« PreviousContinue »
intention of taxing America : another act, to empower the crown to name commissioners, authorised to suspend hostilities by sea and land, as well as all obnoxious acts; and, in short, to grant every thing, except independence. Opposition, after expressing their doubts whether the lance of Achilles could cure the wound which it had inflicted, could not refuse their assent to the principles of conduct which they themselves bad always recommended. Yet you must acknowledge, that in a business of this magnitude there may arise several important questions, which, without a spirit of faction, will deserve to be debated : whether parliament ought not to name the commissioners? whether it would not be better to repeal the obnoxious acts ourselves ? I do not find that the world, that is, a few people whom I happen to converse with, are much inclined to praise Lord North's ductility of temper. In the service of next Friday you will, however, take notice of the injunction given by the Liturgy: " And all the people shall say after the Minister, Turn us again, O Lord, and so shall we be turned.” While we consider whether we shall negotiate, I fear the French have been more dili- · gent. It is positively asserted, both in private and in parliament, and not contradicted by the ministers, that on the fifth of this month a treaty of commerce (which naturally leads to a war) was signed at Paris with the independent States of America. Yet there still remains a hope that England may obtain the preference. The two greatest countries in Europe are fairly running a race for the favour of America. Adieu,
MR. GIBBON TO MR. HOLROYD.
Almack's, Wednesday evening, 1778. I DELAYED writing, not so much through indolence, as because I expected every post to bear from you. The state of Beriton is uncertain, incomprehensible, tremendous. It would be endless to send you the folios of Hugonin (Mrs. Go's solicitor), but I have enclosed you one of his most picturesque epistles, on which you may meditate. Few offers; one, promising enough, came from a gentleman at Camberwell. I detected him, with masterly skill and diligence, to be only an attorney's clerk, without money, credit, or experience. I have written as yet in vain to Sir John Shelly, about Hearsay; perbaps you might get intelligence. I much fear that the Beriton expedition is necessary; but it has occurred to me, that if I met, instead of accompanying you, it would save ne a journey of above one hundred miles. That reflection led to another of a very impudent nature ; viz. that if I did not accompany you, I certainly could be of no use to you or myself on the spot: that I had much rather, while you examined the premises, pass the time in a horsepond ; and that I had still rather pass it in my library with the Decline and Fall. But that would be an effort of friendship worthy of Theseus or Pirithous: modern times would hardly credit, much less imitate, such exalted virtue. No news from America ; yet there are people, large ones too, who talk of conquering it next summer with the help of twenty thousand Russi
ans. I fancy you are better satisfied with private than public war. The Lisbon packet in coming home met above forty of our privateers. Adieu. I hardly know whether I direct right to you, but I think Sheffield Place the surest.
DR. ROBERTSON TO MR. GIBBON.
College of Edinburgh, May 12th, 1781. DEAR SIR, I AM ashamed of having deferred so long to thank you for the agreeable presents of your two new volumes; but just as I had finished the first reading of them, I was taken ill, and continued, for two or three weeks, nervous, deaf, and languid. I have now recovered as much spirit as to tell you with what perfect satisfaction I have not only perused, but studied, this part of your work. I knew enough of your talents and industry to expect a great deal, but you have gone far beyond my expectations. I can recollect po historical work from which I ever received so much instruction ; and, when I consider in what a barren field you had to glean and pick up materials, I am truly astonished at the connected and interesting story you have formed. I like the style of these volumes better than that of the first; there is the same beauty, richness, and perspicuity of language, with less of that quaintness, into which your admiration of Tacitus sometimes seduced you. I am highly pleased with the reign of Julian. I was a little afraid that you might lean with some partiality towards him ; but even bigots, I should think, must allow that you have delineated his most singular character with a more masterly hand than ever touched it before. You set me a reading his works, with which I was very slenderly acquainted ; and I am struck with the felicity wherewith you have described that odd infusion of heathen fanaticism and philosophical coxcombry, which mingled with the great qualities of a hero, and a genius. Your chapter concerning the pastoral nations is admirable; and, though I hold myself to be a tolerably good general historian, a great part of it was new to me. As soon as I have leisure, I purpose to trace you to your sources of information; and I have no doubt of finding you as exact there, as I have found you in other passages where I have made a scrutiny. It was always my idea that an bistorian should feel himself a witness giving evidence upon oath. I am glad to perceive by your minute scrupulosity, that your notions are the same. The last chapter in your work is the only one with which I am not entirely satisfied. I imagine you rather anticipate, in describing the jurisprudence and institutions of the Franks; and should think that the account of private war, ordeals, chivalry, &c. would have come in more in its place about the age of Charlemagne, or later : but with respect to this, and some other petty criticisms, I will have an opportunity of talking fully to you soon, as I propose setting out for London on Monday. I have, indeed, many things to say to you; and, as my stay in London is to be very short, I shall hope to find your door (at which I will be very often) always open to me. I cannot conclude without approving of the caution with which the new volumes are written ; I hope it will exempt you from the illiberal abuse the first volume drew upon you. I ever am, yours, faithfully and affectionately,
MR. GIBBON TO LORD SHEFFIELD, AT THE CAMP, COXHEATH.
September 29th, 1782. I SHOULD like to hear sometimes whether you survive the scenes of action and danger in which a dragoon is continually involved. What a difference between the life of a dragoon and that of a philosopher! and I will freely own that I (the philosopher) am much better satisfied with my own independent and tranquil situation, in which I have always something to do, without ever being obliged to do any thing. The Hampton Court villa has answered my expectations, and proved no small addition to my comforts ; so that I am resolved next summer to hire, borrow, or steal, either the same, or something of the same kind. Every morning I walk a mile or more before breakfast, read and write quantum sufficit, mount my chaise and visit in the neighbourhood, accept some invitations, and escape others, use the Lucans as my daily bread, dine pleasantly at home, or sociably abroad, reserve for study an hour or two in the evening, lie in town regularly