the day, and many
scattered moments were stolen and employed by my studious industry.
But the family hours of breakfast, of dinner, of tea, and of supper,
were regular and long: after breakfast Mrs. Gibbon expected my
company in her dressing-room; after tea my father claimed my
conversation and the perusal of the newspapers; and in the midst of
an interesting work I was often called down to receive the visit of
some idle neighbours.  Their dinners and visits required, in due
season, a similar return; and I dreaded the period of the full moon,
which was usually reserved for our more distant excursions.  I could
not refuse attending my father, in the summer of 1759, to the races
at Stockbridge, Reading, and Odiam, where he had entered a horse for
the hunter's plate; and I was not displeased with the sight of our
Olympic games, the beauty of the spot, the fleetness of the horses,
and the gay tumult of the numerous spectators.  As soon as the
militia business was agitated, many days were tediously consumed in
meetings of deputy-lieutenants at Petersfield, Alton, and
Winchester.  In the close of the same year, 1759, Sir Simeon (then
Mr.) Stewart attempted an unsuccessful contest for the county of
Southampton, against Mr. Legge, Chancellor of the Exchequer: a
well-known contest, in which Lord Bute's influence was first exerted
and censured.  Our canvas at Portsmouth and Gosport lasted several
days; but the interruption of my studies was compensated in some
degree by the spectacle of English manners, and the acquisition of
some practical knowledge.

If in a more domestic or more dissipated scene my application was
somewhat relaxed, the love of knowledge was inflamed and gratified
by the command of books; and I compared the poverty of Lausanne with
the plenty of London.  My father's study at Buriton was stuffed with
much trash of the last age, with much high church divinity and
politics, which have long since gone to their proper place: yet it
contained some valuable editions of the classics and the fathers,
the choice, as it should seem, of Mr. Law; and many English
publications of the times had been occasionally added.  From this
slender beginning I have gradually formed a numerous and select
library, the foundation of my works, and the best comfort of my
life, both at home and abroad.  On the receipt of the first quarter,
a large share of my allowance was appropriated to my literary wants.
I cannot forget the joy with which I exchanged a bank-note of twenty
pounds for the twenty volumes of the Memoirs of the Academy of
Inscriptions; nor would it have been easy, by any other expenditure
of the same sum, to have procured so large and lasting a fund of
rational amusement.  At a time when I most assiduously frequented
this school of ancient literature, I thus expressed my opinion of a
learned and various collection, which since the year 1759 has been
doubled in magnitude, though not in merit--"Une de ces societes, qui
ont mieux immortalise Louis XIV. qu un ambition souvent pernicieuse
aux hommes, commengoit deja ces recherches qui reunissent la
justesse de l'esprit, l'amenete & l'eruditlon: ou l'on voit iant des
decouvertes, et quelquefois, ce qui ne cede qu'a peine aux
decouvertes, une ignorance modeste et savante." The review of my
library must be reserved for the period of its maturity; but in this
place I may allow myself to observe, that I am not conscious of
having ever bought a book from a motive of ostentation, that every
volume, before it was deposited on the shelf, was either read or
sufficiently examined, and that I soon adopted the tolerating maxim
of the elder Pliny, "nullum esse librum tam malum ut non ex aliqua
parte prodesset." I could not yet find leisure or courage to renew
the pursuit of the Greek language, excepting by reading the lessons
of the Old and New Testament every Sunday, when I attended the
family to church.  The series of my Latin authors was less
strenuously completed; but the acquisition, by inheritance or
purchase, of the best editions of Cicero, Quintilian, Livy, Tacitus,
Ovid, &c. afforded a fair prospect, which I seldom neglected.  I
persevered in the useful method of abstracts and observations; and a
single example may suffice, of a note which had almost swelled into
a work.  The solution of a passage of Livy (xxxviii. 38,) involved
me in the dry and dark treatises of Greaves, Arbuthnot, Hooper,
Bernard, Eisenschmidt, Gronovius, La Barre, Freret, &c.; and in my
French essay (chap. 20,) I ridiculously send the reader to my own
manuscript remarks on the weights, coins, and measures of the
ancients, which were abruptly terminated by the militia drum.

As I am now entering on a more ample field of society and study, I
can only hope to avoid a vain and prolix garrulity, by overlooking
the vulgar crowd of my acquaintance, and confining myself to such
intimate friends among books and men, as are best entitled to my
notice by their own merit and reputation, or by the deep impression
which they have left on my mind.  Yet I will embrace this occasion
of recommending to the young student a practice, which about this
time I myself adopted.  After glancing my eye over the design and
order of a new book, I suspended the perusal till I had finished the
task of self examination, till I had revolved, in a solitary walk,
all that I knew or believed, or had thought on the subject of the
whole work, or of some particular chapter: I was then qualified to
discern how much the author added to my original stock; and I was
sometimes satisfied by the agreement, I was sometimes armed by the
opposition of our ideas.  The favourite companions of my leisure
were our English writers since the Revolution: they breathe the
spirit of reason and liberty; and they most seasonably contributed
to restore the purity of my own language, which had been corrupted
by the long use of a foreign idiom.  By the judicious advice of Mr.
Mallet, I was directed to the writings of Swift and Addison; wit and
simplicity are their common attributes: but the style of Swift is
supported by manly original vigour; that of Addison is adorned by
the female graces of elegance and mildness.  The old reproach, that
no British altars had been raised to the muse of history, was
recently disproved by the first performances of Robertson and Hume,
the histories of Scotland and of the Stuarts.  I will assume the
presumption of saying, that I was not unworthy to read them: nor
will I disguise my different feelings in the repeated perusals.  The
perfect composition, the nervous language, the well-turned periods
of Dr. Robertson, inflamed me to the ambitious hope that I might one
day tread in his footsteps: the calm philosophy, the careless,
inimitable beauties of his friend and rival, often forced me to
close the volume with a mixed sensation of delight and despair.

The design of my first work, the Essay on the Study of Literature,
was suggested by a refinement of vanity, the desire of justifying
and praising the object of a favourite pursuit.  In France, to which
my ideas were confined, the learning and language of Greece and Rome
were neglected by a philosophic age.  The guardian of those studies,
the Academy of Inscriptions, was degraded to the lowest rank among
the three royal societies of Paris: the new appellation of Erudits
was contemptuously applied to the successors of Lipsius and
Casaubon; and I was provoked to hear (see M. d'Alembert Discours
preliminaire a l'Encyclopedie) that the exercise of the memory,
their sole merit, had been superseded by the nobler faculties of the
imagination and the judgment.  I was ambitious of proving by my own
example, as well as by my precepts, that all the faculties of the
mind may be exercised and displayed by the study of ancient
literature: I began to select and adorn the various proofs and
illustrations which had offered themselves in reading the classics;
and the first pages or chapters of my essay were composed before my
departure from Lausanne.  The hurry of the journey, and of the first
weeks of my English life, suspended all thoughts of serious
application: but my object was ever before my eyes; and no more than
ten days, from the first to the eleventh of July, were suffered to
elapse after my summer establishment at Buriton.  My essay was
finished in about six weeks; and as soon as a fair copy had been
transcribed by one of the French prisoners at Petersfield, I looked
round for a critic and judge of my first performance.  A writer can
seldom be content with the doubtful recompense of solitary
approbation; but a youth ignorant of the world, and of himself, must
desire to weigh his talents in some scales less partial than his
own: my conduct was natural, my motive laudable, my choice of Dr.
Maty judicious and fortunate.  By descent and education Dr. Maty,
though born in Holland, might be considered as a Frenchman; but he
was fixed in London by the practice of physic, and an office in the
British Museum.  His reputation was justly founded on the eighteen
volumes of the Journal Britannique, which he had supported, almost
alone, with perseverance and success.  This humble though useful
labour, which had once been dignified by the genius of Bayle and the
learning of Le Clerc, was not disgraced by the taste, the knowledge,
and the judgment of Maty: he exhibits a candid and pleasing view of
the state of literature in England during a period of six years
(January 1750--December 1755); and, far different from his angry
son, he handles the rod of criticism with the tenderness and
reluctance of a parent.  The author of the Journal Britannique
sometimes aspires to the character of a poet and philosopher: his
style is pure and elegant; and in his virtues, or even in his
defects, he may be ranked as one of the last disciples of the school
of Fontenelle.  His answer to my first letter was prompt and polite:
after a careful examination he returned my manuscript, with some
animadversion and much applause; and when I visited London in the
ensuing winter, we discussed the design and execution in several
free and familiar conversations.  In a short excursion to Buriton I
reviewed my essay, according to his friendly advice; and after
suppressing a third, adding a third, and altering a third, I
consummated my first labour by a short preface, which is dated Feb.
3, 1759.  Yet I still shrunk from the press with the terrors of
virgin modesty: the manuscript was safely deposited in my desk; and
as my attention was engaged by new objects, the delay might have
been prolonged till I had fulfilled the precept of Horace, "nonumque
prematur in annum." Father Sirmond, a learned jesuit, was still more
rigid, since he advised a young friend to expect the mature age of
fifty, before he gave himself or his writings to the public (Olivet
Hist. de l'Acad. Francoise, tom. ii. p. 143).  The counsel was
singular; but it is still more singular that it should have been
approved by the example of the author. Sirmond was himself
fifty-five years of age when he published (in 1614) his first work,
an edition of Sidonius Apollinaris, with many valuable annotations:
(see his life, before the great edition of his works in five volumes
folio, Paris, 1696, e Typographia Regia).

Two years elapsed in silence: but in the spring of 1761 I yielded to
the authority of a parent, and complied, like a pious son, with the
wish of my own heart.  My private resolves were influenced by the
state of Europe.  About this time the belligerent powers had made
and accepted overtures of peace; our English plenipotentiaries were
named to assist at the Congress of Augsburg, which never met: I
wished to attend them as a gentleman or a secretary; and my father
fondly believed that the proof of some literary talents might
introduce me to public notice, and second the recommendations of my
friends.  After a last revisal I consulted with Mr. Mallet and Dr.
Maty, who approved the design and promoted the execution.  Mr.
Mallet, after hearing me read my manuscript, received it from my
hands, and delivered it into those of Becket, with whom he made an
agreement in my name; an easy agreement: I required only a certain
number of copies; and, without transferring my property, I devolved
on the bookseller the charges and profits of the edition.  Dr. Maty
undertook, in my absence, to correct the sheets: he inserted,
without my knowledge, an elegant and flattering epistle to the
author; which is composed, however, with so much art, that, in case
of a defeat, his favourable report might have been ascribed to the
indulgence of a friend for the rash attempt of a young English
gentleman.  The work was printed and published, under the title of
Essai sur l'Etude de la Litterature, a Londres, chez T. Becket et P.
A. de Hondt, 1761, in a small volume in duodecimo: my dedication to
my father, a proper and pious address, was composed the
twenty-eighth of May: Dr. Maty's letter is dated June 16; and I
received the first copy (June 23) at Alresford, two days before I
marched with the Hampshire militia.  Some weeks afterwards, on the
same ground, I presented my book to the late Duke of York, who
breakfasted in Colonel Pitt's tent.  By my father's direction, and
Mallet's advice, many literary gifts were distributed to several
eminent characters in England and France; two books were sent to the
Count de Caylus, and the Duchesse d'Aiguillon, at Paris: I had
reserved twenty copies for my friends at Lausanne, as the first
fruits of my education, and a grateful token of my remembrance: and
on all these persons I levied an unavoidable tax of civility and
compliment.  It is not surprising that a work, of which the style
and sentiments were so totally foreign, should have been more
successful abroad than at home.  I was delighted by the copious
extracts, the warm commendations, and the flattering predictions of
the journals of France and Holland: and the next year (1762) a new
edition (I believe at Geneva) extended the fame, or at least the
circulation, of the work.  In England it was received with cold
indifference, little read, and speedily forgotten: a small
impression was slowly dispersed; the bookseller murmured, and the
author (had his feelings been more exquisite) might have wept over
the blunders and baldness of the English translation.  The
publication of my History fifteen years afterwards revived the
memory of my first performance, and the Essay was eagerly sought in
the shops.  But I refused the permission which Becket solicited of
reprinting it: the public curiosity was imperfectly satisfied by a
pirated copy of the booksellers of Dublin; and when a copy of the
original edition has been discovered in a sale, the primitive value
of half-a-crown has risen to the fanciful price of a guinea or
thirty shillings.

I have expatiated on the petty circumstances and period of my first
publication, a memorable aera in the life of a student, when he
ventures to reveal the measure of his mind: his hopes and fears are
multiplied by the idea of self-importance, and he believes for a
while that the eyes of mankind are fixed on his person and
performance.  Whatever may be my present reputation, it no longer
rests on the merit of this first essay; and at the end of
twenty-eight years I may appreciate my juvenile work with the
impartiality, and almost with the indifference, of a stranger.  In
his answer to Lady Hervey, the Count de Caylus admires, or affects
to admire, "les livres sans nombre que Mr. Gibbon a lus et tres bien
lus." But, alas! my stock of erudition at that time was scanty and
superficial; and if I allow myself the liberty of naming the Greek
masters, my genuine and personal acquaintance was confined to the
Latin classics.  The most serious defect of my Essay is a kind of
obscurity and abruptness which always fatigues, and may often elude,
the attention of the reader.  Instead of a precise and proper
definition of the title itself, the sense of the word Litterature is
loosely and variously applied: a number of remarks and examples,
historical, critical, philosophical, are heaped on each other
without method or connection; and if we except some introductory
pages, all the remaining chapters might indifferently be reversed or
transposed. The obscure passages is often affected, brevis esse
laboro, obscurus fio; the desire of expressing perhaps a common idea
with sententious and oracular brevity: alas! how fatal has been the
imitation of Montesquieu! But this obscurity sometimes proceeds from
a mixture of light and darkness in the author's mind; from a partial
ray which strikes upon an angle, instead of spreading itself over
the surface of an object.  After this fair confession I shall
presume to say, that the Essay does credit to a young writer of two
and twenty years of age, who had read with taste, who thinks with
freedom, and who writes in a foreign language with spirit and
elegance.  The defence of the early History of Rome and the new
Chronology of Sir Isaac Newton form a specious argument.  The
patriotic and political design of the Georgics is happily conceived;
and any probable conjecture, which tends to raise the dignity of the
poet and the poem, deserves to be adopted, without a rigid scrutiny.
Some dawnings of a philosophic spirit enlighten the general remarks
on the study of history and of man.  I am not displeased with the
inquiry into the origin and nature of the gods of polytheism, which
might deserve the illustration of a riper judgment.  Upon the whole,
I may apply to the first labour of my pen the speech of a far
superior artist, when he surveyed the first productions of his
pencil.  After viewing some portraits which he had painted in his
youth, my friend Sir Joshua Reynolds acknowledged to me, that he was
rather humbled than flattered by the comparison with his present
works; and that after so much time and study, he had conceived his
improvement to be much greater than he found it to have been.

At Lausanne I composed the first chapters of my Essay in French, the
familiar language of my conversation and studies, in which it was
easier for me to write than in my mother tongue.  After my return to
England I continued the same practice, without any affectation, or
design of repudiating (as Dr. Bentley would say) my vernacular
idiom.  But I should have escaped some Anti-gallican clamour, had I
been content with the more natural character of an English author.
I should have been more consistent had I rejected Mallet's advice,
of prefixing an English dedication to a French book; a confusion of
tongues that seemed to accuse the ignorance of my patron.  The use
of a foreign dialect might be excused by the hope of being employed
as a negociator, by the desire of being generally understood on the
continent; but my true motive was doubtless the ambition of new and
singular fame, an Englishman claiming a place among the writers of
France.  The latin tongue had been consecrated by the service of the
church, it was refined by the imitation of the ancients; and in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the scholars of Europe enjoyed the
advantage, which they have gradually resigned, of conversing and
writing in a common and learned idiom.  As that idiom was no longer
in any country the vulgar speech, they all stood on a level with
each other; yet a citizen of old Rome might have smiled at the best
Latinity of the Germans and Britons; and we may learn from the
Ciceronianus of Erasmus, how difficult it was found to steer a
middle course between pedantry and barbarism.  The Romans themselves
had sometimes attempted a more perilous task, of writing in a living
language, and appealing to the taste and judgment of the natives.
The vanity of Tully was doubly interested in the Greek memoirs of
his own consulship; and if he modestly supposes that some Latinisms
might be detected in his style, he is confident of his own skill in
the art of Isocrates and Aristotle; and he requests his friend
Atticus to disperse the copies of his work at Athens, and in the
other cities of Greece, (Ad Atticum, i. 19. ii. i.) But it must not
be forgotten, that from infancy to manhood Cicero and his
contemporaries had read and declaimed, and composed with equal
diligence in both languages; and that he was not allowed to frequent
a Latin school till he had imbibed the lessons of the Greek
grammarians and rhetoricians.  In modern times, the language of
France has been diffused by the merit of her writers, the social
manners of the natives, the influence of the monarchy, and the exile
of the protestants.  Several foreigners have seized the opportunity
of speaking to Europe in this common dialect, and Germany may plead
the authority of Leibnitz and Frederick, of the first of her
philosophers, and the greatest of her kings.  The just pride and
laudable prejudice of England has restrained this communication of
idioms; and of all the nations on this side of the Alps, my
Countrymen are the least practised, and least perfect in the
exercise of the French tongue.  By Sir William Temple and Lord
Chesterfield it was only used on occasions of civility and business,
and their printed letters will not be quoted as models of
composition.  Lord Bolingbroke may have published in French a sketch
of his Reflections on Exile: but his reputation now reposes on the
address of Voltaire, "Docte sermones utriusque linguae;" and by his
English dedication to Queen Caroline, and his Essay on Epic Poetry,
it should seem that Voltaire himself wished to deserve a return of
the same compliment.  The exception of Count Hamilton cannot fairly
be urged; though an Irishman by birth, he was educated in France
from his childhood.  Yet I am surprised that a long residence in
England, and the habits of domestic conversation, did not affect the
ease and purity of his inimitable style; and I regret the omission
of his English verses, which might have afforded an amusing object
of comparison.  I might therefore assume the primus ego in patriam,
&c.; but with what success I have explored this untrodden path must
be left to the decision of my French readers.  Dr. Maty, who might
himself be questioned as a foreigner, has secured his retreat at my
expense.  "Je ne crois pas que vous vous piquiez d'etre moins facile
a reconnoitre pour un Anglois que Lucullus pour un Romain."  My
friends at Paris have been more indulgent, they received me as a
countryman, or at least as a provincial; but they were friends and
Parisians.  The defects which Maty insinuates, "Ces traits saillans,
ces figures hardies, ce sacrifice de la regle au sentiment, et de la
cadence a la force," are the faults of the youth, rather than of the
stranger: and after the long and laborious exercise of my own
language, I am conscious that my French style has been ripened and

I have already hinted, that the publication of my essay was delayed
till I had embraced the military profession.  I shall now amuse
myself with the recollection of an active scene, which bears no
affinity to any other period of my studious and social life.

