Edward Gibbon

As to the matter of his history, the principal charges against him are the grave ones of a covert attempt to overthrow a belief in revealed religion, and a complacent indelicacy of description, especially in the latter volumes. To this he answers, that the licentious passages are confined to the notes, and to the obscurity of a learned language; ' an apology which few, perhaps, will consider sufficient. His attack on Christianity he himself seems to have regretted, though he never retracted. Had I believed,' he says, that the majority of English readers were so fondly attached, even to the name and shadow of Christianity; had I foreseen that the pious, the timid, and the prudent, would feel, or affect to feel, with such exquisite sensibility; I might, perhaps, have softened the two invidious chapters, which could create many enemies, and conciliate few friends.' His pathetic observations at the close of his memoirs, show that his own notions offered no security for felicity here, if, as he insinuated, those of others would fail to do so hereafter. After quoting the opinion of Fontenelle, who, he observes, fixes our moral happiness to the mature season in which our passions are supposed to be calmed, our duties fulfilled, our ambition satisfied, our fame and fortune established on a solid basis, he says, I am far more inclined to embrace than to dispute this comfortable doctrine. I will not suppose any premature decay of mind or body but I must reluctantly observe, that two causes, the abbreviation of time, and the failure of hope, will always tinge with a browner shade the evening of life.' In a letter to Lord Sheffield, after the death of his wife, he says, the only consolation in these melancholy trials to which human life is exposed, the only one at least in which I have any confidence, is the presence of a real friend.'