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EDWARD GIBBON, Efquire.
MEMOIRS OF HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS,
COMPOSED BY HIMSELF:
ILLUSTRATED FROM HIS LETTERS,
WITH OCCASIONAL NOTES AND NARRATIVE,
BY JOHN LORD SHEFFIELD
IN THREE VOLUMES
PRINTED FOR P. WOGAN, L. WHITE, JOHN CHAMBERS,
W. JONES, JOHN HALPEN, PETER MOORE,
H. FITZPATRICK, N. KELLY,
AND G. FOLINGSBY.
THE melancholy duty of examining the Papers of my deceased friend devolved upon me at a time when I was depressed by severe afAlictions.
In that state of mind, I hesitated to undertake the task of selecting and preparing his Manufcripts for the prefs. The warmth of my early and long attachment to Mr. Gibbon made me conscious of a partiality, which it was not proper to indulge, especially in revifing many of his juvenile and unfinished compofitions.. I had to guard, not only againft: a. fentiment like my own, which I found extenâvely dif fused, but also against the eagerness occafioned by a very general curiofity to fee in print every literary relick, however imperfect, of fo diftinguished a writer.
Being aware how difgracefully Authors of Eminence have been often treated, by an indifcreet pofthumous publication of fragments and careless effufions; when I had felected thofe Papers which to myself appeared the fitteft for the public eye, I confulted fome of our common friends, whom I knew to be equally anxious with myself for Mr. Gibbon's fame, VOL. I.
and fully competent, from their judgment, to protect it.
Under fuch a fanction it is, that, no longer fufpecting myself to view through too favourable a medium the compofitions of my Friend,. I now venture to publish them and it may here be proper to give fome information to the Reader, refpecting the Contents of thefe Volumes.
The most important part confifts of Memoirs of Mr. Gibbon's Life and Writings, a work which he seems to have projected with peculiar folicitude and attention, and of which he left Six different fketches, all in his own hand-writing. One of these sketches, the moftdiffufe and circumftantial, so far as it proceeds, ends at the time when he quitted Oxford. Another at the year 1764, when he travelled to Italy. A third, at his father's death, in 176. A fourth, which he continued to a fhort time after his return to Lausanne in 1788, appears in the form of Annals, much lefs detailed than the others. The two remaining sketches are still more imperfect. It is difficult to difcover the order in which thefe feveral Pieces were written, but there is reafon to believe that the most copious was the last. From all these the following Memoirs have been carefully selected, and put together.