In the outset of a glorious war, the English people had been
defended by the aid of German mercenaries.  A national militia has
been the cry of every patriot since the Revolution; and this
measure, both in parliament and in the field, was supported by the
country gentlemen or Tories, who insensibly transferred their
loyalty to the house of Hanover: in the language of Mr. Burke, they
have changed the idol, but they have preserved the idolatry.  In the
act of offering our names and receiving our commissions, as major
and captain in the Hampshire regiment, (June 12, 1759,) we had not
supposed that we should be dragged away, my father from his farm,
myself from my books, and condemned, during two years and a half,
(May 10, 1760--December 23, 1762,) to a wandering life of military
servitude.  But a weekly or monthly exercise of thirty thousand
provincials would have left them useless and ridiculous; and after
the pretence of an invasion had vanished, the popularity of Mr. Pitt
gave a sanction to the illegal step of keeping them till the end of
the war under arms, in constant pay and duty, and at a distance from
their respective homes.  When the King's order for our embodying
came down, it was too late to retreat, and too soon to repent.  The
South battalion of the Hampshire militia was a small independent
corps of four hundred and seventy-six, officers and men, commanded
by lieutenant-colonel Sir Thomas Worsley, who, after a prolix and
passionate contest, delivered us from the tyranny of the lord
lieutenant, the Duke of Bolton.  My proper station, as first
captain, was at the head of my own, and afterwards of the grenadier,
company; but in the absence, or even in the presence, of the two
field officers, I was entrusted by my friend and my father with the
effective labour of dictating the orders, and exercising the
battalion.  With the help of an original journal, I could write the
history of my bloodless and inglorious campaigns; but as these
events have lost much of their importance in my own eyes, they shall
be dispatched in a few words.  From Winchester, the first place of
assembly, (June 4, 1760,) we were removed, at our own request, for
the benefit of a foreign education.  By the arbitrary, and often
capricious, orders of the War-office, the battalion successively
marched to the pleasant and hospitable Blandford (June 17); to
Hilsea barracks, a seat of disease and discord (Sept. 1); to
Cranbrook in the weald of Kent (Dec. 11); to the sea-coast of Dover
(Dec. 27); to Winchester camp (June 25, 1761); to the populous and
disorderly town of Devizes (Oct. 23); to Salisbury (Feb. 28, 1762);
to our beloved Blandford a second time (March 9); and finally, to
the fashionable resort of Southampton (June 2); where the colours
were fixed till our final dissolution. (Dec. 23).  On the beach at
Dover we had exercised in sight of the Gallic shores.  But the most
splendid and useful scene of our life was a four months' encampment
on Winchester Down, under the command of the Earl of Effingham.  Our
army consisted of the thirty-fourth regiment of foot and six militia
corps.  The consciousness of our defects was stimulated by friendly
emulation.  We improved our time and opportunities in morning and
evening field-days; and in the general reviews the South Hampshire
were rather a credit than a disgrace to the line.  In our subsequent
quarters of the Devizes and Blandford, we advanced with a quick step
in our military studies; the ballot of the ensuing summer renewed
our vigour and youth; and had the militia subsisted another year, we
might have contested the prize with the most perfect of our

The loss of so many busy and idle hours was not compensated by any
elegant pleasure; and my temper was insensibly soured by the society
of out rustic officers.  In every state there exists, however, a
balance of good and evil.  The habits of a sedentary life were
usefully broken by the duties of an active profession: in the
healthful exercise of the field I hunted with a battalion, instead
of a pack; and at that time I was ready, at any hour of the day or
night, to fly from quarters to London, from London to quarters, on
the slightest call of private or regimental business.  But my
principal obligation to the militia, was the making me an
Englishman, and a soldier.  After my foreign education, with my
reserved temper, I should long have continued a stranger in my
native country, had I not been shaken in this various scene of new
faces and new friends: had not experience forced me to feel the
characters of our leading men, the state of parties, the forms of
office, and the operation of our civil and military system.  In this
peaceful service I imbibed the rudiments of the language, and
science of tactics, which opened a new field of study and
observation.  I diligently read, and meditated, the Memoires
Militaires of Quintus Icilius, (Mr. Guichardt,) the only writer who
has united the merits of a professor and a veteran.  The discipline
and evolutions of a modern battalion gave me a clearer notion of the
phalanx and the legion; and the captain of the Hampshire grenadiers
(the reader may smile) has not been useless to the historian of the
Roman empire.

A youth of any spirit is fired even by the play of arms, and in the
first sallies of my enthusiasm I had seriously attempted to embrace
the regular profession of a soldier.  But this military fever was
cooled by the enjoyment of our mimic Bellona, who soon unveiled to
my eyes her naked deformity.  How often did I sigh for my proper
station in society and letters.  How often (a proud comparison) did
I repeat the complaint of Cicero in the command of a provincial
army: "Clitellae bovi sunt impositae.   Est incredibile quam me
negotii taedeat.  Non habet satis magnum campum ille tibi non
ignotus cursus animi; et industriae meae praeclara opera cessat.
Lucem, libros, urbem, domum, vos desidero.  Sed feram, ut potero;
sit modo annuum.  Si prorogatur, actum est."--Epist. ad Atticum,
lib. v. 15.  From a service without danger I might indeed have
retired without disgrace; but as often as I hinted a wish of
resigning, my fetters were riveted by the friendly intreaties of the
colonel, the parental authority of the major, and my own regard for
the honour and welfare of the battalion.  When I felt that my
personal escape was impracticable, I bowed my neck to the yoke: my
servitude was protracted far beyond the annual patience of Cicero;
and it was not till after the preliminaries of peace that I received
my discharge, from the act of government which disembodied the

When I complain of the loss of time, justice to myself and to the
militia must throw the greatest part of that reproach on the first
seven or eight months, while I was obliged to learn as well as to
teach.  The dissipation of Blandford, and the disputes of
Portsmouth, consumed the hours which were not employed in the field;
and amid the perpetual hurry of an inn, a barrack, or a guard-room,
all literary ideas were banished from my mind.  After this long
fast, the longest which I have ever known, I once more tasted at
Dover the pleasures of reading and thinking; and the hungry appetite
with which I opened a volume of Tully's philosophical works is still
present to my memory.  The last review of my Essay before its
publication, had prompted me to investigate the nature of the gods;
my inquiries led me to the Historie Critique du Manicheisme of
Beausobre, who discusses many deep questions of Pagan and Christian
theology: and from this rich treasury of facts and opinions, I
deduced my own consequences, beyond the holy circle of the author.
After this recovery I never relapsed into indolence; and my example
might prove, that in the life most averse to study, some hours may
be stolen, some minutes may be snatched.  Amidst the tumult of
Winchester camp I sometimes thought and read in my tent; in the more
settled quarters of the Devizes, Blandford, and Southampton, I
always secured a separate lodging, and the necessary books; and in
the summer of 1762, while the new militia was raising, I enjoyed at
Buriton two or three months of literary repose.  In forming a new
plan of study, I hesitated between the mathematics and the Greek
language; both of which I had neglected since my return from
Lausanne.  I consulted a learned and friendly mathematician, Mr.
George Scott, a pupil of de Moivre; and his map of a country which I
have never explored, may perhaps be more serviceable to others.  As
soon as I had given the preference to Greek, the example of Scaliger
and my own reason determined me on the choice of Homer, the father
of poetry, and the Bible of the ancients: but Scaliger ran through
the Iliad in one and twenty days; and I was not dissatisfied with my
own diligence for performing the same labour in an equal number of
weeks.  After the first difficulties were surmounted, the language
of nature and harmony soon became easy and familiar, and each day I
sailed upon the ocean with a brisker gale and a more steady course.

     {Passage in Greek}

     Ilias, A 481.

    --Fair wind, and blowing fresh,
    Apollo sent them; quick they rear'd the mast,
    Then spread th'unsullied canvas to the gale,
    And the wind fill'd it.  Roar'd the sable flood
    Around the bark, that ever as she went
    Dash'd wide the brine, and scudded swift away.
    COWPER'S Homer.

In the study of a poet who has since become the most intimate of my
friends, I successively applied many passages and fragments of Greek
writers; and among these I shall notice a life of Homer, in the
Oposcula Mythologica of Gale, several books of the geography of
Strabo, and the entire treatise of Longinus, which, from the title
and the style, is equally worthy of the epithet of sublime.  My
grammatical skill was improved, my vocabulary was enlarged; and in
the militia I acquired a just and indelible knowledge of the first
of languages.  On every march, in every journey, Horace was always
in my pocket, and often in my hand: but I should not mention his two
critical epistles, the amusement of a morning, had they not been
accompanied by the elaborate commentary of Dr. Hurd, now Bishop of
Worcester.  On the interesting subjects of composition and imitation
of epic and dramatic poetry, I presumed to think for myself; and
thirty close-written pages in folio could scarcely comprise my full
and free discussion of the sense of the master and the pedantry of
the servant.

After his oracle Dr. Johnson, my friend Sir Joshua Reynolds denies
all original genius, any natural propensity of the mind to one art
or science rather than another.  Without engaging in a metaphysical
or rather verbal dispute, I know, by experience, that from my early
youth I aspired to the character of an historian.  While I served in
the militia, before and after the publication of my essay, this idea
ripened in my mind; nor can I paint in more lively colours the
feelings of the moment, than by transcribing some passages, under
their respective dates, from a journal which I kept at that time.
Beriton, April 14, 1761.  (In a short excursion from Dover.)--

"Having thought of several subjects for an historical composition, I
chose the expedition of Charles VIII. of France into Italy.  I read
two memoirs of Mr. de Foncemagne in the Academy of Inscriptions
(tom. xvii. p. 539-607.), and abstracted them.  I likewise finished
this day a dissertation, in which I examine the right of Charles
VIII. to the crown of Naples, and the rival claims of the House of
Anjou and Arragon: it consists of ten folio pages, besides large

Beriton, August 4, 1761.  (In a week's excursion from Winchester
camp.)--"After having long revolved subjects for my intended
historical essay, I renounced my first thought of the expedition of
Charles VIII. as too remote from us, and rather an introduction to
great events, than great and important in itself.  I successively
chose and rejected the crusade of Richard the First, the barons'
wars against John and Henry the Third, the History of Edward the
Black Prince, the lives and comparisons of Henry V. and the Emperor
Titus, the life of Sir Philip Sidney, and that of the Marquis of
Montrose.  At length I have fixed on Sir Walter Raleigh for my hero.
His eventful story is varied by the characters of the soldier and
sailor, the courtier and historian; and it may afford such a fund of
materials as I desire, which have not yet been properly
manufactured.  At present I cannot attempt the execution of this
work.  Free leisure, and the opportunity of consulting many books,
both printed and manuscript, are as necessary as they are impossible
to be attained in my present way of life.  However, to acquire a
general insight into my subject and resources, I read the life of
Sir Walter Raleigh by Dr. Birch, his copious article in the General
Dictionary by the same hand, and the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and
James the First in Hume's History of England."

Beriton, January 1762.  (In a month's absence from the Devizes.)--

"During this interval of repose, I again turned my thoughts to Sir
Walter Raleigh, and looked more closely into my materials.  I read
the two volumes in quarto of the Bacon Papers, published by Dr.
Birch; the Fragmenta Regalia of Sir Robert Naunton, Mallet's Life of
Lord Bacon, and the political treatises of that great man in the
first volume of his works, with many of his letters in the second;
Sir William Monson's Naval Tracts, and the elaborate life of Sir
Walter Raleigh, which Mr. Oldys has prefixed to the best edition of
his History of the World.  My subject opens upon me, and in general
improves upon a nearer prospect."

Beriton, July 26, 1762.  (During my summer residence.)--"I am afraid
of being reduced to drop my hero; but my time has not, however, been
lost in the research of his story, and of a memorable aera of our
English annals.  The life of Sir Walter Raleigh, by Oldys, is a very
poor performance; a servile panegyric, or flat apology, tediously
minute, and composed in a dull and affected style.  Yet the author
was a man of diligence and learning, who had read everything
relative to his subject, and whose ample collections are arranged
with perspicuity and method.  Excepting some anecdotes lately
revealed in the Sidney and Bacon Papers, I know not what I should be
able to add.  My ambition (exclusive of the uncertain merit of style
and sentiment) must be confined to the hope of giving a good
abridgment of Oldys.  I have even the disappointment of finding some
parts of this copious work very dry and barren; and these parts are
unluckily some of the most characteristic: Raleigh's colony of
Virginia, his quarrels with Essex, the true secret of his
conspiracy, and, above all, the detail of his private life, the most
essential and important to a biographer.  My best resource would be
in the circumjacent history of the times, and perhaps in some
digressions artfully introduced, like the fortunes of the
Peripatetic philosophy in the portrait of Lord Bacon.  But the
reigns of Elizabeth and James the First are the periods of English
history, which have been the most variously illustrated: and what
new lights could I reflect on a subject, which has exercised the
accurate industry of Birch, the lively and curious acuteness of
Walpole, the critical spirit of Hurd, the vigorous sense of Mallet
and Robertson, and the impartial philosophy of Hume? Could I even
surmount these obstacles, I should shrink with terror from the
modern history of England, where every character is a problem, and
every reader a friend or an enemy; where a writer is supposed to
hoist a flag of party, and is devoted to damnation by the adverse
faction.  Such would be my reception at home: and abroad, the
historian of Raleigh must encounter an indifference far more bitter
than censure or reproach.  The events of his life are interesting:
but his character is ambiguous, his actions are obscure, his
writings are English, and his fame is confined to the narrow limits
of our language and our island.  I must embrace a safer and more
extensive theme.

"There is one which I should prefer to all others, The History of
the Liberty of the Swiss, of that independence which a brave people
rescued from the House of Austria, defended against a Dauphin of
France, and finally sealed with the blood of Charles of Burgundy.
From such a theme, so full of public spirit, of military glory, of
examples of virtue, of lessons of government, the dullest stranger
would catch fire; what might not I hope, whose talents, whatsoever
they may be, would be inflamed with the zeal of patriotism.  But the
materials of this history are inaccessible to me, fast locked in the
obscurity of an old barbarous German dialect, of which I am totally
ignorant, and which I cannot resolve to learn for this sole and
peculiar purpose.

"I have another subject in view, which is the contrast of the former
history: the one a poor, warlike, virtuous republic, which emerges
into glory and freedom; the other a commonwealth, soft, opulent, and
corrupt; which, by just degrees, is precipitated from the abuse to
the loss of her liberty: both lessons are, perhaps, equally
instructive.  This second subject is, The History of the Republic of
Florence under the House of Medicis: a period of one hundred and
fifty years, which rises or descends from the dregs of the
Florentine democracy, to the title and dominion of Cosmo de Medicis
in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.  I might deduce a chain of
revolutions not unworthy of the pen of Vertot; singular men, and
singular events; the Medicis four times expelled, and as often
recalled; and the Genius of Freedom reluctantly yielding to the arms
of Charles V. and the policy of Cosmo.  The character and fate of
Savanerola, and the revival of arts and letters in Italy, will be
essentially connected with the elevation of the family and the fall
of the republic.  The Medicis (stirps quasi fataliter nata ad
instauranda vel fovenda studia (Lipsius ad Germanos et Galles,
Epist. viii.)) were illustrated by the patronage of learning; and
enthusiasm was the most formidable weapon of their adversaries.  On
this splendid subject I shall most probably fix; but when, or where,
or how will it be executed? I behold in a dark and doubtful

     Res alta terra, et caligine mersas.

