The encouragement of learning

Edward Gibbon, the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was a notoriously vain little man.  In the Walpoliana of Horace Walpole, a collection of anecdotes, I find this story:[1]

I was told a droll story concerning Mr. Gibbon, t’other day.  One of those booksellers in Paternoster Row, who publish things in numbers, went to Gibbon’s lodgings in St. James Street, sent up his name, and was admitted.  “Sir,” said he, “I am now publishing a history of England, done by several good hands.  I understand you have a knack at them there things, and should be glad to give you every reasonable encouragment.”

As soon as Gibbon recovered the use of his legs and tongue, which were petrified with surprise, he ran to the bell, and desired his servant to show this encourager of learning down-stairs.

  1. [1]1800, p.198.