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Encyclopedia > Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon (1737–1794).
Edward Gibbon (1737–1794).

Edward Gibbon (April 27, 1737[1]January 16, 1794) was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. The History is known principally for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open denigration of organized religion.[2] Public domain image from http://www. ... Public domain image from http://www. ... April 27 is the 117th day of the year (118th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 248 days remaining. ... Events 12 February — The San Carlo, the oldest working opera house in Europe, is inaugurated. ... January 16 is the 16th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1794 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... // The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a major literary achievement of the 18th century published in six volumes, was written by the celebrated English historian Edward Gibbon. ... Year 1776 (MDCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Thursday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar). ... 1788 was a leap year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ...




Edward Gibbon was born in 1737 of Edward and Judith Gibbon at Lime Grove, the town of Putney, near London, England. He had six siblings: five brothers and one sister, all of whom died in infancy. His grandfather, also named Edward, had lost all in the notorious South Sea Bubble scandal, but eventually regained nearly all of it, so that Gibbon's father was able to inherit a substantial estate. Putney is a district of south-west London in the London Borough of Wandsworth. ... London — containing the City of London — is the capital of the United Kingdom and of England and a major world city. With over seven million inhabitants (Londoners) in Greater London area, it is amongst the most densely populated areas in Western Europe. ... Hogarthian image of the South Sea Bubble by Edward Matthew Ward, Tate Gallery More well known than The South Sea Company is perhaps the South Sea Bubble (1711 - September 1720) which is the name given to the economic bubble that occurred through overheated speculation in the company shares during 1720. ...

       As a youth, his health was under constant threat. He described himself as "a puny child, neglected by my Mother, starved by my nurse." At age nine, Gibbon was sent to Dr. Woddeson's school at Kingston-on-Thames, shortly after which his mother died. He then took up residence in the Westminster School boarding house, owned by his adored "Aunt Kitty," Catherine Porten. Soon after she died in 1786, he rembered her as rescuing him from his mother's disdain, and imparting "the first rudiments of knowledge, the first exercise of reason, and a taste for books which is still the pleasure and glory of my life."[3] By 1751, Gibbon's reading was already voracious and certainly pointed toward his future pursuits: Laurence Echard's Roman History (1713), William Howel(l)'s An Institution of General History (1680–85), and several of the 65 volumes of the acclaimed Universal History from the Earliest Account of Time (1747–1768).[4] Laurence Echard (circa 1670 - 1730) was a British historian. ...

Oxford, Lausanne, and a religious journey

Following a stay at Bath to improve his health, Gibbon in 1752 at the age of 15, was sent by his father to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was enrolled as a gentleman-commoner. He was ill-suited, however, to the college atmosphere and later rued his 14 months there as the "most idle and unprofitable" of his life. But his penchant for "theological controversy," (his aunt's influence), fully bloomed when he came under the spell of rationalist theologian Conyers Middleton (1683–1750) and his Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers (1749). In that tract, Middleton denied the validity of such powers; Gibbon promptly objected. The product of that disagreement, with some assistance from the work of Catholic Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bousset (1627–1704), and that of the Elizabethan Jesuit Robert Parsons (1546–1610), yielded the most memorable event of his time at Oxford: his conversion to Roman Catholicism on June 8, 1753. He was further "corrupted" by the 'free thinking' deism of the playwright/poet couple David and Lucy Mallet;[5] and finally Gibbon's father, already "in despair," had had enough. College name Magdalen College Latin name Collegium Beatae Mariae Magdalenae Named after Mary Magdalene Established 1458 Sister college Magdalene College, Cambridge President Professor David Clary FRS JCR President Jessica Jones Undergraduates 395 MCR President Eloise Scotford Graduates 230 Location of Magdalen College within central Oxford , Homepage Boatclub Magdalen College (pronounced... Conyers Middleton (December 27, 1683 - July 28, 1750), English divine, was born at Richmond in Yorkshire. ... Robert Parsons (sometimes spelled Persons) (born June 24, 1546, Nether Stowey, Somerset, England, died April 15, 1610, Rome) was a Jesuit priest of equal contemporary fame with Edmund Campion. ... The Roman Catholic Church, most often spoken of simply as the Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with over one billion members. ... David Mallet (or Malloch) (~1705 – 1765) was a Scottish dramatist. ...

