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troduction, by W. S. W. Vaux, Esq., M.A.
The History of the two Tartar Conquerors of China, including
the two Journeys into Tartary of Father Ferdinand Verbiest;
from the French of Père Pierre Joseph d'Orleans. To which
is added, Father Pereira's Journey into Tartary; from the
Dutch of Nicolaas Witsen. Translated and edited by the
Farl of Ellesinere, With an Introduction by R. H. Major,
A Collection of Documents on Spitzbergen and Greenlaud.
Edited by Adam White, Esq., of the British Museum.
THE NATIONAL REVIEW.
ART. 1.-EDWARD GIBBON.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by
Edward Gibbon, Esg. With Notes by Dean Milman and N.
In Eight Volumes. London, 1855. Murray. “PAPA, I wish I was the Roman Empire;” “Child, don't talk nonsense;" was a dialogue of the early years of this century. This is the fate of Gibbon; no one does or can separate the historian from his subject. If you ask as to the antiquities of Constantinople, you are told those are the times which are “in Gibbon.” Mr. Carlyle, who never exaggerates, speaks of Madame de Staël, in youth of course, romping about the knees of the “Decline and Fall.” He plainly traced a resemblance himself; for he has narrated the events of his own life, “his progression from London to Buriton and from Buriton to London,” in the same majestic periods which record the downfall of states and empires. What the commonplace parent thought absurd, has in simple reality happened. It may be useful to attempt in a few pages to substitute a notion of the man for the indistinct idea of a huge imperial being.
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 historian, who lived in the times of the "S th Sea.” He was a capital man of business according to the cu
of that age-a dealer in many kinds of merchandise -rivallii., probably the “complete tradesman” of Defoe, who was
No. III. Jan. 1856.
to understand the price and quality of all articles made within the kingdom, and be in consequence a complete master of the inland trade. The peculiar forte, however, of Edward Gibbon, the grandfather, was 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. A great deal has been written and is being written on panics and manias—a great deal more than with the most outstretched intellect we are able to follow or conceive; but one thing seems certain, that at particular times a great many stupid people have a great deal of stupid money. Many saving people have only the faculty of saving; they accumulate ably, and contemplate their accumulations with approbation; but what to do with them they do not know. Aristotle, who was not in trade, had a great idea that money is barren ; and barren it certainly is to quiet ladies, rural clergymen, and country misers.
Several excellent 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 the only real way 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 obvious and proper precaution allows the accumulation of wealth in the hands of rectors, sweepers, grandmothers, and other persons who have no knowledge 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.” Every now and then, from causes which are not to the present purpose, the money of people of this class—the blind capital (as oculists call it) of the country—happens to be 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.” Mr. Gibbon was not idle. According to the narrative of his grandson, he already filled a considerable position, was worth sixty thousand pounds, and had great influence both in Parliament and in the City. He applied himself to the greatest bubble of all-one so great, that