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And yet I may prefume to affirm, that the Public have fome interest in this controverfy. They have fome intereft to know whether the writer whom they have honoured with their favour is deferving of their confidence, whether they must content themselves with reading the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a tale amufing enough, or whether they may venture to receive it as a fair and authentic hiftory. The general perfuafion of mankind, that where much has been pofitively afferted, fomething must be true, may contribute to encourage a fecret fufpicion, which would naturally diffuse itself over the whole body of the work. Some of thofe friends who may now tax me with imprudence for taking this public notice of Mr. Davis's book, have perhaps already condemned me for filently acquiefcing under the weight of fuch ferious, fuch direct, and fuch circumftantial imputations.
Mr. Davis, who in the last page of his work appears to have recollected that modefty is an amiable and ufeful qualification, affirms that his plan required only that he fhould confult the authors to whom he was directed by my references; and that the judgment of riper years was not sfo neceffary to enable him to execute with fuccefs the pious labour to which he had devoted his pen. Perhaps before we feparate, a moment to which I most fervently afpire, Mr. Davis may find that a mature judgment is indifpenfably requifite for the fuccefsful execution of any work of literature, and more especially of criticifm. Perhaps he will discover, that a young student who hastily confalts an unknown author, on a fubject with which he is unacquainted, cannot always be guided by the most accurate reference to the knowledge of the fenfe, as well as to the fight of the paffage which has been quoted by his adverfary. Abundant proofs of thefe maxims will hereafter be fuggefted. For the prefent, I fhall only remark, that it is my intention to purfue in my defence the order, or rather the course, which Mr. Davis has marked out in his Examination; and that I have numbered the feveral articles of my impeachment according to the most natural divifion of the subject. And now let me proceed on this hoftile march over a dreary and barren desert, where thirst, hunger, and intolerable weariness, are much more to be dreaded, than the arrows of the enemy.'
As few of our Readers can be fuppofed to be intimately acquainted with the writings of Eufebius, Lactantius, Jerom, Juftin Martyr, Tertullian, &c. we fhall pafs over what Mr. Gibbon advances in his own vindication, with regard to the paffages referred to in thefe writers; we cannot however deny" ourfelves the pleasure of placing before our Readers the very manly and fatisfactory answer of Mr. Gibbon to the charges brought against him by Mr. Davis, refpecting his mode of quo
Mr. Davis, in the Introduction to his Examination (fce our Review for September laft), tells us, that the Hiftorian fometimes mentions the Author only, perhaps the book, and often leaves the Reader the toil of finding out, or rather gueffing at the paffage; that by this policy, he has an opportunity of in
dulging his wit and his spleen, in fathering the abfurdest opinions on the most venerable writers of antiquity; that on examining his references, when they are to be traced, we often find him supporting his caufe by manifest falfification, and perpetually affuming to himself the ftrange privilege of inferting in his text what the Writers referred to give him no right to advance on their authority.
Now hear Mr. Gibbon's reply. Such, fays he, is the stile of Mr. Davis; who in another place mentions this mode of quotation, as a good artifice to efcape detection; and applauds, with an agreeable irony, his own labours in turning over a few pages of the Theodofian Code.
I fhall not defcend to animadvert on the rude and illiberal ftrain of this paflage, and I will frankly own that my indignation is loft in aftonishment. The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of my History are illuftrated by three hundred and eighty three notes; and the nakedness of a few notes, which are not accompanied by any quota. tion, is amply compenfated by a much greater number, which contain two, three, or perhaps four diftinct references; fo that upon the whole my stock of quotations which fupport and justify my facts cannot amount to lefs than eight hundred or a thousand. As I had often felt the inconvenience of the loofe and general method of quoting which is fo falfely imputed to me, I have carefully diftinguifhed the books, the chapters, the fections, the pages of the authors to whom I referred, with a degree of accuracy and attention, which might claim fome gratitude, as it has feldom been fo regularly practifed by any hiftorical writers. And here I must confefs fome obligation to Mr. Davis, who, by ftaking my credit and his own on a circumftance fo obvious and palpable, has given me fo early an opportunity of fubmitting the merits of our caufe, or at least of our characters, to the judgment of the Public. Hereafter, when I am fummoned to defend myfelf against the imputation of mifquoting the text, or misrepresenting the fenfe of a Greek or Latin author, it will not be in my power to communicate the knowledge of the languages, or the poffeffion of the books, to thofe readers who may be deftitute either of one or of the other, and the part which they are obliged to take between affertions equally strong and peremptory, may fometimes be attended with doubt and hesitation. But in the prefent infance, every reader who will give himself the trouble of confulting the first volume of my history, is a competent judge of the queftion. I exhort, I folicit him to run his eye down the columns of Notes, and to count how many of the quotations are minute and particular, hote few are vague and general. When he has fatified himself by this eafy computation, there is a word which may naturally fuggeft itfelf; an epithet, which I fhould be forry either to deferve or ufe; the boldness of Mr. Davis's affertion, and the confidence of my appeal will tempt, nay, perhaps, will force him to apply that epithet either to one or to the other of the adverse parties.