       Within weeks of his conversion, the youngster was removed from Oxford and sent to live under the care and tutelage of David Pavillard, Reformed pastor of Lausanne, Switzerland. It was here that he made one of his life's two great friendships, that of Jacques Georges Deyverdun; the other being John Baker Holroyd (later Lord Sheffield). Just a year and a half later, on Christmas Day 1754, he reconverted to Protestantism. 'The articles of the Romish creed,' he wrote, 'disappeared like a dream.' He remained in Lausanne for five intellectually productive years, a period that greatly enriched Gibbon's already immense aptitude for scholarship and erudition: he read Latin literature; traveled throughout Switzerland studying its cantons' constitutions; and aggressively mined the works of Hugo Grotius, Samuel Puffendorf, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, and Blaise Pascal. Waterfront view of Ouchy, just south of Lausanne Lausanne is a city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva (French: Lac Léman), across from Évian-les-Bains, France, and about 60 km northeast of Geneva. ... John Baker-Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield (21 December 1735–30 May 1821) was an English politician who came from a Yorkshire family, a branch of which had settled in Ireland. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Hugo Grotius (Huig de Groot, or Hugo de Groot; Delft, 10 April 1583 – Rostock, 28 August 1645) worked as a jurist in the Dutch Republic and laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law. ... Baron Samuel von Pufendorf (January 8, 1632 – October 13, 1694), was a German jurist, political philosopher, economist, statesman, and historian. ... This article is about John Locke, the English philosopher. ... Pierre Bayle. ... Blaise Pascal (pronounced ), (June 19, 1623–August 19, 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. ...

Thwarted romance

He also met the one romance in his life: the pastor of Crassy's daughter, a young woman named Suzanne Curchod, who would later become the wife of Louis XVI's finance minister Jacques Necker, and the mother of Madame de Staël. The two developed a warm affinity; Gibbon proceeded to propose marriage,[6] but ultimately wedlock was out of the question, blocked both by his father's staunch disapproval and Curchod's equally staunch reluctance to leave Switzerland. Gibbon returned to England in August 1758 to face his father's steely scowl. There could be no refusal of the elder's wishes. Gibbon put it this way: "After a painful struggle I yielded to my fate: I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son."[7] He proceeded to cut off all contact with Curchod, even as she vowed to wait for him. Their final emotional break apparently came at Ferney, France in the spring of 1764, though they did see each other at least one more time a year later.[8] Madame Necker (Suzanne Curchod). ... Jacques Necker Jacques Necker (September 30, 1732 – April 9, 1804) was a French statesman of Swiss origin and finance minister of Louis XVI. // Necker was born in Geneva, Switzerland. ... Madame de Staël Anne Louise Germaine de Staël (April 22, 1766 – July 14, 1817) was a French-speaking Swiss author living in Paris and abroad who determined literary tastes of Europe at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. ... Ferney-Voltaire is a town and commune in the Ain département of eastern France, located between the Jura mountains and the Swiss border. ...

First fame and the Grand Tour

Upon his return to England, Gibbon published his first book, Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature in
1761, which produced an initial taste of celebrity and distinguished him, in Paris at least, as a man of letters.[9] From 1759 to 1770, Gibbon served on active duty and in reserve with the South Hampshire militia, his deactivation in December 1762 coinciding with the militia's dispersal at the end of the Seven Years' War.[10] The following year he embarked on the Grand Tour (of continental Europe), which included a visit to Rome. The Memoirs vividly record Gibbon's rapture when he finally neared "the great object of [my] pilgrimage:" 1761 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... 1759 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Battle of Chesma, by Ivan Aivazovsky. ... Combatants Prussia Great Britain Hanover Portugal Brunswick Hesse-Kassel Austria France Russia Sweden Spain Saxony Naples and Sicily Sardinia The Seven Years War(i) (1754 and 1756–1763), incorporating the Pomeranian War and the French and Indian War enveloped both European and colonial theatres. ... The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini In the 18th century, the Grand Tour was a kind of education for wealthy British noblemen, wherein the primary educational value was exposure to the cultured artifacts of antiquity and the Renaissance as well as the... Nickname: Motto: SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Government  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area  - City 1,285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban 5...

I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the eternal [C]ity. 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.[11]

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:"[12] Motto Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR) The Roman Empire. ...

It was at Rome, on the [fifteenth] of October[,] 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare[-]footed fryars were singing [V]espers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the [C]ity first started to my mind.[13] The Capitoline Hill (Capitolinus Mons), between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the most famous and smallest of the seven hills of Rome. ... Jupiter et Thétis - by Jean Ingres, 1811. ...

