Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/185

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171
GIBBON'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

but on this and on his political career there is at least an obvious remark to be made. Gibbon tells us himself how his service in the militia made him an 'Englishman and a soldier,' and how, in spite of all the waste of time, he still travelled with a Horace 'always in his pocket and often in his hand,' and, when the enforced fast from literature came to an end, fell upon the old feast with sharpened appetite, and rushed off as rapidly as he could to find the inspiration for his great book in Rome. In other words, he was brought into close contact with actual affairs, and yet not diverted from the true aim of his life. The political career had the same felicity. He found himself too slow and unready to speak, and was content to be a quiet looker-on. It must, indeed, be admitted that he looked on with superlative calmness. His political career, says Mr. Morison, is the 'side of his history from which a friendly biographer would most readily turn away.' 'I went into Parliament,' he says himself, 'without patriotism and without ambition, and all my views tended to the convenient and respectable place of a lord of trade.' That, certainly, is not an exalted view. Moreover, Gibbon's way of referring to contemporary events