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As M.P. for Liskeard and subsequently for Lymington (1774-84), his position was still more assured. The publication of the first volume of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776 made him a literary lion. I have the satisfaction,' he writes to his stepmother, a month after the appearance of his book, 'of telling you that my book has been very well received by men of letters, men of the world, and even by fine feathered Ladies, in short by every set of people except perhaps by the Clergy, who seem (I know not why) to show their teeth on the occasion. A thousand Copies are sold, and we are preparing a second Edition, which in so short a time is, for a book of that price, a very uncommon event.'. Men of letters and men of fashion had been, for at least a hundred years, divided by a gulf which patronage scarcely pretended to span. Horace Walpole, indeed, dabbled in literature, though scholars unfairly sneered at his literary pretensions. Gibbon, on the other hand, forced the learned to admit that he was their master with their own weapons, and that his knowledge and industry were equal to his natural genius. On the whole he bore his honours meekly. He makes no secret that his vanity was flattered by his success; but he remained the same good-natured, kind-hearted man that he was before he woke to find himself famous throughout Europe.
His correspondence ripens under the pleasant sun of prosperity. For the amusement of his stepmother he becomes the Court newsman, the theatrical critic, the literary adviser, and even the retailer of gossip. It is for her benefit, for instance, that he tells the story of the duel to which Lord Bellamont challenged Lord Townshend, and its amusing sequel.
I am so unfashionable as not to have fought a duel yet. I suppose all the Nation will admire Lord B.'s behaviour. I will give you one instance of his—call it what you please. Lord T.'s pistol was raised when he called out, 'One moment, my Lord ; Mr. Dillon, I have undertaken a commission from the French Embassador—to get him some Irish poplins. Should I fall, be so good as to execute it. Your Lordsbip may now fire.'
Six weeks later, he writes again :
This morning, the fact is certain, an Address was delivered to Lord B. from the Grand Jury of the County of Dublin, thanking him for his proper and spirited behaviour. Incomparable Hibernians ! A Judicial Body, appointed to maintain and execute the Laws, publicly applaud a man for having broke them.
For his friend Holroyd, afterwards Lord Sheffield, he collects the latest political intelligence, and flavours his reports with the most recent scandal of the clubs or the green room.
Gibbon sat in Parliament throughout the American War; he was an intimate friend of Lord North, Charles James Fox, and Lord George Germain; he witnessed the overthrow of the favourite minister of George the Third, and the commencement of Pitt's parliamentary career. The times were full of excitement, and Gibbon, though a silent member, was a shrewd observer. Onlookers often see the most of the
Some of the interest of the political letters lies in the restoration of passages which Lord Sheffield had suppressed. One example must suffice. In 1788 Fox paid Gibbon a visit at Lausanne, and he describes with enthusiasm the charm of that statesman's conversation. But Lord Sheffield omits the account of Mrs. Armstead, who was travelling with Fox, and of the effect which her presence produced. “The wit and beauty of his Companion,' writes Gibbon, are not sufficient to excuse the scandalous impropriety of shewing her to all Europe, and you will not easily conceive how he has lost himself in the public opinion, which was already more favourable to his Rival. Will Fox never know the importance of character?'
Gibbon carefully studied for himself the questions at issue in the American War. From Israel Mauduit, the agent of Massachusetts Bay, and from Governor Hutchinson, he gathered material for forming an independent judgment. “I think,' he says, ' I have sucked them very dry; and if my confidence was equal to my eloquence, and my eloquence to my knowledge, perhaps I might make no very intolerable Speaker. It is curious to note in his letters the apathy of Parliament on the subject. 'In this season and on America,' he writes in May 1775, “the Archangel Gabriel would not be heard.' His own opinion was, on several points, adverse to the policy of the Government, which, except on one occasion, he steadily supported. He was one of those indolent men who attach themselves to political leaders rather than to political principles. For Lord North he felt a warm affection, and throughout voted with him, sometimes against his better judgment.
His speech would probably have been silver ; his silence was certainly golden. In 1778 he was appointed a Commissioner of Trade and Plantations, with a salary of 7501. a year. Fox believed that he had been bribed by office, and expressed the belief in the lines :
King George, in a fright
Lest Gibbon should write
Thought no way so sure
pen to secure
Gibbon held the appointment till the abolition of the office in 1782. The loss of it decided him to leave England, though his friends were influential and active, and he might have secured another post. He was rapidly getting into debt, and he was anxious to finish his History. In 1784 he settled at Lausanne, and there passed the remainder of his life. It was on his second visit to England, in 1793-94, that he died on the 16th of January, 1794, at 76 St. James's Street, the house of Peter Elmsley, the bookseller.
It may be asked, in what way do these letters raise the popular view of Gibbon's character ? Indolent and easy-going as he was, he was capable of making moral resolutions and of adhering to them with determination. At one time Gibbon fell into the habit of excessive drinking, which was a vice of social life. But in 1764 at Lausanne, after a drunken orgy, he was made aware that he had forfeited the respect of his better friends, and he cured himself of the vice, without adopting the desperate remedy of total abstinence. It was an age when men staked their fortunes on the fall of cards. Gibbon never gambled. It was an age when the tone of society was grossly immoral. Gibbon could say in 1774: "You once mentioned Miss F[uller]. I give you my honour, that I have not either with her, or any other woman, any connection that could alarm a wife.' He went into Parliament with the intention of obtaining a lucrative office. But he valued his own independence so highly that, to secure it, he not only toiled laboriously with his pen, but voluntarily exiled himself from England when, to a man of his age and tastes, such a wrench must have been severe.