The youthful habits of the language and manners of France had left
in my mind an ardent desire of revisiting the Continent on a larger
and more liberal plan.  According to the law of custom, and perhaps
of reason, foreign travel completes the education of an English
gentleman: my father had consented to my wish, but I was detained
above four years by my rash engagement in the militia.  I eagerly
grasped the first moments of freedom: three or four weeks in
Hampshire and London were employed in the preparations of my
journey, and the farewell visits of friendship and civility: my last
act in town was to applaud Mallet's new tragedy of Elvira; a
post-chaise conveyed me to Dover, the packet to Boulogne, and such
was my diligence, that I reached Paris on Jan. 28, 1763, only
thirty-six days after the disbanding of the militia.  Two or three
years were loosely defined for the term of my absence; and I was
left at liberty to spend that time in such places and in such a
manner as was most agreeable to my taste and judgment.

In this first visit I passed three months and a half, (Jan. 28-May
9,) and a much longer space might have been agreeably filled,
without any intercourse with the natives.  At home we are content to
move in the daily round of pleasure and business; and a scene which
is always present is supposed to be within our knowledge, or at
least within our power.  But in a foreign country, curiosity is our
business and our pleasure; and the traveller, conscious of his
ignorance, and covetous of his time, is diligent in the search and
the view of every object that can deserve his attention.  I devoted
many hours of the morning to the circuit of Paris and the
neighbourhood, to the visit of churches and palaces conspicuous by
their architecture, to the royal manufactures, collections of books
and pictures, and all the various treasures of art, of learning, and
of luxury.  An Englishman may hear without reluctance, that in these
curious and costly articles Paris is superior to London; since the
opulence of the French capital arises from the defects of its
government and religion.  In the absence of Louis XIV. and his
successors, the Louvre has been left unfinished: but the millions
which have been lavished on the sands of Versailles, and the morass
of Marli, could not be supplied by the legal allowance of a British
king.  The splendour of the French nobles is confined to their town
residence; that of the English is more usefully distributed in their
country seats; and we should be astonished at our own riches, if the
labours of architecture, the spoils of Italy and Greece, which are
now scattered from Inverary to Wilton, were accumulated in a few
streets between Marylebone and Westminster.  All superfluous
ornament is rejected by the cold frugality of the protestants; but
the catholic superstition, which is always the enemy of reason, is
often the parent of the arts.  The wealthy communities of priests
and monks expend their revenues in stately edifices; and the parish
church of St. Sulpice, one of the noblest structures in Paris, was
built and adorned by the private industry of a late cure.  In this
outset, and still more in the sequel of my tour, my eye was amused;
but the pleasing vision cannot be fixed by the pen; the particular
images are darkly seen through the medium of five-and-twenty years,
and the narrative of my life must not degenerate into a book of

But the principal end of my journey was to enjoy the society of a
polished and amiable people, in whose favour I was strongly
prejudiced, and to converse with some authors, whose conversation,
as I fondly imagined, must be far more pleasing and instructive than
their writings.  The moment was happily chosen.  At the close of a
successful war the British name was respected on the continent.

                    Clarum et venerabile nomen

Our opinions, our fashions, even our games, were adopted in France,
a ray of national glory illuminated each individual, and every
Englishman was supposed to be born a patriot and a philosopher.  For
myself, I carried a personal recommendation; my name and my Essay
were already known; the compliment of having written in the French
language entitled me to some returns of civility and gratitude.  I
was considered as a man of letters, who wrote for amusement.  Before
my departure I had obtained from the Duke de Nivernois, Lady Hervey,
the Mallets, Mr. Walpole, &c. many letters of recommendation to
their private or literary friends.  Of these epistles the reception
and success were determined by the character and situation of the
persons by whom and to whom they were addressed: the seed was
sometimes cast on a barren rock, and it sometimes multiplied an
hundred fold in the production of new shoots, spreading branches,
and exquisite fruit.  But upon the whole, I had reason to praise the
national urbanity, which from the court has diffused its gentle
influence to the shop, the cottage, and the schools.  Of the men of
genius of the age, Montesquieu and Fontenelle were no more; Voltaire
resided on his own estate near Geneva; Rousseau in the preceding
year had been driven from his hermitage of Montmorency; and I blush
at my having neglected to seek, in this journey, the acquaintance of
Buffon.  Among the men of letters whom I saw, D'Alembert and Diderot
held the foremost rank in merit, or at least in fame.  I shall
content myself with enumerating the well-known names of the Count de
Caylus, of the Abbe de la Bleterie, Barthelemy, Reynal, Arnaud, of
Messieurs de la Condamine, du Clos, de Ste Palaye, de Bougainville,
Caperonnier, de Guignes, Suard, &c. without attempting to
discriminate the shades of their characters, or the degrees of our
connection.  Alone, in a morning visit, I commonly found the artists
and authors of Paris less vain, and more reasonable, than in the
circles of their equals, with whom they mingle in the houses of the
rich.  Four days in a week, I had place, without invitation, at the
hospitable tables of Mesdames Geoffrin and du Bocage, of the
celebrated Helvetius, and of the Baron d'Olbach.  In these symposia
the pleasures of the table were improved by lively and liberal
conversation; the company was select, though various and voluntary.

The society of Madame du Bocage was more soft and moderate than that
of her rivals, and the evening conversations of M. de Foncemagne
were supported by the good sense and learning of the principal
members of the Academy of Inscriptions.  The opera and the Italians
I occasionally visited; but the French theatre, both in tragedy and
comedy, was my daily and favourite amusement.  Two famous actresses
then divided the public applause.  For my own part, I preferred the
consummate art of the Claron, to the intemperate sallies of the
Dumesnil, which were extolled by her admirers, as the genuine voice
of nature and passion.  Fourteen weeks insensibly stole away; but
had I been rich and independent, I should have prolonged, and
perhaps have fixed, my residence at Paris.

Between the expensive style of Paris and of Italy it was prudent to
interpose some months of tranquil simplicity; and at the thoughts of
Lausanne I again lived in the pleasures and studies of my early
youth.  Shaping my course through Dijon and Besancon, in the last of
which places I was kindly entertained by my cousin Acton, I arrived
in the month of May 1763 on the banks of the Leman Lake.  It had
been my intention to pass the Alps in the autumn, but such are the
simple attractions of the place, that the year had almost expired
before my departure from Lausanne in the ensuing spring.  An absence
of five years had not made much alteration in manners, or even in
persons.  My old friends, of both sexes, hailed my voluntary return;
the most genuine proof of my attachment.  They had been flattered by
the present of my book, the produce of their soil; and the good
Pavilliard shed tears of joy as he embraced a pupil, whose literary
merit he might fairly impute to his own labours.  To my old list I
added some new acquaintance, and among the strangers I shall
distinguish Prince Lewis of Wirtemberg, the brother of the reigning
Duke, at whose country-house, near Lausanne, I frequently dined: a
wandering meteor, and at length a falling star, his light and
ambitious spirit had successively dropped from the firmament of
Prussia, of France, and of Austria; and his faults, which he styled
his misfortunes, had driven him into philosophic exile in the Pays
de Vaud.  He could now moralize on the vanity of the world, the
equality of mankind, and the happiness of a private station.  His
address was affable and polite, and as he had shone in courts and
armies, his memory could supply, and his eloquence could adorn, a
copious fund of interesting anecdotes.  His first enthusiasm was
that of charity and agriculture; but the sage gradually lapsed in
the saint, and Prince Lewis of Wirtemberg is now buried in a
hermitage near Mayence, in the last stage of mystic devotion.  By
some ecclesiastical quarrel, Voltaire had been provoked to withdraw
himself from Lausanne, and retire to his castle at Ferney, where I
again visited the poet and the actor, without seeking his more
intimate acquaintance, to which I might now have pleaded a better
title.  But the theatre which he had founded, the actors whom he had
formed, survived the loss of their master; and, recent from Paris, I
attended with pleasure at the representation of several tragedies
and comedies.  I shall not descend to specify particular names and
characters; but I cannot forget a private institution, which will
display the innocent freedom of Swiss manners.  My favourite society
had assumed, from the age of its members, the proud denomination of
the spring (la society du printems).  It consisted of fifteen or
twenty young unmarried ladies, of genteel, though not of the very
first families; the eldest perhaps about twenty, all agreeable,
several handsome, and two or three of exquisite beauty.  At each
other's houses they assembled almost every day, without the
controul, or even the presence, of a mother or an aunt; they were
trusted to their own prudence, among a crowd of young men of every
nation in Europe.  They laughed, they sung, they danced, they played
at cards, they acted comedies; but in the midst of this careless
gaiety, they respected themselves, and were respected by the men;
the invisible line between liberty and licentiousness was never
transgressed by a gesture, a word, or a look, and their virgin
chastity was never sullied by the breath of scandal or suspicion.  A
singular institution, expressive of the innocent simplicity of Swiss
manners.  After having tasted the luxury of England and Paris, I
could not have returned with satisfaction to the coarse and homely
table of Madame Pavilliard; nor was her husband offended that I now
entered myself as a pensionaire, or boarder, in the elegant house of
Mr. De Mesery, which may be entitled to a short remembrance, as it
has stood above twenty years, perhaps, without a parallel in Europe.
The house in which we lodged was spacious and convenient, in the
best street, and commanding, from behind, a noble prospect over the
country and the Lake.  Our table was served with neatness and
plenty; the boarders were select; we had the liberty of inviting any
guests at a stated price; and in the summer the scene was
occasionally transferred to a pleasant villa, about a league from
Lausanne.  The characters of Master and Mistress were happily suited
to each other, and to their situation.  At the age of seventy-five,
Madame de Mesery, who has survived her husband, is still a graceful,
I had almost said, a handsome woman.  She was alike qualified to
preside in her kitchen and her drawing-room; and such was the equal
propriety of her conduct, that of two or three hundred foreigners,
none ever failed in respect, none could complain of her neglect, and
none could ever boast of her favour.  Mesery himself, of the noble
family of De Crousaz, was a man of the world, a jovial companion,
whose easy manners and natural sallies maintained the cheerfulness
of his house.  His wit could laugh at his own ignorance: he
disguised, by an air of profusion, a strict attention to his
interest; and in this situation he appeared like a nobleman who
spent his fortune and entertained his friends.  In this agreeable
society I resided nearly eleven months (May 1763--April 1764); and
in this second visit to Lausanne, among a crowd of my English
companions, I knew and esteemed Mr. Holroyd (now Lord Sheffield);
and our mutual attachment was renewed and fortified in the
subsequent stages of our Italian journey.  Our lives are in the
power of chance, and a slight variation on either side, in time or
place, might have deprived me of a friend, whose activity in the
ardour of youth was always prompted by a benevolent heart, and
directed by a strong understanding.

If my studies at Paris had been confined to the study of the world,
three or four months would not have been unprofitably spent.  My
visits, however superficial, to the Academy of Medals and the public
libraries, opened a new field of inquiry; and the view of so many
manuscripts of different ages and characters induced me to consult
the two great Benedictine works, the Diplomatica of Mabillon, and
the Palaeographia of Montfaucon.  I studied the theory without
attaining the practice of the art: nor should I complain of the
intricacy of Greek abbreviations and Gothic alphabets, since every
day, in a familiar language, I am at a loss to decipher the
hieroglyphics of a female note.  In a tranquil scene, which revived
the memory of my first studies, idleness would have been less
pardonable: the public libraries of Lausanne and Geneva liberally
supplied me with books; and if many hours were lost in dissipation,
many more were employed in literary labour.  In the country, Horace
and Virgil, Juvenal and Ovid, were my assiduous companions but, in
town, I formed and executed a plan of study for the use of my
Transalpine expedition: the topography of old Rome, the ancient
geography of Italy, and the science of medals.  1. I diligently
read, almost always with my pen in my hand, the elaborate treatises
of Nardini, Donatus, &c., which fill the fourth volume of the Roman
Antiquities of Graevius.  2. I next undertook and finished the
Italia Antiqua of Cluverius, a learned native of Prussia, who had
measured, on foot, every spot, and has compiled and digested every
passage of the ancient writers.  These passages in Greek or Latin
authors I perused in the text of Cluverius, in two folio volumes:
but I separately read the descriptions of Italy by Strabo, Pliny,
and Pomponius Mela, the Catalogues of the Epic poets, the
Itineraries of Wesseling's Antoninus, and the coasting Voyage of
Rutilius Numatianus; and I studied two kindred subjects in the
Measures Itineraires of d'Anville, and the copious work of Bergier,
Histoire des grands Chemins de I'Empire Romain.  From these
materials I formed a table of roads and distances reduced to our
English measure; filled a folio common-place book with my
collections and remarks on the geography of Italy; and inserted in
my journal many long and learned notes on the insulae and
populousness of Rome, the social war, the passage of the Alps by
Hannibal, &c.  3. After glancing my eye over Addison's agreeable
dialogues, I more seriously read the great work of Ezechiel Spanheim
de Praestantia et Usu Numismatum, and applied with him the medals of
the kings and emperors, the families and colonies, to the
illustration of ancient history.  And thus was I armed for my
Italian journey.

I shall advance with rapid brevity in the narrative of this tour, in
which somewhat more than a year (April 1764-May 1765) was agreeably
employed.  Content with tracing my line of march, and slightly
touching on my personal feelings, I shall waive the minute
investigation of the scenes which have been viewed by thousands, and
described by hundreds, of our modern travellers.  ROME is the great
object of our pilgrimage: and 1st, the journey; 2d, the residence;
and 3d, the return; will form the most proper and perspicuous
division.  1. I climbed Mount Cenis, and descended into the plain of
Piedmont, not on the back of an elephant, but on a light osier seat,
in the hands of the dextrous and intrepid chairmen of the Alps.  The
architecture and government of Turin presented the same aspect of
tame and tiresome uniformity: but the court was regulated with
decent and splendid oeconomy; and I was introduced to his Sardinian
majesty Charles Emanuel, who, after the incomparable Frederic, held
the second rank (proximus longo tamen intervallo) among the kings of
Europe.  The size and populousness of Milan could not surprise an
inhabitant of London: but the fancy is amused by a visit to the
Boromean Islands, an enchanted palace, a work of the fairies in the
midst of a lake encompassed with mountains, and far removed from the
haunts of men.  I was less amused by the marble palaces of Genoa,
than by the recent memorials of her deliverance (in December 1746)
from the Austrian tyranny; and I took a military survey of every
scene of action within the inclosure of her double walls.  My steps
were detained at Parma and Modena, by the precious relics of the
Farnese and Este collections: but, alas! the far greater part had
been already transported, by inheritance or purchase, to Naples and
Dresden.  By the road of Bologna and the Apennine I at last reached
Florence, where I reposed from June to September, during the heat of
the summer months.  In the Gallery, and especially in the Tribune, I
first acknowledged, at the feet of the Venus of Medicis, that the
chisel may dispute the pre-eminence with the pencil, a truth in the
fine arts which cannot on this side of the Alps be felt or
understood.  At home I had taken some lessons of Italian on the spot
I read, with a learned native, the classics of the Tuscan idiom: but
the shortness of my time, and the use of the French language,
prevented my acquiring any facility of speaking; and I was a silent
spectator in the conversations of our envoy, Sir Horace Mann, whose
most serious business was that of entertaining the English at his
hospitable table.  After leaving Florence, I compared the solitude
of Pisa with the industry of Lucca and Leghorn, and continued my
journey through Sienna to Rome, where I arrived in the beginning of
October.  2. My temper is not very susceptible of enthusiasm; and
the enthusiasm which I do not feel, I have ever scorned to affect.
But, at the distance of twenty-five years, I can neither forget nor
express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first
approached and entered the eternal city.  After a sleepless night, I
trod, with a lofty step, the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot
where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once
present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or
enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation.
My guide was Mr. Byers, a Scotch antiquary of experience and taste;
but, in the daily labour of eighteen weeks, the powers of attention
were sometimes fatigued, till I was myself qualified, in a last
review, to select and study the capital works of ancient and modern
art.  Six weeks were borrowed for my tour of Naples, the most
populous of cities, relative to its size, whose luxurious
inhabitants seem to dwell on the confines of paradise and hell-fire.
I was presented to the boy-king by our new envoy, Sir William
Hamilton; who, wisely diverting his correspondence from the
Secretary of State to the Royal Society and British Museum, has
elucidated a country of such inestimable value to the naturalist and
antiquarian.  On my return, I fondly embraced, for the last time,
the miracles of Rome; but I departed without kissing the feet of
Rezzonico (Clement XIII.), who neither possessed the wit of his
predecessor Lambertini, nor the virtues of his successor Ganganelli.
3. In my pilgrimage from Rome to Loretto I again crossed the
Apennine; from the coast of the Adriatic I traversed a fruitful and
populous country, which could alone disprove the paradox of
Montesquieu, that modern Italy is a desert.  Without adopting the
exclusive prejudice of the natives, I sincerely admire the paintings
of the Bologna school.  I hastened to escape from the sad solitude
of Ferrara, which in the age of Caesar was still more desolate.  The
spectacle of Venice afforded some hours of astonishment; the
university of Padua is a dying taper: but Verona still boasts her
amphitheatre, and his native Vicenza is adorned by the classic
architecture of Palladio: the road of Lombardy and Piedmont (did
Montesquieu find them without inhabitants?) led me back to Milan,
Turin, and the passage of Mount Cenis, where I again crossed the
Alps in my way to Lyons.

