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An attentive perusal of the volume now presented to public notice, will furnish many striking indications of the growth and development of that strong and comprehensive mind, which accomplished the important and gigantic task of delineating the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ; and will afford a view of its various workings under the diversified aspects of private intercourse and elaborate criticism. The primary object of this publication has been to furnish a companion to the various editions of that interesting and valuable work. Its contents were originally published in detached pieces, and were most favourably received both at home and abroad; the Essay on the Study of Literature, in particular, which was published in the French language in 1767, was wholly disposed of with considerable rapidity; and its scarcity and the growing fame of the Author enhanced its original price of half-a-crown to thirty shillings.*
The exquisite style of this celebrated writer may be expatiated upon, but without a very intimate acquaintance with it, its beauties cannot be appreciated ; and the pieces contained in the present volume will show a variety and appropriateness in it, as exercised at different periods of his life, and upon different subjects and occasions, that cannot fail to excite pleasure and surprise. His mind was eminently philosophical in the consideration of the connexion of causes with their effects, but in ascending to great principles and in drawing important conclusions, he must be acknowledged to be often erroneous and defective. He was, indeed, made for the work to which an all-presiding Power had appointed him; and was a mighty though unconscious labourer in the construction of a temple of illustration and evidence for the reception of a volume to which, it is to be feared, he was a secret enemy.
It may be sufficient to add, that the present republication is printed from the first edition edited by his principal friend, Lord Sheffield: and that such parts as were in French have been translated into English, to render them more generally acceptable and useful.
• It may not be inappropriate to remark, that the translation given in this edition, is not that which is so unceremoniously spoken of by Mr. Gibbon in his Memoirs, but an entirely new one, wbich must not be allowed to suffer from the condemnatory sentence passed on its unfortunate predecessor.
EDWARD GIBBON, ESQ.,
MEMOIRS OF HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS,
COMPOSED BY HIMSELF :
ILLUSTRATED FROM HIS LETTERS, WITH OCCASIONAL NOTES
•B. BLAKE, 13, BELL YARD, TEMPLE BAR.