Letter To The Right Honourable Lord Sheffield
From Letters To Lord Sheffield Part Of Edward Gibbon's Autobiography Edited by Lord Sheffield


Your indignation will melt into pity, when you hear that for several weeks past I have been again confined to my chamber and my chair. Yet I must hasten, generously hasten, to exculpate the gout, my old enemy, from the curses which you already pour on his head. He is not the cause of this disorder, although the consequences have been somewhat similar. I am satisfied that this effort of nature has saved me from a very dangerous, perhaps a fatal, crisis; and I listen to the flattering hope that it may tend to keep the gout at a more respectful distance, etc., etc., etc.

The whole sheet has been filled with dry selfish business; but I must and will reserve some lines of the cover for a little friendly conversation. I passed four days at the castle of Copet with Necker; and could have wished to have shown him, as a warning to any aspiring youth possessed with the demon of ambition. With all the means of private happiness in his power, he is the most miserable of human beings: the past, the present, and the future, are equally odious to him. When I suggested some domestic amusements of books, building, etc., he answered, with a deep tone of despair, `Dans 1'état où je suis, je ne puis sentir que le coup de vent qui m'a abbattu.' How different from the conscious cheerfulness with which our poor friend Lord North supported his fall! Madame Necker maintains more external composure, mais de Diable n'y perd rien. It is true that Necker wished to be carried into the closet, like old Pitt, on the shoulders of the people; and that he has been ruined by the democracy which he had raised. I believe him to be an able financier, and know him to be an honest man; too honest, perhaps, for a minister. His rival Calonne passed through Lausanne, in his way from Turin; and was soon followed by the Prince of Condé, with his son and grandson; but I was too much indisposed to see them. They have, or have had, some wild projects of a counter-evolution: horses have been bought, men levied: and the Canton of Berne has too much countenanced such foolish attempts, which must end in the ruin of the party. Burke's book is a most admirable medicine against the French disease, which has made too much progress even in this happy country. I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can forgive even his superstition. The primitive church, which I have treated with some freedom, was itself at that time an innovation, and I was attached to the old Pagan establishment. The French spread so many lies about the sentiments of the English nation, that I wish the most considerable men of all parties and descriptions would join in some public act, declaring themselves satisfied with, and resolved to support our present constitution. Such a declaration would have a wonderful effect in Europe; and, were I thought worthy, I myself would be proud to subscribe it. I have a great mind to send you something of a sketch, such as all thinking men might adopt.

I have intelligence of the approach of my Madeira. I accept with equal pleasure the second pipe, now in the Torrid Zone. Send me some pleasant details of your domestic state, of Maria, etc. If my Lady thinks that my silence is a mark of indifference, my Lady is a goose. I must have you all at Lausanne next summer.

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