網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

1760–1820.]

GIBBON.

a man and a friend ; all constraint was banished at our first interview, and we ever afterwards continued on the same terms of easy and equal politeness. He applauded the success of my education; every word and action were expressive of the most cordial affection, and our lives would have passed without a cloud, if his economy had been equal to his fortune, or if his fortune had been equal to his desires.

The time spent at his father's Gibbon devoted to study, except about two years and a half, in which he was doing duty in a situation which bore no affinity to any other period of his studious and social life as a militia officer. Parliament had resolved to raise a national militia, and he and his father offered their names as major and captain in the Hampshire regiment. A short time before this he had published his first work, “ An Essay upon the Study of Literature," which was well received. After the militia was dis dan leil, (December, 1762,) lie resumed his studies, and determined to write upon some historical subject. He went to Paris, where he passed some time

-visited Lausanne again, and there studied, preparatory to bis Italian journey-travelled into Italy, and returned to England in 1765. In 1770 he lost his father; and as soon as he could, after this event, he arranged his circumstances so as to settle in London. The following is his account of

best judge of his own performance; no one has so dec
tated on the subject; no one is so sincerely interested in

The volume of my history, which had been somewh:
by the novelty and iumult of a first session, was now
the press. After the perilous adventure had been de
my friend Mr. Elmsly, I agreed upon easy terms with
mas Cadell, a respectable bookseller, and Mr. William
an eminent printer; and they undertook the care and
publication, which derived more credit from the name of
than from that of the author. The last revisal of the p
submitted to my vigilance; and many blemishes of sty
had been invisible in the manuscript, were discovered
rected in the printed sheet. So moderate were our h
the original impression had been stinted to five hundre
number was doubled by the prophetic taste of Mr. Strah
ing this awful interval I was neither elated by the au
ame, nor depressed by the apprehension of contempt.
gence and accuracy were attested by my own conscien
vry is the most popular species of writing, since it
self to the highest or the lowest capacity. I had chosey

trious subject. Rome is familiar to the schoolboy and t man; and my narrative was deduced from the last Classical reading. I had likewise flattered myself that i light and liberty would receive, without scandal, an ine the human causes of the progress and establishment tiani:y.

Aiter publishing two more volumes of his History, he went u the place endeared to him by early recollections, there to settle fo his luce, and complete his great work. The following are huis rem

HIS PUBLICATION OF HIS HISTORY. No sooner was I settled in my house and library, than I undertook the composition of the first volume of my history. At the outset all was dark and doubtful-even the title of the work, the true era of the Decline and Fall of the Empire, the limits of the introduction, the division of the chapters, and the order of the narrative; and I was often tempted to cast away the labor of seren vears. The style of an author should be the image of his mind, but the choice and command of language is the fruit of exercise. Many experiments were made before I could hit the middle tone between a dull chronicle and a rhetorical declamation : three times did I compose the first chapter, and twice the second and third, before I was tolerably satisfied with their effect. In the remainder of the way I advanced with a more equal and easy pace; but the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters have been reduced, by three successive revisals, from a large volume to their present size; and they might still be compressed without any loss of facts or sentiments. An opposite fault may be imputed to the concise and superficial narrative of the first reigns, from Commodus to Alexander; a fault of which I have never heard, except from Mr. Hume in his last journey to London. Such an oracle might have been consulted and obeyed with rational devotion; but I was woon disgusted with the modest practice of reading the manuscript to my friends. Of such friends, some will praise from politeness, and somie will criticise from vanity. The author himself is the

THE COMPLETION OF IS HISTORY, I have presumed to mark the moment of conceptio now commemorate the hour of my final deliverance. the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June, 1787, be bours of eleven and twelve, that I wrote the last lines pare, in a summer-house in my garden. After laying pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk

kabu'attack on Christianity in his otherwise great work in a mean as it is uns
kerams hands answered by the Rev. Dr. Watson, in his " apology for Christianity,
Mets to Linard Gibbon, author of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roma
Putket, also the historian of Manchester, thus rebuked him in a ketter:

"You never speak fehly except when you come upon British ground, and new
then you attack Christianity. In the former case you seem to me to want informa
ktet, poa painly want the common candor of a citizen of the world for the religion
tetry. Pardon me, sir, but, as much as I wimire your abilities, I cannot bear
by your sarcastic slyniers pon Christianity, and can not see, without pity your
way to the Gospel

to Edward Gibbon by the Rev. Dr. itherwise great

x. Dr. Watson, in his o atok is as mean as it is more * manet, also the historian cel the History of the Dan apology for Cheuttis ung

best judge of his own performance; no one has so deeply medi. tated on the subject; no one is so sincerely interested in the event.

