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218769 Dartford 1889

Copyrighted, 1889, by THE TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY, of Hartford, Conn.


LITERARY STUDIES. Edward Gibbon (National Review, January, 1856) Thomas Babington Macaulay (National Review, April, 1856) Bishop Butler (Prospective Review, October, 1854) Sterne and Thackeray (National Review, April, 1864) The Waverley Novels (National Review, April, 1858) Charles Dickens (National Review, October, 1858) Henry Crabb Robinson (Fortnightly Review, Aug. 1, 1869)

RELIGIOUS AND METAPHYSICAL ESSAYS. The Ignorance of Man (National Review, April, 1862) On the Emotion of Conviction (Contemporary Review, April, 1871) : : The Metaphysical Basis of Toleration Cee ary Review, April, 1874) : The Public Worship Regulation Bill ee sn J eal 18, 1874)


I. The Dictatorship

II. The Morality of the Coup @ Etat

IIl.—On the new Constitution of France, and the aptitude of*the French character for national freedom

IV. —On the aptitude of the French character for aa self-government :

V.—On the Constitution of the Prince-President

VI. The French Newspaper Press

VII. Concluding letter’


58 100 154 197 239 279



309 360


400 411


EDWARD GIBBON.* (1856. )

A witt said of Gibbon’s autobiography that he did not know the difference between himself and the Roman empire. He has narrated his ‘‘ progressions from Lon- don to Buriton and from Buriton to London” in the same monotonous majestic periods that record the fall of states and empires; the consequence is, that a

_ fascinating book gives but a vague idea of its sub-

ject. It may not be without its use to attempt a description of him in plainer though less splendid English.

The diligence of their descendant accumulated many particulars of the remote annals of the Gibbon family ; but its real founder was the grandfather of the his- torian, who lived in the times of the ‘‘South Sea.” He was a capital man of business according to the custom of that age,—a dealer in many kinds of mer- chandise; like perhaps the ‘“‘complete tradesman” of Defoe, who was to understand the price and quality of all articles made within the kingdom. The prefer- ence, however, of Edward Gibbon the grandfather was for the article ‘‘shares”; his genius, like that of Mr. Hudson, had a natural tendency towards a commerce in the metaphysical and non-existent: and he was fortunate in the age on which his lot was thrown, it afforded many opportunities of gratifying that taste.

* The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward. Gibbon, Esq. With Notes by Dean Milman and M. Guizot. Edited, with. additional Notes, by William Smith, LL.D. In Eight Volumes. London, 1855. Murray.

+t Bagehot himself. Ep.

VOL. It.— 1. CL )i


Much has been written on panics and manias, —much more than with the most outstretched intellect we are able to follow or conceive ; but one thing is certain, that at particular times a great many stupid people have a great deal of stupid money. Saving people have often only the faculty of saving: they accumu- late ably and contemplate their accumulations with approbation, but what to do with them they do not know. Aristotle, who was not in trade, imagined that money is barren; and barren it is to quiet ladies, rural clergymen, and country misers. Several economists have plans for preventing improvident speculation, one would abolish Peel’s Act and substitute one-pound notes, another would retain Peel’s Act and make the calling for one-pound notes a capital crime; but our scheme is, not to allow any man to have a hundred pounds who cannot prove to the satisfaction of the Lord Chancellor that he knows what to do with a hundred pounds. The want of this easy precaution allows the accumulation of wealth in the hands of rectors, authors, grandmothers, who have no knowl- edge of business, and no idea except that their money now produces nothing, and ought and must be forced immediately to produce something. ‘I wish,” said one of this class, ‘“‘for the largest immediate income, | and I am therefore naturally disposed to purchase an advowson.” At intervals, from causes which are not to the present purpose, the money of these people the blind capital (as we call it) of the country —is particularly large and craving: it seeks for some one to devour it, and there is “plethora”; it finds some one, and there is “speculation”; it is devoured, and there is “panic.” The age of Mr. Gibbon was one of these. The interest of money was very low, perhaps under three per cent. : the usual consequence followed, —able men started wonderful undertakings; the ablest of all, a company for carrying on an undertaking of great importance, but no one to know what it was.*

* See Chap. vi. of ‘Lombard Street,’ Vol. v. of this series. Ep.


