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Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'The Historian and his Reputation, 1776-1815$

David Womersley

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198187332

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187332.001.0001

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(p.367) Appendices

(p.367) Appendices

Source:
Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

I. THE TWO DRAFTS OF SHEFFIETD’S UNPUBLISHED NOTE ON CHAPTERS FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN

Source: Beinecke Library, Yale University, MS vault, section 10, drawer 3, section B, B 11 i and ii

A: MS vault, section 10, drawer 3, section B, B 11 i

On two pieces of paper; all text diagonally scored through in pen in both directions. Text within carets is inserted above the line.

[Sheet I]

P 213

Note

Where he says Had he believed the Majority of English Readers were attached to the shadow of Christianity he might have softened the invidious Chapters

I mention the following Anecdote to shew that Mr Gibbon was not, in the first instance, aware how offensive his Irony, and manner of mentioning the Christian Religion, must be; and that he did not mean to outrage Society in the Degree that has been supposed – Some time after the Attack on the 15th and 16 Chapters had commenced, he said to me that he had flattered himself his History (the first Vol) would be rated somewhat above mediocrity, that he was not less surprized to find it valued so highly as it was, by one set of Men, than that it should be so much abused ^ reprobated ^ by another and then asked whether I thought it advisable to withdraw the offensive passages from the second Edition then at the Press –

[Sheet 2 recto]

He was answered that the mischief was done, and he was asked how he could suppose it possible to withdraw them: did he not know that such an Attempt would only raise the demand for the first Edition. Possibly he only wished to know my Opinion, but before the publication of the Work, and while it was in hand, he said to me that there would be much difficulty and (p.370) Delicacy in respect to that part which gives the History of the Christian Religion. When the mischief and wantonness of disregard to established Opinions was mentioned, he exceeded in expression all that was said. He was so habituated to the infintely more extravagant writings of Voltaire and others, and to the extreme levity of conversation, among the generality of those with whom he had lived, that he thought himself comparatively decent; and has often expressed great surprize that it

[Sheet 2 verso]

should be so reprobated ^ He had given so much Offence ^. He had always shewn more civility than is common to Age and situation, and, particularly in mixed Company, avoided saying any thing that could shock or offend; but many were now disposed to pronounce him not only a Deist, but an Atheist, (which he was not) and he has since often jocosely remarked, the bad effect of taking away a persons Character, as to Religion, as well as in other respects, and that it could answer no worldly purpose to him, longer to put himself under restraint of any kind.

[Vertically in the left hand margin of the verso of Sheet 2, in the hand of William Hayley]

suppress the whole Note – the Ground does not admit of any very solid & satisfactory defence – a slight palliation will only provoke more Severity against the delinquent –

B: MS vault, section 10, drawer 3, section B, B 11 ii

One sheet; apparently a first draft of MS vault, section 10, drawer 3, section B, B 11 i. Text within carets is inserted above the line.

[recto]

(213) I mention ^ The ^ the following ^is mentioned to ^ Anecdote to shew that Mr Gibbon was not in the first instance aware how Offensive his Irony & manner of mentioning ^ would & must be to the religious [illegible] ^ the Christian Religion must be, & that he did not mean to outrage Society in the degree that has been supposed – Some time after the attack on the 15 & 16th Chapters had commenced he said to me that he had flattered himself, his History (The first Vol:) would be rated somewhat above mediocrity, that he was not less surprized to find it valued so highly as it was by one set of men; than that it should be so much abused by another – and then asked whether I thought it adviseable to withdraw the Offensive Passages from the second Edition then at ^ going to ^ the Press – He was answered That the Mischief was done & he was asked; how he could suppose it possible to withdraw them – Did he not know that such an Attempt would only raise the demand for the first Edition – possibly he only wished to know my Opinion

(p.371) [verso]

but before the publication of the Work & while it was in hand He ^ had often ^ said to me there would be much Difficulty & Delicacy in respect to that part which gives the History of The Christian Religion – When the Mischief & Wantonness of Disregard to established Opinions was mentioned, he exceeded in Expression all that was said – He was so habituated to the infinitely more extravagant Writings of Voltaire & others, & to the extreme levity of Conversation amongst the generality of those with whom he had lived, that he thought himself comparatively decent ^ & has often expressed great surprize that he shd be so reprobated ^ – He had always shewn more respect & civility, than is common to Age & Situation, and particularly in mixed company avoided saying any thing that could shock or offend – but when he found many were ^ now ^ disposed to pronounce him, not only a Deist but an Atheist (which he was not –) And he has ^ since ^ often jocosely said that as the Public remarked the bad effect of taking away a person’s character as to Religion, as well as in other respects; and that it could answer no ^ worldly ^ purpose to him, longer to put himself under restraint of any kind –