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subject; very little in the men who act on either side. I am not weak enough greatly to admire their virtues, nor so factious as to adopt their passions.”
Continuation of the same subject—Historical Disquisition concern
ing India—General Remarks on Dr. Robertson's merits as an Historian.
In consequence of the interruption of Dr. Robertson's plans produced by the American Revolution, he was led to think of some other subject which might, in the mean time, give employment to his studious leisure. A letter, dated July, 1778, to his friend the Rev. Mr. Waddilove (now dean of Rippon), contains some important information with respect to his designs at this period.
“ The state of our affairs in North America is not such as to invite me to go on with my History of the New World. I must wait for times of greater tranquillity, when I can write and the public can read with more impartiality and better information than at present. Every person with whom I conversed in London confirmed me in my resolution of making a pause for a little, until it shall be known in what manner the ferment will subside. But as it is neither my inclination nor interest to be altogether idle, many of my friends have suggested to me a new subject, the History of Great Britain from the Revolution to the Accession of the House of Hanover. It will be some satisfaction to me to enter on a domestic subject, after being engaged so long on foreign ones, where one half of my time and labor were employed in teaching myself to understand manners, and laws, and forms, which I was to explain to others. You know better than any body how much pains I bestowed in studying the constitution, the manners, and the commerce of Spanish America. The
Review contained in the first volume of Charles V. was founded on researches still more laborious. I shall not be involved in the same painful inquiries, if I undertake the present work. I possess already as much knowledge of the British government and laws as usually is possessed by other persons who have been well educated and have lived in good company.
A minute investigation of facts will be the chief object of my attention. With respect to these, I shall be much aided by the original papers published by Sir John Dalrymple and Macpherson, and lately by Lord Hardwicke. The Memoirs of Noailles, concerning the French negotiations in Spain, contain very curious information. I have got a very valuable collection of papers from the Duke of Montague, which belonged to the Duke of Shrewsbury, and I am promised the large collection of the Duke of Marlborough, which were formerly in the hands of Mr. Mallet. From these and other materials I hope to write a history which may be both entertaining and instructive. I know that I shall get upon dangerous ground, and must relate events concerning which our political factions entertain very different sentiments. But I am little alarmed with this. I flatter myself that I have temper enough to judge with impartiality; and if, after examining with candor, I do give offence, there is no man whose situation is more independent.”
Whatever the motives were which induced him to relinquish this project, it is certain that it did not long occupy his thoughts. From a letter of Mr. Gibbon, it would appear to have been abandoned before the end of the year 1779. The passage is interesting, not only as it serves to ascertain the fact, but as it suggests a valuable hint with respect to a different historical subject.
“I remember a kind of engagement you had contracted to repeat your visit to London every second year, and I look forwards with pleasure to next spring, when your bond will naturally become due. I should almost hope that you would bring with you some fruits of your leisure, had I not been informed that you had totally relinquished your design of continuing Mr.
Hume's History of England. Notwithstanding the just and deep sense which I must entertain (if the intelligence be true) of our public loss, I have scarcely courage enough to blame you. The want of materials and the danger of offence are two formidable obstacles for an historian who wishes to instruct, and who is determined not to betray his readers. But if you leave the narrow limits of our island, there still remain, without returning to the troubled scene of America, many subjects not unworthy of your genius. Will you give me leave, as a vague and indigested hint, to suggest the History of the Protestants in France; the events are important in themselves, and intimately connected with the great revolutions of Europe : some of the boldest or most amiable characters of modern times, the admiral Coligny, Henry IV., &c., would be your peculiar heroes; the materials are copious, and authentic, and accessible; and the objects appear to stand at that just distance which excites curiosity without inspiring passion. Excuse the freedom, and weigh the merits (if any) of this proposal.”
As I have had very little access to see any of Dr.
* I have allotted this note for some letters froin Mr. Gibbon to Dr. Robertson, which appeared to me likely to interest the public curiosity.