The use of foreign travel has been often debated as a general
question; but the conclusion must be finally applied to the
character and circumstances of each individual.  With the education
of boys, where or how they may pass over some juvenile years with
the least mischief to themselves or others, I have no concern.  But
after supposing the previous and indispensable requisites of age,
judgment, a competent knowledge of men and books, and a freedom from
domestic prejudices, I will briefly describe the qualifications
which I deem most essential to a traveller.  He should be endowed
with an active, indefatigable vigour of mind and body, which can
seize every mode of conveyance, and support, with a careless smile,
every hardship of the road, the weather, or the inn.  The benefits
of foreign travel will correspond with the degrees of these
qualifications; but, in this sketch, those to whom I am known will
not accuse me of framing my own panegyric.  It was at Rome, on the
15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the
Capitol, while the bare-footed fryars were singing vespers in the
temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of
the city first started to my mind.  But my original plan was
circumscribed to the decay of the city rather than of the empire:
and though my reading and reflections began to point towards that
object, some years elapsed, and several avocations intervened,
before I was seriously engaged in the execution of that laborious

I had not totally renounced the southern provinces of France, but
the letters which I found at Lyons were expressive of some
impatience.  Rome and Italy had satiated my curious appetite, and I
was now ready to return to the peaceful retreat of my family and
books.  After a happy fortnight I reluctantly left Paris, embarked
at Calais, again landed at Dover, after an interval of two years and
five months, and hastily drove through the summer dust and solitude
of London.  On June 25 1765 I arrived at my father's house: and the
five years and a half between my travels and my father's death
(1770) are the portion of my life which I passed with the least
enjoyment, and which I remember with the least satisfaction.  Every
spring I attended the monthly meeting and exercise of the militia at
Southampton; and by the resignation of my father, and the death of
Sir Thomas Worsley, I was successively promoted to the rank of major
and lieutenant-colonel commandant; but I was each year more
disgusted with the inn, the wine, the company, and the tiresome
repetition of annual attendance and daily exercise.  At home, the
oeconomy of the family and farm still maintained the same creditable
appearance.  My connection with Mrs. Gibbon was mellowed into a warm
and solid attachment: my growing years abolished the distance that
might yet remain between a parent and a son, and my behaviour
satisfied my father, who was proud of the success, however imperfect
in his own life-time, of my literary talents.  Our solitude was soon
and often enlivened by the visit of the friend of my youth, Mr.
Deyverdun, whose absence from Lausanne I had sincerely lamented.
About three years after my first departure, he had emigrated from
his native lake to the banks of the Oder in Germany.  The res
augusta domi, the waste of a decent patrimony, by an improvident
father, obliged him, like many of his countrymen, to confide in his
own industry; and he was entrusted with the education of a young
prince, the grandson of the Margrave of Schavedt, of the Royal
Family of Prussia.  Our friendship was never cooled, our
correspondence was sometimes interrupted; but I rather wished than
hoped to obtain Mr. Deyverdun for the companion of my Italian tour.
An unhappy, though honourable passion, drove him from his German
court; and the attractions of hope and curiosity were fortified by
the expectation of my speedy return to England.  During four
successive summers he passed several weeks or months at Beriton, and
our free conversations, on every topic that-could interest the heart
or understanding, would have reconciled me to a desert or a prison.
In the winter months of London my sphere of knowledge and action was
somewhat enlarged, by the many new acquaintance which I had
contracted in the militia and abroad; and I must regret, as more
than an acquaintance, Mr. Godfrey Clarke of Derbyshire, an amiable
and worthy young man, who was snatched away by an untimely death.  A
weekly convivial meeting was established by myself and travellers,
under the name of the Roman Club.

The renewal, or perhaps the improvement, of my English life was
embittered by the alteration of my own feelings.  At the age of
twenty-one I was, in my proper station of a youth, delivered from
the yoke of education, and delighted with the comparative state of
liberty and affluence.  My filial obedience was natural and easy;
and in the gay prospect of futurity, my ambition did not extend
beyond the enjoyment of my books, my leisure, and my patrimonial
estate, undisturbed by the cares of a family and the duties of a
profession.  But in the militia I was armed with power; in my
travels, I was exempt from controul; and as I approached, as I
gradually passed my thirtieth year, I began to feel the desire of
being master to my own house.  The most gentle authority will
sometimes frown without reason, the most cheerful submission will
sometimes murmur without cause; and such is the law of our imperfect
nature, that we must either command or obey; that our personal
liberty is supported by the obsequiousness of our own dependants.
While so many of my acquaintance were married or in parliament, or
advancing with a rapid step in the various roads of honour and
fortune, I stood alone, immoveable and insignificant; for after the
monthly meeting of 1770, I had even withdrawn myself from the
militia, by the resignation of an empty and barren commission.  My
temper is not susceptible of envy, and the view of successful merit
has always excited my warmest applause.  The miseries of a vacant
life were never known to a man whose hours were insufficient for the
inexhaustible pleasures of study.  But I lamented that at the proper
age I had not embraced the lucrative pursuits of the law or of
trade, the chances of civil office or India adventure, or even the
fat slumbers of the church; and my repentance became more lively as
the loss of time was more irretrievable.  Experience shewed me the
use of grafting my private consequence on the importance of a great
professional body; the benefits of those firm connections which are
cemented by hope and interest, by gratitude and emulation, by the
mutual exchange of services and favours.  From the emoluments of a
profession I might have derived an ample fortune, or a competent
income, instead of being stinted to the same narrow allowance, to be
increased only by an event which I sincerely deprecated.  The
progress and the knowledge of our domestic disorders aggravated my
anxiety, and I began to apprehend that I might be left in my old age
without the fruits either of industry or inheritance.

In the first summer after my return, whilst I enjoyed at Beriton the
society of my friend Deyverdun, our daily conversations expatiated
over the field of ancient and modern literature; and we freely
discussed my studies, my first Essay, and my future projects.  The
Decline and Fall of Rome I still contemplated at an awful distance:
but the two historical designs which had balanced my choice were
submitted to his taste: and in the parallel between the Revolutions
of Florence and Switzerland, our common partiality for a country
which was his by birth, and mine by adoption, inclined the scale in
favour of the latter.  According to the plan, which was soon
conceived and digested, I embraced a period of two hundred years,
from the association of the three peasants of the Alps to the
plenitude and prosperity of the Helvetic body in the sixteenth
century.  I should have described the deliverance and victory of the
Swiss, who have never shed the blood of their tyrants but in a field
of battle; the laws and manners of the confederate states; the
splendid trophies of the Austrian, Burgundian, and Italian wars; and
the wisdom of a nation, which, after some sallies of martial
adventure, has been content to guard the blessings of peace with the
sword of freedom.

          --Manus haec inimica tyrannis
          Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.

My judgment, as well as my enthusiasm, was satisfied with the
glorious theme; and the assistance of Deyverdun seemed to remove an
insuperable obstacle.  The French or Latin memorials, of which I was
not ignorant, are inconsiderable in number and weight; but in the
perfect acquaintance of my friend with the German language, I found
the key of a more valuable collection.  The most necessary books
were procured; he translated, for my use, the folio volume of
Schilling, a copious and contemporary relation of the war of
Burgundy; we read and marked the most interesting parts of the great
chronicle of Tschudi; and by his labour, or that of an inferior
assistant, large extracts were made from the History of Lauffer and
the Dictionary of Lew: yet such was the distance and delay, that two
years elapsed in these preparatory steps; and it was late in the
third summer (1767) before I entered, with these slender materials,
on the more agreeable task of composition.  A specimen of my
History, the first book, was read the following winter in a literary
society of foreigners in London; and as the author was unknown, I
listened, without observation, to the free strictures, and
unfavourable sentence, of my judges.  The momentary sensation was
painful; but their condemnation was ratified by my cooler thoughts.
I delivered my imperfect sheets to the flames,--and for ever
renounced a design in which some expence, much labour, and more time
had been so vainly consumed.  I cannot regret the loss of a slight
and superficial essay, for such the work must have been in the hands
of a stranger, uninformed by the scholars and statesmen, and remote
from the libraries and archives of the Swiss republics.  My ancient
habits, and the presence of Deyverdun, encouraged me to write in
French for the continent of Europe; but I was conscious myself that
my style, above prose and below poetry, degenerated into a verbose
and turgid declamation.  Perhaps I may impute the failure to the
injudicious choice of a foreign language.  Perhaps I may suspect
that the language itself is ill adapted to sustain the vigour and
dignity of an important narrative.  But if France, so rich in
literary merit, had produced a great original historian, his genius
would have formed and fixed the idiom to the proper tone, the
peculiar model of historical eloquence.

It was in search of some liberal and lucrative employment that my
friend Deyverdun had visited England.  His remittances from home
were scanty and precarious.  My purse was always open, but it was
often empty; and I bitterly felt the want of riches and power, which
might have enabled me to correct the errors of his fortune.  His
wishes and qualifications solicited the station of the travelling
governor of some wealthy pupil; but every vacancy provoked so many
eager candidates, that for a long time I struggled without success;
nor was it till after much application that I could even place him
as a clerk in the office of the secretary of state.  In a residence
of several years he never acquired the just pronunciation and
familiar use of the English tongue, but he read our most difficult
authors with ease and taste: his critical knowledge of our language
and poetry was such as few foreigners have possessed; and few of our
countrymen could enjoy the theatre of Shakspeare and Garrick with
more exquisite feeling and discernment.  The consciousness of his
own strength, and the assurance of my aid, emboldened him to imitate
the example of Dr. Maty, whose Journal Britannique was esteemed and
regretted; and to improve his model, by uniting with the
transactions of literature a philosophic view of the arts and
manners of the British nation.  Our journal for the year 1767, under
the title of Memoires Literaires de la Grand Bretagne, was soon
finished, and sent to the press.  For the first article, Lord
Lyttelton's History of Henry II., I must own myself responsible; but
the public has ratified my judgment of that voluminous work, in
which sense and learning are not illuminated by a ray of genius.
The next specimen was the choice of my friend, the Bath Guide, a
light and whimsical performance, of local, and even verbal,
pleasantry.  I started at the attempt: he smiled at my fears: his
courage was justified by success; and a master of both languages
will applaud the curious felicity with which he has transfused into
French prose the spirit, and even the humour, of the English verse.
It is not my wish to deny how deeply I was interested in these
Memoirs, of which I need not surely be ashamed; but at the distance
of more than twenty years, it would be impossible for me to
ascertain the respective shares of the two associates.  A long and
intimate communication of ideas had cast our sentiments and style in
the same mould.  In our social labours we composed and corrected by
turns; and the praise which I might honestly bestow, would fall
perhaps on some article or passage most properly my own.  A second
volume (for the year 1768) was published of these Memoirs.  I will
presume to say, that their merit was superior to their reputation;
but it is not less true, that they were productive of more
reputation than emolument.  They introduced my friend to the
protection, and myself to the acquaintance, of the Earl of
Chesterfield, whose age and infirmities secluded him from the world;
and of Mr. David Hume, who was under-secretary to the office in
which Deyverdun was more humbly employed.  The former accepted a
dedication,(April 12, 1769,) and reserved the author for the future
education of his successor: the latter enriched the Journal with a
reply to Mr. Walpole's Historical Doubts, which he afterwards shaped
into the form of a note.  The materials of the third volume were
almost completed, when I recommended Deyverdun as governor to Sir
Richard Worsley, a youth, the son of my old Lieutenant-colonel, who
was lately deceased.  They set forwards on their travels; nor did
they return to England till some time after my father's death.

My next publication was an accidental sally of love and resentment;
of my reverence for modest genius, and my aversion for insolent
pedantry.  The sixth book of the AEneid is the most pleasing and
perfect composition of Latin poetry.  The descent of AEneas and the
Sibyl to the infernal regions, to the world of spirits, expands an
awful and boundless prospect, from the nocturnal gloom of the
Cumaean grot,

          Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbram,

to the meridian brightness of the Elysian fields;

          Largior hic campos aether et lumine vestit

from the dreams of simple Nature, to the dreams, alas! of Egyptian
theology, and the philosophy of the Greeks.  But the final
dismission of the hero through the ivory gate, whence

          Falsa ad coelum mittunt insomnia manes,

seems to dissolve the whole enchantment, and leaves the reader in a
state of cold and anxious scepticism.  This most lame and impotent
conclusion has been variously imputed to the taste or irreligion of
Virgil; but, according to the more elaborate interpretation of
Bishop Warburton, the descent to hell is not a false, but a mimic
scene; which represents the initiation of AEneas, in the character
of a law-giver, to the Eleusinian mysteries.  This hypothesis, a
singular chapter in the Divine Legation of Moses, had been admitted
by many as true; it was praised by all as ingenious; nor had it been
exposed, in a space of thirty years, to a fair and critical
discussion.  The learning and the abilities of the author had raised
him to a just eminence; but he reigned the dictator and tyrant of
the world of literature.  The real merit of Warburton was degraded
by the pride and presumption with which he pronounced his infallible
decrees; in his polemic writings he lashed his antagonists without
mercy or moderation; and his servile flatterers, (see the base and
malignant Essay on the Delicacy of Friendship,) exalting the master
critic far above Aristotle and Longinus, assaulted every modest
dissenter who refused to consult the oracle, and to adore the idol.
In a land of liberty, such despotism must provoke a general
opposition, and the zeal of opposition is seldom candid or
impartial.  A late professor of Oxford, (Dr. Lowth,) in a pointed
and polished epistle, (Aug. 31, 1765,) defended himself, and
attacked the Bishop; and, whatsoever might be the merits of an
insignificant controversy, his victory was clearly established by
the silent confusion of Warburton and his slaves.  I too, without
any private offence, was ambitious of breaking a lance against the
giant's shield; and in the beginning of the year 1770, my Critical
Observations on the Sixth Book of the AEneid were sent, without my
name, to the press.  In this short Essay, my first English
publication, I aimed my strokes against the person and the
hypothesis of Bishop Warburton.  I proved, at least to my own
satisfaction, that the ancient lawgivers did not invent the
mysteries, and that AEneas was never invested with the office of
lawgiver: that there is not any argument, any circumstance, which
can melt a fable into allegory, or remove the scene from the Lake
Avernus to the Temple of Ceres: that such a wild supposition is
equally injurious to the poet and the man: that if Virgil was not
initiated he could not, if he were, he would not, reveal the secrets
of the initiation: that the anathema of Horace (vetabo qui Cereris
sacrum vulgarit, &c.) at once attests his own ignorance and the
innocence of his friend.  As the Bishop of Gloucester and his party
maintained a discreet silence, my critical disquisition was soon
lost among the pamphlets of the day; but the public coldness was
overbalanced to my feelings by the weighty approbation of the last
and best editor of Virgil, Professor Heyne of Gottingen, who
acquiesces in my confutation, and styles the unknown author, doctus
- - - et elegantissimus Britannus.  But I cannot resist the
temptation of transcribing the favourable judgment of Mr. Hayley,
himself a poet and a scholar "An intricate hypothesis, twisted into
a long and laboured chain of quotation and argument, the
Dissertation on the Sixth Book of Virgil, remained some time
unrefuted.  - - - At length, a superior, but anonymous, critic
arose, who, in one of the most judicious and spirited essays that
our nation has produced, on a point of classical literature,
completely overturned this ill-founded edifice, and exposed the
arrogance and futility of its assuming architect." He even
condescends to justify an acrimony of style, which had been gently
blamed by the more unbiassed German; "Paullo acrius quam velis - - -
perstrinxit."  But I cannot forgive myself the contemptuous
treatment of a span who, with all his faults, was entitled to my
esteem; [Note: The Divine Legation of Moses is a monument, already
crumbling in the dust, of the vigour and weakness of the human mind.
If Warburton's new argument proved anything, it would be a
demonstration against the legislator, who left his people without
the knowledge of a future state.  But some episodes of the work, on
the Greek philosophy, the hieroglyphics of Egypt, &c. are entitled
to the praise of learning, imagination, and discernment.] and I can
less forgive, in a personal attack, the cowardly concealment of my
name and character.

