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Memoirs of My Life (English Library) [Paperback]

Edward Gibbon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

29 Mar 1984 English Library
Edward Gibbon was one of the world's greatest historians and a towering figure of his age. When he died in 1794 he left behind the unfinished drafts of his Memoirs, which were posthumously edited by his friend Lord Sheffield, and remain an astonishing portrait of a rich, full life. Recounting Gibbon's sickly childhood in London, his disappointment with an Oxford 'steeped in port and prejudice', his successful years in Lausanne, his first and only love affair and the monolithic achievement of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he distils his genius for history into a remarkable gift for autobiography. Candid and detailed, these writings are filled with warmth and intellectual passion.

Frequently Bought Together

Memoirs of My Life (English Library) + The History of England (English Library) + The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: v. 1 (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (29 Mar 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432176
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 413,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Edward Gibbon (1737 - 1794) was arguably the most influential historian since the time of Tacitus. His magnum opus, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776, is a groundbreaking work whose influence endures to this day.

Edited by Betty Radice

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A lively desire of knowing and recording our ancestors so generally prevails that it must depend on the influence of some common principle in the minds of men. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the finest book that i have ever read! 19 May 2010
By cartman
i was looking at my reviews page in my amazon account, and three out of a total of five were negative, critical reviews and i felt this was a little bit unbalanced. there is a samurai saying that 'vulgar people do not like to praise goodness, they like to expose badness'[actually, this is from a book by thomas cleary called 'samurai collection', and it is also a brilliant book, as is anything translated by him] so in order to try and rectify this, i thought i would review the finest book in the english language. this is not an exaggeration. no one has ever written english prose that even comes close to edward gibbons. of course, he is famous for the decline and fall of the roman empire, but that book is harder to recommend, firstly because it comes in six volumes, secondly because a lot of the subject matter is concerned with not very well known figures in history, and so it is often hard to follow the thread, or understand the background. i generally believe in the ancient greek saying, ''''' ''''''', '''' ''''', 'a long book is a great evil' and this happily doesnt apply to gibbons memoirs. im fairly astonished that no one else has reviewed this. five stars is not nearly enough. the only bad thing about this book is that after you read it, you end up hypercritical of almost anything written in english fro the rest of your life. i mean anything else just ends up disapointing you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gibbon's fragments fashioned into a fascinating whole. 18 May 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Edward Gibbon left only six incomplete manuscripts detailing his life and efforts at the time of his death. The editor, B. Radice, surpassing all previous efforts has edited them into a concise, remarkably fluid narrative. She has wisely included the various self-criticisms that his first editor, John Holroyd, left out of the first 1796 edition of the Memoirs and they reveal Gibbon to be not merely a formidable intellect and perspicacious observer of both English and Swiss society but also witty, a bit vain, self-indulgent, and more approachable than his reputation would suggest. Occasionnaly the odd sentence or fragment is repeated to ill effect and the fragmentary nature of this work provides its own frustrations: Gibbon will start discussing an intriguing subject such as the writing of the Decline and Fall and then suddenly shift to another subject. And even though Gibbon avoids the embarassing candor which crops up in Rousseau, one could argue that even in its unfinished form, there's a bit too much polish on the surface- Gibbon obviously sees his life as something of a finished product and the self-reflection of the earlier part becomes a bit too self-congratulatory later on. Moroever, the editors have provided two sets of footnotes for the seventh and eighth chapters - theirs and Gibbon's, which makes for a lot of back and forth reading. Still, Gibbon's account of the difficulties in finding time to read, to research, and to cultivate his intellect in the face of outside engagements, as well as his lucid observations on his family life, his friendships and his decision not to marry make for compelling reading. Rarely has such a figure provided so thorough an account of his life in so little space. For anyone who wants a clearly written and forthright account of why Gibbon came to be the man he was would surely profit from a persual of this engaging little work.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I concur with the review of "a reader" 20 Mar 2005
By Drake-by-the-Lake - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The review, "Gibbon's fragments fashioned into a fascinating whole", written on May 18, 1998, was the basis upon which I purchased this book, and experience proved it entirely accurate and deserving of the many Helpful votes.

In my review of Betty Radice's edition of Gibbon's Memoirs, I will begin with the negatives, which as you might guess from my five star rating, are minor and failed to distract from my enjoyment and education. However, take into account I am unacquainted with other editions or publishers, and chose this one solely based on what I read on Amazon. There may be better editions available; mainly I am reacting to Gibbon rather than this particular version.

Based upon fragments pieced together, his Memoirs have several instances where the same paragraph or sentence, mildly altered, is repeated a few pages forward. This is an annoying and unnecessary defect, but our editor shrinks from presuming to edit Gibbon, though I would say, in this case, courage might not have set the Master turning in his grave, and would spare readers needless confusion.

The very necessary (due to Gibbon's frequent obscure references) Notes which are not authored by Gibbon are unwisely located at the very end of the book, rather than at the bottom of the page where they occur. This necessitates flipping back and forth.

The Publisher, Penguin, used a small font which punishes the eyes, in order to spare the cost of an extra fifty pages or so. It is a sad commentary they held this important work in such apparent contempt, but probably it was not destined to sell many copies, with its lack of the requisite sex and violence.

With its depiction of a human being strangely specialized to be a pure intellect that, by deliberate choice, spends an entire lifetime working with thoughts and ideas, this book may fail to appeal to all readers, but anyone who loves, as I do, Gibbon's masterpiece, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," must be burning with curiosity about the author, which often happens when one finds a writer one really likes. Personally, I found the Memoirs fascinating and read every page with eagerness.

The author reveals his pecadillos: vanity, a disdain for physical exercise, intellectual elitism, and a disdain for representative government. But we also appreciate his virtues: courage, diligence, duty, intellectual honesty, loyalty, and not least of all, genius. If you paid over fifty dollars for the Decline and Fall, as I did, and really plan to read it over the course of a year or so, then why not lay out a few extra dollars for the Memoirs?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive edition of a neglected classic 18 Jan 2008
By Mark Klobas - Published on
With his name forever linked to his classic account of the collapse of the Roman empire, Edward Gibbon's other works are often overlooked - and in the case of his memoirs, unjustly so. Comprised of six separate drafts, they were combined after his death with notes and memoranda into the first published edition. Yet the initial edition was a much a work of the editor, who made a number of adulterations. It was not until a century after Gibbon's death that the original drafts were published, though subsequent editions still reflected the influence of the earlier work.

In this edition, Georges Bonnard provides a single coherent text free of the influence of the early alterations. By providing the full text of Gibbon's work with footnotes and appendices showing how he integrates the overlapping accounts, he allows readers both to read the story of Gibbon's life - his early years and education, his tours of Europe, and his time in Parliament - and see the changes the great historian made from draft to draft. Bonnard supplements all of this with endnotes providing the context of Gibbon's references and tying the text in with other relevant writings. Anyone who is interested in how this great historian wrote and lived will profit from Bonnard's labors, which have produced the definitive edition of a book as great in its own way as Gibbon's more famous work.
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