For friendship he had a true genius. No trouble was too great to be taken for a friend, and this by a man who loved his ease to
To be by the side of Lord Sheffield, who had recently lost his wife, he hurried home to England from Lausanne at a time when the beginning of the Revolutionary War made his journey difficult, if not hazardous. He was a friend of children and a lover of dogs. His letters about little Datch' Holroyd, a son of his friend who died in childhood, shows his tender nature. The dogs to which he attached himself were not the breeds that appeal to sportsmen; but the following passage from a letter, written to thank his stepmother for the gift of a Pomeranian, shows that he loved canine society :
After drinking coffee in the Library, we went downstairs again, and as we entered the Parlour, our ears were saluted with a very harmonious barking, and our eyes gratified by the sight of one of the prettiest animals I ever saw. Her figure and coat are perfect, her mavners genteel and lively, and her teeth (as a pair of ruffles have already experienced) most remarkably sharp. She is not the least fatigued with ber voyage, and compleatly at home in Bentinck Street. I call her Bath. Gibbon would be ambiguous, and Dorothea ? disrespectful.
In a note accepting an invitation to Twickenham, he calls the Thames an 'amiable creature. It is pleasing to relate that on his way he was upset into the water, and received a ducking for the affectation. But an affected manner could not conceal his kindness of heart. For his housekeeper, Mrs. Ford, he was careful to provide a support in her old age; his butler, Caplen, though he could not speak a word of French, refused a proffered pension and insisted on following him to Lausanne. To young men and boys he took the
| The Christian name of his stepmother.
pains, even when he was famous, to make himself agreeable. The recollections of the younger Colman may be quoted as a proof. "The great historian,' says Colman, writing of a time when he was himself a boy, “was bright and playful, suiting his matter to the capacity of the boy: but it was done more sua (sic); still his mannerisms prevailed : still he tapped his snuff-box; still he smirked, and smiled, and rounded his periods with the same air of good-breeding, as if he was conversing with men. Above all, Gibbon was a straightforward, strictly honourable
His relations and Lady Sheffield were always seeking him a wife, nor, as his letters show, was Gibbon averse to the idea of matrimony. But he made no secret of his opinions on questions of religion, and was careful that, if inquired into, they should be known. 'The Lady Mother,' he writes, has given as proper an answer as can be expected. There is only one part of it which distresses me-Religion. Your evasion was very able ; but will not prudence as well as honour require us being more explicit in the suite ? Ought I to give them room to think that I should patiently conform to family prayers and Bishop Hooper's Sermons ? I would not marry an Empress on those conditions.
After all, what occasion is there to enquire into my profession of faith? It is surely much more to the purpose for them to ask, how I have already acted in lifewhether as a good son, a good friend, whether I game, drink, &c. You know I never practised the one, and in spite of my old Dorsetshire character, I have left off the other,
Gibbon had his faults; but, judged by the contents of these letters, and by the standard which he himself proposes, there can be but one answer to the questions he suggests, and that answer is emphatically in his favour.
ROWLAND E. PROTHERO.
THE FEDERATION MOVEMENT IN
THROUGHOUT the provinces of Australia, in the Garden Island, Tasmania, and in a lesser degree over the Britain of the South, New Zealand, the idea of a Federated Australasia finds general acceptance. Leaders of men, and they who follow not too blindly, concur in the view that this Federation of the seven constitutionally governed colonies in the Austral seas, together with Fiji, British New Guinea, and any other British territories in the South and West Pacific, must eventually be achieved ; and he who is an enthusiast in the cause, not yet daunted by delays and backslidings on the part of Federationists, asks when, and under what conditions, and by whose agency this splendid dream will be realised. At the National Australasian Convention held in Sydney in 1891, the late Sir Henry Parkes, then Prime Minister of New South Wales, spoke confidently of Federation being accomplished in two years. But those two years came and went, and yet another two years, without any nearer approach to the
one nation, one destiny' that had been so confidently predicted by that statesman. And when in January 1895 the six Premiers of Australia and Tasmania met in conference in Hobart, to formulate some plan by which Federation could be urged forward, Sir Henry Parkes, then a private member of the New South Wales Assembly (and soon to become a private citizen, bereft of even his M.P.-ship), spoke in scornful terms of those statesmen who were seeking to achieve that which he had vainly dreamt of as the immediate result of his initiative.
Who will be the instruments that shall lead the peoples to the destined goal? None of those, I venture to predict, who occupy the recognised position of leaders while the petty, personal jealousies and rivalries of fallen statesmen or discredited politicians intervene to frustrate action—not by these and not at all shall this great end be attained, until the peoples who should be led become the leaders, and the vox populi demands that the thing shall be done without further babble. And even if the popular guides could be brought to such a wholesome frame of mind as would induce them to welcome