MW Title page

Sheffield's First Edition

Volume One, 1796


Let us do justice to that intrepid spirit, whose leaps have sometimes led to truth and whose very excesses, like popular rebellions, have struck salutary fears in the heart of the despot. Let our thoughts be filled with all that we owe to the geometric spirit; but let us search for the spirit of philosophy, which is at once wiser than the one and more universal than the other.[1]


Edward Gibbon is and forever will be identified primarily as the author of the magisterial The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Both the imposing length and awesome erudition of that work, however, have understandably overshadowed his other literary achievements, several of which deserve to be evaluated on their own merits.
Following Gibbon's death, the main body of his non-HDFRE work was collected, edited and published in 1796 and 1815 by the historian's close friend and literary executor, John Lord Sheffield (1741-1821) in order to meet if not fully satisfy, in his words, "the eagerness occasioned by a very general curiosity to see in print every literary relick [sic], however imperfect, by so distinguished a writer." (MW 1796, vol. 1, p. iii.)

This page groups Gibbon's miscellanies into three chronologically consecutive categories: 1) works first published in Gibbon's lifetime, later appearing in Sheffield's editions; 2) the contents of Sheffield's vast project, i.e., the three editions (minus his notes and letters) of the Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon, Esquire.[2] Listings are exactly those from each volume's table as they appear in the Google Books digitized copies; and 3) Gibbon writings published after Sheffield's volumes. All works are listed with pertinent bibliographical detail and descriptive text where available.[3]


Published Before 1796

EG's first published work defends érudits (antiquarian scholars) against French philosophes (especially Jean Le Rond d'Alembert in his Discours préliminaire à l'Encyclopédie [1751]) who had "contemptuously" assailed the érudits' work as inferior, parochial, and effete. EG recoiled at the charges, and strove to reconcile the two groups by "proving…that all the faculties of the mind may be exercised and displayed by [the] study of ancient litterature [sic]." The Essai was reviewed with "cold indifference" in England, but on the continent, it was hailed enthusiastically. In Paris, EG was recognized as a man of letters.[4]


The first edition 1st issue, despite its lack of publication details, in all likelihood was also printed by Harrison and Brooke for "official purposes and not for general circulation." EG composed the Mémoire between 10 July–9 Aug 1779; first published on or about 7 Oct. An English translation labelled by Norton as "more or less correct," appears in Blake's one-volume MW 1837 (below), pp. 696-712.
The first edition 2nd issue also contained and was preceded in this publication by the French tract which provoked EG's Mémoire, the Exposé des Motifs de la Conduite du Roi de France, relativement à l'Angleterre, wherein the French government set out its rationale for having negotiated a defensive alliance with the American rebels (6 Feb 1778). Robert Rea revised Norton by identifying the "true second edition" as that published by William Hallhead, printed from the Rothschild variant of the first ed., 2nd issue. Norton's no. 19 is therefore correctly identified as the third edition. (BWEG, pp. 22-35.)


Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon, 1796


Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon, 1814-1815


Published After 1815



Other Writings Unpublished Contemporaneously


Works Consulted

  1. Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature, First edition, 1761, pp. 85-86; passage translated in Pocock, B&R vol. 1, p. 228. The 1764 English translation of the first edition was denigrated by EG himself as riddled with "blunders and… baldness" (Autobiographies, p. 171). Sheffield condemned it as "miserable," and bibliographer Jane Norton ridiculed both English translations (the second in 1837) as lacking in both accuracy and elegance, worthy only of "buffoons" (BWEG, pp. 4-6). Sheffield opted not to provide his own English translation because of the existing 1764 effort, however absymal. Apparently a higher priority was the need "that these Volumes might not be too much swelled." (MW 1796, v.2, p. vi.) [up]
  2. The full title of the 1796 edition (and in square brackets, that of 1814) is, [The] Miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon, Esquire; [Esq.] with Memoirs of his Life and Writings, composed by himself.[:] Illustrated from his Letters, with occasional notes and narrative, by [the Right Honourable] John, Lord Sheffield. in Two Volumes [a New Edition, with Considerable Additions in Five Volumes]. John Murray's third edition (4 April 1815) contained no additional text beyond that from the second edition. Precise days of publication in all cases from Norton's BWEG.
    For background and context, see David Womersley, "The Making of Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works," in Womersley 2002, pp. 335-63; Patricia Craddock, "Miscellaneous Works and Immortal History," chapter 17 in EGLH; Giuseppe Giarrizzo, "Toward the Decline and Fall: Gibbon's Other Historical Interests," in G.W. Bowersock, et al. eds., Edward Gibbon and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 233-46. [up]
  3. Within the MW and 'Other Writings' tabbed headings, a year following alone (with or without a scholar's name) refers to the year of EG's composition. Sources for this data are Sheffield's tables of contents; BWEG; EEEG; and Ghosh 1983. [up]
  4. Womersley, ODNB, p. 11; BWEG, p. 3. additional background in: Ghosh 1995, pp. 148-164; B&R vol. 1, Chapter 9, "The 'Essai sur l'Étude de la Littérature': imagination, irony and history," pp. 208-239; Norman, Chapter 4, "The Essai," pp. 44-61. See also the definitive scholarly edition, Robert Mankin, ed. (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010), p. 120; and his English translation. [up]
  5. According to ODNB online, Luard and Mills, authors of "Green, Thomas, the younger (1769–1825), writer," Green was actually the publisher; although as Norton has it, the publishers were John and Thomas Egerton, glimpsed here by Ian Maxted, Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. [up]
  6. For the reminder that "the common opinion in the late eighteenth century had been that Gibbon's critics, although denied a complete victory, had nevertheless prevailed…"; and also for the view that EG's triumph was "purely rhetorical," that he failed to win victory "on the substantive scholarly ground [Davis et al.] had chosen for the contest[,]" see Womersley 2002, his chapter on the Vindication, pp. 43-99; quotes at 44, 46. [up]
  7. Womersley 2002, at pp. 235-236, 240, 346-349. [up]
  8. Bonnard, "Preface," vii-xxxiii, at xxxi, xxiv. The manuscript originals are all contained in the British Library, Gibbon Papers, Add. MSS 34874. One small addition, a correspondence card no. 204, can be found in Add. MSS 34882 (p. xiii-xiv, 156-n.5). As to why EG exercised six attempts to recount his life on paper, Bonnard opines that he was repeatedly dissatisfied with subject order and length. But from draft to draft, where EG met with self-approval, he "very often contented himself with simply copying what he had already written." [up]
  9. BWEG, pp. 94, 197, 202-04. On the issue of Irish-pirated literature in the late eighteenth century, Norton reminds that England's copyright act of 1710 did not apply to Ireland until its legal Union with Great Britain in 1801. [up]
  10. BWEG, pp. 188-90, 192-93, 195. The second edition was originally to have been published in early December 1814, but two postponements resulted in the later date. Following his distastefully trying experience with first edition publishers Andrew Strahan and Thomas Cadell, Jr., Sheffield was vastly relieved and with new publisher John Murray II, enjoyed "more satisfaction… than with any other bookseller with whom I have had dealings." [up]
  11. John Pocock identifies the Lettre as EG's "first essay on empire in the context of European history." By this time, EG has clearly adopted erudition as "the dominant interest of his young and his mature life." (B&R vol. 1, pp. 89-91, 93.) Additional background from Norman, where he claims "certainty" of his dating of the work based on a close analysis of EG's differing use of acute and grave accents in the French text (pp. 30-31). The original Lettre in French, re-edited, can also be found in Miscellanea Gibboniana. [up]
  12. Ghosh 1983, pp. 8, 23. EG identified his authorship year as 1767. See Autobiographies, pp. 278, 408. Background and context from Hilary S. Offler, "Gibbon and the Making of his Swiss History," Durham University Journal 41,1(March 1949), pp. 64-75. [up]
  13. Craddock, EEEG, pp. 534-545, 600; BWEG, pp. 179-81; Trevor-Roper, pp. 407, 414. EG titled the manuscript simply An Address &c. In-text page numbers are those of the MW 1814. All quotes are from this edition, and are EG's from the work excepting Sheffield's…from his note following Letter No. CCLXI, "Mr. Gibbon to Mr. Pinkerton," 25 July 1793, vol. 2, p. 494. [up]
  14. Published for the first time in Craddock, EGLH, pp. 366-68 (British Library, Add. MSS 34874, fols. 130-31); background and analysis in EGLH, pp. 270-71; BWEG, pp. 218-19; Bowersock, "Watchmen", Essays in Criticism 53,1(2003), p. 87. [up]