Mr. Gibbon was not idle. According to the narrative of his grandson, he already filled a considerable posi- tion, was worth £60,000, and had great influence both in Parliament and in the City. He applied himself to the greatest bubble of all,—one so great that it is spoken of in many books as the cause and parent of all contemporary bubbles,—the South Sea Company ; the design of which was to reduce the interest on the national debt, which oddly enough it did reduce, and to trade exclusively to the South Sea or Spanish Amer- ica, where of course it hardly did trade. Mr. Gibbon became a director, sold and bought, traded and pros- pered; and was considered, perhaps with truth, to have obtained much money. The bubble was essen- tially a fashionable one. Public intelligence and the quickness of communication did not then, as now, at once spread pecuniary information and misinformation to secluded districts; but fine ladies, men of fashion —the London world, ever anxious to make as much of its money as it can, and then wholly unwise (it is not now very wise) in discovering how the most was to be made of it— ‘‘ went in” and speculated largely. As usual, all was favorable so long as the shares were rising. The price was at one time very high and the agitation very general; it was, in a word, the railway mania in the ‘‘South Sea.” After a time, the shares ‘‘hesitated,” declined, and fell; and there was an outcry against everybody concerned in the mat- ter, very like the outcry against the of rept Hudson in our own time. The results, however, were very differ- ent. Whatever may be said—and judging from the* late experience, a good deal is likely to be said— as to the advantages of civilization and education, it seems certain that they tend to diminish a simple- minded energy. The Parliament of 1720 did not, like the Parliament of 1847,+ allow itself to be bored and

* Added (to the distortion of the sense) in the reprint. Ep. +Summoned very early to inquire into the causes of the commercial distress precipitated by the collapse of the railway mania started by Hudson. ED,


incommoded by legal minutize, nor did it forego the use of plain words. A committee reported the discovery of ‘“‘a train of the deepest villany and fraud hell ever contrived to ruin a nation”; the directors of the company were arrested, and Mr. Gibbon among the rest. He was compelled to give in a list of his effects ; the general wish was that a retrospective act should be immediately passed, which would impose on him penalties something lke, or even more severe than, those now enforced on Paul and Strahan.* In the end, however, Mr. Gibbon escaped with a parliamentary conversation upon his affairs. His estate amounted to £140,000; and as this was a great sum, there was an obvious suspicion that he was a great criminal. The scene must have been very curious. ‘‘ Allowances of twenty pounds or one shilling were facetiously moved. A vague report that a director had formerly been con- cerned in another project by which some unknown persons had lost their money was admitted as a proof of his actual guilt. One man was ruined because he had dropped a foolish speech that his horses should feed upon gold; another because he was grown so proud that one day, at the Treasury, he had refused a civil answer to persons much above him.”+ The vanity of his descendant is evidently a little tried by the peculiar severity with which his grandfather was treated. Out of his £140,000 it was only proposed that he should retain £15,000; and on an amendment even this was reduced to £10,000. Yet there is some ground for believing that the acute energy and prac- ticed pecuniary power which had been successful

* William Strahan, Sir John Dean Paul, and Robert Makin Bates, forming the banking house of ‘‘Strahan & Co.,’? which had lasted for two centuries and was a great depository of trust funds, and also the naval-agency firm of ‘Holford & Co.” much trusted by officers and their widows, failed in June, 1855, with liabilities of some £500,000; and in October were convicted of fraudulent conversion of trust funds to their own use, and sentenced to trans- portation for fourteen years. —Ep,

t Gibbon’s ‘*Memoirs.’? I have credited in this way only passages whose origin is left in doubt by the text. Ep,


in obtaining so large a fortune were likewise applied with science to the inferior task of retaining some of it. The historian indeed says, ‘‘On these ruins” (the £10,000 aforesaid), ‘‘ with the skill and credit of which Parliament had not been able to despoil him, my grandfather at a mature age erected the edifice of a new fortune: the labors of sixteen years were amply rewarded; and I have reason to believe that the second structure was not much inferior to the first.” But this only shows how far a family feeling may bias a skeptical judgment. The credit of a man in Mr. Gibbon’s position could not be very lucrative ; and his skill must have been enormous to have obtained so much at the end of his life, in such circumstances, in so few years. Had he been an early Christian, the narrative of his descendant would have contained an insidious hint that ‘‘ pecuniary property may be so secreted as to defy the awkward approaches of political investigation.” That he died rich is certain, for two generations lived solely on the property he bequeathed.

