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Let me just, in two words, give you an idea of my day. I am now going (nine o'clock) to the king's library, where I shall stay till twelve ; as soon as I am dressed, I set out to dine with the duke de Nivernois : sball go from thence to the French comedy, into the princess de Beauveau's loge grillée, and cannot quite determine whether I shall sup at Madame du Deffand's, Madame Necker's, or the Sardinian ambassadress's. Once more adieu.
I embrace my lady and Cambini. I shall with cheerfulness execute any of her commissions.
MR. GIBBON TO MR. HOLROYD.
February 23d, 1778. You do not readily believe in preternatural miscarriages of letters; nor I neither. Listen, however, to a plain and honest narrative. This morning after breakfast, as I was ruminating on your silence, Thomas, my new footman, with confusion in his looks and stammering on his tongue, produced a letter reasonably soiled, which he was to have brought me the day of his arrival, and which had lain forgotten from that time in his pocket. To shorten as much as possible the continuance, I immediately inquired, whether any method of conveyance could be devised more expeditious than the post, and was fortunately, informed of your coachman's intentions. You probably know the heads of the plan ; an act of parliament to declare, that we never had any intention of taxing America : another act, to empower the crown to name commissioners, authorised to suspend hostilities by sea and land, as well as all obnoxious acts; and, in short, to grant every thing, except independence. Opposition, after expressing their doubts whether the lance of Achilles could cure the wound which it had inflicted, could not refuse their assent to the principles of conduct which they themselves had always recommended. Yet you must acknowledge, that in a business of this magnitude there may arise several important questions, which, without a spirit of faction, will deserve to be debated : whether parliament ought not to name the commissioners? whether it would not be better to repeal the obnoxious acts ourselves ? I do not find that the world, that is, a few people whom I happen to converse with, are much inclined to praise Lord North's ductility of temper. In the service of next Friday you will, however, take notice of the injunction given by the Liturgy: “ And all the people shall say after the Minister, Turn us again, O Lord, and so shall we be turned.” While we consider whether we shall negotiate, I fear the French have been more diligent. It is positively asserted, both in private and in parliament, and not contradicted by the ministers, that on the fifth of this month a treaty of commerce (which naturally leads to a war) was signed at Paris with the independent States of America. Yet there still remains a hope that England may obtain the preference. The two greatest countries in Europe are fairly running a race for the favour of America. Adieu.
MR. GIBBON TO MR. HOLROYD.
Almack's, Wednesday evening, 1778. I DELAYED writing, not so much through indolence, as because I expected every post to bear from you. The state of Beriton is uncertain, incomprehensible, tremendous. It would be endless to send you the folios of Hugonin (Mrs. Gi's solicitor), but I have enclosed you one of his most picturesque epistles, on which you may meditate. Few offers; one, promising enough, came from a gentleman at Camberwell. I detected him, with masterly skill and diligence, to be only an attorney's clerk, without money, credit, or experience. I have written as yet in vain to Sir John Shelly, about Hearsay; perhaps you might get intelligence. I much fear that the Beriton expedition is necessary; but it has occurred to me, that if met, instead of accompanying you, it would save me a journey of above one hundred miles. That reflection led to another of a very impudent nature; viz. that if I did not accompany you, I certainly could be of no use to you or myself on the spot: that I had much rather, while you ex. amined the premises, pass the time in a horsepond ; and that I had still rather pass it in my library with the Decline and Fall. But that would be an effort of friendship worthy of Theseus or Pirithous : modern times would hardly credit, much less imitate, such exalted virtue. No news from America; yet there are people, large ones too, who talk of conquering it next summer with the help of twenty thousand Russi. ans. I fancy you are better satisfied with private than public war. The Lisbon packet in coming home met above forty of our privateers. Adieu. I hardly know whether I direct right to you, but I think Sheffield Place the surest.
DR. ROBERTSON TO MR. GIBBON.
College of Edinburgh, May 12th, 1781. DEAR SIR, I AM ashamed of having deferred so long to thank you for the agreeable presents of your two new volumes; but just as I had finished the first reading of them, I was taken ill, and continued, for two or three weeks, nervous, deaf, and languid. I have now recovered as much spirit as to tell you with what perfect satisfaction I have not only perused, but studied, this part of your work. I knew enough of your talents and industry to expect a great deal, but you have gone far beyond my expectations. I can recollect no historical work from which I ever received so much instruction ; and, when I consider in what a barren field you had to glean and pick up materials, I am truly astonished at the connected and interesting story you have formed. I like the style of these volumes better than that of the first; there is the same beauty, richness, and perspicuity of language, with less of that quaintness, into which your admiration of Tacitus sometimes seduced you. I am highly pleased with the reign of Julian. I was a little afraid that you migbt lean with some partiality towards him; but even bigots, I should think, must allow that you have delineated his most singular character with a more masterly hand than ever touched it before. You set me a reading his works, with which I was very slenderly acquainted ; and I am struck with the felicity wherewith you have described that odd infusion of heathen fanaticism and philosophical coxcombry, which mingled with the great qualities of a hero, and a genius. Your chapter concerning the pastoral nations is admirable; and, though I hold myself to be a tolerably good general historian, à great part of it was new to me. As soon as I have leisure, I purpose to trace you to your sources of information; and I have no doubt of finding you as exact there, as I have found you in other passages where I have made à scrutiny. It was always my idea that an historian should feel himself a witness giving evidence upon oath. I am glad to perceive by your minute 'scrupulosity, that your notions are the same. The last chapter in your work is the only one with which I am not entirely satisfied. I imagine you rather anticipate, in describing the jurisprudence and institutions of the Franks; and should think that the account of private war, ordeals, chivalry, &c. would have come in more in its place about the age of Charlemagne, or later : but with respect to this, and some other petty criticisms, I will have an opportunity of talking fully to you soon, as I propose setting out for London on Monday. I have, indeed, many things to say to you; and, as my stay in London is to be very "short, I shall hope to find your door (at which I