Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Johnson > Historians > Substantial accuracy
  Estimate of The Decline and Fall: greatness of the Theme and adequacy of the treatment Lucidity of style  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XIII. Historians.

§ 14. Substantial accuracy.


The capabilities of the subject, then, are of surpassing greatness; yet the mind is able to grasp it as a whole. Here, we have no mere series of annals, such as were presented even by the excellent Tillemont, to whom Gibbon was indebted for much of his material, 52  but a complete work. Its opening chapters may fall short of the results of modern numismatical and epigraphical research; its later portions, which cover a relatively far larger ground, may show an inadequate command of the political life of the Byzantine empire and all but ignore much of the Slavonic side of its history, may inadequately appreciate the historic significance, or the individual grandeur, of the figure of Charles the great and may fail in the narration of the second and third crusades 53 —in a word, it may need to be supplemented, repaired or changed here and there, and again and again. But it is complete even though it is imperfect. Eminent historians—Guizot, Milman, Bury—have, therefore, been willing to become Gibbon’s editors and commentators; but they have not dealt with him as he dealt with Tillemont. It is as a whole that his work has maintained the position which it conquered for itself at once in historical literature.   24

Note 52. Tillemont, Le Nain de, Histoire des Empereurs, etc., treats each successive reign in a series of short chapters or headed articles, with notes appended on a wide variety of points, in the way that Gibbon loved. It reaches to the death of the emperor Anastasius, A.D. 518. His Mémoires Ecclésiastiques cover the first six centuries of the Christian era. As to Gibbon’s debt to him, see Bury, u.s., p. ix. [ back ]
Note 53. Cf. ibid., pp. xix–xxi; Morison, Gibbon, pp. 162–5. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Estimate of The Decline and Fall: greatness of the Theme and adequacy of the treatment Lucidity of style  
 
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