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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

Villemain finds in it peu de vues


[1] The celebrated William Law had been for some time the private tutor of this Edward Gibbon, who is supposed to have been the original of the rather clever sketch of "Flatus" in the _Serious Call_.

[2] _The Journal_ for 1755 records that during that year, besides writing and translating a great deal in Latin and French, he had read, amongst other works, Cicero's _Epistolae ad familiares_, his _Brutus_, all his _Orations_, his dialogues _De amicitia_ and _De seneciute_, Terence (twice), and Pliny's _Epistles_. In January 1756 he says: "I determined to read over the Latin authors in order, and read this year Virgil, Sallust, Livy, Velleius Paterculus, Valerius Maximus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Quintus Curtius, Justin, Florus, Plautus, Terence and Lucretius. I also read and meditated Locke _Upon the Understanding_." Again in January 1757 he writes: "I began to study algebra under M. de Traytorrens, went through the elements of algebra and geometry, and the three first books of the Marquis de l'Hopital's _Conic Sections_. I also read Tibullus, Catullus, Propertius, Horace (with Dacier's and Torrentius's notes), Virgil, Ovid's _Epistles_, with Meziriac's commentary, the _Ars amandi_ and the _Elegies_; likewise the _Augustus_ and _Tiberius_ of Suetonius, and a Latin translation of Dion Cassius from the death of Julius Caesar to the death of Augustus. I also continued my correspondence, begun last year, with M. Allamand of Bex, and the Professor Breitinger of Zurich, and opened a new one with the Professor Gesner of Gottingen. N.B.--Last year and this I read St John's Gospel, with part of Xenophon's _Cyropaedia_, the _Iliad_, and Herodotus; but, upon the whole, I rather neglected my Greek."

[3] The affair, however, was not finally broken off till 1763. Mdlle Curchod soon afterwards became the wife of Necker, the famous financier; and Gibbon and the Neckers frequently afterwards met on terms of mutual friendship and esteem.

[4] The _Essai_, in a good English translation, now appears in the _Miscellaneous Works_. Villemain finds in it "peu de vues, nulle originalite surtout, mais une grande passion litteraire, l'amour des recherches savantes et du beau langage." Sainte-Beuve's criticism is almost identical with Gibbon's own; but though he finds that "la lecture en est assez difficile et parfois obscure, la liaison des idees echappe souvent par trop de concision et par le desir qu'a eu le jeune auteur d'y faire entrer, d'y condenser la plupart de ses notes," he adds, "il y a, chemin faisant, des vues neuves et qui sentent l'historien."

[5] Her letters to Walpole about Gibbon contain some interesting remarks by this "aveugle clairvoyante," as Voltaire calls her; but they belong to a later period (1777).

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