The son of this great speculator, the historian’s father, was a man to spend a fortune quietly. He is not related to have indulged in any particular ex- pense,* and nothing is more difficult to follow than the pecuniary fortunes of deceased families: but one thing is certain, that the property which descended to the historian —making every allowance for all minor and subsidiary modes of diminution, such as daugh- ters, settlements, legacies, and so forth—was enor- mously less than £140,000; and therefore if those figures are correct, the second generation must have made itself very happy out of the. savings of the past generation, and without caring for the poverty of the next. Nothing that is related of the historian’s father indicates a strong judgment or an acute discrimina- tion; and there are some scarcely dubious signs of a rather weak character.

* Gibbon says the Buriton farm did not pay, which explains everything.— ED.


Edward Gibbon, the great, was born on the 27th of April, 1737. Of his mother we hear scarcely anything ; and what we do hear is not remarkably favorable. It seems that she was a faint, inoffensive woman, of ordinary capacity, who left a very slight trace of her influence on the character of her son, did little, and died early. The real mother—as he is careful to explain —of his understanding and education was her sister and his aunt, Mrs. Catherine Porten, according to the speech of that age;* a maiden lady of much ~ vigor and capacity, and for whom her pupil really seems to have felt as much affection as was consist- ent with a rather easy and cool nature. There is a panegyric on her in the ‘‘Memoirs”; and in a long letter upon the occasion of her death, he deposes :— ‘To her care I am indebted in earliest infancy for the preservation of my life and health. ... To her instructions I owe the first rudiments of knowledge, the first exercise of reason, and a taste for books which is still the pleasure and glory of my life; and though she taught me neither language nor science, she was certainly the most useful preceptor I ever had. As I grew up, an intercourse of thirty years endeared her to me as the faithful friend and the agreeable companion. You have seen with what free- dom and confidence we lived —”}+ etc., etc. To a less sentimental mind, which takes a more tranquil view of aunts and relatives, it is satisfactory to find that somehow he could not write to her. ‘I wish,” he continues, ‘“‘I had as much to applaud, and as little to reproach, in my own behavior towards Mrs. Porten since I left England; and when I reflect that my let- ters would have soothed and comforted her decline, I feel—” what an ardent nephew would naturally feel at so unprecedented an event. Leaving his maturer years out of the question,—a possible rhapsody of affectionate eloquence,—she seems to have been of

* See note to page 359, Vol. i. of this series.— Ep, + To Lord Sheffield, May 10, 1786.


the greatest use to him in infancy. His health was very imperfect. We hear much of rheumatism and lameness and weakness; and he was unable to join in work and play with ordinary boys. He was moved from one school to another, never staying anywhere very long, and owing what knowledge he obtained rather to a strong retentive understanding than to any external stimulants or instruction. At one place he gained an acquaintance with the Latin elements at the price of ‘‘many tears and some blood.” At last he was consigned to the instruction of an elegant clergyman, the Rev. Philip Francis, who had obtained notoriety by a metrical translation of Horace the lax- ity of which is even yet complained of by construing schoolboys, and who, with a somewhat Horatian taste, went to London as often as he could, and translated anvisa negotia* as “boys to beat.”