“When I express my strong hope that you will visit London next spring, I must acknowledge that it is of the most interesting kind. Besides the pleasure which I shall enjoy in your society and conversation, I cherish the expectation of deriving much benefit from your candid and friendly criticism. The remainder of my first period of the Decline and Fall, &c. which will end with the ruin of the Western Empire, is already very far advanced; but the subject has already grown so much under my hands, that it will form a second and third volume in quarto, which will probably go to the press in the course of the ensuing summer. Perhaps you have seen in the papers, that I was appointed some time ago one of the lords of trade; but I believe you are enough acquainted with the country to judge, that the business of my new office has not much interrupted the progress of my studies. The attendance in parliament is indeed more laborious; I apprehend a rough session, and I fear that a black cloud is gathering in Ireland.
“ Be so good as to present my sincere compliments to Mr. Smith, Mr. Fergusson, and if he should still be with you, to Dr. Gillies, for whose acquaintance I esteem myself much indebted to you. I have often considered, with some sort of envy, the valuable society which you possess in so narrow a compass. I am, with the highest regard,” &c.
Robertson's answers to the letters of his correspondents, I am ignorant what reply he made to this sugges
MR. GIBBON TO DR. ROBERTSON.
London, Sept. 1, 1783. “ Your candid and friendly interpretation will ascribe to business, to study, to pleasure, to constitutional indolence, or to any other venial cause, the guilt of neglecting so valuable a correspondent as yourself. I should have thanked you for the opportunities which you have afforded me of forming an acquaintance with several men of merit who deserve your friendship, and whose character and conversation suggest a very pleasing idea of the society which you enjoy at Edinburgh. I must at the same time lament, that the hurry of a London life has not allowed me to obtain so much as I could have wished, of their company, and must have given them an unfavorable opinion of my hospitality, unless they have weighed with indulgence the various obstacles of time and place. Mr. Stewart I had not even the pleasure of seeing; he passed through this city in his way to Paris, while I was confined with a painful fit of the gout, and in the short interval of his stay, the hours of meeting which were mutually proposed, could not be made to agree with our respective engagements. Mr. Dalzel, who is undoubtedly a modest and learned man, I have had the pleasure of seeing; but his arrival has unluckily fallen on a time of year, and a particular year, in which I have been very little in town. I should rejoice if I could repay these losses by a visit to Edinburgh, a more tranquil scene, to which yourself, and our friend Mr. Adam Smith, would powerfully attract me. But this project, which, in a leisure hour, has often amused my fancy, must now be resigned, or must be postponed at least to a very distant period. In a very few days, (before I could receive the favor of an answer,) I shall begin my journey to Lausanne in Switzerland, where I shall fix my residence, in a delightful situation, with a dear and excellent friend of that country; still mindful of my British friends, but renouncing, without reluctance, the tumult of parliament, the hopes and fears, the prejudices and passions, of political life, to which my nature has always been averse. Our noble friend Lord Loughborough has endeavoured to divert me from this resolution ; he rises every day in dignity and reputation, and if the means of patronage had not been so strangely reduced by our modern reforiners, I am persuaded his constant and liberal kindness would more than satisfy the moderate desires of a philosopher. What I cannot hope for from the favor of ministers, I must patiently expect from the course of nature; and this exile, which I do not view in a very gloomy light, will be terminated in due time, by the death of aged ladies, whose inheritance will place me in an easy and affluent situation. But these particulars are only designed for the ear of friendship.