Magnum Opus

His father died in 1770, and after tending to the estate, which was by no means in good condition, there remained quite enough for Gibbon to settle fashionably in London at 7 Bentinck Street, independent of financial concerns. By February 1773 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). In late 1774, he was initiated a freemason of the Premier Grand Lodge of England.[14] And, perhaps least productively in that same year, he was returned to the House of Commons for Liskeard, Cornwall through the intervention of his relative and patron, Edward Eliot. He became the archetypal back-bencher, "mute" and "indifferent," his support of the ministry routinely automatic. Gibbon's indolence in that position, perhaps fully intentional, subtracted little from the progress of his writing.[15] For other persons named Samuel Johnson, see Samuel Johnson (disambiguation). ... The Club was a London dining club founded in 1764 by essayist Samuel Johnson, and Joshua Reynolds, the painter. ... Oliver Goldsmith Oliver Goldsmith (November 10, 1730 or 1728 – April 4, 1774) was an Irish writer and physician known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), his pastoral poem The Deserted Village (1770) (written in memory of his brother), and his plays The Good-naturd Man (1768) and... American Square & Compasses Freemasonry is a worldwide fraternal organization. ... The Premier Grand Lodge of England was founded on 24 June 1717 and it existed until 1813 when it united with the Antient Grand Lodge of England to create the United Grand Lodge of England. ... Liskeard, an ancient Stannary and market town at the head of the River Looe valley in southeast Cornwall, UK, is the administrative centre of the Caradon District. ... Cornwall (Cornish: ) is a county in South West England, United Kingdom, on the peninsula that lies to the west of the River Tamar and Devon. ... Edward Craggs-Eliot was born Edward Eliot in London on July 8, 1727 to Richard Eliot (c. ...

       After several rewrites, and Gibbon "often tempted to throw away the labours of seven years," the first volume of what would become his life's major achievement, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published on February 17, 1776.[16] The reading public eagerly consumed three editions for which Gibbon was rewarded handsomely: two-thirds of the profits on the first edition alone, amounting to £490. Biographer Leslie Stephen wrote that thereafter, "His fame was as rapid as it has been lasting." And as regards this first volume, "Some warm praise from [David] Hume overpaid the labour of ten years." // The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a major literary achievement of the 18th century published in six volumes, was written by the celebrated English historian Edward Gibbon. ... Year 1776 (MDCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Thursday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar). ... Sir Leslie Stephen (November 28, 1832 – February 22, 1904) was an English author and critic, the father of two famous daughters, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. ... David Hume (April 26, 1711 – August 25, 1776)[1] was a Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. ...

       Volumes II and III appeared on March 1, 1781, eventually rising "to a level with the previous volume in general esteem." Volume IV was finished in June 1784;[17] the final two were completed during a second Lausanne sojourn (Sept. 1783 to Aug. 1787) where Gibbon reunited with his friend Deyverdun in leisurely comfort. By early 1787, he was "straining for the goal;" and with great relief the project was finished in June. From the Memoirs:

It was on the ...night of the 27th of June, 1787, 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 friend.[18]

Volumes IV, V, and VI finally reached the press in May 1788, publication having been delayed since March to coincide with a party celebrating Gibbon's 51st birthday (the 8th).[19] Mounting a bandwagon of praise for the later volumes were such contemporary luminaries as Adam Smith, William Robertson, Adam Ferguson, Lord Camden, and Horace Walpole. Smith remarked that Gibbon's triumph had positioned him "at the very head of [Europe's] literary tribe." Adam Smith FRSE (baptised June 5, 1723 O.S. / June 16 N.S. – July 17, 1790) was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneering political economist. ... For the Victoria Cross recipient see William Robertson (VC) Sir William Robert Robertson (1860-1933) was a British field marshal who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1916 to 1918 during the First World War. ... Adam Ferguson, also known as Ferguson of Raith (June 20, 1723 (O.S.) - February 22, 1816) was a philosopher and historian of the Scottish Enlightenment. ... Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden (1714 – 18 April 1794), Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, was a leading proponent of civil liberties in eighteenth century England. ... Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, more commonly known as Horace Walpole, (September 24, 1717 – March 2, 1797), was a politician, writer and forerunner of the Gothic revival. ...

Aftermath and the end

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 1787 to oversee the publication process alongside Lord Sheffield. With that accomplished, in 1789 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 1791, and "shared the common abhorrence" of the French Revolution. In 1793, word came of Lady Sheffield's death; Gibbon immediately deserted 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 hydrocele testis, a condition which causes the testicles to swell with fluid. In an age when close-fitting clothes were fashionable, his condition lead to a chronic and disfiguring inflammation which left Gibbon a lonely figure.[20] As his condition worsened, he underwent numerous procedures to alleviate the condition, but with no enduring success. In early January, the last of a series of three operations caused an unremitting peritonitis to set in and spread. The "English giant of the Enlightenment"[21] finally succumbed at 12:45 pm, January 16, 1794 at age 56, to be buried in the Sheffield family graveyard at the parish church in Fletching, Sussex.[22] A hydrocele testis is an accumulation of clear fluid in the tunica vaginalis, the most internal of membranes containing a testicle. ...


It is generally accepted that Gibbon's treatment of Byzantium has had detrimental effects on the study of the Middle Ages. There remains an issue as to whether his poor analysis is primarily due to a lack of primary sources in this field or to the prejudices of the time.[23] Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον) was an ancient Greek city, which, according to legend, was founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas or Byzantas (Βύζας or Βύζαντας in Greek). ... The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ...