The volume of my history, which had been somewhat delayed by the novelty and tumult of a first session, was now ready for the press. After the perilous adventure had been declined by my friend Mr. Elmsly, I agreed upon easy terms with Mr. Thomas Cadell, a respectable bookseller, and Mr. William Strahan, an eminent printer; and they undertook the care and risk of the publication, which derived more credit from the name of the shop than from that of the author. The last revisal of the proofs was submitted to my vigilance; and many blemishes of style, which had been invisible in the manuscript, were discovered and corrected in the printed sheet. So moderate were our hopes, that the original impression had been stinted to five hundred, till the number was doubled by the prophetic taste of Mr. Strahan, During this awful interval I was neither elated by the ambition of Came, nor depressed by the apprehension of contempt. My diligence and accuracy were attested by my own conscience. His. tory is the most popular species of writing, since it can adapt itself to the highest or the lowest capacity. I had chosen an illustrious subject. Rome is familiar to the schoolboy and the statesman; and my narrative was deduced from the last period of Classical reading. I had likewise flattered myself that an age of light and liberty would receive, without scandal, an inquiry into the human causes of the progress and establishment of Christianity.?

After publishing two more volumes of his History, he went te Lausanne, the place endeared to him by early recollections, there to settle for the rest of his life, and complete his great work. The following are his remarks on

THE COMPLETION OF HIS HISTORY. I have presumed to mark the moment of conception : I shall now commemorate the hour of my final deliverance. It was un the day, or rather 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. After laying down my pen, I took several turns in a berceau, or covered walk of acacias, which commands a prospect of the country, the lake, and the mountains. The air was temperate, the sky was serene, the silver orb of the moon was reflected from the waters, and all nature was silent. I will not dissemble the first emotions of joy on 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 an 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. I will add two facts which have seldom occurred in the composition of six, or at least of five, quartos. 1. My first rough manuscript, without any intermediate copy, has been sent to the press. 2. Not a sheet has been seen by any human eyes excepting those of the author and the printer: the faults and the merits are exclusively my own.

1 Gibbon's attack on Christianity in his otherwise great work is as mean as it is unjust. It was moyi triumphantly answered by the Rev. Dr. Watson, in his “Apology for Christianity, in a series o! Leta ters to Edward Gibbon, author of the IIistory of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” Mr. Whitaker, also the historian of Manchester, thus rebuked him in a letter:

“You never speak feebly except when you come upon British ground, and never weakly excepi when you attack Christianity in the former case you seem to me to want information and in the latter, you plainly want the common candor of a citizen of the world for the religious system of you country. Pardon me, sir, but, as much as I admire your abilities, I cannot bear without indigna tion, your sarcastic slyness upon Christianity, and cannot see, without pity your determinci hos uility to the Gospel."

indeed unsuccessful; but in the general warfare advantage was on their side who were most comm ants : for a while the proportion of the attack and de pended ; and this thundering artillery was point iralls and towers which had been erected only to patent engines of antiquity. By the Venetians, t] wwder was communicated without reproach to Egypt and Persia, their allies against the Ottoma secret was soon propagated to the extremities of ad rantage of the European was confined to his easy the savages of the New World. If we contrast the of this inischievous discovery with the slow and labo of reason, science, and the arts of peace, a philosop w his temper, will laugh or weep at the folly of mi

INVENTION AND USE OF GUNPOWDER. The only hope of salvation for the Greek empire and the adjacent kingdoms, would have been some more powerful weapon, some discovery in the art of war, that should give them a decisive superiority over their Turkish foes. Such a weapon was in their hands; such a discovery had been made in the critical moment of their fate. The chemists of China or Europe had found, by casual or elaborate experiments, that a mixture of salt petre, sulphur, and charcoal, produces, with a spark of fire, a tremendous explosion. It was soon observed, that if the expansive force were compressed in a strong tube, a ball of stone or iron might be expelled with irresistible and destructive velocity. The precise era of the invention and application of gunpowder is involved in doubtful traditions and equivocal language; yet we may clearly discern that it was known before the middle of the fourteenth century; and that before the end of the same, the use of artillery in battles and sieges, by sea and land, was familiar to the states of Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and England. The priority of nations is of small account; none could derive any exclusive benefit from their previous or superior knowledge; and in the common improvement, they stood on the same level of relative power and military science. Nor was it possible to circumscribe the secret within the pale of the church; it was disclosed to the Turks by the treachery of apostates and the selfish policy of rivals; and the sultans had sense to adopt, and wealth to reward, the talents of a Christian engineer, The Genoese, who transported Amurath into Europe, must be accused as his preceptors; und it was probably by their hands that his cannon was cast and directed at the siege of Constantinople. The first attempt was