In the fifteen years between my Essay on the Study of Literature and
the first volume of the Decline and Fall, (1761-1776,) this
criticism on Warburton, and some articles in the journal, were my
sole publications.  It is more especially incumbent on me to mark
the employment, or to confess the waste of time, from my travels to
my father's death, an interval in which I was not diverted by any
professional duties from the labours and pleasures of a studious
life.  1. As soon as I was released from the fruitless task of the
Swiss revolutions, (1768,) I began gradually to advance from the
wish to the hope, from the hope to the design, from the design to
the execution, of my historical work, of whose limits and extent I
had yet a very inadequate notion.  The Classics, as low as Tacitus,
the younger Pliny, and Juvenal, were my old and familiar companions.
I insensibly plunged into the ocean of the Augustan history; and in
the descending series I investigated, with my pen almost always in
my hand, the original records, both Greek and Latin, from Dion
Cassius to Ammianus Marcellinus, from the reign of Trajan to the
last age of the Western Caesars.  The subsidiary rays of medals, and
inscriptions of geography and chronology, were thrown on their
proper objects; and I applied the collections of Tillemont, whose
inimitable accuracy almost assumes the character of genius, to fix
and arrange within my reach the loose and scattered atoms of
historical information.  Through the darkness of the middle ages I
explored my way in the Annals and Antiquities of Italy of the
learned Muratori; and diligently compared them with the parallel or
transverse lines of Sigonius and Maffei, Baronius and Pagi, till I
almost grasped the ruins of Rome in the fourteenth century, without
suspecting that this final chapter must be attained by the labour of
six quartos and twenty years.  Among the books which I purchased,
the Theodocian Code, with the commentary of James Godefroy, must be
gratefully remembered.  I used it (and much I used it) as a work of
history, rather than of jurisprudence: but in every light it may be
considered as a full and capacious repository of the political state
of the empire in the fourth and fifth centuries.  As I believed, and
as I still believe, that the propagation of the Gospel, and the
triumph of the church, are inseparably connected with the decline of
the Roman monarchy, I weighed the causes and effects of the
revolution, and contrasted the narratives and apologies of the
Christians themselves, with the glances of candour or enmity which
the Pagans have cast on the rising sects, The Jewish and Heathen
testimonies, as they are collected and illustrated by Dr. Lardner,
directed, without superseding, my search of the originals; and in an
ample dissertation on the miraculous darkness of the passion, I
privately withdrew my conclusions from the silence of an unbelieving
age.  I have assembled the preparatory studies, directly or
indirectly relative to my history; but, in strict equity, they must
be spread beyond this period of my life, over the two summers (1771
and 1772) that elapsed between my father's death and my settlement
in London.  2. In a free conversation with books and men, it would
be endless to enumerate the names and characters of all who are
introduced to our acquaintance; but in this general acquaintance we
may select the degrees of friendship and esteem, according to the
wise maxim, Multum legere potius quam multa.  I reviewed, again and
again, the immortal works of the French and English, the Latin and
Italian classics.  My Greek studies (though less assiduous than I
designed) maintained and extended my knowledge of that incomparable
idiom.  Homer and Xenophon were still my favourite authors; and I
had almost prepared for the press an Essay on the Cyropoedia, which,
in my own judgment, is not unhappily laboured.  After a certain age,
the new publications of merit are the sole food of the many; and the
must austere student will be often tempted to break the line, for
the sake of indulging his own curiosity, and of providing the topics
of fashionable currency.  A more respectable motive maybe assigned
for the third perusal of Blackstone's Commentaries, and a copious
and critical abstract of that English work was my first serious
production in my native language.  3. My literary leisure was much
less complete and independent than it might appear to the eye of a
stranger.  In the hurry of London I was destitute of books; in the
solitude of Hampshire I was not master of my time.  My quiet was
gradually disturbed by our domestic anxiety, and I should be ashamed
of my unfeeling philosophy, had I found much time or taste for study
in the last fatal summer (1770) of my father's decay and

The disembodying of the militia at the close of the war (1763) had
restored the Major (a new Cincinnatus) to a life of agriculture.
His labours were useful, his pleasures innocent, his wishes
moderate; and my father seemed to enjoy the state of happiness which
is celebrated by poets and philosophers, as the most agreeable to
nature, and the least accessible to fortune.

          Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis
          (Ut prisca gens mortalium)
          Paterna rura bubus exercet suis,
          Solutus omni foenore.
               HOR. Epod. ii.

          Like the first mortals, blest is he,
          From debts, and usury, and business free,
          With his own team who ploughs the soil,
          Which grateful once confessed his father's toil.

But the last indispensable condition, the freedom from debt, was
wanting to my father's felicity; and the vanities of his youth were
severely punished by the solicitude and sorrow of his declining age.
The first mortgage, on my return from Lausanne, (1758,) had afforded
him a partial and transient relief.  The annual demand of interest
and allowance was a heavy deduction from his income; the militia was
a source of expence, the farm in his hands was not a profitable
adventure, he was loaded with the costs and damages of an obsolete
law-suit; and each year multiplied the number, and exhausted the
patience, of his creditors.  Under these painful circumstances, I
consented to an additional mortgage, to the sale of Putney, and to
every sacrifice that could alleviate his distress.  But he was no
longer capable of a rational effort, and his reluctant delays
postponed not the evils themselves, but the remedies of those evils
(remedia malorum potius quam mala differebat).  The pangs of shame,
tenderness, and self-reproach, incessantly preyed on his vitals; his
constitution was broken; he lost his strength and his sight; the
rapid progress of a dropsy admonished him of his end, and he sunk
into the grave on Nov. 10, 1770, in the sixty-fourth year of his
age.  A family tradition insinuates that Mr. William Law had drawn
his pupil in the light and inconstant character of Flatus, who is
ever confident, and ever disappointed in the chace of happiness.
But these constitutional failing were happily compensated by the
virtues of the head and heart, by the warmest sentiments of honour
and humanity.  His graceful person, polite address, gentle manners,
and unaffected cheerfulness, recommended him to the favour of every
company; and in the change of times and opinions, his liberal spirit
had long since delivered him from the zeal and prejudice of a Tory
education.  I submitted to the order of Nature; and my grief was
soothed by the conscious satisfaction that I had discharged all the
duties of filial piety.

As soon as I had paid the last solemn duties to my father, and
obtained, from time and reason, a tolerable composure of mind, I
began to form the plan of an independent life, most adapted to my
circumstances and inclination.  Yet so intricate was the net, my
efforts were so awkward and feeble, that nearly two years (Nov.
1770-Oct. 1772) were suffered to elapse before I could disentangle
myself from the management of the farm, and transfer my residence
from Beriton to a house in London.  During this interval I continued
to divide my year between town and the country; but my new situation
was brightened by hope; my stay in London was prolonged into the
summer; and the uniformity of the summer was occasionally broken by
visits and excursions at a distance from home.  The gratification of
my desires (they were not immoderate) has been seldom disappointed
by the want of money or credit; my pride was never insulted by the
visit of an importunate tradesman; and my transient anxiety for the
past or future has been dispelled by the studious or social
occupation of the present hour.  My conscience does not accuse me of
any act of extravagance or injustice, and the remnant of my estate
affords an ample and honourable provision for my declining age.  I
shall not expatiate on my oeconomical affairs, which cannot be
instructive or amusing to the reader.  It is a rule of prudence, as
well as of politeness, to reserve such confidence for the ear of a
private friend, without exposing our situation to the envy or pity
of strangers; for envy is productive of hatred, and pity borders too
nearly on contempt.  Yet I may believe, and even assert, that in
circumstances more indigent or more wealthy, I should never have
accomplished the task, or acquired the fame, of an historian; that
my spirit would have been broken by poverty and contempt, and that
my industry might have been relaxed in the labour and luxury of a
superfluous fortune.

I had now attained the first of earthly blessings, independence: I
was the absolute master of my hours and actions: nor was I deceived
in the hope that the establishment of my library in town would allow
me to divide the day between study and society.  Each year the
circle of my acquaintance, the number of my dead and living
companions, was enlarged.  To a lover of books, the shops and sales
of London present irresistible temptations; and the manufacture of
my history required a various and growing stock of materials.  The
militia, my travels, the House of Commons, the fame of an author,
contributed to multiply my connections: I was chosen a member of the
fashionable clubs; and, before I left England in 1783, there were
few persons of any eminence in the literary or political world to
whom I was a stranger.  [Note: From the mixed, though polite,
company of Boodle's, White's, and Brooks's, I must honourably
distinguish a weekly society, which was instituted in the year 1764,
and which still continues to flourish, under the title of the
Literary Club. (Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p.415. Boswell's Tour to
the Hebrides, p 97.)  The names of Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, Mr.
Topham Beauclerc, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds,
Mr. Colman, Sir William Jones, Dr. Percy, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, Mr.
Adam Smith, Mr. Steevens, Mr. Dunning, Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Warton,
and his brother Mr. Thomas Warton, Dr. Burney, &c., form a large and
luminous constellation of British stars.] It would most assuredly be
in my power to amuse the reader with a gallery of portraits and a
collection of anecdotes.  But I have always condemned the practice
of transforming a private memorial into a vehicle of satire or
praise.  By my own choice I passed in town the greatest part of the
year; but whenever I was desirous of breathing the air of the
country, I possessed an hospitable retreat at Sheffield-place in
Sussex, in the family of my valuable friend Mr. Holroyd, whose
character, under the name of Lord Sheffield, has since been more
conspicuous to the public.

No sooner was I settled in my house and library, than I undertook
the composition of the first volume of my History.  At the outset
all was dark and doubtful; even the title of the work, the true aera
of the Decline and Fall of the Empire, the limits of the
introduction, the division of the chapters, and the order of the
narrative; and I was often tempted to cast away the labour of seven
years.  The style of an author should be the image of his mind, but
the choice and command of language is the fruit of exercise.  Many
experiments were made before I could hit the middle tone between a
dull chronicle and a rhetorical declamation: three times did I
compose the first chapter, and twice the second and third, before I
was tolerably satisfied with their effect.  In the remainder of the
way I advanced with a more equal and easy pace; but the fifteenth
and sixteenth chapters have been reduced by three successive
revisals, from a large volume to their present size; and they might
still be compressed, without any loss of facts or sentiments.  An
opposite fault may be imputed to the concise and superficial
narrative of the first reigns from Commodus to Alexander; a fault of
which I have never heard, except from Mr. Hume in his last journey
to London.  Such an oracle might have been consulted and obeyed with
rational devotion; but I was soon disgusted with the modest practice
of reading the manuscript to my friends.  Of such friends some will
praise from politeness, and some will criticise from vanity.  The
author himself is the best judge of his own performance; no one has
so deeply meditated on the subject; no one is so sincerely
interested in the event.

By the friendship of Mr. (now Lord) Eliot, who had married my first
cousin, I was returned at the general election for the borough of
Liskeard.  I took my seat at the beginning of the memorable contest
between Great Britain and America, and supported, with many a
sincere and silent vote, the rights, though not, perhaps, the
interest, of the mother country.  After a fleeting illusive hope,
prudence condemned me to acquiesce in the humble station of a mute.
I was not armed by Nature and education with the intrepid energy of
mind and voice.

     Vincentem strepitus, et natum rebus agendis.

Timidity was fortified by pride, and even the success of my pen
discouraged the trial of my voice.  But I assisted at the debates of
a free assembly; I listened to the attack and defence of eloquence
and reason; I had a near prospect of the characters, views, and
passions of the first men of the age.  The cause of government was
ably vindicated by Lord North, a statesman of spotless integrity, a
consummate master of debate, who could wield, with equal dexterity,
the arms of reason and of ridicule.  He was seated on the
Treasury-bench between his Attorney and Solicitor General, the two
pillars of the law and state, magis pares quam similes; and the
minister might indulge in a short slumber, whilst he was upholden on
either hand by the majestic sense of Thurlow, and the skilful
eloquence of Wedderburne.  From the adverse side of the house an
ardent and powerful opposition was supported, by the lively
declamation of Barre, the legal acuteness of Dunning, the profuse
and philosophic fancy of Burke, and the argumentative vehemence of
Fox, who in the conduct of a party approved himself equal to the
conduct of an empire.  By such men every operation of peace and war,
every principle of justice or policy, every question of authority
and freedom, was attacked and defended; and the subject of the
momentous contest was the union or separation of Great Britain and
America.  The eight sessions that I sat in parliament were a school
of civil prudence, the first and most essential virtue of an

The volume of my History, which had been somewhat delayed by the
novelty and tumult of a first session, was now ready for the press.
After the perilous adventure had been declined by my friend Mr.
Elmsly, I agreed, upon easy terms, with Mr. Thomas Cadell, a
respectable bookseller, and Mr. William Strahan, an eminent printer;
and they undertook the care and risk of the publication, which
derived more credit from the name of the shop than from that of the
author.  The last revisal of the proofs was submitted to my
vigilance; and many blemishes of style, which had been invisible in
the manuscript, were discovered and corrected in the printed sheet.
So moderate were our hopes, that the original impression had been
stinted to five hundred, till the number was doubled by the
prophetic taste of Mr. Strahan.  During this awful interval I was
neither elated by the ambition of fame, nor depressed by the
apprehension of contempt.  My diligence and accuracy were attested
by my own conscience.  History is the most popular species of
writing, since it can adapt itself to the highest or the lowest
capacity.  I had chosen an illustrious subject.  Rome is familiar to
the school-boy and the statesman; and my narrative was deduced from
the last period of classical reading.  I had likewise flattered
myself, that an age of light and liberty would receive, without
scandal, an inquiry into the human causes of the progress and
establishment of Christianity.

I am at a loss how to describe the success of the work, without
betraying the vanity of the writer.  The first impression was
exhausted in a few days; a second and third edition were scarcely
adequate to the demand; and the bookseller's property was twice
invaded by the pirates of Dublin.  My book was on every table, and
almost on every toilette; the historian was crowned by the taste or
fashion of the day; nor was the general voice disturbed by the
barking of any profane critic.  The favour of mankind is most freely
bestowed on a new acquaintance of any original merit; and the mutual
surprise of the public and their favourite is productive of those
warm sensibilities, which at a second meeting can no longer be
rekindled.  If I listened to the music of praise, I was more
seriously satisfied with the approbation of my judges.  The candour
of Dr. Robertson embraced his disciple.  A letter from Mr. Hume
overpaid the labour of ten years, but I have never presumed to
accept a place in the triumvirate of British historians.

That curious and original letter will amuse the reader, and his
gratitude should shield my free communication from the reproach of

"DEAR SIR, EDINBURGH, 18th March 1776.

"As I ran through your volume of history with great avidity and
impatience, I cannot forbear discovering somewhat of the same
impatience in returning you thanks for your agreeable present, and
expressing the satisfaction which the performance has given me.
Whether I consider the dignity of your style, the depth of your
matter, or the extensiveness of your learning, I must regard the
work as equally the object of esteem; and I own that if I had not
previously had the happiness of your personal acquaintance, such a
performance from an Englishman in our age would have given me some
surprise.  You may smile at this sentiment; but as it seems to me
that your countrymen, for almost a whole generation, have given
themselves up to barbarous and absurd faction, and have totally
neglected all polite letters, I no longer expected any valuable
production ever to come from them.  I know it will give you pleasure
(as it did me) to find that all the men of letters in this place
concur in the admiration of your work, and in their anxious desire
of your continuing it.

"When I heard of your undertaking, (which was some time ago,) I own
I was a little curious to see how you would extricate yourself from
the subject of your two last chapters.  I think you have observed a
very prudent temperament; but it was impossible to treat the subject
so as not to give grounds of suspicion against you, and you may
expect that a clamour will arise.  This, if anything, will retard
your success with the public; for in every other respect your work
is calculated to be popular.  But among many other marks of decline,
the prevalence of superstition in England prognosticates the fall of
philosophy and decay of taste; and though nobody be more capable
than you to revive them, you will probably find a struggle in your
first advances.

"I see you entertain a great doubt with regard to the authenticity
of the poems of Ossian.  You are certainly right in so doing.  It is
indeed strange that any men of sense could have imagined it
possible, that above twenty thousand verses, along with numberless
historical facts, could have been preserved by oral tradition during
fifty generations, by the rudest, perhaps, of all the European
nations, the most necessitous, the most turbulent, and the most
unsettled.  Where a supposition is so contrary to common sense, any
positive evidence of it ought never to be regarded.  Men run with
great avidity to give their evidence in favour of what flatters
their passions and their national prejudices.  You are therefore
over and above indulgent to us in speaking of the matter with

"I must inform you that we all are very anxious to hear that you
have fully collected the materials for your second volume, and that
you are even considerably advanced in the composition of it.  I
speak this more in the name of my friends than in my own; as I
cannot expect to live so long as to see the publication of it.  Your
ensuing volume will be more delicate than the preceding, but I trust
in your prudence for extricating you from the difficulties; and, in
all events, you have courage to despise the clamour of bigots.
I am, with great regard,

"Dear Sir, &c.


Some weeks afterwards I had the melancholy pleasure of seeing Mr.
Hume in his passage through London; his body feeble, his mind firm.
On Aug. 25 of the same year (1776) he died, at Edinburgh, the death
of a philosopher.