       Gibbon's work has also been criticized for its aggressively scathing view of Christianity as laid down in chapters XV and XVI. Those chapters were strongly criticised and 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 in "treat[ing] the Christian church as a phenomenon of general history, not a special case admitting supernatural explanations and disallowing criticism of its adherents" as the Roman church was likely expecting. More specifically, Gibbon's blasphemous chapters excoriated the church for two deeply wounding transgressions: displacing the glory and grandeur of ancient Rome ("supplanting in an unnecessarily destructive way the great culture that preceded it"); and reexposing the church's dirty laundry ("for the outrage of [practicing] religious intolerance and warfare").[24]

       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 intolerably "acrimonious" piece from the pen of a young cleric, Henry Edwards Davis. Concerned for his honour and anxious that the public read both sides of the dispute, Gibbon subsequently published his Vindication of some Passages in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1779. Therein, he categorically denied Davis' "criminal accusations," branding him a purveyor of "servile plagiarism."[25] Joseph Frederick Priestley is often credited for the discovery of oxygen. ... Richard Watson (1781-1833) was a British Methodist theologian who was one of the most important figures in 19th century Methodism. ...

       Gibbon's antagonism to Christian doctrine spilled over into the Jewish faith, inevitably leading to charges of anti-Semitism. For example, he wrote:

Humanity is shocked at the recital of the horrid cruelties which [the Jews] committed in the cities of Egypt, of Cyprus, and of Cyrene, where they dwelt in treacherous friendship with the unsuspecting natives;¹ 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.²[26]

Burke, Churchill and 'the fountain-head'

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."[27] However, politically, he aligned himself with the conservative Edmund Burke's rejection of the democratic movements of the time as well as with Burke's dismissal of the "rights of man."[28] Look up Enlightenment in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ... Edmund Burke (12 January 1729 – 9 July 1797) was an Anglo-Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who served for many years in the British House of Commons as a member of the Whig party. ...

       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."[29] Churchill modelled much of his own literary style on Gibbon's. The future Prime Minister, like the "English Voltaire," dedicated himself to producing a "vivid historical narrative, ranging widely over period and place and enriched by analysis and reflection."[30] Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was an English statesman, soldier and author. ...

       Unusually for the 18th century, Gibbon was never content with secondhand accounts when the primary sources were accessible. "I have always endeavoured," he says, "to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend."[31] In this insistence upon the importance of primary sources, Gibbon is considered by many to be one of the first modern historians:

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.[32]

Influence on other writers

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. Isaac Asimov (January 2?, 1920? – April 6, 1992, IPA: , originally Исаак Озимов but now transcribed into Russian as Айзек Азимов) was a Russian-born American author and professor of biochemistry, a highly successful and exceptionally prolific writer best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...

       The writings of Shoghi Effendi, which constitute the majority of authoritative primary-source written works in the Bahá'í Faith, are written in a style quite similar to Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This is often attributed to the influence of his avowed appreciation of Gibbon and Carlyle.[33] Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957) The Guardians Resting Place in London Shoghi Effendi Rabbani was the Guardian of the Baháí Faith from 1921 to his death in1957. ... Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Baháís, in Haifa, Israel The Baháí Faith is the religion founded by Baháulláh in 19th century Persia. ...


The majority of this article, including quotations unless otherwise noted, has been adapted from Stephen, DNB (#References).

