I finished Mr. Gibbon a full fortnight ago, and was extremely pleased. It is a most wonderful mass of information, not only of history, but almost on all the ingredients of history, as war, government, commerce, coin, and what not. If it has a fault, it is in embracing too much, and consequently in not detailing enough, and it, striding backwards and forwards from one set of princes to another, and from one subject to another; so that, without much historic knowledge, and without much memory, and much method in one’s memory, it is almost impossible not to be sometimes bewildered: nay, his own impatience to tell what he knows, makes the author, though commonly so explicit, not perfectly clear in his expressions. The last chapter of the fourth Volume, I own, made me recoil, and I could scarcely push through it. So far from being Catholic or heretic, I wished Mr. Gibbon had never heard of Monophysites, Nestorians, or any such fools! But the sixth volume made ample amends; Mahomet and the Popes were gentlemen and good company. I abominate fractions of theology and reformation.
Mr. Sheridan, I hear, did not quite satisfy the passionate expectation that had been raised;(612) but it was impossible he could, when people had worked themselves into an enthusiasm of offering fifty, ay, fifty guineas for a ticket to hear him. Well! we are sunk and deplorable in many points, yet not absolutely gone, when history and eloquence throw out such shoots! I thought I had outlived my country; I am glad not to leave it desperate. Adieu, dear Sir!
(611) Of Lee, in East Kent; Whose seat was built by Mr. Wyatt, and greatly admired by Walpole.-E.
(612) Of his speech in Westminster-hall, on bringing forward the Begum charge against Mr. Hastings; upon which Mr. Burke pronounced the high ealogium, that “all the various species of oratory that had been heard, either in ancient or modern times-whatever the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the senate, or the morality of the pulpit; could furnish—had not been equal to what the House had that day heard.” Gibbon, who was present, thus describes it, in a letter to Lord Sheffield:— “Yesterday the august scene was closed for this year. Sheridan surpassed himself; and, though I am far from considering him a perfect orator, there were many beautiful passages in his speech--on justice, filial love, etc.; one of the closest chains of argument I ever heard, to prove that Hastings was responsible for the acts of Middleton; and a compliment, much admired to a certain historian of your acquaintance. Sheridan, on the close of his speech, sunk into Burke’s arms—a good actor: but I called this morning; he is perfectly well."-E.