My second excursion to Paris was determined by the pressing
invitation of M. and Madame Necker, who had visited England in the
preceding summer.  On my arrival I found M. Necker Director-general
of the finances, in the first bloom of power and popularity.  His
private fortune enabled him to support a liberal establishment, and
his wife, whose talents and virtues I had long admired, was
admirably qualified to preside in the conversation of her table and
drawing-room.  As their friend, I was introduced to the best company
of both sexes; to the foreign ministers of all nations, and to the
first names and characters of France; who distinguished me by such
marks of civility and kindness, as gratitude will not suffer me to
forget, and modesty will not allow me to enumerate.  The fashionable
suppers often broke into the morning hours; yet I occasionally
consulted the Royal Library, and that of the Abbey of St. Germain,
and in the free use of their books at home I had always reason to
praise the liberality of those institutions.  The society of men of
letters I neither courted nor declined; but I was happy in the
acquaintance of M. de Buffon, who united with a sublime genius the
most amiable simplicity of mind and manners.  At the table of my old
friend, M. de Foncemagne, I was involved in a dispute with the Abbe
de Mably; and his jealous irascible spirit revenged itself on a work
which he was incapable of reading in the original.

As I might be partial in my own cause, I shall transcribe the words
of an unknown critic, observing only, that this dispute had been
preceded by another on the English constitution, at the house of the
Countess de Froulay, an old Jansenist lady.

"Vous etiez chez M. de Foncemagne, mon cher Theodon, le jour que M.
l'Abbe de Mably et M. Gibbon y dinerent en grande compagnie.  La
conversation roula presque entierement sur l'histoire.  L'Abbe etant
un profond politique, la tourna sur l'administration, quand on fut
au desert: et comme par caractere, par humeur, par l'habitude
d'admirer Tite Live, il ne prise que le systeme republicain, il se
mit a vanter l'excellence des republiques; bien persuade que le
savant Anglois l'approuveroit en tout, et admireroit la profondeur
de genie qui avoit fait deviner tous ces avantages a un Francois.
Mais M. Gibbon, instruit par l'experience des inconveniens d'un
gouvernement populaire, ne fut point du tout de son avis, et il prit
genereusement la defense du gouvernement monarchique.  L'Abbe voulut
le convaincre par Tite Live, et par quelques argumens tires de
Plutarque en faveur des Spartiates.  M. Gibbon, doue de la memoire
la plus heureuse, et ayant tous les faits presens a la pensee,
domina bien-tot la conversation; I'Abbe se facha, il s'emporta, il
dit des choses dures; l'Anglois, conservant le phlegme de son pays,
prenoit ses avantages, et pressoit l'Abbe avec d'autant plus de
succes que la colere le troubloit de plus en plus.  La conversation
s'echauffoit, et M. de Foncemagne la rompit en se levant de table,
et en passant dans le salon, ou personne ne fut tente de la
renouer."--Supplement de la Maniere d'ecrire l'Histoire, p. 125,
&c. [Note: Of the voluminous writings of the Abbe de Mably, (see his
Eloge by the Abbe Brizard,) the Principes du droit public de
l'Europe, and the first part of the Observ. sur l'Hist. de France,
may be deservedly praised; and even the Maniere d'ecrire l'Hist.
contains several useful precepts and judicious remarks.  Mably was a
lover of virtue and freedom; but his virtue was austere, and his
freedom was impatient of an equal.  Kings, magistrates, nobles, and
successful writers were the objects of his contempt, or hatred, or
envy; but his illiberal abuse of Voltaire, Hume, Buffon, the Abbe
Reynal, Dr. Robertson, and tutti quanti can be injurious only to

Nearly two years had elapsed between the publication of my first and
the commencement of my second volume; and the causes must be
assigned of this long delay.  1. After a short holiday, I indulged
my curiosity in some studies of a very different nature, a course of
anatomy, which was demonstrated by Doctor Hunter; and some lessons
of chymistry, which were delivered by Mr. Higgins.  The principles
of these sciences, and a taste for books of natural history,
contributed to multiply my ideas and images; and the anatomist and
chymist may sometimes track me in their own snow.  2. I dived,
perhaps too deeply, into the mud of the Arian controversy; and many
days of reading, thinking, and writing were consumed in the pursuit
of a phantom.  3. It is difficult to arrange, with order and
perspicuity, the various transactions of the age of Constantine; and
so much was I displeased with the first essay, that I committed to
the flames above fifty sheets.  4. The six months of Paris and
pleasure must be deducted from the account.  But when I resumed my
task I felt my improvement; I was now master of my style and
subject, and while the measure of my daily performance was enlarged,
I discovered less reason to cancel or correct.  It has always been
my practice to cast a long paragraph in a single mould, to try it by
my ear, to deposit it in my memory, but to suspend the action of the
pen till I had given the last  polish to my work.  Shall I add, that
I never found my mind more vigorous, not my composition more happy,
than in the winter hurry of society and parliament?

Had I believed that the majority of English readers were so fondly
attached even to the name and shadow of Christianity; had I foreseen
that the pious, the timid, and the prudent, would feel, or affect to
feel, with such exquisite sensibility; I might, perhaps, have
softened the two invidious chapters, which would create many
enemies, and conciliate few friends.  But the shaft was shot, the
alarm was sounded, and I could only rejoice, that if the voice of
our priests was clamorous and bitter, their hands were disarmed from
the powers of persecution.  I adhered to the wise resolution of
trusting myself and my writings to the candour of the public, till
Mr. Davies of Oxford presumed to attack, not the faith, but the
fidelity, of the historian.  My Vindication, expressive of less
anger than contempt, amused for a moment the busy and idle
metropolis; and the most rational part of the laity, and even of the
clergy, appear to have been satisfied of my innocence and accuracy.
I would not print this Vindication in quarto, lest it should be
bound  and preserved with the history itself.  At the distance of
twelve years,  I calmly affirm my judgment of Davies, Chelsum, &c.
A victory over  such antagonists was a sufficient humiliation.
They, however, were  rewarded in this world.  Poor Chelsum was
indeed neglected; and I dare not boast the making Dr. Watson a
bishop; he is a prelate of a large mind and liberal spirit: but I
enjoyed the pleasure of giving a Royal pension to Mr. Davies, and of
collating Dr. Apthorpe to an archiepiscopal living.  Their success
encouraged the zeal of Taylor the Arian, [Note: The stupendous
title, Thoughts on the Causes of the grand Apostacy, at first
agitated my nerves, till I discovered that it was the apostacy of
the whole church, since the Council of Nice, from Mr. Taylor's
private religion.  His book is a thorough mixture of high enthusiasm
and low buffoonery, and the Millennium is a fundamental article of
his creed.] and Milner the Methodist, [Note: From his grammar-school
at Kingston upon Hull, Mr. Joseph Milner pronounces an anathema
against all rational religion.  His faith is a divine taste, a
spiritual inspiration; his church is a mystic and invisible body:
the natural Christians, such as Mr. Locke, who believe and interpret
the Scriptures, are, in his judgment, no better than profane
infidels.] with many others, whom it would  be difficult to
remember, and tedious to rehearse.  The list of my adversaries,
however, was graced with the more respectable names of Dr.
Priestley, Sir David Dalrymple, and Dr. White; and every polemic, of
either university, discharged his sermon or pamphlet against the
impenetrable silence of the Roman historian.  In his History of the
Corruptions of Christianity, Dr. Priestley threw down his two
gauntlets to Bishop Hurd and Mr. Gibbon.  I declined the challenge
in a letter, exhorting my opponent to enlighten the world by his
philosophical discoveries, and to remember that the merit of his
predecessor Servetus is now reduced to a single passage, which
indicates the smaller circulation of the blood through the lungs,
from and to the heart.  Instead of listening to this friendly
advice, the dauntless philosopher of Birmingham continued to fire
away his double battery against those who believed too little, and
those who believed too much.  From my replies he has nothing to hope
or fear: but his Socinian shield has repeatedly been pierced by the
spear of Horsley, and his trumpet of sedition may at length awaken
the magistrates of a free country.  The profession and rank of Sir
David Dalrymple (now a Lord of Session) has given a more decent
colour to his style.  But he scrutinized each separate passage of
the two chapters with the dry minuteness of a special pleader; and
as he was always solicitous to make, he may have succeeded sometimes
in finding, a flaw.  In his Annals of Scotland, he has shewn himself
a diligent collector and an accurate critic.  I have praised, and I
still praise, the eloquent sermons which were preached in St. Mary's
pulpit at Oxford by Dr. White.  If he assaulted me with some degree
of illiberal acrimony, in such a place, and before such an audience,
he was obliged to speak the language of the country.  I smiled at a
passage in one of his private letters to Mr. Badcock; "The part
where we encounter Gibbon must be brilliant and striking."  In a
sermon preached before the university of Cambridge, Dr. Edwards
complimented a work, "which can only perish with the language
itself;" and esteems the author a formidable enemy.  He is, indeed,
astonished that more learning and ingenuity has not been shewn in
the defence of Israel; that the prelates and dignitaries of the
church (alas, good man!) did not vie with each other, whose stone
should sink the deepest in the forehead of this Goliath.

"But the force of truth will oblige us to confess, that in the
attacks which have been levelled against our sceptical historian, we
can discover but slender traces of profound and exquisite erudition,
of solid criticism and accurate investigation; but we are too
frequently disgusted by vague and inconclusive reasoning; by
unseasonable banter and senseless witticisms; by imbittered bigotry
and enthusiastic jargon; by futile cavils and illiberal invectives.
Proud and elated by the weakness of his antagonists, he condescends
not to handle the sword of controversy."--Monthly Review, Oct. 1790.

Let me frankly own that I was startled at the first discharge of
ecclesiastical ordnance; but as soon as I found that this empty
noise was mischievous only in the intention, my fear was converted
into indignation; and every feeling of indignation or curiosity has
long since subsided in pure and placid indifference.

The prosecution of my history was soon afterwards checked by another
controversy of a very different kind.  At the request of the Lord
Chancellor, and of Lord Weymouth, then Secretary of State, I
vindicated, against the French manifesto, the justice of the British
arms.  The whole correspondence of Lord Stormont, our late
ambassador at Paris, was submitted to my inspection, and the Memoire
Justificatif, which I composed in French, was first approved by the
Cabinet Ministers, and then delivered as a State paper to the courts
of  Europe.  The style and manner are praised by Beaumarchais
himself, who, in his private quarrel, attempted a reply; but he
flatters me, by ascribing the memoir to Lord Stormont; and the
grossness of his invective betrays the loss of temper and of wit; he
acknowledged, Oeuv. de Beaumarchais, iii. 299, 355, that le style ne
seroit pas sans grace,  ni la logique sans justesse, &c. if the
facts were true which he  undertakes to disprove.  For these facts
my credit is not pledged; I spoke as a lawyer from my brief, but the
veracity of Beaumarchais may be estimated from the assertion that
France, by the treaty of Paris  (1763) was limited to a certain
number of ships of war.  On the application of the Duke of Choiseul,
he was obliged to retract this daring falsehood.

Among the honourable connections which I had formed, I may justly
be proud of the friendship of Mr. Wedderburne, at that time
Attorney-General, who now illustrates the title of Lord Loughborough,
and the office of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.  By his strong
recommendation, and the favourable disposition of Lord North, I was
appointed one of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations;
and my private income was enlarged by a clear addition of between
seven and eight hundred pounds a-year.  The fancy of an hostile
orator may paint, in the strong colours of ridicule, "the perpetual
virtual adjournment, and the unbroken sitting vacation of the Board
of Trade." [Note: I can never forget the delight with which that
diffusive and ingenious orator, Mr. Burke, was heard by all sides of
the house, and even by those whose existence he proscribed. (Speech
on the Bill of Reform, p. 72-80.)  The Lords of Trade blushed at
their insignificancy, and Mr. Eden's appeal to the 2,500 volumes of
our Reports, served only to excite a general laugh.  I take this
opportunity of certifying the correctness of Mr. Burke's printed
speeches, which I have heard and read.]  But it must be allowed that
our duty was not intolerably severe, and that I enjoyed many days
and weeks of repose, without being called away from my library to
the office.  My acceptance of a place provoked some of the leaders
of opposition, with whom I had lived in habits of intimacy; and I
was most unjustly accused of deserting a party, in which I had never

The aspect of the next session of parliament was stormy and
perilous; county meetings, petitions, and committees of
correspondence, announced the public discontent; and instead of
voting with a triumphant majority, the friends of government were
often exposed to a struggle, and sometimes to a defeat.  The House
of Commons adopted Mr. Dunning's motion, "That the influence of the
Crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished:"
and Mr. Burke's bill of reform was framed with skill, introduced
with eloquence, and  supported by numbers.  Our late president, the
American Secretary of State, very narrowly escaped the sentence of
proscription; but the unfortunate Board of Trade was abolished in
the committee by a small majority (207 to 199) of eight votes.  The
storm, however, blew over for a time; a large defection of country
gentlemen eluded the sanguine hopes of the patriots: the Lords of
Trade were revived; administration recovered their strength and
spirit; and the flames of London, which were kindled by a
mischievous madman, admonished all thinking men of the danger of an
appeal to the people.  In the premature dissolution which followed
this session of parliament I lost my seat.  Mr. Elliot was now
deeply engaged in the measures of opposition, and the electors of
Leskeard are commonly of the same opinion as Mr. Elliot.

In this interval of my senatorial life, I published the second and
third volumes of the Decline and Fall.  My ecclesiastical history
still breathed the same spirit of freedom; but protestant zeal is
more indifferent to the characters and controversies of the fourth
and fifth centuries.  My obstinate silence had damped the ardour of
the polemics.  Dr. Watson, the most candid of my adversaries,
assured me that he had no thoughts of renewing the attack, and my
impartial balance of the virtues and vices of Julian was generally
praised.  This truce was interrupted only by some animadversions of
the Catholics of Italy, and by some angry letters from Mr. Travis,
who made me personally responsible for condemning, with the best
critics, the spurious text of the three heavenly witnesses.

The piety or prudence of my Italian translator has provided an
antidote against the poison of his original.  The 5th and 7th
volumes are armed with five letters from an anonymous divine to his
friends, Foothead and Kirk, two English students at Rome: and this
meritorious service is commended by Monsignor Stoner, a prelate of
the same nation, who discovers much venom in the fluid and nervous
style of Gibbon.  The critical essay at the end of the third volume
was furnished by the Abbate Nicola Spedalieri, whose zeal has
gradually swelled to a more solid confutation in two quarto
volumes.--Shall I be excused for not having read them?

The brutal insolence of Mr. Travis's challenge can only be excused
by the absence of learning, judgment, and humanity; and to that
excuse be has the fairest or foulest pretension.  Compared with
Archdeacon Travis, Chelsum and Davies assume the title of
respectable enemies.

The bigoted advocate of popes and monks may be turned over even to
the bigots of Oxford; and the wretched Travis still smarts under the
lash of the merciless Porson.  I consider Mr. Porson's answer to
Archdeacon Travis as the most acute and accurate piece of criticism
which has appeared since the days of Bentley.  His strictures are
founded in argument, enriched with learning, and enlivened with wit;
and his adversary neither deserves nor finds any quarter at his
hands.  The evidence of the three heavenly witnesses would now be
rejected in any court of justice: but prejudice is blind, authority
is deaf, and our vulgar bibles will ever be polluted by this
spurious text, "sedet aeternumqne sedebit." The more learned
ecclesiastics will indeed have the secret satisfaction of
reprobating in the closet what they read in the church.

I perceived, and without surprise, the coldness and even prejudice
of the town; nor could a whisper escape my ear, that, in the
judgment of many readers, my continuation was much inferior to the
original attempts.  An author who cannot ascend will always appear
to sink; envy was now prepared for my reception, and the zeal of my
religious,  was fortified by the motive of my political, enemies.
Bishop Newton, in writing his own life, was at full liberty to
declare how much he himself and two eminent brethren were disgusted
by Mr. G.'s prolixity, tediousness, and affectation.  But the old
man should not have indulged his zeal in a false and feeble charge
against the historian, who had faithfully and even cautiously
rendered Dr. Burnet's meaning by the alternative of sleep or repose.
That philosophic divine supposes, that, in the period between death
and the resurrection, human souls exist without a body, endowed with
internal consciousness, but destitute of all active or passive
connection with the external world.  "Secundum communem dictionem
sacrae scripturae, mors dicitur somnus, et morientes dicuntur
abdormire, quod innuere mihi videtur statum mortis esse statum
quietis, silentii, et {Greek expression}." (De Statu Mortuorum, ch.
v. p. 98.)

I was however encouraged by some domestic and foreign testimonies of
applause; and the second and third volumes insensibly rose in sale
and reputation to a level with the first.  But the public is seldom
wrong; and I am inclined to believe that, especially in the
beginning, they are more prolix and less entertaining than the
first: my efforts had not been relaxed by success, and I had rather
deviated into the opposite fault of minute and superfluous
diligence.  On the Continent, my name and writings were slowly
diffused; a French translation of the first volume had disappointed
the booksellers of Paris; and a passage in the third was construed
as a personal reflection on the reigning monarch.  [Note: It may not
be generally known that Louis XVI. is a great reader, and a reader
of English books.  On perusing a passage of my History which seems
to compare him to Arcadius or Honorius, he expressed his resentment
to the Prince of B------, from whom the intelligence was conveyed to
me.  I shall neither disclaim the allusion, nor examine the
likeness; but the situation of the late King of France excludes all
suspicion of flattery; and I am ready to declare that the concluding
observations of my third volume were written before his accession to
the throne.]

