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Edward Gibbon

Essai sur l'étude de la littérature

Sheffield's Introduction

Note editoriali

Editorial note | Sheffield's Introduction | M. Maty, Avis au Lecteur - À l'Auteur
Paragraphs I-XIV)
| Paragraphs XV-XLVIII) | Paragraphs XLIX-LXXXIII and Conclusion)
From the Autobiography of Edward Gibbon

The following is in MR. GIBBON's hand-writing, On the back of the title-page of an interleaved copy of this Essay.

«MES amis me firent publier cet ouvrage, pour ainsi dire, malgré moi. Cette excuse banale des auteurs ne l'est point cependant pour moi. Mon père voulut me le faire publier l'hiver passé. Ma jeunesse, et un fonds d'orgueil qui me rend beaucoup plus sensible aux critiques qu'aux éloges, m'empêchèrent de goûter son projet. Mais me trouvant à la campagne avec lui au mois de Mais, il renouvella ses instances d'une manière si vive que je ne pus m'en défendre. M. Mallet me fit connoître un libraire nommé Becket, à qui je cédai mon manuscrit, moyennant quarante exemplaires pour moi. M. Maty corrigea les feuilles. L'impression de l'ouvrage, entreprise au commencement de Mai, ne fût achevée qu'à la fin de Juin, et mon livre ne se débitoit que vers le milieu du mois suivant. M. Mallet se chargea de la distribution d'une bonne [2] partie des présens que j'avois envie d'en faire. Voici l'extrait d'une lettre qu'il m'écrivit le 9 Juillet 1761.

I HAVE executed the orders you gave me, and all the books have been delivered some days. Lord Chesterfield returns you his thanks, I expect in writing, and have had Lady Hervey's in that manner. Lord Hardwicke, with his compliments for the book to himself, assured me he would send the other to his son, and recommend you to his acquaintance. Lord Egremont will be glad to know you, if ever you should think of a journey to Augsbourg. I found Lord Granville reading you, after ten at night; his single approbation, which he assures you of, will go for more than that of a hundred other readers. I have gone further, in sending one copy to the Count de Caylus, another to the Duchess d'Aiguillon, and in giving a third to M. de Bussy».



No performance is, in my opinion, more contemptible than a Dedication of the common sort; when some great man is presented with a book, which, if Science be the subject, he is incapable of understanding; if Polite Literature, incapable of tasting, and this honour is done him as a reward for virtues which he neither dœs, nor desires to possess. I know but two kinds of dedications, which can do honour either to the patron or author. The first is, when an unexperienced writer addresses himself to a master of the art, in which he endeavours to excel; or whose approbation he is anxious to deserve. The other sort is yet more honourable. It is dictated by the heart, and offered to some person who is dear to us, because he ought to be so. It is an opportunity we embrace with pleasure of making public those sentiments of esteem, of friendship, of gratitude, or of all together, which we really feel, and which therefore we desire should be known. I hope, dear Sir, my past conduct will easily lead you to discover to what principle you should attribute this epistle; which, if it surprises, will, I hope, not displease you. If I am capable of [4] producing any thing worthy the attention of the public, it is to you that I owe it; to that truly paternal care which, from the first dawnings of my reason, has always watched over my education, and afforded me every opportunity of improvement. Permit me here to express my grateful sense of your tenderness to me, and to assure you, that the study of my whole life shall be to acquit myself, in some measure, of obligations I can never fully repay. I am, dear Sir, With the sincerest affection and regard,

Your most dutiful son, and faithful servant,

E. GIBBON, junior.

May the 28th, 1761

Editorial note | Sheffield's Introduction | M. Maty, Avis au Lecteur - À l'Auteur
Paragraphs I-XIV)
| Paragraphs XV-XLVIII) | Paragraphs XLIX-LXXXIII and Conclusion)
From the Autobiography of Edward Gibbon