Edward Gibbon

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. 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.... It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars 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 work.

. . . 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 [At Lausanne]. 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 emotion of joy on recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame.

Autobiography of Edward Gibbon (World's Classics edn.,1907), pp. 155-9,160,205.

The Duke of Gloucester, brother of King George III, permitted Mr. Gibbon to present to him the first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. When the second volume of that work appeared, it was quite in order that it should be presented to His Royal Highness in like manner. The prince received the author with much good nature and affability, saying to him, as he laid the quarto on the table,

"Another d-mn'd thick, square book! Always, scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?"

— Beste, Memorials, p. 68. This devastating remark has been attributed elsewhere to the Duke of Cumberland.
Cf. The Memoirs of the Life of Edward Gibbon, ed. G. B. Hill (1900), p. 127 n.

Gibbon took very little exercise. He had been staying some time with Lord Sheffield in the country; and when he was about to go away, the servants could not find his hat. 'Bless me,' said Gibbon, 'I certainly left it in the hall on my arrival here.' He had not stirred out of doors during the whole of the visit.

— Rogers, Table Talk, p 81.

HERE is an anecdote of William Spencer's which has just occurred to me. The dramatis personae were Lady Elizabeth Foster, Gibbon the historian, and an eminent French physician whose name I forget; the historian and doctor being rivals in courting the lady's favour. Impatient at Gibbon's occupying so much of her attention by his conversation, the doctor said crossly to him,

'Quand milady Elizabeth Foster sera malade de vos fadaises, je la guérirai.'

On which Gibbon, drawing himself up grandly, and looking disdainfully at the physician, replied,

'Quand milady Elizabeth Foster sera morte de vos reçettes, je l'im-mor-taliserai.'

The pompous lengthening of the last word, while at the same time a long sustained pinch of snuff was taken by the historian, brought, as mimicked by Spencer, the whole scene most livelily before one's eyes.

— Moore, Journals (21 December, 1844), vii. 374.