“I have already despatched to Lausanne, two immense cases of books, the tools of my historical manufacture; others I shall find on the spot, and that country is not destitute of public and private libraries, which will be freely opened for the use of a man of letters. The tranquil leisure which I shall enjoy, will be partly employed in the prosecution of my history; but although my diligence will be quickened by the prospect of returning to England, to publish the last volumes (three, I am afraid) of this laborious work, yet I shall proceed with cautious steps to compose and to correct, and the dryness of my undertaking will be relieved by mixture of more elegant and classical studies, more especially of the Greek authors. Such good company will, I am sure, be pleasant to the historian, and I am inclined to believe that it will be beneficial to the work itself. I have been lately much flattered with the praise of Dr. Blair, and a censure of the Abbé de Mably ; both of them are precisely the men from whom I could wish to obtain praise and censure, and both these gratifications I have the pleasure of sharing with yourself. The Abbé appears to hate, and affects to despise, every writer of his own times, who has been well received by the public; and Dr. Blair, who is a master in one species of composition, has displayed, on every subject, the warmest feeling, and the most accurate judgment. I will frankly own that my pride is elated, as often as I find myself ranked in the triumvirate of British historians of the present age, and though I feel myself the Lepidus, I contemplate with pleasure the superiority of my colleagues. Will you be so good as to assure Dr. A. Smith of my regard and attachment? I consider myself as writing to both, and will not fix him for a separate answer. My direction is, ' A Monsieur Gibbon, a Lausanne en Suisse.' I shall often plume myself on the friendship of Dr. Robertson, but must I tell foreigners, that while the meaner heroes fight, Achilles has retired from the war! I am," &c.
tion of Mr. Gibbon, as well as of the circumstances that induced him to lay aside his plans with respect to the History of England. It is impossible, however, not to feel much regret that he did not carry them into execution. In spite of the obstacles which Mr. Gibbon mentions, there can be little doubt that the work would have been an important accession to English literature; and, in all probability, from the interesting nature of the subject, the most popular of his performances. The intrigues of the different factions during the reign of Queen Anne would have afforded an ample field for the exercise of his cool and discriminating judgment; the campaigns of Marlborough deserved such an historian ;
MR. GIBBON TO DR. ROBERTSON.
“ Lord Sheffield's, Downing Street. - Dear sir,
March 26, 1788. “ An error in your direction (to Wimpole street, where I never had a house) delayed some time the delivery of your very obliging letter, but that delay is not sufficient to excuse me for not taking an earlier notice of it. Perhaps the number of minute but indispensable cares that seem to multiply before the hour of publication, may prove a better apology, especially with a friend who has himself passed through the same labors to the same consummation. The important day is now fixed to the eighth of May, and it was chosen by Cadell, as it coincides with the end of the fiftyfirst year of the author's age. That honest and liberal bookseller has invited me to cele. brate the double festival, by a dinner at his house. Some of our common friends will be present, but we shall all lament your absence, and that of Dr. Adam Smith ; (whose health and welfare will always be most interesting to me;) and it gives me real concern that the time of your visits to the metropolis has not agreed with my transient residence in my native country. I am grateful for the opportunity with which you furnish me of again perusing your works in their most improved state ; and I have desired Cadell to despatch, for the use of my two Edinburgh friends, two copies of the last three volumes of my history. Whatever may be the inconstancy of taste or fashion, a rational lover of fame may be satisfied if he deserves and obtains your approbation. The praise which has ever been the most flattering to my ear is, to find my name associated with the names of Robertson and Hume; and provided I can maintain my place in the triumvirate, I am indifferent at what distance I am ranked below my companions and masters.
“ With regard to my present work, I am inclined to believe that it surpasses in variety and entertainment at least the second and third volumes. A long and eventful period is compressed into a smaller space, and the new barbarians who now assault and subvert the Roman Empire, enjoy the advantage of speaking their own lan. guage, and relating their own exploits.
“ After the publication of these last volumes, which extend to the siege of Constantinople, and comprise the ruins of Ancient Rome, I shall retire (in about two months) to Lausanne, and my friends will be pleased to hear that I enjoy in that retreat, as much repose, and even happiness, as is consistent, perhaps, with the human condition. At proper intervals, I hope to repeat my visits to England, but no change of circumstance or situation will probably tempt me to desert my Swiss residence, which unites almost every advantage that riches can give, or fancy desire. With regard to my future literary plans, I can add nothing to what you will soon read in my preface. But an hour's conversation with you, would allow me to explain some visionary designs which sometimes float in my mind; and, if I should ever form any serious resolution of labors, I would previously, though by the imperfect mode of a letter, consult you on the propriety and merit of any new undertakings. I am, with great regard,” &c.