Note from 'Resumes Studies' chapter from 'Memoirs Of My Life And Writing' by Gibbon

1762July 27

The reflections which I was making yesterday I continued and digested today. I don't absolutely look on that time as lost, but that it might have been better employed than in revolving schemes, the execution of which is so far distant. I must learn to check these wanderings of my imagination.

November 24

I dined at the Cocoa Tree with Holt; who, under a great appearance of oddity, conceals more real honour, good sense, and even knowledge than half those who laugh at him. We went thence to the play (The Spanish Friar); and when it was over, returned to the Cocoa Tree. That respectable body, of which I have the honour of being a member, affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty, perhaps, of the first men in the kingdom, in point of fashion and fortune, supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a coffee-room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich, and drinking a glass of punch. At present, we are full of king's counsellors and lords of the bed-chamber; who, having jumped into the ministry, make a very singular medley of their old principles and language, with their modern ones.


I went with Mallet to breakfast with Garrick; and thence to Drury Lane house, where I assisted at a very private rehearsal, in the Green Room, of a new tragedy of Mallet's, called Elvira . As I have since seen it acted, I shall defer my opinion of it till then; but I cannot help mentioning here the surprising versatility of Mrs. Pritchard's talents, who rehearsed, almost at the same time, the part of a furious queen in the Green Room, and that of a coquette on the stage; and passed several times from one to the other with the utmost ease and happiness.

December 30

Before I close the year I must balance my accounts — not of money, but of time. I may divide my studies into four branches:

(1) Books that I have read for themselves, classic writers, or capital treatises upon any science; such books as ought to be perused with attention, and meditated with care. Of these I read the twenty last books of the Iliad twice, the three first books of the Odyssey, the Life of Homer, and Longinus

(2) Books which I have read, or consulted, to illustrate the former. Such as this year, Blackwell's Inquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer, Burke's Sublime and Beautiful, Hurd's Horace, Guichardt's Memoires Militaires, a great variety of passages of the ancients occasionally useful: large extracts from Mezeriac, Bayle, and Potter; many memoirs and abstracts from the Academy of Belles Lettres : among these I shall only mention here two long and curious suites of dissertations — the one upon the Temple of Delphi, the Amphictyonic Council, and the Holy Ware , by MM. Hardion and de Valois; the other upon the Games of the Grecians , by MM. Burette, Gedoyne, and de la Barre.

(3) Books of amusement and instruction, perused at my leisure hours, without any reference to a regular plan of study. Of these, perhaps, I read too many, since I went through the Life of Erasmus, by Le Clerc and Burigny, many extracts from Le Clere's Bibliotheques, The Ciceronianus, and Colloquies of Erasmus, Barclay's Argenis, Terasson's Sethos, Voltaire's Siecle de Louis XIV, Madame de Motteville's Memoirs, and Fontenedle's Works.

(4) Compositions of my own. I find hardly any, except this Journal, and the Extract of Hurd's Horace, which (like a chapter of Montaigne) contains many things very different from its title. To these four heads I must this year add a fifth.

(5) Those treatises of English history which I read in January, with a view to my now abortive scheme of the Life of Sir Walter Raleigh. I ought indeed to have known my own mind better before I undertook them. Upon the whole, after making proper allowances, I am not dissatisfied with the year.

The three weeks which I passed at Beriton, at the end of this and the beginning of the ensuing year, are almost a blank. I seldom went out; and as the scheme of my travelling was at last entirely settled, the hurry of impatience, the cares of preparations, and the tenderness of friends I was going to quit, allowed me hardly any moments for study.