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There could be no refusal of the elder's wishes. Gibbon put it this way: "I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son. Their final emotional break apparently came at Ferney , France in early , though they did see each other at least one more time a year later.

In his autobiography Gibbon vividly records his rapture when he finally neared "the great object of [my] pilgrimage":. 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. And it was here that Gibbon first conceived the idea of composing a history of the city, later extended to the entire empire , a moment known to history as the "Capitoline vision": [17].

It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October , as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol , while the barefooted 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. Womersley Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , p. In June , Gibbon returned to his father's house, and remained there until the latter's death in His first historical narrative known as the History of Switzerland , which represented Gibbon's love for Switzerland, was never published nor finished.

Even under the guidance of Deyverdun a German translator for Gibbons , Gibbon became too critical of himself, and completely abandoned the project, only writing 60 pages of text.

Edward Gibbon

Soon after abandoning his History of Switzerland , Gibbon made another attempt towards completing a full history. After tending to his father's estate—which was by no means in good condition—there remained quite enough for Gibbon to settle fashionably in London at 7 Bentinck Street , free of financial concern. By February , he was writing in earnest, but not without the occasional self-imposed distraction.

He took to London society quite easily, joined the better social clubs, including Dr. Johnson 's Literary Club , and looked in from time to time on his friend Holroyd in Sussex. He succeeded Oliver Goldsmith at the Royal Academy as 'professor in ancient history' honorary but prestigious. He was also, perhaps least productively in that same year, , returned to the House of Commons for Liskeard , Cornwall through the intervention of his relative and patron, Edward Eliot.

Gibbon's indolence in that position, perhaps fully intentional, subtracted little from the progress of his writing. Gibbon lost the Liskeard seat in when Eliot joined the opposition, taking with him "the Electors of Leskeard [who] are commonly of the same opinion as Mr.

The following year, owing to the good grace of Prime Minister Lord North , he was again returned to Parliament, this time for Lymington on a by-election. After several rewrites, with Gibbon "often tempted to throw away the labours of seven years," the first volume of what was to become his life's major achievement, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , was published on 17 February Volumes II and III appeared on 1 March , eventually rising "to a level with the previous volume in general esteem. By early , he was "straining for the goal" and with great relief the project was finished in June.

Gibbon later wrote:. It was on the day, or rather the night, of 27 June , between the hours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines of the last page in a summer-house in my garden 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 my everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that, whatsoever might be the future date of my history, the life of the historian must be short and precarious. Volumes IV, V, and VI finally reached the press in May , their publication having been delayed since March so it could coincide with a dinner party celebrating Gibbon's 51st birthday the 8th. Adam Smith told Gibbon that "by the universal assent of every man of taste and learning, whom I either know or correspond with, it sets you at the very head of the whole literary tribe at present existing in Europe.

The years following Gibbon's completion of The History were filled largely with sorrow and increasing physical discomfort. He had returned to London in late to oversee the publication process alongside Lord Sheffield.

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With that accomplished, in it was back to Lausanne only to learn of and be "deeply affected" by the death of Deyverdun, who had willed Gibbon his home, La Grotte. He resided there with little commotion, took in the local society, received a visit from Sheffield in , and "shared the common abhorrence" of the French Revolution. 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 even forgive his superstition The French spread so many lyes 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. In , word came of Lady Sheffield's death; Gibbon immediately left Lausanne and set sail to comfort a grieving but composed Sheffield.

His health began to fail critically in December, and at the turn of the new year, he was on his last legs. Gibbon is believed to have suffered from an extreme case of scrotal swelling, probably a hydrocele testis , a condition which causes the scrotum to swell with fluid in a compartment overlying either testicle. In early January, the last of a series of three operations caused an unremitting peritonitis to set in and spread, from which he died.

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The "English giant of the Enlightenment" [36] finally succumbed at pm, 16 January at age Gibbon's estate was valued at approx. He left most of his property to cousins. Edward Gibbon's central thesis in his explanation of how the Roman empire fell, that it was due to embracing Christianity, is not accepted by mainstream scholars today.

