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Extracts of LETTERS from EDWARD GIBBÓN, Esq.
the celebrated Historian, to Mr. Nichols. « Sir,
Lausanne, February 24, 1792. “At this distance from England you will not be surprized that this morning only, by a mere accident, the Gentleman's Magazine for August 1788 should have reached my knowledge. In it I have found, pp. 699-700, a very curious and civil account of the Gibbon Family, more particularly of the branch from which I descend, with several circumstances of which I was myself ignorant, and several concerning which I should be desirous of obtaining some further information. Modesty, or the affectation of modesty, may repeat the Vir ea nostra voco: but experience has proved that there is scarcely any man of a tolerable family who does not wish to know as much as he can about it; nor is such an ambition either foolish in itself, or hurtful to society.
“I address myself to you, as to the last, or one of the last, of the learned Printers in Europe, a most respectable order of men; in the fair confidence that you will assist the gratification of my curiosity. Perhaps, if it be not a secret, you may be able to disclose the name of the Author of this article, which is subscribed N.S.; and through your channel I might correspond directly with a gentleinan to whom I am already obliged. He is only mistaken in one fact, in confounding my grandfather with my father.
“Edward Gibbon, the South Sea Director, died in the year 1736; his son, my father, who lived till 1770, was the Member for Petersfield 1734, and Southampton 1741.
“I am tempted to embrace this opportunity of suggesting to you the idea of a 'work, which must be surely well received by the Publick, and would rather tend to benefit than to injure the Proprietors of the Gentleman's Magazine. That voluminous series of more than threescore years now contains a great number of Literary, Historical, and Miscellaneous Articles, of real value: they are at present buried in a heap of temporary rubbish; but, if properly chosen and classed, they might revive to great advantage in a new publication of a moderate size. Should this idea be adopted, few men are better qualified than yourself to execute it with taste and judgement*.
“It is not improbable that I may do myself the pleasure of calling upon you in London before the close of the year. I shall be happy to form an acquaintance with a person from whose writings I have derived both amusement and information.
“I am, your obedient humble servant, E. GIBBON t." • From other numerous and pressing avocations, I never had the opportunity of availing myself of this friendly hint ; but the idea has since been adopted, and successfully acted upon, by a Gentleman of the University of Oxford.
+ This Letter was first printed in the Magazine, vol. LXIV. p. 5, a few days only after the death of Mr. Gibbon ; which happened Jan. 16, 1794, in his 57th year.-See, in that volume, pp. 174. 178. 199. 322. sone articles respecting Mr. Gibbon's Life and Writings, which the elegant Memoirs by Loru Sheffield bave since superseded,
To Mr. Gibbon's inquiry in the preceding Letter, I immediately answered, “ that I did not know with any certainty the Gentleman from whom the information was received; but that I fortunately possessed some Genealogical documents * relating to Mr. Gibbon's Family" (which had been presented to me by John Beardsworth t, esq. of Lincoln's Inn). -Those original MSS. (with my Letter) were soon after dispatched to Mr. Gibbon, through the medium of his and my confidential Friend Mr. Peter Elmsly; in whose multiplicity of business, the parcel was unfortunately mislaid, as will appear by the subsequent correspondence.
In the conclusion of a Letter to Lord Sheffield, May 30, 1799, Mr. Gibbon says, “ Call upon Mr. John Nichols, Bookseller and Printer, at Cicero's Head, Red Lion Passage, Fleet-street; and ask him whether he did not, about the beginning of March, receive a very polite Letter from Mr. Gibbon of Lausanne ? to which, either as a man of business, or a civil gentleman, he should have returned an answer. My application related to a domestic article in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1788, p. 698 ; which had lately fallen into my hands, and concerning which I expected some further lights."
This produced a proper explanation ; and accordingly, in a subsequent Letter to Lord Sheffield, Oct. 27, 1793, Mr. Gibbon says, “ I am much indebted to Mr. Nichols for his Genealogical communication; which I am impatient to receive, but I do not understand why so civil a gentleman could not favour me in six months with an answer by the post. Since he entrusts me with these valuable papers, you have not, I presume, informed him of my negligence and awkwardness in regard to Manuscripts."