Before I could apply for a seat at the general election the list was
already full; but Lord North's promise was sincere, his
recommendation was effectual, and I was soon chosen on a vacancy for
the borough of Lymington, in Hampshire.  In the first session of the
new parliament, administration stood their ground; their final
overthrow was reserved for the second.  The American war had once
been the favourite of the country: the pride of England was
irritated by the resistance of her colonies, and the executive power
was driven by national clamour into the most vigorous and coercive
measures.  But the length of a fruitless contest, the loss of
armies, the accumulation of debt and taxes, and the hostile
confederacy of France, Spain, and Holland, indisposed the public to
the American war, and the persons by whom it was conducted; the
representatives of the people, followed, at a slow distance, the
changes of their opinion; and the ministers who refused to bend,
were broken by the tempest.  As soon as Lord North had lost, or was
about to lose, a majority in the House of Commons, he surrendered
his office, and retired to a private station, with the tranquil
assurance of a clear conscience and a cheerful temper: the old
fabric was dissolved, and the posts of government were occupied by
the victorious and veteran troops of opposition.  The lords of trade
were not immediately dismissed, but the board itself was abolished
by Mr. Burke's bill, which decency had compelled the patriots to
revive; and I was stripped of a convenient salary, after having
enjoyed it about three years.

So flexible is the title of my History, that the final aera might be
fixed at my own choice; and I long hesitated whether I should be
content with the three volumes, the fall of the Western empire,
which fulfilled my first engagement with the public.  In this
interval of suspense, nearly a twelvemonth, I returned by a natural
impulse to the Greek authors of antiquity; I read with new pleasure
the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Histories of Herodotus, Thucydides,
and Xenophon, a large portion of the tragic and comic theatre of
Athens, and many interesting dialogues of the Socratic school.  Yet
in the luxury of freedom I began to wish for the daily task, the
active pursuit, which gave a value to every book, and an object to
every inquiry; the preface of a new edition announced my design, and
I dropped without reluctance from the age of Plato to that of
Justinian.  The original texts of Procopius and Agathias supplied
the events and even the characters of his reign: but a laborious
winter was devoted to the Codes, the Pandects, and the modern
interpreters, before I presumed to form an abstract of the civil
law.  My skill was improved by practice, my diligence perhaps was
quickened by the loss of office; and, excepting the last chapter, I
had finished the fourth volume before I sought a retreat on the
banks of the Leman Lake.

It is not the purpose of this narrative to expatiate on the public
or secret history of the times: the schism which followed the death
of the Marquis of Rockingham, the appointment of the Earl of
Shelburne, the resignation of Mr. Fox, and his famous coalition with
Lord North.  But I may assert, with some degree of assurance, that
in their political conflict those great antagonists had never felt
any personal animosity to each other, that their reconciliation was
easy and sincere, and that their friendship has never been clouded
by the shadow of suspicion or jealousy.  The most violent or venal
of their respective followers embraced this fair occasion of revolt,
but their alliance still commanded a majority in the House of
Commons; the peace was censured, Lord Shelburne resigned, and the
two friends knelt on the same cushion to take the oath of secretary
of state.  From a principle of gratitude I adhered to the coalition:
my vote was counted in the day of battle, but I was overlooked in
the division of the spoil.  There were many claimants more deserving
and importunate than myself: the board of trade could not be
restored; and, while the list of places was curtailed, the number of
candidates was doubled.  An easy dismission to a secure seat at the
board of customs or excise was promised on the first vacancy: but
the chance was distant and doubtful; nor could I solicit with much
ardour an ignoble servitude, which would have robbed me of the most
valuable of my studious hours: at the same time the tumult of
London, and the attendance on parliament, were grown more irksome;
and, without some additional income, I could not long or prudently
maintain the style of expence to which I was accustomed.

From my early acquaintance with Lausanne I had always cherished a
secret wish, that the school of my youth might become the retreat of
my declining age.  A moderate fortune would secure the blessings of
ease, leisure, and independence: the country, the people, the
manners, the language, were congenial to my taste; and I might
indulge the hope of passing some years in the domestic society of a
friend.  After travelling with several English, Mr. Deyverdun was
now settled at home, in a pleasant habitation, the gift of his
deceased aunt: we had long been separated, we had long been silent;
yet in my first letter I exposed, with the most perfect confidence,
my situation, my sentiments, and my designs.  His immediate answer
was a warm and joyful acceptance: the picture of our future life
provoked my impatience; and the terms of arrangement were short and
simple, as he possessed the property, and I undertook the expence of
our common house.  Before I could break my English chain, it was
incumbent on me to struggle with the feelings of my heart, the
indolence of my temper, and the opinion of the world, which
unanimously condemned this voluntary banishment.  In the disposal of
my effects, the library, a sacred deposit, was alone excepted: as my
post-chaise moved over Westminster-bridge I bid a long farewell to
the "fumum et opes strepitumque Romae." My journey by the direct
road through France was not attended with any accident, and I
arrived at Lausanne nearly twenty years after my second departure.
Within less than three months the coalition struck on some hidden
rocks: had I remained on board, I should have perished in the
general shipwreck.

Since my establishment at Lausanne, more than seven years have
elapsed; and if every day has not been equally soft and serene, not
a day, not a moment, has occurred in which I have repented of my
choice.  During my absence, a long portion of human life, many
changes had happened: my elder acquaintance had left the stage;
virgins were ripened into matrons, and children were grown to the
age of manhood.  But the same manners were transmitted from one
generation to another: my friend alone was an inestimable treasure;
my name was not totally forgotten, and all were ambitious to welcome
the arrival of a stranger and the return of a fellow-citizen.  The
first winter was given to a general embrace, without any nice
discrimination of persons and characters.  After a more regular
settlement, a more accurate survey, I discovered three solid and
permanent benefits of my new situation.  1. My personal freedom had
been somewhat impaired by the House of Commons and the Board of
Trade; but I was now delivered from the chain of duty and
dependence, from the hopes and fears of political adventure: my
sober mind was no longer intoxicated by the fumes of party, and I
rejoiced in my escape, as often as I read of the midnight debates
which preceded the dissolution of parliament.  2. My English
oeconomy had been that of a solitary bachelor, who might afford some
occasional dinners.  In Switzerland I enjoyed at every meal, at
every hour, the free and pleasant conversation of the friend of my
youth; and my daily table was always provided for the reception of
one or two extraordinary guests.  Our importance in society is less
a positive than a relative weight: in London I was lost in the
crowd; I ranked with the first families of Lausanne, and my style of
prudent expence enabled me to maintain a fair balance of reciprocal
civilities.  3. Instead of a small house between a street and a
stable-yard, I began to occupy a spacious and convenient mansion,
connected on the north side with the city, and open on the south to
a beautiful and boundless horizon.  A garden of four acres had been
laid out by the taste of Mr. Deyverdun: from the garden a rich
scenery of meadows and vineyards descends to the Leman Lake, and the
prospect far beyond the Lake is crowned by the stupendous mountains
of Savoy.  My books and my acquaintance had been first united in
London; but this happy position of my library in town and country
was finally reserved for Lausanne.  Possessed of every comfort in
this triple alliance, I could not be tempted to change my habitation
with the changes of the seasons.

My friends had been kindly apprehensive that I should not be able to
exist in a Swiss town at the foot of the Alps, after having so long
conversed with the first men of the first cities of the world.  Such
lofty connections may attract the curious, and gratify the vain; but
I am too modest, or too proud, to rate my own value by that of my
associates; and whatsoever may be the fame of learning or genius,
experience has shown the that the cheaper qualifications of
politeness and good sense are of more useful currency in the
commerce of life.  By many, conversation is esteemed as a theatre or
a school: but, after the morning has been occupied by the labours of
the library, I wish to unbend rather than to exercise my mind; and
in the interval between tea and supper I am far from disdaining the
innocent amusement of a game at cards.  Lausanne is peopled by a
numerous gentry, whose companionable idleness is seldom disturbed by
the pursuits of avarice or ambition: the women, though confined to a
domestic education, are endowed for the most part with more taste
and knowledge than their husbands and brothers: but the decent
freedom of both sexes is equally remote from the extremes of
simplicity and refinement.  I shall add as a misfortune rather than
a merit, that the situation and beauty of the Pays de Vaud, the long
habits of the English, the medical reputation of Dr. Tissot, and the
fashion of viewing the mountains and Glaciers, have opened us on all
sides to the incursions of foreigners.  The visits of Mr. and Madame
Necker, of Prince Henry of Prussia, and of Mr. Fox, may form some
pleasing exceptions; but, in general, Lausanne has appeared most
agreeable in my eyes, when we have been abandoned to our own
society.  I had frequently seen Mr. Necker, in the summer of 1784,
at a country house near Lausanne, where he composed his Treatise on
the Administration of the Finances.  I have since, in October 1790,
visited him in his present residence, the castle and barony of
Copet, near Geneva.  Of the merits and measures of that statesman
various opinions may be entertained; but all impartial men must
agree in their esteem of his integrity and patriotism.

In August 1784, Prince Henry of Prussia, in his way to Paris, passed
three days at Lausanne.  His military conduct has been praised by
professional men; his character has been vilified by the wit and
malice of a daemon (Mem. Secret de la Cour de Berlin); but I was
flattered by his affability, and entertained by his conversation.

In his tour of Switzerland (Sept. 1788) Mr. Fox gave me two days of
free and private society.  He seemed to feel, and even to envy, the
happiness of my situation; while I admired the powers of a superior
man, as they are blended in his attractive character with the
softness and simplicity of a child.  Perhaps no human being was ever
more perfectly exempt from the taint of malevolence, vanity, or

My transmigration from London to Lausanne could not be effected
without interrupting the course of my historical labours.  The hurry
of my departure, the joy of my arrival, the delay of my tools,
suspended their progress; and a full twelvemonth was lost before I
could resume the thread of regular and daily industry.  A number of
books most requisite and least common had been previously selected;
the academical library of Lausanne, which I could use as my own,
contained at least the fathers and councils; and I have derived some
occasional succour from the public collections of Berne and Geneva.
The fourth volume was soon terminated, by an abstract of the
controversies of the Incarnation, which the learned Dr. Prideaux was
apprehensive of exposing to profane eyes.  It had been the original
design of the learned Dean Prideaux to write the history of the ruin
of the Eastern Church.  In this work it would have been necessary,
not only to unravel all those controversies which the Christians
made about the hypostatical union, but also to unfold all the
niceties and subtle notions which each sect entertained concerning
it.  The pious historian was apprehensive of exposing that
incomprehensible mystery to the cavils and objections of
unbelievers: and he durst not, "seeing the nature of this book,
venture it abroad in so wanton and lewd an age" (Preface to the Life
of Mahomet, p. 10).

In the fifth and sixth volumes the revolutions of the empire and the
world are most rapid, various, and instructive; and the Greek or
Roman historians are checked by the hostile narratives of the
barbarians of the East and the West.  [Note: I have followed the
judicious precept of the Abbe de Mably, (Maniere d'ecrire l'Hist.,
p. 110,) who advises the historian not to dwell too minutely on the
decay of the eastern empire; but to consider the barbarian
conquerors as a more worthy subject of his narrative.  "Fas est et
ab hoste doceri."]

It was not till after many designs, and many trials, that I
preferred, as I still prefer, the method of grouping my picture by
nations; and the seeming neglect of chronological order is surely
compensated by the superior merits of interest and perspicuity.  The
style of the first volume is, in my opinion, somewhat crude and
elaborate; in the second and third it is ripened into ease,
correctness, and numbers; but in the three last I may have been
seduced by the facility of my pen, and the constant habit of
speaking one language and writing another may have infused some
mixture of Gallic idioms.  Happily for my eyes, I have always closed
my studies with the day, and commonly with the morning; and a long,
but temperate, labour has been accomplished, without fatiguing
either the mind or body; but when I computed the remainder of my
time and my task, it was apparent that, according to the season of
publication, the delay of a month would be productive of that of a
year.  I was now straining for the goal, and in the last winter many
evenings were borrowed from the social pleasures of Lausanne.  I
could now wish that a pause, an interval, had been allowed for a
serious revisal.

I have presumed to mark the moment of conception: I shall now
commemorate the hour of my final deliverance.  It was on the day, or
rather night, of the 27th of June, 1787, between the hours of eleven
and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last page, in a
summer house in my garden.  After laying down my pen, I took several
turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias, which commands a
prospect of the country, the lake, and the mountains.  The air was
temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was
reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent.  I will not
dissemble the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom,
and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame.  But my pride was soon
humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea
that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable
companion, and that whatsoever might be the future fate of my
History, the life of the historian must be short and precarious.  I
will add two facts, which have seldom occurred in the composition of
six, or at least of five quartos.  1. My first rough manuscript,
without any intermediate copy, has been sent to the press.  2. Not a
sheet has been seen by any human eyes, excepting those of the author
and the printer: the faults and the merits are exclusively my own.

I cannot help recollecting a much more extraordinary fact, which is
affirmed of himself by Retif de la Bretorme, a voluminous and
original writer of French novels.  He laboured, and may still
labour, in the humble office of corrector to a printing-house; but
this office enabled him to transport an entire volume from his mind
to the press; and his work was given to the public without ever
having been written with a pen.

After a quiet residence of four years, during which I had never
moved ten miles from Lausanne, it was not without some reluctance
and terror, that I undertook, in a journey of two hundred leagues,
to cross the mountains and the sea.  Yet this formidable adventure
was achieved without danger or fatigue; and at the end of a
fortnight I found myself in Lord Sheffield's house and library,
safe, happy, and at home.  The character of my friend (Mr. Holroyd)
had recommended him to a seat in parliament for Coventry, the
command of a regiment of light dragoons, and an Irish peerage.  The
sense and spirit of his political writings have decided the public
opinion on the great questions of our commercial interest with
America and Ireland.

The sale of his Observations on the American States was diffusive,
their effect beneficial; the Navigation Act, the palladium of
Britain, was defended, and perhaps saved, by his pen; and he proves,
by the weight of fact and argument, that the mother-country may
survive and flourish after the loss of America.  My friend has never
cultivated the arts of composition; but his materials are copious
and correct, and he leaves on his paper the clear impression of an
active and vigorous mind.  His "Observations on the Trade,
Manufactures, and present State of Ireland," were intended to guide
the industry, to correct the prejudices, and to assuage the passions
of a country which seemed to forget that she could be free and
prosperous only by a friendly connection with Great Britain.  The
concluding observations are written with so much ease and spirit,
that they may be read by those who are the least interested in the

He fell (in 1784) with the unpopular coalition; but his merit has
been acknowledged at the last general election, 1790, by the
honourable invitation and free choice of the city of Bristol.
During the whole time of my residence in England I was entertained
at Sheffield-Place and in Downing-Street by his hospitable kindness;
and the most pleasant period was that which I passed in the domestic
society of the family.  In the larger circle of the metropolis I
observed the country and the inhabitants with the knowledge, and
without the prejudices, of an Englishman; but I rejoiced in the
apparent increase of wealth and prosperity, which might be fairly
divided between the spirit of the nation and the wisdom of the
minister.  All party-resentment was now lost in oblivion: since I
was no man's rival, no man was my enemy.  I felt the dignity of
independence, and as I asked no more, I was satisfied with the
general civilities of the world.  The house in London which I
frequented with most pleasure and assiduity was that of Lord North.
After the loss of power and of sight, he was still happy in himself
and his friends; and my public tribute of gratitude and esteem could
no longer be suspected of any interested motive.  Before my
departure from England, I was present at the august spectacle of Mr.
Hastings's trial in Westminster Hall.  It is not my province to
absolve or condemn the Governor of India; but Mr. Sheridan's
eloquence demanded my applause; nor could I hear without emotion the
personal compliment which he paid me in the presence of the British

From this display of genius, which blazed four successive days, I
shall stoop to a very mechanical circumstance.  As I was waiting in
the managers' box, I had the curiosity to inquire of the short-hand
writer, how many words a ready and rapid orator might pronounce in
an hour? From 7000 to 7500 was his answer.  The medium of 7200 will
afford 120 words in a minute, and two words in each second.  But
this computation will only apply to the English language.

