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consider the Fairy Queen* as the most precious jewel of their coronet. Our immortal Fielding was of the younger branch of the earls of Denbigh, who draw their origin from the counts of Habsburg, the lineal descendants of Eltrico, in the seventh century duke of Alsace. Far different have been the fortunes of the English and German divisions of the family of Habsburg: the former, the knights and sheriffs of Leicestershire, have slowly risen to the dignity of a peerage; the latter, the emperors of Germany and kings of Spain, have threatened the liberty of the old, and invaded the treasures of the new world. The successors of Charles the fifth may disdain their brethren of England; but the romance of Tom Jones, that exquisite picture of human manners, will outlive the palace of the Escurial, and the imperial eagle of the house of Austria.
That these sentiments are just, or at least natural, I am the more inclined to believe, as I am not myself interested in the cause; for I can derive from my ancestors neither glory nor shame. Yet a sincere and simple narrative of my own life may amuse some of my leisure hours; but it will subject me, and perhaps with justice, to the imputation of vanity. I may judge, however, from the experience both of past and of the present times, that the public are always curious to know the men who have left behind them any image of their minds: the most scanty accounts of such men are compiled with diligence, and perused with eagerness; and the student of every class may derive a lesson, or an example, from the lives most similar to his own. My name may hereafter be placed among the thousand articles of a Biographia Britannica; and I must be conscious, that no one is so well
No less praiseworthy are the ladies three,
Of which I meanest boast myself to be.
SPENSER, Colin Clout, &c. v. 538.
qualified as myself to describe the series of my thoughts and actions. The authority of my masters, of the grave Thuanus and the philosophic Hume, might be sufficient to justify my design; but it would not be difficult to produce a long list of ancients and moderns, who, in various forms, have exhibited their own portraits. Such portraits are often the most interesting, and sometimes the only interesting parts of their writings; and if they be sincere, we seldom complain of the minuteness or prolixity of these personal memorials. The lives of the younger Pliny, of Petrarch, and of Erasmus, are expressed in the epistles which they themselves have given to the world. The essays of Montaigne and sir William Temple bring us home to the houses and bosoms of the authors: we smile without contempt at the headstrong passions of Benvenuto Cellini, and the gay follies of Colley Cibber. The confessions of St Augustin and Rousseau disclose the secrets of the human heart: the commentaries of the learned Huet have survived his evangelical demonstration; and the memoirs of Goldoni are more truly dramatic than his Italian comedies. The heretic and the churchman are strongly marked in the characters and fortunes of Whiston and bishop Newton; and even the dulness of Michael de Marolles and Anthony Wood acquires some value from the faithful representation of men and manners. That I am equal or superior to some of these, the effects of modesty or affectation cannot force me to dissemble.
My family is originally derived from the county of Kent. The southern district, which borders on Sussex and the sea, was formerly overspread with the great forest Anderida, and even now retains the denomination of the Weald, or Wood-land. In this district, and in the hundred and parish of Rolvenden, the Gibbons were possessed of lands in the year 1326;
and the elder branch of the family, without much in crease or diminution of property, still adheres to its native soil. Fourteen years after the first appearance of his name, John Gibbon is recorded as the marmorarius or architect of king Edward the third: the strong and stately castle of Queensborough, which guarded the entrance of the Medway, was a monument of his skill; and the grant of an hereditary toll on the passage from Sandwich to Stonar in the isle of Thanet, is the reward of no vulgar artist. In the visitations of the heralds the Gibbons are frequently mentioned: they held the rank of esquire in an age when that title was less promiscuously assumed: one of them, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, was captain of the militia of Kent; and a free school in the neighbouring town of Benenden proclaims the charity and opulence of its founder. But time, or their own obscurity, has cast a veil of oblivion over the virtues and vices of my Kentish ancestors; their character or station confined them to the labours and pleasures a rural life; nor is it in my power to follow the advice of the poet, in an inquiry after a name—
"Go! search it there, where to be born, and die,
so recent is the institution of our parish registers. In the beginning of the seventeenth century a younger branch of the Gibbons of Rolvenden migrated from the country to the city; and from this branch I do not blush to descend. The law requires some abilities, the church imposes some restraints; and before our army and navy, our civil establishments, and Indian empire, had opened so many paths of fortune, the mercantile profession was more frequently chosen by youths of a liberal race and education, who aspired to create their own independence. Our most respectable families have not disdained the counting-house, or even the shop; their names are enrolled in the livery and companies of London; and in England, as well as
in the Italian commonwealths, heralds have been compelled to declare, that gentility is not degraded by the exercise of trade.
