Imatges de pÓgina



not by negligence, and, as it were, unbeknown to themselves, permit these habits to pass away without a struggle to maintain them.

There are still in midst many and women whose thoughtful courtesy and kindly bearing are in marked contrast with the illbred manners of the day. Let these bring their influence to bear on society at large, and by example and precept do their utmost to cause the advent of the time when the British nation, both at home and abroad, shall be distinguished for the politeness of its demeanour.

A true gentleman is naturally courteous—he could hardly be the reverse if he tried; but in these days, when so many lay claim to the title who possess few of the qualifications of gentility, it may be well to point out that a courteous manner is a quality which, especially in the present days of rudeness, possesses a distinctly commercial value. However boorish we may be ourselves, we all appreciate civility and courtesy in others. We would rather have dealings with a man who treats us with civility, not to say with deference, than with one who treads on our corns and generally irritates us.

If British boys and girls were taught to subordinate self, to respect their neighbours, and in non-essentials not to run counter to their prejudices, we should probably in a few years find that, although for political reasons Great Britain might still maintain that 'splendid isolation of which we have lately heard so much, her people were no longer disliked, but by their politeness and urbanity had won the respect and friendship of foreigners, and had thereby increased the influence of their country, and taken the most effective steps to diminish the chances of international misunderstandings.


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EDWARD GIBBON has hitherto been known to the world by his history, his autobiography, and a selection from his letters. In the stately style of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire every word has been weighed and measured for its appropriate place in the balanced period. His autobiography is an elaborate composition, written and rewritten to satisfy a fastidious taste, and finally put together by Lord Sheffield and Lady Maria Holroyd from the different drafts which he left behind him. His letters have been carefully selected, edited, and arranged, in order to show him in the light which his friend and executor thought most becoming to the dignity of a great historian. Everywhere it is Gibbon dressed for effect; the natural man behind is practically unknown. It is Gibbon the fine gentleman,' as he appeared when equipped for Boodle's Masquerade at the Pantheon, in 'a fine Velvet Coat, with ruffles of My Lady's chusing, and in a sincerely pretty Wastecoat' sent him by his stepmother.

But Gibbon' is one of the greatest names in our prose literature, and what the world wants is to see the man in his unguarded moments, when he is most true to himself; to know him as he was known to his valet Caplen, or his housekeeper Mrs. Ford; to catch him in some natural attitude, as when he forgot the presence of the Princesses at Turin, and grew so very free and easy, that I drew my snufbox, rapped it, took snuff twice (a crime never known before in the presence-chamber), and continued my discourse in my usual attitude of my body bent forwards, and my forefinger stretched out.' This autumn the world will have the opportunity of learning something of the real Gibbon. A mass of his letters will be published, most of which have never before been printed, ranging over a variety of subjects, and touching upon the social gossip of the day, his literary pursuits, his friendships, tastes, and domestic affairs, his parliamentary career, and his political opinions. The letters cover the period from 1753 to 1794. They begin with the time when, as a boy of sixteen, he had become a Roman Catholic, had left Oxford, and was sent to Lausanne to be placed under the care of Pastor Pavillard. They end with his death in London in 1794. Almost every detail of his life is laid bare, and the general result of the self-revelation of his

character will undoubtedly be to raise the popular estimate of Gibbon

as a man.

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Suzanne Curchod, afterwards Madame Necker, has left a picture of Gibbon as he was at the age of twenty. “Il a de beaux cheveux’ it must be remembered that, at the time she wrote, she was engaged to the youth whom she describesla main jolie, et l'air d'une personne de condition. Sa physionomie est si spirituelle et singulière que je ne connois personne qui lui ressemble. Elle a tant d'expression qu'on y découvre presque toujours quelque chose de nouveau. Ses gestes sont si à propos, qu'ils ajoutent beaucoup à ce qu'il dit. En un mot, c'est une de ces physionomies si extraordinaires, qu'on ne se lasse presque point de l'examiner, de le peindre et de le contrefaire. Il connoît les égards que l'on doit aux femmes. Sa politesse est aisée sans être trop familière. Il danse mediocrement. In this picture it would be difficult to recognise the unwieldy figure of the man who fell on his knees to propose to Madame de Montolieu, and could only rise with the assistance of a servant when he had received his refusal. Nor could M. de Bièvre, who was wont to say that he took his daily exercise by walking three times round M. Gibbon, have imagined that the corpulent critic of Christian dogma was ever "the thin little figure with a large head,' who astonished M. Pavillard by 'disputing and urging with the utmost ability all the best arguments that had ever been used in favour of popery.'

Gibbon did not long remain a Roman Catholic. The second letter in the forthcoming collection describes his re-conversion. It is amusing to find that he was sufficiently a boy to practise the ingenuous stratagems of artless youth, and to base on the good news of his return to Protestantism an appeal to the generosity of his relations. The letter dated February 1755 is addressed to this maternal aunt, Miss Catherine Porten, the 'Aunt Kitty' who in his childhood supplied the place of his mother. The first part, which has been already printed, states that he is now a good Protestant,' and in stilted language remarks on the difficulty of a Church of England man resolving on Communion with Presbyterians.' The second part, which is new, confesses in a curious jargon of English and French his loss of 110 guineas at faro. In his despair he bought a horse from the rook who had plucked him, and set out to ride to England to raise the money. He had only reached Geneva when his tutor recaptured him and brought him back to Lausanne. Would Miss Porten lend him the money? His aunt refused to pay his debt of honour, and the letter is indorsed by his stepmother, Mrs. Gibbon, with the note: * Pray remember this letter was not addressed to his mother-in-law (sic), but his aunt, an old cat as she was to refuse his request.'