As the publication of my three last volumes was the principal
object, so it was the first care of my English journey.  The
previous arrangements with the bookseller and the printer were
settled in my passage through London, and the proofs, which I
returned more correct, were transmitted every post from the press to
Sheffield-Place.  The length of the operation, and the leisure of
the country, allowed some time to review my manuscript.  Several
rare and useful books, the Assises de Jerusalem, Ramusius de Bello
Constantinopolitano, the Greek Acts of the Synod of Florence, the
Statuta Urbis Romae, &c. were procured, and introduced in their
proper places the supplements which they afforded.  The impression
of the fourth volume had consumed three months.  Our common interest
required that we should move with a quicker pace; and Mr. Strahan
fulfilled his engagement, which few printers could sustain, of
delivering every week three thousand copies of nine sheets.  The day
of publication was, however, delayed, that it might coincide with
the fifty-first anniversary of my own birthday; the double festival
was celebrated by a cheerful literary dinner at Mr. Cadell's house;
and I seemed to blush while they read an elegant compliment from Mr.
Hayley, whose poetical talents had more than once been employed in
the praise of his friend.  Before Mr. Hayley inscribed with my name
his epistles on history, I was not acquainted with that amiable man
and elegant poet.  He afterwards thanked me in verse for my second
and third volumes; and in the summer of 1781, the Roman Eagle, (a
proud title) accepted the invitation of the English Sparrow, who
chirped in the groves of Eartham, near Chichester.  As most of the
former purchasers were naturally desirous of completing their sets,
the sale of the quarto edition was quick and easy; and an octavo
size was printed, to satisfy at a cheaper rate the public demand.
The conclusion of my work was generally read, and variously judged.
The style has been exposed to much academical criticism; a religious
clamour was revived, and the reproach of indecency has been loudly
echoed by the rigid censors of morals.  I never could understand the
clamour that has been raised against the indecency of my three last
volumes.  1. An equal degree of freedom in the former part,
especially in the first volume, had passed without reproach.  2. I
am justified in painting the manners of the times; the vices of
Theodora form an essential feature in the reign and character of
Justinian.  3. My English text is chaste, and all licentious
passages are left in the obscurity of a learned language.  Le Latin
dans ses mots brave l'honnetete, says the correct Boileau, in a
country and idiom more scrupulous than our own.  Yet, upon the
whole, the History of the Decline and Fall seems to have struck
root, both at home and abroad, and may, perhaps, a hundred years
hence still continue to be abused.  I am less flattered by Mr.
Porson's high encomium on the style and spirit of my history, than I
am satisfied with his honourable testimony to my attention,
diligence, and accuracy; those humble virtues, which religious zeal
had most audaciously denied.  The sweetness of his praise is
tempered by a reasonable mixture of acid.  As the book may not be
common in England, I shall transcribe my own character from the
Bibliotheca Historica of Meuselius, a learned and laborious German.
"Summis aevi nostri historicis Gibbonus sine dubio adnumerandus est.
Inter capitolii ruinas stans primum hujus operis scribendi concilium
cepit.  Florentissimos vitae annos colligendo et laborando eidem
impendit.  Enatum inde monumentum aere perennius, licet passim
appareant sinistre dicta, minus perfecta, veritati non satis
consentanea.  Videmus quidem ubique fere studium scrutandi
veritatemque scribendi maximum: tamen sine Tillemontio duce ubi
scilicet hujus historia finitur saepius noster titubat atque
hallucinatur.  Quod vel maxime fit ubi de rebus Ecclesiasticis vel
de juris prudentia Romana (tom. iv.) tradit, et in aliis locis.
Attamen naevi hujus generis haud impediunt quo minus operis summam
et {Greek} praedare dispositam, delectum rerum sapientissimum,
argutum quoque interdum, dictionemque seu stylum historico aeque ac
philosopho dignissimum, et vix a quoque alio Anglo, Humio ac
Robertsono haud exceptis (praereptum?) vehementer laudemus, atque
saeculo nostro de hujusmodi historia gratulemur..... Gibbonus
adversaries cum in tum extra patriam nactus est, quia propogationem
religionis Christianae, non, tit vulgo, fieri solet, cut more
Theologorum, sed ut Historicum et Philosophum decet, exposuerat."

The French, Italian, and German translations have been executed with
various success; but, instead of patronizing, I should willingly
suppress such imperfect copies, which injure the character, while
they propagate the name of the author.  The first volume had been
feebly, though faithfully, translated into French by M. Le Clerc de
Septchenes, a young gentleman of a studious character and liberal
fortune.  After his decease the work was continued by two
manufacturers of Paris, M. M. Desmuniers and Cantwell: but the
former is now an active member in the national assembly, and the
undertaking languishes in the hands of his associate.  The superior
merit of the interpreter, or his language, inclines me to prefer the
Italian version: but I wish that it were in my power to read the
German, which is praised by the best judges.  The Irish pirates are
at once my friends and my enemies,   But I cannot be displeased with
the too numerous and correct impressions which have been published
for the use of the continent at Basil in Switzerland. [Note: Of
their 14 8vo. vols. the two last include the whole body of the
notes.  The public importunity had forced me to remove them from the
end of the volume to the bottom of the page; but I have often
repented of my compliance.] The conquests of our language and
literature are not confined to Europe alone, and a writer who
succeeds in London, is speedily read on the banks of the Delaware
and the Ganges.

In the preface of the fourth volume, while I gloried in the name of
an Englishman, I announced my approaching return to the
neighbourhood of the Lake of Lausanne.  This last trial confirmed my
assurance that I had wisely chosen for my own happiness; nor did I
once, in a year's visit, entertain a wish of settling in my native
country.  Britain is the free and fortunate island; but where is the
spot in which I could unite the comforts and beauties of my
establishment at Lausanne? The tumult of London astonished my eyes
and ears; the amusements of public places were no longer adequate to
the trouble; the clubs and assemblies were filled with new faces and
young men; and our best society, our long and late dinners, would
soon have been prejudicial to my health.  Without any share in the
political wheel, I must be idle and insignificant: yet the most
splendid temptations would not have enticed me to engage a second
time in the servitude of Parliament or office.  At Tunbridge, some
weeks after the publication of my History, I reluctantly quitted
Lord and Lady Sheffield, and, with a young Swiss friend, M. Wilhelm.
de Severy, whom I had introduced to the English world, I pursued the
road of Dover and Lausanne.  My habitation was embellished in my
absence, and the last division of books, which followed my steps,
increased my chosen library to the number of between six and seven
thousand volumes.  My seraglio was ample, my choice was free, my
appetite was keen.  After a full repast on Homer and Aristophanes, I
involved myself in the philosophic maze of the writings of Plato, of
which the dramatic is, perhaps, more interesting than the
argumentative part: but I stepped aside into every path of inquiry
which reading or reflection accidentally opened.

Alas! the joy of my return, and my studious ardour, were soon damped
by the melancholy state of my friend Mr. Deyverdun.  His health and
spirits had long suffered a gradual decline, a succession of
apoplectic fits announced his dissolution; and before he expired,
those who loved him could not wish for the continuance of his life.
The voice of reason might congratulate his deliverance, but the
feelings of nature and friendship could be subdued only by time: his
amiable character was still alive in my remembrance; each room, each
walk, was imprinted with our common footsteps; and I should blush at
my own philosophy, if a long interval of study had not preceded and
followed the death of my friend.  By his last will he left to me the
option of purchasing his house and garden, or of possessing them
during my life, on the payment either of a stipulated price, or of
an easy retribution to his kinsman and heir.  I should probably have
been tempted by the daemon of property, if some legal difficulties
had not been started against my title; a contest would have been
vexatious, doubtful, and invidious; and the heir most gratefully
subscribed an agreement, which rendered my life-possession more
perfect, and his future condition more advantageous.  Yet I had
often revolved the judicious lines in which Pope answers the
objections of his longsighted friend:

          Pity to build without or child or wife;
          Why, you'll enjoy it only all your life
          Well, if the use be mine, does it concern one,
          Whether the name belong to Pope or Vernon?

The certainty of my tenure has allowed me to lay out a considerable
sum in improvements and alterations: they have been executed with
skill and taste; and few men of letters, perhaps, in Europe, are so
desirably lodged as myself.  But I feel, and with the decline of
years I shall more painfully feel, that I am alone in Paradise.
Among the circle of my acquaintance at Lausanne, I have gradually
acquired the solid and tender friendship of a respectable family,
the family of de Severy: the four persons of whom it is composed are
all endowed with the virtues best adapted to their age and
situation; and I am encouraged to love the parents as a brother, and
the children as a father.  Every day we seek and find the
opportunities of meeting: yet even this valuable connection cannot
supply the loss of domestic society.

Within the last two or three years our tranquillity has been clouded
by the disorders of France: many families at Lausanne were alarmed
and affected by the terrors of an impending bankruptcy; but the
revolution, or rather the dissolution of the kingdom has been heard
and felt in the adjacent lands.

I beg leave to subscribe my assent to Mr. Burke's creed on the
revolution of France.  I admire his eloquence, I approve his
politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can almost excuse his
reverence for church establishments.  I have sometimes thought of
writing a dialogue of the dead, in which Lucian, Erasmus, and
Voltaire should mutually acknowledge the danger of exposing an old
superstition to the contempt of the blind and fanatic multitude.

A swarm of emigrants of both sexes, who escaped from the public
ruin, has been attracted by the vicinity, the manners, and the
language of Lausanne; and our narrow habitations in town and country
are now occupied by the first names and titles of the departed
monarchy.  These noble fugitives are entitled to our pity; they may
claim our esteem, but they cannot, in their present state of mind
and fortune, much contribute to our amusement.  Instead of looking
down as calm and idle spectators on the theatre of Europe, our
domestic harmony is somewhat embittered by the infusion of party
spirit: our ladies and gentlemen assume the character of self-taught
politicians; and the sober dictates of wisdom and experience are
silenced by the clamour of the triumphant democrates.  The fanatic
missionaries of sedition have scattered the seeds of discontent in
our cities and villages, which had flourished above two hundred and
fifty years without fearing the approach of war, or feeling the
weight of government.  Many individuals, and some communities,
appear to be infested with the Gallic phrenzy, the wild theories of
equal and boundless freedom; but I trust that the body of the people
will be faithful to their sovereign and to themselves; and I am
satisfied that the failure or success of a revolt would equally
terminate in the ruin of the country.  While the aristocracy of
Berne protects the happiness, it is superfluous to enquire whether
it be founded in the rights of man: the oeconomy of the state is
liberally supplied without the aid of taxes; and the magistrates
must reign with prudence and equity, since they are unarmed in the
midst of an armed nation.

The revenue of Berne, excepting some small duties, is derived from
church lands, tithes, feudal rights, and interest of money.  The
republic has nearly 500,000 pounds sterling in the English funds,
and the amount of their treasure is unknown to the citizens
themselves.  For myself (may the omen be averted) I can only
declare, that the first stroke of a rebel drum would be the signal
of my immediate departure.

When I contemplate the common lot of mortality, I must acknowledge
that I have drawn a high prize in the lottery of life.  The far
greater part of the globe is overspread with barbarism or slavery:
in the civilized world, the most numerous class is condemned to
ignorance and poverty; and the double fortune of my birth in a free
and enlightened country, in an honourable and wealthy family, is the
lucky chance of an unit against millions.  The general probability
is about three to one, that a new-born infant will not live to
complete his fiftieth year.  [Note: Buffon, Supplement a l'Hist.
naturelle, vii. p, 158-164, of a given number of new-born infants,
one half, by the fault of nature or man, is extinguished before the
age of puberty and reason,--a melancholy calculation!]  I have now
passed that age, and may fairly estimate the present value of my
existence in the three-fold division of mind, body, and estate.

1. The first and indispensable requisite of happiness is a clear
conscience, unsullied by the reproach or remembrance of an unworthy

                    --Hic murus aheneus esto,
          Nil conscire sibi, nulla pallescere culpa.

I am endowed with a cheerful temper, a moderate sensibility, and a
natural disposition to repose rather than to activity: some
mischievous appetites and habits have perhaps been corrected by
philosophy or time.  The love of study, a passion which derives
fresh vigour from enjoyment, supplies each day, each hour, with a
perpetual source of independent and rational pleasure; and I am not
sensible of any decay of the mental faculties.  The original soil
has been highly improved by cultivation; but it may be questioned,
whether some flowers of fancy, some grateful errors, have not been
eradicated with the weeds of prejudice.  2. Since I have escaped
from the long perils of my childhood, the serious advice of a
physician has seldom been requisite.  "The madness of superfluous
health" I have never known; but my tender constitution has been
fortified by time, and the inestimable gift of the sound and
peaceful slumbers of infancy may be imputed both to the mind and
body.  3. I have already described the merits of my society and
situation; but these enjoyments would be tasteless or bitter if
their possession were not assured by an annual and adequate supply.
According to the scale of Switzerland, I am a rich man; and I am
indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expence, and my
expence is equal to my wishes.  My friend Lord Sheffield has kindly
relieved me from the cares to which my taste and temper are most
adverse: shall I add, that since the failure of my first wishes, I
have never entertained any serious thoughts of a matrimonial

I am disgusted with the affectation of men of letters, who complain
that they have renounced a substance for a shadow; and that their
fame (which sometimes is no insupportable weight) affords a poor
compensation for envy, censure, and persecution.  [Note: M.
d'Alembert relates, that as he was walking in the gardens of Sans
Souci with the King of Prussia, Frederic said to him, "Do you see
that old woman, a poor weeder, asleep on that sunny bank? she is
probably a more happy being than either of us."  The king and the
philosopher may speak for themselves; for my part I do not envy the
old woman.]  My own experience, at least, has taught me a very
different lesson: twenty happy years have been animated by the
labour of my History; and its success has given me a name, a rank, a
character, in the world, to which I should not otherwise have been
entitled.  The freedom of my writings has indeed provoked an
implacable tribe; but, as I was safe from the stings, I was soon
accustomed to the buzzing of the hornets: my nerves are not
tremblingly alive, and my literary temper is so happily framed, that
I am less sensible of pain than of pleasure.  The rational pride of
an author may be offended, rather than flattered, by vague
indiscriminate praise; but he cannot, he should not, be indifferent
to the fair testimonies of private and public esteem.  Even his
moral sympathy may be gratified by the idea, that now, in the
present hour, he is imparting some degree of amusement or knowledge
to his friends in a distant land: that one day his mind will be
familiar to the grand-children of those who are yet unborn.  I
cannot boast of the friendship or favour of princes; the patronage
of English literature has long since been devolved on our
booksellers, and the measure of their liberality is the least
ambiguous test of our common success.  Perhaps the golden mediocrity
of my fortune has contributed to fortify my application.

The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more; and our
prospect of futurity is dark and doubtful.  This day may possibly be
my last: but the laws of probability, so true in general, so
fallacious in particular, still allow about fifteen years. [Mr.
Buffon, from our disregard of the possibility of death within the
four and twenty hours, concludes that a chance, which falls below or
rises above ten thousand to one, will never affect the hopes or
fears of a reasonable man.  The fact is true, but our courage is the
effect of thoughtlessness, rather than of reflection.  If a public
lottery were drawn for, the choice of an immediate victim, and if
our name were inscribed on ore of the ten thousand tickets, should
we be perfectly easy?]  I shall soon enter into the period which, as
the most agreeable of my long life, was selected by the judgment and
experience of the sage Fontenelle.  His choice is approved by the
eloquent historian of nature, who fixes our moral happiness to the
mature season in which our passions are supposed to be calmed, our
duties fulfilled, our ambition satisfied, our fame and fortune
established on a solid basis (see Buffon).  In private conversation,
that great and amiable man added the weight of his own experience;
and this autumnal felicity might be exemplified in the lives of
Voltaire, Hume, and many other men of letters.  I am far more
inclined to embrace than to dispute this comfortable doctrine.  I
will not suppose any premature decay of the mind or body; but I must
reluctantly observe that two causes, the abbreviation of time, and
the failure of hope, will always tinge with a browner shade the
evening of life.

[POSTSCRIPT by Lord Sheffield]
WHEN I first undertook to prepare Mr. Gibbon's Memoirs for the
Press, I supposed that it would be necessary to introduce some
continuation of them, from the time when they cease, namely, soon
after his return to Switzerland in the year 1788; but the
examination of his correspondence with me suggested, that the best
continuation would be the publication of his letters from that time
to his death.  I shall thus give more satisfaction, by employing the
language of Mr. Gibbon, instead of my own; and the public will see
him in a new and (I think) an admirable light, as a writer of
letters.  By the insertion of a few occasional sentences, I shall
obviate the disadvantages that are apt to arise from an interrupted
narration.  A prejudiced or a fastidious critic may condemn,
perhaps, some parts of the letters as trivial; but many readers, I
flatter myself, will be gratified by discovering even in these my
friend's affectionate feelings, and his character in familiar life.
His letters in general bear a strong resemblance to the style and
turn of his conversation; the characteristics of which were
vivacity, elegance, and precision, with knowledge astonishingly
extensive and correct.  He never ceased to be instructive and
entertaining; and in general there was a vein of pleasantry in his
conversation which prevented its becoming languid, even during a
residence of many months with a family in the country.

It has been supposed that he always arranged what he intended to
say, before he spoke; his quickness in conversation contradicts this
notion: but it is very true, that before he sat down to write a note
or letter, he completely arranged in his mind what he meant to
express.  He pursued the same method in respect to other
composition; and he occasionally would walk several times about his
apartment before he had rounded a period to his taste.  He has
pleasantly remarked to me, that it sometimes cost him many a turn
before he could throw a sentiment into a form that gratified his own
criticism.  His systematic habit of arrangement in point of style,
assisted, in his instance, by an excellent memory and correct
judgment, is much to be recommended to those who aspire to any
perfection in writing.

Although the Memoirs extend beyond the time of Mr. Gibbon's return
to Lausanne, I shall insert a few Letters, written immediately after
his arrival there, and combine them so far as to include even the
last note which he wrote a few days previously to his death.  Some
of them contain few incidents; but they connect and carry on the
account either of his opinions or of his employment.

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