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15-Nov-2016 04:19

“Hiving wisdom with each studious year,” as Byron so truly says, he speedily amassed a store of learning which has seldom been equalled.His insatiable love of knowledge, his rare capacity for concentrated, accurate, and fruitful study, guided by a singularly sure and masculine judgment, soon made him, in the true sense of the word, one of the best scholars of his time.He has given a graphic picture of the ardour with which, when he was only fourteen, he flung himself into serious but unguided study; which was at first purely desultory, but gradually contracted into historic lines, and soon concentrated itself mainly on that Oriental history which he was one day so brilliantly to illuminate.“Before I was sixteen,” he says, “I had exhausted all that could be learned in English of the Arabs and Persians, the Tartars and Turks; and the same ardour led me to guess at the French of D’Herbelot, and to construe the barbarous Latin of Pocock’s ‘Abulfaragius.’” His health, however, gradually improved, and when he entered Magdalen College, Oxford, it might have been expected that a new period of intellectual development would have begun; but Oxford had at this time sunk to the lowest depth of stagnation, and to Gibbon it proved extremely uncongenial.

The tendencies of the time, both in England and on the Continent, were in a wholly different direction.Nature seldom formed a more sceptical intellect than that of Gibbon, and he was utterly without the spiritual insight, or spiritual cravings, or overmastering enthusiasms, that produce and explain most religious changes.