The Decline & Fall

“Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.” 
Edward Gibbon

Rome

There is a book that I have not had the courage to start.  It comes in three volumes and resides quite contentedly on one of my bookshelves behind two wooden elephants. It was a gift from a dear friend who has since passed away, which makes it all the more poignant.  I decided to thumb through the first volume which weighs, in my conservative opinion, approximately 8 pounds.

Edward Gibbon’s “The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” despite all criticisms that come with historical debate, is the most celebrated historical work in the English language.  It was published in three installments between 1776 and 1788, and covers thirteen centuries, from 98 – 1590.  Gibbon’s insistence on relative objectivity and the use of primary sources became the model for later historians to emulate.

But why would I decide to take out the “Rise and Decline” at this particular time. Quite simply, to celebrate!  For today, on June 27, 1787, Edward Gibbons finished his monumental task.  His life’s work complete, I can only imagine that his elation was tinged with a hint of sorrow.

“It was on the day, or rather the night, of 27 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. … 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 my 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.”

Edward Gibbon

27 thoughts on “The Decline & Fall

    • Let me give you the first line: “In the second century of the Christian Era, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth , and the most civilized portion of mankind.” I am already wondering what happened to change this? It is a massive book and the source notes are detailed. I am quite interested in the evolution of religious thought.

      I must confess that I have ordered an audio-book through the Vancouver Public Library to read along side. I think it will be one of those books to read slowly and enjoy… and I will keep you up to date on all the exploits of the Caesars.

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  1. Beautiful entry as always- excellent tribute. I am very sad to learn it was gift from a friend who has departed, indeed…my condolences.

    I just adore both those quotes. Excellent,

    Autumn Jade

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    • This is your kind of book. I have read little bits and pieces and can see how little we really understand about the past – the music, myths, languages, arts etc. So much to learn, so little time, but that’s what makes it all worthwhile.:)

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  2. Oh my… it’s even more impressive when you think metric with your approximation of17.6 kilos. Just the thought of you starting on that gigantic reading journey, brings me back all those years when I had a go at those handsome volumes in the family library. Have a grand celebratory voyage, on behalf of Edward Gibbon’s birthday. We should then be informed when you have completed said journey, so that we can celebrate you, dear Lady Budd. Bon Voyage!

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    • Ah….a journey indeed. I have a feeling that you have been on one of these voyages yourself. I will be writing notes from the ship….🙂

      “A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.”
      ― Herman Melville

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      • And we do remember him best as a whale of a story teller, do we not. And yes, I have been on such the voyage, as well as on ships, many of those moons ago too. Here is one of the pictures that stays imprinted on my mind:

        “ Men Of The Sea ”
        ~ indurate beings ~

        On steel hull ships
        Live indurate men,
        Of rusty hearts
        And tempers short,
        Whose tired grunts
        Speak fitful streams
        Of words bone thin…

        With guarded eyes
        And gnarled limbs
        They navigate,
        The lonely seas
        In life replete
        With boding myths,
        And nightly demons
        Who so disrupt
        The tattered dreams,
        Said saw compose
        Men of the sea!

        © Jean-Jacques Fournier

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    • June 28th was quite a day in history! Sounds like you are having a wonderful weekend! Sunshine in Vancouver! Getting ready to celebrate Canada day! Hugs coming back….

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    • Me too!!! And I think that it will take me years to read. But I have just received an e-mail notification that there is an audio-book waiting for me at the library. Let’s see how that goes!!! What I have read by thumbing through the first volume is quite extraordinary….🙂

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