[graphic]

SIR WILLIAM JONES. 1746-1794. fiw names in English literature recall such associations mod ascomplishments, as that of Sir William Jones. He wa in 1746. He lost his father when only three years old, an education devolved upon his mother. She was a per:on, *of superior endowments, and cultivated his dawning power assiduity, which undoubtedly contributed to their quick and s We may judge of what a pupil she had, when we are told of age, one morning, in turning over the leaves of a Bible, in with the strongest admiration on a sublime passage i Haman nature, perhaps, presents no authentic picture of its of satisfactory, than that of such a pupil superintended by of directing him."

At the age of seven be went to Harrow school, where h astonishing progress in his studies; and at the age of sevi Oxford, his mother going with him, and taking up her resit Here he pursued the study of the Oriental languages, w menced at Harrow, and on leaving the university, he was, 1 of as much varied learning as any one who ever took his nowned seat of literature. The same year (1765) he acce of the Earl of Spencer to become the tutor to his son; at was constantly adding to his own stores of knowledge. I the family twice upon the Continent, and on his return aft in 1771, he resolved to devote himself to the study of the rearly published a small volume of poems, and two disse: literatore, and after he was called to the bar, he gave to tion of the Greek Orations of Isuus. He was at this time Royal Society, and maintained an epistolary correspondens tent foreign scholars.

During the progress of our Revolutionary war, Sir Willi

bis decided disapprobation of the measures of his own

indeed unsuccessful; but in the general warfare of the age, the advantage was on their side who were most commonly the assailants; for a while the proportion of the attack and defence was suspended; and this thundering artillery was pointed against the walls and towers which had been erected only to resist the less potent engines of antiquity. By the Venetians, the use of gunpowder was communicated without reproach to the sultans of Egypt and Persia, their allies against the Ottoman power; the secret was soon propagated to the extremities of Asia ; and the advantage of the European was confined to his easy victories over the savages of the New World. If we contrast the rapid progress of this mischievous discovery with the slow and laborious advances of reason, science, and the arts of peace, a philosopher, according to his temper, will laugh or weep at the folly of mankind.

SIR WILLIAM JONES. 1746—1794.

Few names in English literature recall such associations of worth, in:ellect, and accomplishments, as that of Sir William Jones. He was born in London in 1746. He lost his father when only three years old, and the care of liis education devolved upon his mother. “She was a person," says Campbell,

of superior endowments, and cultivated bis dawning powers with a sagacious assiduity, which undoubtedly contributed to their quick and surprising growth We may judge of what a pupil she had, when we are told that, at five years of age, one morning, in turning over the leaves of a Bible, he fixed his atten. tion with the strongest admiration on a sublime passage in the Revelations. Human nature, perhaps, presents no authentic picture of its felicity more pure or satisfactory, than that of such a pupil superintended by a mother capable of directing him.”

At the age of seven he went to Harrow school, where he made the most astonishing progress in his studies; and at the age of seventeen he went to Oxford, his mother going with him, and taking up her residence in the town. Here he pursued the study of the Oriental languages, which he had commenced at Harrow, and on leaving the university, he was, perhaps, possesseil of as much varied learning as any one who ever took his degree at that re. nowned seat of literature. The same year (1765) he accepted the invitation of the Earl of Spencer to become the tutor to his son; at the same time he was constantly adding to his own stores of knowledge. He journeyed with the family twice upon the Continent, and on his return after his second tour, in 1771, he resolved to devote himself to the study of the law. He had already published a small volume of poems, and two dissertations on Oriental literatore, and after he was called to the bar, he gave to the world a translation of the Greek Orations of Isæus. He was at this time a member of the Royal Society, and maintained an epistolary correspondence with several emia nent foreign scholars.

During the progress of our Revolutionary war, Sir William Jones expressed his decided disapprobation of the measures of his own government, having

amplisbments or to his knowledge. When in Inlia, his st the dawn; and, in seasons of intermission from professione through the day; while meditation retraced and confirmed collected or investigation discovered. By a regular appli particular occupations, he pursued various objects without undertakings which depended on his individual perseveran deterred by difficulties from proceeding to a successful ten respect to the division of his time, he had written in India, of paper, elle following lines :

Sir Edward Coke.
Six hours in sleep, in law's grave study six,
Four spend in prayer--the rest on nature fix.