In school work, therefore, Gibbon had uncommon difficulties and unusual deficiencies; but these were much more than counterbalanced by a habit which often accompanies a sickly childhood and is the com- mencement of a studious life,—the habit of desultory reading. The instructiveness of this is sometimes not comprehended. §8. T. Coleridge used to say that he felt a great superiority over those who had not read —and fondly read—fairy tales in their childhood: he thought they wanted a sense which he possessed, the perception, or apperception—we do not know which he used to say it was—of the unity and whole- ness of the universe. As to fairy tales, this is a hard saying; but as to desultory reading, it is certainly true. Some people have known a time in life when there was no book they could not read. The fact of its being a book went immensely in its favor. In early life there is an opinion that the obvious thing to do with a horse is to ride it; with a cake, to eat it; with sixpence, to spend it. A few boys carry this further, and think the natural thing to do with a

* Wateful business.”’ (Book i., Epistle xiv.)


book is to read it. There is an argument from design in the subject: if the book was not meant for that purpose, for what purpose was it meant? Of course, of any understanding of the works so perused there is no question or idea. There is a legend of Bentham, in his earliest childhood, climbing to the height of a huge stool and sitting there evening after evening, with two candles, engaged in the perusal of Rapin’s history ; it might as well have been any other book. The doctrine of utility had not then dawned on its immortal teacher; cuz bono was an idea unknown to him. He would have been ready to read about Egypt, about Spain, about coals in Borneo, the teak-wood in India, the current in the river Mississippi, on natural history or human history, on theology or morals, on the state of the Dark Ages or the state of the light ages, on Augustulus or Lord Chatham, on the first century or the seventeenth, on the moon, the millen- nium, or the whole duty of man. Just then, reading is an end in itself. At that time of life you no more think of a future consequence,—of the remote, the very remote possibility of deriving knowledge from the perusal of a book, than you expect so great a result from spinning a peg-top. You spin the top, and you read the book; and these scenes of life are exhausted. In such studies, of all prose perhaps the best is history: one page is so like another, battle No. 1 is so much on a par with battle No. 2. Truth may be, as they say, stranger than fiction, abstract- edly ; but in actual books, novels are certainly odder and more astounding than correct history. It will be said, What is the use of this ? why not leave the read- ing of great books till a great age? why plague and perplex childhood with complex facts remote from its experience and inapprehensible by its imagination ? The reply is, that though in all great and combined facts there is much which childhood cannot thor- oughly imagine, there is also in very many a great deal which can only be truly apprehended for the


first time at that age. Catch an American of thirty ; tell him about the battle of Marathon: what will he be able to comprehend of all that you mean by it, of all that halo which early impression and years of remembrance have cast around it? He may add up the killed and wounded, estimate the missing, and take the dimensions of Greece and Athens; but he will not seem to care much. He may say, ‘“ Well, sir, perhaps it was a smart thing in that small terri- tory; but it is a long time ago, and in my country James K. Burnup—” did that which he will at length explain to you. Or try an experiment on yourself: read the account of a Circassian victory, equal in numbers, in daring, in romance, to the old battle. Will you be able to feel about it at all in the same way? It is impossible. You cannot form a new set of associations; your mind is involved in pressing facts, your memory choked by a thousand details; the liveliness of fancy is gone with the childhood by which it was enlivened. Schamyl will never seem as great as Leonidas or Miltiades ; Cnokemof, or whoever the Russian is, cannot be so imposing as Xerxes; the unpronounceable place cannot strike on your heart like Marathon or Platza. Moreover, there is the fur- ther advantage which Coleridge shadowed forth in the remark we cited: youth has a principle of con- _ solidation ; we begin with the whole. Small sciences are the labors of our manhood; but the round uni- verse is the plaything of the boy. His fresh mind shoots out vaguely and crudely into the infinite and eternal. Nothing is hid from the depth of it; there are no boundaries to its vague and wandering vision. Early science, it has been said, begins in utter non- sense; it would be truer to say that it starts with boyish fancies. How absurd seem the notions of the first Greeks! Who could believe now that air or water was the principle, the pervading substance, the eternal material of all things? Such affairs will never explain a thick rock. And what a white original for a green


