through an elaborate course of antiquarian reading to prepare for a journey to Italy, which occupied a year (April 1764 to May 1765). He spent the first summer at Florence and studied Italian. He reached Rome in October. On 15 Oct. 1764, he says, while ‘musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, where the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the temple of Jupiter … the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started into my mind.’ He visited Naples, Venice, and Verona, crossed Mont Cenis to Lyons, and reached his father's house 25 June 1765.
Gibbon retained his commission in the militia, becoming major and colonel commandant, until 1770. This involved a month of drilling each year. He lived quietly at Buriton, where he had become warmly attached to his stepmother, and where his friend Deyverdun, who was now seeking literary and educational employment, spent many months with him. In the winter he went to London, and formed a ‘Roman Club’ to preserve the friendships formed abroad. He still contemplated his great work ‘at an awful distance,’ and with Deyverdun's help composed in French an introduction to a history of Switzerland. It was read (1767) before a literary society of foreigners in London, and their disapproval caused its abandonment. Hume, however, saw and approved it. Gibbon co-operated with Deyverdun in publishing ‘Mémoires Littéraires de la Grande-Bretagne,’ in imitation of the ‘Journal Britannique’ (1750–5) of Dr. Maty. Two volumes were published in 1767 and 1768, to which Gibbon contributed a review of Lyttelton's ‘Henry II,’ and other articles. It made him known to Lord Chesterfield, to whom it was dedicated, and to David Hume (for contents of vol. i. see Miscellaneous Works, ii. 69). A third volume was interrupted by Deyverdun's appointment through Gibbon to be travelling tutor to Sir Richard Worsley. He was to receive after four years an annuity of 100l. for life. In 1770 Gibbon published his ‘Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of the Æneid,’ a sharp attack upon the hypothesis suggested by Warburton in his ‘Divine Legation.’ Gibbon was not unnaturally provoked by Warburton's arrogance, but he admits that he was too contemptuous, and that he should not have concealed his name. From 1768 he had been settling down to his chief task. His father died 10 Nov. 1770. He had mortgaged his estates and sold Putney with his son's consent; he was troubled by lawsuits, had lost money by farming, and his strength and spirits had decayed. Gibbon, who had been a thoroughly good son, now became independent. Two years passed before he could get rid of Buriton; but in 1772 he settled at 7 Bentinck Street, Cavendish Square, London, which he only quitted occasionally to visit his friend Holroyd at Sheffield Place, Sussex. He became member of the fashionable clubs and well known in London society. In 1774 he joined Johnson's famous club (founded in 1764). He was elected ‘professor in ancient history’ at the Royal Academy in succession to Goldsmith (d. 1774). Boswell (Letters to Temple, pp. 233, 242) calls him an ‘ugly, affected, disgusting fellow,’ who ‘poisons the literary club to me,’ and classes him among ‘infidel wasps and venomous insects.’ He signed the famous ‘round-robin’ requesting Johnson to use English for Goldsmith's epitaph. Boswell's dislike may have prevented Gibbon's name from appearing more frequently in reports of conversation, but he does not appear to have been intimate with Johnson. On 11 Oct. 1774 he was returned by the Eliot influence for Liskeard, Cornwall. He soon resigned himself to be ‘a mute,’ and voted in support of the ministry throughout the American war.
The first volume of his history, which he had begun to compose in London, appeared in the beginning of 1776. Three editions were speedily sold. His fame was as rapid as it has been lasting. Some warm praise from Hume ‘overpaid the labour of ten years.’ Robertson, third of a ‘triumvirate’ in which he scarcely ventured to claim a place, was equally warm, and welcomed his later volumes. Adam Ferguson, Joseph Warton, Lord Camden, and Horace Walpole were among his admirers. Strahan & Cadell, his publishers, allowed him two-thirds of the profits, which on the first edition amounted to 490l. He composed the first and two last chapters three times, and the second and third twice, and at starting was often tempted to throw away the labours of seven years. The famous chapters upon the growth of Christianity produced, as Hume foretold—though Gibbon himself seems to have been unprepared for it—a series of attacks. He replied to Henry Edward Davies [q. v.], James Chelsum [q. v.], and some others, in a ‘Vindication’ (January 1779), printed in octavo in order that it might not be bound up with the history. ‘Victory over such antagonists was a sufficient humiliation.’ Antagonists of higher reputation were Joseph Milner, David Dalrymple (Lord Hailes), Joseph Priestley, and Richard Watson, afterwards bishop of Llandaff (see a list in Lowndes, Manual). No one, however, was a match for Gibbon in learning; and his accuracy in statement of facts is now admitted, though his philosophical explanation is no longer accepted. A six months' visit to the