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I was despairing at having chosen this audio book as I slogged through the first four chapters, which cover his family history, but once he started in on his own life, in chapter five, things started looking up, and in the end, it was a rewarding listen. (There are thirty-nine chapters in total).
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The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more; and our prospect of futurity is dark and doubtful."
-- Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life
After Brexit and my country's own recent crazy election, I was tempted to once again read Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I first read all 3,589 pages of Gibbon's fantastic history over five years ago in 2011.
I decided to put off my re-read of Gibbon's masterpiece and instead read his 'Memoirs'. I am glad I did. This is one of those underrated, under-read masterpieces. It reminded me in many ways of Education of Henry Adams and other artistic memoirs. The first half could almost be considered a Künstlerroman, but Gibbon spends enough time in his maturity and decline to probably grow beyond that adolescent genre.
Anyway, the prose is beautiful, with many, many quotable passages and observations about such figures as Voltaire, Hume, etc.. Edward Gibbon, besides being an historian was also a member of parliament during the American Revolution, so those aspects of the memoir are also very interesting. Finally, his discussions about his great work is worth alone the price of admission. Anyone interested in 18th century history would love his candor, his wisdom, and his humor. In some ways his openness reminded me a bit of Montaigne and Pepys. If anything, now, this voyage into minor Gibbon has made me more likely to re-read Decline and Fall.
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