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Memoirs of My Life (1796)

af Edward Gibbon

Andre forfattere: M. M. Reese (Redaktør)

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3981063,514 (3.97)13
Edward Gibbon was one of the world's greatest historians and a towering figure of his age. When he died in 1794 he left behind the unfinished drafts of his Memoirs, which were posthumously edited by his friend Lord Sheffield, and remain an astonishing portrait of a rich, full life. Recounting Gibbon's sickly childhood in London, his disappointment with an Oxford 'steeped in port and prejudice', his successful years in Lausanne, his first and only love affair and the monolithic achievement of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he distils his genius for history into a remarkable gift for autobiography. Candid and detailed, these writings are filled with warmth and intellectual passion.… (mere)
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Edward Gibbon is almost intimidating to read. He has full command of grammar, vocabulary, and style while quoting multiple languages including ancient Greek. He's an agreeable voice and provides a window on life in England and Switzerland in the last half of the 18C. Be sure to keep a dictionary by your side as you read his Memoirs.

  kropferama | Jan 1, 2023 |
It is probably my fault. I wanted a low-effort introduction to Gibbon, and I got a low-effort Gibbon. Despite Churchill's praise, Gibbon just goes on and on. Here he is on his birth, which most writers would skip over, not having any interesting memories of it.

> Of these private and public scenes and of the first years of my own life, I must be indebted not to memory but to information… [Insert a page-long poem here] It is thus that the poet has animated his statue: the theologian must infuse a miraculous gift of science and language, the philosopher might allow more time for the gradual exercise of his new senses, but all would agree that the consciousness and memory of Adam might proceed in a regular series from the moment of his birth. Far different is the origin and progress of human nature, and I may confidently apply to myself the common history of the whole species. Decency and ignorance cast a veil over the mystery of generation, but I may relate that after floating nine months in a liquid element I was painfully transported into the vital air. Of a new-born infant it cannot be predicated 'he thinks, therefore he is'; it can only be affirmed 'he suffers, therefore he feels'. But in this imperfect state of existence I was still unconscious of myself and of the universe, my eyes were open without the power of vision, and, according to M. de Buffon, the rational soul, that secret and incomprehensible energy, did not manifest its presence till after the fortieth day. During the first year I was below the greatest part of the brute creation, and must inevitably have perished had I been abandoned to my own care. Three years at least had elapsed before I acquired our peculiar privileges, the facility of erect motion, and the intelligent use of articulate and discriminating sounds. Slow is the growth of the body; that of the mind is still slower: at the age of seven years I had not attained to one half of the strength and proportions of manhood; and could the mental powers be measured with the same accuracy, their deficiency would appear far more considerable.

And he keeps on going. As a memoir, it is hard to read because Gibbon assumes a close familiarity with the most minor of contemporary conflicts (he'll assume, for example, that you are aware of all the details and points of criticism of someone else's negative book review). There are very few other people in the book, but Gibbon goes on and on about money. Very revealing.

Still, as you read, it is hard not to be amused by Gibbon's writing particularities. He is obsessed with the passive voice. You cannot read more than a page without encountering no fewer than a half dozen double negatives.

> It is not my wish to deny how deeply I was interested in these Memoirs, of which I need not surely be ashamed

> The gratification of my desires (they were not immoderate) has been seldom disappointed by the want of money or credit

> By many, conversation is esteemed as a theatre or a school; but after the morning has been occupied by the labours of the library, I wish to unbend rather than to exercise my mind; and in the interval between tea and supper I am far from disdaining the innocent amusement of a game at cards.

Gibbon was very much a scholar, and his enthusiasm for learning is infectious.

> After glancing my eye over the design and order of a new book, I suspended the perusal till I had finished the task of self-examination, till I had revolved in a solitary walk all that I knew or believed or had thought on the subject of the whole work, or of some particular chapter. I was then qualified to discern how much the author added to my original stock; and if I was sometimes satisfied by the agreement, I was sometimes armed by the opposition of our ideas.

