tacks of gout. A complaint, for which he had consulted a surgeon in 1761, had been strangely neglected by him ever since, and now assumed alarming proportions. Some operations became necessary, and on a visit to Sheffield Place at Christmas he was evidently very weak. He returned to London, and on 15 Jan. said that he thought himself a ‘good life for ten, twelve, or perhaps twenty years.’ He was taken ill that night and died at a quarter to one on the following afternoon, 16 Jan. 1794. He was buried in Sheffield's family burial-place at Fletching, Sussex, where a Latin epitaph by Dr. Parr was placed upon his monument. He left his fortune to the two children of his uncle, Sir Stanier Porten, the Eliots, his other relations being too prosperous to need it. His papers were left to Lord Sheffield.
Gibbon composed his ‘Memoirs’ in his last stay at Lausanne. He had contemplated a series of lives of great Englishmen from the Reformation, and he had also agreed to be the director of a great scheme for the publication of the original documents for English history. He was to write introductions to the volumes which were to be edited by Pinkerton. The scheme was abandoned on his death,
A portrait of Gibbon by Warton in 1774 was engraved for the ‘Miscellaneous Works.’ He was ugly, and his features were so overlaid by fat, even at this time, as to be almost grotesque. His portrait by Reynolds, painted in 1779 (Misc. Works, ii. 232), was at Sheffield Place, and engraved by Wall for his ‘Decline and Fall.’ A silhouette in the ‘Miscellaneous Works’ (1796 and 1837) gives a comic representation of his figure. Absurd stories were told of his clumsiness. Mme. de Genlis speaks of his falling on his knees before Madame de Montolieu, who had to summon a servant to enable him to rise. His corpulence increased his aversion to exercise, and after his military service he appears to have led a most sedentary life, though never working at night except when finishing his history. His manners appear to have struck most people as rather affected, and his dress was a little too fine (Colman, Random Records, i. 121; Brydges, Autobiography, i. 237), but we can believe Sheffield's account of his charm in congenial society. Though a very unromantic lover, a lukewarm patriot, and rather cynical in his philosophy, Gibbon was a most amiable friend. In his relations to his father, his aunt, his stepmother, to Sheffield and Deyverdun, he was not only amiable but faithful and affectionate to a remarkable degree. No personal quarrel is recorded; his servants were attached to him; and his career as a man of letters, labouring without haste and without pause at one great task, is a proof of his moral as well as his intellectual qualities. He must have possessed in the highest degree patience, calmness, unswerving industry, and a just estimate of his own abilities. The criticisms upon his book, the last and ablest of which is in J. C. Morison's ‘Gibbon’ (Mr. Morley's ‘English Men of Letters’), are nearly unanimous. In accuracy, thoroughness, lucidity, and comprehensive grasp of a vast subject, the ‘History’ is unsurpassable. It is the one English history which may be regarded as definitive. The philosophy is of course that of the age of Voltaire and implies a deficient insight into the great social forces. The style, though variously judged, has at least the cardinal merit of admirable clearness, and if pompous is always animated. Whatever its shortcomings the book is artistically imposing as well as historically unimpeachable as a vast panorama of a great period. Gibbon's fortunate choice of a subject enabled him to write the one book in which the clearness of his own age is combined with a thoroughness of research which has made it a standard for his successors.
Gibbon's library was bought by W. Beckford (1759–1844) [q. v.], who left it in Lausanne, and ultimately gave it to a physician named Scholl. Scholl sold half of it in 1830 to a bookseller, by whom it was dispersed, and the other half for 500l. to an Englishman, who ultimately gave it back to him. This half is apparently still preserved (Notes and Queries, 5th ser. v. 425, vii. 414). The Hôtel Gibbon at Lausanne stands on part of Gibbon's garden. His house was still standing in 1868.
In 1796 Sheffield published 2 vols. 4to of Gibbon's ‘Miscellaneous Works.’ In 1814 he published a second edition in 5 vols. 8vo, containing much additional matter, which was also published in 4to. The original 4to was republished in one vol. 8vo without the additional matter in 1837. The ‘Memoirs of My Life and Writings’ included in this were compiled from six different sketches. Gibbon says that his name may 'hereafter appear among the thousand articles of a Biographica Britannica;' and his memoir is a model for this purpose as for others. An edition of the ‘Memoirs’ with notes by H. H. Milman was published in 1839. The ‘Works’ include letters, notes, and diaries of his early studies, a fragment called ‘Antiquities of the House of Brunswick,’ dated 1790, published separately in 1814, his previously published works, and a number of youthful essays.