Aunt Kitty's refusal did not, however, impair her nephew's affection. In almost the next letter he tells her, with evident delight, that the bird of prey by whom he had been plucked had fallen into the hands of the famous Mr. Taff' at Paris, and had been stripped

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of 8,2001. This is, in all probability, the Mr. Taaffe who, four years before, had made himself notorious at Paris. With his friends Edward Wortley Montagu and Lord Southwell he invited to his rooms one Abraham Payba, a Jew money-lender, made him drunk, and in less than an hour' won from him 800 louis d'or. Payba paid his debt with bills which he took care should be dishonoured. Finding themselves outwitted, Taaffe and Wortley Montagu broke into his house and helped themselves to a much larger sum in cash and jewellery. For the robbery they were imprisoned for three months in the Grand Châtelet.

For five years (1753–58) Gibbon lived at Lausanne. Here he pursued the literary studies which bore fruit in his Essai sur l'étude de la Littérature, published in French in 1761. He joined too in the social amusements of the town, and in philandering with the young girls who called themselves La Société du Printemps, or associated in the Académie de la Poudrière. So long as he was in love with the multitude he was safe ; but at these social gatherings he met Suzanne Curchod, the only child of the Pastor of Crassy. In his unpublished journal for June 1757 occurs the entry : 'I saw Mademoiselle Curchod ; Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori.' The following lines, quoted from some indifferent verses addressed by him to the object of his worship, expand the idea of the Latin line:

Tôt ou tard il faut aimer,
C'est en vain qu'on façonne;
Tout fléchit sous l'amour,
Il n'exempte personne,
Car Gib. a succombé en ce jour

Aux attraits d'une beauté,
Qui parmi les douceurs d'un tranquille silence
Reposait sur un fauteuil, &c.


The affection of Mademoiselle Curchod was deeply engaged, and he was sufficiently in love to implore her to marry him without waiting for his father's sanction. But his passion seems always to have had the exaggeration of unreality, for Julie von Bondeli, the friend of Rousseau and of Wieland, describes him as waylaying the country people on their way to or from Lausanne, and demanding, at the point of a naked dagger, whether there existed a more adorable creature than Suzanne Curchod.

In April 1758 Gibbon, engaged to be married to Mademoiselle Curchod, left Lausanne to return to England. The Seven Years' War, which, as Horace Walpole says, ' reaches from Muscovy to Alsace and from Madras to California,' rendered all roads more or less impracticable, and Gibbon tells his father that he shall travel as 'a Swiss officer,' with Dutch regimentals and a passport from the Canton of Berne. I am pretty sure,' he adds, 'that my tongue won't betray me. He had been in England two months when he wrote to his

Vol. XL-No. 233


aunt, Miss Hester Gibbon, a letter which is interesting from the foretaste which it affords of the future historian's style, a style that is strikingly contrasted with the ease of his ordinary correspondence. Miss Hester Gibbon, it should be said, had taken William Law, the author of the Serious Call, for her spiritual adviser and almoner, and supported by her charities various educational and philanthropic institutions which Law administered at King's Cliff in Northamptonshire. Though the public voice,' writes her nephew and natural heir in July 1758,

had long since accustomed me to think myself honoured in calling Mrs. Gibbon my aunt, yet I never enjoyed the happiness of living near her, and of instructing myself not less by her example than by her precepts. Your piety, Madam, has engaged you to prefer a retreat to the world. Errors, justifiable only in their principle, forced my father to give me a foreign education. Fully disabused of the unhappy ideas I had taken up, and at last restored to myself, I am happy in the affection of the tenderest of fathers. May I not hope, Madam, to see my felicity compleat by the acquisition of your esteem and friendship? Duty and Inclination engage me equally to solicit them, all my endeavours shall tend to deserve them, and with Mrs. Gibbon I know that to deserve is to obtain.

Gibbon's mode of life would not perhaps have satisfied Miss Hester Gibbon. He had intended to pass his winters in London, and his summers with his father and step-mother at Beriton, near Petersfield in Hampshire. The first winter after his return from Lausanne was spent, according to this plan, in London, where he was negotiating the publication of his Essai sur l'étude de la Littérature. He was without acquaintances in the fashionable world, though it was, even at this time, his ambition to be treated as a man of fashion. His few friends were chiefly literary men, whom he knew through David Mallet. The coffee-house which he frequented was the Smyrna in Pall Mall, the haunt of writers, and still tenanted by the shades of the Spectator and the Tatler. He belonged to no club, and lodged over a linnen draper's' in New Bond Street, where he had a very good first floor dining-room, bed-chamber, and light closet, with many conveniences, for a guinea and a half. His very handsome chair? cost him twenty-seven shillings. His one fashionable acquaintance was Lady Hervey, the beautiful Molly Lepel' of the Hanoverian Court in the early quarter of the century, the widow of the 'Sporus of Pope and the Boswell of Queen Caroline and George the Second, and the mother of three successive earls of Bristol.

His plans for the summer were disturbed by the calling out of the militia as a permanent force. The South Battalion of the Hampshire Militia, which he joined as captain, and of which he ultimately became colonel, was kept continuously 'under arms, in constant pay and duty,' from June 1759 to December 1762. No stranger position could be imagined for the future historian. Francis Osbaldeston himself was not more out of his element among his cock-fighting,

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