Rather.
Six hours to law, to soothing slumber seven,

Ten to the world allot, and 'all to heaven. But we cannot conclude this short sketch of the life of thi and good man, without adding his beautiful encomium on be borne in mind that those peculiar attainments which fully competent to utter it, were scarcely ever possessed by but he was not only critically acquainted with the original Bible but with all the various cognate languages and diale knowledge of which imparts new beauty and lustre to that

no sympathy with that infamous sentiment, “Our country right or wrong." Like Lord Chatham, and Burke, and Pitt, and Fox, he did not hesitate to rebuke, and rebuke severely, his country, or rather the ruling administration, when he deemed its measures to be wrong. But his inflexible adherence to correct principles, and to a just line of action, together with an - Ode to Liberty,” which he had published, caused him to lose favor with those who biad orlices in their gift, and he did not obtain the situation of the judgeship at Fort William, in Bengal, which became vacant in 1780, though he was doubtless the most competent person at that time in England to fill it. But on a change of administration in 1782, he was appointed to this responsible station and received the honor of knighthood. In April, 1783, he married Anta Maria Shipley, the daughter of the Bishop of St. Asaph, to whom he had been engaged for sixteen years. He immediately set sail for India, having secured, as his friend Lord Ashburton congratulated him, the two first objects of liuman pursuit, those of love and ambition.

In December, 1783, he commenced the discharge of his duties as an Indian judge, with his characteristic ardor; but it is impossible, in this short space, to do any justice to his great labors. He early formed a society of which he was the president, for - Inquiring into the History and Antiquities, the Arts, Sciences, and Literature of Asia;" and to the “ Asiatic Researches," which this society published, he himself was the chief contributor. The following are some of his papers: “ Eleven Anniversary Discourses on the different nations of Asia, &c.;" “ A Dissertation on the Orthography of Asiatic Words in Roman Letters;" « On the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India ;" * On the Chronology of the Hindoos;" “On the Antiquity of the Indian Zodiac;" « On the Mystical Poetry of the Persians and Hindoos;" with very many other treatises of less importance. All these literary labors he performed when not attending to his official duties, which, for the greater part of the year, occu pied him seven hours a day. But such labors, enough to try the strongest constitution anywhere, were too much for him in the debilitating climate of Bengal; his health gave way, and he died at Calcutta, on the 27th of April, 1794.

“ In the course of a short life," says Campbell, “Sir William Jones acquireal a degree of knowledge which the ordinary faculties of men, if they were blessed with antediluvian longevity, could scarcely bope to surpass. His learning threw light on the laws of Greece and India, on the general literature of Asia, and on the history of the family of nations. He carried phil. sophy, eloquence, and philanthropy, into the character of a lawyer ani a judge. Amidst the driest toils of erudition, he retained a sensibility to the beauties of poetry, and a talent for transfusing them into his own language, which has seldom been united with the same degree of industry. When be went abroad, it was not to enrich himself with the spoils of avarice or ambi sion: but to searclı, amidst the ruins of oriental literature, for treasures wluco he would not have exchanged

For all Bocara's vaunted gold,

Or all the gems of Samarcand.'” * Sir William Jones," says his biographer, “seems to have acted on this maxim, that whatever had been attained was attainable by him; and he was oever observed to overlook or neglect any opportunity of adding to his au

THE BIBLE Thave regularly and attentively read the Holy am of opinion that this volume, independent of its contains more sublimity and beauty, more pure important history, and finer strains of poetry and can be collected from all other books, in whatever They may have been composed.

AN ODE.

In Imitation of Alcaua.
What constitutes a State!
Not high-raised battlement, or labor'd mound

Thick wall or moated gate;
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crow

Not bays and broad-arm'd ports,
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies rid

Not starr'd and spangled courts,
Where low-brow'd baseness waits perfume

No:-MEN, higti-minded MEN,
With powers as far above dull brutes endu

W. Not start

at the sand porn

Win10:-MEN 2 aseness wat

the powers as far minded Mi perfume

1087" la naturally expected to make up the twenty-four: Instea

, be says" ALL to beaven," intending one to be reserved for purpos on the same in Macaulay's Review of Croker's Boswell. 119 contdent," sayu Sir Richard Steele," that whoever reais

och prepared in favor of them, as when he site down to Virgli or How Wie is Don Wald with more natural force than any episode in either

10 matt mankind."

: The best edition of his works is that by Lord Teignmouth, in 13 vols. 8vo.; to which is pretired well-written life of this illustrious scholar.

« 上一頁繼續 »