  1. ^ Gibbon's birthday is April 27, 1737 of the old style (O.S.) Julian calendar; England adopted the new style (N.S.) Gregorian calendar in 1752, and thereafter Gibbon's birthday was celebrated on May 8, 1737, N.S.
  2. ^ The most recent and also the first critical edition, in 3 volumes, is that of David Womersley. see #References. For commentary on Gibbon's irony and insistence on primary sources whenever available, see Womersley, Intro. While the larger part of Gibbon's caustic view of Christianity is declared within the text of chapters XV and XVI, Gibbon rarely neglects to note its baleful influence throughout The History's remaining volumes.
  3. ^ Norton, Letters, vol. 3, 10/5/[17]86, 45-48.
  4. ^ Stephen, DNB, p. 1130; Pocock, EEG, 29–40. At age 14, Gibbon was "a prodigy of uncontrolled reading;" Gibbon himself admitted of an "indiscriminate appetite." p. 29.
  5. ^ Pocock, EEG. for Middleton, see p. 45–47; for Bousset, p. 47; for the Mallets, p.23; Robert Parsons [or Persons], A Christian directory: The first booke of the Christian exercise, appertayning to resolution, (London, 1582). In his 1796 edition of Gibbon's Memoirs, Lord Sheffield claims that Gibbon directly connected his Catholic conversion to his reading of Parsons.  Womersley, ODNB, p. 9.
  6. ^ Norton, Biblio, p.2;   Letters, vol. 1, p. 396. a concise summary of their relationship is found at 396-401.
  7. ^ Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph begins: "I hesitate, from the apprehension of ridicule... ." see #References, Project Gutenberg. The phrase, "sighed [etc.]" alludes to the play Polyeucte by the father of French tragedy, Pierre Corneille. Womersley, ODNB, p. 11.
  8. ^ Ibid., 11-12.
  9. ^ In the Essai, the 24 year-old boldly braved the reigning philosoph[e]ic fashion to uphold the studious values and practices of the érudits (antiquarian scholars). Ibid., p. 11; and The Miscellaneous Works, First edition, vol. 2.
  10. ^ Womersley, ODNB, pp. 11, 12. Gibbon was commissioned a captain and resigned a lieutenant colonel, later crediting his service with providing him "a larger introduction into the English world." There was further, the matter of a vast utility: "The discipline and evolutions of a modern battalion gave me a clearer notion of the phalanx and the legion; and the captain of the Hampshire grenadiers (the reader may smile) has not been useless to the historian of the Roman empire." Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph: "The loss of so many busy and idle hours."
  11. ^ Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph: "I shall advance with rapid brevity."
  12. ^ Pocock, "Classical History," para. 2.
  13. ^ Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph: "The use of foreign travel."  Womersley (ODNB, p. 12) notes the existence of "good reasons" to doubt the statement's accuracy. Elaborating, Pocock ("Classical History," para. 2) refers to it as a likely "creation of memory" or a "literary invention" seeing as how Gibbon, in his Memoirs, claimed his journal dated the reminiscence to October 15, when in fact the journal gives no date.
  14. ^ i.e., in London's Lodge of Friendship No. 3. see Gibbon's freemasonry.
  15. ^ Gibbon lost the Liskeard seat in 1780 when Eliot joined the opposition, taking with him "the electors of Leskeard [who] are commonly of the same opinion as Mr. El[l]iot." (Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph: "The aspect of the next session.") 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. Gibbon also served on the government's Board of Trade and Plantations from 1779 until 1782, when the Board was abolished. The subsequent promise of an embassy position in Paris ultimately aborted, serendipitously leaving Gibbon free to focus on his great project.
  16. ^ Norton, Biblio, p. 37.
  17. ^ Ibid., pp. 49, 57. Both Norton and Womersley (ODNB, p. 14) establish that vol. IV was substantially complete by the end of 1783.
  18. ^ Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph: "I have presumed to mark."
  19. ^ Norton, Biblio, p. 61.
  20. ^ After more than two centuries, the exact nature of Gibbon's ailment remains a bone of contention. Womersley's version here matches Patricia Craddock's. She, in a very full and graphic account of Gibbon's last days, notes that Sir Gavin de Beer's medical analysis of 1949 "makes it certain that Gibbon did not have a true hydrocele...and highly probable that he was suffering both from a 'large and irreducible hernia' and cirrhosis of the liver." (emphasis added). Also worthy of note are Gibbon's congenial and even joking moods while in excruciating pain as he neared the end. Both authors report this late bit of Gibbonian baudiness: "Why is a fat man like a Cornish Borough? Because he never sees his member." see Womersley, ODNB, p.16; Craddock, Luminous Historian, 334-342; and Beer, "Malady."
  21. ^ so styled by the "unrivalled master of Enlightenment studies," historian Franco Venturi (1914–1994). see Pocock, EEG, p. 6; x.
  22. ^ Gibbon's estate was valued at approx. £26,000. He left most of his property to cousins. As stipulated in his will, Sheffield oversaw the sale of his library at auction to William Beckford for £950. Womersley, ODNB, 17-18.
  23. ^ among a vast literature, see R. Jenkins Byzantium, ch. 1, (Toronto, 1987); S. Runciman, The Emperor Romanus, ch. 1, (Cambridge: 1988); J. Shepard, "Byzantine Soldiers, missionaries and diplomacy under Gibbon's eyes," in Edward Gibbon and Empire, R. McKitterick, R. Quinalt, eds. (Cambridge: 1997); Cyril Mango, ed., Preface, The Oxford History of Byzantium, (Oxford: 2003).
  24. ^ Craddock, Luminous Historian, 60-76 at p.60; also see Shelby Thomas McCloy, Gibbon's Antagonism to Christianity (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1933). Gibbon, however, began chapter XV with what appeared to be a moderately positive appraisal of the church's rise to power and authority. Therein he documented one primary and five secondary causes of the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire: primarily, "the convincing evidence of the doctrine itself, and...the ruling providence of its great Author;" secondarily, "exclusive zeal, the immediate expectation of another world, the claim of miracles, the practice of rigid virtue, and the constitution of the primitive church." (first quote, Gibbon in Craddock, Luminous Historian, p. 61; second quote, Gibbon in Womersley, Decline and Fall, vol. 1, ch. XV, p. 497.)
  25. ^ Henry Edwards Davis, An Examination of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of Mr. Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In which his view of the progress of the Christian religion is shewn to be founded on the misrepresentation of the authors he cites: and numerous instances of his inaccuracy and plagiarism a[re] produced (see #Monographs by Gibbon). Davis followed Gibbon's Vindication with yet another reply.
  26. ^ Womersley, ed., Decline and Fall, vol. 1, ch. XVI, p. 516. Gibbon's first footnote here reveals even more about why his detractors reacted so harshly: "In Cyrene, [the Jews] massacred 220,000 Greeks; in Cyprus, 240,000; in Egypt, a very great multitude. Many of these unhappy victims were sawed asunder, according to a precedent to which David had given the sanction of his examples. The victorious Jews devoured the flesh, licked up the blood, and twisted the entrails like a girdle around their bodies. see Dion Cassius l.lxviii, p. 1145."
  27. ^ Womersley, Decline and Fall, vol. 3, ch. LXXI, p. 1068.
  28. ^ Burke supported the American rebellion, while Gibbon sided with the ministry; but with regard to the French Revolution they shared a perfect revulsion. At first (1789-1790), Gibbon cautiously withheld his condemnation of the latter (David Womersley, "Gibbon's Unfinished History," in Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City', 195-196. see #Further reading (since 1985)), but he quickly came to see it as "the Gallic phrenzy" spewing "wild theories of equal and boundless freedom." And of his colleague, "I...subscribe my assent to Mr. Burke's creed on the Revolution of France. I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his Chivalry, and I can almost excuse his reverence for Church establishments." Gibbon, Memoirs, paragraph: "A swarm of emigrants;" paragraph: "I beg leave to subscribe." see also his letter to Sheffield in which "Burke's book is a most admirable medicine against the French disease. ...The French spread so many lyes [sic] about the sentiments of the English nation." Norton, Letters, vol. 3, 5/2/[17]91, 212-217, at p. 216; cf. also p. 243. Despite their agreement on the FR, Burke and Gibbon "were not specially close," owing to Whig party differences and divergent religious beliefs, not to mention Burke's sponsorship of a revenue bill which abolished, and therefore cost Gibbon his place on, the government's Board of Trade and Plantations in 1782. see Pocock, "The Ironist," paragraph: "Both the autobiography... ."
  29. ^ Winston Churchill, My Early Life: A Roving Commission (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), p. 111.
  30. ^ Roland Quinault, "Winston Churchill and Gibbon," in Edward Gibbon and Empire, eds. R. McKitterick and R. Quinault (Cambridge: 1997), 317-332, at p. 331; Pocock, "Ironist," paragraph: "Both the autobiography... ."
  31. ^ Womersley, Decline and Fall, vol. 2, Preface to Gibbon vol. 4, p. 520.
  32. ^ Stephen, DNB, p. 1134.
  33. ^ The Life of Shoghi Effendi by Helen Danesh, John Danesh and Amelia Danesh. Reportedly he kept a copy of the Decline and Fall at hand and was known to "...repeatedly read aloud from it and comment on its matchless style." Translating the Hidden Words: an extended review of Diana Malouf's Unveiling the Hidden Wordsby Franklin Lewis.

