Front Page Titles (by Subject) Gibbon to Lord Sheffield - Autobiography
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“ Gibbon to Lord Sheffield - Edward Gibbon, Autobiography 
The Autobiography of Edward Gibbon (London: Dent, 1911). Introduction by Oliphant Smeaton.
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“Gibbon to Lord Sheffield
“ ‘St. James’s Street,four o’clock, Tuesday.
“ ‘This date says everything. I was almost killed between Sheffield Place and East Grinsted, by hard, frozen, long, and cross ruts, that would disgrace the approach to an Indian wigwam. The rest was something less painful; and I reached this place half-dead, but not seriously feverish or ill. I found a dinner invitation from Lord Lucan; but what are dinners to me? I wish they did not know of my departure. I catch the flying post. What an effort! Adieu till Thursday or Friday.’
“By his own desire I did not follow him till Thursday the 9th. I then found him far from well. The tumour more distended than before, inflamed, and ulcerated in several places. Remedies were applied to abate the inflammation; but it was not thought proper to puncture the tumour, for the third time, till Monday the 13th of January, when no less than six quarts of fluid were discharged. He seemed much relieved by the evacuation. His spirits continued good. He talked, as usual, of passing his time at houses which he had often frequented with great pleasure—the Duke of Devonshire’s, Mr. Craufurd’s, Lord Spencer’s, Lord Lucan’s, Sir Ralph Payne’s, and Mr. Batt’s: and when I told him that I should not return to the country, as I had intended, he pressed me to go: knowing I had an engagement there on public business, he said, ‘You may be back on Saturday, and I intend to go on Thursday to Devonshire House.’ I had not any apprehension that his life was in danger, although I began to fear that he might not be restored to a comfortable state, and that motion would be very troublesome to him; but he talked of a radical cure. He said that it was fortunate the disorder had shown itself while he was in England, where he might procure the best assistance; and if a radical cure could not be obtained before his return to Lausanne, there was an able surgeon at Geneva, who could come to tap him when it should be necessary.
“On Tuesday the 14th, when the risk of inflammation and fever from the last operation was supposed to be passed, as the medical gentlemen who attended him expressed no fears for his life, I went that afternoon part of the way to Sussex, and the following day reached Sheffield Place. The next morning, the 16th, I received by the post a good account of Mr. Gibbon, which mentioned also that he hourly gained strength. In the evening came a letter by express, dated noon that day, which acquainted me that Mr. Gibbon had had a violent attack the preceding night, and that it was not probable he could live till I came to him. I reached his lodgings in St. James’s Street about midnight, and learned that my friend had expired a quarter before one o’clock that day, the 16th of January 1794.
“After I left him on Tuesday afternoon, the 14th, he saw some company, Lady Lucan and Lady Spencer, and thought himself well enough at night to omit the opium draught which he had been used to take for some time. He slept very indifferently: before nine the next morning he rose, but could not eat his breakfast. However, he appeared tolerably well, yet complained at times of a pain in his stomach. At one o’clock he received a visit of an hour from Madame de Sylva; and at three his friend Mr. Craufurd, of Auchinames (for whom he had a particular regard), called and stayed with him till past five o’clock. They talked, as usual, on various subjects; and twenty hours before his death Mr. Gibbon happened to fall into a conversation, not uncommon with him, on the probable duration of his life. He said that he thought himself a good life for ten, twelve, or perhaps twenty years. About six he ate the wing of a chicken, and drank three glasses of Madeira. After dinner he became very uneasy and impatient; complained a good deal, and appeared so weak that his servant was alarmed. Mr. Gibbon had sent to his friend and relation Mr. Robert Darell, whose house was not far distant, desiring to see him, and adding that he had something particular to say. But, unfortunately, this desired interview never took place.
“During the evening he complained much of his stomach, and of a disposition to vomit. Soon after nine he took his opium draught and went to bed. About ten he complained of much pain, and desired that warm napkins might be applied to his stomach. He almost incessantly expressed a sense of pain till about four o’clock in the morning, when he said he found his stomach much easier. About seven the servant asked whether he should send for Mr. Farquhar? he answered, no; that he was as well as he had been the day before. At about half-past eight he got out of bed, and said he was ‘plus adroit’ than he had been for three months past, and got into bed again without assistance, better than usual. About nine he said that he would rise. The servant, however, persuaded him to remain in bed till Mr. Farquhar, who was expected at eleven, should come. Till about that hour he spoke with great facility. Mr. Farquhar came at the time appointed, and he was then visibly dying. When the valet de chambre returned, after attending Mr. Farquhar out of the room, Mr. Gibbon said, ‘Pourquoi est-ce que vous me quittez?’ This was about half-past eleven. At twelve he drank some brandy and water from a teapot, and desired his favourite servant to stay with him. These were the last words he pronounced articulately. To the last he preserved his senses; and when he could no longer speak, his servant, having asked a question, he made a sign to show that he understood him. He was quite tranquil, and did not stir; his eyes half-shut. About a quarter before one he ceased to breathe.
“The valet de chambre observed that Mr. Gibbon did not at any time show the least sign of alarm or apprehension of death; and it does not appear that he ever thought him self in danger, unless his desire to speak to Mr. Darell may be considered in that light.
“Perhaps I dwell too long on these minute and melancholy circumstances. Yet the close of such a life can hardly fail to interest every reader; and I know that the public has received a different and erroneous account of my friend’s last hours.
“I can never cease to feel regret that I was not by his side at this awful period; a regret so strong that I can express it only by borrowing (as Mason has done on a similar occasion) the forcible language of Tacitus: Mihi præter acerbitatem amici erepti, auget mæstitiam quod assidere valetudini, fovere deficientem, satiari vultu, complexu non contigit.1 It is some consolation to me that I did not, like Tacitus, by a long absence, anticipate the loss of my friend several years before his decease. Although I had not the mournful gratification of being near him on the day he expired, yet, during his illness, I had not failed to attend him with that assiduity which his genius, his virtues, and, above all, our long, uninterrupted, and happy friendship, sanctioned and demanded.”
the temple press, printers, letchworth
[1 ] As for me over and above the bitterness of our friend’s loss, our sorrow is increased, because it was not permitted to us to watch over thy failing health, to nourish thee in thy weakness, to stamp thine image on our hearts, and to solace ourselves with thine embraces.