Edward Gibbon

BookEdward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon

Bicentenary Essays

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 355


January 1st, 1997

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In the summer of 1994, on the occasion of the bicentenary of Gibbon’s death, a group of scholars gathered in Oxford to commemorate and explore his achievement, producing this volume of essays. Eighteen years earlier, in 1976, there were similar gatherings for the bicentenary of the publication of the first volume of The Decline and fall, likewise producing published collections of essays. Comparing the present volume with its predecessors, how has scholarship devoted to Gibbon changed in the intervening years?
The dominant theme of Gibbon studies during this recent period has been ‘disaggregation’, and this can be understood in two senses. Firstly, there has been textual disaggregation. Works which earlier scholars were content to treat as ‘un ensemble’ are today scrupulously delaminated: manuscripts are compared, different editions collated, separate instalments discriminated, successive drafts juxtaposed. It seems safe to say that no modern study of Gibbon could gain a hearing unless its author was evidently a master of the relevant textual bibliography. The result of this renewed interest in bibliography has been a much sharper awareness of the complexity of Gibbon’s writings as literary artefacts. Secondly, disaggregation has also occurred in the contexts, both English and European, within which Gibbon’s work demand to be read. The Enlightenment itself is now apprehended as a congeries of movements and events that attracted men of divergent aims and beliefs. In this freshly complicated setting, Gibbon’s life and work emerge as key points, through which swirled many of the most important intellectual currents of the day. The essays collected in this volume exemplify and extend these trends in Gibbon scholarship.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page6
Copyright Page7
List of abbreviations15
I. Gibbon and Europe16
Gibbon and Giannone18
Gibbon and the Asiatic barbarians: notes on the French sources of The Decline and fall36
Establishing the 'order of time and place': 'rational geography', French erudition and the emplacement of history in Gibbon's mind60
'My ecclesiastical history': Gibbon between Hume and Raynal88
II. The Decline and fall: milieu, substance and reception118
Gibbon and the decline and growth of the Club120
Gibbon's timeless verity: Nature and neo-classicism in the late Enlightenment136
Natural freedom in The Decline andfal!180
Gibbon, Swift and irony194
Gibbon, irony, and faith in Gibbon's Decline and fall218
Gibbon's prospects: rhetoric, fame and the closing chapters of The Decline and fall250
A 'disorderly squadron'? A fresh look at clerical responses to The Decline and fall268
'Une marionnette infidèle': the fashioning of Edward Gibbon's reputation as the English Voltaire294
Gibbon, Newman and the religious accuracy of the historian324
III. After The Decline and fall346
Gibbon's feelings348
Gibbon's Memoirs: autobiography in time of revolution362
Gibbon's last project420
Notes on contributors436