Gibbon argued that with the empire's new Christian character, large sums of wealth that would have otherwise been used in the secular affairs in promoting the state were transferred to promoting the activities of the Church.

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However, the pre-Christian empire also spent large financial sums on religious affairs and it is unclear whether or not the change of religion increased the amount of resources the empire spent on religion. Gibbon further argued that new attitudes in Christianity caused many Christians of significant wealth to renounce their lifestyles and enter a monastic lifestyle, and so stop participating in the support of the empire, however, while many Christians of wealth did become monastics, this paled in comparison to the participants in the imperial bureaucracy. While Gibbon further pointed out the importance Christianity placed on peace caused a decline in the number of people serving the military, the decline was so small as to be negligible in the army's effectivity.

Gibbon's work has been criticised for its scathing view of Christianity as laid down in chapters XV and XVI, a situation which resulted in the banning of the book in several countries. Gibbon's alleged crime was disrespecting, and none too lightly, the character of sacred Christian doctrine, by "treat[ing] the Christian church as a phenomenon of general history, not a special case admitting supernatural explanations and disallowing criticism of its adherents".


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More specifically, the chapters excoriated the church for "supplanting in an unnecessarily destructive way the great culture that preceded it" and for "the outrage of [practising] religious intolerance and warfare". Gibbon, in letters to Holroyd and others, expected some type of church-inspired backlash, but the utter harshness of the ensuing torrents far exceeded anything he or his friends could possibly have anticipated.

Contemporary detractors such as Joseph Priestley and Richard Watson stoked the nascent fire, but the most severe of these attacks was an "acrimonious" piece by the young cleric, Henry Edwards Davis. Gibbon's apparent antagonism to Christian doctrine spilled over into the Jewish faith, leading to charges of anti-Semitism. From the reign of Nero to that of Antoninus Pius, the Jews discovered a fierce impatience of the dominion of Rome, which repeatedly broke out in the most furious massacres and insurrections.


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  • Humanity is shocked at the recital of the horrid cruelties which they committed in the cities of Egypt, of Cyprus, and of Cyrene, where they dwelt in treacherous friendship with the unsuspecting natives; and we are tempted to applaud the severe retaliation which was exercised by the arms of legions against a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of the Roman government, but also of humankind.

    Gibbon is considered to be a son of the Enlightenment and this is reflected in his famous verdict on the history of the Middle Ages : "I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion.

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    Gibbon's work has been praised for its style, his piquant epigrams and its effective irony. Winston Churchill memorably noted, "I set out upon Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [and] was immediately dominated both by the story and the style. I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all.

    Like Gibbon, he dedicated himself to producing a "vivid historical narrative, ranging widely over period and place and enriched by analysis and reflection. Unusually for the 18th century, Gibbon was never content with secondhand accounts when the primary sources were accessible though most of these were drawn from well-known printed editions.

    In accuracy, thoroughness, lucidity, and comprehensive grasp of a vast subject, the 'History' is unsurpassable. It is the one English history which may be regarded as definitive Whatever its shortcomings the book is artistically imposing as well as historically unimpeachable as a vast panorama of a great period. The subject of Gibbon's writing, as well as his ideas and style, have influenced other writers. Besides his influence on Churchill, Gibbon was also a model for Isaac Asimov in his writing of The Foundation Trilogy , which he said involved "a little bit of cribbin' from the works of Edward Gibbon".

    Evelyn Waugh admired Gibbon's style, but not his secular viewpoint. In Waugh's novel Helena , the early Christian author Lactantius worried about the possibility of "'a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitus and the soul of an animal,' and he nodded towards the gibbon who fretted his golden chain and chattered for fruit. Most of this article, including quotations unless otherwise noted, has been adapted from Stephen's entry on Edward Gibbon in the Dictionary of National Biography.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. English historian and Member of Parliament. In a distant age and climate the tragic scene of the death of Hosein will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader. I, ; vols. II, III, ; vols. IV, V, VI, — Dodsley, Scholars differ on the date of its composition Norman, D. Low: —59; Pocock: — Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon , Esq. John Lord Sheffield 2 vols.

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    Murray, ; 3 vols. Murray, Autobiographies of Edward Gibbon , ed.