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piece of criticism which has appeared since the days of Bentley. His strictures are founded in argument, enriched with learning, and enlivened with wit; and his adversary neither deserves nor finds any quarter at his hands. The evidence of the three heavenly witnesses would now be rejected in any court of justice: but prejudice is blind, authority is deaf, and our vulgar bibles will ever be polluted by this spurious text: "sedet æternumque sedebit." The more learned ecclesiastics will indeed have the secret satisfaction of reprobating in the closet what they read in the church.
I perceived, and without surprise, the coldness and even prejudice of the town; nor could a whisper escape my ear, that, in the judgment of many readers, my continuation was much inferior to the original attempts. An author who cannot ascend will always appear to sink: envy was now prepared for my reception; and the zeal of my religious was fortified by the malice of my political enemies. Bishop Newton, in writing his own life, was at full liberty to declare how much he himself and two eminent brethren were disgusted by Mr Gibbon's prolixity, tediousness, and affectation. But the old man should not have indulged his zeal in a false and feeble charge against the historian who had faithfully and even cautiously ren
* Extract from Mr GIBBON's Common place Book. Thomas Newton, bishop of Bristol and dean of St Paul's, was born at Lichfield on the 21st of December 1703, O. S. (1st January 1704, N. S.) and died the 14th of February 1782, in the 79th year of his age. A few days before his death he finished the memoirs of his own life, which have been prefixed to an edition of his posthumous works, first published in quarto, and since (1787) re-published in six volumes octavo.
Pp. 173, 174. "Some books were published in 1781, which employed some of the bishop's leisure hours, and during his illness. Mr Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' he read throughout; but it by no means
dered Dr Burnet's meaning by the alternative of sleep or repose. That philosophic divine supposes
answered his expectations, for he found it rather a prolix and tedious performance; his matter uninteresting, and his style affected; his testimonies not to be depended upon, and his frequent scoffs at religion offensive to every sober mind. He had before been convicted of making false quo. tations, which should have taught him more prudence and caution. But, without examining his authorities, there is one which must necessarily strike every man who has read Dr Burnet's treatise de Statû Mortuorum.' In vol. iii. p. 99, Mr G. has the following note:- Burnet (de S. M. p. 56-84) collects the opinions of the Fathers, as far as they assert the sleep or repose of human souls till the day of judgment. He afterwards exposes (p. 91) the inconveniences which must arise if they possessed a more active and sensible existence.' Who would not from hence infer that Dr B. was an advocate for the sleep or insensible existence of the soul after death? Whereas his doctrine is directly the contrary. He has employed some chapters in treating of the state of human souls in the interval between death and the resurrection; and after various proofs from reason, from scripture, and the Fathers, his conclusions are, that human souls exist after their separation from the body, that they are in a good or evil state according to their good or ill behaviour, but that neither their happiness nor their misery will be complete or perfect before the day of judgment. His argumentation is thus summed up at the end of the 4th chapter-Ex quibus constat primo, animas superesse extincto corpore; secundo, bonas bene, malas male, se habituras; tertio, nec illis summam felicitatem, nec his summam miseriam, accessuram esse ante diem judicii." (The bishop's reading the whole was a greater compliment to the work than was paid to it by two of the most eminent of his brethren for their learning and station. The one entered upon it, but was soon wearied, and laid it aside in disgust: the other returned it upon the bookseller's hands; and it is said that Mr G. himself happened unluckily to be in the shop at the same time.)
Does the bishop comply with his own precept in the next page? (p. 175.) "Old age should lenify, should soften, men's manners, and make them more mild and gentle; but
that, in the period between death and the resurrection, human souls exist without a body, endowed
often has the contrary effect, hardens their hearts, and makes them more sour and crabbed."-He is speaking of Dr Johnson.
Have I ever insinuated that preferment-hunting is the great occupation of an ecclesiastical life? (Memoirs passim ;) that a minister's influence and a bishop's patronage are sometimes pledged eleven deep? (p. 151;) that a prebendary considers the audit week as the better part of the year? (p. 127;) or that the most eminent of priests, the pope himself, would change their religion, if anything better could be offered them? (p. 56.) Such things are more than insinuated in the bishop's life, which afforded some scandal to the church, and some diversion to the profane laity.
