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Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'The Historian and his Reputation, 1776-1815$
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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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Forging a Polemical Style: Gibbon’s Vindication and Literary Warfare, 1694–1779

Forging a Polemical Style: Gibbon’s Vindication and Literary Warfare, 1694–1779

Chapter:
(p.43) 2 Forging a Polemical Style: Gibbon’s Vindication and Literary Warfare, 1694–1779
Source:
Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'
Author(s):

DAVID WOMERSLEY

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187332.003.0002

Gibbon's most explicit engagement with his critics occurred with the publication of his Vindication in 1779. Recent scholars have normally presented this as a one-sided contest leading to a devastating victory for Gibbon. This chapter argues, however, that Gibbon's victory in this encounter was achieved more at the level of style than of scholarly substance, and that he adroitly side-stepped the accusations of his critics. He exploited the eighteenth-century tradition of dispute between deists and the orthodox, with which he was very familiar, and cleverly turned the tables on his opponents by stealing from them the rhetorical clothes associated particularly with that hammer of heterodoxy, Richard Bentley.

Keywords:   Richard Bentley, Henry Davis, A Vindication, deism, religious orthodoxy

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