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his father, which occurred in 1770, made it necessary that he should form some independent plan of life. The estate which he inherited was much involved, and he therefore determined to quit the country and reside permanently in London. Here, being thrown comparatively on his own resources, he now undertook the composition of the first volume of his history. * At the outset,' he remarks, 'all was dark and doubtful; even the title of the work, the true era of the decline and fall of the empire, the limits of the introduction, the division of the chapters, and the order of the narrative; and I was often tempted to cast away the labor of seven years. The style of an author should be the image of his mind, but the choice and command of language is the fruit of exercise. Many experiments were made before I could hit the middle tone, between a dull tone and a rhetorical declamation: three times did I compose the first chapter, and twice the second and third, before I was tolerably satisfied with their effect. In the remainder of the way, I advanced with a more equal and easy pace.'
In 1774, Gibbon was returned for the borough of Liskeard, and sat in parliament eight sessions during the memorable contest between Great Britain and the American colonies. Prudence, he says, condemned him to acquiesce in the humble station of a mute; the great speakers filling him with despair, and the bad ones with terror. In 1776, he published the first volume of his history, the success of which was, for a grave historical work, almost unprecedented. The first impression was exhausted in a few days; a second and a third edition was scarcely adequate to the demand, as the book was found on every table and almost on every toilette.' His brother historians, Robertson and Hume, generously greeted him with warm applause. "Whether I consider the dignity of your style,' says Hume, 'the depth of your matter, or the extensiveness of your learning, I must regard the work as equally the object of esteem.'
There was a still stronger bond of union than that which the admiration for genius could create, between the English and the Scottish historian. Gibbon had insidiously, though too unequivocally, evinced his adoption of infidel principles. "The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world, were all,' he remarks, considered by the people as equally true, by the philosopher as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful. Some feeling of this kind constituted the whole of his religious belief; and hence in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of his work, he gave an account of the growth and progress of Christianity, which he accounted for solely by secondary causes, without a single reference to its divine origin. It is true, he nowhere avows his disbelief; but by tacitly sinking the early and astonishing spread of Christianity during the time of the apostles, and dwelling with exaggerated coloring and minuteness, on the errors and corruptions by which it afterwards became debased, the historian in effect conveys an impression that its divine origin is but a poetical fable, like the golden age of the poets, or the mystic absurdities of Mohammedanism.
The second and third volumes of Gibbon's great work appeared in 1781 ;
and immediately after their publication, finding it necessary to retrench his expenses, he retired to Lausanne, and there, in 1787, completed his task. Of this event he himself has left us the following account: 'It was on the day, or rather night, of the 27th of June, 1787, 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.' From Lausanne he returned to London to superintend the publication of his three last volumes, the appearance of which he did not long survive. His health had, for some time, been delicate, and exhausted by surgical operations, he died without pain, and apparently without any sense of his danger, on the sixteenth of January, 1794.
In most of the essential qualifications of a historian, Gibbon was equal to either Hume or Robertson; and in some things he was superior to either. He had greater depth and variety of learning, and a more perfect command of his intellectual treasures. It was not merely with the main stream of Roman history that he was familiar : all its accessaries and tributaries—the art of war, philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, the most minute details of geography, every shade of manners, opinions, and public character, in Roman and cotemporaneous history, he had studied with laborious diligence and complete success. The vast range of his subject, and the tone of dignity which he preserves throughout the whole of his capacious circuit, also give him a superiority over his illustrious rivals. In concentrating his information, and presenting it in a clear and lucid order, he is no less remarkable, while his vivid imagination, quickening and adorning his varied knowledge, is fully equal to his other powers. He identifies himself with whatever he describes, and paints local scenery, national costume or manners, with all the force and animation of an eye-witness.