None of the attacks from ecclesiastical antagonists were more malignant and illiberal than some strictures published in the English Review, October 1788, &c. and afterwards reprinted in a separate volume, with the signature of John Whitaker, in 1791. I had mentioned them to Mr Gibbon when first published; but so far was he from supposing them worth his notice, that he did not even desire they should be sent to him, and he actually did not see them till his late visit to England a few months before his death. If Mr Whitaker had only pointed his bitterness against Mr Gibbon's opinions, perhaps no inquiry would have been made into the possible source of his collected virulence 'and deliberate malignity.
I have in my possession very amicable letters from the Rev. Mr Whitaker to Mr Gibbon, written some time after he had read the offensive 15th and 16th chapters of the Decline and Fall. When Mr Gibbon came to England, in 1787, he read Whitaker's "Mary Queen of Scots," and I have heard him VERY incautiously express his opinion of it. Some good-natured friend mentioned it to Mr Whitaker. It must be an extraordinary degree of resentment that could induce any person, of a liberal mind, to scrape together defamatory stories, true or false, and blend them with the defence of the most benign religion, whose precepts inculcate the very opposite practice. Religion receives her greatest injuries from those champions of the church
with internal consciousness, but destitute of all active or passive connection with the external world. "Secundum communem dictionem sacræ scripturæ, mors dicitur somnus, et morientes dicuntur obdormire, quod innuere mihi videtur statum mortis esse statum quietis, silentii, et αεργασιας.” (De Statú Mortuorum, ch. v. p. 98.)
I was however encouraged by some domestic and foreign testimonies of applause; and the second and third volumes insensibly rose in sale and reputation to a level with the first. But the public is seldom wrong; and I am inclined to believe that, especially in the beginning, they are more prolix and less entertaining than the first: my efforts had not been relaxed by success, and I had rather deviated into the opposite fault of minute and superfluous diligence. On the continent my name and writings were slowly diffused a French translation of the first volume had disappointed the booksellers of Paris; and a passage in the third was construed as a personal reflection on the reigning monarch.*
who, under the pretence of vindicating the gospel, outrageously violate both the spirit and the letter of it.
Mr Whitaker affects principally to review the fourth, fifth, and sixth volumes; but he has allotted the first month's review to an attack on the first three volumes, or rather on the first, which had been published twelve years and a half before it occurred to him that a review of it was necessary. S.
* It may not be generally known that Louis the Sixteenth is a great reader, and a reader of English books. On perusing a passage of my History which seems to compare him to Arcadius or Honorius, he expressed his resentment to the prince of B*****, from whom the intelligence was conveyed to me. I shall neither disclaim the allusion, nor examine the likeness; but the situation of the late king of France excludes all suspicion of flattery; and I am ready to declare that the concluding observations of my third volume were written before his accession to the throne.
Before I could apply for a seat at the general election, the list was already full; but lord North's promise was sincere, his recommendation was effectual, and I was soon chosen on a vacancy for the borough of Lymington in Hampshire. In the first session of the new parliament administration stood their ground; their final overthrow was reserved for the second. The American war had once been the favourite of the country: the pride of England was irritated by the resistance of her colonies, and the executive power was driven by national clamour into the most vigorous and coercive measures. But the length of a fruitless contest, the loss of armies, the accumulation of debt and taxes, and the hostile confederacy of France, Spain, and Holland, indisposed the public to the American war, and the persons by whom it was conducted; the representatives of the people followed, at a slow distance, the changes of their opinion; and the ministers, who refused to bend, were broken by the tempest. As soon as lord North had lost, or was about to lose, a majority in the House of Commons, he surrendered his office, and retired to a private station, with the tranquil assurance of a clear conscience and a cheerful temper: the old fabric was dissolved, and the posts of government were occupied by the victorious and veteran troops of opposition. The lords of trade were not immediately dismissed, but the board itself was abolished by Mr Burke's bill, which decency had compelled the patriots to revive; and I was stripped of a convenient salary, after having enjoyed it about three years.
So flexible is the title of my History, that the final era might be fixed at my own choice; and I long hesitated whether I should be content with the three volumes, the Fall of the Western Empire, which fulfilled my first engagement with the public. In this interval of suspense, nearly a twelvemonth, I returned by a natural impulse to the Greek authors of antiquity; I read with new pleasure the Iliad and the