and sky-blue world! Yet people disputed in those ages not whether it was either of those substances, but which of them it was. And doubtless there was a great deal, at least in quantity, to be said on both sides. Boys are improved; but some in our own day have asked, ‘“‘“Mamma, I say, what did God make the world of?” and several, who did not venture on speech, have had an idea of some one gray primitive thing, felt a difficulty as to how the red came, and wondered that marble could ever have been the same as moonshine. This is in truth the picture of life: we begin with the infinite and eternal, which we shall never apprehend; and these form a framework, a schedule, a set of co-ordinates to which we refer all which we learn later. At first, like the old Greek, ‘“we look up to the whole sky, and are lost in the one and the all”; in the end we classify and enu- merate, learn each star, calculate distances, draw cramped diagrams on the unbounded sky, write a paper on a Cygni and a treatise ‘on Draconis, map special facts upon the indefinite void, and engrave precise details on the infinite and everlasting. So in history : somehow the whole comes in boyhood; the details later and in manhood. The wonderful series going far back to the times of old patriarchs with their flocks and herds, the keen-eyed Greek, the stately Roman, the watching Jew, the uncouth Goth, the horrid Hun, the settled picture of the unchanging Kast, the restless shifting of the rapid West, the rise of the cold and classical civilization, its fall, the rough impetuous Middle Ages, the vague warm pic- ture of ourselves and home,—when did we learn these? Not yesterday nor to-day ; but long ago, in the first dawn of reason, in the original flow of fancy. What we learn afterwards are but the accurate little- nesses of the great topic, the dates and tedious facts. Those who begin late learn only these; but the happy

first feel the mystic associations and the progress of the whole.


There is no better illustration of all this than Gib- bon. Few have begun early with a more desultory reading, and fewer still have described it so skill- fully.

‘‘From the ancient I leaped to the modern world: many crude lumps of Speed, Rapin, Mezeray, Davila, Machiavel, Father Paul, Bower, etc., I devoured like so many novels; and I swallowed with the same voracious appetite the descriptions of India and China, of Mexico and Peru. My first introduction to the historic scenes which have since engaged so many years of my life must be ascribed to an accident. In the summer of 1751 I accompanied my father on a visit to Mr. Hoare’s, in Wiltshire; but I was less delighted with the beauties of Stourhead than with discovering in the library a common book, the ‘Continuation of Echard’s Roman History,’ which is indeed executed with more skill and taste than the previous work. To me the reigns of the successors of Constantine were absolutely new; and I was immersed in the passage of the Goths over the Danube when the summons of the dinner-bell reluctantly dragged me from my intellectual feast. This transient glance served rather to irritate than to appease my curiosity; and as soon as I returned to Bath I procured the second and third volumes of Howell’s His- tory of the World,’ which exhibit the Byzantine period on a larger scale. Mahomet and his Saracens soon fixed my attention; and some instinct of criticism directed me to the genuine sources. Simon Ockley, an original in every sense, first opened my eyes; and I was led from one book to another till I had ranged round the circle of Oriental history. Before I was sixteen I had exhausted all that could be learned in English of the Arabs and Persians, the Tartars and Turks; and the same ardor urged me to guess at the French of D’Herbelot, and to construe the barbarous Latin of Pocock’s Abulfaragius.’”

To this day the schoolboy student of the ‘‘ Decline and Fall” feels the traces of that schoolboy reading. Once, he is conscious, the author like him felt, and solely felt, the magnificent progress of the great story and the scenic aspect of marvelous events.

A more sudden effect was at hand. However ex- alted may seem the praises which we have given to loose and unplanned reading, we are not saying that it is the sole ingredient of a good education. Besides


this sort of education, which some boys will volun- tarily and naturally give themselves, there needs, of course, another and more rigorous kind, which must be impressed upon them from without. The terrible difficulty of early life—the use of pastors and masters really is, that they compel boys to a distinct mastery of that which they do not wish to learn. There is nothing to be said for a preceptor who is not dry. Mr. Carlyle describes with bitter satire the fate of one of his heroes who was obliged to acquire whole sys- tems of information in which he, the hero, saw no use, and which he kept as far as might be in a vacant corner of his mind. And this is the very point: dry language, tedious mathematics, a thumbed grammar, a detested slate form gradually an interior separate intellect, exact in its information, rigid in its require- ments, disciplined in its exercises. The two grow together: the early natural fancy touching the far extremities of the universe, lightly playing with the scheme of all things; the precise, compacted memory slowly accumulating special facts, exact habits, clear and painful conceptions. At last, as it were in a mo- ment, the cloud breaks up, the division sweeps away: we find that in fact these exercises which puzzled us, these languages which we hated, these details which | we despised, are the instruments of true thought; are the very keys and openings, the exclusive access to the knowledge which we loved.

