"I Sighed As A Lover, I Obeyed As A Son"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Edward Gibbon spent most of his life studying and writing. He was a sickly child with a strong scholarly bent; his life was frequently despaired of until he began to show improved health in his sixteenth year. He was the only one of his father's seven children to reach maturity–a good illustration of the mortality rate at that time. Gibbon went to Oxford in 1752 and while there joined the Roman Catholic Church. He felt the courses at Oxford were a waste of time, and his exasperated father sent him to Lausanne to live with a Calvinist minister, M. Pavilliard. Gibbon learned French through necessity and was soon able to think in that language; his writing, from that time on, exhibited a strong French influence. While there he studied the logic of Crousaz, and as a result returned to Protestantism. He pursued his studies avidly and in 1755 traveled about Switzerland. In 1757 he met Voltaire. It was in this year that he met a girl named Suzanne Curchod, daughter of the pastor of Crassier, and fell in love with her. Gibbon's father, who had just remarried, objected to the marriage of his son. Gibbon complied with his father's wishes in the matter, and did not allow himself to fall in love again. Instead, he continued his studies. During the next few years he determined to write a history, but it was some time before he settled on a topic. Finally, in 1772, he began his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a monumental work which took him fifteen years to complete. It may be said to be his life's work; all his studies led up to it, and he wrote little else of consequence. He was interested in his own life history, and a curious fact about this interest is that Gibbon wrote no less than six autobiographical sketches or memoirs. After his death, these were carefully edited by Lord Sheffield and published as a single narrative containing what was considered the best material from each. The third memoir, written about 1789, contains the following wistful account of Gibbon's student friendship and first love:

I should be ashamed if the warm season of youth had passed away without any sense of friendship or love; and in the choice of their objects I may applaud the discernment of my head or heart. Mr. George Deyverdun, of Lausanne, was a young Gentleman of high honour and quick feelings, of an elegant taste and a liberal understanding: he became the companion of my studies and pleasures; every idea, every sentiment, was poured into each other's bosom; and our schemes of ambition or retirement always terminated in the prospect of our final and inseparable union. The beauty of Mademoiselle Curchod, the daughter of a country clergyman, was adorned with science and virtue: she listened to the tenderness which she had inspired; but the romantic hopes of youth and passion were crushed, on my return, by the prejudice or prudence of an English parent. I sighed as a lover, I obeyed as a son; my wound was insensibly healed by time, absence, and the habits of a new life; and my cure was accelerated by a faithful report of the tranquillity and chearfulness of the Lady herself. Her equal behaviour under the tryals of indigence and prosperity has displayed the firmness of her character. A citizen of Geneva, a rich banker of Paris, made himself happy by rewarding her merit; the genius of her husband has raised him to a perilous eminence; and Madame Necker now divides and alleviates the cares of the first minister of the finances of France.