Birthday: April 8, 1737
Died At Age: 56
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Edward Gibbon FRS
Born Country: England
Born in: London, England
Famous as: Historian
Died on: January 16, 1794
place of death: London
City: London, England
Notable Alumni: University Of Oxford
Cause of Death: Peritonitis
education: University of Oxford, Magdalen College, Westminster School, Kingston Grammar School
Who was Edward Gibbon?
Edward Gibbon was an English historian, scholar, rationalist and politician. He is widely known for authoring the book ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. The book was published in six different volumes between 1776 and 1788. It is remembered for the quality as well as the irony of its prose, and also for criticizing organized religion. Born in Surrey, England, he was the son of Judith and Edward Gibbon. For the most of his childhood, he was ill with different ailments. However, as he reached puberty, his health improved, and he remained healthy as an adult. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, though he wasn’t very interested in his studies, and eventually turned to theology. His early works include ‘An Essay on the Study of Literature.’ Over the years, he gained popularity with the works ‘Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of the Aeneid’ and ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. He passed away at the age of 56 in London, England.
Childhood & Early Life
Edward Gibbon was born on 8 May 1737, in Putney, Surrey, England. His parents were Judith and Edward Gibbon. He had six siblings, him being the eldest. Unfortunately, all of his siblings died in infancy. He suffered from poor health as a child. According to him, his mother neglected him.
At the age of nine, he was sent to study at Dr Woddeson’s school at Kingston upon Thames, which is now the Kingston Grammar School. He later studied at Westminster School boarding house, owned by Catherine Porten, his aunt. He remembered her for rescuing him from the disdain of his mother. As he reached puberty, his health also started improving.
Later, he studied at Magdalen College, in Oxford. However, he was expelled for turning into a Roman Catholic, a step he took against one of his tutors. Later, his father sent him to Lausanne, Switzerland.
It was during this time that he was acquainted with the famous philosopher Voltaire. During this time, he was under the care of a pastor named Daniel Pavillard, who made him revert to Protestantism.
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Edward Gibbon mastered classical Latin literature, the language and literature of France, and was also involved in the study of mathematics and logic. Soon, he started working on his first work, which was written in French. Named ‘Essai sur l’étude de la litterature’, it was published in 1761. The English version, titled ‘An Essay on the Study of Literature,’ was published in 1764.
He later returned to his father’s house where he stayed till the latter passed away in 1770. He considered these years to be the worst time of his life.
During this time, he started writing his first historical narrative, ‘History of Switzerland’, in which he also expressed his love for the country. However, he abandoned the project after writing only sixty pages. These pages were found and published after his death by Lord Sheffield.
His next work was ‘Memoires Litteraires de la Grande Bretagne,’ which described England’s literary and social conditions of the time. It referenced Lord Lyttelton’s history of Henry II and ‘The Credibility of the Gospel History’. His following work, ‘Memoires Litteraires,’ didn’t gain much attention. Most of his fellow historians and scholars also considered it insignificant.
His reputation reached new heights after he finished and published ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. Published on 17th February 1776, it is considered his life’s major work. The copies sold well, and he received two-thirds of the profits.
As he prepared to work on his next volumes, many critics made him a target of their ridicule and accused him of falsifying the evidence he referred to in his works. He gave a reply to them in ‘A Vindication of Some Passages in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, which was published in 1779.
Most of Edward Gibbon’s later years were filled with mental sorrows and physical ailments. He was also deeply affected by the death of his friend Deyverdun, who had willed his home to him.
His health reached a critical condition over the years and he suffered from scrotal swelling. He also became very lonely. After the French Revolution broke out, he left for England. He eventually passed away in a house in St. James’ Street in London, on 16th January 1774.
’The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ is regarded as Edward Gibbon’s most important work. It is a six-volume book, with the first volume being published in 1776. The other volumes were published between 1780 and 1789.
The volumes trace western civilization as well as the history of Islamic and Mongolian conquests. The work is also known for its criticism of Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity.
Family & Personal Life
During his early years, when he was in Switzerland, Edward Gibbon fell in love with Suzanne Curchod. She was a pastor’s daughter, and was known to be charming as well as intelligent. However, his father and stepmother opposed their marriage, and Gibbon was compelled to end his relationship with Curchod. They still remained friends for some time.
Suzanne later married Jacques Necker, who was the finance minister under King Louis XVI of England.