Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/184

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
170
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

his letter to Lord Sheffield upon Lady Sheffield's death, and to remember how the gouty and preposterously fat old gentleman (old in constitution though not in years) bundled himself into his carriage, and set off to travel through the midst of armies to bring such solace to his friend as was possible. Meanwhile, he had been taught by a sharp enough lesson to know himself. He was not suited to come upon the stage as a Romeo, and must be content to play Horatio, a good, honest friend of more romantic and passionate characters. Henceforward it was to be his destiny to renounce the stronger impulses, and to devote himself in his little circle of friends to the great work for which so many forces within and without had been moulding him.

Before his love affair was over, Gibbon had been forced into experience of a different kind. He has told us himself how the captain of Hampshire grenadiers was of some use to the historian of the Roman Empire. Later critics have told us that, in fact, his narratives of military events show that he had profited by seeing a real flesh-and-blood army, on however small a scale, instead of only reading about armies in books. Of that I am an incompetent judge,