I have confeffed that a critical eye may difcover fome loofe and general references; but as they bear a very inconfiderable proportion to the whole mafs, they cannot fupport, or even excufe a falfe and
ungenerous accufation, which muft reflect dishonour either on the object or on the author of it. If the examples in which I have occafionally deviated from my ordinary practice were specified and examined, I am perfuaded that they might always be fairly attributed to fome one of the following reafons. 1. In fome rare instances, which I have never attempted to conceal, I have been obliged to adopt quo. tations which were expreffed with lefs accuracy than I could have wished. 2. I may have accidentally recollected the fenfe of a paffage which I had formerly read, without being able to find the place, or even to transcribe from memory the precife words. 3. The whole tract (as in a remarkable inftance of the fecond Apology of Juftin Martyr) was fo fhort, that a more particular defcription was not required. 4. The form of the compofition fupplied the want of a local reference; the preceding mention of the year fixed the paffage of the annalift, and the reader was guided to the proper fpot in the commentaries of Grotius, Valefius or Godefroy, by the more accurate citation of their original author. 5. The idea which I was defirous of communicating to the reader, was fometimes the general refult of the author or treatife that I had quoted; nor was it poflible to confine, within the narrow limits of a particular reference, the sense or spirit which was mingled with the whole mafs. Thefe motives are either laudable or at least innocent. In two of thefe exceptions my ordinary mode of citation was fuperfluous; in the other three it was impracti cable.
In quoting a comparison which Tertullian had ufed to express the rapid increase of the Marcionites, I exprefsly declared that I was obliged to quote it from memory *. If I have been guilty of comparing them to bees, instead of wafps, I can however moit fincerely difclaim the fagacious fufpicion of Mr. Davis †. who imagines that I was tempted to amend the fimile of Tertullian from an improper partiality for thofe odious Heretics.
A refcript of Diocletian, which declared the old law (not an old law ), had been alleged by me on the refpectable authority of FraPaolo. The Examiner, who thinks that he has turned over the pages of the Theodofian Códe, informs his reader that it may be found, 1. vi. tit. xxiv. leg. 8.; he will be fuprifed to learn that this refcript could not be found in a code where it does not exift, but that it may diftinctly be read in the fame number, the fame title, and the fame book of the CODE OF JUSTINIAN. He who is fevere fhould at least be just yet I fhould probably have difdained this minute animadverfion, unless it had ferved to display the general ignorance of the critic in the History of the Roman Jurifprudence. If Mr. Davis had not been an abfolute ftranger, the most treacherous guide could not have perfuaded that a refcript of Diocletian was to be found in the Theodofian Code, which was defigned only to preferve the laws of Conftantine and his fucceffors. Compendiofam (fays Theodofius him felf) Divalium Conftitutionum fcientiam, ex D. Conflantini tem
* Gibbon's Hiftory, p. 551. I fhall ufually refer to the third edi tion, unless there are any various readings.
+ Davis, p. 144.
Gibbon, p. 593.
Davis, p. 230. poribus
poribus roboramus. (Novell. ad calcem Cod. Theod. 1. i. tit. R leg. i.)'
We fhall now lay before our Readers part of what Mr. Gibbon has advanced on the fubject of Plagiarifm, as another specimen of the manly and liberal manner in which he vindicates his reputation as an historian and a scholar.
Mr. Davis (fee our Review for September laft), tells us, that were he to restore to Middleton, Barbeyrac, Dodwell, Mofheim, and Dupin, the paffages which Mr. Gibbon has purloined, he would appear as naked as the proud and gaudy daw in the fable, when each bird had plucked away his own plume; and that there would scarce be a fingle fentence left for him to boast of as his own, in his two famous chapters, which were to give the death wound to Christianity.
