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been merely the effect of local emotion, for his plan was then confined to the decay of the city. In the month of June 1765, he arrived at his father's house, and seems to have entered on a life which afforded no incident, or room for remark. The five years and a half which intervened between his travels and his father's death in 1770, he informs us, were the portion of his life which he passed with the least enjoyment, and remembered with the least satisfaction. By the resignation of his father, and the death of sir Thomas Worsley, he was promoted to the rank of major and lieutenant-colonel commandant of his regiment of militia, but was, each year that it was necessary to attend the monthly meeting and exercise, more disgusted with “ the inn, the wine, the company, and the tiresome repetition of annual attendance and daily exercise.”
Another source of uneasiness arose from reflections on his situation. He belonged to no profession, and had adopted no plan by which he could, like his numerous acquaintance, rise to some degree of consequence. He lamented that he had not, at a proper age, embraced the lucrative pursuits of the law, or of trade, the chances of civil office, or of India adventure, or even “the fat slumbers of the church." Still, however, such a mind as his was not formed to be inactive, and a greater portion of his dissatisfaction appears to have arisen from an impatience to acquire fame, and from the extreme length of those prospects which the various designs he formed bad presented. He yet contemplated the Decline and Fall of Rome, but at an awful distance ; and in the mean time, as something more within his grasp, he resumed his study of the revolutions of Switzerland, so far as to execute the first book of a history. This was read in the following winter (1767) to a literary society of foreigners in London, who did not flatter him by a very favourable opinion; yet it was praised by Hume, who endeavoured only to dissuade him from the use of the French language. The opinion, however, of the foreign critics to whom he had submitted this attempt, prevailed over that of Hume, and he renounced the design of continuing it. The manuscript is now in the possession of lord Sheffield.
In 1767 he joined with Mr. Deyverdun, a Swiss gentleman then in England, and a man of taste and critical knowledge, to whom he was much attached, in publishing a literary Journal, in imitation of Dr. Maty's “ Journal Britannique." They entitled it “ Memoires Literaires de la Grand Bretagne. Two volumes only of this work were published, and met with very little encouragement. Mr. Gibbon acknowledges having reviewed lord Lyttelton's History in the first volume. The materials of a third volume were almost completed, when he recommended his coadjutor Deyverdun as travelling governor to sir Richard Worsley, an appointment which terminated the “ Memoires Literaires." Mr. Gibbon's next performance was an attack on Dr. Warburton, which he condemns for its severity and for its cowardice, while he brings the testimony of some eminent scholars to prove that it was successful and decisive. Warburton's hypothesis on the descent of Æneas to hell had long been applauded, and if not universally adopted, bad not been answered during a space of thirty years. It was the opinion of this learned writer, that the descent to hell is not a false, but a mimic scene which represents the initiation of Æneas, in the character of a law-giver, to the Eleusinian mysteries. Mr. Gibbon, on the contrary, in his “ Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of the Æneid," 1770, endeavoured to prove, that the ancient law-givers did not invent the mysteries, and that Æneas never was invested with the office of law-giver; that there is not any argument, any circumstance, which çan melt a fable into allegory, or remove the scene from the Lake Avernos to the temple of Ceres; that such a wild supposition is equally injurious to the poet and the man; that if Virgil was not initiated he could not, if he were, he would not, reveal the secrets of the initiation ; and that the anathema of Horace (vetabo qui Cereris sacrum vulgarit, &c.) at once attests his own ignorance and the innocence of his friend. All this might have been argued in decent and respectful language, but Mr. Gibbon avows that his hostility was against the person as well as the hypothesis of “the dictator and tyrant of the world of literature," and with the acuteness of the critic, be therefore determined to join the acrimony of the polemic. In his more advanced years be affects to regret an unmanly attack upon one who was no longer able to defend himself, but he is unwilling to part with the reputation to which he thought his pamphlet entitled, or to conceal the praise which professor Heyne bestowed on it.
After the death of his father in 1770, an event which left him the sole disposer of his time and inclinations, he
sat down seriously to the composition of his celebrated history. For some years he had revolved the subject in his mind, and had read every thing with a view to this great undertaking, which his election for the borough of Leskeard in 1775 did not much interrupt. The first volume was published Feb. 17, 1776, and received by the public with such avidity, that a second edition, in June, and a third soon after, were scarcely adequate to the demand. To use his own language, his book was on every table, and almost on every toilette : the historian was crowned by the taste or fashion of the day. From the ample praises of Dr. Robertson, and of Mr. Hume, he appears to have derived more substantial satisfaction. Hume anticipates the objections that would be made to the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters, with his usual arrogance and contempt of religion. “When I heard of your undertaking (which was some time ago) I own I was a little curious to see how you would extricate yourself from the subject of your two last chapters. I think you have observed a very prudent temperament; but it was impossible to treat the subject so as not to give grounds of suspicion against you, and you may expect that a clamour will arise. This, if any thing, will retard your success with the public ; for in every other respect your work is calculated to be popular. But among many other marks of decline, the prevalence of superstition in England prognosticates the fall of philosophy and decay of taste ; and though nobody be more capable than you to revive them, you will probably find a struggle in your first advances.”
