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Caliphate is curtailed, of its temporal sovereignty, into a mere spiritual pontificate; Turkish sultans establish themselves from Asia Minor to the Nile; to yield in their turn to the Mongolian Tartars. Meanwhile in an earlier century, Charlemagne has reconstructed a vast occidental power, from the Baltic to Beneventum, and from the Danube to the Ebro and the Ocean. A church, calling itself that of Christ, appears on the scene, with the tiara on her head, and the keys of St. Peter in her hand. The growth of this peculiar prodigy is described by Gibbon with marvellous precision and effect; as are also the shifting phases of ecclesiastical heresy and schism, as shown amongst the Arians, the Manichæans, the Monophysites, the Paulicians, and their countless successors. Commerce also puts in claims for political influence, through the republics of Venice, Pisa, and Genoa. In Germany, there culminate and wane the Saxon, Franconian, and Swabian families, with the contentions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. In Spain, after the destruction of the Visigothic Roderick, the Christian states are founded of Leon, Castile, Aragon, Valentia, and Portugal. In France, the Capetians supersede the Carlovingians. Then come the Crusades, the Age of Chivalry, the Feudal System, the Monastic and Military Orders, the French Monarchs for sixty years on the Bosphorus, the recovery of the Byzantine throne by Michael Palæologus. But Othman has by this time re-inspirited the Turks, and we see them advancing against Bithynia, and the Hellespont, at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Their passage into Europe quickly ensues : the four Euphratensian sultanies become incorporated : Amurath the First almost grasps Constantinople : and his son Bajazet, about to revel on his prey, is only arrested by the victories of Timour or Tamerlane. But he too descends into the sepulchre; discord and misfortune wave their wings over the palaces of Samarcand; the Ottoman dynasty starts from its state of temporary depression, like Antæus when he had touched the ground; and the terrible Mahomet the Second triumphantly tramples in the dust, the last, the last of the Constantines !
Such is a most imperfect glance at some of the subjects of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It is but justice to the author, as well as our readers, to present them with the extract in which he describes the termination of his labours: he says,
* I have presumed to mark the moment of conception : I shall now commemorate the hour of my deliverance. It was on the day, or rather the night, of the 27th June, 787, 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 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 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 five quarto volumes. 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.'—pp. 289--290.
After a quiet residence of four years, during which he had never moved from his retirement, he set out for London, arranged with his bookseller for the publication, and hastened to Sheffield-place, whither the proofs were transmitted him for correction. Three months were consumed upon the impression of the fourth volume; but the two last were got through at the rate of nine sheets a week for three thousand copies. The day of announcement was delayed, that it might coincide with the fifty-first anniversary of his birthday ; of which the double festival was celebrated, by a eheerful literary dinner, at the house of Mr. Cadell, where some dull compliments, in verse, were read to the honour and glory of the author, by Hayley the poet. Yet we agree with Mr. Milman, that the following lines soar rather above mediocrity, in remonstrating against the scepticism of our historian :
Humility herself, divinely mild,
Bids thee revere her parent's hallowed form.” As soon as possible, after the publication of his History, he withdrew from the incense of admiration, and the inconvenience of some warm remonstrances, to his favorite retreat in Switzerland, which was much improved, both in pretension and accommodation, for the reception of one whose fame was now European. He had every thing before him which fortune, success, and high connexions could supply. Homer, Aristophanes, and Plato, regaled his intellectual appetite with a full repast: yet the death of his companion Deyverdun, and the storms of the French Revolution, speedily overclouded the prospect. Some new works were projected without coming to any thing: but the execution of Louis the Sixteenth, and the domestic affliction of his noble cor
respondent, at length drove him homewards. Towards the close of 1793, it is that we find him confessing, for the first time to Lord Sheffield, his rupture of thirty-three years continuance. It had led to a hydrocele, and required an operation without delay, Relief, through repeated tapping, proved only temporary: and the final events of his life are thus recorded by his biographer :
• After I left him on Tuesday afternoon, 14th January, 1794, he saw some company, Lady Lucan and Lady Spencer, and thought himself well enough at night to omit the opium draught, which he had been used to take for some time. He slept very indifferently; before nine the next morning he rose, but could not eat his breakfast. However, he appeared tolerably well, yet complained at times of a pain in his stomach. At one o'clock he received other friends, with whom he talked, as usual, on various subjects; and twenty hours before his death, Mr. Gibbon happened to fall into a conversation, not uncommon with him, on the probable duration of his life. He said, that he thought himself a good life for ten, twelve, or twenty years. About six, he ate the wing of a chicken, and drank three glasses of Madeira. After dinner, he became very uneasy and impatient; complained a good deal, and appeared so weak, that his servant was alarmed. Mr. Gibbon had sent to his friend and relation Mr. Robert Darrell, whose house was not far distant, desiring to see him, and adding, that he had something particular to say. But unfortunately, this desired interview never took place.