In this second education the childhood of Gibbon had been very defective. He had never been placed under any rigid training. In his first boyhood he dis- puted with his aunt, “that were I master of Greek and Latin, I must interpret to myself in English the thoughts of the original, and that such extemporary versions must be inferior to the elaborate translations of professed scholars: a silly sophism,” as he remarks, “which could not easily be confuted by a person ignorant of any other language than her own.” Ill health, a not very wise father, an ill-chosen succession


of schools and pedagogues, prevented his acquiring exact knowledge in the regular subjects of study. His own description is the best: ‘‘erudition that might have puzzled a doctor, and a degree of ignorance of which a schoolboy would have been ashamed.” The amiable Mr. Francis, who was to have repaired the deficiency, went to London and forgot him. With an impulse of discontent his father took a resolution, and sent him to Oxford at sixteen.

It is probable that a worse place could not have been found. The University of Oxford was at the nadir of her history and efficiency. The public pro- fessorial training of the Middle Ages had died away, and the intramural collegiate system of the present time had not begun. The University had ceased to be a teaching body, and had not yet become an ex- amining body. ‘‘ The professors,” says Adam Smith, who had studied there, ‘“‘have given up almost the pretense of lecturing.”* ‘The examination,” said a great judge some years later,t‘‘was a farce in my time. I was asked who founded University College; and I said, though the fact is now doubted, that King Alfred founded it: and that was the examination.” The colleges, deprived of the superintendence and watchfulness of their natural sovereign, fell, as Gib- bon remarks, into ‘port and prejudice.” The fellows were a close corporation; they were chosen from every conceivable motive,—because they were respectable men, because they were ‘‘good fellows,” because they were brothers of other fellows, because their fathers had patronage in the Church. Men so appointed could not be expected to be very diligent in the in- struction of youth: many colleges did not even pro- fess it; that of All Souls has continued down to our own, time to deny that it has anything to do with it. Undoubtedly, a person who came thither accurately

*The exact words are, ‘‘The greater part of the public professors have for these many years given up altogether even the pretense of teaching.” (‘* Wealth of Nations,’’ Book v., Chap. i.) ED.

+ Eldon, in Twiss, Vol. i., Chap. ii.; much ‘boiled down.”’ Ep.


and rigidly drilled in technical scholarship found many means and a few motives to pursue it: some tutorial system probably existed at most colleges; learning was not wholly useless in the Church; the English gentleman has ever loved a nice and classical scholar- ship. But these advantages were open only to persons who had received a very strict training, and who were voluntarily disposed to discipline themselves still more: to the mass of mankind the University was a “oraduating machine”; the colleges, monopolist resi- dences, hotels without bells.

Taking the place as it stood, the lot of Gibbon may be thought rather fortunate. He was placed at Magdalen, whose fascinating walks, so beautiful in the later autumn, still recall the name of Addison, the example of the merits, as Gibbon is of the defi- ciencies, of Oxford. His first tutor was, in his own opinion,

