Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/201

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
187
GIBBON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

pared to Gibbon in natural endowments, and who have left nothing but fragments, or been confined to obscure tasks, the value of which will never be sufficiently recognised. It is only when the right player comes, and the right cards are judiciously dealt to him by fortune, that the great successes can be accomplished.

Note.—It may be worth while to explain Lord Sheffield's mode of constructing Gibbon's autobiography, as it is not explicitly set out in the recent publication. Gibbon wrote six MSS., marked A to F. A is confined to an account of previous Gibbons, and D is a brief account of his own life down to 1770. Lord Sheffield only used these for the opening paragraphs. Gibbon then wrote E, giving his life down to 1789; then C, a fuller redaction of E down to 1770; then B, a fuller redaction of C down to 1 764; and finally F, a fuller redaction of B down to 1753. Lord Sheffield follows the last version in each case, F to 1753, B from 1753 to 1764, C from 1764 to 1770, and E from 1770 to 1789. He prefers the shorter account of the militia, however, in C to that in B; and restores a phrase or two dropped by Gibbon. So the 'sighed as a lover and obeyed as a son,' and the description of Adam Smith as a 'master of moral and political wisdom' come from C.