Pierre Corneille (June 6, 1606–October 1, 1684) was a French tragedian tragedian who was one of the three great 17th Century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine. ... // The English historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) is known primarily as the author of the magisterial The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6 vols. ... Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford (April 13, 1732–August 5, 1792), more often known by his earlier title, Lord North, was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1770 to 1782, and a major actor in the American Revolution. ... A by-election or bye-election is a special election held to fill a political office when the incumbent has died or resigned. ... Christianity is a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. ...

Monographs by Gibbon

  • Essai sur l’Etude de la Littérature (London: Becket & De Hondt, 1761).
  • Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of [Vergil's] 'The Aeneid' (London: Elmsley, 1770).
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (vol. I, 1776; vols. II, III, 1781; vols. IV, V,VI, 1788-1789). all London: Strahan & Cadell.
  • A Vindication of some passages in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: J. Dodsley, 1779).
  • Mémoire Justificatif pour servir de Réponse à l’Exposé, etc. de la Cour de France (London: Harrison & Brooke, 1779).

1761 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... Battle of Chesma, by Ivan Aivazovsky. ... // The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a major literary achievement of the 18th century published in six volumes, was written by the celebrated English historian Edward Gibbon. ... Year 1776 (MDCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Thursday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar). ... 1781 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... 1788 was a leap year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). ... 1789 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... 1779 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ...

