« السابقةمتابعة »
tions of two or three more intimate and valuable connections ; but their names would be indifferent, and it would require pages, or rather volumes, to describe their persons and characters. With regard to my standing dish, my domestic friend, I could not be much disappointed, after an intimacy of eight and twenty years.
His heart and his head are excellent; he has the warmest attachment for me, he is satisfied that I have the same for him : some slight imperfections must be mutually supported ; two bachelors, who have lived so long alone and independent, have their peculiar fancies and humours, and when the mask of form and ceremony is laid aside, every moment in a family life has not the sweetness of the honeymoon, even between the husbands and wives who have the truest and most tender regard for each other. Should you be very much surprised to hear of my being married ? Amazing as it may seem, I do assure you that the event is less improbable than it would have appeared to myself twelve months ago. Deyverdun and I have often agreed, in jest and in earnest, that a house like ours would be regulated, and graced, and enlivened, by an agreeable female companion ; but each of us seems desirous that his friend should sacrifice himself for the public good. Since my residence here I have lived much in women's company; and, to your credit be it spoken, I like you the better the more I see of you. Not that I am in love with any particular person. I have discovered about half a dozen wives who would please me in different ways, and by various merits : one as a mistress (a widow, vastly like the Eliza; if she returns, I am to bring them together); a second, a lively entertaining acquaintance; a third, a sincere good natured friend ; a fourth, who would represent with grace and dignity at the head of my table and family; a fifth, an excellent economist and housekeeper ; and a sixth, a very useful nurse. Could I find all these qualities united in a single person, I should dare to make my addresses, and should deserve to be refused. You hint in some of your letters, or rather postscripts, that you consider me as having renounced England, and having fixed myself for the rest of my life in Switzerland, and that you suspect the sincerity of my vague or insidious schemes of purchase or return. To remove, as far as I can, your doubts and suspicions, I will tell you, on that interesting subject, fairly and simply as much as I know of my own intentions. There is little appearance that I shall be suddenly recalled by the offer of a place or pension. I have no claim to the friendship of your young minister, and should he propose a commissioner of the customs, or secretary at Paris, the supposed objects of my low ambition, Adam in Paradise would refuse them with contempt. Here, therefore, I shall certainly live till I have finished the remainder of my His. tory; an arduous work, which does not proceed so fast as I expected, amidst the avocations of society, and miscellaneous study. As soon as it is completed, most probably in three or four years, I shall infallibly return to England, about the month of May or June; and the necessary labour of printing with care two or three quarto volumes, will
detain me till their publication, in the ensuing spring. Lord Sheffield and yourself will be the loadstone that most forcibly attracts me; and as I shall be a vagabond on the face of the earth, I shall be the better qualified to domesticate myself with you, both in town and country. Here then, at no very extravagant distance, we have the certainty (if we live) of spending a year together, in the peace and freedom of a friendly intercourse; and a year is no very contemptible portion of this mortal existence. Beyond that period all is dark, but not gloomy. Whether, after the final completion of my History, I shall return to Lausanne, or settle in England, must depend on a thousand events which lie beyond the reach of human foresight, the state of public and private affairs, my own health, the health and life of Deyverdun, the various changes which may have rendered Lausapne more dear, or less agreeable, to me than at present. But without losing selves in this distant futurity, which perhaps they may never see, and without giving any positive answer to Maria's parting question, whether I shall be buried in England or Switzerland, let me seriously and earnestly ask you, whether you do not mean to visit me next sum
The defeat of Coventry would, I should think, facilitate the project : since the baron is no longer detained the whole winter from his domestic affairs, nor is there any attendance in the house that keeps him till Midsummer in dust and dispute. I can send you a pleasant route, through Normandy, Paris, and Lyons, a visit to the Glaciers, and your return down the Rhine, which would be commodiously executed in three or four months, at no very extravagant expense, and would be productive of health and spirits to you, of entertainment to you both, and of instruction to the Maria. Without the smallest incon. venience to myself, I am able to lodge yourselves and family, by arranging you in the winter apartment, which in the summer season is not of any use to us. I think you will be satisfied with your habitation, and already see you in your dressing-room, a small pleasant room, with a delightful prospect to the west and south. If poor aunt Kitty (you oblige me beyond expression by your tender care of that excellent woman) if she were only ten years younger, I would desire you to take her with you, but I much fear we shall never meet again. You will not complain of the brevity of this epistle ; I expect, in return, a full and fair account of yourself, your thoughts and actions, soul and body, present and future, in the safe, though unreserved, confidence of friendship. The baron in two words binted but an indifferent account of your health ; you are a fine machine ; but as he was absent in Ireland, I hope I understand the cause and the remedy. Next to yourself, I want to hear of the two baronesses. You must give me a faithful picture (and though a mother, you can give it) of their present external and internal forms; for a year has now elapsed, and in their lives a year is an age.
MR. GIBBON TO LORD SHEFFIELD.
Lausanne, October 1st, 1785. EXTRACT from a weekly English paper, September 5th, 1785, “ It is reported, but we hope without foundation, that the celebrated Mr. Gibbon, who had retired to Lausanne, in Switzerland, to finish his luable History, lately died in that city.”
The hope of the newspaper writer is very handsome and obliging to the historian; yet there are, several weighty reasons which would incline one to believe that the intelligence may be true. Primo, It must one day be true; and therefore may very probably be so at present. Secundo, We may always depend on the impartiality, accuracy, and veracity of an English newspaper. Tertio, which is indeed the strongest argument, we are credibly informed that for a long time past the said celebrated historian has not written to any of his friends in England; and as that respectable personage had always the reputation of a most exact and regular correspondent, it may fairly be concluded from his silence, that he either is, or ought to be dead. The only objection that I can foresee, is the assurance that Mr. Ghimself read the article as he was eating his breakfast, and laughed very heartily at the mistake of his brother historian; but as he might be desirous of concealing that unpleasant event, we shall not insist on his apparent health and spirits, which might be affected by that subtle politician. He affirms, however, not only that he is alive, and