‘fone of the best of the tribe: Dr. Waldegrave was a learned and pious man, of a mild disposition, strict morals, and abstemious life, who seldom mingled in the politics or the jollity of the college. But his knowledge of the world was confined to the University ; his learning was of the last rather fhan the present age; his temper was indolent; his faculties, which were not of the first rate, had been relaxed by the climate: and he was satisfied, like his fellows, with the slight and superficial discharge of an important trust. As soon as my tutor had sounded the insufficiency of his pupil in school learning, he proposed that we should read every morning, from ten to eleven, the comedies of Terence. The sum of my im- provement in the University of Oxford is confined to three or four Latin plays; and even the study of an elegant classic, which might have been illustrated by a comparison of ancient and modern thea- ters, was reduced to a dry and literal interpretation of the author’s text. During the first weeks I constantly attended these lessons in my tutor’s room; but as they appeared equally devoid of profit and pleasure, I was once tempted to try the experiment of a formal apology. The apology was accepted with a smile. I repeated the offense with less ceremony; the excuse was admitted with the same indulgence: the slightest motive of laziness or indisposition, the most trifling avocation at home or abroad, was allowed as a worthy impediment; nor did my tutor appear conscious of my absence or


neglect. Had the hour of lecture been constantly filled, a single hour was a small portion of my academic leisure. No plan of study ‘was recommended for my use; no exercises were prescribed for his inspection:: and at the most precious season of youth, whole. days and weeks were suffered to elapse without labor or amusement, without advice or account.”

The name of his second tutor is concealed in aster- isks, and the sensitive conscience of Dean Milman will not allow him to insert a name “which Gzbbon thought proper to suppress.” The account, however, of the anonymous person is sufficiently graphic :—

‘Dr. * * * well remembered that he had a salary to receive, and only forgot that he had a duty to perform. Instead of guid- ing the studies and watching over the behavior of his disciple, I was never summoned to attend even the ceremony of a lecture; and excepting one voluntary visit to his rooms, during the eight months of his titular office the tutor and pupil lived in the same college as strangers to each other.”

It added to the evils of this neglect, that Gibbon was much younger than most of the students; and that his temper, which was through life reserved, was then very shy. His appearance, too, was odd: ‘‘a thin lit- tle figure, with a large head, disputing and” arguing ‘“‘with the greatest ability.”* Of course he was a joke among undergraduates; he consulted his tutor as to studying Arabic, and was seen buying ‘La Bibliothéque Orientale D’Herbelot,” and immediately a legend was diffused that he had turned Mohammedan. The random cast was not so far from the mark: cut off by peculiarities from the society of young people, deprived of regular tuition and systematic employ- ment, tumbling about among crude masses of hetero- geneous knowledge, alone with the heated brain of youth, he did what an experienced man would ex- pect,—he framed a theory of all things. No doubt it seemed to him the most natural thing in the world. Was he to be the butt of ungenial wine parties, or

*Lord Sheffield, in note to the ‘‘Memoirs,’’ quoting Pavilliard.


spend his lonely hours on shreds of languages? Was he not to know the truth? There were the old prob- lems, the everlasting difficulties, the menia mundi, the Hercules’s Pillars of the human imagination,—‘“ fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute.”* Surely these should come first: when we had learned the great landmarks, understood the guiding stars, we might amuse ourselves with small points and make a play- thing of curious information. What particular theory the mind frames when in this state is a good deal matter of special accident: the data for considering these difficulties are not within its reach. Whether man be or be not born to solve the ‘“‘mystery of the knowable,” he certainly is not born to solve it at seventeen, with the first hot rush of the untrained mind. The selection of Gibbon was remarkable: he became a Roman Catholic.

It seems now so natural that an Oxford man should take this step, that one can hardly understand the astonishment it created. Lord Sheffield tells us that the Privy Council interfered; and with good adminis- trative judgment examined a London bookseller ¢t— some Mr. Lewis—who had no concern in it. In the manor-house of Buriton it would have probably created less sensation if ‘‘dear Edward” had announced his intention of becoming a monkey. The English have ever believed that the Papist is a kind of creature; and every sound mind would prefer a beloved child to produce a tail, a hide of hair, and a taste for nuts, in comparison with transubstantiation, wax candles, and a belief in the glories of Mary.

