December 15, 2017
The End of Gibbon's Decline and FallOn this day in 1787, Edward Gibbon wrote the concluding lines of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The book had been almost 15 years in the making -- 6 volumes, 1.5 million words, 8000 footnotes, 1300 years and 3 continents covered -- and Gibbon took a moment to "commemorate the hour of my final deliverance," which had come just before midnight, in the small summer-house in his garden in Lausanne:
This must have given Thomas Hardy added motivation to sit up in Gibbon's garden until midnight on this day in 1897, the 110th anniversary of the penning of those last Decline and Fall lines. Gibbon's house was Hotel Gibbon by this point, and a spot visited by many literary travelers, but Hardy had just published Jude the Obscure, and was himself vilified by press and public (and wife) for his blasphemy and irreligion. In his commemorative poem, "Lausanne: In Gibbon's Old Garden," Hardy joins league not only with Gibbon but Milton, as three who have suffered at the hands of narrow belief:
At whom sage Milton's wormwood words were hurled:
"Truth like a bastard comes into the world
Never without ill-fame to him who gives it birth"?'
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