Mr. Gibbon's reflections on this subject, in his Memoirs, are not very intelligible, unless we consider him as employing irony. He affects not to have believed that the majority of English readers were so fondly attached even to the name and shadow of Christianity; and not to have foreseen that the pious, the timid, and the prudent would feel, or affect to feel, with such exquisite sensibility. If he had foreseen all this, he condescends to inform us that “ he might have softened the two invidious chapters.” He seems to rejoice that “if the voice of our priests was clamorous and bitter, their hands were disarmed from the power of persecution ;” and adhered to the resolution of trusting himself and his writings to the candour of the public, until Mr. Davis, of Oxford, presumed to attack,“ not the faith, but the fidelity of the historian.” He then pub
lished his “ Vindication,” which, be says, “ expressive of
" less anger than contempt, amused for a while the busy and idle metropolis.” Of his other antagonists he speaks with equal contempt, “A victory over such antagonists was a sufficient humiliation.” It is not, however, quite certain that he obtained this victory; the silence of an author is nearly on a par with the fight of a warrior, and it is evident that the contempt which Mr. Gibbon bas so lavishly poured on his antagonists, in his “ Memoirs,” has more of passionate resentment than of conscious superiority. Of his first resentment and his last feelings, he thus speaks: “Let me frankly own, that I was started at the first discharge of ecclesiastical ordnance; but, as soon as I found that this empty noise was mischievous only in the intention, my fear was converted into indignation; and every feeling of indignation or curiosity has long since subsided into pure and placid indifference."
It may not be unuseful to give in this place the titles at least, of the principal writings which his bold and disingenuous attack on Christiavity called forth. These were, 1.“ Remarks on the two last Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's History. In a letter to a friend.” (See Art. 8.) 2.“ An Apology for Christianity, in a series of letters, addressed to Edward Gibbon, esq. By R. Watson, D. D. F. R. S. and regius professor of divinity in the university of Cambridge" (now bishop of Llandaff), 1776, 12mo. 3. “ The History of the establishment of Christianity, compiled from Jewish and Heathen authors only; translated from the French of professor Bullet, &c. By William Salisbury, B. D. with notes by the translator, and some strictures on Mr. Gib. bon's Account of Christianity, and its first teachers," 1776, 8vo. 4.“ A Reply to the reasonings of Mr. Gibbon in his History, &c. which seem to affect the truth of Christianity, but have not been noticed in the answer which Dr. Watson hath given to that book. By Smyth Loftus, A. M. vicar of Coolock," Dublin, 1778, 8vo. Ś. “ Letters on the prevalence of Christianity, before its civil establisbment. With observations on a late History of the Decline of the Roman Empire. By East Apthorpe, M. A. vicar of Croydon, 1778, 8vo. 6. “ An Examination of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's History. In which his view of the progress of the Christian religiour is shown to be founded on the misrepresentation of the authors he cites; and numerous instances of his inaccuracy and plagiarism are produced. By Henry Edward Davis, B. A. of Baliol college, Oxford," 1778, 8vo. 7. “ A few Remarks on the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; relative chiefly to the Two last Chapters. By a gentleman," 8vo. 8. “Remarks on the Two last Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's History. By James Chelsum, D. D. student of Christ Church, Oxford, and chaplain to the lord bishop of Worcester : the second edition enlarged," 1778, 12mo. This is a second edition of the Anonymous Remarks mentioned in the first article, and contains additional remarks by Dr. Randolph, Lady Margaret's professor of divinity in the university of Oxford.
Mr. Gibbon's Vindication now appeared under the title of “ A Vindication of some passages in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By the author," 1779, 8vo. This
. was immediately followed by 1. " A short Appeal to the public. By the gentleman who is particularly addressed in the postscript of the Vindication,"1779-1780, 8vo. 2. “A Reply to Mr. Gibbon's Vindication ; wherein the charges brought against him in the Examination are confirmed, and further instances given of his misrepresentation, inaccuracy, and plagiarism. By Henry Edward Davis, B. A. of Baliol college, Oxford," 1780, 8vo.
3. “ A Reply to Mr. Gibbon's Vindication, &c. containing a review of the errors still retained in these chapters. By James Chelsum, D. D. &c.” 1785, 8vo.
The other most considerable works levelled at the History, upon general principles, were, 1.“ Thoughts on the nature of the grand Apostacy, with reflections and observations on the Fifteenth Chapter of Mr. Gibbon's History. By Henry Taylor, rector of Crawley, and vicar of Portsmouth in Hampshire, author of Ben Mordecai's Apology for embracing Christianity,” 1781-2, 8vo. 2. “ Gibbon's Account of Christianity considered ; together with some strictures on Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. By Joseph Milner, A. M. master of the grammarschool of Kingston-upon-Hull," 1781, 8vo. 3. “ Letters to Edward Gibbon, esq. in defence of the authenticity of the 7th verse of the vth chapter of the First Epistle of St. John. By George Travis, A. M.” 1784, 4to. 4. " An Inquiry into the Secondary Causes which Mr. Gibbon has