Front Page Titles (by Subject) From Gibbon to Lord Sheffield - Autobiography
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“ From Gibbon to Lord Sheffield - Edward Gibbon, Autobiography 
The Autobiography of Edward Gibbon (London: Dent, 1911). Introduction by Oliphant Smeaton.
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“From Gibbon to Lord Sheffield
“ ‘St. James’s Street,Nov. 11th, 1793.
“ ‘I must at length withdraw the veil before my state of health, though the naked truth may alarm you more than a fit of the gout. Have you never observed, through my inexpressibles, a large prominency which, as it was not at all painful, and very little troublesome, I had strangely neglected for many years? But since my departure from Sheffield Place it has increased (most stupendously), is increasing, and ought to be diminished. Yesterday I sent for Farquhar, who is allowed to be a very skilful surgeon. After viewing and palping, he very seriously desired to call in assistance, and has examined it again to-day with Mr. Cline, a surgeon, as he says, of the first eminence. They both pronounce it a hydrocele (a collection of water), which must be let out by the operation of tapping; but, from its magnitude and long neglect, they think it a most extraordinary case, and wish to have another surgeon, Dr. Baillie, present. If the business should go off smoothly, I shall be delivered from my burthen (it is almost as big as a small child), and walk about in four or five days with a truss. But the medical gentlemen, who never speak quite plain, insinuate to me the possibility of an inflammation, of fever, etc. I am not appalled at the thoughts of the operation, which is fixed for Wednesday next, twelve o’clock; but it has occurred to me that you might wish to be present, before and afterwards, till the crisis was past; and to give you that opportunity I shall solicit a delay till Thursday or even Friday. Adieu.’
“Immediately on receiving the last letter, I went the same day from Brighthelmstone to London, and was agreeably surprised to find that Mr. Gibbon had dined at Lord Lucan’s, and did not return to his lodgings, where I waited for him, till eleven o’clock at night. Those who have seen him within the last eight or ten years must be surprised to hear that he could doubt whether his disorder was apparent. When he returned to England in 1787, I was greatly alarmed by a prodigious increase, which I always conceived to proceed from a rupture. I did not understand why he, who had talked with me on every other subject relative to himself and his affairs without reserve, should never in any shape hint at a malady so troublesome; but on speaking to his valet de chambre, he told me Mr. Gibbon could not bear the least allusion to that subject, and never would suffer him to notice it. I consulted some medical persons, who, with me supposing it to be a rupture, were of opinion that nothing could be done, and said that he surely must have had advice, and of course had taken all necessary precautions. He now talked freely with me about his disorder, which, he said, began in the year 1761; that he then consulted Mr. Hawkins the surgeon, who did not decide whether it was the beginning of a rupture, or a hydrocele; but he desired to see Mr. Gibbon again when he came to town. Mr. Gibbon, not feeling any pain, nor suffering any inconvenience, as he said, never returned to Mr. Hawkins; and although the disorder continued to increase gradually, and of late years very much indeed, he never mentioned it to any person, however incredible it may appear, from 1761 to November 1793. I told him that I had always supposed there was no doubt of its being a rupture; his answer was, that he never thought so, and that he and the surgeons who attended him were of opinion that it was a hydrocele. It is now certain that it was originally a rupture, and that a hydrocele had lately taken place in the same part; and it is remarkable that his legs, which had been swelled about the ankle, particularly one of them, since he had the erysipelas in 1790, recovered their former shape as soon as the water appeared in another part, which did not happen till between the time he left Sheffield Place, in the beginning of October, and his arrival at Althorp, towards the latter end of that month. On the Thursday following the date of his last letter Mr. Gibbon was tapped for the first time; four quarts of a transparent watery fluid were discharged by that operation. Neither inflammation nor fever ensued; the tumour was diminished to nearly half its size; the remaining part was a soft irregular mass. I had been with him two days before, and I continued with him above a week after the first tapping, during which time he enjoyed his usual spirits; and the three medical gentlemen who attended him will recollect his pleasantry, even during the operation. He was abroad again in a few days, but, the water evidently collecting very fast, it was agreed that a second puncture should be made a fortnight after the first. Knowing that I should be wanted at a meeting in the country, he pressed me to attend it, and promised that soon after the second operation was performed he would follow me to Sheffield Place.