Gibbon's Journey from Geneva to Rome: His Journal from 20 April to 2 October, 1764

Gibbon's Journey from Geneva to Rome: His Journal from 20 April to 2 October, 1764

Gibbon's Journey from Geneva to Rome: His Journal from 20 April to 2 October, 1764

Gibbon's Journey from Geneva to Rome: His Journal from 20 April to 2 October, 1764

Excerpt

The Journal which Gibbon began to write on the 4th of August 1761, when he was a captain in the Hampshire militia, and which he kept, on and off, for the next three years until his arrival at Rome on the 2nd of October 1764, was among the papers that, after his death, were sent from Lausanne to Lord Sheffield, his chief executor.

In his will Gibbon had expressed the desire that some at least of his manuscripts should be published, and entrusted his executors with the necessary selection. Lord Sheffield took upon himself the delicate task. When he had to decide whether the Journal was to be included in the contemplated edition of his friend's posthumous works, he felt he might give the public, if not the complete text of what was a 'private and motley Diary', at least such extracts as formed 'an account of' Gibbon's 'literary occupations'. These extracts he gave in the second volume of the Miscellaneous Works (1796). He used a few other passages as notes to the 'Memoirs of my Life and Writings' which he composed by combining into a single narrative the autobiographical fragments also found among the papers sent from Lausanne. In the second edition of the Miscellaneous Works (1814), he added many more extracts to these notes.

For more than a century these extracts were all that was known of the Journal, which remained, a jealously guarded possession, in the hands of Lord Sheffield and his descendants until very near the end of last century. But in 1894 the centenary of Gibbon's death was commemorated by an exhibition in the British Museum and a public ceremony, both organized by a committee presided over by the 3rd Earl of Sheffield, the grandson of Gibbon's friend, who felt that the time had come 'to give to the world all the remains which for more than a century have been preserved in the strong room of Sheffield Park'. All the manuscripts in his possession, the Journal among them, were deposited in the British . . .

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