During the evening, he complained much of his stomach, and of a disposition to vomit. Soon after nine, he took his opium draught, and went to bed. About ten, he complained of much pain, and desired that warm napkins might be applied to him. He suffered almost incessantly until four o'clock in the morning, when he said he felt much easier. About seven, the servant asked whether he should send for his surgeon Mr. Farquhar, afterwards Sir Walter Farquhar? He answered, No; for he was as well as he had been the day before. About half past eight he got out of bed, and said that he was ' plus adroit' than he had been for three months past, and got into bed again, without assistance, better than usual. About nine, he said that he would rise. The servant, however, persuaded him to remain in bed, until the surgeon should come, who was expected about eleven. Till that hour he spoke with great facility. His medical attendant came at the time appointed, and he was then visibly dying. When the valet de chambre returned after attending Mr. Farquhar out of the room, his master said, Pourquoi est ce que vous me quittez ? This was about half past eleven. At twelve, he drank some brandy and water, from a tea-pot, and desired his favorite servant to stay with him. These were the last words he pronounced articulately. To the Jast he preserved his senses ; and when he could no longer speak, his servant having asked a question, he made a sign to show him that he understood him. He was quite tranquil, and did not stir ; his eyes half shut. About a quarter before one, he ceased to breathe. The
valet de chambre observed, that Mr. Gibbon did not at any time show the least sign of alarm, or apprehension of death ; and it does not appear, that he ever thought himself in danger, unless his desire to speak to Mr. Darrell may be considered in that light.'
Such is the account furnished by Lord Sheffield of the last hours of this celebrated sceptic. We are forcibly reminded of the scriptural assertion, that the wicked have no bands in their · death: and so it seems to have been here. The spiritual paralysis, of which mention has already been made, appears to have deprived him, as it does others, of all sensation and even interest, with regard to the concerns of a future state,--the putting off the wretched robe of mortality, and migrating into a never-ending existence! We find, indeed, that exhausted nature, after the loss of speech, could give signals that the things of time were still understood ; but as to those of eternity, he died and made no sign! Amidst the bounties of Providence by which, more than most men he had been surrounded,--amidst warnings from the departure of those whom he tenderly loved to a world beyond the tomb,-amidst some knowledge of the New Testament, and early reminiscences of religious persons, his fine intellect dared to turn the finger of scorn upon the only Wise and the only Fair! And so he was left to his own devices, and to reflections supposed to be philosophical,—but which in reality were the extreme of folly. His scoffing and profligate indifference may be judged of from such observations as the following, written, it must be remembered, in his ripest years: 'In old age,' he says, the consola
tion of hope is reserved for the tenderness of parents, who comómence a new life in their children; for the faith of enthusiasts, • who sing hallelujahs above the clouds ; and for the vanity of "authors, who presume upon the immortality of their name and • writings.' Happy, thrice happy would it have been for himself, had his own name been enrolled in a volume, to which alas ! he
ver aspired; yet compared with which, the records of the Roman empire are but as the sands of the desert, or the chaff of the summer threshing-floor.
Gibbon became latterly corpulent, and awkward in his person with bones which were always small; and which formerly gave a disproportionate slenderness of appearance to his body, as compared with his head. His high forehead, thoughtful eyebrow, and double chin, formed his best features. His mouth mellifluous as that of Plato, is described as having been a round hole, nearly
in the centre of his visage.' Colman has introduced him into a graphic sketch, as sitting opposite Johnson “in a suit of Aowered velvet, with a bag and sword,' curiously contrasted with the rusty brown suit, and black worsted stockings, of that renowned
lexicographer. His habits, style of conversation, ideas of men and things, were all aristocratic to the very core. He had rather have been marked, at any time in company, as a fashionable gentleman, than as the first historian of his age. Even in light conversation, his mannerism prevailed; he tapped his snuff-box, 'smirked, smiled, and rounded his periods, with the same air of
high-breeding. His whole demeanour was in fact that of artificial naturalness,- if so incongruous a combination of terms may be allowed. His minor works consist of Memoirs and Correspondence; abstracts of and reflections upon the books he read; sundry journals and detached pieces upon various subjects; outlines of his History of the World; his essay upon the study of ancient literature; critical observations on the Sixth Eneid; a dissertation on Voltaire's Man of the Iron Masque; a Memoir Justicatif pour servir de Reponse a l’Exposé de la cour de France; his Vindication of his History; the Antiquities of the House of Brunswick; and an Address to the public, as to a complete edition of our ancient historians. His attendance in Parliament, or at the Board of Trade, was just that which suited his curiosity and convenience. He thoroughly understood his own pecuniary interests, and for three or four years, very quietly pocketed a
convenient salary of £700, or £800 per annum, out of the public money, for doing precisely nothing at all. Slight indeed were the political honesty and consistency of those golden days. No wonder the age of chivalry, that is of robbery and roguery, extorts a sigh from conservatism. In June 1781, the library of Charles James Fox, as is well known, came to the hammer. On the blank leaf of his copy of the first volume of the Decline and Fall, was a note in the handwriting of that eminent statesman, mentioning a remarkable declaration of our historian, at a tavern in Pall Mall, and placing in juxta-position with it, his subsequent parliamentary conduct. The author of this work,' it observes, said in public, that there was no salvation for this country, until six heads of the principal persons in Lord North's administration were laid upon the table !-and yet eleven days afterwards, this same gentleman accepted the place of a lord of trade under those 'very ministers, and has acted with them ever since. All which was perfectly true ; and perfectly correct also, according to the Machiavelian notions of the oligarchy then governing Great Britain. Fox himself would have had to search in vain for a thoroughly honest man amongst his noble and right honourable associates !
Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes?
Clodius accusat mæchos ; Catalina Cethegum ! We have only a few words, in conclusion, to add, as to the edition now before us. The portrait forms a beautiful frontispiece.