Edward Gibbon


Edward Gibbon : biography

27 April 1737 – 16 January 1794

Early life: 1737–1752

Edward Gibbon was born in 1737, the son of Edward and Judith Gibbon at Lime Grove, in the town of Putney, Surrey. He had six siblings: five brothers and one sister, all of whom died in infancy. His grandfather, also named Edward, had lost all of his assets as a result of the South Sea Bubble stock market collapse in 1720, but eventually regained much of his wealth, so that Gibbon’s father was able to inherit a substantial estate.D. M. Low, Edward Gibbon. 1737–1794 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1937), p. 7.

As a youth, Gibbon’s health was under constant threat. He described himself as "a puny child, neglected by my Mother, starved by my nurse". At age nine, he was sent to Dr. Woddeson’s school at Kingston upon Thames (now Kingston Grammar School), shortly after which his mother died. He then took up residence in the Westminster School boarding house, owned by his adored "Aunt Kitty", Catherine Porten. Soon after she died in 1786, he remembered her as rescuing him from his mother’s disdain, and imparting "the first rudiments of knowledge, the first exercise of reason, and a taste for books which is still the pleasure and glory of my life".Norton, Letters, vol. 3, 10/5/[17]86, 45–48. By 1751, Gibbon’s reading was already extensive and certainly pointed toward his future pursuits: Laurence Echard’s Roman History (1713), William Howel(l)’s An Institution of General History (1680–85), and several of the 65 volumes of the acclaimed Universal History from the Earliest Account of Time (1747–1768).Stephen, DNB, p. 1130; Pocock, Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 29–40. At age 14, Gibbon was "a prodigy of uncontrolled reading"; Gibbon himself admitted an "indiscriminate appetite". p. 29.

Monographs by Gibbon

  • Essai sur l’Étude de la Littérature (London: Becket & De Hondt, 1761).
  • Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of [Vergil’s] ‘The Aeneid’ (London: Elmsley, 1770).
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (vol. I, 1776; vols. II, III, 1781; vols. IV, V,VI, 1788–1789). all London: Strahan & Cadell.
  • A Vindication of some passages in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: J. Dodsley, 1779).
  • Mémoire Justificatif pour servir de Réponse à l’Exposé, etc. de la Cour de France (London: Harrison & Brooke, 1779).