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Gibbon
Gibbon
252

ordinary energy, cheered by the companionship of Deyverdun. He soon abandoned mathematics, but read Grotius, Puffendorf, Locke, Bayle, and Pascal's ‘Provincial Letters.’ He travelled through Switzerland in 1755, and studied the constitutions of the cantons. He opened a correspondence with some learned men, and had a glimpse of Voltaire. In 1757 he met Susanne Curchod, afterwards Mme. Necker and mother of Mme. de Staël. Her father was minister of Crassy, where Gibbon was permitted to visit her more than once in the latter part of 1757. They became mutually attached. There were difficulties in the way of a marriage; Gibbon was dependent upon his father, without whose consent the match was agreed on both sides to be impossible, and Mlle. Curchod was unwilling to leave her own country. They hoped, however, that time might remove these obstacles. In August 1758 he returned to England, passing through France disguised in the regimentals of some Swiss officers in the Dutch service. He was welcomed by his aunt, but approached his father with some awe. During his absence the father had married a second wife, Dorothea Patton. Gibbon, at first prejudiced against his stepmother, soon became attached to her as to a second mother. She had no children of her own. His father disapproved of the relation to Mlle. Curchod, and Gibbon, being entirely dependent upon him, ‘sighed as a lover,’ but ‘obeyed as a son.’ He dropped all communication with her, although she continued to cherish hopes and refused good matches for his sake.

Gibbon was now introduced to London society, but made few friends except the Mallets. He spent nine months in London during the next two years, and the remainder at Buriton, where he lived as much as he could in the library, but was occasionally compelled to visit horse races, entertain country squires, or canvass at elections. He began to form a library of his own and to make abstracts of books. He had begun his French ‘Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature’ at Lausanne in 1758. He finished it in February 1759, and published it, at his father's desire, in 1761. A letter from Dr. Maty [q. v.], who had encouraged the young author, is prefixed. It succeeded better abroad than at home, and was reprinted at Geneva in 1762. An English translation appeared in 1764. After the publication of his history it was much sought for and pirated in Dublin, but he refused to republish it himself. Sainte-Beuve says (Causeries du Lundi, viii. 446) that the French is ‘correct but artificial.’ Gibbon and his father had meanwhile become captain and major in the Hampshire militia, their commissions being dated 12 June 1759. The regiment was embodied in May 1760. They were quartered at various towns in the southern counties until they were disembodied at Southampton 23 Dec. 1762. Though his companions were often boorish, Gibbon was forced to become ‘an Englishman and a soldier.’ He studied military literature, and ‘the captain of Hampshire grenadiers’ was ‘not useless to the historian of the Roman empire.’ He made the acquaintance of Wilkes, then colonel of the Buckinghamshire militia.

After this ‘long fast’ from literature he returned with fresh appetite to his studies, and ‘never relapsed into indolence.’ He had already begun to choose a subject for a prolonged effort. During brief absences from the militia he had resolved, after considering various projects, upon a life of Sir Walter Raleigh. He found the subject too narrow, too much exhausted, and too likely to lead to party controversy. He afterwards thought of a history of the Swiss, or of Florence under the Medici. He used his first liberty in a visit to the continent, staying from 28 Jan. to 9 May 1763 in Paris, where he saw some of the eminent authors of the time. He returned to Lausanne, and stayed till April 1764. He met Mlle. Curchod—a fact which he does not mention in his autobiography—but treated her with marked coldness. She at last demanded an explanation, receiving a cold reply, and she consented to exchange love for friendship. She suggested, however, that he should visit Rousseau. Her friend Moultou, a pastor, had prepared Rousseau to administer some good advice to the backward lover. Gibbon did not pay the visit, and soon afterwards, meeting Mlle. Curchod at a gathering at Ferney, behaved in such a way as to bring about a final rupture. Gibbon's behaviour, which was first made known in the letters published by M. d'Haussonville, seems to have deserved Rousseau's condemnation of which he complains in his autobiography. It was only a misfortune that the lady's passion was stronger than his own; but he need not have behaved to her with a coldness bordering on brutality. They were, however, reconciled. She married Necker in 1764. Gibbon met her in Paris in 1765, when he saw her daily, and each took a certain pride in proving to the other that the wound was healed. They afterwards saw each other frequently, and their correspondence in later years was not only polite but affectionate, though not perhaps quite unaffected. At Lausanne Gibbon met Holroyd, afterwards Lord Sheffield. Their intimacy grew and flourished until Gibbon's death. He went