What exact motives impelled Gibbon to this step cannot now be certainly known,—the autobiography casts a mist over them; but from what appears, his conversion partly much resembled, and partly alto- gether differed from, the Oxford conversions of our own time. We hear nothing of the “notes of a church,” or the “‘sin of the Reformation”; and Gibbon

* Paradise Lost,”? Book ii. tOf Roman Catholic books. Ep.


had not an opportunity of even rejecting Mr. Sewell’s* theory that it is ‘‘a holy obligation to acquiesce in the opinions of your grandmother.” His memoirs have a halo of great names,— Bossuet, the ‘‘ History of Protestant Variations,” etc., etc.,—and he speaks with becoming dignity of ‘“‘falling by a noble hand.” He mentioned also to Lord Sheffield, as having had a preponderating influence over him, the works of Father Parsons, who lived in Queen Elizabeth’s time. But in all probability these were secondary persuasions, justifications after the event. No young man—or scarcely any young man—of seventeen was ever con- verted by a systematic treatise, especially if written in another age, wearing an obsolete look, speaking a language which scarcely seems that of this world. There is an unconscious reasoning, —‘‘The world has had this book before it so long, and has withstood it: there must be something wrong; it seems all right on the surface, but a flaw there must be.” The mass of the volumes, too, is unfavorable. ‘‘ All the paper ar- guments in the world,” says the young convert in ‘‘Loss and Gain,”+ ‘‘are unequal to giving one a view in a moment.” What the youthful mind re- quires is this short decisive argument, this view in a moment, this flash as it were of the understanding, which settles all, and diffuses a conclusive light at once and forever over the whole. It is so much the pleasanter if the young mind can strike this view out for itself, from materials which are forced upon it from the controversies of the day; if it can find a certain solution of pending questions, and show itself wiser even than the wisest of its own, the very last age. So far as appears, this was the fortune of Gibbon. “It was not long,” he says, ‘‘since Dr. Middleton’s ‘Free Inquiry’ had sounded an alarm in the theologi- cal world ; much ink and much gall had been spilt in defense of the primitive miracles, and the two dullest of

* Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford ; prolific theological writer. Ep. +J. H. Newman’s, Chap. xvii. There are two novels with this title.— Ep.

Von. 1-2


their champions were crowned with academic honors by the University of Oxford. The name of Middleton was unpopular; and his proscription very naturally led me to peruse his writings and those of his antag- onists.” It is not difficult to discover in this work easy and striking arguments which might lead an untaught mind to the communion of Rome. As to the peculiar belief of its author, there has been much controversy, with which we have not here the least concern; but the natural conclusion to which it would lead a simple intellect is, that all miracles are equally certain or equally uncertain.

‘‘Tt being agreed, then,” says the acute controversialist, ‘‘ that in the original promise of these miraculous gifts there is no intima- tion of any particular period to which their continuance was limited, the next question is, by what sort of evidence the precise time of their duration is to be determined? But to this point one of the writers just referred to excuses himself, as we have seen, from giv- ing any answer; and thinks it sufficient to declare in general that the earliest fathers unanimously affirm them to have continued down to their times. Yet he has not told us, as he ought to have done, to what age he limits the character of the earliest fathers: whether to the second or to the third century, or, with the gener- ality of our writers, means also to include the fourth. But to whatever age he may restrain it, the difficulty at last will be, to assign a reason why we must needs stop there. In the mean while, by his appealing thus to the earliest fathers only, as unanimous on - this article, a common reader would be apt to infer that the later fathers are more cold or diffident or divided upon it; whereas the. reverse of this is true, and the more we descend from those earli- est fathers, the more strong and explicit we find their successors in attesting the perpetual succession and daily exertion of the same miraculous powers in their several ages: so that if the cause must be determined by the wnanimous consent of JSathers, we shall find as much reason to believe that those powers were continued even to the latest ages as to any other, how early and primitive soever, after the days of the apostles. |

‘But the same writer gives us two reasons why he does not choose to say anything upon the subject of their duration: first, because there is not light enough in history to settle it; secondly, because the thing itself is of no concern to us.

ey ee eas Ake ee Cee ne ee Fee A iw ae “Oo! ee a


‘As to his first reason, I am at a loss to conceive what further light a professed advocate of the primitive ages and fathers can possibly require in this case: for as far as the church historians can illustrate or throw light upon anything, there is not a single point in all history so constantly,