The armorial ensigns which in the times of chivalry adorned the erest and shield of the soldier, are now become an empty decoration, which every man, who has money to build a carriage, may paint according to his fancy on the pannels. My family arms are the same which were borne by the Gibbons of Kent in an age when the college of heralds religiously regarded the distinctions of blood and name: a lion rampant gardant, between three scallop shells argent, on a field azure. I should not however have been tempted to blazon my coat of arms, were it not connected with a whimsical anecdote.-About the reign of James the first, the three harmless scallop shells were changed by Edmund Gibbon, esq. into three ogresses, or female cannibals, with a design of stigmatizing three ladies, his kinswomen, who had provoked him by an unjust lawsuit. But this singular mode of revenge, for which he obtained the sanction of sir William Seagar, king at arms, soon expired with its author; and on his own monument in the Temple church, the monsters vanish, and the three scallop shells resume their proper and hereditary place.
Our alliances by marriage it is not disgraceful to mention. The chief honour of my ancestry is James Fiens, baron Say and Seale, and lord high treasurer of England, in the reign of Henry the sixth; from whom, by the Phelips, the Whetnalls, and the Cromers, I am lineally descended in the eleventh degree. His dismist on and imprisonment in the Tower were insufficient to appease the popular clamour; and the (reasurer, with his son-in-law Cromer, was beheaded
*The father of lord chancellor Hardwicke married an neiress of this family of Gibbon. The chancellor's escutcheon in the Temple hall quarters the arms of Gibbon, as does also that in Lincoln's Inn hall, of Charles York, chancellor in 1770.
(1450), after a mock trial by the Kentish insurgents. The black list of his offences, as it is exhibited in Shakspeare, displays the ignorance and envy of a plebeian tyrant. Besides the vague reproaches of selling Maine and Normandy to the dauphin, the treasurer is especially accused of luxury, for riding on a foot-cloth, and of treason, for speaking French, the language of our enemies. "Thou hast most traiterously corrupted the youth of the realm," says Jack Cade to the unfortunate lord, "in erecting a grammar school; and whereas before, our forefathers had no other books than the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used; and, contrary to the king, his crown, and dignity, thou hast built a paper-mill. It will be proved to thy face, that thou hast men about thee, who usually talk of a noun and a verb, and such abominable words as no christian ear can endure to hear." Our dramatic poet is generally more attentive to character than to history; and I much that the art of printing was not introduced into England till several years after lord Say's death: but of some of these meritorious crimes I should hope to find my ancestor guilty; and a man of letters may be proud of his descent from a patron and martyr of learning.
In the beginning of the last century, Robert Gibbon, esq. of Rolvenden in Kent,* (who died in 1618) had a son of the same name of Robert, who settled in London, and became a member of the clothworkers'
* Robert Gibbon, my lineal ancestor in the fifth degree, was captain of the Kentish militia; and as he died in the year 1618, it may be presumed that he had appeared in arms at the time of the Spanish invasion. His wife was Margaret Phillips, daughter of Edward Phillips de la Weld in Tenderden, and of Rose, his wife, daughter of George Whitnell, of East Peckham, esquire. Peckham, the seat of the Whitnells of Kent, is mentioned, not indeed much to its honour, in the 'Mémoires du Comte de Grammont;' a classical work, the delight of every man and woman of taste to whom the French language is familiar.