But these solid and bright acquirements of the historian were not without their drawbacks. Gibbon's mind was more material or sensual than philosophical—more fond of splendor and display, than of the beauty of virtue, or the grandeur of moral heroism. His taste was vitiated and impure, so that his style is not only deficient in chaste simplicity, but is disfigured by offensive pruriency and occasional grossness. The want of one great harmonizing spirit of humanity and genuine philosophy to give unity to the splendid mass, becomes painfully visible on a calm review of the entire work. After once attentively reading it, we seldom recur to it a second time, unless it is to notice some particular fact or description. Such is the importance
of simplicity and purity in a voluminous narrative, that this great historian is seldom read but as a study, while Hume and Robertson are always perused as a pleasure. We close this extensive notice with the following brief extracts :
OPINION OF ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE
SOUL. The writings of Cicero represent in the most lively colours the ignorance, the errors, and the uncertainty of ancient philosophers with regard to the immortality of the soul. When they are desirous of arming their disciples against the fear of death, they inculcate, as an obvious though melancholy position, that the fatal stroke of our dissolution releases us from the calamities of life; and that those can no longer suffer who no longer exist. Yet there were a few sages of Greece and Rome who had conceived a more exalted, and in some respects a juster idea of human nature; though, it must be confessed, that in the sublime inquiry, their reason had often been guided by their imagination, and that their imagination had been prompted by their vanity. When they viewed with complacency the extent of their own mental powers; when they exercised the various faculties of memory, of fancy, and of judgment, in the most profound speculations, or the most important labours ; and when they reflected on the desires of fame, which transported them into future ages, far beyond the bounds of death and of the grave; they were unwilling to confound themselves with the beasts of the field, or to suppose that a being, for whose dignity they entertained the most sincere admiration, could be limited to a spot of earth, and to a few years of duration. With this favourable prepossession, they summon to their aid the science, or rather the language, of metaphysics. They soon discovered, that as none of the properties of matter will apply to the operations of the mind, the human soul must consequently be a substance distinct from the bodypure, simple, and spiritual, incapable of dissolution, and susceptible of a much higher degree of virtue and happiness after the release from its corporeal prison. From these specious and noble principles, the philosophers who trod in the footsteps of Plato, deduced a very unjustifiable conclusion, since they asserted not only the future immortality, but the past eternity of the human soul, which they were too apt to consider as a portion of the infinite and self-existing spirit, which pervades and sustains the universe. A doctrine thus removed beyond the senses and the experience of mankind, might serve to amuse the leisure of a philosophic mind; or, in the silence of solitude, it might sometimes impart a ray of comfort to desponding virtue; but the faint impression which had been received in the school was soon obliterated by the commerce and business of active life. We are sufficiently acquainted with the eminent persons who flourished in the age of Cicero, and of the first Cæsars, with their actions, their characters, and their motives, to be assured that their conduct in this life was never regulated by any serious conviction of the rewards or punishments of a future state. At the bar and in the senate of Rome, the ablest orators were not apprehensive of giving offence to their hearers by exposing that doctrine as an idle and extravagant opinion, which was rejected with contempt by every man of a liberal education and understanding.
Since, therefore, the most sublime efforts of philosophy can extend no farther than feebly to point out the desire, the hope, or at most the probability, of a future state, there is nothing except a divine revelation that can ascertain the existence and describe the condition of the invisible country which is destined to receive the souls of men after their separation from the body.
THE CITY OF BAGDAD—MAGNIFICENCE OF THE CALIPHS. Almansor, the brother and successor of Saffah, laid the foundations of Bagdad (A.D. 762), the imperial seat of his posterity during a reign of five hundred years. The chosen spot is on the eastern bank of the Tigris, about fifteen miles above the ruins of Modain; the double wall was of a circular form, and such was the rapid increase of a capital now dwindled to a provincial town, that the funeral of a popular saint might be attended by eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand women of Bagdad and the adjacent villages. In this city of peace, amidst the riches of the east, the Abbassides soon disdained the abstinence and frugality of the first caliphs, and aspired to emulate the magnificence of the Persian kings. After his wars and buildings, Almansor left behind him, in gold and silver, about thirty millions sterling; and this treasure was exhausted in a few years by the vices or virtues of his children. His son, Mahadi, in a single pilgrimage to Mecca, expended six millions of dinars of gold. A pious and charitable motive may sanctify the foundation of cisterns and caravanseres, which he had distributed along a measured road of seven hundred miles; but his train of camels, laden with snow, could serve only to astonish the natives of Arabia, and to