Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/183

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169
GIBBON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

wanted from the same point of view. He made up his mind soon afterwards, as appears from his letters to his father, that he should never marry. He was to be henceforth in that attitude of 'detachment' which constitutes the true historical frame of mind—an interested looker-on, not an active performer, in the great tragi-comedy. It may, perhaps, be suggested—with too much plausibility—that the tone in which Gibbon generally refers to love affairs in his history is not altogether edifying, and hardly implies that his passion had purified or ennobled his mind. The best arrangements will not work quite perfectly. In any case, however, though Gibbon for sufficient reasons treats the matter rather lightly, he had, as he intimates, gone through one of the painful crises which form epochs in the development of character. He was certainly not soured as some men have been, but he henceforward cultivated affections of a more tepid kind. No man, it must be always remembered, was a more thoroughly faithful friend; he showed very unusual generosity and good-feeling to his father, his stepmother, and the aunt who had protected his childhood. It is impossible, for example, without a very warm feeling of posthumous regard, to read