Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City': The Historian and His Reputation, 1776-1815

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The subject of this book is the story of the conflict between Gibbon and those he mockingly dubbed the "Watchmen of the Holy City," and it explores the ramifications of an elusive aspect of authorship. By considering the sequence of interactions between the historian and his readership, Womersley makes possible a more intimate understanding of what might be called Gibbon's experience of himself. At the same time he deepens our knowledge of the conditions of English authorship during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Womersley has produced a signally effective study of the various processes which create an authorial reputation, assiduously demonstrating how careful documentary reconstruction can restore the rich textuality of a writer's life.... This is a major contribution not only to Gibbon scholarship but also to methodology."—Review of English Studies

"Embodies very high standards of scholarship and critical acumen.... [Womersley] has traced a story not likely to be seriously improved upon for many decades to come. —Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

"Erudite and absorbing.... David Womersley has written an important book; it greatly increases our sense of the ways in which Gibbon's self-fashioning went on within the pages of his major works.... Womersley has taken us where none have ventured before, in showing Gibbon as a Bowdler-like censor of his own ongoing productions."—Times Literary Supplement

"To appreciate Gibbon the historian, read the magisterial Decline and Fall; to know Gibbon the man behind the history, read the Memoirs and the Letters; to understand Gibbon the author, and the growth of his literary reputation, read this book by Womersley."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This brilliant and careful work...contains much of permanent value for any student of Gibbon."—Choice

"Womersley's analyses are subtle, original, and valuable.... In addition to its value for those interested in Gibbon's work, this book is a significant contribution to the discussion of eighteenth-century controversial writing, belonging on the shelf with Joseph Levine's The Battle of the Books.—Albion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198187332
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/21/2002
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jesus College, Oxford
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Table of Contents

Note on References
I: The Historian and his Reputation, 1776-1788
1. Revision and Religion
2. Forging a Polemical Style: Gibbon's Vindication and Literary Warfare, 1694-1779
3. 'Too deeply into the mud of the Arian controversy': Gibbon and the early Church Fathers
4. 'Enthusiasm and Imposture': Gibbon and Mahomet
II: After The Decline and Fall
5. Gibbon's Unfinished History
6. The 'Memoirs': Autobiography in Time of Revolution
7. 'As common as any the most vulgar thing to sense': Three Versions of the Death of a Father
8. 'Fourteen months, the most barren and unprofitable of my whole life': Five Versions of Residence in Oxford
III: Miscellaneous Works
9. The Making of Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works
10. Conclusion

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