Monday, March 24, 2014

Tooting a horn

Oops, here's something I meant to shout from the rooftops when it happened a few weeks ago, but then I got off Facebook and the roof was too cold:

My husband finished reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don't know how long that book is. It's thousands of pages. Six volumes. It takes up two volumes in the very densely printed Great Books collection. He has been reading it off and on for pretty much as long as we've been married (3 years.)

I predict, at age 25, that I will probably never read this book.   (They say you've made an important realization about your own mortality when you accept the fact that you will never read Joyce's Ulysses or Proust's Recherches du Temps Perdu. I haven't accepted either of those defeats yet but Gibbon I will concede.)

What kind of weird elite group of people has he joined now? Who are the other living people in the world who have read the entirety of this book?  I can imagine some watery eyed, waggly-jowled, bespectacled products of the British public schools of the earlier half of the century having worked through it with their pipes in teeth, but is there anyone under 30? Under 50? I don't know if it's popular among historians anymore, or how much of it a history major would read these days. Whoever they are, they are big nerds.

Here is a review that I found on Amazon. The poster claims that he found this passage in an 1844 letter from his great-great-great uncle to his sister (the uncle's):

Have you ever read Gibbon's Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire? I am very fond of it for many reasons. It is a grand book and to read it always makes me feel as if my life extended thousands instead of tens of years and as if I could trace out the revolutions of Empires. It is beautifully written and the English of it is to my taste particularly elegant, and except where Gibbon's judgement was obscured by his prejudice, it is true as history can be. His reasonings from the great events which he relates are generally speaking very true and I have heard that there is hardly a better guide for a politician than that history. What an immensely long duration the time of it is - from the year 90 after Christ till the year 1490 or thereabouts in fact almost down to our own times. It is a great ornament to my bookcase and I often read it & prefer it to any novel whatsoever.

1 comment:

  1. Hi MJ!!!
    (just, you know, saying hello <=)

    This is worth tooting!! Go MS!