Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/181

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167
GIBBON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

problem which his fortune solved with singular felicity.

In the first place, of course, Gibbon must have the great experience of falling in love. It must be a passion strong and exalted enough to let him into the great secret of human happiness, and yet it must not be such as to entangle him too deeply in the active duties of life. A man who has never been stirred to such passion must look too much from outside upon the great drama of life; and yet the passion, if sufficiently powerful, may lead him too far from his predestined functions. Mlle. Curclod was the appointed instrument of fate for solving this problem. She was beautiful and intelligent enough to rouse Gibbon to an apparently genuine devotion; and yet as she was a foreigner, without a penny, it was quite clear that the elder Gibbon would never take her for a daughter-in-law. The famous 'sighed as a lover and obeyed as a son' sums up the situation so far as Gibbon was concerned. It must, I fear, be granted that Gibbon did not behave very prettily, and even leaves us with a vague impression that, if the paternal interdict had been wanting, some other obstacle would have turned up at the last moment. Modern readers will probably agree with Rous-