Befides the ideas (fays Mr. Gibbon in his reply to the charge of Plagiarism) which may be fuggefted by the ftudy of the most learned and ingenious of the moderns, the hiftorian may be indebted to them for the occafional communication of fome paffages of the ancients, which might otherwise have escaped his knowledge or his memory. In the confideration of any extenfive fubject, none will pretend to have read all that has been written, or to recollect all that they have read: nor is there any difgrace in recurring to the writers who have profeffedly treated any questions, which in the courfe of a long narrative we are called upon to mention in a flight and incidental manner. If I touch upon the obfcure and fanciful theology of the Gnoftics, I can accept without a blufh the affiftance of the candid Beaufobre; and when, amidst the fury of contending parties, I trace the progress of ecclefiaftical dominion, I am not ashamed to confefs myfelf the grateful difciple of the impartial Mofheim. In the next Volume of my History, the Reader and the Critic muft prepare themfelves to fee me make a ftill more liberal ufe of the labours of those indefatigable workmen who have dug deep into the mine of antiquity. The Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries are far more voluminous than their predeceffors; the writings of Jerom, of Auguftin, of Chryfoftom, &c. cover the walls of our libraries. The fmalleft part is of the historical kind: yet the treatises which feem the leaft to invite the curiofity of the reader, frequently conceal very ufeful hints, or very valuable facts. The polemic who involves himself and his antagonists in a cloud of argumentation, fometimes relates the origin and progrefs of the herefy which he confutes; and the preacher who declaims against the luxury, defcribes the manners, of the age; and feasonably introduces the mention of fome public calamity, that he may afcribe it to the juftice of offended. Heaven. It would furely be unreasonable to expect that the hiftorian fhould perufe enormous volumes, with the uncertain hope of extracting a few interefting lines, or that he fhould facrifice whole days to the momentary amufement of his Reader. Fortunately for us both, the diligence of ecclefiaftical critics has facilitated our inquiries: the compilations of Tillemont might alone be confidered as an immenfe repertory of truth and fable, of almost all that the Fathers have pre
ferved, or invented, or believed; and if we equally avail ourselves of the labours of contending fectaries, we fhall often difcover, that the fame paffages which the prudence of one of the difputants would have fuppreffed or difguifed, are placed in the most confpicuous light by the active and interested zeal of his adversary. On these occafions, what is the duty of a faithful historian, who derives from fome modern writer the knowledge of fome ancient teftimony, which he is defirous of introducing into his own narrative? It is his duty, and it has been my invariable practice, to confult the original; to study with attention the words, the defign, the fpirit, the context, the fituation of the paffage to which I had been referred; and before I appropriated it to my own ufe, to justify my own declaration, "that I had carefully examined all the original materials that could illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat." If this important obligation has fometimes been imperfectly fulfilled, I have only omitted what it would have been impracticable for me to perform. The -greatest city in the world is still deftiture of that useful institution, a public library; and the writer who has undertaken to treat any large hiftorical fubject, is reduced to the neceffity of purchafing, for his private ufe, a numerous and valuable collection of the books which muft form the basis of his work. The diligence of his bookfellers will not always prove fuccessful; and the candour of his readers will not always expect, that, for the fake of verifying an accidental quotation of ten lines, he fhould load himself with a ufelefs and expenfive series of ten volumes. In a very few inftances, where I had not the opportunity of confulting the originals, I have adopted their teftimony on the faith of modern guides, of whofe fidelity I was fatisfied; but on these occafions*, instead of decking myself with the borrowed plumes of Tillemont or Lardner, I have been moft fcrupulously exact in marking the extent of my reading, and the fource of my information. This distinction, which a sense of truth and modesty had engaged me to exprefs, is ungenerously abused by Mr. Davis, who feems happy to inform his Readers, that "in ONE inftance (Chap. xvi. 164. or, in the first edition, 163.) I have, by an unaccountable overfight, unfortunately for myself, forgot to drop the modern, and that I modeftly disclaim all knowledge of Athanafius, but what I had picked up from Tillemont t." Without animadverting on the decency of thefe expreffions, which are now grown fami iar to me, I fhall content myself with obferving that as I had frequently quoted Eufebius, or Cyprian, or Tertullian, because I had read them; so, in this inftance, I only made my reference to Tillemont, because I had not read, and did not poffefs, the works of Athanafius. The progrefs of my undertaking has fince directed me to perufe the Hiftorical Apologies of the Archbishop of Alexandria, whofe life is a very interefting part of the age in which he lived; and if Mr. Davis fhould have the curiofity to look into my Second Volume, he will find that I make a free and frequent appeal to the writings of Athanafius.
Gibbon, p. 605, N. 156; p. 606. N. 161; p. 690, N. 164; p. 699, N. 178.
↑ Davis, p. 273•