"The remarkable mode of quotation which Mr. Gibbon adopts must immediately strike every one who turns to his notes. He sometimes only mentions the author, perhaps the book; and often leaves the reader the toil of finding out, or rather guessing at the passage. The policy, however, is not without its design and use. By endeavouring to deprive us of the means of comparing him with the authorities he cites, he flattered himself, no doubt, that he might safely have recourse to misrepresentation." (5)
Such is the style of Mr. Davis; who in another place (6) mentions this mode of quotation "as a good artifice to escape detection;" and applauds, with an agreeable irony, his own labours in turning over a few pages of the Theodosian Code.
I shall not descend to animadvert on the rude and illiberal strain of this passage, and I will frankly own that my indignation is lost in astonishment. The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of my History are illustrated by three hundred and eighty-three Notes; and the nakedness of a few Notes, which are not accompanied by any quotation, is amply compensated by a much greater number, which contain two, three, or perhaps four distinct references; so that upon the whole my stock of quotations which support and justify my facts cannot amount to less than eight hundred or a thousand. As I had often felt the inconvenience of the loose and general method of quoting which is so falsely imputed to me, I have carefully distinguished the books, the chapters, the sections, the pages of the authors to whom I referred, with a degree of accuracy and attention, which might claim some gratitude, as it has seldom been so regularly practised by any historical writers. And here I must confess some obligation to Mr. Davis, who, by staking my credit and his own on a circumstance so obvious and palpable, has given me this early opportunity of submitting the merits of our cause, or at least of our characters, to the judgment of the Public. Hereafter, when I am summoned to defend myself against the imputation of misquoting the text, or misrepresenting the sense of a Greek or Latin author, it will not be in my power to communicate the knowledge of the languages, or the possession of the books, to those readers who may be destitute either of one or of the other, and the part which they are obliged to take between assertions equally strong and peremptory, may sometimes be attended with doubt and hesitation. But, in the present instance, every reader who will give himself the trouble of consulting the First Volume of my History, is a competent judge of the question. I exhort, I solicit him to run his eye down the columns of Notes, and to count how many of the quotations are minute and particular, how few are vague and general. When he has satisfied himself by this easy computation, there is a word which may naturally suggest itself; an epithet, which I should be sorry either to deserve or use; the boldness of Mr. Davis's assertion, and the confidence of my appeal will tempt, nay, perhaps, will force him to apply that epithet either to one or to the other of the adverse parties.
I have confessed that a critical eye may discover some loose and general references; but as they bear a very inconsiderable proportion to the whole mass, they cannot support, or even excuse, a false and ungenerous accusation, which must reflect dishonour either on the object or on the author of it. If the examples in which I have occasionally deviated from my ordinary practice were specified and examined, I am persuaded that they might always be fairly attributed to one of the following reasons. 1.In some rare instances, which I have never attempted to conceal, I have been obliged to adopt quotations which were expressed with less accuracy than I could have wished. 2. I may have accidentally recollected the sense of a passage which I had formerly read, without being able to find the place, or even to transcribe from memory the precise words. 3. The whole tract (as in a remarkable instance of the second Apology of Justin Martyr) was so short, that a more particular description was not required. 4. The form of the composition supplied the want of a local reference; the preceding mention of the year fixed the passage of the annalist; and the reader was guided to the proper spot in the commentaries of Grotius, Valesius, or Godefroy, by the more accurate citation of their original author. 5. The idea which I was desirous of communicating to the reader, was sometimes the general result of the author or treatise that I had quoted; nor was it possible to confine, within the narrow limits of a particular reference, the sense or spirit which was mingled with the whole mass. These motives are either laudable, or at least innocent. In two of these exceptions, my ordinary mode of citation was superfluous; in the other three, it was impracticable.
In quoting a comparison which Tertullian had used to express the rapid increase of the Marcionnes, I expressly declared that I was obliged to quote it from memory. (7) If I have been guilty of comparing them to bees instead of wasps, I can however most sincerely disclaim the sagacious suspicion of Mr. Davis, (8) who imagines that I was tempted to amend the simile of Tertullian from an improper partiality for those odious Heretics.
A rescript of Diocletian, which declared the old law (not an old law (9)), had been alleged by me on the respectable authority of Fra-Paolo. The Examiner, who thinks that he has turned over the pages of the Theodosian Code, informs (10) his reader that it may be found, I. vi. tit. xxiv. 8.; he will be surprised to learn that this rescript could not be found in a code where it does not exist, but that it may distinctly be read in the same number, the same title, and the same book of the CODE OF JUSTINIAN He who is severe should at least be just: yet I should probably have disdained this minute animadversion, unless it had served to display the general ignorance of the critic in the History of the Roman Jurisprudence. If Mr. Davis had not been an absolute stranger, the most treacherous guide could not have persuaded him that a rescript of Diocletian was to be found in the Theodosian Code, which was designed only to preserve the laws of Constantine and his successors. Compendiosam (says Theodosius himself) Divalium Constitutionum scientiam, ex D. Constantini temporibus roboramus. (Novell. ad calcem Cod. Theod. 1. i. tit. i. leg. I.)
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