Other Writings by Gibbon

  • Mémoires Littéraires de la Grande-Bretagne. co-author: Georges Deyverdun (2 vols.: vol. 1, London: Becket & De Hondt, 1767; vol. 2, London: Heydinger, 1768).
  • Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon, Esq., ed. John Lord Sheffield (2 vols., London: Cadell & Davies, 1796; 5 vols., London: J. Murray, 1814; 3 vols., London: J. Murray, 1815). includes Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Edward Gibbon, Esq.;
  • Autobiographies of Edward Gibbon, ed. John Murray (London: J. Murray, 1896). EG's complete memoirs from the original manuscripts.
  • The Private Letters of Edward Gibbon, 2 vols., ed. Rowland E. Prothero (London: J. Murray, 1896).
  • Gibbon's Journal to January 28, 1763, ed. D.M. Low (London: Chatto and Windus, 1929).
  • Le Journal de Gibbon à Lausanne, ed. Georges A. Bonnard (Lausanne: Librairie de l'Université, 1945).
  • Miscellanea Gibboniana, eds. G.R. de Beer, L. Junod, G.A. Bonnard (Lausanne: Librairie de l'Université, 1952).
  • The Letters of Edward Gibbon, 3 vols., ed. J.E. Norton (London: Cassell & Co., 1956). vol.1: 1750-1773; vol.2: 1774-1784; vol.3: 1784-1794. cited as 'Norton, Letters'.
  • Gibbon's Journey from Geneva to Rome, ed. G.A. Bonnard (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1961). journal.
  • Edward Gibbon: Memoirs of My Life, ed. G.A. Bonnard (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969;1966). portions of EG's memoirs arranged chronologically, omitting repetition.
  • The English Essays of Edward Gibbon, ed. Patricia Craddock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972); [hb: ISBN 0198124961].

1767 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... 1768 was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... // The English historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) is known primarily as the author of the magisterial The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6 vols. ... Year 1796 (MDCCXCVI) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Monday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar). ... Year 1814 (MDCCCXIV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar). ... April 5-12: Mount Tambora explodes, changing climate. ... Year 1896 (MDCCCXCVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will display calendar). ... 1929 (MCMXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1945 (MCMXLV) was a common year starting on Monday. ... 1952 (MCMLII) was a Leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (the link is to a full 1961 calendar). ... For the Stargate SG-1 episode, see 1969 (Stargate SG-1). ... 1966 (MCMLXVI) was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1966 calendar). ... 1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year starting on Saturday. ...


  • Beer, G. R. de. "The Malady of Edward Gibbon, F.R.S.," Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 7,1 (Dec. 1949), 71–80. cited as 'Beer, "Malady"'.
  • Craddock, Patricia B. Edward Gibbon, Luminous Historian 1772–1794 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1989); [hb: ISBN 0801837200]. biography; cited as 'Craddock, Luminous Historian'.
  • Norton, J.E. A Bibliography of the Works of Edward Gibbon (New York: Burt Franklin Co., 1970;1940). cited as 'Norton, Biblio'.
    • Norton, The Letters of Edward Gibbon, 3 vols. (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1956). cited as 'Norton, Letters'.
  • Pocock, J.G.A. Barbarism and Religion, vol. 1, The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737–1764 (Cambridge: 1999); [hb: ISBN 0521633451]. cited as 'Pocock, EEG'.
    • Pocock, "Classical and Civil History: The Transformation of Humanism," Cromohs 1(1996);
      online. cited as 'Pocock, "Classical History"'.
    • Pocock, "The Ironist," London Review of Books 24,22(Nov. 14, 2002). cited as 'Pocock, "Ironist"'.
  • Project Gutenberg: Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life and Writings, online: cited as 'Gibbon, Memoirs'.
  • Stephen, Sir Leslie, "GIBBON, EDWARD (1737-1794)," Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 7, eds. Sir Leslie Stephen, Sir Sidney Lee (Oxford: 1963;1921), 1129–1135. cited as 'Stephen, DNB'.
  • Womersley, David, Edward Gibbon - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 3 vols. (Allen Lane, London; Penguin Press, New York: 1994). cited as 'Womersley, Decline and Fall'.
    • Womersley, "Introduction," in Womersley, Decline and Fall above, vol. 1, xi-cvi, cited as 'Womersley, Intro'.
    • Womersley, "Gibbon, Edward (1737-1794)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 22, H.C.G. Matthew; Brian Harrison, eds. (Oxford: 2004), 8-18. cited as 'Womersley, ODNB'.

