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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER
conversation of English gentlemen' of the period. All that was positively done was to instil a little grammar, at the expense of 'many tears and some blood.' A lad of spirit got some useful knowledge, as Gibbon thinks, and some, it is to be feared, by no means useful, from the rough freedom of the public schools. Gibbon's delicacy forced him to supplement his grammatical studies, not by boxing or cricket, but by reading. The grammar at least taught a thoughtful lad the value of accurate knowledge within a very narrow sphere. Meanwhile, at twelve he knew Pope's Homer and The Arabian Nights by heart; and at fourteen the future historian was already swallowing 'crude lumps' of Speed, Rapin, and many standard works on history and travel. He tells us how, at that period, he was 'immersed in the passage of the Goths over the Danube' when the dinner-bell dragged him from his intellectual feast. By the age of sixteen he had 'exhausted all that could be learnt in English of the Arabs and Persians, the Tartars and the Turks'; he was 'guessing at the French of d'Herbelot and construing the barbarous Latin of Pocock's Albufaragius.' A neglect which might have been fatal to others was just what Gibbon required; and the