I had actually written a second time, though unluckily not by the post ; for again my Letter was delayed at Mr. Elmsly's; and Mr. Gibbon, on its finally reaching him, says,
Lausanne, Jan. 16, 1793. “ It gives me serious concern to find that I have been the innocent occasion of injuring a very respectable man, in the very act in which he intended a kindness to nie.
“ Last February, on the credit of your general character, I addressed you by letter on the subject of an article, in the Gentle man's Magazine, relative to my Family. I am now assured that my expectation was fulfilled; and that my curiosity would have been gratified by the communication of several interesting papers, which you procured for my use, and deposited in Mr.
* Amongst other of those Papers, are “ Some Remarques of the Family of me, John Gibbon, Bluemantle Pursuivant at Arms;" with a full Pedigree of the Family, and several emblazoned arms.
7 To whom they came, with the original seat of the Family, The Hele, in the parish of Rolvenden, Kent.-Phillips Gibbon, Esq. died there, March ii, 1762 ; leaving, by Catharine Bier, his wise, one only surviving daughter and beir, married, June 8, 1761, to Philip Jodrell, Esq. of the Sun Fire Office, who died Feb. 14, 1763. His widow dying without issue, March 13, 1775, bequeathed this seat, and her other estates in Kent, in tail, to Mrs. Johnson ; who marrying Mr. Beardsworth, he in her right became possessed of it.-The MSS. accompanied the title-deeds.
Elmsly's hands : and I can only lament that you did not at the sanie time favour me with a line by the post, to inform me of the success of my application. During the whole Spring and Summer I remained in a state of ignorance; nor was it till late in the Autumn, and after several fruitless enquiries, that I was informed at once of your deposit, and of Mr. Elmsly's inexcusable neglect. I then wrote to him, requesting, first, that the parcel might be sent to Lausanne ; and afterwards, on cooler thoughts, that it might be returned to you, to await my approaching arrival in England. You may guess at my surprize and concern, when he informed me, by a letter which I received last post, “that it was lost, mislaid, taken away perhaps by some workmen repairing his house,' &c. By this state of the case, you will acknowledge how perfectly I am guiltless of this unfortunate accident. You are on the spot : you have but too good a right to interrogate Mr. Elmsly closely and sharply. Perhaps an advertisement, with an handsome reward, might detect these papers, which are of little value except to ourselves. I should willingly take any trouble, or support any expence, to repair the mischief which has been the consequence of my application, and your kindness.
“ I beg the favour of an immediate answer; and you will perhaps give me some account of these papers, which I hope will not turn out to be the bill of lading of a shipwreck. E. Gibbon."
Mr. Elmsly having assured Mr. Gibbon of the real causes of delay, the following explanation took place :
Lausanne, April 4, 1793. " Mr. Gibbon might perhaps have expected the favour of an answer to his first or second letter; but he is himself so indifferent a correspondent, and he feels himself so much indebted to Mr. Nichols's good offices, that he will not complain of this apparent neglect. It gave him great pleasure to learn by Elmsly's last letter, that the Family Papers are found, and most probably returned into Mr. Nichols's hands. It was Mr. Gibbon's inten. tion to have left them there till his arrival in England ; but his journey there this Summer appears so uncertain, that he is tempted to make use of a very favourable opportunity. Mr. Françillon, a Swiss Clergyman, established in London, and his particular friend, is setting out on a visit of three or four months to his family at Lausanne. He will call on Mr. Nichols; and, should the papers be entrusted to his care, their conveyance will be safe and speedy. According to the time that may be allowed, Mr. Gibbon will either return them by the same messenger, or bring them to England himself.”
The MSS. were once more forwarded, perused, and punctually returned, and are still in my possession.
On Mr. Gibbon's return to England, he rery condescendingly paid me several short visits; and, in one of those interviews, dictated the following lines, which were printed in the Gentleman's Magazine, for July 1793, vol. LXIII. p. 536.
“ If the Gentleman who signs N. S. (sol. LVIII. p. 693, vol. LIX. p. 584), on the Gibbon Family, will communicate his address, it will be a particular favour.”—To which, with his concurrence, I added, “ Mr. Gibbon is returned to Engand; and a new worx from the pen of that celebrated Writer is expected next Winter."
Within a few days after, he sent the two following notes :
“ Mr. Gibbon will be much obliged to Mr. Nichols for Philpot and Lambarde. The shortness of his stay in town will oblige him to carry them to Lord Sheffield's in Sussex ; but they shall be carefully used, and speedily returned."