Further reading (before 1985)

  • Beer, Gavin de. Gibbon and His World (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968); [hb: ISBN 0670289817].
  • Bowersock, G.W. et al. eds. Edward Gibbon and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1977).
  • Craddock, Patricia B. Young Edward Gibbon: Gentleman of Letters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1982); [hb: ISBN 0801827140]. biography.
  • Dickinson, H.T., "The Politics of Edward Gibbon," Literature and History 8,4(1978), 175-196.
  • Jordan, David. Gibbon and his Roman Empire (Urbana, Ill.: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1971).
  • Keynes, Geoffrey, ed. The Library of Edward Gibbon, 2nd ed. (Godalming, England: St. Paul's Bibliograhies, 1980;1940).
  • Lewis, Bernard, "Gibbon on Muhammad," Daedalus 105,3(Summer 1976), 89-101.
  • Low, D.M. Edward Gibbon 1737-1794 (London: Chatto and Windus, 1937). biography.
  • Momigliano, Arnaldo. "Gibbon's Contributions to Historical Method," in Momigliano, Studies in Historiography (New York: Garland Pubs., 1985;1966), 40-55; [pb: ISBN 0824063724].
  • Porter, Roger J. "Gibbon's Autobiography: Filling Up the Silent Vacancy," Eighteenth-Century Studies 8,1 (Autumn 1974), 1–26.
  • Swain, J.W. Edward Gibbon the Historian (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1966).
  • Turnbull, Paul, "The Supposed Infidelity of Edward Gibbon," Historical Journal 5(1982), 23-41.
  • White, Jr. Lynn. The Transformation of the Roman World: Gibbon's Problem after Two Centuries (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1966); [hb: ISBN 0520013344].

Further reading (since 1985)

  • Bowersock, Glen. Gibbon's Historical Imagination (Stanford: 1988).
  • Burrow, J.W. Gibbon (Past Masters) (Oxford: 1985); [hb: ISBN 0192875531; pb: ISBN 0192875523].
  • Carnochan, W. Bliss. Gibbon's Solitude: The Inward World of the Historian (Stanford: 1987); [hb: ISBN 0804713634].
  • Craddock, Patricia B. Edward Gibbon: a Reference Guide (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1987); [pb: ISBN 0816182175]. a comprehensive listing of secondary literature through 1985. see also
    her supplement through 1997.
  • Ghosh, Peter R. "Gibbon Observed," Journal of Roman Studies 81(1991), 132–156.
    • Ghosh, "Gibbon's First Thoughts: Rome, Christianity and the Essai sur l'Etude de la Litterature 1758–61," Journal of Roman Studies 85(1995), 148–164.
    • Ghosh, "Gibbon, Edward 1737-1794 British historian of Rome and universal historian," in Kelly Boyd, ed. Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999), 461-463.
  • McKitterick, R.; Quinault, R., eds. Edward Gibbon and Empire (Cambridge: 1997).
  • Pocock, J.G.A. Barbarism and Religion, 4 vols.: vol. 1, The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737–1764, 1999 [hb: ISBN 0521633451]; vol. 2, Narratives of Civil Government, 1999 [hb: ISBN 0521640024]; vol. 3, The First Decline and Fall, 2003 [pb: ISBN 0521824451]; vol. 4, Barbarians, Savages and Empires, 2005 [hb: ISBN 0521856256]. all Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Porter, Roy. Gibbon: Making History (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989); [hb: ISBN 0312027281].
  • Womersley, David P. The Transformation of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Cambridge: 1988); [hb: ISBN 0521350360].
    • Womersley, John Burrow; J.G.A. Pocock, eds. Edward Gibbon: bicentenary essays (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1997); [hb: ISBN 0729405524].
    • Womersley, Gibbon and the ‘Watchmen of the Holy City’: The Historian and His Reputation, 1776–1815 (Oxford: 2002); [pb: ISBN 0-19-818733-5].

// A world-renowned scholar of the history of British political discourse, J.G.A. (John) Pocock, Harry C. Black Chair of History Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, has enjoyed nearly 60 years of publication. ... // The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a major literary achievement of the 18th century published in six volumes, was written by the celebrated English historian Edward Gibbon. ... // The English historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) is known primarily as the author of the magisterial The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6 vols. ... This is an outline of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon. ...

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NAME Gibbon, Edward
SHORT DESCRIPTION English historian
DATE OF BIRTH April 27, 1737
PLACE OF BIRTH Putney, near London, England
DATE OF DEATH January 16, 1794
PLACE OF DEATH London, England

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Edward Gibbon (1331 words)
Edward Gibbon was born in Putney in South London into a prosperous family.
Gibbon was a sickly child and his education at Westminster and at Magdalen College, Oxford, was irregular.
Between 1774 and 1783 Gibbon sat in the House of Commons, and became a lord commissioner of trade and plantations, partly because he was considered a nuisance as a politician.
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