refresh the fruits and liquors of the royal banquet. The courtiers would surely praise the liberality of his grandson Almanon, who gave away four fifths of the income of a province-a sum of two millions four hundred thousand gold dinars—before he drew his foot from the stirrup. At the nuptials of the same prince, a thousand pearls of the largest size were showered on the head of the bride, and a lottery of lands and houses displayed the capricious bounty of fortune. The glories of the court were brightened rather than impaired in the decline of the empire, and a Greek ambassador might admire or pity the magnificence of the feeble Moctader. "The caliph's whole army,' says the historian Abulfeda, 'both horse and foot was under arms, which together made a body of one hundred and sixty thousand men. His state-officers, the favourite slaves, stood near him in splendid apparel, their belts glittering with gold and gems. Near them were seven thousand eunuchs, four thousand of them white, the remainder black. The porters or doorkeepers were in number seven hundred. Barges and boats, with the most superb decorations, were seen swimming upon the Tigris. Nor was the place itself less splendid, in which were hung up thirty-eight thousand pieces of tapestry, twelve thousand five hundred of which were of silk embroidered with gold. The carpets on the floor were twenty-two thousand. A hundred lions were brought out, with a keeper to each lion. Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury, was a tree of gold and silver, spreading into eighteen large branches, on which, and on the lesser boughs, sat a variety of birds made of the same precious metals, as well as the leaves of the tree. While the machinery affected spontaneous motions, the several birds warbled their natural harmony. Through this scene of magnificence, the Greek ambassador was led by the visier to the foot of the caliph's throne. In the west, the Ommiades of Spain supported, with equal pomp, the title of commander of the faithful. Three miles from Cordova, in honour of his favourite sultana, the third and greatest of the Abdalrahmans constructed the city, palace, and gardens of Zehra.
Twenty-five years, and above three millions sterling, were employed by the founder: his liberal taste invited the artists of Constantinople, the most skillful sculptors and architects of the age; and the buildings were sustained or adorned by twelve hundred columns of Spanish and African, of Greek and Italian marble. The hall of audience was incrusted with gold and pearls, and a great basin in the centre was surrounded with the curious and costly figures of birds and quadrupeds. In a lofty pavilion of the gardens, one of these basins and fountains, so delightful in a sultry climate, was replenished not with water, but with the purest quicksilver. The seraglio of Abdalrahman, his wives, concubines, and black eunuchs, amounted to six
thousand three hundred persons, and he was attended to the field by a guard of twelve thousand horse, whose belts and scimitars were studded with gold.
In a private condition, our desires are perpetually repressed by poverty and subordination ; but the lives and labours of millions are devoted to the service of a despotic prince, whose laws are blindly obeyed, and whose wishes are instantly gratified. Our imagination is dazzled by the splendid picture; and whatever may be the cool dictates of reason, there are few among us who would obstinately refuse a trial of the comforts and cares of royalty. It may, therefore, be of some use to borrow the experience of the same Abdalrahman, whose magnificence has perhaps excited our admiration and envy, and to transcribe an authentic memorial which was found in the closet of the deceased caliph. 'I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to fourteen. O man! place not thy confidence in this present world.'
For the sake of giving a connected view of the three great historians last noticed, we have anticipated some historical writers of less importance. These we now proceed briefly to notice.
WILLIAM TYTLER, the first that occurs, was born in Edinburgh, in 1711. In 1759, he published an Inquiry, Historical and Critical, into the Evidence against Mary Queen of Scots, and an Examination of the Histories of Dr. Robertson and Mr. Hume with respect to that Evidence. Tytler's work is acute and learned, and procured for the author the approbation and esteem of the most eminent men of his time; but judged by the higher standards which now exist, it must be pronounced to be partial and inconclusive. He published also the ‘Poetical Remains of James I. of Scotland,' with a dissertation on the life and writings of the royal poet, honorable to both his literary taste and research. Tytler died in 1792, at the age of eighty-one.
ROBERT HENRY, a contemporary of Tytler, was born on the eighteenth of February, 1718. After studying for some years at St. Ninian, and at Stirling, he completed his education at the university of Edinburgh, and then became master of Annan grammar-school, connected with that seat of learning. In 1748, he was invited by the Presbyterians of Carlisle to that city, and was there ordained their minister. He remained in Carlisle twelve years, and then removed to Berwick-on-Tweed, where he resided until 1768, when he was selected as the minister of the New-Grey-friars, at Edinburgh. In 1776, he became colleague minister in the Old Church, and continued this relation until his death, which occurred in November, 1790.
Dr. Henry formed the design, in 1763, of writing a History of Great Britain, with especial reference to the manners of the nation. The first volume of this great work appeared in 1771, and four others at intervals between that time and 1785. Henry, in his private life, was amiable and
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