“ If the invitation in this Month's Magazine has revealed the Author of the articles relative to the Gibbon Family, Mr. Gibbon will be much obliged to Mr. Nichols for a line inclosed to Lord Sheffield, Sheffield Place, Uckfield, Sussex.”
The consequence of the inquiry was, an epistolary intercourse between Mr. Gibbon and Mr. Brydges (now Sir Egerton Brydges, K. J. and M. P.) the original communicator of the Anecdotes of the Gibbon Family in Gent. Mag. vol. LVIII. p. 699; and in vol. LXII. p. 523 ; and whose signature is annexed to some corrections in the “ Memoirs of Mr. Gibbon," vol. LXVI. p. 279.
The substance of the above narrative having been staied in the Magazine for 1796, vol. LXVI. p. 459, my books were returned, new bound ; and I was honoured by the following Letter: “ SIR,
Sheffield Place, Jan. 10, 1797 “ Having observed in one of your late Magazines that you had lent Philpot and Lambarde to Mr. Gibbon in the year 1793, I intended to call on you as soon as I shall go to London (which has been prevented for some time by the severe indisposition of Lady Sheffield) to mention that I had kept those two books, suppos. ing they had been purchased by Mr. Gibbon. They have been ner dressed, which I hope will make some amends for their stay at this place. I am, Sir, “ Your most obedient humble servant,
On a flat stone in St. George's Chapel at Windsor :
“ Sub hoc saxo sepulta
Domina Rebecca Sharp*,
Mercatoris Londinensis ;
Nupta fuit primùm
Obiit 15 Augusti 1731, æt. 48.
* Sec before, p. 354.
LETTERS OF THE Rev. JOHN COWPER *
AND MR. GOUGH. ** DEAR GOUGH, Great Berkhamstead, July 19, 1756.
* I ani sensible of the omission which I have been guilty of in not writing sooner ; but am very certain your good-nature will excuse me, when I tell you that this neglect of mine has been entirely owing to the exceeding great distress which I have been in upon my Father's death. You know, Sir, such a loss as this, at my time of life, is very considerable indeed; and I dare say you will sympathize a little with me, when you are assured under my hand, that he was the best and most indulgent of Parents. However that I may not tire you with dwelling too long upon so melancholy a subject, let us turn our thoughts towards our intended expedition to Oxford. I am extremely sorry that it is not in my power to attend you. One ill piece of luck is generally succeeded by another; and I am deprived of the pleasure which I promised myself, by a great deal of troublesome business, which must be transacted as soon as possible. We have some thoughts of going to London shortly, and I should think myself very happy in seeing Mr. Gough in Red Lion Square. Our stay in so disagreeable a place as town is at this time will, you may imagine, be as short as possible. We afterwards return to this place, where any letter of yours will always meet with a most hearty welcome, and give particular satisfaction to, Dear Sir, your sincere friend,
John CowPER.” “ DEAR COWPER,
Enfield, July 30, 1756. , “ When I assure you how heartily I sympathize with you, I need say nothing about my Oxford disappointment, which, though the second of the kind, I can patiently submit to. As I have this summer set up for a traveller, if your present situation will admit of a little laughter, I have matter in store against we meet, which, you may depend on it, shall be as soon as possible, probably next week. I left College last Saturday se'nnight; and in it our friend Forstert as well as can be expected after a three days peregrination, and the adventure of an ill-aired bed, in which I shared alike with him. For the rest : Bene't being pretty well cleared, it was time its members should think of rendezvousing somewhere else. Excuse my brevity: when I have time, at Red Lion Square, I shall say more. Meanwhile I remain, &c. R. Gough." “ Dear Sir,
St. Alban's, Nov.3, 1757. “I am extremely sorry that it is not in my power to furnish you with the books you mention. My Brother, who has been here this Vacation, desired that I would part with thein to him; and as he seemed particularly inclinable to take them, 'I could not easily refuse him. My going so soon to the University unluckily prevents my appointing any place for our happy meeting upon the road thither; though, indeed, had I staid longer, it would have been more agreeable to me to have offered you a hearty wel
Of whom see vol. III. p. 743; vol.VI. p. 615. † See vol. VI. pp. 268. 270. 616. Vol. VIII.