> After this long fast, the longest which I have ever known, I once more tasted at Dover the pleasures of reading and thinking; and the hungry appetite with which I opened a volume of Tully’s philosophical works is still present to my memory.

> According to the scale of Switzerland I am a rich man; and I am indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expense, and my expense is equal to my wishes. My friends, more especially Lord Sheffield, kindly relieve me from the cares to which my taste and temper are most adverse: the economy of my house is settled without avarice or profusion; at stated periods all my bills are regularly paid, and in the course of my life, I have never been reduced to appear, either as plaintiff or defendant, in a court of justice. Shall I add that since the failure of my first wishes, I have never entertained any serious thoughts of a matrimonial connection?

> The warm desires, the long expectations of youth are founded on the ignorance of themselves and of the world. They are gradually damped by time and experience, by disappointment or possession; and after the middle season, the crowd must be content to remain at the foot of the mountain, while the few who have climbed the summit, aspire to descend or expect to fall. In old age, the consolation of hope is reserved for the tenderness of parents, who commence a new life in their children; the faith of enthusiasts who sing hallelujahs above the clouds; and the vanity of authors who presume the immortality of their name and writings. ( )
1 stem breic | Aug 6, 2019 |
This is a necessary book for the student of the "decline and Fall of the roman empire". It even has some strokes of wit. The book was originally assembled from Gibbon's papers by his friend Lord sheffield. This is a later edition of the book I read. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jun 3, 2019 |
[From Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1940, pp. 37-38:]

I come next to a book that I name with hesitation, for, as I must remind the reader, I wish to speak here only of books that one would be the poorer for not having read, and though I have a great fondness for Gibbon’s Autobiography, I am not quite sure that it would have made much difference to me not to have read it. I should certainly have lost a keen pleasure, but if I mention it I feel that I should also mention a large number of other works, not so great as the greatest, to be judged by a different standard, and they would need a chapter to themselves. But Gibbon’s Autobiography is very readable; it is short, written with the peculiar elegance of which he was master, and it has both dignity and humour. Of the latter I cannot resist giving an example. When he was at Lausanne he fell in love, but his father threatening to disinherit him, he prudently gave up the thought of marrying the object of his affections. He ends his recital of the episode with these words: “I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son; and my wound was insensibly healed by time, absence, and the habits of a new life.” I think if the book contained nothing else, it would be worth reading for that delicious sentence.
1 stem WSMaugham | Jun 23, 2015 |
What's not to love about a man who writes this well, even when he's not really trying, and gets more upset about intellectual arguments than he does about a faltering love life? Nothing not to love. Gibbon's life wasn't particularly eventful, but this prose would drag me through even a contemporary, 'trauma' filled memoir. Along the way he takes moderate shots at the university system, olde time religione, and the French. A very pleasant way to spend a few hours, in short. Particularly worth reading if you like Anthony Powell, since Gibbon's tone here comes very close to Powell's in both A Dance and his own autobiography. ( )
1 stem stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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» Tilføj andre forfattere (42 mulige)

Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Gibbon, Edwardprimær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Reese, M. M.Redaktørmedforfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Bonnard, GeorgesRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Bury, J. B.Introduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Groom. BernardRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Holroyd, John, Earl SheffieldRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Howells, William DeanBidragydermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Murray, JohnRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Radice, BettyRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Reese, M. M.Redaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Saunders, Dero A.Redaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Sheffield, LordIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Stobbs, WilliamOmslagsdesignermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Edward Gibbon was one of the world's greatest historians and a towering figure of his age. When he died in 1794 he left behind the unfinished drafts of his Memoirs, which were posthumously edited by his friend Lord Sheffield, and remain an astonishing portrait of a rich, full life. Recounting Gibbon's sickly childhood in London, his disappointment with an Oxford 'steeped in port and prejudice', his successful years in Lausanne, his first and only love affair and the monolithic achievement of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he distils his genius for history into a remarkable gift for autobiography. Candid and detailed, these writings are filled with warmth and intellectual passion.

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